Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Year: Acts 4-6 for Nov 17

What Peter the apostle had said at the end of Acts 3 to "the sons of the prophets and of the covenant" (3:25) provided the way forward for the nation to take. Though many did (5:14; 6:1,7), the existing leadership of the nation was against the teaching of the apostles. Was the scene going to be merely a power-struggle between followers of one teaching versus another, the entrenched versus the new?

Another way of asking this question, for the Christian, is this: "is it God, that exists, or merely competing religious explanations?" Does He do things, or is He a theoretical markup of events? If so, then are the events capable of being marked up another way?

Certainly in Acts 4-6 He does things, and the events in these chapters don't lend themselves well to multiple paradigms that ignore Jesus Christ. The resurrection-based (4:10) facts keep multiplying. Peter tells the entrenched rulers, and the whole nation, that the "man has been made well" (4:9) by "the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead" (4:10).

Not only that, but Jesus does not stand merely as the name (power and authority) behind a miracle, but a name behind salvation, indeed, the only one (4:12). If there is no salvation in anyone else but Christ, then "we" -- Peter and his listeners too -- must resort to Him for their salvation as well.

As if it were not mismatched enough a contest, obedience to God versus obedience to the conflicting orders of man on the other (4:19), the contestants do not comprise just the apostles versus those who are threatening them (4:29). There is the groundswell (4:31), among which there emerges (6:3, 5) Stephen, a non-apostle but "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (6:5), whose very face the Council saw "like the face of an angel" (6:15). It was not just the apostles against the Council. Gamaliel was right, in Acts 5:39. The Council was finding themselves to be fighting against God.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

New Year: Acts 1-3 for Nov 16

If Jesus's coming was according to the four gospels, a legitimate question someone would have is "if all that was as it was described, what next?" Part of the answer is here in Acts 1-3. Luke gives us a hint here at the beginning: the gospels are only what "Jesus began to do and teach" (Acts 1:1).

As Luke continues his narrative from his gospel to here, Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:2-4 have a natural connection. How does Acts 1 fit in?

The Expositors Bible Commentary calls the comparison of Acts 1:15-19 and Matthew 27 the most difficult in the New Testament. It does not seem to be. Judas had acquired money (Jn 12:6) and died on his own property, the "Field of Blood" (Acts 1:19). Before he died, the "chief priests and elders" (Mt 27:3) got their coins back from him, with which they bought the "Potter's Field" (Mt 27:7). Luke reports the manner of Judas' death, explaining what happened by integrating what Matthew (27:5) had said (as Acts 1:18, "falling headlong") with what followed after that (1:18b), which gave that property its name.

"Pentecost" refers to fifty days in Greek. It is a period of about seven weeks, forty days of which (1:3) Jesus presented Himself alive many times, and spoke of the kingdom of God. Paul refers to these days and those who witnessed them in 1 Cor 15, about 30 years later, and cites that most are still are alive from those forty days in which they saw Him (1 Cor 15:6). After His ascension, then, what would ensue? The comment of the angels to the disciples (1:11) doesn't say anything about that, although it says great things!

There is the scenario of sameness, 1:14, 26, and a contrasting scenario of what is pointedly and miraculously not the same, 2:1 - 3:26. It can by symbolized by Peter drawing straws regarding one person, versus after the day of Pentecost, Peter speaking to thousands of the whole nation, explaining to them everything that happened, their role, their culpability mixed with ignorance, and what to do next! To this very people and leadership that had their part to put Jesus to death (3:15), though acting "in ignorance" (3:17!), Peter speaks directly of that which was for their forgiveness (2:38), including what they should know (2:36), and what they should do and what will be done to them (2:38) -- and how that will effect the whole course of history (3:20-21)!

What they were to know amounted to the kind of thing that the Lord had emphasized all along in His earthly ministry, that there was a "predetermined plan" and "foreknowledge of God" (2:23), and that God had done things (2:32) according to it (2:33). How things changed for Peter and the disciples from the times of Luke 18:34! Peter explains things very clearly now, and it was not that it was a secret plan (3:18), in any case! In Acts 3:17-26 Peter explains the significance of not only that time, which he calls "these days" (3:26), but that there will be certain days to come: the "times of refreshing" (3:19), and the "period of restoration of all things " (3:21).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Year: John 19-21 for Nov 15

John's gospel presents the death and resurrection of Jesus in these three chapters, John 19-21. John is the master of understatement. He takes it from the understatement inherent in reporting these Resurrection appearances and not more. John can do this -- be selective, and write as if on a plain matter of history, because of the fact that the New Creation is built on the fact of the Resurrection, not just the two chapter report of it.

Three "Mary's" were at His crucifixion (Jn 19:25), and one of them, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb on Sunday (Jn 20:1). She was the first to be talked to by Jesus. who has risen, but she does not do anything but suppose him to be the gardener at first (20:15). This is NOT good science fiction. No glowing luminosity here. No outward sign. The opposite of what you might expect.

On the other hand, previous to this, Peter and "the other disciple" come to the tomb on the basis of the first report of Mary Magdalene that something was amiss (20:2) and as a result of seeing the grave-clothes, the disciple that came with Peter "saw and believed" (20:8). John comments on the fact that this late date of belief is due to the fact that "they" -- presumably not just that one disciple, but all of them -- "they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead" (20:9). This too is the opposite of what you might expect.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Year: John 16-18 for Nov 14

By John 18 the hour that Jesus had said would come finally does come (17:1), and chapters 16-18 all show how these events take a second seat to the people.

All of them, from the highest officials such as the high priest and the governor, to slaves (18:10) and door-keepers (18:16-17), act as they choose to, yet according to providence, and the events are all providentially governed by God.

For example, the disciples whom He prays for regarding the their protection and priveleges throughout John 14-17, are freed from being arrested with Jesus (cf. 12:10) by prophecy and a single word by Jesus (18:8-9). Peter, whose behavior in the garden could easily get him arrested too (18:10), evidently at that point didn't want to be freed to go his way (18:8, 10), yet his own denials, predicted just earlier (13:38), serve the goals of 18:8-9.

Human nature in its evil is depicted very directly. Annas tries to assert himself by getting Jesus to give an account of disciples and teaching (18:19)! Annas wasn't looking for information, which Jesus points out he could get from others (18:21). Perhaps the assertion of his authority?

In the case of the "officers of the Jews" (18:12), they say they want Pilate to execute Jesus. Why? It may be just because they want to control the fate of whoever is an "evildoer" (18:30).

We readers are left shaking our heads that they want to kill the Innocent Man, yet they don't want to be ceremonially unclean for the passover (18:28). Therefore their own religious scruples hinder their plans for evil.

But Pilate doesn't miss his chance to show his colors. Pilate mocks them by toying with them, twice, mocking their religion-based antagonism (18:29-31a), then saying he "finds" no guilt (18:38). That's the official language of innocence, but Pilate's scheming comes forth: in calling Jesus "King of the Jews" (18:39), derisively, not intending to release him at that point, and having just heard from Jesus Himself that His kingdom is not of this world (18:36), Pilate puts his admitted scoffing at "truth" (19:38) at the service of what he knows: power politics.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Year: John 13-15 for Nov 13

In the ministry of Jesus among His disciples in John 13-15, He does not disparage them (13:10) or exalt them either (13:38).

Why, after Judas left, does the command to love one another receive such prominent emphasis? What is the "new" in the "new commandment" there (13:34)? The "even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" is a possibility -- the quality of the love -- but also, its extent (13:1).

The related subject of the disciples' love for Jesus is not brought out as a reciprocation of His love for them. It is specifically founded upon other foundations: their knowing God, even that they "have seen Him" -- in Jesus (14:8-10). Then, He exhorts them to believe Him about some things, and encourages them that they will be answered in their prayers no matter what (14:13-14). With that amazing foundation, Jesus then brings up their love for Him, and the consequence: keeping His commandments.

Comparing 14:15, "if you love Me, you will keep My commandments," and 14:23-24, "'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; ... He who does not love Me does not keep My words," we notice that Jesus infers FROM love TO the keeping of His words and commandments, and FROM lack of love TO not keeping His commandments. What about FROM keeping the commandments, TO love? Not here (cf. 12:47).

What the Lord does infer FROM keeping His commandments is abiding in His love (15:10).

What then of 14:21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me"? These two things are given -- having His commandments, and keeping them -- as being of the essence for loving Him. They show that to love Christ is not a one-time act, but it is always identified with the keeping of His commandments, plural, all of them. Thus it is always an ongoing and repeatedly measurable state. This is often thought of as only a means of determining that someone does not love Christ, as if the rule cannot apply to anyone's future if they have broken it in the past. What then, is true, of someone who has not kept His commandments? The statement also applies to their future, and they should take heart from it -- such a person, who has Christ's commandments and keeps them, is also "the one who loves Me." The statement of Christ remains true.

Is this, then, the means? Is keeping the commandments the means of loving Christ? No. It is the repeatable measure of loving Christ. The measure of something is not the means of acquiring it. "We love, because He first loved us," Scripture says elsewhere (1 Jn 4:19).

New Year: John 11-12 for Nov 12

In John 11-12 is the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the reaction to it, followed by the summary of the whole public ministry of Jesus (12:36b-50).

The "why" of these events is also explained. Some people believed but didn't confess it -- i.e. they were secret about it -- John explains why (12:42-43). Some people didn't believe even though they saw many signs -- John explains why (12:37-39a).

The chief priests and the Pharisees held a council after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead -- John explains why (11:48). During this time, Jesus would go out "to the country near the wilderness" -- John explains why (11:54). The fact that Jesus has come to this point -- He Himself tells the Father why, and John records it (12:27).

The Lord's own summary of His whole significance to this point in His life, in His own words, is recorded by John, and is meant for us to know. I think we should know these words by heart (12:44-50).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Year: John 9-10 for Nov 11

Though the identity of Christ is a theme throughout John's gospel, the eternal consequences of the opponents not knowing it came out very pointedly in the previous chapter (8:21,24).

John's gospel has a close-up look at many of the ideas of Christ's opponents. In John 9-10, Christ's identity is again the subject of those who revile Jesus, which they want to bring up (9:16,29).

There is a one-question verse, John 9:35, that is surprising in its brevity and succinctness. It is a non-confrontational conversation of Jesus, in the middle of chapters of confrontational conversations Jesus is having with representatives of the entrenched religion. In this one-question verse John documents what Jesus Himself may well be thought to put as the first question for all those He saves, perhaps even the premier question: "do you believe in the Son of Man?"

It is certainly true that John 10:42 uses this phrase without explanation. We readers have been accumulating knowledge about this idea since 1:12! The reader therefore, by the time of 10:42, has been given that content which informs the meaning of it. All John has to say in 10:42 is "many believed in Him there." And we readers know by then, what that means.

How? One of the best ways to see that is in fact 9:35-39. Look at the progression: Jesus heals the blind man (9:7). The formerly blind man identifies Jesus first as "the man who is called Jesus" (9:11). In 9:17, the man says "He is a prophet" -- to antagonistic listeners (9:18), as the man's parents well knew (9:22). Then, being summoned a second time for questioning, the man says "whether He is a sinner, I do not know" (9:25). But he turns the tables on the questioners, telling them they weren't listening to him (9:27). So he teaches the questioners what he believes about Jesus, that Jesus is from God (9:33). They recognize that they have just been taught (9:34).

And so the Lord Jesus, in 9:35, throws a theological question at the blind man, who definitely sees, but doesn't know he sees, theologically, and whom he sees. Jesus asks him, "do you believe in the Son of Man?"

The man obviously doesn't know the reference, "Son of Man," and very clearly wants to just get the reference, because he is definitely going to believe in the Son of Man when Jesus identifies who that is.

How Jesus does so (9:37) is very endearing. This circumlocution about Himself SHOUTS at us about how the Lord identifies Himself similarly in the Old Testament as well, to those He grants knowledge of Himself to. Remember Jacob (Gen 32:29)? Moses (Ex 3:4,13-15; Ex 33:21-23)? Gideon (Judges 6:17-21)? Isaiah (6:1-7)?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Year: John 7-8 for Nov 10

The theme of response to opposition is heavy in John 7-8, along with what goes on despite it.

In a passage from yesterday (5:18) the opposition to Jesus was described in the same extreme as in our chapters, and indeed the discussion is similar (5:30-47) in some places (cf. 8:14).

When, in matters of religion, a discussion focuses on what authority there is for an assertion (8:13), the discussion is usually one of opposing views. It's similar to any two opponents discussing things on the merit of each view, and getting nowhere, and one of the participants saying "who thinks like you think?" Indeed, this is a form of "argumentum ad populum," trying to say that a view has this X amount of outside support. Indeed, the discussions of Jesus in the temple show forth many examples of the type of fallacies that arguments are subject to.

For example, the famous fallacy of judging an opinion by the origin of the one who holds it: 7:52. Another one is judging an opinion by the status of the one(s) speaking, either socially or educationally (7:15; 7:49).

What was the lack of faith among his brothers or family, in 7:1-9? It says that "not even His [Christ's] brothers were believing in Him" (7:5), but they hadn't said anything that seemed negative, on the face of it (7:3-4). It's all in the "if," of verse 4, I think. Maybe He was doing these things, maybe He wasn't? Did they doubt that He did them? The brothers' words were a possible contrast to Peter's in 6:68-69. The brothers wanted more actions in central places like Judea (7:3), but the disciples inferred from the actions to the character of the person, and Peter summed it up "We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." The brothers were not believing in Him, but wanted Him to do more, "if" He really was doing those things. So the "if" can conceal a syllogism something like "sure, you've done these things in a small region of the world, but we suspend judgment on their significance ... perhaps this small corner of the world is unable to figure out something fishy about these things, so go do them where they big boys can see." A possibility for unbelieving brothers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Year: John 5-6 for Nov 9

In John 5-6, Jesus teaches largely in the midst of a settled hostility or unwillingness to believe in Him. Who does He teach? The other ones, merely the ones who are willing? No, he confronts the unbelievers, and does not mince words with them.

The moral categorizations in this chapter are very clear. It's not only the language, but the thought forms. It's a standard Hebrew thought-form (categorization) to divide the world into the righteous and the wicked. Jesus does not teach against this, but adds to it. Let's look at some of these additions.

In John 5:29-30, all who are in the tombs will come forth, to one of two resurrections, "of life," and "of judgment." This should not surprise us given what Jesus has taught so far! John 5:24 anticipates it: "he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." This single verse sheds light on 5:29-30, which does NOT divide the world into those who pass or fail at the judgment, but on those who have already passed out of death into life, are not judged, versus those who go to judgment! It's not judgment passed or judgment failed, but either life already or judgment!

The two additions are the avoiding of judgment ("does not come into judgment," 5:24, and "resurrection of life" 5:29), and the relationship of that to something that happens at that very time: "he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me" (5:24), a) does not come into judgmnet, and b) has eternal life (5:24)!

What is it "about believing Him who sent Me" in 5:24 that changes things? The negative is also stated in 5:38, "you do not believe Him who He sent." Believing God, as in believing a person, sounds like believing what a person is saying or said. Abraham believed God about the stars, and God credited it to him as righteousness. That's another way of saying this.

Believing God when they hear Jesus's word: this implies the very coordination of activity that Jesus had just explained to them about Himself and His Father. Indeed, He doesn't back off any of it, in the many subtopics from 5:18-38. When Jesus spoke, the question was, were they going to believe God. This implies that God was giving witness to them of the truth of what Jesus said. And, if that were not good enough, the Lord would even allow it, for them to have taken it -- on the testimony of John the Baptist (5:34)!

New Year: John 2-4 for Nov 8

There are a couple of examples here of teaching that Jesus gives that is not fully understood until way later: 2:18-22, and 3:1-12. What Jesus says in 3:1ff is not understood: "how can a man" do this and that, "can he?", and "how can these things be?" However, when it comes to God versus our knowledge, Jesus has a very refreshing thing to say, especially to those with pride in their knowledge and those who have to know all about something before they can believe it: that is verse 8. It's part of the nature of the knowledge, not only of God, who is Spirit, but of everyone else born of God, that knowledge of them is incomplete: "so is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (3:8). They're like the wind; it is manifestly true of the wind, that we do not know where it is going, or where it comes from.

This is the reason Jesus gives for telling Nicodemus "do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again'" (3:7). It's the best part of knowledge, to know that it stops, and not to be amazed that it does.

The second and final comment of Nicodemus here (3:9)is not a real question, but a remonstrance regarding the topic. He doesn't understand how everyone born of the Spirit is like the wind blowing where it wishes, no one knowing its origin or destination. The rest of the chapter expands on the "everyone" of 3:8. Nicodemus, "the teacher of Israel" -- this is not a slam, but an honorific, which makes the irony even stronger! -- should know about the filial status of Israel, in places like Is 1:2-4 and Hosea 11:1, yet there being at that time only hints about eternal life. Like the people shining like stars in Daniel 12,

So Jesus goes back to the Old Testament to explain more about the means of eternal life: "As Moses lifted up ... so must the Son of Man be lifted up ... so that whoever believes" (3:14-15). That's the means.

The giving by God of His Son, the Son being "lifted up," so that people who believe will "have eternal life," is compared for its similarity to when Moses lifted a serpent up onto a pole in Numbers 21:9. The serpent is a symbol of what was cursed back in the garden. It was lifted up for the Israelites to "look to" and be healed! Jesus uses the event to explain a part of His future ministry: through his death ('Christ became a curse for us', Paul says in Gal 3), and resurrection, He was lifted up so that everyone who believed in Him would have, not just a healing limited by time, but eternal life. Nicodemus, who came secretly, by night, to be taught (3:1), got some teaching.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Year: Luke 24; John 1 for Nov 7

A fictional event in a story can affect a person, or many people, to the point of taking action. A space-time event is itself an action, and affects space and time directly. The Resurrection in Luke 24 and the Incarnation in John 1 are the latter kind of event.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

New Year: Luke 22-23 for Nov 6

By paying close attention to Luke 22-23 we realize how easy it is to understand the historical reasons for Jesus's death.

(Matt 26:1 - 27:61 and Mark 14:1 - 15:47 are in the same time sequence as Luke 22-23 when we read them synoptically.)

The particulars of His death were caused by a) the religious conflict since 6:7, 6:11, 20:19, 20:26 and especially after what Luke wrote in 22:2; b) actions of those in authority, not only "the chief priests and the scribes" (23:10), but Herod and Pilate (23:11-12). The fact that what "is written must be fulfilled in Me," 22:37 (which is what Jesus said about what was happening), was in fact happening did not provide the motivation to those who "were seeking how they might put Him to death" (22:2). They had the standard reasons of antagonism, power, and self-protection, as did Herod and Pilate. Jesus, for His part, did not countenance their religion either (16:15).

There are three sources of official antipathy to Jesus pictured here: a) the chief priests and the scribes; b) Herod; and c) Pilate, going from the strongest forces against Jesus, to weakest. Pilate's antipathy is so weak, that he is swayed by the crowd (23:23).

The obstacle to what the "chief priests and the scribes" wanted to do -- "put Him to death" (22:2) -- was the crowd. Judas provided them an opportunity to put that obstacle aside. Luke pointedly says that that Jesus was arrested at a place that it "was His custom" to go to (22:39).

Is that all there is to it, then? The antogonism of a religious group in power. Betrayal of one's routine by one of His disciples. Political expedience. Crowd manipulation.

All that. Add the devil himself (22:3). But Luke 22:37 governs it all. It was a fulfilment, and a fulfillment indeed, of Something great.

Monday, November 07, 2011

New Year: Luke 20-21 for Nov 5

If the macro-situation of the end of the world that Jesus predicted is what finally comes about (Lk 21:25-27), what is the significance of the micro-situation of the two coins the widow contributed (21:1-4)? If things can become that bad for disciples (21:6-17), how will it then turn out that good for them (21:18)?

(Matt 21:23 - 24:44 and Mark 11:27 - 13:37 are in the same time sequence as Luke 20-21 when we read them synoptically.)

There are many examples in ethical instruction that things are spelled out in a deliberately paradoxical fashion. We can think of the hare and tortoise. This is also true in the teaching of Jesus, as we saw just yesterday in Luke 17:33. And that was not even the first time in that chapter (17:6, 10)! It is not as often recognized that 21:16-19 is such a paradox. On two levels: the disciples, some of whom will die, not a hair of their head will perish! Further, the disciples, some of whom are hated by all because of Christ's name, gain their very selves, by outlasting all of them! Because of the parallelism of the conclusions, this passage is a connected saying, not two sayings. The conclusions are parallel: not a hair of their head will perish, and they will endure, gaining lives/souls in the process. Each conclusion illuminates the other. That's how the whole structure of Hebrew parallelism in the OT works, as well.

It is also interesting to think of whether the paradox is meant to apply to the events of 21:10-15 alone, or whether such things are true even in analogous, recurring events, that might happen not only to the first disciples of Jesus, but to any disciples.

New Year: Luke 17-19 for Nov 4

Though Jesus has predictions of the immediate, the near-term, and the far-term, the conceptions among the followers of the far-term future are the ones that He corrected as to their timing; people were supposing them to be about the near-term future (19:11).

(Matt 19:13 - 21:22 and Mark 10:13 - 11:18 are in the same time sequence as Luke 18-19 when we read them synoptically.)

Jesus is predicting specific details of the immediate future (18:32-33), none of which are understood (18:34). He lays out the interim between now and His return by parable (19:11-27). But the interim is only one verse of the parable, 19:12. The rest of the parable is post-interim! Nevertheless, the far-term events are as highly described in prediction (17:22-37) as they are in parable.

These predictions are interwoven with ethical teaching. This is not usually characteristic of popular apocalypticism today, but it is unmistakable in the Lord's teaching. We see this in 17:32-33, the parables of Luke 18, the didactic of 18:18-27,18:28ff., punctuated by 18:30. (Don't read the converse into Luke 18:29-30!)

Short-term (18:31-33), near-term (19:43-44), or long-term (17:22-37), all of it is salted with the salt of His ethics for His followers.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

New Year: Luke 14-16 for Nov 3

In Luke 14, Jesus didn't just leave those who opposed Him to themselves (14:1-6). That laissez-faire idea is a modern resort, often in matters of religion. But Jesus dealt with matters of religion without it.

Two parables, that of the guests (14:7-15) and the dinner (14:16-24) illustrate problems with the life of immediate-advantage-seeking, the first, with those we want to be with, the second, with those we don't want to be with. To those whom you want to be with, don't put yourself in front as their indispensable companion (14:10-11). And those whose invitations get insulting replies by us (14:18-20) will put on their big dinner without us (14:24). As for who we ourselves invite (14:13-14), do what the text says God will do, and states that Jesus constantly does (13:17; 14:4-5) with "the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame" (14:21).

Saturday, November 05, 2011

New Year: Luke 12-13 for Nov 2

In these teaching chapters of Luke it should be impossible to read Luke 12-13, without dealing with many different priorities of life.

Priorities of body and soul (12:4-5); of what others know versus what you know (12:2-3); of being rich in one thing or another (12:21,33); of what to chase (12:31); of what to listen for (12:36), get ready for (12:47); of what to negotiate for (12:48).

Then, since there are other agents doing things in this world around us, of most concern God Himself, not everything has to be about what we have on our plate. Sometimes that's a relief, even if He makes things urgent for us (13:24). But His pace is also steady (13:18-21).

As far as opposition, we can oppose it a) knowing our value, so as not to fear (12:6-7); b) without being surprised by it, but c) having a road already laid out for us against it, d) upon which we're on, and upon which we'll reach our goal (13:32).

Friday, November 04, 2011

New Year: Luke 10-11 for Nov 1

If we want to learn it, we often have it repeated to us. Luke 10-11 emphasizes and repeats.

Those who can barely believe that Jesus miraculously healed may have not believed back in 9:1 when this power and authority was given to "the twelve apostles." More than barely believing that is necessary, when we see that Jesus here sends out "seventy others" in 10:1, and they succeed at bringing the kingdom of God near (10:9) to all the places they go, including the healing of the sick (10:9), plus the subjection of demons (10:17).

Jesus responds to them about their success in 10:18. This response shows that the healings of the sick and the subjection of demons, and the casting of them out (11:20), are NOT merely what people often call verification of His identity. That would make them only like a "sign," which is what Jesus preached that generation to be wicked for seeking (11:29). His healings and command over demons and unclean spirits (11:24) spread to the twelve and to the seventy. And the result? Verification to people, of His ministry? No. Instead, His estimate of the work of the seventy is "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning." Healings are not ancillary to the coming of the kingdom; the subjection of demons and of Satan, "a strong man, fully armed" (11:21), is part of the victory of the coming of the kingdom and the devil's fall. It is not mere verification. The ministry of Jesus was truly for the sake of those it ministered to, not to verify Himself to a generation that sought for a sign.

New Year: Luke 8-9 for Oct 31

When Jesus spoke "by way of a parable" to the "large crowd" in Luke 8:4, it wasn't His first parable in Luke (cf. 6:39), but it was the first major one, and His interpretation (8:11-15) is significant.

(Matt 13:1 - 19:1 and Mark 4:1 - 10:1 are in the same time sequence as Luke 8-9 when we read them synoptically.)

Paul's words are similar to Jesus's in Luke 8:12, about believing and being saved, when Paul says that the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rm 1:16): when in this parable, "seed fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of heaven ate it up" (8:5), in the explanation, "the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart," and we should watch for this in real life, because the real-life purpose of the devil is "so that they will not believe and be saved" (8:12). To be against the devil is to be against his purposes.

One application of this, to those who are spreading "the word of God," (8:11), is to recognize that it if it is true of the sower's seed that "some fell beside the road" (8:5), it may well be true of some spreading of the word of God. Whenever and however long this truly happens with the spreading of the word of God, neither the word of God, nor "those beside the road," neither, interact with the other ... except in one way: they too are those "who have heard" (8:12). This is true of all four cases (8:12,13,14,15).

The conclusion to the parable (8:8, "he who has ears to hear, let him hear") applies to the understanding of the entire parable. What kind of statement is this? Since 8:10 also brings up sight, therefore, comparing 8:8 to "let there be light," it is a similar statement to that: a broadcast of a "let it be true," to all with the physical possession of ears, for their ears to function in the matter of hearing, for the event of the sowing of the word of God. Therefore it is a "fiat," a "let it be true, divinely done by pronouncement, thus done in fact!" It has, then, the broadest success possible regarding the hearing of the word of God: all possessors of ears where the word of God is sown, by this fiat, hear. This not a restriction of the invitation. All four cases hear. In support, we see later, that all four cases explicitly hear: thus 8:8 applies to all upon whom the word of God is sown: they explicitly hear.

We should consider whether this statement means something more as well, especially in light of 8:10. That verse is paradoxical: they are to hear, but not in every way. What way not? As the verse describes it: "hearing, they may not understand" (8:10).

After reading this parable, if we feel like a big mountain has just placed itself next to us, which cannot be dislodged or climbed, that is true! The parable is regarding "the kingdom of God," and its "mysteries." The disciples are divided by the parabolic method from "the rest" (8:10). They are not "the rest": "to you it has been granted to know," Jesus tells them. And Luke has been published throughout the whole earth, almost. Therefore not only has the hearing occured, by fiat, wherever it has been read, but we see, in seeing so many disciples throughout the whole earth, that many have also understood.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

New Year: Luke 6-7 for Oct 30

The forcefulness of Christ's personality is more evident in Luke 6-7 as it unfolds.

(Matt 12:1-21 and Mark 2:23 - 3:12 are in the same time sequence as Luke 6-7 when we read them synoptically.)

We see the forcefulness of Christ in His categorical and summary statements, such as 6:5, 6:46, 7:22-23, and 7:48. He even directly demonstrates to John's disciples what kind of thing could answer their question, on the spot (7:21).

Already, early on in the ministry of Christ here in Luke, there are two occasions when the reaction of a group is "rage" (4:28) or even rage/folly (6:11), that of plotting to do something to Jesus (6:11). Christ's actions are in turn very direct and astounding. There is so little reason that the raising of the widow of Nain's son is so little known (7:11-17), but it was well-known then (7:17).

Christ is forceful in His comments not only about Himself, but about what His disciples, in their position (6:20ff.), should be like (e.g. 6:35-38).

There is a no-nonsense tone in the preaching of Jesus, that we should not miss: 7:35 makes that point didactically. Verses like 7:47-48 illustrate it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New Year: Luke 4-5 for Oct 29

It is difficult to say enough in praise of how strong an introduction to the ministry of Jesus Luke 4-5 are.

(Matthew 4:1 - 9:17 and Mark 1:12 - 2:22 are in sequence with Luke 4-5, when we view them "synoptically.")

The initiative with the disciples (5:1-11,27-32); the completely different views than the scribes and Pharisees (5:21-26,30-32,36-39); how Jesus dealt with those who were angry with Him (4:25-30); how he dealt with His own disciples who were afraid of Him (5:8-10); His teaching on the pull of tradition and the necessity to avoid it (5:38-39).

But something must be said about the time the Lord "was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil" (4:1-2).

The first-time reader might notice how "technical" these temptations are, i.e., the use of Bible verses, and that does it. But looking up the references, it turns out that we notice that the Lord uses verses from a part of the Old Testament that is not as well-traveled as much as some others. Many have heard the story of the Exodus, but who can say where "man shall not live on bread alone" is? Or "You shall worship the Lord God and serve Him only" is? Or where "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" is (Dt 8:3; 6:13; 6:16)?

It's from a restatement section of the Old Testament, where Moses is restating what happened earlier. So there is secondary application of each of the verses: man shall not live on bread alone is a part of the original sentence, which goes on "but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Dt 8:3). The verse itself is being employed in what the verse is saying a man should employ it to do, and not only that, it answers the temptation about bread.

Similarly, Luke 4:8, "you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" is what Jesus does in not bowing before the devil; as well as that, the content of the verse itself answers the temptation.

Similarly, 4:12. "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test": Jesus does not jump; therefore He does not put the Lord to the test. As well as that, the verse itself is employed to answer the temptation of Jesus to throw Himself down, as to why not. Jesus uses the Word of God in two concurrent ways during these three temptations: He follows it, and He provides it as sufficient answer to the temptation's issue.


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