In the gospel of Luke the crowds play an important part as different groups of people strive to understand Jesus, who He Is and what is His mission. By Luke 14:25 the crowds are traveling with Him and His disciples. It is time to challenge them all to start thinking about what it means to be one of Jesus’ disciples. So, Jesus clearly states His demands.
LOVE HIM MORE
Jesus insists that His followers–His true disciples–must love Him so much that, in comparison, their love for father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–even one’s own life–looks like hatred (vs. 26). Love for Him is supreme, beyond anyone else; even one’s self.
YOU MUST DIE TO SELF
Before anyone could grasp Jesus’ own understanding of His upcoming death on a cross, everyone understood the horrors of crucifixion. As frightening as this torturous execution might be, Jesus uses it to convey the depths of commitment required of a disciple. It’s like carrying your own cross for crucifixion. You are a dead person walking. This is how Jesus characterized His disciples.
RENOUNCE YOUR POSSESSIONS
Nothing is excluded from Jesus’ demands. Nothing. No hoarding among kingdom people. Packing away keepsakes makes no sense. When the call comes to let it go, the disciple does not worry about losing anything. All of those things were given up when they decided to follow Christ.
I suspect that Jesus’ pronouncements about discipleship thinned out the crowd a bit. At the least it led people to think about their walk with God and the importance of Jesus’ words.
There can be little doubt that many would still hang around for a free meal, a healing, an exorcism or a good word or two. But, I think people had trouble shaking the totality of Jesus’ demands for those who would follow Him and become a disciple.
Indeed, counting the cost would take on a whole new meaning for those who would take Him seriously. Just like it provokes you and I to wonder if I have truly handed it all over to Him….
Benjamin Franklin once observed that “A man all wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” While this quotation has been expressed in many different ways, we all understand it’s truth.
JESUS CAME TO DINNER
In our study in Luke 14 we see Jesus addressing this tendency of ours from three different perspectives. This all takes place in the leader of the Pharisees’ home at a singular event: the banquet.
THE SET UP (Luke 14:1-6)
First, to make a point the religious leaders invite Jesus to dinner, watching Him closely. They want to make a point to show that Jesus is a fraud. To do this they select a man whose limbs are painfully swollen from, possibly, heart, kidney, liver or other disease. While everyone is watching, they set this poor man in front of Jesus to see what Jesus would do.
Jesus rhetorically asks the obvious question in the minds of His hosts, heals the man and sends him on his way. In their arrogance, the religious rulers knew Jesus could heal the man and that they could not. So, they just blow by this evidence of God’s power and sit silently as Jesus demonstrates His authority to do good.
Kingdom people do not make victims of poor, sick and broken people. They always do the right thing towards them, even when it is in challenging circumstances.
THE OBSERVATION (Luke 14:7-14)
Second, as Jesus is preparing to tell the parable of the Great Banquet, He observes people competing for the prime seats at the head table. The scene must have been rather obvious–perhaps even a bit humorous–as people challenge each other’s position, edging into tight places. Imagine the scowls, the rolling eyes, and the exasperated sighs.
Jesus pauses to give practical advice that contributes to our understanding of the culture of God’s Kingdom people. Take the lower seat and the way of humility and God will lift you up. Seek to exalt yourself, Jesus says, and you will be humbled (vs. 11).
Furthermore, Jesus speaks to the man who had invited Him to dinner:
“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
With authority Jesus instructed His host to shift his guest list to the outcasts and nobodies. The reason? Because they cannot reciprocate the favor, God will recognize his generosity.
THE GREAT BANQUET
Finally, Jesus tells a parable about a Grand Banquet. The man’s prime invitations to the dinner meet with flimsy excuses that 1) do not recognize the significance of the feast and 2) defer their energies to things they believe to be of more importance. Their refusal to join the man for his banquet enfuriates him.
Will the Pharisees hear the implication about the banquet in the kingdom of God? The advice Jesus has just given to them in verses 12-14 is based upon a generous God who seeks to fill His banquet table with anyone who desires to be there through the invitation of His Son.
Blowing past the flimsy excuses of the first invitees, the man has his servants scour the neighborhood for anyone who is hungry for a meal at his table.
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”
People who know Jesus act differently than those who need to impress others of their importance. Kingdom people know they are hungry, blind, crippled, poor, homeless, burdened and broken. When Kingdom people hear the invitation, they come running to the Master’s feast!
So much of life is made up of choices. People of the kingdom of God have made a choice to follow Jesus that goes beyond religion!
Jesus did not come to found a new religion! Jesus came to form relationships with you and me.
Religion tells us we must go to church as though it were a ‘minimum requirement’ duty to perform. Show up and we will count you as present in the ‘Book of Life’ attendance database.
Religious people may think that they are giving something to God by showing up on a relatively regular basis. It is as though God needed them and their support to satisfy something He desires.
WHO IS GOING TO BE KING?
There are those who reject Jesus and walk away, actively avoiding Him. Like King Herod, they may wonder who Jesus is but they do not want to give up their kingdom to follow Him. So, they reject Him and His ‘religion’.
Others have evaluated Jesus by their perception of people who call themselves Christians and do religious things but have not yet sold out to follow Jesus. Like the crowds, they ‘hang out’ with Jesus but never really commit their hearts to follow Him. Looking for another free meal, a new magic trick or a new catchphrase for the day, they are fickle. As long as they are getting what they want, they show up. Disappoint them and…well…they have other things to do.
Then there are those who make the commitment to Jesus and spend their lives getting ready to meet Him. Like the disciples, they struggle because it is a narrow door filled with challenges, risks and hazards. But, they know where the party is and they are always ready to go!
Like others, they, too, make mistakes and errors in judgement. They know that following Jesus is hard and that they are broken. They also know that following Jesus is more than just ‘being religious.’ It’s a commitment to grow in knowing Jesus, becoming more like Him and following Him even when it does not make sense.
THE NARROW DOOR
Jesus’ illustration of ‘striving to enter through the narrow door’ is not about some type of works righteousness where our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. Because of what God did for us through Jesus Christ, we strive to do good deeds because He has declared us to be righteous! We strive to live up to that to which we have been called. So, we strive to be ready for service when He opens the door.
There are times when things happen to us that had nothing to
do with the choices we make. At the beginning of Luke 13, Jesus and the
disciples discuss two specific, historical incidences that happened in which
many people were killed. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whether their deaths were an act of God or not is not significant from Jesus’
perspective. His point is that everyone needs to repent and be
On the heels of a discussion of about the bad things that can happen, Luke introduces us to the story of a fig tree that bore no fruit and a crippled woman who went to worship one Saturday. Freedom comes with being ready to meet Jesus!
JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY
Years before she had known a normal childhood in Israel. She grew up to be a young woman. And then it started. It became increasingly difficult to stand up and to walk. Perhaps scoliosis or some other osteoarthritis began to shape her spine, contract her muscles and leave her permanently bent over. No longer able to talk to her friends face-to-face, she would spend the next 18 years of her life talking to the tops of people’s feet.
People would see her hobbling down the street and look away or move to the side to avoid her swaying shoulders and tightly gripped walking stick. Having a conversation with her was challenging because the ground would absorb the sound of her words as her compressed lungs would pause to draw in air between sentences. It was easier to simply avoid her.
For 18 years she had lived with this crippling disease, faithfully attending the weekly Saturday Sabbath service to refresh her faith through worship among God’s people. This was the one place where people looked for her, greeted her and helped her find a place to sit.
THEN SHE MET JESUS
Today, things would be different. Entering the synagogue in her usual way, she was surprised to hear a new and different voice call out to her to walk towards him. Perhaps he had reserved a special seat for her. She moved towards the voice and opened her palm in hopes that he would give her some money with which to buy food.
Then, she heard the words: “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” She felt the warmth of a hand gently placed on the back of her head. Suddenly, she felt the rejuvenation of her spine and the loosening of her muscles as she began to slowly, painlessly, straighten up to look into the eyes of her healer, who smiled.
Upon realizing what had just happened the woman breaks out in praise. Only God could have released her from her bondage and set her free. For her, today had started out as a usual Sabbath day. But, this one ended with the touch of the hand of Jesus.
HAVE I MET JESUS?
I seriously doubt that she heard much of the conversation the followed as the indignant leader of the synagogue told everyone else, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” Nor do I suspect that she heard much of what Jesus had to say in response until she heard Jesus say, “should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
The transforming power of meeting Jesus and allowing Him to touch us where we hurt brings a freedom like we have never known.
Listen to two small children who are playing with toys and
in a short matter of time one or both of them will exclaim: “Mine!” It
doesn’t matter whether or not a specific toy is, indeed, one child’s or the
other’s. Often it doesn’t even matter whether or not anyone is playing
with a particular toy. The fact that another child is reaching for a toy
can lead the other to exclaim “Mine!” What is being said is, “I want that
toy and I don’t want you to have it. I don’t care whose toy it happens to
be and I don’t care whether or not I’m playing with it at the time. You
can’t have it because I unilaterally claim it to be mine! It’s not
HIS STUFF VERSUS MY STUFF
The truth is that anything and everything in our universe is the sole possession of the God who created them. This includes you and me. God looks at us and says, “Mine!” and it is a true statement, whether or not we believe it.
Rather than basking in the glory of being His possession, however, we fool ourselves into thinking that we can make His stuff into our stuff. His stuff is still His stuff. That will never change. What has changed is that we have rebelled against being His possession. When anyone makes the mistake of hoarding God’s stuff and calling it their own, Jesus says, they become fools.
The miracles of God’s creation are so common and predictable in our average day that we hardly think of it. From the farmer’s seed in prepared, nutrient-rich soil to the come and go of the seasons we mark our calendars and plan our vacations months–even years–in advance.
The Psalmist exclaims: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalms 19:1). Yet there are days when we hardly give it a second thought.
And so, it is easy to slide into thinking that these things are mine and those things are yours. The truth is that it is all God’s. Just as God gives the soil, rain and sun for the farmer to manage the seed’s bounty, so, also, God gives us what we have for a reason. As He has been generous with us, so also, He tells us to be generous towards others (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). The work of a fool, Jesus says, is to gather what God has generously provided to us and to declare: “Mine!”
Ask, seek and knock (Luke 11:9-10). Seems simple enough! So, why don’t I get everything for which I ask, seek and knock? Perhaps, James tells us, “because you ask with wrong motives” (4:3). In our lesson today we want to know that for which we are asking, seeking and knocking.
HOW DID THEY KNOW JESUS WAS PRAYING?
How did the disciples know Jesus was praying? They waited until He was finished to ask Him to teach them how to pray. Did Jesus have a certain body posture or motion He would exhibit when He prayed? Perhaps He assumed the stoic figure with folded hands glowingly staring towards a beam of light like many of our pictures display.
Jesus’ disciples wanted to converse with God like Jesus was doing.
The prayer Jesus gives His disciples, I believe, was not a mantra they were to repeat or a rote script that they were to memorize for times of prayer and devotion. I think Jesus was giving them hooks upon which to hang their personal thoughts, worship, praise and petitions. Prayers center around God, His Holiness, His Sovereignty, His provision, His forgiveness and His protection.
I believe that a clue to how Jesus prayed is found in the illustration He uses to enlighten the disciples about the nature of prayer. Luke translates Jesus words into Greek using a word that only appears once in all of the New Testament: right here. It is a unique word that had a clear meaning in Athens on Mars Hill. The Rock of Shamelessness was a white stone near the edge of the precipice where the accuser would point to the person standing on the “Rock of No Mercy” or “The Stone of Pride”, trying to persuade the court of the accused guilt in murder.*
In the parable Jesus talks about the shamelessly persistent neighbor who is waking his neighbor to insist upon his immediate need for three loaves of bread. Add this illustration to Jesus’ final comment in Luke 11:13 and we now know how to ask for the filling of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives: with shameless persistence. I think this is a description of how Jesus often prayed when He was alone, talking to His Father.
Knowing Christ is not a casual, passive activity. It is a demanding pursuit that requires an aggressive, proactive and unrelenting determination. Jesus uses the expression “shameless persistence”. These are the kinds of prayers that God hears and grants to those who seek the Holy Spirit; not necessarily a healed body, a larger paycheck, a bigger house, or a faster car. Jesus tells us that when we ask for the Holy Spirit with “shameless persistence”, God will give it like a father gives to his children!
The biggest room in my house is the room for improvement. In my mind, in almost everything I do, I can do more and I can do better. My problem is that I often feel this way about too many things that really don’t matter very much.
Luke’s next unique but familiar incident in Jesus’ life is at Martha’s house. Her sister, Mary, was there. Mary and Martha’s rooms for improvement were not the same.
Jesus’ simple words to Martha are reminders to all of us that some of the important things we do are of more value than others. Knowing Jesus means that we strive to give first place to the most important things in our lives.
Nothing is more important than sitting at the feet of Jesus!
The story of The Good Samaritan is a popular one. People have used it to promote political and social change in governments all over the world. We teach it in our children’s Bible classes. It is a great story about caring for hurting people.
THE RIGHT ANSWER
To the lawyer’s credit, he knew the answer to his own first question to Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus confirmed that he did, indeed, know the answer (vs. 28). For some reason, however, Luke tells us that the lawyer was wanting to justify himself (vs. 29). Why would he feel the need to do this?
He knew the answer and Jesus agreed with him.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NIV)
Perhaps this is why the lawyer felt that he needed to justify himself. So, instead of asking a question to which he knew the answer, he next asks a question over which there seems to have been a significant amount of controversy. In other words, it was a question that had no correct answer in the realm of political correctness.
“Who is my neighbor?” (vs. 29) may have been controversial when talking about fellow Pharisees or common Jewish people. Were non-Jewish people or their Roman occupiers also their neighbors? Jesus’ story illustrated a wonderful principle of God’s forever kingdom: my neighbor is anyone I meet who is in need.
When Jesus told the story, He was speaking directly to a lawyer who was testing Jesus. The lawyer was there to corner Jesus and win a debate. Jesus was there to break through the religious shell that encased the lawyer’s heart and expose him to God’s generosity. If only he would let Jesus in….
Jerusalem would be the site of a cosmic event that would change everything. Luke strategically places Jesus’ resolve to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) squarely in the middle of three waves of messengers in Luke 9:1-10:24. Luke is preparing us for a series of parables, teachings and incidences in the life of Christ that go way beyond the teachings of a new religion. These unique accounts in the gospel of Luke go straight to the heart.
WHO IS THIS MAN?
With the first wave of messengers, the 12 disciples, Luke tells us of King Herod’s quest, asking, “…who is this man about whom I hear such stories?” (Luke 9:9). Herod never discovers the answer to his question, even when Jesus is brought before him in court (Luke 23:6-12, NLT). The multitude is satisfied after being fed; but, Luke does not say much more than that (Luke 9:10-17, NLT).
Tracking the disciples through this section, however, we soon realize that they are the focus of Jesus’ attention as He resolutely sets out for Jerusalem. With Peter’s declaration that “You are the Messiah, sent from God” (Luke 9:20) we now watch them wrestle with the reality of that observation through the remainder of this section.
Three times Luke mentions Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (Luke 9:21-22, 31, 43-45). Meanwhile the disciples try to formulate their own solutions to the challenges they face. For example, they tell Jesus to send away the crowds (9:12), they equate Jesus with Moses and Elijah (9:33), they try to determine who is the greatest among them (9:46), they stop their ‘competition’ (9:49-50) or they suggest destroying a Samaritan village for rejecting them (9:54).
JESUS: THE SON OF GOD
Finally, Jesus speaks to His disciples from His eternal perspective as the Son of God who gives power and authority to whomever He chooses. This is what the kings and prophets of old longed to see and hear about (Luke 10:22-24).
But, reaching back even further, Jesus tells them about being at His Father’s side as Satan was ejected from heaven (See Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12). The warning he gives the disciples is clear: “…don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
The danger the disciples face as they emerge from their world to see the world from God’s perspective is mistaking their authority and power as their own. “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” (Luke 10:17) sounds a lot like they were starting to take credit. Jesus’ warning to them is a sober reminder to us as well.
Beware, as God’s authority and power begins to transform your life and strengthen your faith! The evidence of His hand in your life is neither something you have earned nor deserved. As we will be reminded in the middle of the next section of Luke’s gospel account (Luke 10:25-19:48), there is only one appropriate response: ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty’ (Luke 17:10).
Getting to know Christ certainly involves learning about Him. For those of us who have been doing this for a while, it is easy for us to settle into what we know…at least, what we think we know. As we grow in knowledge and mature in wisdom about Christ it is important to both refresh and renew our understandings periodically.
There is no doubt that the apostle Paul illustrated this belief in the importance of coming to know Christ (Philippians 3:7-11, NLT). So, it only makes sense that we spend time in Paul’s letters as a path to knowing Jesus. However, if this is the beginning point in our quest we are vulnerable to distortions.
A METHOD TO KNOWING CHRIST
In my opinion, the way we perceive Paul’s writings must be shaped by a knowledge of the Old Testament, paying particular attention to those passages that pointed to the coming of Jesus (1 Peter 1:10-12, NLT). Our perceptions of Paul’s writings must also be understood in the light of the four gospels (Luke 1:1-4; John 21:24-25, NLT). Then we will be equipped to more accurately grasp the reflections of Christ as He is further revealed in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, John and James and the other books of the New Testament.
THE METHOD APPLIED
This focus upon God’s equality of relationship to men and women in the Old Testament that is powerfully illustrated in the life of Christ has been out touchstone for studying Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. With 1 Timothy 2 we, thus, conclude this study on men and women’s roles ( Image, Servants, Corinth) for now.
1 TIMOTHY 2
Paul’s letter to Timothy was a personal correspondence between the two of them about the church in Ephesus where Timothy was serving as a minister. The cultures of Corinth and Ephesus were very similar. So were the challenges faced by the Christian community with subtle differences that are easy to miss.
CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING
Context is everything to, first, understand what Paul was addressing in Corinth and Ephesus. Secondly, how do we apply these letters to our world today, almost 2,000 years later. Last week we focused upon the context for the church in Corinth. This week we centered our focus upon part of Paul’s message to Timothy. It’s all about Christ and the relationships of the Christian men and women in Ephesus.
Just the use of the word ‘silence’ is particularly interesting. The subtlety of meanings between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are challenging to communicate. The difference can be highlighted in Luke’s account of Paul’s address to the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem in Acts 21:40 and 22:2. Here the same root words are used respectively between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and Acts 21:40 in contrast to the same root words used in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and Acts 22:2. Subtle but significant understandings that are clarified by their respective contexts.
At least three factors in this passage are significant in our understanding of Paul’s message to Timothy. First, Paul’s use of the word translated “peaceful” and “quiet” in verse 2 should give insight to his use of the same word later in verses 11 and 12. The word ‘silence’ in the New King James version does not recognize the subtle contrast, for example.
Second, it is a valid question to ask whether or not Paul is referring to ‘women’ in 1 Timothy 2:11 and ‘woman’ and ‘man’ in verse 12 or, more probably, ‘wives’ and ‘husbands’ in 1 Timothy 2:12. Once again, context is everything as Paul follows up with the first husband and wife (Adam and Eve) in verse 13 to make his point.
Finally, the reading that makes the most sense of the enigmatic statement that “women will be saved through childbearing” in verse 15 is a reference to ‘the childbearing’ of Mary giving birth to Jesus, thereby reversing the curse “if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (NIV). Including the article ‘the’ is important in helping us understand what Paul is saying in this verse; yet, it is omitted in most of our translations. An exception is found in the God’s Word translation: “However, she and all women will be saved through the birth of the child, if they lead respectable lives in faith, love, and holiness.”
Concluding our understanding of the passages in 1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40 and 1 Timothy 2:1-15, I would suggest the following, believing both statements to be true at the same time:
Wives need to honor and respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), especially in public worship (1 Cor. 11:2-14:40; 1 Tim. 2:1-15).
Men and women should respect each other’s complementary roles in Christ as God calls men to provide spirit-led servant leadership.
As an extension of this observation, based upon this entire portion of our study, Knowing Christ, we have concluded that the following statements represent our understanding of these passages thus far:
As servant leaders, men should ask women to exercise their God-given gifts to serve, sing, pray, read and speak to edify the body; not to compete but to complement.
When women accept the invitation to use their gifts, they are quietly supporting their leaders, complementing their efforts to edify and care for the body of Christ.
My conclusion is that this approach is upheld by God’s relationship to men and women in both the Old Testament Scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the difficulty of translating subtle shades of meaning in words and respecting context that has contributed to many misunderstandings over the years. Freedom in Christ is so much more than freedom from law. It also means that we, as God’s children, can appreciate and celebrate each other’s God-given roles and gifts equally (Galatians 3:22-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
On a personal note, it seems to me that the roots for much of our struggle with the text in 2 Timothy 2:11-15 are found in translating the subtleties of the original language into English. For a more surgical analysis of this challenge I would refer those who wish to probe further to the following resource:
Geer, Thomas C., Jr. “Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim. 2:8-15.” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1993), Vol. 1, Edited by Carroll D. Osburn, pp. 281-302.
I heartily recommend the two-volume set! <>< steve