photo by Mark A Hewitt
Monday, May 12 Chapter 6
The Sabbath when Jesus and his followers were picking and eating grain from a field would have been a week or two after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They could not have been more than half a mile from a town or there would have been no Pharisees around. They would not walk that far on a Sabbath.
Jesus does not throw out the Torah teaching, he simply makes it practical. People get hungry on Saturday just like any other day. When Jesus says, The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath, he is repeating the common teachings of rabbis of the day. Those same Pharisees would think nothing of working all day to save one of their animals, yet they condemn people for eating.
Jesus selected Twelve of the disciples for his inner group. They were also given the rank of Apostles, ambassadors for Jesus. Most of us are disciples, followers with only a few chosen as Apostles to work in mission fields, near and far.
Starting with verse 17, Jesus gives the blessings and woes, better known as the Beatitudes. We generally think of chapter 5 in Matthew for them, but we find them here as well. One scholar has recorded 45 beatitudes in the Old Testament, such as Psalm 1:1-2:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
The word, poor, occurs 131 times in the Old Testament (NIV). Poverty another 15, and love several hundred. Again, Jesus is hardly breaking new ground.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, The only way to overcome your enemy is to love him. In the New Testament our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility, for Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility. Exodus 23:1-9 and Leviticus 19:18 give practical examples of such love.
We find this whole section difficult. We would rather picture Jesus in the Temple chasing the money changers with a whip. But that is the duty of God not ours.
If we judge, we cannot love. By judging, we place ourselves above the other person.
About one-third of all the words of Jesus in the first three Gospels are parables. Verses 39-45, however are really proverbs.
The Tree and Builders are parables teaching us to watch and take care who we follow. Look for the fruit; is it hate or love. Check the foundation; is it set firmly in the Scriptures?
Tuesday, May 13 Chapter 7
Jesus reentered Capernaum, his headquarters and the home of at least four Apostles. The centurion first sends Jewish elders to request Jesus to heal his servant, then sends friends. It is clear that the centurion believes Jesus has the power to heal without understanding what it all means. That is a lesson for us. We will never fully understand what God is about. We take it on faith that He knows what He is doing.
The second message is interesting. It shows that he believes he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his gentile house. His faith impresses Jesus.
In Nain, Jesus raises a man from death. The centurion invites Jesus to his house, but now he steps in uninvited. In both cases, people call him Kyrios, Lord; Luke being the only one to use the term before the crucifixion.
There is an important passage in 1 Kings 17:17-24 that we need to read in the context of the resurrection.
Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
This is another sign of the Messiah that Jesus had to fulfill. Yet, in verse 16 the people accept him as a prophet, but not the Messiah.
In Verse 18, John sends his disciples to Jesus without mention of prison. Luke does seem to assume that he is in prison. Josephus wrote in his history that John was held at Machaerus, a stronghold and prison east of the Dead Sea.
John is not sure about all the tales he is hearing. Was I wrong when I baptized you? Jesus response is to paraphrase Isaiah, leaving out releasing the captives possibly to avoid giving John false hope.
Jesus praises the work of John to the crowds. He quotes both fables and scripture to show the greatness of John. Yet, in verse 28 Jesus says that everyone is greater than John. Why? It is a common Hebrew style. It means that as great as John is, others will be at least as great; basically, all will be equally great.
In the next account, Jesus is at a special dinner in the home of a Pharisee. Many wealthy men liked to have their sumptuous meals out where the neighbors could be envious. A woman washed Jesus’ feet and cried for him.
In the eyes of the Pharisee, touching any woman not his family defiles Jesus. But he goes farther in his thinking: a true prophet would have recognized that the woman was a sinner and would have refused her presence. The Pharisee is gloating in his own superiority.
Jesus lets him know that he knows both the woman’s sin and the Pharisee’s inner thoughts.
On this story, three early Church Fathers wrote:
Ephrem the Syrian (360 AD) Impure lips became holy by kissing his feet. She was graciously comforting with oil the feet of her Physician, who had graciously brought the treasury of healing to her suffering. That blind Pharisee, for whom wonders were not enough, discredited the common things he saw because of the wondrous things he failed to see.
Ambrose of Milan (385 AD) The Law does not possess the mystery in which secret sins are cleansed.
Augustine (420 AD, a student of Ambrose) She will not think that she has been forgiven little and so love little.
Isaiah 43:25 is important here:
I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.
Wednesday, May 14 chapter 8
Jesus went from town to town preaching the Good News. G. Campbell Morgan, writing in 1931, has this to say about that preaching:
The word preaching shows the style, the method…. Preaching is proclaiming as a herald, and when a herald proclaims, he is representing a King, and therefore there is authority in his message….
The word evangelizing reveals the content of the preaching. What was it? Telling the good news. What good news? The good news of the Kingdom of God.
That is the Gospel. God reigns, and He has provided a way by which banished ones may return. He went everywhere, not submitting a Gospel to the consideration of the crowd, but hearlding it, declaring it, God’s message to men, good news. He went through the cities and the villages, heralding the good news f the Kingdom of God.
Luke includes the women who play an important role in the spreading of the Gospel. In verse 3 they are said to be deacons, the meaning of the Greek translated helping.
The parable of the sower follows traditional Hebrew story telling style. It was common to use a noun-verb combination of the same word: the sower will sow the seed. It was also common to use three negatives with one positive.
This parable could be called the Parable of the Hearers. It is about receiving the Good News.
Verse 9 is a stumbling block for many. Why would Jesus hide the truth? He does not. He speaks the truth in a way most people can understand, yet they do not grasp the full meanings which even the Apostles will not understand until they become filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Good News is simple enough for a child to understand, but difficult enough for Peter and Paul to still be confused upon their deaths. We cannot know God; He is the Great Mystery.
Jesus’ parables are more than stories; they demand decisions. First, do you believe the truth of the story? Second, will you repent and turn back to God?
Rabbis from ancient times to today have spoken of students as sponges, funnels, strainers, and sieves. The sponge takes in everything and is overloaded, so understands little. The funnel allows everything to flow out the other ear. The strainer allows the good ideas to flow out and keeps the bad. Only the sieve saves the best.
On the account of Jesus’ family coming to visit, Luke does not use the harsh expressions of Mark, but the meaning is the same: Jesus’ family are the brothers and sisters of the Fellowship.
When Jesus and others took a boat on Lake Gennesaret (became the Sea of Galilee in recent times, even though it is fresh water), the Greek word is whirlwind that came up and endangered them. The fishermen understood the danger better than the others. They cried to Jesus to save them. Ephrem the Syrian in 370 AD said it best: He who was sleeping was awakened and cast the sea into a sleep.
The demon possessed man puts Jesus to the test. He is in Gentile territory instead of the Holy Land and the demons number in the thousands. The Greek word for Legion comes directly from the Latin for a Roman Legion of about 8,000 men. Mark says that there were about 2,000 pigs sent into the lake. Regardless of the odds, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, won.
The people did not have the proper response though, one of fear instead of faith.
The dead girl and the bleeding woman are one story, not just because one interrupts the other. We have a 12-year-old girl and a woman bleeding for 12 years. The girl is just at the age to begin bleeding, to have her bat mitzvah, and be ready for marriage. The woman has not had a life for those twelve years because uterine hemorrhaging left her unclean and unable to be with family and friends.
On his way to heal the dying girl, the woman touches the tassel on the prayer shawl of Jesus who feels the touch. He knows the woman touched him and why, but he wants a teaching moment. So he stops and forces her to tell everyone what she has done.
Notice what happens in verses 48-49. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Jesus, with one word, links the healing of the woman with the resurrection of the dead girl; daughter.
Thursday, May 15 Chapter 9
Sending the Twelve on their first missionary journey was a big step for them and a big risk for Jesus. Chrysostam, writing about 400 AD, gives us a good description of the importance of the event.
Jesus succeeded in setting the human race free with no force of arms, no expenditure of money, not by starting wars of conquest, nor by inflaming men to battle. He had only eleven men to start with, men who were undistinguished, without learning, ill-informed, destitute, poorly clad, without weapons, or sandals, men who had but a single tunic to wear.
We can imagine the Twelve returning to Jesus as excited as five-year olds on Christmas morning. They each vied with the others to tell Jesus what happened. Jesus had no doubt spent the time in prayer to support them in their efforts, but let them enjoy the moment.
Teaching again, they found themselves near Bethsaida on the north-eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret with thousands of people ready to eat.
An important point often overlooked: the Apostles have just returned from doing miraculous things, but they have no idea how to feed these people.
So Jesus feeds them, much like Moses and the manna, much like Jesus at Passover. Unlike with the manna which could not be kept for later, the Apostles picked up 12 baskets full, one for each of them. They probably did not get the message then; feed people.
Jesus then asks the Twelve, Who do you say I am? Once we answer with Peter, You are the Christ, the Messiah sent by God, we must respond by taking up our crosses. We first deny, repudiate, reject, contradict, disagree, rebuff ourselves. To take up a cross is to cease being the sinful, greedy, self-centered human we really are and become the person who thinks only of others, to become like Jesus. We must do it daily because we are not strong enough to maintain our faithfulness. We are of the two steps forward, one back class; and sometimes two or three back.
Eight days later, eight being the number of days old Jesus was when presented at the Temple, Jesus took the inner circle with him to visit with Moses and Elijah. As Jesus prayed and his trusty inner circle slept, Jesus’ face began to glow like that of Moses returning from the mountain with the tablets. Moses and Elijah were both forerunners of the Messiah, so here another promise of the Old Testament is kept.
Verse 35 is right out of Deuteronomy 18:15-20: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
The next day, a man accosts Jesus wanting him to do what the disciples failed to do. Jesus’ response makes sense in the context of visiting with his old friends, Moses and Elijah. He is ready to join them in heaven. How long shall I stay with you?
From the commentary on Luke by F. Godet, a Swiss theologian (US translation 1881): After enjoying fellowship with celestial beings, Jesus suddenly finds himself in the midst of a world where unbelief prevails in all its various degrees. It is therefore the contrast, not between one man and another, but between this entire humanity alienated from God, in the midst of which He finds Himself, and the inhabitants of heaven whom He has just left, which wrings from Him this mournful exclamation…. The holy enjoyment of the night before has, as it were, made Him homesick.
In verse 45, Jesus is telling the Apostles several things: the Man Jesus will be betrayed by men; do not take the adulation of the crowd seriously, they will soon turn against me, and you; it is going to happen in a way that will surprise and confound you.
The Twelve respond by arguing over who of them is the greatest.
Verse 37 begins the long journey to resurrection. As they pass through Samaria, Luke alone records many of the incidents, though John has several of them happening over three years time.
The literal translation is that Jesus set his face for Jerusalem, a common expression of the day. Samaria was a region settled by a mixture of people after the Great Exile. They believed only in the Torah, the five books of Moses. They had no conception of the Messiah and did not worship in Jerusalem but on Mount Gerizim.
At verse 55 most ancient manuscripts read: But Jesus turned and rebuked them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
The chapter ends with another lesson in the cost of discipleship. The work of the Kingdom always comes first. On that point, most of us are deficient.
Friday, May 16 Chapter 10
Jesus selects 70 or 72 people (manuscripts are split about in half on the number) from among the disciples, not including the Apostles, to go on a mission trip, preparing the way for Jesus. He asks them to go into the homes of the dreaded and unclean Samaritans, eat and sleep with them.
The Kingdom of God is near.
The Samaritans responded so well that Jesus mourned for Bethsaida and Capernaum because they did not respond as well.
When the disciples returned saying even the demons responded to them, Jesus quoted Isaiah 14:12, morning star being the name given to the evil one:
How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
In verse 21 Jesus gives another lesson in who is great. The Apostles had to notice that even the “other” followers were able to do what they had done earlier.
If you have to pick one parable as the only explanation of the Gospel, The Good Samaritan is it. The expert in the Law asks a question and then quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. It is hard to do any better than that, but notice Jesus response, you will live; no mention of eternal life which was the question.
Luke says the lawyer wanted to trick Jesus and he pushed for more. He got it.
Jesus has a Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It is in Judea, not Samaria. The road is 17 miles long, dropping from 2,600 feet to 855 feet below sea level, a total of 3,455 feet down. Bandits lived along and worked the road like it was their own ATM.
The single most dangerous spot was the Adummim Pass where hundreds were robbed every year and many left for dead. Everyone who heard the story knew all these details and probably knew someone who had been robbed and/or killed.
Notice that Jesus says they were all going down the road. That means the priest and Levite did not have to concern themselves so much with ritual purity. Touching a dead man or a not Jew would require seven days of purification, but they were not headed for the Temple for duty. In other words, they had no ready excuse.
Most priests and Levites were Sadducees who rejected the teachings of the rabbis and Pharisees while the lawyer who started this parable was most likely a Pharisee. Their teachings required both the priests and Levites to bury the dead in just such a case as this. Even stronger, they required all written laws must be violated to preserve life.
All the listeners would have understood that the priest and Levite would have traveled with several servants for protection, but they would not allow any of them to touch the man because touching the servant would then make the priest and Levite unclean also.
In the parable we have the typical balance:
The robber steals and beats the man the Samaritan pays for his care
The priest does nothing the Samaritan transports the man
The Levite does nothing the Samaritan treats his wounds.
The surprise for the listeners is that the man who stops is not a Jew, not even a Galilean.
As to the end of the chapter, Augustine (about 400 AD) wrote:
Martha was busy satisfying the needs of those who were hungry and thirsty. With deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house. It was an important but transitory work. It will not always be necessary to eat and drink, will it?
What was Mary enjoying while she was listening?… Let’s ask the Lord, who keeps such a splendid table for his own people, let’s ask him. “Blessed,” he says, “are those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, because they shall be satisfied.”…
What was Mary enjoying? What was she eating? I’m persistent on this point, because I’m enjoying it too. I will venture to say that she was eating the one she was listening to. I mean, if she was eating truth, didn’t he say himself, “I am the truth?” What more can I say? He was being eaten, because he was the Bread. “I,” he said, “am the bread who came down from heaven.” This is the bread which nourishes and never diminishes.
Ambrose added a few years earlier: Virtue does not have a single form. In the example of Martha and Mary, there is added the busy devotion of the one and the pious attention of the other to the Word of God….
Be righteous and do good.