Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Cornerstone

Luke 20:17 But he looked directly at them and said, "What then is this that is written: "'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."

17 ὁ δὲ ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς εἶπεν· τί οὖν ἐστιν τὸ γεγραμμένον τοῦτο· λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας; 18  πᾶς ὁ πεσὼν ἐπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον τὸν λίθον συνθλασθήσεται· ἐφ᾽ ὃν δ᾽ ἂν πέσῃ, λικμήσει αὐτόν.

Continuing our theme of stones from yesterday here we see Jesus quoting Scripture to confound the Jewish leaders. Here he quotes Psalm 118:22, as Peter would later. This is a damning quote to them. He is explaining to them that He is the one that they've been looking for, but they have rejected Him. They thought that they were the leaders, but really He is telling them that they are leading their people to hell.  Obviously, this did not go over well.

When I read passages like this I can't help but wonder how the "Jesus meek and mild" stereotype got propagated so far. Clearly Jesus is not a hippie in a pink dress as He is often portrayed. He was a carpenter and worked with His hands for a living. He probably looked more like this than an emaciated hippie. Physical attributes notwithstanding, He also was not as mild as He is often portrayed.

Let's look at the imagery in His exposition of this verse. What will happen to those who do not follow Him? They will be crushed to pieces. Think of pulverized gravel. Think of the rock crusher in Temple of Doom. That's what's going to happen to those who do not follow Him.

This flies in the face of the happy hippie inclusivist Jesus.  "Turn or burn" is a bit cliche. Let's say "turn or be crushed" instead.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Screaming Stones

Luke 19:40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."

40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν οὗτοι σιωπήσουσιν, οἱ λίθοι κράξουσιν.

This is Jesus' response to the Pharisees' request to quiet His disciples. They didn't think much of all the shouting that was going on for the triumphal entry. They certainly didn't like shouting that smacked of blasphemy to their ears.

I tend to very quickly gloss over this verse, but reading it in Greek forced me to slow down a bit. What do you think of when you think of stones taking on life? I think of the "living stones" that Peter describes in 1 Peter 2. I also think of how in Matthew 3:9 John the Baptizer told the Pharisees that God would make sons of Abraham out of the stones found there. There seems to be this idea that if the folks who should recognize and worship Jesus refuse to then God will make disciples out of basically nothing.

I am one of these. I am one of οἱ λίθοι κράξουσιν.  This verb is in the future indicative, but you should take it the way the ESV translates it. The construct with ἐὰν indicates a third-class condition, which means not certain, but probable. This is why you get the translation of "the very stones would cry out." It shows that if the disciples were silent then something would have to praise Him.

I get to be one of these. The question then becomes what I do with this. Am I going to keep crying out praise to Him? Or am I going to become silent like one of the Pharisees that should have known better? It's an awesome privilege to be a dead stone made alive to worship the Lord. I hate to waste that privilege.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Taking for Granted

Luke 17:17 Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· οὐχὶ οἱ δέκα ἐκαθαρίσθησαν; οἱ δὲ ἐννέα ποῦ;

This is at the end of the narrative where Jesus heals ten lepers. Only one returns to thank Him and, remarkably, that one is a Samaritan. There are two things here that would seem amazing to the first-century Jew and we likely don't catch it. First, the fact that Jesus cleansed lepers was incredible. Leprosy was a term for all kinds of skin diseases and was even used to describe an infestation of mold in a house. There was no cure for it, so if you had it you were forced to live outside the camp. If you had to go near anyone you were forced to shout "Unclean! Unclean!" so that people could scatter.

The second amazing thing is that this was a Samaritan. It's hard to describe just how much the Jews hated the Samaritans. I'm not sure if there is any way for an American to really appreciate this. Red Sox and Yankees might be close. Ohio State and Michigan is in the ballpark. However, I think Korean and Japanese is a much more apt comparison. The thought of a Samaritan as the hero in a story was just unthinkable to the Jews. And yet here we had a Samaritan as the hero once again. The parable of the good Samaritan is of course another example.

These are interesting facts, but so what? One point of application is that we see the appropriate response to Jesus touching our lives. When I look at my life before knowing Christ I can recognize that I was just as vile and unclean as a leprous Samaritan. Yet Jesus touched me and made me clean. How else can I respond but to worship Him?

Also, this is another example of Jesus breaking down class distinctions. Paul picks up on this in both Galatians and Colossians when he emphasizes that there is no Greek or Jew, but we are all one in Christ Jesus. There is no place for racism in the Kingdom of God. We must certainly hate sin, but there is no reason to hate anyone just because of where they are from or who their parents happen to be. This is of course doubly true for those who are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Consider this as you go about your Christian walk. Do you worship the One who made you clean? Do you give Him all the glory? Do you see class distinctions or racial distinctions? It's all good food for thought for me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Old Testament Perspicuity

Luke 16:31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

31 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ· εἰ Μωϋσέως καὶ τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἀκούουσιν, οὐδ᾽ ἐάν τις ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῇ πεισθήσονται.

As I wrestle with the big issue of hermeneutics, I am trying to decide which set of presuppositions makes the most sense. To me, it makes more sense to give the NT priority over the OT. This then leads to seeing the narrative of Scripture as God calling a people to Himself. He started with Israel and then added the church. The church does not replace Israel, but adds to it. This seems to stand up better to tests than the classical dispensational hermeneutic of reading everything through the lens of Israel.

One of the results of this hermeneutic for me is that I see the NT as being a vital part of proper OT interpretation. My thesis on Matthew 2:15 has convinced me of that as I don't think it is reasonable for anyone to see Christ in Hosea 11:1. My advisor disagrees and wants for me to take a deeper look at how the OT was constructed to show Christ through its structure. This verse makes me think of that question.

Here Jesus is giving a parable about a rich man who ends up suffering eternal punishment and he wants for someone to go back from the dead to tell his family about what awaits them if they do not repent and believe. This statement is very profound. Basically, it tells him that they have everything they need in what we call the Old Testament ("Moses and the Prophets is an idiom"). I can see that as there is plenty in the OT to point us to Christ. In fact, we can point to fulfilled prophecy as an apologetic for the inspiration of Scripture.

I see all of this as a both/and rather than an either/or. I think we can say that there are glimpses of Christ in the OT. Some of them are more obvious than others. However, I also think that we can now read the OT as Christians rather than as Jews. Therefore, with the benefit of the first advent of Christ we have a better interpretive grid than they did. We can see how the suffering servant of Isaiah was Christ. We can see how Christ was the better Moses. Basically, we understand Him to be the Messiah that they were looking for and, if they are faithful Jews, still look for.

I think what this parable tells us is that the Jews had to really believe the OT so that they would understand that Jesus was indeed Messiah. I rejoice that we no longer have to look through types and shadows and have the benefit of the NT and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit. Amen?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pick Your Master

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

13 Οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.

This comes at the end of the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. Or, if you prefer, the shred steward. Whatever you want to call it, the conclusion is a bit confusing as Jesus commends the use of unrighteous wealth in verse 9. That may be confusing, but this verse is crystal-clear.

This is one of those times where the English translation just does not quite capture the full essence of the verse. The KJV translates the last sentence very literally with, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." That last word is simply a transliteration of μαμωνᾷ.

But what does that word mean? It goes beyond simply "money." According to Thayer, it comes from the Hebrew word אםן, which is something that you trust in. Of course, it also means money or riches. Perhaps a better colloquial translation would be "stuff we trust in for our security." In other words, you can't serve both God and stuff.

This has profound applications for anyone who is reading this. If you're reading this you have access to a computer and the internet. That means that I can assume you have safe drinking water, shelter, and food. You probably have to worry more about not overeating than where your next meal is coming from. You probably have more stuff in your house than you can possibly use. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Jesus is not saying that all stuff is bad. What He is saying is that we cannot serve both God and stuff. What are you working for? Are you working to get all you can, can all you get, and then sit on your can? Or are you working for the glory of the Lord so that you can use the resources He gives you to serve Him? Who is your master?

I write this surrounded by 3 guitars that I do not play because I do not have time. Yet I feel guilty about that because I own these guitars and want to make music with them. In other words, in a sense this stuff has a grip on me. I'm not sure that this verse means I must get rid of my guitars, but I also know that they demonstrate the dangers of acquiring stuff. Let's be aware of this as we live our lives, amen? The American Dream and the gospel are not the same thing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Joy in Heaven

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

7 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτως χαρὰ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἔσται ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι ἢ ἐπὶ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα δικαίοις οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας.

I want to write about this verse because it is one that pains me almost every time I see it. You know how hearing a song may remind you of an awkward moment at a junior high dance? Or maybe seeing a landmark reminds you of a time in your life when you did or said something you regret? Reading this verse does that to me.

Here Jesus is in the great "lost" parables of Luke 15. If you want to know the love of Christ this is a great place to go. Here you see the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (otherwise known as the parable of the Prodigal Son). The point is that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. In other words, people like me.

I cam remember reading this verse in my limbo state where I made a confession of faith, but I was still living in habitual sin. I think I was converted because I had the Holy Spirit working in my life to convict me of sin and lead me to repentance. Nevertheless, I was pretty arrogant with the head knowledge I had acquired. I can remember reading this verse and thinking that it did not apply to me. After all, I was in the fold, wasn't I?

On one level, I was right. But the more I encounter this verse the more I realize how much of a wandering sheep I can be. I know my heart and I know how wicked it really is. Jeremiah wasn't kidding. It's relatively easy for me to live an outward life of godliness and my inward life isn't bad, but I know that it falls short of the command to be perfect as the Father is perfect. Fortunately, I have Christ's righteousness covering my sins.

My exhortation is to consider this verse. Where do you need to repent? How are you a wandering sheep? As you read this parable, you see that the sheep are in the fold. They are the shepherd's sheep. These are not foreign sheep that he has to acquire. In other words, I think that we can take this parable to refer to Christians. Therefore, we need to examine where we must repent.

And if you're a leader of any kind, what sheep do you need to pursue? A shepherd knows and loves his flock. Are you pursuing the wayward sheep or leaving them for the wolves?

Not an easy verse, is it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Truly Blessed

Luke 11:28 But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

28 αὐτὸς δὲ εἶπεν· μενοῦν μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες.

This is Jesus's response to someone who commented that His mother must be particularly blessed.  He contradicts the statement with this one.  The statement is introduced with the weak adversative δὲ, which is fairly common in dialog.  Then He uses the adversative particle μενοῦν.  He does this with two participles.  Basically, He says, "The ones who are hearing the word of God and keeping it -- those are the ones who are truly blessed."  That's pretty much the same as the translation, but with a bit of extra emphasis.

My point is that Jesus flatly denies that there is anything extraordinary about His mother.  We know from Elizabeth that Mary is special and that she is blessed.  However, you would think that if she had the status conferred upon her by the Roman Catholic Church it would come through here.  This was a perfect opportunity for Jesus to first agree with the speaker and then emphasize that those who hear the word of God and keep it are even more blessed.  Instead, He uses an adversative.

This is just one more reason from Scripture not to venerate Mary as the Roman Catholics do.  She should be honored and esteemed for sure.  But in the end she is just a woman, though one who was chosen by God for an incredible task  Let's remember that when we consider her, amen?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Drawing Up Lines

Luke 11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

23 Ὁ μὴ ὢν μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ κατ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ ὁ μὴ συνάγων μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ σκορπίζει.

This saying is part of Jesus' explanation to His disciples regarding what happens when an unclean spirit leaves someone.  He is responding to the charge that He casts out demons by Beelzebul.  He explains that if someone who is strong guards his house he is safe, but that someone stronger can overcome that person.  Jesus is asserting His power as being higher than the demons.  Right after this verse He makes the point that when an unclean spirit leaves a person it will eventually come back and bring other unclean spirits to make things even worse.

So why does this verse appear here?  Based on the context, it must have something to do with the theme of how He operates by the power of God and how Satan's house cannot be divided against itself.  In other words, I see Jesus drawing a line in the sand.  There's His team and there is Satan's team.  There can be no in-between.

The construct of ὁ μὴ is very literally translated "the one not."  Obviously the ESV captures this sense.  The one who is not with Jesus is against Jesus.  In fact, the one who does not gather with Him actually scatters.

I recently read an article about a woman who used to be a Planned Parenthood director, but after seeing the ultrasound for an abortion she had a change of heart.  She bemoans the splinters of the pro-life movement, particularly how Catholics and Protestants do not work together.  She has a point there.  We should work together for social causes like abortion.

But at some point we need to draw the line.  The Glenn Beck rally last year is a good example of that.  Glenn Beck is Mormon, but is admittedly not intensely devout.  Nevertheless, anyone who aligns himself with the god of Joseph Smith cannot possibly be aligned with the Triune God of Scripture.  It's just not possible.  Therefore, if we take this verse seriously, we see that he actually works against the cause of Christ, despite his talk of unity.

This extends to so many areas where we are tempted to compromise.  The real trick is determining where we can accept and where we must reject.  It gets down to what we call the gospel.  Anyone not confessing the true Jesus as Lord cannot be in that circle.  And, no matter how well-meaning that nice Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Jew, or Muslim may be, that person is by definition against Jesus and His gospel.  At least that's how I read this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Listen and Learn

Luke 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.

39 καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαριάμ, [ἣ] καὶ παρακαθεσθεῖσα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας τοῦ κυρίου ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.

This is part of a short narrative after the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It's one that always hits home with me. And as I think about it I don't think that it is a coincidence to find it juxtaposed with that parable.  The "she" in this story is Martha.  Martha was busy getting things ready.  I picture her like a mom at Thanksgiving who works tirelessly in the kitchen while a bunch of folks sit in the living room eating from a cheese ball and watching football.  She becomes indignant that Mary isn't helping.

The thing is that Mary isn't just watching football and eating processed cheese product.  She is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  The word παρακαθεσθεῖσα is an aorist passive participle.  All that means is that she was sitting.  What did she do?  She ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.  This is in the imperfect, which refers to something in the past.  In other words, the translation captures it perfect.  She listened to His words.

What do we learn from this?  We learn that there is something noble to sitting at Jesus' feet.  However, its juxtaposition with the parable of the Good Samaritan also tells us that we should not be on the swinging pendulum.  I think that we all naturally tend to prefer either doing or sitting.  Sermons on the Good Samaritan exhort us to get up and help our neighbor.  Sermons on this passage exhort us to sit at Jesus' feet and listen.  We need to do both.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Argument from Silence

Luke 9:21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one,

21 ὁ δὲ ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλεν μηδενὶ λέγειν τοῦτο

This comes right after Peter's confession of Christ.  Of course, the more famous parallel account of this is in Matthew 16.  There Jesus goes into more detail about how Peter is the rock on whom He would build His church.  I think that the language of that passage states that it is indeed Peter and not his confession.  The Roman Catholic Church uses that passage to justify the papacy.

Here we have the same event recorded by a different author.  Luke was not there and was relying on witnesses. Now this does not prove anything, but I would expect that such an important concept as the leadership of the manifestation of Christ's church on earth should be repeated in another synoptic gospel that deals with the same event.  Yet Luke the physician is strangely silent.

Again, this proves nothing, but the silence is rather suggestive.  I don't think that Jesus really intended for Peter to be the first in a line of popes.  I cannot prove it, but neither can the Roman Catholic Church prove its claim to authority from Matthew 16:18 either.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Call to Sinners

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

32 οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.

This is Jesus' explanation of why He spent time at Levi's dinner party for his fellow tax collectors and other assorted sinners.  This story is a favorite of missional types who want to spend time with those "in the culture."  I can't really fault them, provided that they don't come home with stains from the culture.  I know that I can't do it in many cases.

What I find fascinating is how Luke phrases this.  Jesus did not come to call the δικαίους.  Rather, he called ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.  I find it interesting that the preposition εἰς appears here.  The translation "to repentance" is perfectly good, but I think that it may stop a bit short of the full meaning.

When I see εἰς I think of the Thayer definition as "a preposition governing the accusative, and denoting entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, toward, for, among."  Now if Jesus wanted to communicate the idea of an action that must be taken once there could be an infinitive here.  But there isn't.  Instead we have the noun that means "repentance."

I think Jesus is telling us that our lives are to be characterized by repentance.  The idea of filling out a card, praying a prayer, or raising a hand and then living as if nothing was different would be foreign to Jesus.  Jesus calls us into repentance.  We are to enter a state in which we are repenting.

This of course convicts me.  If it convicts you I suggest you spend some more time introspectively examining your heart.  We all need to repent.  Where are you going to start?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Being Fulfilled

Luke 4:21 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

21 ἤρξατο δὲ λέγειν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι σήμερον πεπλήρωται ἡ γραφὴ αὕτη ἐν τοῖς ὠσὶν ὑμῶν.

Jesus had just finished reading from Isaiah in the temple.  He quoted the commission He had to free the captives, give sight to the blind, etc.  Then He hit them with this statement.  He tells them that πεπλήρωται ἡ γραφὴ.  The verb πεπλήρωται is a perfect passive indicative.  This means that the fulfilling is done.  It has been completed.

You have to be careful when you read about things being "fulfilled" in the gospels.  In fact, I wrote a whole paper on Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1.  That is one example where the term is quite puzzling.  But here it is quite clear.  Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies.  He was the one for whom they were looking.

What does this mean for us?  It means that when we have doubts we can look at the record and see that Jesus is who He says He is.  He is trustworthy and true.  He is the focus of history.  Everything in the past lead up to Him and everything will ultimately be about Him.

What can we do but worship Him?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Raising Up Stones

Luke 3:8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

8 ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς· πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ. λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ.

This is part of John the Baptizer's admonition to the Jews.  He's explaining to them that they need to bear fruits in keeping with repentance.  In other words, the outward signs are really meaningless.  They need to be the result of true repentance in their hearts.  That would be a pretty tough thing for them to hear considering how much they prided themselves on their own righteousness.

Then he says something that would have really blown them away.  Simply being in Abraham's genetic line was not a guarantee of their salvation.  In fact, he tells them, that God could raise up τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ from stones.  Again, as men who prided themselves on having a genetic link to Abraham, this would have incensed them.

What can we learn from this?  First of all, it is clear that repentance is important.  It is true that John's baptism was one of repentance, which I've heard Matt Chandler describe as the promise rings you get at youth camp. However, that's just part of the equation here.

What amazes me is that I am one of the stones that God transformed into a child of Abraham.  Paul uses that language in Galatians 3 as well.  So not only am I unworthy because of my sin, but the fact that I am a Gentile makes it even more amazing.

I was at a New Year's party last night and some people were talking about what their one-word resolutions would be for the new year.  Mine would have to be "devotion."  I need to be more devoted to my Lord.  I also need to be more devoted to my bride as well.  All of this starts with my relationship with the Lord.  Today's reminder is a vital one for me.