Rejoicing in Participation in the Spirit

Having deduced that he will remain in the flesh and possibly reunite with his brethren, Paul’s attention turns to the confidence of sharing in the Spirit with these brethren. How we treat our brethren is contingent upon our assumption of the mind of Christ. This section covers Philippians 1.27-2.11.

Strive for the Faith (1.27-30)

Participation in the Spirit requires striving with the brethren for the faith despite suffering for the sake of Christ.

27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Only let your…gospel of Christ: marg. “behave as citizens worthily.” Lit. “Only let your life as citizens be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” “Only” is emphatic and means “above all” or “at all costs.” The Philippians lived in a free Roman colony and would understand what it means to live like citizens. As Christians they were citizens of the imperial city of Christ (cf. 3.20). As members of that holy community they have obligations one to another and to Christ the Lord. A life “worthy of the gospel of Christ” is a frequent theme in Paul’s epistles (cf. Rom 16.2; Eph 4.1; Col 1.10) and denotes the obligations the gospel imposes, the privileges it brings, and the high calling to fulfill. The obligations of the gospel are obedience and holiness; the privileges are salvation and blessedness; the high calling is a manner of life like Christ’s.

The purpose of a holy life as a citizen of God’s kingdom is…

So that whether…am absent: Paul anticipated being reunited with these brethren (v.25-26) having reasoned to this conclusion, but Paul is neither omnipotent nor has he had this knowledge revealed to him as a surety. Hence, his statement here of whether he comes to them or is unable to come to them, whatever happens to him or them.

I may hear of you…in one spirit: though he may not be able to be with these brethren in the flesh, he hopes that news would at least reach him about how they are conducting themselves as worthy citizens and standing firm in one Spirit. This seems to be equivalent to standing firm “in the Lord” (4.1; 1 Thess 3.8) and standing firm “in the faith” (1 Cor 16.13). The idea of standing firm is prevalent throughout Paul’s epistles (see also Rom 14.; Gal 5.1; 2 Thess 2.15) and has roots in the Old Testament (Isa 7.9). This standing is grounded in God.

With one mind striving…of the gospel: These brethren are to be united in “one mind” (Gk psuche). That is, there is not to be any division or rivalry within the body which is characteristic of the opponents (v.15, 17, 28). This is key later to the Euodia-Syntyche argument. United, these Christians were to struggle or wrestle (Gk sunathlountes from which we get “athlete”) against a common enemy for the faith of the gospel (i.e. Christian truth).

28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

Not frightened…by your opponents: either 1) those already mentioned who are rivals of Paul (v.15, 17) or 2) introduction of “enemies of the cross” (3.2ff, 18). Either way the Philippians faced them not frightened (like a skittish horse) since they are standing and striving.

This is…their destruction: The courage these brethren face their adversaries with is evidence and proof of the opponents loss of eternal life unto eternal misery (i.e. destruction).

But of your salvation, and that from God: Standing firm and striving are evidence of these Christians gaining eternal life unto eternity with God. God did this.

29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

For it…suffer for His sake: God have given the Philippians a marvelous “gifts of grace” (“granted”). First, God granted them to believe in Christ (“not only believe in Him”). A key example from among them is Lydia who’s heart the Lord opened (Acts 16.14). Second, God granted them to suffer for His sake. There is a blessing attached to this (see Matt 5.11-12). Herein is faith in action.

30engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Engaged in the same…I still have: “Conflict” here is agon from which we get our English word “agony.” Here it has shades of the military, conflict which an army would engage in. Even as Paul suffers the struggle of persecution, so too the Philippians share in the suffering of persecution. They are soldiers under the same Commanding Officer; each had a share in the conflict.

Paul moves from outside to inside, now explaining the Christian’s relationship to the brethren (2.1-11).

Serve in Humility (2.1-4)

Participation in the Spirit requires humbly serving while regarding others’ interests as greater than our own. There is shift of focus from opponents to brethren.

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,

So: or “therefore” (NASB, NKJV) indicates Paul is expanding on his exhortation (1.27ff).

If [there is] any encouragement in Christ: That is, if your communion with Christ has the power to stir the heart and emotion. From spiritual union with Christ came divine help.

If any comfort from love: or persuasive power from love. Love is a power motivator and certainly the love of Christ would be a powerful motivator toward unity.

If any participation in the Spirit: if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a true reality.

If any affection and sympathy: could be translated “any merciful compassion” as a hendiadys. “Affection” (Gk splaxchna) means compassion; “sympathy” (Gk oiktirmoi) means mercy.

“If these spiritual experiences with which the Philippians are acquainted are present, they have to serve as basis for the deeper oneness of heart and soul to which the apostle exhorts them.”

2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Complete my joy: that is, fill full. Paul’s cup of joy is already quite full, but the Philippians unity in thought and feeling would serve to fill to the brim his cup of joy.

By being of the same mind: lit. contemplating the same thing. Paul’s desire is for these brethren to think the same thing. What thing are these Christians (even all Christians) to contemplate? Whose mind are we to have? Verse 5 give the imperative of this verb.

Having the same love: “towards God and Jesus Christ, and in Him mutually towards each other” (Muller 74). This answers to the love of v.1 which brings motivation for unity.

[Being] in full accord: from a single Greek word (sunpsuchoi) which literally means together in soul. Christians are to be harmonious, with souls which beat together in tune with Christ and with one another. This kind of harmony is connected with…

[And] of one mind: This belongs with the preceding idea and so can be rendered “together in soul contemplating the same (one) thing.” Even as they were with “one soul” (1.27) to stand firm against the opponents of the faith, so they were now to be like-minded in love, soul, and contemplation. This is a lofty of Christian unity, the ideal we continue to strive for even today.

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Do nothing…conceit: Connected with the idea of what a Christian should contemplate, “selfish ambition” has to do with parties and factions (read: division) in the church. When it comes to division (in order to gain some kind of advantage), don’t even think about it. This is connected with “conceit” or “vainglory” (KJV) which is pride without basis and so is empty. “If selfish ambition is the symptom of the malady the root cause may be seen in vain conceit.” Morris

But in humility…yourselves: How then should the Christian think of him/herself in view fellow Christians? “Humility” has to do with thinking rightly about one’s self—that is, we do not think too highly nor too lowly of ourselves. 1 Peter 5.6 is the best commentary on humility—a right understanding of Who God is will enable us to think rightly about ourselves. “Only by a wise and lowly estimate of ourselves [can] we come to know what is due others” (Lipscomb 179). We honor one another above ourselves (Rom 12.10, NIV). Note how this works: I consider you more significant and you consider me more significant. The church becomes a “marvelous community in which no one is looked down upon but everyone is looked up to!” (Lenski 767)

4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let each of you look not [only] to his own [interests]: Paul is calling for selflessness rather than selfishness among these brethren. Christ is the supreme example of this (v.5-11).

But also to the [interests] of others: whatever efforts we exert to gain insight into the lives of our brethren ought to be so that we respond appropriately to their needs.

Seize the Mind of Christ (2.5-11)

Fellowship (unity), in the Spirit and in the church, is rooted in having the mind of Christ.

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Have this mind…in Christ Jesus: This is an imperative command—keep on thinking. This calling to think like Christ will enable Christians to serve one another in humility (v.1-4). Paul presents Jesus as the supreme example of humility.

6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Who, though He was in the form of God: Lit. who is existing in [the] form of God. The present tense indicates He continues to be God. “Form” (Gk morphe) means the essential attributes, nature, and character. Hence, Christ Jesus was/is possessor of the essential attributes, nature, and character of God.

Did not count…to be grasped: Though He is eternally in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a prize to be tenaciously retained or something He had to desperately cling to. It was always His by right of being God the Son. Unlike the1st Adam who sought to grasp equality with God through pride and disobedience, the 2nd Adam sought the pathway of lowly obedience on His way to exaltation (v.9-11).

7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

But emptied Himself: “But” in the Greek (alla) draws a sharp distinction. “Emptied” (Gk. ekenosen) is where scholars debate. What did Christ empty Himself of? Divine prerogatives such that He would have to depend on the Spirit during His life (as must we in His footsteps). This was His own voluntary act; He chose to suspend His divine privileges and prerogatives. It must be noted that Christ never ceases from being God; He suspends His glory (see John 17.5).

By taking the form of a servant: He empties Himself of the manifestations of His Godhood (i.e. glory, which is rightfully His) and takes up the essential attributes, nature of a slave.

Being born in the likeness of men: He was/is God; He became man. He took on human nature. Hence, He is one Person with two natures in perfect harmony and balance.

8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And being found in human form: “Form” (Gk schemati) is different than v.6, 7 and has to do with His external outward appearance. He was a man like others. “The Word became flesh” and Jesus says, “I became dead” (John 1.14; Revelation 1.18). The word “became” is indicative of behavior and action which is not normative for deity. That is, it is not the nature of deity to have flesh or die. Yet, Jesus died.

He humbled himself…death on a cross: The humiliation of Christ extends from His entrance into this world all the way to the inglorious climax on the cross. In His empting, in His incarnation, in His becoming a servant, in His dying, and that in the most ignoble way! And so we have gone from the highest height (God in eternity) to the deepest depth (God on a cross). Consider the humiliation of Christ 1) in becoming a man (Paul mentions the humanity of Jesus four times) and 2) in dying like a man. This is our example for it is the mind of Christ which is ours.

9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

Therefore: Since Christ was willing to condescend through humble emptying servitude…

God has highly exalted him: Exaltation is what follows His humiliation. In fact, the word is a superlative: He is exalted beyond a high status, even to the right hand of God (Acts 2.33).

And bestowed…above every name: God has “graced” Jesus with the highest name—Lord (v.11), the term used to translate the divine name in the LXX (YHWH=kurios).

10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

So that…should bow: This is universal recognition and acknowledgement of the majesty and might of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note the connection to Isaiah 45.23; the same worship given to YHWH God in the Old Testament is now rendered unto Christ.

In heaven and on earth and under the earth: All rational beings are classed into thre groups: (1)  the whole host of heaven recognize Jesus’ Lordship, (2) all people living on earth should recognize His Lordship, & (3) all those in the Hadean realm acknowledge His Lordship.

11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord: The “name above all names” is here revealed as the name which all must agree with God concerning Jesus as Lord. Angels and demons, living and dead, saved and unsaved—every tongue will acknowledge His Lordship.

To the glory of God the Father: This is the grand end of the Son’s humiliation—the glory of the Father. This is the unique purpose of all things. Since Jesus Christ is Lord we owe him worship, praise, and adoration as the second person of the Godhead. He is absolutely worthy of our worship. Further, we owe Him our confession of His lordship. Either we will render that confession to Him now to our benefit and for our eternal salvation or else we render our confession to Him later on the day of judgment to our detriment and eternal condemnation.

It is to our advantage that we bow the knee and loose our tongue to the Lord Jesus Christ now rather than later!

The Ascension

You may or may not be familar with the illusionist Criss Angel. He has a television program on A&E (Mindfreak) on which he is regular putting his illusionist skills on display for millions to see. Should you watch his show, you will see him perform illusions using cards, coins, and cans. He is famous, though, for his illusions where he walks on water, vanishes in plain day light, and levitations. While interesting and intriguing (one is left asking, “How’d he do that?”), with all due respect, Criss Angel “ain’t got nothing” on Jesus. The ascension of Jesus is not slight of hand or an illusion – He didn’t levitate and then float back down to earth. When He “was carried up to heaven” there were no special tricks; it was the final demonstration of the power of God in the life of Jesus. Luke records the ascension not only at the of his gospel account (24.50-53), but also in his second volume, Acts. He is the New Testament writer who gives the most attention and detail to this final event in the life of Jesus. In fact, Mark and John give only brief mention of it and Matthew does not devote any of his gospel narrative to the ascension. Conversely, Luke is also the writer who gives none of the meetings between Jesus and His disciples “in Galilee” which Matthew, Mark, and John give. Nevertheless,  here, at the close Luke’s gospel, is a very precious offering of sacred history concerning our Lord’s ascension back to the Father.

The Eulogy

It has been forty days since the resurrection (Acts 1.3). This is not Easter Sunday! This is forty days after that first Sunday when the tomb was found empty. First, Jesus takes His disciples to Bethany. “Bethany was on the eastern declivity of the Mount of Olives” (Barnes) and therefore, once the Lord was taken up, the disciples would return to Jerusalem “from the mount called Olivet” (Acts 1.12). Bethany means “house of sorrow” or “affliction.” This is a key villiage in the life of Jesus; He often frequented there since this was the hometown of his friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. One writer says it was probably from “the remoter uplands which lie above the city” from which Jesus, in full view of His disciples, made His depature.

Before the actual ascension, though, Jesus has one final thing He desires to do with and for His disciples: bless them. Like Jacob (and the other patriarchs) of old (Gen 48.8-20; 49), Jesus lifted up his hands to bless them. Like Aaron the high priest (Lev 9.22), Jesus, the High Priest of the new covenant, lifts His hands and blesses His people. Some commentators think that also inherent in the act of lifting the hands was the intent to lay them on their heads. Perhaps, but the text is silent concerning this. This blessing is the assurance of favor, even the favor of God. When Jesus blesses His disciples, that is what He is communicating to them.

The Embarkment

As He expressing the divine favor upon them, “he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” That is, He intentionally separated Himself from them and stood apart from them. Then he was taken up, lifted. The language is very passive, as if this were something being done to Him rather than by Him. In Acts, Luke further records that a cloud comes and acts as a chariot escorting the King into the throne room of God and out of the sight of men’s eyes.

One wonders what it was like once Jesus was gone. “And just like that he was gone.” That’s it? Now what? In Acts, Luke records the angelic testimony that one day, just He left, Jesus is coming back. And so the disciples will wait do what Jesus said to do (Luke 24.49; Acts 1.8) and wait in the city for the promise to be fulfilled.

The Exultation

In the meantime, life must go on. The first thing the disciples do is worship Jesus. Do not overlook this too quickly for its theological significance is huge. The only Being worthy of worship is God – this is the testimony of Scripture (Ex 20.3-4; Deut 5.8-10; 6.13-15), Jesus (Matt 4.10; Luke 4.8), and angels (Rev 19.10; 22.9). Only God is to be worshipped and yet Jesus is worshipped and it is acceptable. Why? Jesus Christ is God. Those who rob of Him of this do not serve the same Jesus the apostles knew. Everything they had experienced with the crucifixion, resurrection, and, now, the ascension testified to them that Jesus is God. And so they worship Him as God.

Once worship is over, they go back into Jerusalem to wait for the promised Holy Spirit to come. But the attitude and atmosphere is different. They are now joyous, full of joy because of what had just happened. This has been a common theme in Luke (1.4; 2.10; 8.13; 10.17; 15.7, 10; 24.41). There is no grief, though it might have been present inasmuch as Jesus, their friend and Teacher is gone. But whatever grief could have been is swallowed up in joy.

While in Jerusalem, they frequent the temple to engage in “blessing God.” Regularly, perhaps even daily, these disciples made trips to the temple to praise God. Fittingly, Luke concludes his narrative where it all began: in the temple. From Zechariah’s fearful encounter with an angel to the disciples faithful exulations to the Almighty, Luke brings us full circle concerning the “narrative” compiled from “eyewitnesses and ministers” of “the things [we] have been taught” concerning the man named Jesus.

Peter Denies Jesus

In his book The Six Trials of Jesus, John Lawrence posits that when you take the gospel narrative as a whole from all 4 gospels, Jesus was put on trial six times in the span of about 4 hours: the trial before Annas, twice before the Sanhedrin, once before Herod and twice before Pilate (not in that order). Most authorities agree this was the case. In Luke 22.54-62, Luke takes us to the first trial before Annas (Lawrence says this is the first trial). But instead of focusing on Jesus in that trial, Luke has a different focus: Peter. Again, Lawrence offers that Peter did not deny Jesus three times but he denies Jesus a total of eight times during the course of the night. Each gospel writer is content to merely record three in their gospel inasmuch as Jesus prophesies a threefold denial (Luke 22.34). Says Lawrence, “It took only three [denials] to fulfill the prediction of Christ, and to record more than this would only be adding insult to an already pathetic situation.” And that is what we find in Luke; he records three of Peter’s denials.

The First Denial

Jesus has been arrested and is being led away to the house of the high priest (v.54a). There seems to be difficulty concerning the high priesthood – was Annas or Caiaphas high priest. From what we gather, Annas was supposed to be the high priest (a life-long position, similar to our Supreme Court justices) but because of Roman interference, Caiaphas, Annas’ son-in-law, was in the position by Roman nomination. Hence, it would seem they exercised chief authority jointly in the Jewish councils as well as the high priest’s palace.

Meanwhile, while Jesus stands before Annas (for more detail on this trial, see John 18.19-24), Peter is “following at a distance” (v.54b). In Matthew’s account, we get the motive for Peter’s continued pursuit of Jesus, even after capture: “to see the end” (Matt 26.58b). Probably sorrow filled and anxious, Peter is able to procur entrance into the courtyard. But, tragically, his pursuit is not coupled with the same zeal and boldness he has shown earlier in the evening (Luke 22.33) or with prayer for guidance or divine aid. Rather, drawing near to fire for it is cold (John 18.18), he takes his seat “among them” (v.55). Peter mingles with those who are not disciples of Jesus; indeed, the followers of the Lord have scattered and Peter sits down with the enemy, as it were.

All four gospel writers tell us that the first challenge came from a slave girl. She was “looking at him closely” or “stared at him” (NRSV). This captures exactly what was happening – this girl was closely scrutenizing Peter, as if he looked familiar or had some distinguishing characteristic which she recognized. Curious, did Peter know he was under the hot stare of this slave girl. Did his face become flush or perspiration break forth on his brow? Did the tension build between the two? At best we can only speculate. But then it hits her. “This man was also with him” (v.56). By him she means, of course, Jesus. And now, Peter, here is your time to “shine for Jesus” we might say. Here is his opportunity to “be a light in a dark world,” again, as we might say. Bear your testimony, testify, tell what Jesus has done for you, and all those other Christian-ese terms we have come up with.  

In one sense, this is an indictment of how we today have cluttered up a simple concept of confessing Christ before men. In another sense, this is a reminder of just how much like Peter we are at times. Peter’s response (and ours) should have been something akin to what Jesus says when questioned: “You have said so.” Instead, he caves, denying that he has ever known Jesus. The force of the language used is such that Peter is saying he has not known nor knows Jesus. He is saying has had nothing to do with Jesus.

The Second Denial

Some time passes. It does not appear that in Luke’s account Peter leaves the fire. Some unidentified person now points Peter out again as someone who had been one of those who followed with Jesus. And again, his response should have, “Right, you say it yourself.” But instead, Peter denies yet again. Taking the complete gospel narrative, it would seem this denial comes after a few other denials previous. Lawrence has this as the sixth denial out of eight. Nevertheless, Peter addresses this man (“Man” and “woman” in this context is merely a way of addressing someone politely, similar to our modern “Sir” or “Madam”) and says, “I am not” one of the followers of Jesus.

The Third Denial

More time passes, Luke says “about an hour” and someone else identifies Peter as a follower of Jesus. But this time it is because “he is a Galilean.” How did he know that? Scholars suggest that Peter had an accent. Mind you, Peter is from up north around the Sea of Galilee while Jerusalem is in the south in the land of Israel. Further, Peter is a fisherman whereas these are “city-folk” in Jerusalem. So Peter probably had a slight variation in his speech pattern. It is no different than today. Americans speak English but we can recognize a northeast accent or southern accent. So here is Peter with his northern fisherman accent which gives him away. This stranger concludes this Galilean fellow must have been with Jesus. He “insists” upon this fact (v.59).

Peter’s way of denying this time is slightly different. Previously, its been “I don’t know” and “I’m not one of them (the disciples).” Now its this answer of increduity: “What are you talking about?” I can almost picture a half-hearted laugh from Peter – “You gotta be kidding me. Me with him? Yeah, right.” How many Christians, with a little laugh, do the same thing? “Me? A Christian? Yeah, right. What are you talking about?”

Several things happen now “immediately” following this. As the words are coming out of his mouth, Peter hears a rooster crow. Imagine, mid-sentence, a rooster crows. Surprise and shame probably sweep over Peter. But that’s not all. Jesus, seemingly in transit from one high priest to another, turns inn Peter’s direction and they lock eyes. Perhaps this last denial of Peter’s reached the ears of the Lord. Perhaps He just knew. Either case, Jesus and his old friend make eye contact. In an instant, the words of Jesus rush through Peter, piercing his mind: “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” The words of Jesus coupled with the look from Jesus is unbearable for Peter. He flees the scene, devastated and broken, weeping bitterly. I believe that word “bitterly” points out that Peter really did not want to fail here when he does he is deeply grieved because of it. Peter, the “rock” of the Twelve, has fallen.

Last Supper with Jesus, pt. 2

There is much darkness and gloom brooding over this tiny band. But it will get much darker as Jesus will draw their attention to a betrayer among them. In Luke 22.21-30, Jesus turns his attention to disciples and their future. For one, his future is bleak as he will betray the Son of Man. His name is Judas. Jesus turns His attention to this sad topic.

The Disloyalty of a Disciple

Right on the heels of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus tells his band of followers there is a betrayer among them. There are some who contend that these verses (v.21-22) have been transposed and should come before v.19. Even if that be the case, the truth of Jesus’ words is not affected. There is a betrayer among them, even sitting at the table with them. And it is interesting, that even while Judas is sitting there at the table with Jesus, he is betraying Him. Jesus explains why it must be so in v.22: “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined…” The path Jesus has been on (and even at this point is on) has lead Him to this point and will terminate in the cross. This path “has been determined” for Him. By whom, we may ask? The answer is God. Elsewhere is the writing of Luke he talks about how it was according to the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” which Jesus went to the cross (Acts 2.23). This plan to save man was formed in the mind from before time began, even in eternity. Then, through His Son, He worked that plan to its conclusion. 

So then Judas’ freewill was violated in that he was “forced,” as it were, to betray Jesus? No. Jesus points to the responsibility of the betrayer in the rest of v.22: “but woe to that man by he is betrayed” (ESV).  Writes Leon Morris, “The fact that God overrules the evil that bad people do as he brings his purposes to pass does not make them any less evil. They remain responsible people.” Hence, Jesus’ words are not meant to be vindictive but words filled with grief and hurt that his betrayer is a friend. It would seem Judas has covered his tracks so well that none of the disciples caught on to what he was doing. The disciples collectively begin to question one another concerning who it was going to be.

The Dispute among the Disciples

It would seem this continued questioning led to an argument among the disciples. Think about it: here are several men who are all pointing the finger of accusation at one another. “Was it you?” “No but I think it was Peter.” I heard that! How dare you accuse me! Besides it was probably James or John.” “Who do you think you are accusing us?” And on it went until there was a full blown argument. At some point, the discussion turned toward greatness: “Why I would never betray Jesus. Think of what a great disciple I am.” “Well, I’m an even greater disciple than you!” “Yeah, well I’m the greatest of all!” Their like children and it makes me wonder if Jesus ever just rolled His eyes before calling a time out (as he does here).

It is interesting that the word used for their dispute literally means “love of strife” (Gk. philoneikia). It carries the idea that the topic of greatness was always a topic ready for dispute and argument among these men. In fact, elsewhere in Scriputre we find record of this very same discussion among these same men (Matt 20.20-24; Mark 9.34; 10.37-41). And this not the first time Luke has recorded a dispute arose over the exact same thing (cf. 9.46). They seem to constantly be seeking the primacy and preeminence. Again, it was a topic they were eager to dispute.

So Jesus remind them about true greatness in the kingdom of God (v.25-27). As if His demonstration of servant leadership earlier in the evening was not enough (see John 13.1ff), He now imparts more teaching on the nature of servant leadership. He draws their attention to the Gentiles and their practice. Those in authority are called “benefactors” or a person who helps people subject to him. In the world, its all about getting credit for what they have done. Indeed, the word Jesus uses (Gk. euergetai) was the name of one of the Ptolomies of Egypt (Ptolomy Euergetes). But in the kingdom of God, its different. “Not so among you.” The first part of the explanation in v.26 sounds similar to Jesus in Luke 9.48 about children. The next part is similar to teaching found elsewhere in the gospels: “the leader [among you become] as one who serves.” The message was unmistakable especially when coupled with the object lesson given before the meal with the feet washing. Jesus, their leader, had become their servant.

And if they missed it there, Jesus reiterates it once more and in specific language (v.27; cf. Matt 20.28)). Naturally, the thinking would be that the one dining at the table was greater than the one serving. And yet Jesus was one who came and served them. Again, the John 13 feet washing has clear ties to this in Luke. In these statements, Jesus effectually puts to rest any dispute they may have had. Also, their love for this dispute ought to be put away. This is not proper kingdom citizen discussion. Greatness in the kingdom is only found in serving.

The Domain of the Apostles

There is some honor, though, which Jesus wishes to impart to His disciples on this occasion. He explains that they have been with Him through his “trials” (or temptations). They had been with Him throughout the many hardships of His ministry here on earth. They had been with Him when rejected in Samaria. They had been there when He was ridiculed by the leaders. They knew He had no place to lay His head. They knew it because they were there. So he “assigns” them “a kingdom.” What’s Jesus saying? His time, His life is drawing near to its end. He is setting His affairs in order. This is the meaning behind the word “assign.” This is langauge used (in those days) for a will. He is assigning his possessions (in this case the kingdom assigned to Him from the Father) to His followers. They will be the ones who carry on His work when He has ascended back to the Father.

As discussed before, a kingdom is primarily defined not as territory or land but as a dominion, rule, reign. Hence, Christ’s kingdom would be administered by them. All of them. Not just Peter (tenet of the Catholic Church) but all of them would collectively proclaim and propagate the kingdom of Christ. Because of their work in this regard, they would “eat and drink at my table in the kingdom” and “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The former expression I believe captures the fellowship aspect. The latter seems to touch on the follow-ship aspect. First, as citizens of the kingdom and as those who reveal the kingdom in their teaching, the apostles would enjoy fellowship with Christ. Indeed, those who hold to the teachings of the apostles can themselves find fellowship with Christ and God.

Second, we see that for following Christ and even enduring the same trials and temptations as Jesus, they will have unique authority in the kingdom. Some say this judgment the apostles have is done by their teaching. Others say it is like when Ninevah and the queen of Sheba condemned the Jews in times past, so will the apostles in the kingdom dispensation (present time). Still others say the apostles will sit as co-judges with Christ in the judgment. Again, others say the apostles will have special preeminence in the kingdom after the second coming. According to H. Leo Boles, “There may be some truth in all of these positions.” What we know is that the sitting on thrones the apostles will do was yet future when Christ spoke these words. How far into the future is uncertain. But it would be a reality should the apostles remain faithful. In this author’s opinion, this is something that took place in the first century when the apostles proclaimed the kingdom of God and people began to enter into the rule and reign of God. When men and women began to bow the knee to Christ and accepted the rule of God in their lives from the throne of their heart, that is when the apostles began to judge Israel. And by their continued disobedience to the gospel, those Jews who refused entrance into the kingdom were condemned even while they lived.

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

When I read this section of Luke (22.1-6), I think of the song “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” because that really is what Judas is doing. Actually, I suppoose we could call them “devilish deeds” based on what Luke says in v.3 (“Satan entered Judas”) and, relatively speaking, he did these deeds “dirt cheap.” At the same time, we now descend into the darkness, the darkest part of the life of Christ. Events will put certain things in motion which will lead to the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus in under 24 hours. The first of these events is Judas’ betrayal.

The Avidity to Kill Jesus

In verses 1-2 we see the great desire of Jesus opponents to kill Jesus. Luke puts his historical touch on this by noting that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was drawing near. This puts this in an historical context, in real space-time. Indeed, Jesus was a real man who really died in human history. He was not a myth nor a legend. Luke further note this is called the Passover also. Intended for Greeks who perhaps were unfamiliar with all the Jewish customs, Luke adds this note. Strictly speaking, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were distinct from each other, nevertheless they were regarded as one celebration. We note the Passover, the commemoration of what God did for Israel in bringing them out Egypt (Exodus 12) when he slew the firstborn child of all in Egypt but passed over the people of Israel who had the blood on the doorpost. Indeed, Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5.7) and those covered in the blood are passed over, free from the full wrath of God.

It was at this time, roughly corresponding to March in our calendar year, that the chief priest and scirbes were seeking and desiring to put Jesus to death, whether by legal or quasi-legal procedures. As the narrative unfolds, we will see they pursue the latter. While the Pharisees and Sadducees were some of Jesus stiffest opposition, it is the chief priests who hold the political power to actually pursue execution of Jesus. Hence, they, with the scribes, take the lead. But there was one hiccup in the road: the people. These powerful men were truly powerless because of the people. What could they do?

The Agreement to Kill Jesus

Enter Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve who followed Jesus. He was the son of Simon of Iscariot (see John 6.71; 13.26). The term Iscariot is often used to distinguish between this Judas and another Judas in the company of apostles (see Luke 6.16; John 14.22) and points to his hometown of Keriot in southern Judah. An interesting note is that Judas was the only apostle who was not from Galilee. By some accounts, Judas was an important disciple: he had control over the money and seemed to be near Jesus at the last supper since Jesus was able to give him the morsel (John 13.26). It is this man who betrays the Lord. The enormity of the betrayal is seen in the language of Luke when saying he was “one of the twelve.”

Judas comes to the enemies of Jesus and discusses with them what is to be done and how Judas might betray Jesus to them. Luke only tells us that there were “officers” present. These were the commanders of the temple guard, no doubt acting as body guards for these high priestly men. Imagine their joy (v.5) when we finally reach an agreement. How exactly it went down and what exactly the discussion consisted of is not known. But there was some talk, some negotiation about price and deliverance of Jesus to them. But finally an agreement is reached and Judas casts his lot in with these men and their wicked work. And now all they have to do is wait. Wait for the right moment when Jesus is alone, by Himself, away from the people.

I know what your asking yourself.  Its the same I rack my brain over. Why? Why did he do it? Again, by accounts he was a disciple of position and promise, good with money, perhaps a leader. The ideas abound. Some say Judas was disappointed with what Jesus was doing. After all it was Judas who raised his voice over the anointing of Jesus (John 12.4). Disappointment that the grand vision of the kingdom perhaps drove him to it. Of course, if we stay in that account in John 12, we see Judas was a thief. Maybe he was just a bad guy who was tired of the lack of cash flow coming in. Still others try to paint a different light on Judas and say he was merely trying to get to exert His power and hasten the coming of the kingdom. Maybe if he pressed Him, Jesus would finally start acting like the Messiah the Jews had hoped for. Still others have suggested that perhaps Judas, for whatever reason, began to doubt that Jesus was truly the Messiah. Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a false Messiah and the true Messiah was yet to come. Still others say Judas was tired of Jesus indifference to the law and His association with “sinners” and His violation of the Sabbath. There are even those who say Judas was the hero of this whole ordeal and merely doing what Jesus had talked him into. Again, I say, speculation abounds.

What’s the reality? The reality is Scripture is relatively silent on the exact motive of why Judas did it. Luke says Satan entered him. The prince of the powers of darkness was able to sway Judas to his camp and use him to “guide” (Acts 1.16) these enemies of Jesus to Him. The Pulpit Commentary says, “For one to whom such splendid chances were offered to fall so low, is an awful mystery.” Perhaps the greater question is did Jesus know? Jesus was the one who look into the hearts of men. Did He know that Judas was or would be a thief, take a bribe, turn out to be a betrayer? Did He know and still call Judas to “follow me”? Set before Judas (and indeed us) are the paths of life and death, sin and fellowship with the Creator. And he chose the wrong path. It is vivid and terrible example of the fundamental choice men and women have before them.

Jesus at World’s End, pt.4

As we approach Luke 21.29-38, we see the final words of Jesus concerning His coming in judgment on Jerusalem. As we have seen in part 1, part 2, and part 3, Jesus is warning his disciples about the impending doom yet to come upon the Jews for their continued rebellion toward God. He concludes His warning with a parable, a favorite tool for teaching of Jesus.

A Fig Tree

The fig tree is a plant indigenous to Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Its blooms appear before the leaves do in the spring. Jesus uses this example from the creation in order to drive his point home: Just as certain as summer follows spring, the season when the fig tree puts forth its leaves, so also you may be certain that “when you see these things taking place” (all the things in v.10-28) you can know the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish world is right at the door. Jesus, in v.31, says the kingdom of God is near. That is, the rule and reign of God, His sovereignty over nations and peoples to bring them up and tear them down. What you see in the destruction of Jerusalem is an exercise of God’s sovereignty in human history.

Jesus reiterates His point in case anyone missed it: this thing is going to happen soon; so soon that the present generation (those people alive in the first century, some of them standing in front of Him) would not die until it had taken place (v.32). Hence, those expositors and commentators who try to shove this passage (and it’s parallel passages) into the future do so erroneously. Jesus is not talking about something millenia in the future; this is something right at the door for the first century disciples. If this has not yet been fulfilled, either Jesus lied (since that generation passed away without this prophecy fulfilled) or we should still have 2000 year old people walking around still waiting for the fulfillment. Neither of these is a reality nor possible – hence, Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled just as he described in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Indeed, Jesus makes this very point in v.33 when in essence he says “No word of mine will ever pass away unfulfilled.”  

A Final Tip

Jesus wraps up this discourse with a final warning and exhortation to His disciples. “Watch yourselves” (v.34) and “stay awake” (v.36). First, watch yourselves, especially in regards to their hearts. Something big and bad is coming down the pike…and now is not the time to mess with their Christian walk. Jesus mentions some very specific activities to avoid. “Dissipation” which has to do with drinking (alcohol) and the unrestraint behavior that usually accompanies that activity. How many people know the results and consequences of excessive alcohol consumption? Judgment and morality fly out the window and that is what Jesus is addressing. Avoid this. Next, “drunkeness” which is alcoholic intoxication. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing with abstinence from alcohol. And finally, the “cares of this life” are those things which divide our alligence to Christ and God. They pull us from being worshippers to being worriers. Jesus’ word to His disciples is guard yourself from these things. If you do not, “that day” (the day of destruction reserved for Jerusalem) will come upon them “suddenly like a trap.” I believe the imagry is self-evident.

Jesus further explains why they should watch themselves in verse 35. Many will use this verse in order to shove this whole context into the future. Indeed, it can present some difficulty. “For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Well, this would pretty well point to the scope of this judgment being universal, right? Not necessarily when you consider that the world for “earth” can (and in this context should) be translated “land.” Hence, all those who dwell in the land of Judea will suffer this judgment of God. Young’s Literal Translation provides this translation and Adam Clarke in his commentary makes mention of this point.

The next warning is stay awake at all times. In other words, keep yours eyes open and be on watch. What should a watchful disciple be doing in anticipation of this coming day? Pray. For what? Strength to escape all the horrible, terrible things that are coming which Jesus has just predicted. Indeed, it will get very bad. But also, pray that they would be able to stand before the Son of Man. The coming judgment is upon wicked Jerusalem. They will not be able to stand in judgment. But the disciple ought to be able to stand blameless at the coming of the Son of Man. They would then be free from the coming calamity.

One day He’s coming back. We often talk about the “second coming of Christ;” perhaps it is better called the “final coming of Christ.” One day he come back for the final time for final judgment. Ought we to listen to the words of the Master? He predicted physically judgment to be poured out in human history and told His disciples how they can prepare themselves for that day. Much more should we prepare for the Day when Christ will proclaim spiritual judgment upon all men and women. Ought also to stay awake and watch ourselves lest we fall into dissipation, drunkeness, and/or the cares of life? Our alligence must be wholeheartedly to the Son of Man if we would stand in final judgment.

The Faithful Teacher

Luke gives us a glimpse into the life of Jesus in v.37-38. Every day Jesus is teaching in the temple. We have seen Him sere before (see Luke 19.47). No doubt His message is still the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4.17).  He is still teaching during the day, but at night He’s sleeping on the mountains, the Mount of Olives. Mountains appear to be a special place for Jesus. They seemed to be His place of prayer and renewal (see Luke 6.12; 9.28). What’s Jesus every night before he turns in? Probably praying. His time is drawing ever closer and he needs the strength to carry out the mission. We’ve just seen Him warn His disciples to pray for strength; certainly the teacher is modelling for his students what this looks like. But you know where to find Jesus the next morning. Early in the morning He’s back at it, in the temple teaching all the people who came to hear Him.

Lunch with Jesus, pt.4

The meal is over, but the teaching is not finished. It seems that after this marvelous teaching concerning the kingdom (compared to a great banquet, v.15-24), Jesus has gained a following. Now it is normal and makes sense that when you have “fans” who like what you say and want to be around you, you try to keep them around. That is, you try to stay popular and soak up as much of those fifteen minutes of fame as possible. But what does Jesus do? He actually does the opposite and begins teaching things that will drive people away (And even today is repulsive to some).

 Jesus has just revealed the gospel of the disenfranchised and emarginated in v.21-24. It is the poor, lame, crippled, dejected who would forcefully enter the kingdom. This in the streets and alleys and in the highways and hedges were invited and filled the master’s table. So also in the kingdom it will be these same kind who will eat with the Master. And before unvealing the full force of the grace of God in the lives of men (ch.15), Jesus ensures that everyone hearing (even we today) know the cost of following Jesus. It is no milk toast discipleship that Jesus is calling for. One cannot be a fair weather disciple if he intends to follow Jesus. Discipleship is serious business and Jesus details the commitment one must have.

A Disciple and Family

Every Greek lexicon and bible dictionary translates the Greek word miseo (used here for “hate”) as hatred, aversion, detest. Only one had the secondary meaning of “love less.” Jesus’ is serious about discipleship and therefore uses such a strong word. But what kind fo teaching does Jesus use to make his point? I believe this is hyperbolic teaching. An exaggeration to ensure the point is not missed. The parallel verse (Matt 10.37) helps put this in clearer perspective: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” (ESV). I believe that is the point made in Luke 14.26: your love for family members (father, mother, sister, brother, wife, even children) will look like hatred compared to your love for Christ. And Christ has a right to occupy this place of primacy: he died for us. How can we give him any less?

Atheists usually grab this verse to “catch” Christians in their supposed “folly” which is Christianity. “See,” they say, “Jesus is advocating family hatred. What kind of monster is Jesus that he wants us to hate our kids and wives, etc. Further, this contradicts other places where it says to take care of your family.” Their argument usually goes something like that. While this may be a difficult passage, by no means is it a contradiction. If we truly believe the Bible is the word from God, then it is free from errors. And while there may be some difficult passages, there are good answers for these difficulties. As is stated above, this seems to be a wake up call to all the would-be, fair-weather, milk-toast disciples of the “great crowds” following Jesus. If you want to be a disciple, it will cost you something: all your love and unrivaled devotion to Christ.

A Disciple and His Life

But Jesus does not stop with the family members; he digs even deeper, striking the very heart of the disciple. If you love your own life, you cannot be Jesus’ disciple. Once more opponents will try to seize an opportunity to point out an alleged “contradiction.” “Does Jesus not want us to care for our bodies?” In the same way we are called love Christ more than our family, so also we must love Christ more than our own life. And how can we keep our life when Christ so freely laid his down on our behalf? Jesus teaches we cannot. One writer says, “Martyrdom should be an ever-present possibility to the Christian, not to be courted, but not to be shunned.” Perhaps Jesus is speaking of the time when Christian persecution would be heavy. A disciple who loved his life would desert Christ in the hour of intense persecution. But the disciple who loved his Lord more than his life would remain faithful even to the end of his life. As another writer put it: “Love for Christ takes precedence ‘over even the elemental instinct of self-preservation.'”

A Disciple and the Cross

Perhaps the most severe teaching Jesus gave his disciples focused on the cross in the life of the believer. In 9.23, Jesus says that cross bearing is a 24/7 occupation. Daily we bear the cross. Jesus teaches us once more, in v.27, the necessity to bear the cross. Not only do we bear the cross but we also “come after” or “follow” Jesus. Where is Jesus going? He is on his way to Jerusalem. Why is he going there? To die. So we take our cross and follow Christ to Jerusalem to die as well. We crucify the flesh, putting it to death. Then Christ truly rules and lives in us. As Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me.” Christ came into this world to end lives, you life and mine, so that once we are dead he might live in us and through us. This is the profound meaning behind the cross. Though we die, yet will we live and that with Christ in us. If we shun the cross, this death to self, we cannot be Jesus’ disciple.

A Disciple and Counting the Cost

Jesus has been teaching us what a disciple is to do if he intends to be a true follower of Christ. Now Jesus illustrates the folly of a disciple who does not count the cost. First, he speaks of a person (you) who wants to build a tower with insufficient funds. Unable to finish his work, he is mocked for his folly. This is a ridulous picture! So the disciple needs to take stock to see whether he has the spiritual resources to build his building. We must avoid becoming or making disciples who are unable to finish building. Jesus’ second illustration is of a king who is about to go war with another king. If he has insufficient troops, he will try to establish peace. Count the cost! Obviously, we cannot wage a war with God and hope to win. In fact, before we are in Christ, there is hostilitybetween God and us. Only through Christ do we find the peace we need.

A Disciple and His Possessions

Tied into counting the cost is the fact that we must acknowledge that nothing we have is ours. All we have has been given to us by God. We must renounce it as ours and turn it over to God to be used in his kingdom. It is his stuff anyways.

A Disciple and Salt

To close this section on discipleship, Jesus has a discussion about salt (v.34-35a). What does salt have to do with discipleship? Some would say a disciple is the salt of the earth and they add flavor to the world. Others say that since salt is a preservative, we help preserve the world. Eh. I believe that Jesus is building on the Old Testament sacrificial system. What would salt mean to a Jew? Look at Leviticus 2.13: it is called “the salt of the covenant” and it was a major part of the grain offering which was a fellowship offering. So to a Jew, salt meant covenant, especially in regards to being in fellowship with God. So when Jesus talks about salt, he is calling for the disciple to be salty. In Mark 9.50, the imperative is to “have salt in yourselves” (i.e. be salty). Jesus is imploring us to be covenant people. If you are not a covenant keeper, what good are you. You become useless like tasteless salt, good for nothing but the dung heap.

The meal may be over, but the lesson is still going on. And Jesus’ final admonition is to listen us (v.35b). Can you hear me now? Pay attention lest you lose your saltiness, that very essence of discipleship: covenant. He has issued his decree concerning kingdom dwelling in ch.14. Have we heard and are we doing what he tells us?

Would-be Followers of Jesus

One of the most tragic lines in all of of Scripture is probably the one uttered by King Agrippa to Paul when he says, “Do you think that is such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Someone has made the observation that the word “Christian” only appears in the New Testament 3 times whereas the word disciple is occurs 269 times and the whenever Christian is used is always referring to disicples. Hence, Agrippa might as well have asked, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a disciple?” Indeed, every person who claims to be a Christian must acknowledge that they are a disciple as well. Someone who claims to have Christianity without discipleship does not know what he is saying; the two are hand in glove. Indeed, at the heart of Christianity is discipleship.

In Luke 9.57-62, we have a couple of other examples of King Agrippa’s attitude. Men who seek to be a part of the kingdom of God without committment to discipleship. Without a committment to discipleship, one cannot have citizenship in the kingdom of God. No there needs to be something deeper to this thing called Christianity. In this short passage we find the basis for discipleship, that is total committment to Christ and his teaching. Someone has said, “A student learns what his teacher knows, but a disciple becomes what his master is.” Yes, that is a fair assessment. We are learners of Jesus as disciples, but we are seeking something more and that is to become like Christ himself.

The Context

We must remember that this passage has a larger context, namely a context that includes v.51 where we read that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV). Hence, when these men say that they are going to follow Jesus or when they are invited to follow Jesus, it is nothing short than a request or invitation to a death to self. For Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die. It is a plea to follow Jesus to a cross. It is an invitation to come die with the Master. I wonder did these men fully comprehend the demands such a request requires. I doubt it; not even the disciples understood it. Question: Do we understand it? As disciples, as followers of Jesus, do we understand that we all have a Jerusalem to follow Jesus and a cross to crucify the selfish and evil desires on? Paul tells us the only way to ensure that sin does not reign in our mortal bodies is if we suffer a self-death (Rom 6.11-12). Just as Jesus suffered a death for sin once for all and is now alive to God, we too ought to consider ourselves the same way as disciples: dead to sin, alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The Cost

“Salvation is free; discipleship is costly.” By its very nature, grace is the free gift of God to those who have faith in Christ Jesus. But the life demanded of the saved will cost something, even our very life. As Paul has said elsewhere, “You are not own, you have been bought at a price” (1 Cor 6.19). So while salvation may be the free gift of grace to us and we need but only accept it from God, it did cost something to God, even his own Son. How dare us treat that great and precious sacrifice as something common by living as half-hearted, lukewarm, would-be disciples! It is going us something to live the life demanded of us in light of our salvation. In Luke 9.57ff, we find the cost demanded from some would-be disciples…

As Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, three men approach him. The first, it seems, is eager to follow Jesus anywhere. The question is, does he? Does he follow Jesus? Luke (and even the Matthew parallel account) does not make this clear. I think it safe to assume, that along with the other would-be disciples, he left that conversation greatly distressed because the hardship that a follower faced was too great. Jesus says, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” And any disciple of Jesus had better be prepared for this same kind of life. It is not an easy-go to follow Jesus. In fact, do not expect a luxurious life. Hence, men who propogate a “health and wealth” type of gospel fail to recognize that Jesus, in this verse, contradicts that. And yet, Jesus makes the promise elsewhere that though a disciple may not have the biggest and best, God still provides what we need (see Matt 6.25-34).

The second would-be follower struggles with ties to the family: he wants to make sure his father is buried. Question: Was his father dead when this man asks makes this request to Jesus? Maybe. It is possible this man’s father had recently died and he just wants to make arrangements for the body. In which case Jesus is stressing the urgency of discipleship and that nothing must hinder a disciple, not even earthly family ties. However, it probably is closer to the truth that this man’s father was still living at the time he made the request. Why wait for his dad to die? Inheritance! This man wants his cut of daddy’s life savings. But Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Either he means “Let that duty take care of itself” or “Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.” The command is still clear: “Go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Do not deny or delay in getting the message out. Allow nothing, be it money, family, etc., stand in your way of what a disciple must be about doing. Question: Did he do it? Or was the price too high? Luke leaves it open, but I think we can conclude he too went away discouraged.

The third man also has some struggles with family ties: he wants to say goodbye to everyone back home. This is not an unreasonable request from this man. In fact, you find a similar request from Elisha when Elijah called him and Elijah allowed it saying, “What have I done to you.” Question: What was Elisha doing when Elijah called him? Was he not plowing a field? And it is as if Jesus picks up that very concept and adapts it to the present situation he faces: unlike Elijah who allowed Elisha to return home to burn his plow and slaughter the oxen and offer them as a burnt sacrifice, the message here is don’t look back. Why? Perhaps Jesus knows the heart of the man and knows that if he does go back home and says goodbye to mom and pops, they may convince him to stay and not enter into service for the King. Truly, family can be the number one killer of the mission spirit within people. And Jesus is saying, don’t go home and risk having the fire in your belly quenched – keep plowing.

It is marginal Christianity, mediocre discipleship that is the biggest threat to the kingdom. If Satan can convince a Christian that they really don’t have to take their Christian life seriously, he has gained a victory. If he can whisper in their ear that good enough really is good enough, he has the upperhand. If he can entice them into would-be discipleship, where hardship and the loss of family ties for the kingdom of God may happen, then the devil has come one step closer to dragging more souls into hell. No, we must strive for total discipleship, total commitment to the cause of Christ so that we may be deemed fit for service in his kingdom. Jesus must take first place in our lives if we are to be the kind of follower he desires, a disciple who looks like his Master.

Following Jesus to Jerusalem

Chapter nine of Luke has a lot to say about discipleship. When one takes up the career of following Jesus, they agree to follow in his footsteps and follow his teaching not out of dogged duty but out of reverent love for the Master who saved them. It should never become a burdensome thing for a disciple to be a disciple for “his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5.3). However, in the lives of the Twelve, it seems that this discipleship business was just becoming more than they could handle at least in the sense that many people were following Jesus and were His disciples. And it would appear that the Twelve did not much care for that. They were “the group,” and anyone else threatening their territory had better watch out. Even in their own number, tempers flashed and emotions ran high.

The Wrong Argument for a Disciple

There arose a dispute between the Twelve. Were all Twelve involved in the dispute? Hard to say. Luke just says the disciples were arguing and I think it safe to assume all of them were in on it. The arguing was not just a small quibble or or discussion; the Greek implies that this was a full blown ordeal that was ready to come to blows over this matter. And just what matter is that? Who, of their number, would be greatest. Who was tops. Who was the best and brightest. Jesus knew thir thoughts and their hearts and so he calls a timeout and huddles the group together to resolve this matter. Mark tells us that the disciples probably a little embarrssed because they “kept quiet” knowing they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Jesus sets the record straight by detailing just who is the greatest. It is not the guy who is on top. It is not the best and brightest. It is not the one who has the most money. It is the one who is “least.” The NIV Study Bible (which has good reference material) has a note that says, “People become great in God’s sight as they sincerely and unpretentiously look away from self to revere him.” Doesn’t this all go back to what Jesus mentioned earlier in the chapter about having a daily death to self (v.23). You are not going to become great unless you have made yourself the least through a denial and death to self through the cross of Christ.

Sadly, this is not a lone occasion for this topic to come up for the disciples (cf. Mark 10.35). For the disciples, discipleship was all about being “the greatest.” They wanted power, position, authority and they failed to recognize that there is only one person who gets all the glory in Christianity: Jesus. Certainly, we should all be striving for greatness as a disciple, but not the greatness the disciples sought. Our greatness must be through Jesus Christ. He has all power, has the top position, and has all authority (Matt 28.18). Therefore, let’s let him have his role and never try to remove the crown from his head by putting it on our own head. This would be foolish beyond measure.

Verse 50 needs some special attention. Some have tried to make this say something that it simply does not say. Some have said that since denominations and other religious groups are not “against us” then they are for us. Hence, we should not be trying to “stop them” but should let them continue to do what they are doing. This simply will not do. This passage, along with the parallel passage in Mark, knows nothing of denominations. This is all about discipleship, especially Jesus’ condemnation of any type of heirarchy in His Church. The ground is level at the foot of the cross – no one man is over above another man. Hence, Jesus is rectifying the thinking of the disciples about other disciples, namely, they are not above them. In the kingdom, there is only one head (Jesus) and those in the kingdom comprise one body (His Church).

The Wrong Attitude for a Disciple

We now reach a turning point in the gospel of Luke as we come upon Luke 9.51. Jesus has been traveling from town to town, preaching and teaching, healing to confirm the word spoken. And to be sure, every move Jesus has made has been on purpose. But now Jesus is entering the point in his ministry that will bring him to the fulfillment of his mission on earth, namely, going to Jerusalem to die. He has already alluded to this in the past (see 9.22, 44), but now he is going to “resolutely” set his face for Jerusalem and head for the culmination of his mission on earth. He has talked about with Moses and Elijah, and the time for his “receiving up” (lit. from Greek) is drawing near. And it is time to head for Jerusalem.

From now on, Jesus is heading for Jerusalem, and Luke will point that again and again (see v.53; 13.22, 33; 17.11; 18.31; 19.11, 28). He has much to teach his disciples, and many more works to accomplish before he arrives, but he every action will lead his closer and closer to his final destination: Jerusalem. His first stop is in Samaria. But they refuse him for this very reason of heading for Jerusalem. It seems the Samaritans helped no one who was either a) a Jew (which Jesus was) or b) heading for Jerusalem (again, this was Jesus).

Now we face the response of the disciples James and John. Some people have a problem with Jesus having a sense of humor or laughing. Indeed, we don’t read about Jesus laughing, but I think it is safe to assume he did laugh and had a sense of humor because he was just like we are (Heb 2.14). And truly, his naming of James and John reflects this sense of humor as he calls them “Sons of Thunder.” Their colors ae showing in their response to the Samaritans when they want to call down fire from heaven.

This was wrong first of all because the disciples are trying to take the place of God. As Sovreign God, it is his prerogative to judge and to destroy, not man’s. Second, the disciples demonstrate a wrong attitude toward the people who reject them. Jesus has already explicated what to do when people do not welcome when he sent them out (v. 5). Clearly, the disciples, James and John, do not demonstrate that “spirit” but rather a different spirit. (Textual note: whether you bible has verse 55 in the text or footnote usually depends on what Greek text it was translated from. The difference is whether they depend upon the Textus Receptus (NKJ and KJV) or the Majority Text (just about every other translation).)  Jesus rebukes them for having this kind of attitude in their hearts. Indeed, Jesus came to save.


As disciples, we must learn from our Teacher the proper conduct and attitudes a disciple is to have. We are not be entrenched in heirarchy battles, making power-plays in the Lord’s church, jockying for position like so many wild horses. We are part of a body, members working together for the good of the head, Jesus Christ. He hs all authority and power. Also, we must never think that some group is worthy of destruction but instead see all men (even those who reject us) as worthy of salvation from the Lord.

Probably the greatest lesson wee learn from Jesus here is that we are all, as disciples, heading for Jerusalem with Jesus. And Jesus is not going to Jerusalem for a party, or to join a country club or to have a good time; Jesus went to Jerusalem to die. He went to Jerusalem to face a cross. Every disciple needs to recognize the seriousness of this lifestyle. It is not for the faint of heart and it will consume every part of your life. But that is the point – Jesus as Jerusalem consumed Jesus’ life, so the cross must consume the life of the disciple.

Sermon on the Plain, part 2

For some time, I have been looking forward to this study over the Sermon on the Plain. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I knew when I get here things were going to bog down and we were going to spend some time just looking at all Jesus has to say here. But today is the day we begin diving into the text and Jesus’ words.

We should not rush to the words right away, though, and miss the introductory remark of Luke. Luke says Jesus looked “at his disciples.” This is important. Jesus is not giving a bunch of generic sentences and pronouncing blessings to different socioeconomic classes – Jesus is speaking to his disciples. This is the context in which the Sermon on the Plain is couched.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Blessed is you Greek word Makarioi which one commentator says “‘refers to the distinctive religious joy which accrues to man from his share in the salvation of the Kingdom of God.'” It is the equivalent of saying to a person “way to go” or “congratulations.” It was a term usually used in reference to the gods and therefore, common man would never be referred to as “blessed.” Yet Jesus comes on the scene and says that this term applies to those who have a particular quality and are citizens of the kingdom. What a profound and glorious statement.

I don’t know about you, but I do not enjoy being poor. Am I poor now? Well, I am certainly not rich. Perhaps some of you grew up poor and know the struggles there are in being poverty striken. Perhaps some of you are poor now and have trouble making ends meet. And we can agonize over these things and say things like: “If only I had more money…” We see TV shows or movies about poor people becoming rich and we think what a great thing that is. But notice what Jesus says in Luke 6.20…

Jesus offers congratulations to the poor. Indeed, this a “mockery of the world’s values” as Leon Morris has said. The world says that the rich are the blessed ones because they have money. They are the demigods of our society and are therefore the makarioi. Wrong! Jesus says it is the poor. Why? Because there is a disposition that goes along with those who are impoverished. Jesus said that his message was for those who could not help themselves (4.18ff). Jesus’ purpose was to preach to the poor. They are the ones worthy of the bliss of the gods because they are the ones who encounter the God. Utter depravity leads to ultimate dependence upon the unique deliverer. Those who have riches need nothing. The man who has nothing needs anything. Someone has said, “When you give a man who has everything Jesus, you have given him nothing. When you give a man who has nothing Jesus, you have given him everything.”

To his disciples, those who have left everythinng to follow him, Jesus says you are blessed (present). The reason they are blessed is because they have the kingdom. The kingdom is in their possession and though they are poor they are in need of nothing for they have what really matters. Try as the world, it can never take that away from them.

Here is the application: the self-reliant disciple has no part in the kingdom. The disciple (or any person for the matter) who needs nothing from God is a fool. God expects total reliance upon him from his disciples. This total reliance spans many categories: not only salvation, but also day-to-day living, money, relationships, marriage. In all of these things, we must fully rely upon God as the one who sustains us. As disciples, we live our lives with the subtle understanding that as a kingdom individual I am blessed because I am poor. We sing a song about how we are “poor, wayfaring stangers” on this earth. If this is true, let’s live like it.

Understand that I (or Jesus) am advocating self-imposed poverty. God has richly blessed all of us to live in a wealthy country with many material blessings for us to enjoy. I believe Jesus is attacking the heart of the matter (pun intended) when he talks about the poor. He is talking about an attitude. The poorest person in the world can be just as lost as the richest person if both harden their hearts and refuse the gospel. No Jesus is saying have the attitude that you are poor, you are humbled by your poverty and acknowledge that only by relying on God can you be blessed.