A Father’s Plea for His Son (Part One)

Luke 9:37-45

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, because he’s my only child. A spirit seizes him; suddenly he shrieks, and it throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; severely bruising him, it scarcely ever leaves him” (9:37-39 CSB).

In this passage we see the concern of any normal father for the well-being of his child. Every kind father wants his children to be healthy, properly clothed, fed, housed, and educated. He wants them to live in safety, peace and happiness.

Such a father we read about in our Scripture text of this morning. He is not an “absentee father”. He is concerned and involved. He is on the job. However, his son is in desperate need. What can this man do to help his son? How can we best help our children? Let us carefully consider the word of God together to see what this man learned and experienced.

However, as we consider this event, let us see Jesus. This event directly followed the Transfiguration. In the last section, we saw Jesus in a revelation of his divine majesty, receiving glory and honor from God the Father. But now, Jesus leaves the mountaintop and returns to the other disciples in the valley below. In both places we see that Jesus is Lord over all. This is important. Jesus was Lord in whatever earthly condition he experienced. He was Lord teaching the crowds, healing the sick, walking dusty roads, going out for dinner, and he was Lord as he hung on the cross. Jesus is Lord, regardless of our condition, whether we are full of faith or filled with fear, whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, full of joy or full of sorrow, or whatever condition we might be in. Jesus is Lord.

In our text, we encounter a son in trouble (9:37-39). This boy had a serious affliction. A demon had taken possession of him. We could waste a lot of time in useless guessing about how this happened. The Spirit has not revealed how this occurred. Restrain yourself from empty speculation when the Bible is silent. I know that some believers cannot resist this temptation, but turn from it immediately! What we should see is that the dark powers of evil were certainly at work then; they still are today.

Observe the demon’s influence over the boy. See how they work to destroy human beings. The demon sought to destroy the child emotionally, socially, and physically. Why do I say socially? Would you want a child like that near you? (Be honest.) Think about how the boy’s emotions were being ripped apart. And what about the physical pain he endured? This was a war of dark horror to destroy a human.

 Perhaps someone is wondering how we should meet such adversaries in our day. The Lord has not given us instruction about exorcism, but on spiritual resistance and evangelism (Ephesians 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Acts 26:18). To say this another way, a follower of Christ should always be wearing his or her spiritual armor and should always be ready to give an answer for our hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

Look at the boy’s resultant physical injury. Some have said that his symptoms resemble epilepsy. But without adequate medical facts, there is no reason to give any opinion. We know that the evil powers are able to cause disease (Job 2:7), so epilepsy would be included. Besides what Luke records here, Mark tells us that the boy was also deaf and mute (Mark 9:25). Here was a tragic case.

Think on his father’s efforts to help him. Oh, the heartache of parents when their child or children are ill or seriously injured! Every loving parent will shudder when they read what this father tried to do for his son. He had made previous attempts. After whatever else he had tried, he had heard of the ability of Jesus and the disciples to cast out demons, and so he took his boy there (Mark 6:12-13). He had come to his last hope: the return of Jesus from the Mount of Transfiguration. “Perhaps Jesus can rescue my boy!”

Have you come to the place in your life where you realize that all depends on Jesus? Children across our land are having an increasing problem coping with what is happening now. They cannot grasp why their world has changed. As the corona virus currently ravages our world, few are calling on the name of the Lord for deliverance. Fewer still want to turn from their sins. People need to repent of greed, violence, racism, and sexual immorality. Repent and then pray for deliverance. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18 NIV). Let’s humble ourselves before Almighty God today.

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Nine)

Luke 9:28-36

While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen (9:34-36 CSB).

The Father affirmed his Son’s work. The Father spoke of the dawning of a new age, the age of Messiah as the new and better covenant. The cross functions as a “new exodus”. A new day in redemptive history was about to dawn. The liberation from sin and its consequences was drawing near.

There were a number of things Moses and Elijah were not talking about. “For here, fresh from heaven, and shining with the glory of it, when permitted to talk with Him, they speak not of His miracles, nor of His teaching, nor of the honor which He put upon their Scriptures, nor upon the unreasonable opposition to Him and His patient endurance of it: They speak not of the glory which they were themselves enshrined in, and the glory which He was so soon to reach. Their subject is the exodus, the redeeming work, that he was about to do!” (D. Brown, pp. 261-262) Do we share their excitement and joy?

Christ’s redeeming work is the central truth of the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:2; Revelation 5:12). As Moses led God’s people of old out of bondage in Egypt, so one far better than Moses, the Lord Jesus Christ, has freed all his people from bondage to sin, Satan and death by his victory on the cross and from the empty grave. There is a better exodus!

The cross leads in turn to the consummation of God’s plan. Christ had spoken of his glory being revealed when he comes as Judge. The three disciples are given the privilege of seeing something of which he was speaking. See him flashing with the shining brilliance of glory! Wonder at this sight. Worship the Lord. My friends, we need by faith to enter into the glory of this revelation. Gaze upon the brilliant Son; listen to the Father’s majestic voice. Our God speaks to us continually through his word.

The Father affirmed his Son’s authority. The command to listen to Jesus was an indication of his authority as God’s Anointed One, as the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23). The second stanza of Isaac Watts’ great hymn, “Join All the Glorious Names”, joyfully says:

Great Prophet of my God
My tongue would bless Thy name
By Thee the joyful news
Of our salvation came;
The joyful news of sins forgiven,
Of hell subdued and peace with heaven.

Jesus is the final Word of God’s revelation (John 1; Hebrews 1). He is the sum and substance of the Holy Scriptures, and he completed them as his word took final written form through the New Testament apostles and prophets. Together with the Old Testament, we have one completed message from God. Listen to what the apostle Peter wrote after reflecting on the Transfiguration. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19 NIV). The Great Prophet of God has made sure that his word is completely reliable through the almighty action of God the Holy Spirit. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you (John 16:13-14 NIV).

This is of immense practical importance, especially given the context. “Are we doing that? Is His word law to us? Do we like it when he speaks sharp as well as smooth things…?” (D. Brown, p. 262) Does his word win over everything in our lives that collides with it? Are we listening to the Lord Jesus? Have we confessed, “Lord Jesus, you are superior to all that have come before you or after you. You are the way, the truth and the life. You are the only way to God the Father. Lord Jesus, my only trust is in you, my only hope is you” (cf. 1 Timothy 1:1).

Grace and peace,

A Verse for Our Times

Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I will trust in you (CSB).

People can have many fears at all times. At times, a relatively few people share the same fears. Those who share the same fears probably don’t have the same degree of fear. For example, some people have a tiny fear of heights; in fact, they’re simply cautious as all sane people are. Others are terrorized by heights, almost sure they are going to fall and die. Others might get paralyzed by their fears. Once in my construction days, I had to help a carpenter with forty years’ experience down off a roof, because he became paralyzed with fear. Yes, I, who have a rather healthy respect for heights, had to do this. (My wife and children are no doubt laughing as they read this!) Yet, I had to help him, and after about fifteen minutes, he was able to inch himself over to the ladder, and I held it securely for him, as he came down under his own power. Needless to say, it was the last time we allowed him to go up on a roof.

I don’t know where you are on “the fear spectrum” concerning Covid-19, the latest corona virus. Some people need to gain a healthy respect for it and act circumspectly. Others might be terrorized or paralyzed by fear. Many are in the middle or at some other point on the spectrum. No one can simply tell another person not to fear. We need to confront our fears with truth, and then replace them with faith in God.

David wrote this psalm. He had experienced strong, serious fears nearly his whole life. Many enemies tried to kill him. Yet escapes from possibly fatal encounters did not make him arrogant. Some people have that reaction after a brush with certain death. Arrogance is never wise.

The condition of his heart was complex. He was afraid, yet he trusted at the same time. He did not allow his fear to immobilize his soul. “It is possible, then, for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment. We are strange beings, and our experience in the divine life is stranger still. We are often in a twilight, where darkness and light are both present, and it is hard to tell which predominates. It is a blessed fear that drives us to trust” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, on this verse).

If you are afraid of what consequences Covid-19 might wreak in our nation and world, you are thinking. But don’t let your fears stop you from an active, growing, vibrant trust in the Lord. At the very moment you feel overwhelmed with fear, remember that God is in our situation. He is not far away and unconcerned. He is sovereign and ruling for the good of all believers in one way or another.

What David does is to encourage himself in the true and living God. If he had put his trust in idols and false gods, his faith would have been futile. But it was not. His faith was in the Lord of the covenant, in Yahweh (56:10-11), in the Great I Am Who I Am. His name, the Lord, is the hope of his people, the brightest star during the darkest night, the refreshing breeze on the hottest day, the one who is able to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Let us not be like the unbelievers in the wilderness. They demanded food from God, but immediately questioned if he could provide (Psalm 78:17-22).

To trust God, you need correct ideas about him. The right beliefs come from his word. Read Isaiah 42-55, Mark 1-8, and the Gospel of John to fill your soul with the truth about our God. Then you must replace your fears with faith in the true and living God, the Almighty, the Ruler, the Sovereign God over all. Where is your heart today? Are you filled with fears? Or are you filled with the Holy Spirit, who makes Christ present in your heart, the same Christ who healed the sick and calmed the troubled seas. If the Lord can do that, he can be with all of us through this pandemic.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV).

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Eight)

Luke 9:28-36

While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen (9:34-36 CSB).

Next, we will consider three truths God the Father affirmed. However, we need to stop for a moment, or we will miss something significant. The previous section spoke of the confession of the apostles that Jesus was the Messiah. Most thinking on that section and the current one has focused on the human responses to Jesus’ words and the event of the Transfiguration. Certainly, our response is important. But it ought not to obscure the action of God the Father in both. There, we saw the Father as the source of spiritual knowledge and faith. Here, we see the Father affirming the Son. So we ought to have a God-focused view of both passages.

Having said that, notice whom the Father spoke about: his Son! The Father stepped into human history to speak in one of those rare moments in the Bible, and when he did, he spoke of his Son and fixed human attention on the Son! The Father receives glory through the Son. As the cloud of divine glory covered them, the Father focused on the Son. Let us learn the mission of the Triune God. Almighty God’s plan is that glory will come to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit.

The Father affirmed his Son’s person and calling.

Jesus is God’s unique Sonmy Son.” Earlier in Judea, the apostles had heard Jesus assert his relationship to God the Father. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him (John 5:19-23 NIV). The Father confirmed what Jesus had claimed about his relationship with God the Father. This confirmation shaped Peter’s world and life view from that point forward. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV). The events of redemptive history are intended to transform how we look at the world and live our lives in it.

Jesus is God’s Chosen One. This is another way the Spirit of God refers to the Messiah, the Anointed One. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 NIV). Notice that even the Jewish religious leaders, who were opposed to Jesus, understood Messiah and the Chosen One as equivalent. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35). The Father in heaven made the link between Jesus as his Servant and his chosen one. What was Christ chosen to be? He was chosen and sent by God to be the Prophet, Priest, and King. He is the final word to people (Hebrews 1:1-2). He is the great high priest (Hebrews 4:14), who offered the final sacrifice for sin. He is King over all (Revelation 19:16).

The appropriate response is to bow in worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They were afraid as they entered the cloud of glory. May we have holy reverence for the Messiah. He is God’s Son, and all that we are and hope for depends on his majestic greatness and the surpassing value of what he did for us in the gospel. He is King over humanity during this time of the corona virus pandemic. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Seven)

Luke 9:28-36

About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men were talking with him—Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (9:28-31 CSB).

In Luke 9 we are confronted with how Luke uses the question “Who, then, is this?” Luke uses it to direct his readers to think about the true identity of Jesus. He has invited us first of all to look at Jesus and his ministry. Jesus has a great message, a great vision, and provides great satisfaction. Next, he has had us listen to a private conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asked them, “Who do you say I am?” The disciples rejected the answer of the crowds and declared that Jesus is the Christ of God. Then Jesus immediately explained what that answer meant for him and them. This brings us to the Transfiguration. The context of the Transfiguration is important. It occurred after Christ received the proper response about his identity as the Christ.

While the location of the Transfiguration is commonly referred to as Mt. Tabor or Mt. Hermon, but it is probably neither one but Jebal Jermak, which is about 4,000 feet high. The time is also instructive. Notice that Jesus was praying. “When Christ humbled himself to pray, he was thus exalted” (Henry). Luke is a theologian of prayer.

Various writers have inquired into the meaning of this strange event. I will not bother you with their ideas. Instead, we should recognize it for what it is: an important event in God’s plan of redemptive history. We should see it as God’s confirmation of the message the Lord Jesus had so recently declared to his followers. “The purpose behind the heavenly manifestation is the announcement of the Passion, and by this means the proof is given that the Passion is something decreed by God” (Conzelmann quoted by Morris). So then, we could call this section God the Father’s affirmation of Peter’s confession and Jesus’ explanation record in 9:19-27.

Consider three ways God the Father expressed his affirmation:

The Father expressed it by the Son’s appearance. This was an extraordinary event, his appearance changed. Compare this description with the one in Revelation 1:12-16. It was like watching lightning on a summer evening, only it was localized in his person.

This was a revelation of Christ’s divine glory. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV; cf. 2 Peter 1:16-17).

The Father expressed it by the Son’s company. Two of the greatest figures in the Old Testament appeared. Moses represented the Law (Torah) and Elijah the prophets, two great sections of the Old Testament Scriptures. Here we gain and insight into the present glory and activity of departed saints. In part, they converse about the matters of our salvation. By the way, don’t be misled by false teachings like soul sleep. Consider Philippians 1:23.

Christ is preferred above both Moses and Elijah, for though they spoke of him (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27), he is far above them. He is the Word, the substance of the Holy Writings.

The Father expressed it by his own voice. The Father spoke to correct Peter’s misinterpretation of the event. Peter put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. Cf. 9:19: “three shelters”. Peter indirectly hindered Jesus from the cross. He wanted them all to stay on the mountaintop.

See how God the Father corrected Peter’s error. He corrected him by a verbal witness to Christ’s identity. He corrected him by the removal of Moses and Elijah.

We cannot start from ourselves and arrive at truth. We must live according to God’s word. You must realize your insufficiency. You are not big enough to comprehend the universe and the meaning of life. You need God to explain things to you.

Action Step: Turn from your pride and turn back to God’s Word. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts (Psalm 119:99-100).

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Six)

Luke 9:18-27

“It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (9:22-27 CSB).

Third, we hear the explanatory remarks of Jesus (9:22-27). Jesus wanted the apostles to know that since he was the Christ of God, he was on a redemptive mission (9:22). God sent him to free and save his people from sin and its consequences.

God had planned for his Christ to suffer many things, to be rejected, and to die for sinners. When someone interviews for a job, it is helpful when the employer clearly sets forth the demands of the position. Reverently, let us imagine God the Father interviewing God the Son for the position of Christ. After the Father described everything in its horrid details, the Son responded that the plan was good and wise and that he was willing to do everything commanded. As the psalmist wrote of the Messiah, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8 NIV).

This must have been a shock to Peter and the others, for it seems that they were ignorant of all that the Scriptures had revealed about Christ. They read or heard selectively, paying attention to the glory parts and overlooking the suffering parts. This remains a problem for Bible readers, especially during this Covid-19 crisis. Everyone wants to hear words of comfort and hope. How many want to feel challenged to endure hardship during this time?

From this point on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples the significance of his first coming. It is the turning point of his ministry with them. He started to explain this divine necessity (“it is necessary”, 9:22) to them.

Action Step: As you teach the Gospel of Luke to someone, or read it with them, you should clearly present the significance of 9:22-26 to the person.

God had planned for the Christ to be raised to life after his suffering and death. Though Jesus would say this clearly many times, it went right over their heads. It was only after his resurrection that they understood (24:5-8, 25-27, 44-49). Do you believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10 ESV).

Jesus wanted his apostles to know that since he was the Christ of God, that they must follow him (9:23-27). Jesus was not someone on a search for significance. He knew that he was the most significant person in human history and he demanded and continues to demand that all follow him.

  • You must practice self-denial and put your way of life to death daily and follow him (9:23). Notice his words “come after me” and “follow me”.
  • You must reevaluate your whole life in relation to Christ (9:24-25). Notice his words “but whoever loses his life for me”.
  • You must be willing to stand up for Christ and his teaching in the marketplace of human opinion (9:26-27). Notice his words “if anyone is ashamed of me and my words.”

True Christianity demands a change of mind and complete commitment of oneself to the Lord Jesus Christ. Has this happened to you? If it has not, you will die and then die in the Lake of Fire forever. If it has not, you are not a Christian. You will lose yourself! You must leave the way of rebellion and return to the Lord. This will only happen as by grace you see the significance or value or worth or glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Now is the moment for you to bow in faith before him. Cry out to him, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!”

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Five)

Luke 9:18-27

“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” But he strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (9:20-22 CSB).

Next, let’s think about the correct answer of the apostles (9:20-21). Peter answered for the Twelve: Jesus is the Christ (Messiah, Anointed One) of God.

By this answer he said that Jesus was anointed and sent by God to be Lord and Savior. Others may say he is one of the prophets, but Peter declares that he is the great prophet. I think Peter was somewhat clear on this point, though he needed more instruction. See the next section. Sometimes we can see some truths, though we may not comprehend them as we should. A true Christian may need a great deal of growth. Peter probably lacked a lot of knowledge of the rest of the meaning of Christ as priest, and his ideas about Christ as king needed a lot of instruction as well. Jesus will help him and the others about these matters by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When new believers are born again from above, they show a great hunger for the things of God. Sadly, this desire diminishes to self-confidence in one’s knowledge after a few months or a year. It then becomes difficult in many to hunger for more. Some seem to forgot the basics of the Christian way of life and need to be instructed all over again. We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:11-12 NIV). Hopefully, this is not your condition. The wise believer is seeking to learn more about the Lord and how to please him, and to apply that knowledge to their way of life.

Jesus acknowledged that what they said was true (cf. Mt 16), but he immediately warned them not to tell anyone. Why did he do this? Probably, he had a few reasons. For example, they were not prepared to explain their answer and could only do more harm than good. Also, the people were looking for a political deliverer, and that was not the freedom that Christ came to win for his people. Ignorant people might have stirred up a premature crisis, and Jesus still had more to do and to teach.

New Christians are eager to share their faith! This is good! They can be a breath of fresh air to the rest of us, and we all should encourage them in their zeal. However, they need to add knowledge to their zeal.

How did Peter and the other disciples know that Jesus is the Christ of God? God graciously revealed this answer to them. Various other explanations fall before the facts. It was not a matter of superior education, because most were uneducated fisherman. Neither did they know it because of superior insight, because many times they failed to understand Christ. Nor did they know because of superior moral character, because they were sinners like the rest of people. Someone might say that they knew because of their faith. But this faith, is it a reason to boast before God? “I believed and someone else didn’t, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.” Or is faith a gift from God? Yes, it is! See Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:14.

Peter and the other ten believed that Jesus is the Christ of God because God revealed it to them (Matthew 16:17 cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6). This is what we call the doctrine of effective grace (Matthew 11:25-27; 15:13; Luke 10:21; John 6:44-45,64-65; 1 John 5:20).

If you believe that Jesus is the Christ of God, now is an excellent time to say “thank you” to God for being merciful to your soul. If you do not believe, it is also an excellent time for you to cry out, “O true and holy and living God, have mercy on me!”

Action Step: All of us ought to pray for God’s blessing on the word. All hearers need God’s effective grace operating in their hearts. When your local church is able to gather again, remember to pray for God’s blessing on your gathering. We ought to value our meetings highly, and perhaps this time of “stay at home” to contain the spread of the corona virus will give us an increased esteem for one another. Churches need to pray together much more than we have. Lord, give us a new, deeper desire to pray for our gatherings!

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Four)

Luke 9:18-27

While he was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”They answered, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, that one of the ancient prophets has come back.” “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah” (9:18-20 CSB).

It’s time for a brief review. Recall the question of Herod that Luke uses in this chapter to direct our thoughts (“Who, then, is this…?”, 9:9). He wants us to ask that question for ourselves and find that the answer is “Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” In our three previous posts we listened to the first part of Luke’s presentation. Jesus has a great message, a great vision, and he provides great satisfaction.

In this second section, Jesus asked a similar question, and we hear three answers: that of the crowds, of the apostles, and of the Lord Jesus himself. Let’s think about these three answers.

This section in Luke’s Gospel immediately follows the feeding of the five thousand. But from a study of the other Gospels we know that some time had elapsed between these two events. (Luke arranges his material in a ‘theological’ rather than a strictly chronological manner.) Therefore, people have had time to reflect on the significance of a number of Christ’s miracles, especially the feeding of the five thousand, which Christ prodded them to meditate on (Matthew 16:5-12). Jesus had already challenged them about their commitment to him (John 6:66-71). Now the Lord Jesus brought all to a climax. So he asked, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

First, let’s consider the incorrect answer of the crowds (9:18-19). The crowds answered from their religious tradition, which was old covenant Judaism. They had the words of the prophets written down in the Scriptures. They could read about how prophets had acted, and so it was easy for the to connect the dots.

  • This is the usual way that people answer. “What does my religious background tell me to say?” On the other hand, Christianity demands that we listen to the truth and think. True Christianity boldly walks into the marketplace of human opinions and says, “Let’s look at and think about all reality. Have you seen and thought? Then know that the only answer is found in the living God and the way to him is through Jesus the Messiah.”
  • The answers they gave seemed to honor Jesus. “Surely Jesus is a great man. At the very least he is one of God’s prophets!” The problem is that seeming to honor Jesus is incorrect. We must know who he really is. When we think about who Jesus is, a partial answer can be spiritually dangerous or fatal.

Second, the crowds gave the wrong answer for various reasons.

  • Some who thought Jesus was John the Baptist either failed to notice that John and Jesus were contemporaries or paid no attention to what John said and the Scriptures said. John’s whole message was Christ-focused (cf. John chapters 1 & 3).
  • Some who thought Jesus was Elijah failed to understand the Scriptures. The Elijah to come was only a forerunner or herald of Christ. Jesus himself had explained that John the Baptist was the Elijah to come (Mt 11:11-15).
  • Some who thought that Jesus was one of the prophets returned to life had no Biblical warrant for that opinion and failed to listen to what the Scriptures said about Christ.

Each of these groups shared two common failings. First, they failed to listen to what the Scriptures said about the Christ. What about you? Do you listen to what the word of God says about Christ? You say you want to know him. Then how much time to you spend thinking about him?

Action Step: Read the Gospel of Mark through carefully ten times asking God to reveal Jesus Christ to your heart. (Yes, ten times! You have the opportunity to do this during our current “stay at home” order.) Listen carefully to every title or description that Mark uses to reveal the full identity of Jesus Christ to his readers.

Second, they had failed to comprehend what Jesus had done and explained. He did many miraculous signs, ending disease and suffering. In a couple years, the lives of many people had radically changed. He told them about God’s kingdom (his saving reign) and how it had entered the human condition with his arrival. He had told them that he was the bread of life (John 6:35). But people had rejected his message about himself. Therefore, they had a wrong view of Jesus.

Action Step: Read through John’s Gospel, meditating on each of the seven miraculous signs and the I Am sayings.

There is an old saying that “close enough” is “good in horseshoes and hand grenades”. But close is not sufficient in matters of truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). Do you know him? Have you come to the Father through him?

Grace and peace

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Three)

Luke 9:1-17

Then he told his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did what he said, and had them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke them. He kept giving them to the disciples to set before the crowd. Everyone ate and was filled. They picked up twelve baskets of leftover pieces (9:14b-17 CSB).

Jesus is someone who is able to satisfy (9:12-17). This is the only miracle, except Christ’s resurrection, that is recorded in all Four Gospels. Clearly the Holy Spirit considers this to be a significant event. Consider also that this miracle occurs within the context of Jesus seeking to provide his disciples with rest. This is another example of his compassion. Notice also that Jesus welcomed the crowds.

Christ demonstrated their insufficiency (9:12-14a). The disciples acted in a manner that is psychologically and emotionally accurate. They were tired after their journey and the long day, and they were concerned about the people. As they heard their own stomachs growling, they thought of others being hungry.

The Lord Jesus seized this opportunity to teach his disciples and to provide for another teaching occasion with the crowds. (He also gave what is called “The Bread of Life Discourse” in John 6 following this; first came the sign and then the word to explain it). Luke focuses on the apostles. It’s as if Jesus said, “Good thinking, men! Now what are you going to do about it?” The apostles look at their own resources and present two facts to show their own insufficiency.

  • First, Philip takes out his “smartphone”, opens the “calculator app”, and figures out that it would take eight months wages to feed a crowd that large. “We don’t have that much money!”
  • Second, Andrew finds a boy who still has five small loaves of bread and two fish. Obviously, that’s not enough to feed the crowd. “We only have a little!”

If you look at your own resources, you are only going to see how much you need and how little you have. We will never attempt great things for God with that kind of outlook. To follow the Lord requires faith. Jesus acted in this way to lead them to him, to the One who could provide and for whom they could minister to others in need. Too often Christians become mired in talk of “we never did that before” or “we could never do that”. And so the world goes on unreached into deeper evil, while the church is stuck in her lack of vision and faith in the Lord. It is imperative that we break out of this swamp of depression immediately! The current pandemic is a time to believe and to obey.

The Lord Jesus demonstrated his all-sufficiency (9:14b-17).

  • Christ prayed and gave thanks (cf. John 6:11) for the food. His prayer pointed people to seek God for the meeting of their needs. Jesus was always “making room” for God in the lives of people.
  • Then he constantly broke the bread and the fish, while the apostles passed the food out as the people sat in one hundred rows of fifty each. “They all ate and were filled or satisfied!” Everyone had enough, and each apostle had his own lunch box filled.

Who, then, is this Jesus? Clearly, he has a great message and a great vision, but he is also able to greatly satisfy! Is the lunch box of your heart empty? Jesus is able to satisfy, though money, possessions, vacations, entertainment, sports, drugs, alcohol, and sex cannot. Think about our current situation. People cannot go on vacation, cannot watch live sporting events, and cannot go out for entertainment, like casinos, bars, and movies. It is an excellent opportunity to evaluate how you’ve been spending your life. Why not change your mind about your life, turn and trust in Christ, and receive a full life? Christian, why not use this time to make the Lord the center of your life and lifestyle? Focus on the Lord today. Look at a world filled with fear and hate, and then get down on your knees and plead with God for mercy! Pray for the salvation of men and women, and girls and boys everywhere.

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Two)

Luke 9:1-17

Summoning the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick… So they went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere (9:1-2, 6 CSB).

Jesus is someone with a great vision (9:1-6).

He sent the twelve apostles out to expand his own ministry. This was a training mission for their later ministry. He taught them and provided them with the opportunity to apply and to practice what they learned.

Action Step: Every mature Christian should be looking and praying for a younger saint that he or she can mentor. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV). We should see a plan for “four generational” ministry: Paul, Timothy, reliable people, others also. Women are to teach other women. Then they [the older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:4-5 NIV)

Notice that the apostles did the same things that the Lord did: preach and heal the sick. As Luke makes clear in his second writing, the book of Acts, they performed the healings through the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6; 16:18).

He taught his disciples the way of faith (9:3-4). They would have to believe that he had supplied them with the necessary power and authority for the mission. We, too, have authority to tell the good news of Jesus, the Son of God (Matthew 28:18-20). They would have to believe that God would provide the necessary physical support for their mission. As they went they would see God supply. God would speak to the hearts of people to supply the needs of his servants. This would prevent the apostles from looking for a better deal from the house down the street and from wasting their time. They would learn contentment and a gracious, appreciative attitude toward their hosts.

The fact that Christ commanded the apostles on a short-term to live by faith in this way does not mean that anyone else must. Consider that later he told the apostles to take provisions (Luke 22:35-36). The rest of the New Testament Scriptures clearly teach the proper support of ministers of the gospel.

Jesus demanded a change of mind in regard to the message of the gospel (9:5). The Jews in that time would often shake the dust from their feet when they left Gentile territory and reentered the Holy Land. So Jesus is saying, if they will not listen to you preach the gospel, treat them as cut off from God’s covenant people. They might be in Israel, but they are not God’s Israel (cf. Rm 9-11).

When God sends his servants into an area, it is not only a reason for joy and hope, but also for serious attention to the word of God. To reject the gospel is to ask God for his wrath to fall upon you (Matthew 10:15). The apostles followed this practice when people would not listen to the word of God (Acts 13:51).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord is not playing church or other religious games. We had better not be playing around. To live for the Lord Jesus Christ is to be on a serious mission in a dangerous place (John 17:14-19). Wherever you are, you are God’s witness and you are to testify for him.

Grace and peace