skip to Main Content

 

BI 1073 Story of Jesus / Lipscomb University

Unit 3B

Prayer, the Pharisees, and Judgment

 

Teaching on Prayer

 Read Luke 11:1-4

  • Matthew records a similar version of this prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gave his disciples (including us) this lesson on how we should pray. We do not have to repeat these same words every time, but our prayers should reflect the qualities found in this model prayer.
  • Jesus starts his model prayer by acknowledging our relationship. We come to God not as strangers or anonymous servants in the presence of a king. God is our father; he knows us personally.
  • This idea of God as our father gives us comfort, but also reminds us of our proper status. As divine parent, God deserves our respect. He has authority over us. Just like a child whining “gimme, gimme, gimme,” prayer too often becomes our list of demands as if He were our servant, or a genie in a bottle who will grant us all our selfish desires. We should come to him seeking his will, not our own.
  • The idea of God as our father is not new in the NT. There are several references in the OT: Deut 32:6, Ps 89:27, Isa 63:16, Jer 3:19, Mal 2:10. The new idea here is Jesus’ demonstration of true sonship, showing us how to be properly obedient.
  • Calling God “father” doesn’t bring him down to our level. Notice the next phrase, “Holy is your name.” “Holy” means set apart from common things. God is set apart from the world, high above us. We should never become too comfortable in the presence of the almighty God (read Isaiah 6 and the prophet’s fearful reaction to being in God’s presence).
  • A fellow Bible teacher at Lipscomb told about the response he heard from some of his students from overseas, who said they were uncomfortable with how Americans treat the name of God so casually. We utter things like, “Oh my God, this is a good hamburger,” without thinking how we belittle the divine name. In our culture it’s wrong to use racial slurs (which is true), but OK to swear or curse using the name of Jesus.
  • Orthodox Jews respect the name of God so much that they do not even write it down in full. In English they may abbreviate it as “G-d” as a sign of respect. (I’m not advocating this, but I appreciate their attitude.)
  • The name of God refers to more than calling him “Yahweh,” his revealed name in the OT (mistranslated in English as “Jehovah”).  In the Bible a name refers to a person’s nature or character. God is holy by his very nature; he cannot be anything else.
  • “Your kingdom come” which Matthew follows with “Your will be done.” These phrases are synonymous, as wherever the will of God reigns, there is his kingdom. We know that God reigns in our hearts not by some vague feeling but if we are doing his will.
  • Our prayers should be more concerned with the fulfillment of God’s will than asking God to fulfill our own wishes.
  • Someone might say, “God’s will be done” in a tone of defeated resignation or bitter resentment, meaning that they don’t like what’s happened but can’t do anything to change it.  However, Jesus teaches us to pray that our will be aligned with God’s will, so that we desire the same things as God does.
  • The only personal request in this prayer is for daily bread, just enough of our basic needs to get us through the day. Otherwise, Jesus spends most of his time in acknowledging our relationship and dependence (“our Father in heaven”), in praise (“Holy is your name”), in aligning our will to God’s (“Your kingdom come, your will be done”), and in requests for righteous living (“Forgive our sins … deliver us from evil”). We don’t see here the long checklist of requests that make up most of our personal prayers. And we certainly don’t see the requests for material prosperity which some TV evangelists promote today.
  • In v. 3 “daily” (epiousion) is a rare Greek word, used only here in all known Greek literature (even 3rd century scholars didn’t know it). Possible translations may be “necessary for existence” or “for the coming day” (just enough). Jesus focuses on our basic needs, not our list of wants. His example teaches us not to ask for an abundance of things. Certainly God hears our requests for anything, but perhaps we should spend more time in prayer thanking God for what we have than asking for what we don’t have.
  • In the OT, God taught his people about living one day at a time when he gave them manna enough for that day; those who hoarded the manna for future use saw it spoil.
  • Furthermore, when we think about our basic needs, it should cause us to think also of those who do not have these basic needs met, and prompt us to help those who are not as blessed as we are.
  • When someone who has hurt you asks for forgiveness, don’t think about what he or she has done to you; think of what Christ has done for you and how he forgave his enemies even on the cross.
  • In 2006 a man killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. A few days later the Amish community publicly forgave the killer, saying, ” If you do not forgive, then you cannot be healed.”
  • God doesn’t tempt anyone (James 1:13-14) but Jesus asks for strength that we not fall into the sin which tempts us (Luke 22:40, 46).
  • Barclay notes that the prayer covers past sins, present needs, and future trials.
  • One student wrote: “What an interesting section on prayer! I always thought it superfluous to start our prayers with praise to God. After all, He’s God and He knows who he is and repeating it whenever we pray seemed a waste of time. An astonishing understanding was revealed to me in this unit: that by praising him first, not only am I acknowledging his power and his place, but I’m putting my own mind in the right framework to pray. Suddenly what I want no longer matters; it is what He asks of me. The praise that begins our prayers establishes my proper relationship with God, causing me to acknowledge my place.”

 Read Luke 11:5-13

  • God is much more giving than the neighbor in the parable. By praying persistently, believers do not convince a reluctant God to answer but show their constant dependence on God. Prayer changes those who pray, not the will of God to bless.
  • DG argues that “shamelessness” describes the awakened neighbor, not the persistent host. If the sleepy man refuses to help, the host may go to another house to ask, then they will learn about the selfish neighbor. Because he does not want to be shamed in the eyes of others, he will get up and share the food. In a similar way God answered the petitions of his people Israel in order to uphold the honor of his name and reputation among the foreign nations (Ezek 20:9-22, 36:22-23).
  • “Seek and you will find,” but for what should we be seeking? “Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things [the materialistic things we usually pray for] will be added” (12:31). Jesus teaches us that prayer is foremost about conforming ourselves to God’s will, not trying to persuade Him to conform to ours.
  • (13) The parallel text in Matt. 7:11 says God will give “good things,” which Luke defines as the Holy Spirit, that is, the presence of God in our lives. The focus of our prayer requests should be for spiritual blessings rather than material desires. When Jesus says, “Ask and it shall be given to you,” we want to interpret that as a blank check, requesting all the many things we desire. But his conclusion to this section on prayer tells us what God wants most for us to have, his Spirit in our lives each day.

Controversies with the Pharisees

 Read Luke 11:14-28

  • Luke turns from discussion of the Spirit to evil spirits.
  • Beelzebul means “lord (baal) of the exalted abode” but the name is not found in the OT. Ancient Canaanite texts discovered in the 20th century use this name for their god. 2 Kings 1 has a similar name, Baalzebub, “lord of the flies,” the Philistine god of the city of Ekron (possibly a pun making fun of the pagan god). As Jesus uses it, however, the name refers to Satan.
  • Jesus points out the illogical argument they are making. How could he be casting out demons in the name of a demon? Accusing Jesus of working with Satan didn’t make sense because Satan would not cast out demons; only by the power of God could Jesus be doing this.
  • In our culture it is politically correct to remain neutral, nonpartisan, tolerant of all views in a diverse society. But Jesus’ presence forces people to make a choice. “In a cosmic war there are no spectators; everyone lines up on one side or the other.” [DB]
  • “Finger of God”: Matthew 12:28 has “Spirit of God.” See Ezek 8:1-3, 1 Chron 28:12, 19 where the Spirit and the hand of God are equated. The Spirit indicates God’s power working in the world.
  • (24) Parable of the “Haunted House”: neutrality is emptiness, a void which will eventually be filled by something. We must fill our lives with good, or else evil will enter again.

 Read Luke 11:29-36

  • Jonah performed no miracles but preached repentance, which was enough for Nineveh to accept but not for the present generation. They fail to appreciate the words of wisdom from God (as did the queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10). Pagans responded to Jonah and Solomon better than the Jews did to Jesus. That is why he calls them an evil generation.
  • Jesus liked this lamp analogy, using it before in 8:16 (compare how it is used in a different context in Matthew 5:15-16).
  • God has revealed the light in Jesus; he himself is the sign for which they seek, if only they would believe what they see. If they opened their eyes in faith, they would be filled with light.
  • In 2 Cor. 4:4, Paul says something similar to Jesus’ teaching here: “The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, the image of God.”

 Read Luke 11:37-54

  • The Pharisees were the most “religious” Jews. To feel the full impact of these verses, we should not be too quick to point an accusing finger at them, but ask ourselves if we fall sometimes into the same behavior. Do we waste time arguing over insignificant matters and overlook justice and love? Have we made laws of our traditions which are not in the Bible? Do we crave too much attention and praise when we do something good? Would Jesus speak to us today as he did to the Pharisees?
  • Washing hands before a meal was not about good hygiene but religious ceremony, signifying purity before God. In the OT these ritual washings were required for the priests before handling food for the offerings at the tabernacle (Ex. 30:19-21), but the Pharisees had made this a rule for everyone at common meals. Jesus doesn’t show disrespect for the OT law but questions the binding of tradition not commanded in scripture. See v. 42 where he supports matters of the law such as tithing, justice, and love.
  • (41) Give what is within, that is, out of a good heart (NIV has a misleading translation, “give that which is in the dish”).
  • Jesus speaks six woes to the Pharisees. Matthew places similar material (in different order) much later (Matthew 23), closer to the final confrontation with the Pharisees. Luke’s order makes this incident the beginning of Jesus’ troubles with them.
  • Different from Matthew, Luke’s list of things tithed emphasizes extremes to which Pharisees would go to meet the letter of the law. They focused on minor matters and lost sight of the more important issues.
  • (42) Rue (or dill) was a wild plant, not garden grown, and so was exempt from tithes, but these Pharisees did it anyway. (Perhaps not all Pharisees were like this. We get a biased view from the NT which focuses on Jesus’ opponents. The first century Jewish historian Josephus describes Pharisees as the most religious men of the day.)
  • Surveys show that American Christians today give on average about 2.5% of their income. Most of us are not even as charitable as the Pharisees Jesus criticizes, a sad commentary.
  • (43) Some Pharisees seem to have practiced their strict religious codes for the sake of appearances, enjoying the praise and admiration of others too much. In Luke 18 Jesus condemns the Pharisee who stands on the street corner and prays in public for the attention he receives.
  • (44) Walking on tombs would make one spiritually unclean for seven days (Num 19:16). Because of their hypocrisy, the Pharisees are as bad a source of defilement to others as an unmarked grave. In Matthew 23:27 Jesus calls them “white-washed sepulchers,” clean on the outside but filled with death.
  • Those today who claim that Jesus didn’t judge others but simply accepted everyone as they are have not read the gospels carefully. In ch. 10 we saw his judgment on the towns in Galilee who rejected him. Also see the risen Christ’s severe condemnation of the unfaithful churches in Rev. 1-3 (only two escape his criticism). Jesus accepts everyone who comes to him in faith and repentance, with a changed heart and a changed life. But those who continue to live sinful lives will ultimately face the final judgment when Jesus says, “Depart from me” (Matt. 25:41-6).
  • (47) The Pharisees would claim they built tombs to honor the prophets, but Jesus says they simply finished what their forefathers started. They do not heed the prophets past or present. They will kill Jesus just as their ancestors killed the prophets.
  • (49) This quote is not from the OT. We don’t know the source.
  • (51) It looks like Jesus is saying “you killed the prophets from A to Z” but this doesn’t work in Greek, or in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.

Preparing for the Coming Judgment

This next section (12:1-13:9) forms a nice literary unit created from different sources. Jesus tells his disciples not to listen to these hypocritical Pharisees, nor fear them; their judgment will come (1-12). Nor should they depend on wealth (13-21) but trust God to provide (22-34), staying focused on the kingdom (31), ever watchful for the master’s return (35-48). To live this way is not easy and will bring conflict with the world (49-53), but it is better to prepare for judgment (54-59). Even those who escape suffering in this life will eventually perish unless they repent (13:1-9).

 Read Luke 12:1-12

  • This lesson is spoken mainly to his disciples but with implications for the crowd.
  • In this verse yeast/leaven is a metaphor for the pervasive influence of the Pharisee’s hypocrisy; in 13:21 Jesus uses yeast to describe the growth of the kingdom.
  • (2) “There is nothing concealed which will not be disclosed.” Jesus mentions the Pharisee’s hypocrisy, currently hidden, being revealed; in 8:17 he applies this saying not to hypocrisy but to God’s revealing truth to those receptive to it. In Matthew 10:26, this statement means the disciples should proclaim publicly what Jesus has taught them in private. One statement, three applications, which illustrates the importance of studying verses in their context to determine their meaning.
  • (4) This is the only verse in the Synoptic gospels where Jesus refers to his disciples as friends.
  • (5) “Hell” in the Aramaic language is the word Gehenna (valley of Hinnom), literally a place south of Jerusalem, in earlier times a site of human sacrifice to the pagan god Molech (2 Kings 23:10; Jer 7:32, 19:4-6, 32:34-5), later a place where they burned garbage. This was a vivid image for eternal punishment. (The English word Hell comes from the Norse goddess of the underworld.)
  • (10) may qualify (9): if someone disowned Jesus during the few years of his earthly ministry, he still had a chance to believe later, but not if he rejected the Spirit’s witness about Christ after the resurrection. Even Jesus’ half-brothers did not believe him at first, but later James became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Paul rejected Jesus and persecuted his followers before becoming a leading apostle of the early church.
  • The “unforgivable” sin is rejecting the Spirit’s testimony that Jesus is the only source of forgiveness; if you reject this truth about Jesus, there is no place else to turn for forgiveness. (Some people incorrectly think that the unforgivable sin is suicide, but the Bible never says that.)

 Read Luke 12:13-34

  • Although a man interrupts him, Jesus uses the occasion to warn of another direct road to judgment: trusting in wealth.
  • The parable of the rich fool is unique to Luke, and stands as a strong and uncomfortable challenge to the American value of unlimited acquisition, never having enough, always “building bigger barns.”
  • It never occurs to this man that he could give away the surplus to those in need. Instead he keeps it all for himself.
  • “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” This is not a slogan most Americans have hanging on their walls.
  • No other parable uses so often the words “I, me, my, mine.” The rich fool was aggressively self-centered. He never saw beyond himself, and he never saw beyond this world. [Barclay]
  • (33) Luke characteristically adds concern for the poor (not in Matthew 6).
  • The old lesson: “You can’t take it with you,” or as the Spanish say, “There are no pockets in a shroud.” [Barclay]

 Read Luke 12:35-48

  • Having the kingdom as our priority (31) means living in readiness for the master’s return. It’s doubtful if in its original setting this lesson was understood as the Second Coming by the disciples, who didn’t even understand yet about his death. Notice Peter’s question about whom Jesus was addressing (41). They still had much to learn.
  • This passage teaches a similar lesson to Matthew 25’s wise and foolish virgins, identified there as a kingdom parable. The wise virgins were always ready for the Master’s return.
  • (37) Note that the master returns to serve the servants. Jesus provides the supreme example of servant leadership. Jesus is Lord but he chose to serve others, most importantly in dying in our place.
  • (38) Jews measured the night time in four watches: 6-9 pm, 9-12 pm, 12-3 am, 3-6 am, so Jesus refers to the middle of the night.
  • If more Christians today took Jesus’ words to heart, that he will come as a thief with no warning, there would not be so many books and TV evangelists looking for signs of the end of the world. There will be no signs of his coming; he will surprise everyone. When someone claims to know the date of his return, he makes Jesus a liar.
  • Jesus answers Peter’s question with a question: who have I put in charge of the lesser servants? He is speaking of the leaders (48b) who have great responsibility.

 Read Luke 12:49-53

  • Jesus’ coming to earth established the basis on which judgment would be meted out (12:8-9), but first judgment must fall on him, in an act of total immersion. Baptism here is a metaphor for his death.
  • Jesus does bring peace to those who follow him, but inevitably there will be division between believers and unbelievers. First we have peace with God; then we must strive to be peace makers with others, but in this life not everyone will accept Jesus as the ground of peace. Wars will never cease among the enemies of God.

 Read Luke 12:54-59

  • In Palestine the west wind brings rain from the Mediterranean sea, the south wind comes across the desert.
  • Signs of the times: not signs of the End, but the signs in their own day that God was working through Jesus, calling for a decision and repentance.
  • The point of this brief parable: A time of crisis calls for immediate response; act before it is too late, before judgment falls on you. They must listen to Jesus’ message of repentance and act now.
  • When Jesus teaches about God’s mercy toward sinners, we must remember that God offers this mercy to those who come back to him in a spirit of repentance. The way some people talk today, it’s as if God simply loves without any condition and forgives everyone no matter what, with no change required in a person’s life. Everyone gets a free pass into heaven. But Jesus speaks over and over about the need to repent, to forsake sinful ways, and live obedient lives. He told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Too many people want God’s forgiveness without having to repent or change the way they want to live. For those people, the Bible clearly teaches that God’s justice will indeed have the final say.

 Read Luke 13:1-9

  • Although the details are not definite, some believe that the incident with Pilate concerns an uprising in Galilee protesting the building of an aqueduct using temple funds (told by the historian Josephus). Soldiers dressed as Jews mingled with the crowd and killed many of them.
  • These people Jesus mentions were no greater sinners than others who were not killed. Suffering is not necessarily direct punishment for a person’s sin. Sometimes bad things just happen to good people. God doesn’t cause everything to happen. He is not the cause of every hurricane, earthquake, or plane crash. The OT story of Job is the supreme example of unwarranted suffering, not sent by God. Likewise in John 9:1-3, the disciples ask Jesus about a blind man: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answers, “Neither.” We should not assume that God purposely chose this man to be born with this defect.
  • Fig tree parable follows two reports of sudden death: who knows when our time will come, so don’t delay repentance. God gives his people one last chance in Jesus; his patience is great but not everlasting. A day of judgment will come, in the next life if not in this one.

Reversals now and to come

Note the parallel themes in these next two chapters: healing on Sabbath (13:10-17, 14:1-6), kingdom parables (13:18-21, 14:15-24), difficulties of discipleship (13:22-30, 14:25-35)

 Read Luke 13:10-21

  • Luke commonly balances stories of women and men (see healing of man in 14:1; see also 7:1-10 / 11-17, 8:26f / 40f).
  • “A spirit of infirmity”: this is a healing story, not an exorcism. Satan is often seen as the force behind human suffering (Job, Acts 10:38).
  • The gospels record seven unique times when Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
  • Just as a small seed becomes a large tree, the kingdom of God had humble beginnings but would grow into something great. “One would never guess Jesus and his small band of disciples had anything to do with the future, glorious Kingdom of God. … This is the mystery, the new truth about the Kingdom” coming in a “small” way (Ladd 93, 99, 112).
  • Many times Jesus refers to yeast/leaven as a symbol for bad influence, but here it is the good work of the kingdom spreading through the world.

 Read Luke 13:22-30

  • (22) This verse is another signpost on his way to Jerusalem (and the cross).
  • Striving to enter the kingdom is a lifelong quest. “Keep on striving” Jesus says. As was said of a mountain climber who perished, “He died climbing,” we must constantly be climbing upward. There is no point in this life when we “arrive” at spiritual perfection (Barclay).
  • Jesus gives three reasons why few will be saved: the door is narrow (difficulty of following him), the people come too late (time of decision is now), unrepented wickedness.
  • Probably the last to arrive in the story are the Gentiles, coming from the four corners of the world. This would be a shocking reversal of Jewish expectations who thought of themselves as the elect, and Gentiles as outcast sinners. Jesus warns against attitudes of superiority, as no one deserves the grace of God.

 Read Luke 13:31-35

  • According to the historian Josephus (Ant. 18:245), Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great) liked tranquility, so he would want to get rid of any troublemakers. The Pharisees may use this threat as a convenient way of removing Jesus from the scene.
  • The three days in v. 33 are not meant literally, as it took Jesus longer than that to reach Jerusalem, but this is a Jewish idiom for a short but indefinite time. Jesus knew he must die but in his own time. Jesus doesn’t fear Herod’s death threats, as his death is in God’s hands and for a divine purpose.
  • Another reversal of expectations in Luke: prophets sent by God should have been honored in Jerusalem, not killed.
  • Luke includes here Jesus concern for Jerusalem “like a mother hen” which Matthew records during Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem.

Key themes in Unit Three

  • Counting the cost of discipleship: 9:57-62, 14:25-35
  • True purpose of prayer (God’s will, not ours): 11:1-13 (cf. 22:42)
  • Be prepared for judgment (ch. 12)

 

Back to Unit 3a

Go to Unit 4a

Back To Top