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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS
Luke 2.48 Jesus was without sin. How then was it right for him to remain in Jerusalem without telling his parents, especially in the light of the commandment to honour our parents? Mary's question suggests that Jesus' behaviour actually hurt her.
For Jesus His prime meaning and purpose in life, and central to all His thought and actions, was, as a human being, to learn the truth about God in order to prepare Himself for the ministry that He knew was coming. From his earliest days God revealed it in His heart. He made use of the synagogue and the Scriptures that could be read there. That was what His growing in wisdom included. And His father and mother knew about that. Thus if ever He was away from home for a long time, they knew where to find Him. But when they did send for Him He always responded to their call.
Then when He was reaching adulthood (at twelve/thirteen Jews in Jesus’ day were seen as becoming adults) He came to Jerusalem with His family to where the great men of learning were. To Him this was an opportunity to learn from the great teachers in order to prepare Himself for the future ministry of which He was becoming more and more aware as He grew up. He knew therefore that He must make the most of this opportunity and He expected His father and mother to understand that too. Thus in His view, if they wanted Him, they should have known where to look for Him.
But He was now an adult. He was no longer under constant supervision. He was free to do His own thing. And He was determined to learn as much as He could. So while the other young men of His age were enjoying the festival, He was in the Temple, listening., questioning and learning. Notice what it says about the parents. 'They thought that He was in the company'. That would have been inexcusable of them if they had still seen Him as a child. But now that He was recognised as a grown up he had freedom of action, and as an adult, they no longer mollycoddled Him. They therefore recognised He had a right to such freedom of action, and within reason to do what He wished.
And He quite reasonably expected that they would recognise this and that if they wished to ensure His company they would not return home without ensuring that He was with them (remember He was now an adult). And if they did not then He would make His own way back.
Thus in obedience to His Father He went to the Temple and sat at the feet of the great teachers learning and asking questions of such depth that they all marvelled. If there was any failure it was on His parents side. However, they had presumed that He would know when it was time (their time) to return to Galilee along with the other pilgrims, and had recognised that the way that He chose to make His way back was up to Him. Thus they had probably not told Him when they were going and had not checked that their son was in the band making for Galilee. But when they could not find Him they panicked. They had failed to recognise that one such as He must make the most advantage of an opportunity that He would rarely have. And then they blamed Him for it as people will when they have done wrong and are feeling guilty. His mother especially should have known for she had been made aware that He had a special mission. She had long pondered it in her heart. She should have recognised that He could not miss this great opportunity which He would not often have.
We must keep in mind that Jesus was now of age in Jewish eyes. He was a 'grown up, an adult'. So while to some extent accountable to His parents, as all Jewish men were, (because His parents were heads of the family), He had a new freedom to do His own thing, to make His own choices. He was no longer a boy. When He returned to Galilee was His own decision. Thus His acting independently like this was part of His new status. It was to be expected. And there was no reason at all why He should not return home with another party, or why His parents should have worried about Him. After all, knowing that He was especially chosen by God they should have recognised that God would look after Him.
But He had not disappeared in such a way that no one would know where to look. They could always find Him. And indeed events show that they did know where to find Him. If His mother was hurt it was not the fault of Jesus, but because like many mothers she could not let Him grow up. He was a grown up man (in Jewish eyes) doing what He knew He had to do. But his mother was like many human mothers. She could not let her son be grown up. She still wanted her baby. She had, however, to learn that now that He was an adult other things must come first in His life. Even though it hurt her a little. Then when she expressed her hurt He gently said to her, "Did you not recognise that I must be about My Father's affairs?" (Literally ‘in the things/house of My Father’). She should have known. She should have recognised it. He was a boy no longer. But for a while she had forgotten that He was now an adult. It was a simple mistake to make, but He was not to blame for that. The failure was hers not His. She had not yet learned to give Him up.
Most mothers make the same mistake with their firstborn sons. They would understand. It is hard to give up your son if you are a mother but you do have to do it. Later in life He would again be challenged by His mother and would again have to be rebuked. (Mark 3.21, 31-35). She still could not let go. She thought that she knew best. But His ministry had to come first. He must live His life as God wanted Him to. And again He had to gently rebuke her. He was no longer her dependent child. He belonged to the world. And she must recognise it. And that was also true that year in Jerusalem. Sometimes we too have to hurt the ones we love because the demands of God come first and they do not understand. They try to hinder us. We must not do it lightly, but nevertheless we must sometimes do it when it is the Father's will. There is nothing sinful in that as long as we do it reasonably. And what Jesus did was perfectly reasonable in Jewish eyes. If Mary had asked His uncle what to do about it, His uncle would have said, 'He's grown up now. You must let Him find things out for Himself, and learn to look after Himself.’ And that is what He was doing.
Luke 2:52 Tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom. How can an omnipotent God grow in wisdom? This verse suggests that Jesus was learning - how is that possible - He was God?
It is of course impossible for us to fully understand what was involved in the incarnation, in Jesus becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us. But the verse mentioned helps us to understand it. Jesus did not come to walk among us simply as God in a human body. He became man. He refused to call on His divine powers and knowledge and limited Himself to human powers in association with His Father, otherwise how could He be tempted in all points like we are? (Hebrews 4.15). His great temptations were to utilise His divine powers to make His life and mission easier and He rejected them (4.1-13). He cast out evil spirits by the power of the Spirit of God (Matthew 12.28). He healed by calling on His Father. Thus He was not born as a baby with encyclopaedic knowledge and full awareness of Heaven, (no human brain could absorb such knowledge), He was born with a human brain that had to learn and develop as ours do. He did not utilise His divine mind. He deliberately blanked it off. He had to learn to walk and talk. He had to read and study the Scriptures in order to learn about God's ways. He had to interpret them by the Spirit and learn God's ways from them. He had to follow His conscience in discerning right from wrong. He had to pray and let His Father speak to Him as he faced the issues of life, whether large or small. Thus did He experience life as a man. But because he was born free from the taint of sin, because He was born in full fellowship with the Father and the Spirit, He walked from the beginning without sin and made His choices and lived His life in obedience to the prompting of the Father. He only called on powers which would have been available to all men had they been free from sin and had they fully trusted the Father. When He suffered on the cross He faced it using only His human powers, and the sustenance He could draw from the Father. And as man He truly died. (As God He could not die). Thus we can never turn to God and say life is not fair. If we do not utilise the powers that He had it is because we have failed and sinned, not because we could not have done so. They are all there available to those who walk as He walked, but we do not do so.
Luke 7.1-10. In Luke's account the centurion never meets Jesus personally but sends messengers instead, but in the corresponding passage in Matthew (8:5-13), the centurion does speak to Jesus directly. How are we reconcile this difference? Furthermore in vs 3 Jesus is asked to come to the centurion's home and heal his servant which Jesus proceeds to do but in vs 6 Jesus is asked not to come any more. If the centurion believed that Jesus could heal his slave without being present, why ask him to come in the first place? What is more in Matthew, Jesus actually never travelled to the centurion's home, because the centurion told him there and then that it was unnecessary (8:8)
If we read Matthew 8.5-13; Luke 7.1-10 together side by side, these two parallel accounts seem to conflict. This is because the careful historian Luke enquires as to the exact details from eyewitnesses and writes them out. But Matthew give us a more 'popular' account. He wants to get over the point vividly. He was quite possibly absent at the time the event occurred and was told about it. ('Do you know what happened. This centurion sent to Jesus -- and do you know what he said --' ). Luke's is literally true. Matthew's uses a straightforward literary device to simplify it and bring home the personal faith of the centurion. It is a well known literary device to personalise in this way. For example we may say that Nebuchadnezzar invaded and destroyed Jerusalem. But was Nebuchadnezzar actually there? Probably not. He 'went' through his armies, probably himself staying at his headquarters further to the north, and he certainly had himself no part in actually destroying Jerusalem. He would not soil his hands with such a thing. It was best left to servants. The account has been personalised. The actions of his servants are seen as being his actions. And this is a regular feature of historical writings. It is not unusual. It is common practise. This is the technique that Matthew uses. He simplifies the story by omitting the secondary characters. The centurion came to Jesus (through his servants). The words to Jesus were spoken by him (through his servants). Jesus reply went back to him (via his servants). But all that was done and said was the action of the centurion for he instigated what happened, he was responsible for what happened, and they were his words that were passed on to Jesus. In other words he did it (through his servants), just as Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem through his servants. Matthew just personalises it. But there is no doubt that Matthew's account brings things more alive and concentrates on the central character. It brings out more his faith (which was the point of the story when it was passed on). We actually, as it were, get to know the centurion in a way we would not through Luke's account because it is more direct. If we are being pedantic we would say that Matthew was not strictly historically correct, and we would be both right and wrong. As an exactly literal description of what happened and who was directly responsible in person at each point in time Matthew's account is a failure. It would not have done in a court of law. But as an explanation of what essentially happened it was a masterpiece. It was made more vivid by avoiding the secondary characters. When you read the newspapers you will often find that they cut corners in this way. If they pedantically went into full detail about everything they would lose many of their readers. What they want to get over is what is essential. And that is what Matthew did as well. Of course it is always possible that the centurion, waiting anxiously at home, did at some point follow up his servants and arrive in person. It is possible that having sent his servants with a message he turned up in person with the same message because he was so anxious. He would not be the first person to do such a thing. And thus Jesus might have said the same thing twice, once because of the servants' words and again at the centurion's own words, but I think the first suggestion is probably nearer to the facts. In either case, however, the accounts got over the essential truth. But then we have the question as to why, if the centurion knew that Jesus could heal at a distance, he did not just send to Him to ask Him to do it. Luke gives us the answer. The centurion did believe that Jesus could heal at a distance. What he did not know was whether this fervent Hebrew prophet would do it for a 'hated' Roman centurion. So he asked people whom he felt would have some influence to go and persuade Jesus. Then when he learned that the appeal had been successful through a fast messenger who said 'He's coming', he sent the second message. This is extremely likely given the state of things at the time. You and I know that Jesus would respond to such an appeal but to a Roman officer who often had to deal with Jewish crowds and even fervent religious figures, in a heavy-handed way, and knew their feelings towards him, the case would not be quite so obvious. He handled the matter diplomatically. And in fact Jesus never went to the house in either story.
In Luke 9:45 Luke said that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was telling them because it was "hidden from them". Is this just an expression to mean that they didn't understand Him, or does it mean that someone or something was concealing the truth from them?
When Jesus used the passive tense it was regularly a way by which He referred to the activity of God. Thus when He said, 'Blessed are the pure in heart' He meant 'God blesses the pure in heart'. This was actually a feature of Jewish apocalyptic literature around the time of Jesus. And it prevented the need to use the name of God unnecessarily (something the Jews sought to avoid doing). However, that was not seen as necessary in the Gentile world and Luke was a Gentile. So here he may simply be using a Gentile idiom to express an observable fact without being specific about the source. When he said 'it was hidden from them' he was describing the observable fact. How or why he did not deal with. However this question does arise again and again elsewhere. When man is 'blind' from birth what is the cause of it (John 9.1-2)? How do we explain the evils in the Universe? Now in the last analysis the Jews believed that everything that happened was of God. He was sovereign over the universe. Who could resist His will? (Romans 9.9). And of course that is true. He is the prime cause of all simply because nothing that happens can happen without His yes or no. But that does not mean that we should see God as deliberately bringing such things about. He has put us in a world where we can make choices, and we are responsible for our own choices. When God hardened Pharaoh's heart Pharaoh had already done a good job of it himself. It was not God who was to blame for his hardened heart it was Pharaoh. But once Pharaoh's stance was determined by himself God made use of it to bring about the deliverance of His people. When men do not see truth it is because their hearts and minds are sinful, and prejudiced, and unwilling to accept the truth (and also because the 'god of this world blinds the minds of those who do not believe' - 2 Corinthians 4.4). What God 'does' is refuse to intervene. By doing so He chooses to leave them in their darkness. But He is never directly responsible for it, and indeed offers them mercy freely if they will repent and come to Him. If I leave my car somewhere and someone bumps into it there is a sense in which I am responsible. If I had not left it there no one could have bumped into it. But unless I have left it in some dangerous or forbidden place no one in their right mind would try to put the blame on me if someone crashed into my parked car. The difference between my action and God's actions is that I had no way of knowing what would happen. But God does know what will result from His actions. And so in a sense He is responsible for all that happens. But He has made us people who are free to make choices. Unless He were to make us all automatons people will continue to make wrong choices. Thus in one sense He is responsible for their wrong choices (He made them with freewill) and yet in another sense He is not (they have freewill). What even God cannot do is make men with total freewill and then make them do what He wants. That is a contradiction in terms, a logical impossibility. This is why Isaiah can say, 'And He said, Go and tell this people, "Hear indeed, but do not understand, see indeed, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn again and be healed". (Isaiah 6.9-10). Now what did Isaiah do to achieve this? How did Isaiah make their hearts fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut? He did it by preaching the truth to them. And as he did so their hearts were so sinful that they became more fat, more deaf, more blind. They closed their hearts. And so we could say that Isaiah had made them more fat, more deaf, more blind, and had closed their hearts. But that was not what he wanted to do, it was simply what God saw as the inevitable result. The offer that was open to them to turn and be healed was there all the time. And had they wished to turn and be healed they could have done so. No one stopped them but themselves. However the effect of trying to help them resulted in them getting worse. Was that Isaiah's fault? Yes and no. But he was not blameworthy. And the same applies here in Luke’s Gospel. What Jesus was saying was hidden from them because of their sinful minds that would not accept what they did not like to hear.
Luke 12.50. Why does Jesus use the word "Baptism"? It clearly refers to His coming suffering, but why is that a "Baptism"?
The answer to this is fairly straightforward. The word baptizo is a standard word in Greek and means ‘a drenching, an overwhelming’. It is we who give it a specialist meaning. Jesus was thus here expecting to be 'overwhelmed' in suffering.
Luke 12.57-59. Why does Jesus here talk about us being dragged off before the courts?
Jesus is in fact using the picture of a debtor who is dragged before the courts because he refuses to discuss his problems with his creditor. These verses bring out an important principle. There are two attitudes we can take when faced with controversial situations, one is to dig our feet in and fight to the very end, the other is to compromise and be reasonable. The former has through the ages caused family feuds, vendettas and death, or in lesser cases wasted huge amounts of time and encouraged hostility, the latter has enabled people to live together in harmony and has prevented people wasting their lives on trifles. This was Jesus way of teaching tolerance and a willingness to accept that both sides in an argument usually have some right on their side. As always there are exceptions where it does not apply, but it is a good principle of life.
However it also has a further significance here. Jesus was indicating that we (and Israel) are debtors to God. If we are wise therefore we will seek to become reconciled to Him before the Day of Judgment when it will be too late. Now mercy is available. Then all we can expect is the full wrath of the Law.
Luke 16.8-9 How do we explain these verses? How could Jesus commend an unrighteous steward? How can Christians use unrighteous wealth? How can it be used to make friends in eternal habitations?
The basic teaching of the passage is that we should use our possessions wisely. There is disagreement about what the steward was actually doing, or indeed what ‘unrighteous’ steward means. It may simply mean a steward who looked after ‘unrighteous mammon’, that is one who was worldly wise and thought only of this world. Possibly he had overcharged in order to cream off the top for himself, and was now foregoing his own part of the deals, thus getting quicker payment. Perhaps he had charged huge penalties for late payment, and was excusing them as long the debt was paid quickly (such huge penalties were common practise). Perhaps it was a way of making sure that payment actually came in by giving a big discount on goods which he had sold at a huge profit. His inefficient management (wasting of goods) would then partly be because previously no cash was actually being received. It was all debt. But the point that is really being made is that from being lazy and careless he had suddenly become business-wise and energetic. He had revealed his astuteness. Money flowed in and his master was pleased. Now, says Jesus, you should be like him. Not careless with your possessions but using them to win friends in the right place, in Heaven. It is the same thing as saying 'lay up for yourselves treasure in Heaven, where the moth cannot spoil it and the thieves cannot get at it'. The 'mammon of unrighteousness' simply indicates wealth which would be built up by a person using his time and energy in the wrong way, to gain wealth rather than to be a blessing to people. It need not necessarily be dishonest, just worldly (and therefore disobedient to God). They must now change and actually use their wealth in order to bless people. Those who were most likely to be humble, contrite, and faithful to God were often thought of as 'the poor'. For they were the ones who were not grasping and greedy and using wrong methods of obtaining wealth for themselves. So by blessing the poor they would be winning friends whom they would meet in Heaven. Verse 9 really says 'use your possessions in such a way as to gain friends in Heaven. A time will come when you will die and leave your possessions behind. Then it will be no good to you. But if you have used it to be a blessing to God's true people then when you reach Heaven you will find many friends whom you have won.' He then adds, 'be faithful in little things and then you will be faithful in big things'. So we should not wait until we are very rich before we become generous. We must commence our generosity now, so that in the future when all is known we will gain our own reward by seeing what a blessing it has been.
Luke 17.6 Jesus says "if you faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea' and it will obey you". What point is Jesus trying to make here? Are we to take this literally? Are there any biblical examples that demonstrate Jesus' statement in practise?
We must remember that Jesus often taught by using exaggeration and humour in his illustrations. Compare the speck and the builder’s beam in a man's eye (Matthew 7.3-5). The disciples were rightly concerned by their lack of faith. But Jesus was pointing out that they should not concentrate their attention on the smallness of their faith. It was not great faith that was needed. What was needed was a little faith in a great God. And once they began to exercise that it would grow. Why even faith as small as a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds known to them in Palestine, could enable amazing things if utilised in accordance with God’s purposes. Then He gave the example of the mulberry tree, which they could no doubt all see close by. It was a joke with a point. No one would want to transfer a mulberry tree to the depths of the sea. To plant a tree in the sea is a ludicrous idea. Jesus was only thinking of somewhere that was a distance away and hard to reach. But, He pointed out, it would only require small faith. What mattered was the greatness of the One in whom that faith was exercised. It would also require a great God. So they must not look at their faith but at the God in Whom they believed. Then their small faith would be sufficient, and like a mustard seed would grow.
No one ever probably tried to do this literally. In that sense it never happened in practise. For no one with faith would want to do such a foolish thing. Instead they demonstrated their faith by the great feats they finally achieved. It was a faith resulting from the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection. It is unbelieving man who looks for spectacular miracles, not those who trust their God..
However having said all that it did happen. Scripture often uses the growth of trees to symbolise the growth of nations. This type of mulberry tree was strong and sturdy, the equivalent of the cedar of Lebanon and the oak of Bashan. It could thus be seen as the equivalent of the Kingly Rule of God (see Ezekiel 17.22-24). The sea often represented the tumult of the nations. Thus in the end Jesus may well have been saying here, one day you will by faith uproot the tree of the Kingly Rule of God and plant it among the nations.
In Luke 18:35-43 Jesus encounters one blind man as he approaches Jericho. In the parallel accounts in Matthew (20:29-34) and Mark (10:46-52), Jesus is said to have encountered this man as he was leaving Jericho, and furthermore, while Matthew tells us that Jesus in fact healed two blind men, not one.
Firstly we must remember that there were two Jerichos. One on the ancient site famous for its defeat by Joshua and the new town nearby built in the Herodian era. If Luke as a Greek historian is thinking of drawing near to the new modern town and Matthew and Mark, as Jews, saw Him as having passed by the old town, much more important to Jews, there is no problem. In view of what would have been the undoubted popularity of the story of ancient Jericho it is very unlikely that the site of ancient Jericho would have been forgotten.
Others have however suggested that the man first of all cried to Jesus (unheard by Jesus but heard by many while He was approaching Jericho, that the man, realising that Jesus would soon be leaving Jericho arranged to be led to the road out of the town (where Jesus spent at least a day) and that therefore the second appeal came as Jesus was leaving Jericho. In each case the accounts are abbreviated. However while this is a reasonable suggestion the first seems more likely.
With regard to the number of beggars it is probably safe to say that Jesus healed a number of beggars there. There would be any number of beggars sitting there, some blind, some lame, some diseased, for it was a favourite spot for catching the Passover pilgrims once they had passed over Jordan. Matthew always had an eye for the finer details. He was there and remembered it well. And the fact that Bartimaeus' approach drew along with him a second blind beggar, possibly the one he had sat next to and chatted with, is not at all unlikely. He saw them as two acting together. Mark was writing from what Peter had constantly retold about the incident. And there all the attention had been on Bartimaeus. The fact that his name was known would suggest that he later became a prominent member of the early church which would explain why he was selected for mention. These differences are in fact evidence that the stories were not just copied from each other but were in the end three individual accounts.
1. In Luke 18:6 Jesus says God will bring justice to his "chosen ones" who cry out to him. The question is who are God's chosen ones and how does one become a chosen one? The phrase implies that God has chosen some to whom he will listen and therefore by implication won't listen to anyone else. Does the word chosen have a different meaning to what we understand in the modern world?
2. In 18:8 Jesus says that God will bring quick justice for his chosen ones and will not put them off. When I read this my immediate thought was about all the Christian martyrs and other believers who have been persecuted for their faith. Surely these people would have prayed for justice. How does this verse apply in such circumstances?
3. A final question relates to the second half of verse 8 where Jesus where Jesus is speaking about his second coming. The question is how does this statement connect with the content of the preceding 7 verses? Also what does his question mean?
This is one of the more enigmatic statements of Jesus but its meaning and purport is clear. The 'elect' were the true people of God in the Old Testament as opposed to just Israel in general. They were what are often called 'the remnant' (see Isaiah 6.13 where they are called 'the holy seed'), those who were faithful to God and His covenant. Israel themselves recognised that there were the true and false among the people of Israel. See for example Psalm 1 which makes this clear. Not all outward Israel were the true people of God. For 'the elect' in the Old Testament see Isaiah 42.1; 45.4, both of which referred to the true Israel, the Israel within Israel, although especially referring to the One Who would come Who would sum up Israel in Himself as the perfect Servant (depicted in Isaiah 53). See also for the elect Isaiah 65.9, 22. Paul stresses these 'elect ones' in his argument in Romans 9-11. See 11.5, 7. Peter also declared that Christians were God's elect (1 Peter 1.10). See also Paul in Romans 8.33; Colossians 3.12; 1 Thessalonians 1.4; 2 Timothy 2.10. So 'the chosen ones' are the people of God (Mark 13.20; 2 Thessalonians 2.13) ). In one sense you cannot become a chosen one. You either are or are not. If you are a true Christian you already are, for true Christians were 'chosen in Him before the foundation of the world' (Ephesians 1.4). And all who truly come to Christ were included within that choice. Thus Jesus could speak of those who were 'given to Him by the Father' (John 6.37; 10.29) and that only those who were His sheep would come to Him (John 10.16, 26-28). It is part of the mystery of God. On the other hand anyone can become a chosen one. All they have to do is believe on Jesus Christ and become His disciples.
With regard to the lesson of the parable Jesus was saying that when those who are His own call on God He always hears them It may not always seem like it but He does. But note that it says He is 'longsuffering over them'. God keeps in mind all that is done to His people but He does not always act immediately. He gives time, giving the opportunity for their adversaries to come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9).
There was a particularly evil man in the days of the early church. Women shivered when they heard his name. Children cried and fled to their mothers' arms. Even their husbands looked at each other grimly. He went everywhere killing Christians and hauling them into grim prisons. He was the terror of the church. And yet of all who built up and sustained the early church he was the greatest. His name was Saul which was changed to Paul. God was longsuffering, for Paul was a chosen one (Acts 9.15-16). So God even wants to give His enemies the opportunity of repentance. There have been many examples like Paul through the ages.
But when He does act on behalf of His own God will avenge them speedily. Swift justice will come on those who have persecuted the people of God, unless they repent. There was delay because God is merciful and the number of His martyrs must be complete (see Revelation 6.9-11). So the speedily does not mean shortly, it means that when He acts His action will be swift following His period of longsuffering.
The following verse is then more difficult. Jesus was pointing out that persecution would be so fierce that Christians would be made to wonder whether any would be left at all when Jesus returned. Certainly the emperor Diocletian persecuted the Christians and celebrated the fact that he had wiped out Christianity. Thus this was a warning of how necessary it was to keep the faith in times of persecution. He was saying, 'God will revenge His own, but the question is will they still be there?' Either because they have all been slain or because they have backslidden. Those who have died will of course be safe. Not a hair of their head will perish (Luke 21.18). But what of the remainder? It is a question not a statement. It is the choice of Christians whether it will be true or not. It is up to them. This is typical of the Scriptures. One moment it speaks majestically of God's elect, and then it warns of how important it is to keep the faith in the face of all that comes. It is the expression of certainty followed by encouragement and exhortation. In Peter's words we must make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1.10).
Luke 21. In Luke 21:7, the disciples ask Jesus when the temple will be destroyed as Jesus had predicted it would be in vs 6. But if the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD His response in verses 8-11 don't seem to leave enough time. Given that Jesus died in about 33 AD, that would leave 37 years for all the events describe in vs 8-11 to have taken place, including the "great signs from heaven". How then can we explain what specific events Jesus is talking about in these verses (especially how is answer relates to the disciple's question), and particularly what the "great signs from heaven" were?
Furthermore, in verse 16 Jesus says that some of the disciples will die for their faith, yet in verse 18 he says not a hair of their head will perish. What in these terms does verse 18 mean?
Here Jesus was answering the question as to when the destruction of the temple would take place. You must remember that like many Jews the Apostles were expecting a cataclysmic end to things. And here, having been told that the Temple would be destroyed, they wanted to know what signs would herald the destruction of the temple (all Jews loved signs from Heaven). So Jesus replied, not by giving a date which was not His purpose, but by demonstrating that many things must happen before that event took place. He wanted them to know that Messiahs and false prophets would come before that day, that great wars could happen, and would happen, without it signifying the destruction of the temple. That other cataclysmic events such as famine, pestilence and earthquakes could also happen without signifying the end. In the Roman world the 1st century AD was in fact seen as a century of catastrophes. Tacitus spoke about it with foreboding. There was a great famine in the reign of Claudius, and there were many smaller famines. There was a huge earthquake around 60 AD, and there were many smaller earthquakes. There were many wars. But Jesus did not want His disciples to see every catastrophe as a signal of the end. There was much to happen in Judea before the destruction of the temple. The Gospel had to be spread. There would be fierce persecution for Christians. The Gospel would also reach to every part of the Roman world and even beyond. So He warned of all these things and added 'but the end is not yet'. The one sign that would herald the destruction of the temple was when Jerusalem itself was surrounded by invading Roman legions. All these things did happen within that comparatively short period. (Paul could speak of the Gospel as having gone out into all the world - Romans 1.8. It is a matter of language).
However there is no reason why we should say that verses 8-19 had to happen before verses 20-24. They could well happen while the Jews were scattered among the Gentiles (verse 24). And these things did continue to happen.
Great signs were constantly seen in the heavens. The ancients looked for them far more than we do. Comets, shooting star, conjunctions of planets were all treated very seriously by 'experts' whose lifetime study was the heavens. But they too did not signal the end. So whereas modern Christians try to interpret every major thing that happens as a signal of the end (and have been doing so for two hundred years and more) Jesus warned of the opposite. All these spectacular things were not to be seen as signs of the destruction of the temple. Or of the end. They were simply signs along the way. So the verses you speak of were a deliberate attempt to warn the disciples not to be too taken up with signs, especially sign of the end.
'Not a hair of your head will perish' basically meant that when they went into eternity they would be completely whole. Not a single hair would be out of place. They may be martyred, they may be burned, they may be executed, they may be crucified, their bodies might be ground to powder and thrown into the sea or into a river. But they would come through in one piece, as though untouched. For they would have a new spiritual body that was perfect in all its functions and appearance. When Christians were martyred in the second century BC there persecutors burned their bodies and ground their bones to powder so as to ensure that they would not be in a condition to be resurrected. But it was futile. They would be resurrected in as perfect condition as any other. They would be presented before God without blemish. That was what Jesus promised.
Luke 21:25-33 Here Jesus is talking to the disciples about his final return on the last day. In the midst of this he tells them that "this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (v.32). Clearly Jesus has not returned as yet, while ‘that generation, in the way in which we understand the meaning of the word, has passed away. How are we to explain what Jesus meant when He used the term "generation"?
We must note carefully the main purpose of the passage. Both Mark and Luke begin by stressing that the main purpose of the discourse was to talk about the coming destruction of the temple. (We must recognise that to them this was a question about a most stupendous event. It was cataclysmic. It was almost beyond the realms of belief. To us it refers to an event in history that we do not consider all that important. But it is their point of view from which we have to see things. The temple destroyed? Surely not? When?). So the question was 'when shall these things be?' They therefore saw 'these things' as referring to the destruction of the temple and what accompanied it. And ‘these things’ would then be pointers or 'the sign' to the fact that Jesus coming could then happen at any time (Mark 13.29). But Mark then specifically says that Jesus said that He did not know the time of His coming (Mark 13.32). Now if someone speaks of 'these things' as happening within a generation but says that there is one event about which he does not know the timing at all most reasonable people would recognise that they had to exclude the last event from the meaning of 'these things' for which a time is given. So Jesus is saying 'all these things will happen within a generation, that is apart from my coming which I do not yet know the timing of'. Matthew adds at the beginning the question, 'what shall be the sign of your coming?' (Matthew 24.3) and in fact all three do also deal with that question, but Mark and Luke show where the concentration of the passage lies, in the things that lead up to the destruction of the temple. So all those things did happen within that generation, even though the more general ones have continued to happen since, as we would expect. But Jesus did not say that He would come within that generation. He said that He did not then know when that would be.
Others have pointed out that the word for 'generation' can also mean 'race' and suggest that He means that the Jews will not cease to be recognised as an independent people, but there is no indication in the account that that was a question at issue. Others still have suggested that that 'this generation' is the generation in which the final events would take place (‘these things being verses 25-28) and not the generation at the time when Jesus was speaking.
Luke 22.3 Luke says that "Satan entered Judas" before he went to the chief priests to betray Jesus. What does this mean? Is it to be taken literally (demonic possession), because if so, should Judas bear any responsibility for his actions? If it is a figure of speech, what precisely is its meaning?
There are different aspects of the work of Satan. He works on believers by suggestions in the mind and has to be resisted by wearing the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6.10-18) and by constant submission to God (James 4.7-8). He can attack them through other people who are more under his control (1 Peter 5.8-9). He has greater ability to influence those who are not believers and therefore do not have the same protection as believers (e.g. 2 Corinthians 4.4; Acts 26.18). However a limit is placed on Satan and his minions beyond which he cannot go except by invitation (compare Job 1-2; Genesis 6.1-4 with Jude 1.6; 1 Peter 3.19; 2 Peter 2.4).
A different situation takes place when a person becomes subject to demon possession. This can occur where a person opens him or herself to Satan and they become possessed. But this cannot just happen to anyone whatever they do. It happens to persons who open themselves in some way to such things by probing into the world of spirits by occult means, including ouija boards, palmistry, fortune-telling, planchet boards, divination, being a medium, involvement with spiritualism, total submission to evil, witchcraft and devil worship and so on. It can also happen through participation in idolatry which is a form of the occult (1 Corinthians 10.20), and especially by a deliberate making of the mind blank seeking some special 'spiritual' experience or revelation. No Christian should ever make his mind deliberately blank. When Satan entered into Judas we are not told exactly what was involved, but it was only because he had opened himself in some way that he did what he did. It was inevitable that with Jesus present Satan should seek out those who could be 'got at' to help him destroy Him. Judas became his willing tool and was therefore totally to blame for the consequences. It was only when he had become totally involved in his evil that Satan entered him.
(Luke 22:31). A number of problems are often seen here in that the verse suggests that Satan asks God for permission to do destructive things, and obtains that permission. Does not the evidence of destructive things in our world prove that God does grant Satan that permission, which seems astonishing knowing that God loves us and wants us to repent. Clearly in Peter's case, Satan was not granted his request, but perhaps a similar request had been made about Judas, where the request was granted. Why was Peter so blessed and Judas not? Why did Jesus not pray for Judas as he did Peter? (22:32).
We could also ask, why did God ever allow Satan and his minions to remain alive when they first sinned? We could ask, why did God ever allow Satan to tempt Adam? We could ask, why did God allow Adam to stay alive once he had sinned? We could ask why God allowed Noah and his family to survive the flood. Why not just take him up to Heaven, even though he was not sinless?. We could ask why mankind was not cut off at its roots? Why not start again? When we look at the awfulness of history we could ask, why has God not blasted the human race time and again? We are not pawns. We are main players. We each do evil within our spheres. We cannot blame Satan for what we all do. He can tempt and deceive us but he cannot make us do things. We choose to do them ourselves. We could ask why God allows us to remain alive in view of all the sin we do. And in each case we have to answer that we do not know. There are some things that are outside our knowledge.
We think we are very knowledgeable with our great knowledge of science. But in fact we know very little, and even much of that is total guesswork. What is clear is that God, having created, has allowed creation, first that of angels, and then that of men, to go on through history without in depth interference. Free will has been allowed its rein. Life for all has been allowed to go on. God allows Satan do what he wants to do, within limits. He allows you to do what you want to do, within limits. Both are given freedom within their limits. The Bible tells us little about the angels. Apart from a few glimpses, that world is not seen as being our business. But whilst each remains in its own sphere God has allowed survival and activity for both good and evil. It was only when the angels sought to overstep their sphere that God acted to prevent them (Genesis 6.1-4; Jude 1.6; 2 Peter 2.4).
But do not see it as a battle between Satan and God. There is no battle. Satan can be no more effective against God than we can. Nevertheless neither he nor us are pawns. We all choose to act in the way we do. Satan is very powerful humanly speaking but he can simply operative within his sphere. Yet like us Satan believes that he can thwart God. (He is as foolish as we are). He thought he could do it at the cross where he was totally deceived. He actually strove to bring about the very thing that will finally destroy him. How foolish can that be? And so does man believe that he can thwart God. Both in their own spheres somehow think that they can avoid God's final judgment, that they can combat God. It was not Satan who persecuted the people of God through the ages. It was man. Satan may have used a certain influence but he cannot force man to do evil. He can only suggest it. And both are in the wrong. Satan is as deceived as we are.
Why does God allow us to do destructive things and seemingly get away with it? Why does God allow puny man to shake his fist in the face of God. Apart from the fact that He recognises the childishness of man we do not know. What we do know is that God is allowing His purposes to go forward through history in all spheres, and that one day all will be finalised. Meanwhile He allows man's inhumanity to man, He allows Satan's enmity against those who serve God, He allows Satan's minions a certain sway. But there is a limit on all. If they pass that limit He acts. He allows powerful men on earth to oppose those who know God, those who believe. Why? Because in the end He knows that it will achieve the final good.
There was a great deal of difference between Peter and Judas. Peter was weak, but true. He failed but repented. He was a coward but not a knave. Judas on the other hand chose the way of betrayal. He was not true. He positively sought the death of Jesus. His heart had passed beyond the hope of mercy. Like Pharaoh he had 'hardened his heart' until it was too hard to be moved. He had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. Both exercised their freewill in different directions. God allowed Peter to be tested. He allowed him to be made a fool. But He knew that it would be good for him and would help to purify his life. He knew that it would make Peter a better and a greater man. And He allowed him to be sifted and to fall, but prayed that meanwhile he would be strengthened. And as ever a limit was put on what Satan could do.
The same applied with Job. The question you must ask is, would Peter or Job have chosen a different way once they knew all the facts? And the answer is that they would not. They would have acknowledged that what God allowed was right, both because of the benefit they then received, and because of the blessing it would bring to His people. But for Judas Jesus' prayer would not have availed. Judas did not want to do God's will. Judas' mind was set to do evil. We cannot doubt that Jesus prayed for Judas, and learned from His Father that there was no hope for Judas. He had gone too far. His heart was totally wrong within him.
The same is true of the human race. God allows it to sin within its limits, and those limits go very far. It is not a question of playing games, it is a question of allowing evil to survive for a time in all spheres, and allowing it to act within its sphere. It is a question of not interfering with freewill. Then man can have no excuse. Theoretically God could step in every time an act of evil was planned. He could cause you to freeze every time you contemplated sin. He could do the same in the world. But the world would cease to function. You would cease to function. God allows Satan a certain rein. He allows you a certain rein. Satan cannot manipulate man. He can only seek to lead him astray and use him when he responds to Satan. We cannot manipulate each other. We can only try to do so. And we do. Why should He destroy the one and not the other? And one day He will bring an end to it all. Meanwhile He is acting through the ages to bring His chosen ones to Himself in order that out of the whole maelstrom of evil good may come. And that is the Gospel.
Luke 23:39-43. Some see this passage as difficult because they cannot see how it reconciles with the parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark. In those two gospels the two criminals beside Jesus hurl insults upon him. In Luke only one criminal behaves in this manner whilst the other seems to have more of a developed understanding of who Jesus is than his own disciples. We must therefore ask, a) How do we account for the differences between Luke and the other synoptic gospels in this passage? b) How do we explain the amazing and knowledgeable faith of the repentant criminal, especially if he had been abusing Jesus? c) Is the first criminal not expressing faith when he asks Jesus if he is the Christ and believes that he has the ability to save them all? He does have a complaining attitude, but so too did many of the Psalmists when they cried out to God in their suffering. Why then was he not heard, while the other thief was?
In answering this question we must first imagine the situation. Two men were crucified along with Him. Both were revolutionaries, both hated the Romans and were looking forward to a leader Messiah who would raise the people against the Romans and give assistance to people like them in their fight. Both were thus Jewish enthusiasts. Both had probably taken in the teachings of Daniel. Possibly this had inspired their revolutionary zeal. And here was this man whom many who stood by the cross were deriding because they said that He had claimed to be the Messiah. Both almost certainly knew who He was humanly speaking. They knew He had been a prophet and had gone around teaching. They knew that at times people had tried to persuade Him to take the reins of kingship. They may even have tried to persuade Him themselves. They knew that He had always refused. And yet here He had finished up as they had in spite of His unwillingness to rebel as they had. They thought bitterly that if He had spoken out the crowds may well have followed Him. Then the numbers of the revolutionaries would have been much greater. Perhaps they might have had a chance. Thus they saw Him as partly responsible for their own position. That was why they rebuked Him.
And at first both were involved. Both were looking for someone to blame. But Jesus answered no word. He took all in silence. One revolutionary saw it as admission of guilt, as an admission of failure, and went on cursing his tormentors, the crowd and Jesus. But the other saw something deeper. As he moaned in his agony He watched this man whom all were insulting, and at whom all were shrieking, whom he himself had been yelling at, and something spoke in his heart. Many a preacher of the Gospel has experienced this kind of thing. Many at first railing, but one or two then seeing some truth in what they heard and ceasing to rail and beginning to listen. Did something of what he had earlier seen of the ministry of Jesus, some earlier teaching, come back to him? Possibly. But even more there spoke to him the dignified silence of this man, and the look on His face, and the love in His eyes. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb so He opened not His mouth. This man hanging on the cross somehow, almost impossibly, even while hanging there seemed in control. He spoke no curses. He spoke only forgiveness to His persecutors. He committed His mother to another. Nothing but love and compassion flowed from Him. He even looked at the two who tormented Him from their own crosses with nothing but love. And a great awe filled him. There was something here that he did not understand but which spoke volumes to him. He knew that in His heart this man was not afraid. And as he watched it dawned on him that this man was not afraid because He knew where He was going. He knew that for Him death was not the end. He knew that He was going to God. That He was going to His kingdom. Had not Daniel said it much earlier. In the times of bitter persecution at the end the persecuted would be raised to shine as the stars for ever (Daniel 12.2-3). And in the wretchedness of his own heart he knew that that was true of this man, and he believed. He who had fought for an earthly kingdom now remembered the heavenly rewards offered to the faithful. And he so wished they were for himself. In his own way he had tried to be faithful. And it was now clear to him that this man did know that they were for Him. That He was not afraid because He knew His destiny. And so he begged that this great martyr would remember him when God raised Him up, would possibly mention his name to God as one who tremblingly believed and had done what he could even if he had been mistaken. He hoped that it might then bring him some relief. But he could hardly have expected the reply he received. 'Today you will be with me in Paradise'.
Thus the railing thief had become the penitent thief, and now became the saved thief. We do not know the full facts but what we do know is that the Holy Spirit had gradually led this man to sufficient understanding to believe sufficiently to be saved. And that explains the difference. In order to be saved what is required is a very little knowledge of the Saviour and a huge change of heart.. Perhaps what had happened was unknown to Matthew and Mark. But Luke had found a source who could tell him about it and that was what he wrote down. Possibly it was the man's own godly mother who was also there at the cross and whose very prayers for her wayward son were being effective. Jesus' death, and way of dying, no doubt had many different effects on many people. This was one. I am not sure that his understanding was as deep as many think it was. Every Jew knew about the coming kingdom. Every Jew knew about the resurrection of the righteous. This Jew had simply come across One for Whom it was clearly going to be true. And he hoped that a word from this strange but godly prophet might help him at the judgment. The first thief was very different. He continued to rail at what he saw as a failed Messiah, an earthly Messiah. No illumination filled his heart. His thoughts went no further. He thought of Him as someone who just possibly might be able to do something extraordinary and get them all down from the cross (everyone knew that Jesus had done extraordinary thins in His life). But there was no movement in his heart. No sense of response. No awareness of his need before God. No repentance. He just cursed to the end.
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