Saturday, June 12, 2010



Jesus' primary enemies were not the non-religious, but the religious. In the last three verses of Luke 20 Jesus warns His disciples about these religious scholars.

While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, "Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."

I can't help but think of the most complete expression of Jesus regarding these teachers of the Law. It is found in Matthew 23 and is just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of trying to explain what these teachers are all about, I want to read you Jesus' fullest criticism of these teachers of the Law in Matthew 23. And, I want to read you the version of this incident found in The Message:

"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment-the absolute basics!-you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You're cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.

"Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It's on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation-and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.

"You can't squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah's son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I'm telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation.

Jesus is livid about how these teachers of the Law behave, yet Jesus still had a heart of compassion for these people. His heart was broken over their attitudes and behaviors. NOTE how Jesus expresses His heart over the brokenness He sees in Jerusalem:

"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me. And now you're so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I'm out of here soon. The next time you see me you'll say, 'Oh, God has blessed him! He's come, bringing God's rule!'"

So, Jesus' warning to His disciples is, "Don't be like these teachers of the Law." You must be different. You must be salt and light in the world. The best way to do that is to "Follow Me!" and not the well-known, well-established teachers of the Law.

Does this have any application for us today? I think so. Don't try to pattern yourself after the "teachers of the Law" today, even if they are good and seemingly successful. The closer you get to some ministries, you uncover the underbelly of what's really going on in the name of the Lord. And, too many times, it's disgusting and disheartening. Jesus' solution is clear. You must be diligent to pattern your life after Jesus and Jesus only. He is the one who calls you to Himself and then He will give you orders and opportunities that are directly from Him. Jesus isn't kidding when He says, "I AM the way, the truth and the life". What He is looking for is someone to FOLLOW His way, His truth and His life. Will you be that SOMEONE?



Jesus was continually being bombarded with questions, mostly to trip Him up. But in this paragraph Jesus poses a question of His own. And it's a whopper!

Then Jesus said to them, "Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: "'The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"

Do you get the question? Jesus is asking, "How can the Messiah be the Son of David and yet David's Lord, too?" "Why do people say that the Christ (the Messiah) is the Son of David? In the book of Psalms (Psalm 110), David himself says: 'The Lord (that is, God) said to my (David's) Lord (Christ or Messiah): Sit by me at my right side, and I will make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' David calls the Messiah 'Lord.' But the Messiah is also the son of David. David is clearly referring to the Messiah as his superior, as his Lord. Here the Messiah is worthy of the allegiance of his own ancestor, David. Jesus asks the scribes, "How can both these things be true?" All the people listened intently to Jesus.

What's interesting is that the term, "the Son of David", was a direct reference to the Messiah. David was viewed as Israel's greatest king and the Messiah was to restore David's kingdom to its original glory.

I think Jesus has raised this question, because He knows the Jewish leaders don't understand the nature of who the Messiah is and what He must do. They don't get it that the Messiah was before and above their beloved David. David knew it and said it in Psalm 110, but this was not the prevalent understanding of the day.

I am reminded of the first chapter of John where he says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." This is the confounding thought for many today. People have the hardest time getting it. Jesus was not born into the world and became deified over a process of time. He was in the beginning. He was with God in the beginning. And, He was God.

Jesus did not experience the process of deification. Jesus experienced the process of incarnation. Jesus is the God-Man. He is God who took on flesh that He might reveal God to us in a way that we could understand and relate to Him. There is a statement I heard recently that seems to say the essence of what's being said here, "JESUS IS GOD HERE; GOD IS JESUS EVERYWHERE."



(Luke 20:27-40) Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"

The Sadducees were setting Jesus up to trick Him by asking this question about marriage. You see, the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection at all. The reason for the question is to show the difficulties in believing in the resurrection and an afterlife.

They couched their question around a Jewish tradition called the "levirate marriage." It is found in Deuteronomy 25:5: "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her"

This was a way for the deceased husband to "live on" through a child with his wife and brother. Then his name could be carried on with the son that might be born. In Jewish history, Ruth was one of those widows and Boaz became what was known as her kinsman-redeemer.

Jesus' response is interesting and not especially popular today, when understood.

Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." Some of the teachers of the law responded, "Well said, teacher!" And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Jesus is saying that marriage is outmoded in heaven. On this side of the resurrection, the opposite sex is natural and normal, but not in the heavenly state. In the age to come people will no longer marry, because marriage will be outmoded. We will have another higher focus altogether. Marriage will probably be remembered, but it will be unimportant in the age to come. And Jesus goes on to say that in that state we will be like the angels-children of the resurrection.

So, to preserve one's name and family beyond the grave is not important in heaven. Marriage and reproduction are vital to maintaining human life down here, but in an age where people live forever it isn't necessary.

Jesus then uses the illustration of Moses, calling on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His point here is since Moses viewed them as being alive or for sure will be resurrected so that they can receive the promises God revealed to them. When Jesus taught on the reality and reasonableness of the resurrection, then the Pharisees quickly agreed.

What can we take away from this scene between Jesus and the Sadducees? Here it is: Most everything we believe to be so important in our earthly lives today will be unimportant in the next life after the resurrection. All of this will pass away. Therefore, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where nothing can destroy rather than investing your life in the earthly treasures down here where all will be destroyed. To put it briefly, after the resurrection, the entire paradigm of your life will change.

NOTE that the only marriage mentioned in this new age of heaven will be our marriage to Jesus. Jesus is the groom and those who trust in Him are His bride. This brings me to an important insight into what Jesus is doing with us today, everyday. He is wooing us with His unconditional love. He relentlessly pursues us, no matter what. As any lover, Jesus is looking for only one thing from us. He's listening for our response back to Him of, "I love you, too, Jesus."



(Luke 20:20-26) Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?" "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

Remember the immediate context here. Jesus has just ticked off nearly everyone within the priesthood by kicking the money-changers out of the Temple. And, we found that the chief priest's family receives a little royalty from the commercial activity within the Temple, so there is a lot of anger in the air. And now, in the midst of this tension a few "spies" are sent to speak with Jesus with more of a slippery tongue than should ever be believed.

They are looking to catch Jesus in saying anything that they might be able to use against Him to arrest Him. They needed a reason. But NOTE they are not looking to trick with respect to the Jewish law, but the Roman law. They would love to get something on Him that would trigger the Romans to arrest Him.

So, they throw out a loaded question to Him: "Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" In addition to property taxes, the Romans also put on the people an annual tax of one denarius. A denarius amounted to a day's wages. This was assessed on every adult male. It was Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrrin, that was responsible for collecting this tax.

This was not a popular tax at all. So, if they could get Jesus to agree that Roman taxation is right, then maybe the masses of the people would turn on Jesus and view Him as no greater than the hated tax collectors. On the other hand, if they could get Jesus to agree that this tax is wrong and unjust, then this would put Jesus on the same level of the revolutionary zealots, who were anti-Roman in every way. Then, maybe this would turn the Romans against Jesus as a political revolutionary.

Naturally, Jesus answers their trick question brilliantly and this has been quoted by people throughout the ages. What Jesus says is that as disciples of Jesus we are to give honest honor to government's authorities. And, "to give to God what is God's" is how Jesus finishes His answer. Here's what is going on. Caesar's image is on the coin, so pay your taxes. However, God's image is on your soul, so give yourself to God fully.

I think this is another division that Jesus paints clearly between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God. The image of Caesar is on the coin. That coin is the material stuff of this world-the wealth of man or what Matthew quotes Jesus as saying Mammon. In that instance, Jesus makes it clear you can't serve God and Mammon at the same time. So, with respect to the kingdom of man, you are to respect it, but not worship it and give your all to it.

On the other hand, the image of God is on your soul. You may owe Caesar a few coins, but you owe your Creator who marked His image on your soul your very life. In order for the Kingdom of God to spread in this world, be careful to respect governmental authority.

To me there is a sobering note here. Jesus is not into building up religious power-blocks to control Caesar or to take him over. This will not result in spreading the Kingdom of God and it will most surely hinder its spread. We live in a country where it is fashionable and counted as noble for godly men, even high profile men, to spend their energies bringing all of their power and influence to bear on changing the laws of the land. It's all under the banner of building a Christian nation.

You see, there is something drastically missing from this approach. JESUS. Jesus didn't propose overthrowing any government or even spending one ounce of your energy trying to change it. No amount of voting or political power will be able to change this nation or any other. Change only occurs when a person encounters Jesus personally, then there is transformation. It baffles me why great men of God have chosen to enter the political arena and leave their obvious calling behind. Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. There is nothing wrong for godly men to enter into politics to make a difference. But, if that politician for one moment believes that political reform will bring spiritual revolution to our nation, he is greatly mistaken.

You want to change a nation, begin by changing the citizens one by one. If you want to change Congress, then you must find a way to change Congressmen. If you want to change prisons, then you must change the prisoners. And how does this change take place? Only through JESUS PLUS NOTHING. To believe that anything short of Jesus has a chance to change any institution or any person is ridiculous.

So, as Jesus says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God's." You know what it all comes back to? The two most revolutionary words in all of history spoken by Jesus: FOLLOW ME!



He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!"

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

This parable tracks with the history of the Jewish reaction to God's blessings. The owner of the vineyard is God who gave His blessings for the Jewish people to manage. Yet every representative He sent to them, they turned on them, persecuted and some they even killed. These were the Judges and Prophets.

Then God, the owner, sent His own Son. They did the same thing to Him, too. Then, as the story goes, the owner went to the field to throw out the tenants and kill them. And after this, He gave the vineyard to others. In other words, this parable tells the entire history of the children of Israel in relationship to their God-Jehovah.

Do you remember some earlier words from Luke that fit this same situation? "Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, (Luke 11:47-50)

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Luke 13:34)

When Jesus told them what the Son would do to the tenants, they protested, "God forbid." Jesus then looked intently at them and asked them about a familiar Scripture: "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

One of the commonly known symbols of the Messiah throughout the Prophets was a stone. Here Jesus is saying that stone (Him) was rejected and now has become the cornerstone. NOTE there are two ways you can relate to the stone (the Messiah):

FIRST-If you fall on the stone, you will be broken to pieces. I think this is coming to the point of a complete trust in Jesus, throwing yourself on the stone in humility. We've been saying that you really don't break the commandments, but you are broken by them.

SECOND-If you rebel against the stone and resist His direction and blessings, then that same stone will crush you.

The same is true for us today. You can humbly put your trust in Jesus and allow Him to do as He wills with you. Or, you can pridefully try to run your life on your own, rejecting the Messiah (stone) and the stone will crush you.

It just doesn't make any sense. God, the owner of everything you are and have is the owner of your vineyard. He is the one who wrote out your DNA, miraculously setting your life in motion. And all He wants from you, the manager of His vineyard (your life), is for you to share the fruit of the vineyard you manage with Him for His use. Well, what will it be? DEAL OR NO DEAL?