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BI 1073 Story of Jesus / Lipscomb University

Unit 2A

Jesus Begins his Ministry

 

Jesus announces his ministry

 Read Luke 4:14-30

  • The setting for Jesus’ ministry begins in Galilee, the northern part of Palestine, the Roman name for Israel. The name Palestine comes from the Philistines who in the OT times lived on the southern coast (the modern day Gaza Strip). Josephus (first century Jewish historian) writes, “The Galileans were fond of innovations and by nature disposed to changes, and delighted in seditions. They were ever ready to follow a leader who would start an insurrection” (Life 17).
  • Here is a map of Palestine. Note the location of these major features: Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Jordan River, Samaria, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea.

palestine.gif

  • Luke places Jesus’ “first sermon” at the beginning of the Galilean ministry, emphasizing two themes which characterize this ministry, fulfillment of scripture and rejection by the people. This text appears later in his ministry in Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-8. Luke admits that this is not the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as he was already well known in the region (4:14-15, 23).
  • “It was Jesus’ habit to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day. There must have been many things with which he radically disagreed and which grated on him – yet he went” (Barclay). We should remember this lesson when we say to ourselves that we won’t attend worship because of something or other we have not liked. The purpose of worship is not to please us but to please God.
  • We also attend worship to be with other believers, to strengthen one another. God designed us for fellowship. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” It might be easier to stay home and watch a preacher on TV or the internet, but God wants us to be part of a community of his people, not isolated individuals. We need one another.
  • Every town with ten families had a synagogue. The temple in Jerusalem was the place for offering sacrifices, whereas the local synagogues were for teaching men the scriptures (women were not allowed). Synagogues are not mentioned in the OT, but seem to have developed during intertestamental times (after 400 BC).
  • Isaiah 61 is an important text for Jesus. He quotes this passage again when John questions if he is the one God has promised (Luke 7:18ff).
  • Christ receiving the Spirit means that he has God’s anointing for his special mission, just as in the OT high priests and kings were anointed with oil. Only Luke makes this connection between the Spirit and anointing (also Acts 10:38).
  • The story of Elijah and the widow comes from 1 Kings 17. Naaman’ s story is found in 2 Kings 5. Both illustrate how outsiders (Gentiles) accepted God more readily than many of the Jews did.
  • (22) Why does the text say that the people were amazed (or marveled) at his words, but then they rejected him? A better translation of this verse would be: “The people spoke about him and were astonished at his words…” in the sense of puzzled or shocked. They didn’t understand how the son of Joseph, a boy they all knew from childhood, could claim to be a prophet who fulfills scripture.
  • Jesus was not always popular. If we follow him, we shouldn’t expect to be popular in this world either.
  • The last phrase “he slipped through their midst”: the Greek doesn’t imply a miraculous escape, which would have been the very sign that they were looking for. Jesus simply got away from them.

Discussion: Christian freedom

  • In v. 18 Jesus speaks about “proclaiming freedom” which becomes a key term in Paul’s letters (mentioned over 40 times). But Christian freedom should not be confused with the American idea of freedom. The freedom which our society promotes, “My right to do whatever I want,” is not what the New Testament teaches.
  • Americans are obsessed with our “rights” — the right to own a gun, to smoke, to have an abortion, to live whatever lifestyle we choose, etc. The point is not which political position one takes on these particular issues, but to recognize that Christ calls us to a higher standard. We should be more concerned about our responsibilities toward others than insisting on our personal rights.
  • In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul explains that, although he had the right to be supported financially by the church to which he ministered, he did not exercise this right for fear that it might compromise his reputation with the Christians there (some might accuse him of preaching for profit). He argues that it is better sometimes to give up our rights for the sake of others.
  • Jesus gave the supreme example of self-sacrifice. In Phil. 2 Paul writes that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
  • Rather than being free to do whatever we want, freedom in Christ means being free from the bondage of sin, free from our own self-centered nature, free now to live for God and to serve others more than oneself.

 

Capernaum_synagogue.jpg

 

Miracles in Capernaum (= Mark 1:21-39 / Matthew 8:14-17)

 Read Luke 4:31-44

  • The ruins of a 4th century synagogue can be seen today in Capernaum on the probable spot where Jesus taught (photo above).
  • Demon possession in this passage is not an indication of sinfulness but sickness. In the gospels demons are not usually associated with Satan (except Luke 10:17-20). Luke uses the word “demon” more familiar to Gentile readers (seemingly his intended audience), whereas the Jewish phrase was usually “unclean spirit” as seen in Mark 1:23.
  • We get different glimpses of “demons” in the gospels. Sometimes they are personalities that speak to Jesus, but other times it seems as if demon possession refers simply to an illness. The texts don’t always give a clear distinction, because the people in those days didn’t see a distinction, attributing all kinds of disease to spirits. Notice that Jesus rebukes the fever in Peter’s mother-in-law just as he rebukes the demon. The point here is that just because a person in the NT has an unclean spirit, it doesn’t mean that they are demon-possessed.
  • Sometimes Jesus speaks as if the kingdom was already present in his ministry (11:20), sometimes the kingdom is very near (21:31-2), and sometimes the kingdom won’t appear until Christ returns (Luke 19, parable of the ten minas). But the truth is: whenever God reigns in human hearts, the kingdom exists.
  • To his 1st century Jewish audience, “Kingdom of God/Heaven” didn’t refer to some place we go when we die, but to Israel’s God finally becoming king over all, making everything right, fulfilling all his promises to Israel concerning the hope of restoration and transformation. Jesus challenged Israel to rethink its dreams (which were often limited to national liberation from Rome or other oppressors), and join him in a new way of being Israel, redefining itself and its role in God’s elective plan as a light to the Gentiles (who were always included in God’s plan).
  • Jesus probably sought a quiet place to pray, but he did not complain to the people to be left alone. “Prayer is great, but human need is greater. … Prayer must never be an escape from reality. Prayer cannot preserve a man from the insistent cry of human need. It must prepare him for it: and sometimes, too soon, he will need to rise from his knees and get to work.” [Barclay]  People of faith do not pray and then sit back and do nothing. They pray for God to bless their efforts in his kingdom, then they go about trying to do good. Paul knew that to evangelize the world, he had to leave his comfortable home and go on hard journeys. The work would not get done just by praying about it. It’s easy to pray for someone who’s sick or in need, but then not go over to their house and help them. Instead, God may answer our prayer to help others by using our efforts to do so.
  • In v. 38 Simon is another name for Peter. Just like today, most people had more than one name. Luke assumes that his readers already know who Simon is because he does not identify him. Luke omits the names of the other disciples present (mentioned in Mark 1:29) since in his account he hasn’t introduced them yet.

Calling the disciples

 Read Luke 5:1-11 and John 1:35-51

  • In the parallel passages in Mark 1:14-20 and Matthew 4:18-22, the disciples’ decision to follow Jesus seems very abrupt, with no hint that they even knew who he was beforehand. According to John, however, Andrew and Peter had met him earlier during John the Baptist’s ministry.
  • Luke’s account of meeting them again while fishing fills out the details. They were already familiar with him (he had previously healed Peter’s mother-in-law) and were convinced he was the messiah. But now they decide to leave their work and follow him in his ministry. (This is an example of where it’s helpful that we have more than one gospel to explain the details.)
  • Luke tends to call Jesus “master” rather than “rabbi” for the sake of his Gentile readers.
  • The lake of Gennesaret is more commonly called the sea of Galilee, or sometimes the sea of Tiberias (John 6:1, 23; 21:1).
  • In Luke 5:8 Peter says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” When we are keenly aware of the presence of God, in worship, a devotional or Bible study, we also become conscious of our own sinfulness. — A few churches today teach that if we are Christians, we are completely free from sin, but 1 John 1:8 is clear: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
  • In John’s account we also meet Nathanael. Some believe he is the same as Bartholomew, one of the disciples in the Synoptics, but there is no evidence for this idea. In his commentary Beasley-Murray suggests Nathanael is merely another early follower of Christ, not one of the Twelve. John mentions him again only in 21:2.
  • We don’t know why Nazareth had such a bad reputation.
  • Jesus’ reference to the fig tree may be a Jewish idiom for someone who’s contemplating the messianic age, when everyone would sit under his own fig tree as in the days of Solomon (1 K 4:25; Mic 4:4, Zec 3:10), a sign of prosperity and peace. Jesus may be saying to Nathanael, “I knew that you were contemplating my arrival.”

Conflicts with Jewish leaders (Luke 5:12 – 6:19 = Mark 1:40 – 3:19)

 Read Luke 5:12-16

  • In this next section, conflicts arise with Jewish leaders over forgiveness of sins, association with tax collectors, fasting, and the Sabbath.
  • The term leprosy (lepra) in the Bible refers to various non-fatal skin diseases such as psoriasis, but probably not what today is called Hansen’s disease, where nerve endings deaden, injuries don’t heal, and extremities become infected and rot off. Commands concerning leprosy can be found in Leviticus 13-14. A person with a skin disease was considered ritually unclean by OT law, even if not necessarily contagious.
  • Jesus began to enjoy some popularity, but only because people wanted something from him. “There are so many who desire the gifts of God but who repudiate the demands of God.” [Barclay]

 Read Luke 5:17-26

  • The Jewish historian Josephus describes three major sects of Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (probably the Qumran community near the Dead Sea). Pharisees means “separated ones.” They were devout keepers of the law who rose to prominence as a religious party during the Maccabean period (after 165 BC). Their strict obedience of the law caused them to feel superior to others. Scribes, often associated with Pharisees, were the official scholars of the law; they are sometimes called lawyers but not in the modern sense. Sadducees were the majority sect and were more liberal in their approach to the law.
  • Whereas Mark 2 describes them digging through a mud roof, Luke describes a tiled roof, more common to Gentile readers.
  • The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, an idea already foreshadowed in 1:77. OT prophets had promised that God would offer his people an age of forgiveness (Jer 31:34, Ezek 36:25, etc). Jesus brings the eschatological (future) promise of forgiveness into the present on his authority (a key word for Luke). If Jesus has the power to heal, it demonstrates his divine authority to offer God’s forgiveness.
  • Luke uses a more precise medical term for paralysis than in Mark (one indication that the author was a doctor).

 Read Luke 5:27-32

  • Levi is probably the same tax collector as Matthew in Matt. 9:9 and in the list of disciples below. It was not uncommon for people to be known by two names (just as most of us have more than one name): Saul = Paul, Simon = Peter.
  • Levi left a lucrative business to follow Jesus. Would we be as willing to sacrifice our comfortable way of life to follow Him?
  • Tax collectors often charged the people more than Roman law required, and then kept the profits.
  • Levi gave his fellow tax collectors an opportunity to hear Jesus. Since they were disliked in Jewish society, it’s possible that they would not have been admitted to the synagogues to hear him otherwise.
  • The Pharisees argue that Jesus is guilty by association. For them table fellowship implied that he approved of their sinful lifestyles. Jesus associates with sinners but doesn’t tolerate sin, calling them to repentance (Luke adds this last word to Mark’s account). Some people today talk about Jesus loving everyone without acknowledging that he offers his grace to those who repent, a constant theme in his teaching.

 Read Luke 5:33-39

  • Matthew 9:14 identifies these questioners as John’s disciples (not the Pharisees of the previous verses). This event is probably not connected to the dinner at Levi’s, but happened in another context.
  • Luke alters Mark’s parable slightly to emphasize new clothes, in parallel to new wine. New wine, when it ferments, will expand and break the brittle, old skin. These parables teach the incompatibility of old and new, but some people will always cling to the old, feeling safer with their traditions than with accepting the new.

 Read Luke 6:1-11

  • The OT law says nothing against plucking grain on the Sabbath. However, the Pharisees had invented many new prohibitions. In order to avoid any possibility of violation, Pharisees had “put a fence around the law” by extending its rules to extremes. For instance, carrying a burden on the Sabbath was forbidden (Jer 17:21) but the Pharisees defined specific types of burdens beyond what scripture identifies: carrying a dried fig, one swallow of milk, enough ink to write two letters, a pin stuck in your robe. Pharisees condemned even these minor “offenses.” By creating additional restrictions which God did not intend, the Pharisees ignored human need and made the law a burden for the people (see 11:46). These oral traditions were eventually written down around 200 AD and are called the Mishnah.
  • The Qumran community who collected the Dead Sea Scrolls was even more extreme; to avoid “labor” on the Sabbath, they would not even have a bowel movement (how they managed this, I have no idea).
  • Luke’s abridged version of this story is not as clear as the parallel texts. It helps to read the other gospel accounts to get the full meaning of this passage. In Mark 2:27 Jesus also says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He teaches that God set aside one day a week for people to rest from work; He did this for their good, not to place unrealistic burdens on them as the Pharisees had done. In Mark, Jesus points out that what’s true for man is certainly true for the Son of Man (reasoning from lesser to greater).
  • In Matthew 12:5-8 Jesus gives the example of priests working on the Sabbath, showing that even in the OT some work was allowed. He then provides an explanation: “Something greater is here.” Jesus has come to teach a higher, more ethical understanding of the law’s true intention, which is “mercy and not sacrifice.” God intended the law to serve people and help them live righteously, whereas the Pharisees had made keeping the Sabbath a legalistic nightmare, almost impossible to follow, a burden not a blessing.
  • Note: some people today misuse the term legalism and apply it to anyone who emphasizes following God’s commands. They may say, “Let’s not worry about obeying laws, but just love one another.” However, obeying God and his will as given in scripture is always important. Jesus criticizes the Pharisee’s creation of commands that were not actually in the law. But he also preaches that we must be obedient to the stated laws of God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Love of God is not a warm-fuzzy feeling but a life of obedience.
  • Luke’s argument hinges on recognizing Jesus as a type of David: as David understood human need sometimes superseded the law (in this case, eating the bread for the priests), so did Jesus.
  • By saying “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus doesn’t mean, “I can do whatever I want,” but that as Lord he has a superior interpretation of the Sabbath law, which was never intended to prohibit doing good on that day. He next demonstrates this by healing the man’s withered hand.
  • Some are always looking for something to criticize in others, rather than recognizing the good they are doing (are we at fault in this regard?). Jesus makes these points in his teachings later in the chapter: 6:37, 43-5.
  • Matthew 12:14 and Mark 3:6 explain that the Pharisees at this point began to plan how they might kill Jesus.
  • John 5 records a similar conflict with the Pharisees over the Sabbath, when Jesus heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda (which can still be seen in Jerusalem today). The Jewish leaders criticized the man for carrying his mat home on the Sabbath, rather than praising God for this miraculous healing. Jesus answered his critics, “’My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
  • Note: many Christians refer to Sunday as the Sabbath, but this is incorrect. The NT never describes Sunday, the day of Christian worship, as the Sabbath, nor does it ever apply the OT rules about working on the Sabbath to Sunday; for instance, some people think it is wrong to do housework or go to the grocery on Sunday; but these restrictions are not found in the NT.

List of the Twelve

 Read Luke 6:12-16

  • Luke more often uses the term “apostles” than the other gospels, who call them disciples. The word apostolous in Greek means one who is sent out on a mission. The word describes not an official position but a function, and other people besides the original twelve are called apostles: of course, Paul the apostle, but also Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Silas and Timothy (1 Thess 1:1, 2:6). Romans 16:7 mentions Andronicus and Junia (probably a husband and wife) as “outstanding among the apostles” but this could mean merely that they were known and respected by the twelve.
  • Of these 12 we know three of them only by name (Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot); they appear only in the lists, and are never mentioned otherwise. Two others have limited references in the other gospels: Matthew (Matt. 9:9-10, who may be the same tax collector as Levi in Mark 2:14 / Luke 5:27), and Judas the son of James, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot (John 14:22). This other Judas is listed as Thaddaeus in Matthew 10:1-4 and Mark 3:16-19.
  • Simon the Zealot: The zealots were not a distinct political party until the 67-70 AD Jewish revolt against Rome. Zealot describes his leanings, not affiliation with a specific group at this time. He was a Jew willing to fight against Roman rule.
  • The name Iscariot could mean “man from Kerioth” a region in Judea. Some also suggest the name derives from the Latin sicarius “dagger man,” or assassin, but this is an unlikely explanation, as his name would more likely come from Aramaic, the common language of Palestine. The gospels call Judas a thief, never an assassin.
  • Acts 1:22 indicates that all these men were with Jesus since his baptism.

Sermon on the Plain

 Read Luke 6:17-26

  • Luke describes this sermon as taking place on a plain or “level place” whereas Matthew 5 says it occurred on a “mount” or hillside, hence the more familiar name “Sermon on the Mount.” There is no contradiction here since Jesus probably taught these lessons many times in different places. Matthew’s account seems to be a summary of many of Jesus’ sermons, not necessarily just one.
  • Matthew’s version with 107 verses is much longer than Luke’s. Luke’s version shares 29 of these, and another 34 verses are found scattered throughout Luke in other contexts.
  • Luke’s recording of the “beatitudes” include four blessings and four woes, following the theme of reversal of earthly values introduced in Mary’s prayer(1:52-3). The poor will become rich (in the next life if not now), the rich will receive no more reward (they can’t take their riches with them). This is not meant as condemnation of every wealthy person but serves as a warning for those who pursue riches above all else.
  • “Jesus’ beatitudes challenge conventional wisdom regarding political power and wealth. They challenge the perspective that thinks we are what we have accomplished or have accumulated. The world values the winners, but Jesus pronounces the losers, the marginal, as blessed because God is for them” [DG].
  • “Blessed” means favored by God, not happy, not merely an emotion but having a positive status with God. It would make no sense to say, “Happy are those who weep.” Instead, those who weep will be blessed (comforted).
  • In Matthew 5:3 Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” whereas Luke simply has “Blessed are the poor.” Just because someone is economically poor doesn’t mean they are automatically included in the Kingdom of God; Jesus speaks to disciples who already have a believing interest in him. Nevertheless, God cares especially for the literal poor. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor (Isaiah 61, Luke 4:18, 7:22). Most of his listeners were the poor. Notice that Luke also says, “Blessed are those that hunger” whereas Matthew adds “after righteousness.” Luke focuses more attention on actual poverty in his gospel.
  • Matthew’s phrase “blessed are the poor in spirit” refers more broadly to all those who recognize their own helplessness who must put their whole trust in God. Even the wealthy should have this spirit, rather than feeling self-sufficient.
  • Jesus doesn’t suggest that believers should strive to be poor, but he accepts this condition as given in this world. Other texts emphasize how God has chosen the lowly, contemptible people of this world (1 Cor 1:26ff, James 2:5). Many who believe in him will come from the lowest levels of society, perhaps because they must rely on God and not their own resources. This is true today as the majority of the Christian population of the world is found not in the US or Europe but in third-world countries (South America, Africa).
  •  If God cares so much for the poor, shouldn’t we as Christians care more than we do in meeting their needs? Often our first instinct is to look down on the poor and make excuses for not helping: “it’s their own fault” or “they are just lazy” or “why don’t they get a job?” Jesus did not make such judgments about those he helped or fed. We sometimes want to help only those who we think are “deserving.” Can any of us say that we deserve the grace that God offers us?
  • Sadly we do not always do our part in sharing our blessings with those less fortunate. We are quick to quote our favorite proof text, “If a man doesn’t work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess 3:10) and assume that the poor are lazy bums who just want a handout. However, many of the poor do in fact work but at menial jobs (sometimes more than one) which do not pay enough to raise a family out of poverty, or loss of a job and/or bad health have taken their life savings. Also many of the “non-working” poor are children, elderly, or disabled. We need to be more understanding of the problems and more compassionate, and certainly less judgmental in our attitude toward the poor, if we want to follow God’s heart on this matter.
  • This first blessing is the only one fulfilled in the present; in some sense the poor experience the kingdom now. They have “freedom from that state of mind which ensnares the rich in the limited perspectives of the world, lulls them into a foolish self-confidence, and beguiles them into thinking material prosperity has its goal simply in their own enjoyment” [JN].
  • Those hungry now will be satisfied in the next age, reminding us of images of the messianic banquet which God has promised (Isaiah 25:6; Luke 12:37, 13:29, 14:15-24, 22:30).
  • Matthew’s phrase, “hunger and thirst after righteousness” suggests a slightly different idea: do we desire righteousness as much as a starving person wants food? Do we ache with our whole body for what’s right in the eyes of God? Do we actively seek out ways to do good?
  • Weeping is perhaps connected to the next verse, referring to the persecution of believers for their faith. It’s not clear whether “rejoice in that day” refers to the Judgment Day or to the time of persecution, but perhaps we should rejoice because the world hates us for Jesus’ sake.
  • Matthew’s list of blessings also includes those for the meek (meaning humble and submissive to God), the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.
  • Woe to the rich: money itself is not the problem but the attitudes it creates – arrogance, greed, selfishness, materialism, superiority. Riches tempt a person to feel self-sufficient, to seek happiness in earthly possessions and power, and to think of themselves more highly than others who have not achieved this success.
  • Luke illustrates this theme of the pitfall of riches several times: the rich fool (12:13-21), Pharisees (16:14), the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31), the rich young ruler (18:18-30).
  • “Woe to you” assumes some of those in Jesus’ audience had these attributes. Today we need to listen to these warnings as well; too often we distinguish ourselves from the “rich” like Bill Gates, forgetting that middle-class Americans are indeed rich in comparison to most of the world. When we say, “we’re not rich” are we trying to avoid the implications of Jesus’ message for our lives, wanting to hold onto every last thing we possess? These things truly aren’t ours; we are only stewards of God’s blessings, to use them for his glory.
  • Beware of praise from the wrong people who evaluate you by worldly standards. False prophets were often praised when they told the people just what they wanted to hear (Jer 5:31, Mic 2:11).

 Read Luke 6:27-36

  • Love your enemies: Jesus’ further words (do good, bless, pray) indicate that he is not commanding an emotion but behavior. We should treat our enemies in a loving manner, whatever we think or feel about them. Luke equates this standard with the golden rule (which Matthew 7:12 gives in another context). In this passage Jesus is talking about our personal enemies, people with whom we come in contact (thus we could do them good). This verse does not address the question of whether Christians should be in the military and kill others in war. After all, the OT gives many examples of God commanding the Israelites to wage war with their enemies.
  • A slap on the cheek was an insult more than physical abuse. “ Turn the other cheek” doesn’t mean that we should allow people to harm us. Although it’s not clear in English, some commentators believe that in the original language Jesus means to turn and walk away, don’t retaliate against those who insult you.
  • In context, those who ask for our things are probably those in need, not a thief. We should be more than willing to give our possessions, recognizing that in truth nothing is ours, but all is God’s. A person is no fool to give what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.
  • Jesus calls for a radical love, based on the nature of God’s love who is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (35). This type of love goes against our natural instincts. We want to get back at those who hurt us, we want to keep what is “ours.” But “this teaching raises questions to which it does not necessarily offer answers” [JN]. Are Christians to submit ourselves to abuse by others? Not according to Acts, where Christians flee persecution (14:5-6); Paul doesn’t turn the other cheek for the high priest who slaps him (23:2-3), and he seeks protection under Roman law (22:25, 25:10-12); all these examples are from religious persecution, the same context as Luke 6.
  • Jesus doesn’t address questions about self-defense against physical threats, legal constraints against criminals (Rom 13:4), legitimate legal claims against others (1 Cor 6:1-5). “The appeal for an attitude of aggressive openness to one’s opponents despite the cost is clear enough. Defining the boundaries of applicability and the relationship of this concern to other (perhaps equally valid) concerns is not” [JN]. In other words these few verses don’t answer all our questions or necessarily apply to all situations.
  • The Golden Rule, outside Luke, seems to be based on the principle of reciprocity, “do good to others so that they will do good to you,” but here it stands despite negative treatment by others, a more extreme standard to follow, as even pagans reciprocate good will. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Even if we do not expect our enemies to do us good, we should treat others in a loving manner, no matter how they treat us.

 Read Luke 6:37-49

  • Some people misapply this verse, saying that we can never point out the sin in someone’s life. “Do not judge” doesn’t mean showing indifference to sin. The OT prophets strongly condemned the sins of the people and their rulers. Jesus himself had harsh judgments against the hypocritical Pharisees. In 1 Cor 5, Paul scolds the church for ignoring a man’s sexual immorality, and tells them to break off fellowship with him. He lists sinners who will not inherit the kingdom (Gal. 5:21, 1 Cor 6: 9-11). When the Bible speaks clearly about sin, the church must not be afraid to preach against it in a compassionate but truthful manner, with the intention of bringing sinners to repentance. In this verse about judging (and below in 41-2) Jesus warns about having an attitude of superiority, forgetting we are all sinners, and a failure to forgive and show mercy to others, just as we have been shown mercy (36).
  • The phrase “pressed down and shaken together” (38) refers to how they did business in the markets. When we buy a box of Cheerios today, it’s filled by weight; it settles down and there’s room left in the box. If you were to buy Cheerios in a market in Jesus’ time, they would fill up the box, press it down, shake it to get all of the air out, and then fill it again, so you had a completely filled box of Cheerios. That’s how God says he will give back to us if we give, filled to overflowing. However, we misunderstand Jesus if we assume he means only material blessings. “This verse has nothing to do with receiving fabulous economic benefits on earth for being generous. Jesus does not encourage his disciples to give of their wealth in order to get more wealth. They give because their nature has been transformed” by God’s grace. [DG] God’s people are giving people (or should be).
  • Matthew 15:14 applies “the blind leading the blind” to the Pharisees, but here Jesus warns his disciples not to behave this way. This text demonstrates how Jesus repeated certain teachings, but in different contexts they take on different meanings.
  • Jesus’ parable of the beam in one’s eye gives us a glimpse of his sense of humor, using an exaggerated, ridiculous image to “poke fun at those who seek to reform others when they are unreformed. … Failure to come to terms with our own limitations and shortcomings warps our judgment of others” [DG].
  • In Matthew Jesus uses this “tree and fruit” analogy twice, about false prophets (7:15-20) and Pharisees (12:33). Luke applies this analogy to the disciples, as they must put Jesus’ words into practice to truly be his followers (another example of the importance of studying a passage in context, as Jesus’ metaphor has a different meaning in each case).

 

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