Dr Luke gives the purpose of his Gospel this way, "1 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:3-4, KJV)
As such, Luke did not pull together another set of doings and sayings of the Lord's time with us on Earth. Rather, he researched the acts and sayings of the Savior and delivered to Theophilus a completed research document upon which future generations could trust and teach
Click on the word "Here" under the title & reference you wish
Add a footnote if this applies to your business
Introduction to the Study (Luke 1-9)
Welcome to the study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as told by the beloved physician, Doctor Luke. The Gospels are certainly the most loved of all the Scriptures because their subject is the Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. The Hebrew writings will promise Him as the Messiah of God, while the Greek writings tell of Him as the Christ. The four Gospels together provide a combined history and correlation of facts concerning the most important life ever lived. The crux of that importance to us is easy to explain through John’s words in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (ESV). Or even more simply, if you say you follow Jesus, you ought to walk like He walked. The Gospels answer the question forced by those comments, i.e., “If I am to walk like Jesus walked; how did Jesus walk?” The Gospels particularly describe how Jesus walked.
The Gospel according to Dr. Luke takes a unique perspective in that the writer in neither an Apostle nor a Jew. Rather, Luke was the physician for Paul and his disciple for Christ. Like Luke. Mark was not a Jew, either and was the disciple of that great fisherman, Simon Peter. For Luke, we find the writings to be directed more to the Hellenistic Greeks than the Hebrew society. Their language and their customs were certainly different from those of the Jews.
Introduction to the Study (Luke 1-9, Cont.)
Luke says the intended recipient of the Gospel was a roman nobleman named Theophilus. Not much is known of this man. The name means “friend of God” and Luke refers to him as honorable. Luke’s Gospel is the first volume of a two-volume set. The second volume is the Acts of the Apostles.
The Acts was completed before the death of Paul in 67 AD which forces an earlier date for the completion of the Gospel. Most scholars assign the year 64 AD to Acts and 62-63 AD to the Gospel. Luke’s preface to his Gospel indicates that he had no intension of merely writing down what he or someone else had heard or seen. He had experience with sound research techniques and planned to use them to develop a trustworthy presentation of the facts. He said, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:3-4). So, Luke was not delivering another version of things people saw or heard, he was delivering a fully researched textbook that might form the basis of teaching others for centuries to come. Luke is indeed a widely respected document showing the life and works of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus as Son of God & Son of Man: Jesus is the second member of the God Head. For Him to fulfill Scripture and accomplish His mission on Earth, He would have to be 100% Divine and 100% human at the same time. The key to understanding which 100% is being discussed in Luke's writing is to look at the words Son of God and Son of Man. If addressed as the former, Jesus is 100% Divine. If described as the latter, He is 100% human. He could never stop being both, yet certain behaviors required He act through one or the other.
Proof of the Messiah: It was necessary for Jesus to do many miracles because the Scriptures prophesied such. He had to heal lepers', make the blind see and the dumb to speak and the lame to walk. Luke tells of many of Jesus' miracles in these nine chapters. Each give testimony of Jesus' identity as God's Messiah.
Preparation for the Future: Jesus demonstrated from the beginning of His ministry that He was very aware of the short duration of His ministry on Earth. He selected those who would follow Him and be capable of conducting the Earthly part of His ministry for Him.
The Kingdom of God: Luke did not include as many Kingdom parable as Matthew, nevertheless, he called attention to many passages where Jesus preached about the Kingdom (4:43 &8:1). Other places, He was careful to send His disciples to teach about the Kingdom of God (9:11). And Luke made reference to how the experience of the Kingdom of God was found simply in His presence (10:9-11).
The availability of the Kingdom for Believers from all Peoples: Luke was serious about detailing Jesus' teaching on the availability of the Kingdom of God of the entire human race; not just the Jewish race. Membership in the Kingdom came through repentance from sin and belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah of God (9:52, 10:33 & 17:16).
The Future Judgment & the Urgency of Commitment: Because God's judgment was both promised and near for each person, the certainty of that judgment was a frequent sermon topic. Knowledge that the same Jesus who walked, talked and served in their presence was required to point to the urgency of make confession of belief, repentance and discipleship. Those not will to make such commitments will not be found in the Kingdom of God (9:62).
Understand the Context (Luke 10:1-13:21)
This segment of study marks Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem and the many people He meets along the way. In Chapter 9, Jesus sent out His 12 apostles, 2 by 2 into the mission field. He provided instructions for everything they would need for that trip and forbade things that they would not need. In Chapter 10, Jesus sends out the 70 disciples 2 by 2. The King James Version mentions the sending out of 70 disciples and most other versions agree. The English Standard Version, New American Standard Version and the New Living Translation are three of those stating Jesus sent out 72 this time. The ancient New Testament scrolls are split on which number is correct. I will go with the KJV unless conflicting information is decisive. Note also that the number of scholars hired to translate the 1611 KJV was also called “The Seventy.” A significant difference between sending the 12 and sending of the 70 was the absence of the restriction to go only to the Jews. Second difference is that the 70 were instructed to prepare prospects for the arrival of Jesus.
Jesus continued to warn the Apostles that He would face persecution, arrest, torture, death and resurrection awaiting Him in Jerusalem. The behavior of the Apostles during the trials and at the cross showed they did not accept the warnings of death or resurrection of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus continued to reach out to all unbelieving Jews to prepare them for their coming judgement.
Understand the Context (Luke 10:1-13:21, Cont.)
A major area of Jesus’ teachings had to do with setting aside religion based on ancient rituals to focus anew on the teachings of the Messiah and His disciples. The tired rituals could be replaced by actual relationships with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day enjoyed a wide breadth of privilege from nearly every segment of society including those of the occupying forces while they allowed severe persecution of their Jewish brethren. It seems that truly godly leaders would turn that privilege around to first offer it to their people while suffering the results of their people’s persecution for them. In other words, it seems the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time had the service equation turned completely around. Jesus had a way of showing the hypocrisy of these leaders by parading their “showing of religion” while true believers unceremoniously displayed their “doing of religion” through acts of generosity toward and sacrifice for those they served.
The Exchange (Luke 10:25-29)
The very well-known story of the Good Samaritan is Jesus’ example of being a neighbor and loving a neighbor as yourself is very. Nevertheless, it is only told in the Gospel of Luke. It begins at verse 25 with a lawyer (probably a Scribe, Pharisee or Sadducee) tempting Jesus to tell him what he must do to achieve eternal life. Jesus turns the question around on him by asking what the lawyer thought the Scriptures taught. The lawyer responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 saying, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” and Leviticus 19:18 saying, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”
Jesus recognized the lawyer was quoting the Scriptures and said, you have answered correctly. He added, “This do, and thou shalt live” (vs. 28). But this was not the intent of the lawyer. He was not there to compare knowledge of the Scriptures with the Master, rather, he was there to challenge the Master and have Him say something that might result in charges of blasphemy. So, the lawyer continued, “Who is my neighbor?”
Of course, these two small pieces of the Law are no less impossible to live fully than any other parts of it. No one can love God this thoroughly nor can any person love his neighbor as himself. But the intent of the Law is to guide our steps with lofty goals so that we will gain strength by continuously trying to reach that level of commitment to God and others. So, the lawyer, trying to make points with those watching, asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
The Story (Luke 10:30-32)
Both Jesus and the lawyer knew that a straight-forward analysis of the Old Testament verse referred to a specific scenario in the promised land where the person living next door would be of the same tribe of Israel, and therefore, a brother or a child of one of Jacob’s sons. But that was not the teaching the Lord was interested in; He wanted the wider interpretation of how to treat all people, not only those of near relationships. So, Jesus initiates a parable concerning a certain man who is not identified by race, religion or status. He was simply a man walking down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jesus has already departed from the idea of how one would treat a Jewish brother to one of how we should treat any person we encounter. The man is attacked by thieves, robbed of his clothes, beat without mercy and left in the road, half dead and expecting death.
But then a priest happens by. He notices the man but walks to the other side of the road as not to chance a touch of the man, leaving him ceremoniously unclean and incapable of serving as a priest until he could go through the ceremonies to render oneself clean again (Lev 7:21). So, the priest decides he cannot chance the perception of being unclean and passes by on the other side of the road. But then a Levite happens by. He is one charged with responsibility for the Temple and the readiness of its furnishings for use in service of the people. He sees the beaten and robbed man and goes to look at him, but alas, makes the same decision that the risk is too high and passes by.
But the third man happening by was a Samaritan. It is significant that this man was a Samaritan because the Jews and Samaritans had little respect for one another. Hundreds of years before (722 BC), the Assyrians defeated the Northern areas of Israel called Galilee and Samaria. Their way of dominating a defeated foe was to take all the able-bodied or intelligent men to another place and replace them with foreigners from other defeated nations. As time went by, the women of Samaria had to marry with these foreigners or have no husbands at all. Their offspring were called half-breeds by the Jews of Judea. They were considered heathen and unworthy of worshiping or even establishing relationships with the Jews of Judea.
The Story (Luke 10:33-35)
But the third man happening by was a Samaritan. It is significant that this man was a Samaritan because the Jews and Samaritans had little respect for one another. Hundreds of years before (722 BC), the Assyrians defeated the Northern areas of Israel called Galilee and Samaria. Their way of dominating a defeated foe was to take all the able-bodied or intelligent men to another place and replace them with foreigners from other defeated nations. As time went by, the women of Samaria had to marry with these foreigners or have no husbands at all. Their offspring were called half-breeds by the Jews of Judea. They were considered heathen and unworthy of worshiping or even establishing relationships with the Jews of Judea.
The Samaritan had no concern for remaining clean for service in the Temple. He went to where the man was to evaluate the situation and felt compassion or sorrow for the man. He rendered first-aid and cleaned up his wounds, even using some oil and wine to clean them. He got the man up and put him on his own animal to transport him to an inn where he could get more treatment and a safe place to recover. He personally took care of him for the rest of that day and left more than two full days’ wages with the Inn Keeper to care for the man until he could return on his next trip. The Samaritan also left an open account with the Host to pay for any other needs the man might have and pledged to repay when he returned.
So, the Samaritan’s commitment for this man, who seems to have been previously unknown to him, far exceeded what most of us would do. But it also exceeded what the priest and the Levite did. Both of them were likely “churchmen.” They had responsibility for at least parts of the religious service being conducted within the Jewish Temple. The Samaritan sets an example for the pious pair who denied the wounded man even a cup of water or a blanket. They claimed to be holy but acted like heathen while the Samaritan was treated like a heathen but acted like a saint.
The Challenge (Luke 10:36-37)
Now, Jesus asks the arrogant legalist seeking a way to exploit His words for religious gain, which of these three men do you think acted like you would expect a person to act given Moses’ exhortation that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Was it the priest who saw the wounded man and went around him by the most distant part of the road? Or was it the Levite who went over to look at the wounded man but decided he had better pass by the other side of the road? Or was it the Samaritan, hated by all who are called Jews, who not only went to look at the wounded man, but cleaned his wounds and used oil and wine to sooth them. The one who loaded the man on his own beast and took him to an inn where he could recuperate and relax until he returned to pay whatever excess charges remained.
The lawyer knew the others were read in on the discussion. They had heard Jesus’ description of what went on that day, and each of them already knew the answer the lawyer must give. So, the lawyer made the only choice he could. He said, “He that shewed mercy on him was the one who acted most like the neighbor described by Moses when he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus and the lawyer knew the right answer had been selected. The lawyer seeking to justify himself was denied. He intended to make an open show of the Lord, but instead, he provided the entertainment that afternoon. And those gathered there to watch the lawyer make a fool out of Jesus became the fools themselves. They sought to beat the Master but had to accept the beating. And the Jews who had been looking down on the half breeds of Samaria learned that even the least religious among them was capable of being more of a neighbor than any of them could ever hope to be.
Understand the Context (Luke 13:22-16:31)
This week’s study follows up on last week’s study with Jesus continuing His final trip to Jerusalem to “suffer many things and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, KJV). Even Peter, who was the first to tell Jesus he knew that he was “the Christ of God,” rejected the idea that Jesus should go to Jerusalem to die (Luke 9:20, Matt 16:21-22). Nevertheless, Jesus pressed on toward Jerusalem via the short route through Samaria, rather than the typical Jewish route around Samaria on the eastern side of Jordan. Jesus noted the desire for many to follow Him for the joy of the Kingdom, but few were willing to make the commitment to allow Him to change their lives and serve His cause.
Jesus expressed this dichotomy with three parables: The Parable of the Late Guests (13:24-30), the Parable of the Banquet Excuses (14:15-24) and the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-24). The Parable of the Late Guests, Jesus describes how many will try to enter by the straight gate after the master of the house had locked the door. They will protest by listing all the works they did to merit entrance, but the Master will say, “I know you not, depart from me” (13:27). The parable says simply, enter the gate while the gate open and bring your relationship to the Master as credentials, not the works you have done.
The Parable of the Banquet Excuses speaks of a man who prepared a great banquet for his friends but when the time came for them to join him, they made excuses for why they could not come at the appointed time. The Lord told his servants to invite others to come and finally, “the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (14:23-24). Jesus is simply saying come when the Master calls, for responding at your convenience is unacceptable to the Lord. Jesus is saying that those who are His ought to respond when called and not in their own timing.
I have included some bonus material on the last of these three stories, “The Rich Man and Lazarus” below because this story has unique features which lead many scholars to say it is not a parable, but an actual example.
In the background of Jesus’ preaching and teaching is the full knowledge that He is marching toward an appointment with the Father’s destiny for Him. He often warned the Apostles of His approaching appointment to be charged, arrested, brutally treated, killed, buried and raised, but while they heard the words, the Apostles never understood the reality of Jesus’ mission to suffer and die to neutralize the sin debt for all who would believe.
Forgiveness Granted (Luke 15:20-24)
Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the passage under study for this week. Recall that the second son of a father came requesting his inheritance before the appointed time at the father’s death. The father gave him the money but “not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13). He ended up not only humiliating himself by being a Jew feeding a herd of swine, but even eating the food the swine ate.
The prodigal looked at what he had become and was sorry he ever left home. He remembered that even the servants of the father had better lives than he now had. So, the prodigal decided to return home and beg for a place as a servant in the father’s house; no longer worthy of being called a son. But, picking up at verse 15:20, “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” The prodigal began to deliver his repenting story to his father, he said “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (15:21).
But the father had prayed for the return of his son and forgave him even while he prayed. He only wanted his son to come back, and here he was! So, the father said to the servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (15:22-24).
The last sentence of the father expresses the heart of our Father. All the sins we have committed were fully paid for on Calvary’s cross. Paul says, “now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom 8:1-2, NLT). Just as the prodigal’s father yearns for the return of his son, the Heavenly Father wants His sons and daughters back, as well. John tells us “He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12, NLT).
Resentment Expressed (Luke 15:25-30)
But while the father, the prodigal and the servants of the house were celebrating, there was one in the house who rejected the merry making. Verses 15:25-26 tell us, “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant” (KJV).
Verse 27 has the servant’s response, “Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound” (KJV). The elder son was livid at the father! (15:28). When the father asked him what was wrong, the elder son unloaded, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf! (Luke 15:29-30).
These are the raw feelings of life expressed by the elder son. I can imagine most of us can identify with him. It is not only the fact that the prodigal took the father’s money and wasted it on partying, but that he hurt the father so deeply and thoughtlessly. Th elder so was there on the farm while the father grieved over the lost son. The elder saw the pain his father experienced. He saw the tears the father shed every time news would come about the prodigal and what was happening after the money was gone. The elder saw the father praying through the tears for his lost son and joined in his father’s pain. Now, when the son returns, the elder was not looking for a reconciliation, he was looking for revenge for the pain the prodigal caused his father. He wanted a pound of flesh but certainly not that of the fatted calf; he wanted a pound of flesh from his rebellious, low-life brother who hurt his dear father. The father was rejoicing at the return of the lost son, he was dead to him a few minutes earlier, but now he is home, “My son was dead, but now he lives.” The elder was saying, “Balderdash – it is PAYDAY, little brother!”
Reality Defined (Luke 15:31-32)
So, the father interrupts his rejoicing over the return of his dead son to life, to minister to the faithful son who never left. He starts by acknowledging that this son is the faithful one, “Son, thou art ever with me” (15:31). He is saying that this son is not just physically always with him, but that he is also always with him in his heart and mind. The father tells the elder son that he is well aware of all he is and all he does. Even when the celebration began, it was the elder son who was so busy working in the distant field, that he could not even hear the party starting. In these painful months, even through all the painful tears, the father knew the faithful son, his first-born son, was steady on the job of caring for him and running the business. He knew the elder son had prayed with him for the safety of the prodigal and that he would return from his errors.
Further, all the father had left belonged to the elder son. The Jewish custom was that the eldest son would receive the double portion of the inheritance. So, for the two sons, there would have been two thirds for the eldest and one third for the prodigal. The prodigal already took his third, so all that was left, the two thirds of the inheritance, still belonged to the eldest. The father assured him that nothing had changed: “you are ever with me and all that I have left is thine.”
“However,” the father continues, “it was the right thing to do that we celebrate the return of your brother. We prayed and God was faithful in answering our prayers.” The father reminded the son that rejoicing for the faithfulness of the Lord was due from both of them. Further, if the father who was wounded by the prodigal could forgive the atrocious behavior of the prodigal, why cannot his most faithful son join him in answered prayer just as strongly as he joined him in the prayed requests? The time for weeping was finished. God had once again given them the answer they asked of Him. God was faithful, the eldest son was faithful and the son who was dead was now alive. The father was said the party was due, the sadness was over, and it was time to start the healing. The hurt and the pain will probably be remembered tomorrow and several tomorrows after that, but the time at hand was dedicated to celebrating God’s faithfulness and the return of that which was lost. (The father may have even said, “Son, it’s not all about you.”)
Supplemental on The Rich Man & Lazarus (Luke 16:19-24)
While the Rich Man and Lazarus is listed as one of the three parables of Understand the Context, note that neither the Southern Baptist Convention writer nor I consider this story a parable. The first and most obvious difference is that Jesus never uses names of actual people in His parables. Here, Lazarus is specifically identified. Abraham was also identified as a participating person in this story, not just a noted patriarch. The intent here seems to be for the Lord to communicate some information concerning the state of the dead in the cases of the saved and the lost. More will be said on this later.
The situation, as the Lord sets it up in Luke 16:19, is that we have two major characters: a rich man who was dressed in the royal threads of purple and fine linen and who fared sumptuously every day. The second character is Lazarus, a beggar who was laid at the rich man’s gate to beg for the crumbs of food off the rich man’s table. We may assume from the fact that “he was laid at the rich man’s gate” that Lazarus was crippled. We are also given that he was full of sores. Reasoning, the sores were probably not leprous, or he would have been condemned to the Leper’s Colony as unclean and forbidden to contact anyone. One other fact is that Lazarus was not pitied by humans but was ministered to by the dogs which licked (tried to heal) his many sores. The contrast between these two men should be obvious.
The two men died, and another contrast is set up. Lazarus “died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22a). The rich man died as well and was buried. He lifted up his eyes in hell and was in torment. Notice in both cases that they did not enter some state of soul sleep or suspended animation while awaiting judgement. The Scripture says, “It is appointed all men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). While the final judgement will not come when we depart this world, the immediate judgment is found in the place to which we are consigned. Here, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom for comfort, while the rich man in hell and torment.
Verse 16:23 introduces additional information on the construction of Hades in the days prior to Jesus “leading the captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:7-10). The rich man is said to be able to “see Lazarus afar off in the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:23). In verse 24, we learn that in Hades, there is a great gulf fixed between where the rich man is and where Lazarus is. Using those pieces of information, a bit of an architecture can be laid out for that place. It would be easier to explain if the Greek language separated the words for hell and Hades a little more specifically, but with what we are given, Lazarus is in a place of comfort. When Jesus was on the cross and one of the two thieves crucified with Him repented of his sins and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). So, we can say Lazarus was in Paradise. For the rich man, however, it is said, “And in hell he lifted up his eyes” (vs. 23). The rich man is in Hell (Greek: hades). Both men have been consigned to their places immediately after death. The environment of that place of torment is shown in Verse 24 as the rich man asks Abraham for mercy by dipping his finger into some water for his tongue to ease his torment.
Supplemental on The Rich Man & Lazarus (Luke 16:25-31)
Abraham replies that the rich man had received good things in his earthly life while Lazarus received evil. Now both men have received the first installment of their reward for the relationship with God. “Beside that,” Abraham says, “there is a great gulf fixed between Paradise and Hell”. In verse 26 Abraham says, no one can pass from Paradise to Hell or the converse. So, the rich man changes his request to have Abraham send Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brethren about this place so they will not follow him there. Abraham reminds the rich man that his brothers have Moses and the Prophets to warn them of this place. But the rich man says that they will more likely repent if they see Lazarus returned from the dead. Abraham makes a final statement that if his brothers will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not hear one returned from the dead either.
So, a couple interesting observations. The place Lazarus and the rich man enter after physical death needs an overall title. I will call it Hades for the sake of discussion. Hades is clearly divided into two parts: Paradise, as that place of comfort and Hell, as that place of flaming torment. There is a massive chasm between the two sides, so that no one can pass over. We know it is not the final assignment for either the saved or the condemned according to Scripture. Jesus closed Paradise as explained by Paul, “7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Eph 4:7-10). Briefly, Jesus descended into Paradise to deliver the Gospel to those faithful Jews who died before Christ’s ministry. They emptied Paradise as Jesus ascended and led them with Him to Heaven. So, the righteous Jews were delivered out of Paradise to Heaven.
For the unholy dead, Revelation 20:11-15 show us the Great White Throne Judgment and the final consignment for all who were not found written in the Book of Life. They were all consigned to the Lake of Fire. So, the rich man will be found in the Lake of Fire and Lazarus will be found in Heaven (later, the New Jerusalem). On the topic of Hades, Matthew Henry says in his Concise Commentary, “It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought.” I fully agree because there is now no one left in Paradise for those in Hell to talk.
Understand the Context (Luke 17:1-18:30)
Jesus continues His march toward Jerusalem to keep His appointed destiny with the cross. He already prophesied what awaited Him there. He said, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, KJV). Knowing that, He continued to Jerusalem to keep His appointment and fulfill the prophecy of being publicly announced as the Messiah of God 69 weeks of years (483 years) from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, even the wall unto the Messiah the Prince (Dan 9:25). The clock started on that prophecy in 445 BC when King Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (Neh 2:1-6).
It was likely that there were some Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees among the number that followed Jesus from town to town. They were always on the scene to mock Him, accuse or charge Him to end His time of influence, or simply kill Him (Matt 26:4, John 7:1). As Jesus accomplished His final journey to Jerusalem, even though He would try to focus on teaching His disciples, the religious leaders were always there. (Just a short reminder: Jesus had hundreds of disciples but only 12 Apostles.) Jesus was able to exploit the presence of the religious leaders’ by teaching His followers how to respond to their charges and attempts to mock or discredit Him.
While Jesus marched through Samaria, He held close to the border to escape further criticism for associating with sinners there. Nevertheless, Jesus was able to heal ten lepers while passing through. He commented on the significance of only one of the ten returning to glorify God.
In the many conversations and teaching moments Jesus had with His disciples in those days, He was able to convey much about the Kingdom of God. One of the Pharisees asked Him when the Kingdom of God would appear, Jesus responded that “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:20-21, NLT). He used this opportunity to speak to His disciples about His return to establish the Kingdom. An analysis of Luke 17:22-37 along with Matt 24:23-41 and Mark 13:14-23) show that this discussion was about the establishment of the Kingdom at His final coming and not on His coming for the saints at the rapture of the church. Jesus used examples of the judgments promised in the times of Noah and Lot. In these judgments note that the people taken out of God’s judgments were the saved ones and the ones left behind were destroyed. Further, Jesus references the “days of great tribulation” in those teachings which places this judgement either during or after the tribulation period, i.e., going into the Millennial Reign.
Understand the Context (Luke 17:1-18:30, Cont.)
Still isolating His discussion to His disciples, Jesus points out the contrast between the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and the humility of those who are sincere in their faith. He uses the parables of the blind beggar, the pharisee and the tax collector, and the rich young ruler to illustrate these truths. Paul provides an excellent analogy showing the character of human marriage before and after the death of a husband to explain the difference between following the letter of the law and following the spirit of the law. He said, "1 Now, dear brothers and sisters —you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? 2 For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. 3 So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries. 4 So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. 5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. (Romans 7:1-6, NLT).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day maintained their hold on the people through their claims to be righteous and condemned all others in unrighteousness. Jesus was clear that unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, we shall in no way enter the Kingdom (Matt 5:20). Jesus’ sacrifice ended the domination of the Law over us and declared us completely righteous through the blood of Christ. And in that freedom gifted from God, we are free from the Law of Sin and Death forever declaring “There is now therefore, no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Without the work Jesus has done, we are all condemned, but with His work, all who call upon the name of Jesus are saved from punishment for their sin. Jesus, who knew no sin has become sin for us, so that, we who knew no righteousness could become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Cor 5:21). Our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, indeed!
Religious Pride (Luke 18:9-12)
Jesus tells a parable to these people who continue to trust in their personal righteousness and hate or exclude all others. One of these self-righteous pharisees entered into the Temple to pray at the same time publican or tax collector. There is already a natural contrast between these two men as the Lord starts His parable. The Pharisee is supposed to be a person who is looked up to and respected because of his knowledge of the Law, his position as a leader and teacher, and his knowledge of the Scriptures.
The Publican, on the other hand, is most hated of all men. He collects the taxes for Rome and local authorities and applies their unjust burdens on everyone he taxes. He is known to pad the requirement somewhat to enhance his own standard of living. So, he is believed to be an extortioner, a thief and a traitor. But as these two begin to pray, more is learned about where their hearts are.
The Pharisee begins his prayer thanking the Lord that he is not like other men; that he is not an extortioner, unjust, adulterer or even like this publican. It is possible, of course, that the Pharisee may have known these charges to be true for this Publican, but that is not given in the problem statement. The Pharisee continues speaking to the Lord and tells Him that he fasts two times each week and he gives tithes everything he owns.
Godly Humility (Luke 18:13-14)
The Publican, however, stands afar off. He would not even come close to the altar. Further, he will not lift his head to pray, but beat on his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
In stark contrast to the arrogant pharisee who thought he was sinless, and therefore, could stand in judgment over the publican, the publican realized that he had no personal holiness. He studied the Scriptures and knew what God said, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” and “Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psa 14:3 & 53:3). The Publican knew he stood condemned before God. Even if he could have achieved the impossible by living a sinless life, the general sin of mankind would still make him a sinner. Paul had it right when he said, “At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). The Publican understood his position with God if he came on his own merit. He approached God asking for mercy because of his sin. The Pharisee was arrogant in his position and began to believe the political idea that he had some kind of imputed holiness because of his position.
Jesus endorsed the Publican’s understanding of his status. In truth, all of us need to approach God in humility, realizing our sinfulness, asking for mercy and thanking God for Jesus Christ who took away the sin of all who would believe. Jesus told those gathered that it was the Publican who went home justified and not the Pharisee (Luke 18:14). He continued that everyone who exalts himself would be brought down while everyone who humbles himself would be exalted. The truth is that we have come to Jesus with no hope of being forgiven in ourselves. We enter the negotiation with empty hands. God has everything to offer from His abundance and we have everything to gain from Him. God alone can exchange our emptiness for fullness. He empties our past and fills our future. In this parable, Jesus shows us the emptiness of the Pharisee believing he was full and the fullness of the Publican believing he was empty. Do we all have some of each of them in us?
Childlike Faith (Luke 18:15-17)
Verse 15 we see people bringing their little children to Jesus. The right-minded parent wants the best for their children and will seek the blessings of the Master for them as early and as often as possible. They bring the little ones to the Lord, but the disciples saw it as a hinderance for Jesus and told the people they were wrong to do this thing. When Jesus saw what the disciples were doing, He corrected them and told them to allow the little children to come to Him and do not prevent any of them who want to come. This part of the quotation has a message for each of us as well. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson publicly.
I had been saved for less than a year when my oldest son prayed to receive Christ in our home. We had discussed believers’ baptism, but I did not feel the time was right. That Sunday night my son was standing on the pew where I was sitting when the Pastor came by to greet us. The Pastor greeted me and then shook hands with my son who was about six years old at the time. When the Pastor asked him how he was doing, he said, “I want to be baptized, but my Daddy won’t let me.” The Pastor smiled, but I read in his eyes that the conversation was not finished. I have no knowledge of the planned sermon that night, but it was changed to “The Size of the Person versus the Size of the Spirit.” I got the point, and my young son was baptized that night. The Pastor had kind words to say about my decision. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not!” I got it that night, and I still get it now.
The last phrase in verse 16 says, “for such is the Kingdom of God.” Adults are full of distrust and caution, but children have not lived enough of life to have those feelings, yet. They come in innocence, and they come trusting the One who calls. Jesus says this is the way the Kingdom is. He doubles down on His comment in verse 17 as He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” He says it is important for us to understand that is the way of the Kingdom of God. This strikes right at my heart! When I accepted Christ on March 24, 1974, I was in my senior year of electronics engineering college. I had been trained to analyze over and over again. I knew all about the difficult mathematics needed to understand engineering truths and the scientific concepts that made systems work. I was trained to reject what I thought or believed and accept only what I could prove through systematic engineering analyses. But, I stood in the pew that day while singing “Just as I Am.” I was asking myself what further evidence I needed about the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What additional information did I need to make a decision?
As I looked at the people packed into the pew on either side of me, I knew getting out of there would be impossible without bothering more than a dozen people either way. But in the next instant, I heard a man ask me if I believed Jesus Christ had paid the price for all my sin? He asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised back to life? I said yes and we prayed together for a new life in Christ. The man who led me to Christ was not a fellow engineer; he was a piano tuner. But he was able to show this little child how to meet the Master. “Oh, What A Wonderful, Wonderful Day, Day I Will Never Forget, After I’d Wandered In Darkness Away, Jesus My Savior I Met, Oh What A Tender, Compassionate Friend, He Met The Need Of My Heart, Shadows Dispelling, With Joy I Am Telling, He Made All The Darkness Depart, Heaven Came Down & Glory Filled My Soul
Understand the Context (Luke 19:29-40)
Jesus continued His march toward Jerusalem to keep His appointed destiny with the cross. He already prophesied what awaited Him there. He said, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, KJV). Knowing that, He continued toward Jerusalem to keep His appointment and fulfill the prophecy of being publicly announced as the Messiah of God 69 weeks of years (483 years or 173,880 days) from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, even the wall unto the Messiah the Prince (Dan 9:25). The clock started on that prophecy in 445 BC when King Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (Neh 2:1-6).
Earlier in Luke 19, Jesus had passed through Jericho and had supper with a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Recall that Zacchaeus was of “short stature” and was concerned he could not see Jesus passing by, so he climbed up in a sycamore tree. Jesus saw him and said He would have supper with him that day. Zacchaeus was elated. Jesus continued His edification of the disciples (It seemed awkward to say, “He was discipling the disciples!”). The context study and the focal passage seem to overlap significantly so, this introduction will be short.
The parable Jesus taught in Luke 19:11-28 is called the Parable of the Pounds (also know as the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25). It will not be remembered by either title but by the concept that a landowner left three of his subjects an amount of money to deal with and promised to return to take account. He gave three 10 pounds, 5 pounds and 1 pound to the three leaders, respectively. Upon accounting, the one who had 10 gained 10 more and the one who was given 5 gained 5 more but the one who was given 1 pound feared its loss and returned the 1 pound to the master. What the master said to the first two is the memorable portion of the parable and provides hope for each of us. The master said, “Well done, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17 & 19). They had taken what the master gave them and doubled it through their use of it. The third tenant buried the 1 pound and was criticized by the master for hiding the pound instead of at least putting it in a bank to gain interest. The master took the 1 pound given him and gave it to the one he had given 10.
Many believe the interpretation of the parable relates to the gifts God has given us and whether we put them to use for the Master’s Kingdom or simply hide them in fear of losing them. The simple lesson is that God expects us ALL to use the gifts He has given us to grow His Kingdom. Growing His Kingdom could be a simple as inviting a friend to church or doing kind deeds to a neighbor or going on a mission trip. Whatever God gives us, we need to use for Him. Not using our gifts for Him could result in losing the gift all together.
The second part of establishing the context for this study summarizes the four aspects of Jesus’ actions for the Kingdom during the last days of His ministry. As He entered Jerusalem on the donkey that day, Jesus accepted the praise of the people which was given as unto the Lord. He was acknowledging He was the Lord’s Messiah. He wept over Jerusalem as He saw in His mind’s eye its destruction over the next 40 years (ref: 70 AD). He showed righteous anger over the misuse of His Temple (He was the Lord’s Messiah). And He taught the final lessons to His disciples calmly even though He knew what was about to happen to Him. As the centurion in charge of His crucifixion said at His death, “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Matt 27:54 & Mark 15:39).
Obey (Luke 19:29-34)
These verses document Jesus’ instructions to two of His disciples to go ahead of the others into the outskirts of Jerusalem to collect a donkey for His Triumphant Entry. He tells them about a colt of a donkey which they will find at a certain home. The donkey had never been ridden. Jesus said if the owner questions their taking of the animal, they should simply say the Lord has need of it. The word Jesus told them to use for the Lord was the Greek word kyrios which means Lord, God or Master. The message to the colt’s owner would be compelling and direct. The act of Jesus riding this donkey is prophesied by Zechariah 9:9 as, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The One the Jews of Jerusalem was waiting for would be declared as Messiah that day – Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 AD.
So, the donkey, the foal of a donkey was released by its owner and allowed to carry Jesus into Jerusalem on just the right date, according to Scripture. Some suggest that Jesus must have had earlier disciples who made the arrangements with the owners for the donkey. These people are usually referred to as Higher Critics (I consider them lower). They try to explain away each of the miracles of both Testaments as natural events. For example, they suggest that Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14:1-31) was accomplished at the sea’s lowest point aided by an exceptionally strong wind that caused the water to be only a few inches deep. Reasonable people would ask, how then did all of Pharaoh’s men and horses drown in such shallow water? So, the miracle was that the two disciples approached the owner of the small donkey, told him that the Lord had need of the donkey and the man released the donkey to them without discussion. Likewise, there was a room available on very short notice that was large enough for Jesus and the 12 Apostles to have the Passover Meal. Passover was the best attended of all the feast days in Jerusalem, so it was unlikely there would be a room available except by another miraculous intervention.
Praise (Luke 19:35-38)
Luke 19:35 picks up with the two disciples returning with the donkey for Jesus. The rest of the verse sets up how Jesus would ride. The Scripture says the disciples put their clothes on top of the donkey and Jesus sat on top of those cloths. This was probably done so Jesus would not be soiled by the donkey as he walked into Jerusalem. Verse 36 adds that they also put their clothes on the path the donkey would take. This was another effort to separate the surface of the road and the donkey from Jesus and any dust, dirt or “uncleanliness” as they entered Jerusalem.
So, Jesus rode the donkey down from the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem and the people began to see Him. They added their clothes to those of the disciples, and many began to cut branches from the trees and lay those in the path as Jesus was descending from the mountain (Matt 21:1-9 & Mark 11:1-10). As Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem cut branches from the indigenous trees, they were likely palm trees, and hence, the name of Palm Sunday (John 12:13). John’s version of the story ties the discussion of Palm Sunday directly to Scripture they studied and Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus (John 12:12-19). Verses 17 & 18 say that the great number of people was due to them being the ones who saw Jesus raising Lazarus from death after he was dead for four days.
Verse 19 in John’s account also mentions that the Pharisees were considering how they might eliminate Jesus as His fame was growing and His influence over those people was multiplying. The numbers of the crowds He was drawing in His meetings were also increasing and reaching a point that neither the religious Jews nor the Romans felt secure in their capability to control the mob. So, the idea of killing Him was growing in the Sanhedrin and among the Chief Priests.
Worthy (Luke 19:39-40)
In Luke’s account of the feelings of the Pharisees, we find those who were numbered among the multitudes asking Jesus to rebuke His disciples for cheering for Jesus. They were probably concerned that the loud cheering for Him as they saw Him fulfilling Scripture was becoming more threatening. If He could quiet them down, the uproar could appear less threatening. Of course, Jesus was much more of a realist. He knew that these people were a repressed group. They had been denied the land God gave them. They were being taxed far beyond what they could afford to pay. As they saw the potential of God’s Deliverer finally coming to set them free, to overtake the Roman’s and restore the throne of David back to the people, there was no way to make them stop celebrating.
Jesus certainly understood this and said to the Pharisees that even if there was a way to quiet the crowd, if there was a way to hold back the enthusiasm of this severely persecuted people, then even the lifeless stones on the ground would raise their voices in honor of the Messiah’s coming as prophesied. So, states the paradox: the Jews were excited about the hand of the Lord finally sending the promised Deliverer while the occupiers wanted nothing but the peace and quite symbolic of acquiescence of the dominated people and the absolute control of the dominating forces. It was not going to come to Jerusalem that day, nor would it come in the near future. This impasse will last far beyond the earthly existence of Jesus. His coming death and resurrection will plant a religious movement that will not be quelled by any movement of government.
Many years ago, the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) would threaten to end the worship of any god other than the government. The people of the Southern Baptist Association of churches in the National Capital Region decided they would launch the First Baptist Church of Moscow, Russia in spite of these policies. The association was 171 churches strong and was located in states bordering on Washington, DC. They were threatened and the founders of the church were warned of harsh punishment. Nevertheless, they pressed on. As the building was built and the start of services approached, the excitement was not to be quelled. The church building was designed to hold a maximum of about 350 people and we worried that not even a dozen people would stand up against the Soviets. Many more than a thousand showed up for the churches first services and the church grew by leaps and bounds over the next several years. The spirit of God’s people is emboldened by every threat made by the godless opposition. Rome could not stop it in 32 AD, and the USSR could not stop it in 2006. God will win!!
Understand the Context (Luke 23:50-24:12)
When we ended our Connect Group Bible Study last Sunday, we had celebrated the Triumphant Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. By this Sunday (Easter), we will have studied the Passion Week of Jesus including the treasonous betrayal of Jesus by Judas, Judas’ suicide, Maundy Thursday (Last Supper and washing of the Apostle’s feet), Good Friday (the Crucifixion and burial) and Peter’s denial that he even knew Jesus. Not all of the Sanhedrin believed Jesus had to be murdered. They were not sharing the belief that Jesus was a threat to the fragile peace the Jews had with the Romans. And the hundreds of thousands of people responding to the Triumphant Entry certainly displayed the massive number of people believing or willing to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of God.
John 3 documents there was a man of the leaders of the Jews who came to visit Jesus under the cover of darkness. While the Scripture does not document how long after that meeting Nicodemus prayed to receive Jesus as the Messiah, his action after Jesus’ crucifixion indicates an unusually brave action. Nicodemus supported Joseph of Arimathea as he went to Pontius Pilate, the Governor of the Roman Province of Judaea, Samaria and Idumaea, to request the body of Jesus (and the two thieves) before the Sabbath began at sunset (John 19:38-42). Pilate seemed somewhat surprised that Jesus was dead so soon (some crucifixions lasted for several days). So, Pilate inquired of the Centurion charged with doing those crucifixions. The Centurion testified that he verified Jesus’ death by thrusting his spear upward into His side. The resulting blood and water proved He was dead. As for the other two crimnals, the Centurion told Pilate he had their legs broken so they would suffocate quickly and die as well. Pilate gave permission for the bodies to be removed from the crosses.
Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man and owned a new tomb in the field near Mount Calvary. The fact that Jesus was crucified with criminals and was to be laid in Joseph’s tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, “He was buried like a criminal but was put in a rich man’s grave” (Isaiah 52:9, NLT). Matthew 27:62-66 documents that the High Priest and the Pharisees visited Pilate early the next day to warn him that Jesus had prophesied He would rise after three days. They recommended Pilate set a guard on the tomb so no one could take Jesus’ body away and claim He had come back to life. Pilate agreed, had the tomb sealed and set a Roman Watch over it. The seal assured that the stone could not be moved without warning the Roman guards. A Roman Watch was the assignment of 8, regular Roman soldiers rotating every 4 hours. They were under the penalty of death if their watch was violated. But God did not honor the Watch and sent an earthquake to break the seal and roll the stone back. Of course, moving the stone was not needed to let Jesus out, but rather it was moved to let others in. The women following Jesus and the Apostles needed to see that the tomb was empty at sunrise on Sunday. (Matt 28:2).
Understand the Context (Luke 23:50-24:12, Cont.)
Review of the terrible series of events in the Passion Week each year is needed to fully appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us and the great victory of His resurrection. It is uncanny that the Bible documents the massive shock of Jesus’ death followed by even greater shock of His resurrection. How could the people be surprised at either event given the number of times Jesus warned of them? Add to that the Old Testament prophesies in Psalms 22, Isaiah 53 and Psalms 16:10, and there should have been no surprise at all.
Another advantage of telling the stories of Passion Week before announcing resurrection is to eliminate any doubt that Jesus was physically dead before Pilate released His body, and He was placed in the prophesied new tomb. Some false teachings suggest that Jesus merely fainted from exhaustion on the cross and was refreshed in the coolness of the tomb. Others falsely say that another man took Jesus’ place on the cross, so He was not crucified. Hebrews 9:22 documents that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of innocent blood. Therefore, Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind, must have given His life on the cross to pay for our justification.
The Roman sealing of the tomb and the establishment of the watch on it made it impossible for the women to visit the tomb and complete the customary anointing of Jesus’ body with the appropriate spices and perfumes. But on Sunday morning, as they came with the materials for the anointing, they saw the stone had been rolled back allowing them to enter Jesus’ tomb. Mary Magdalene was still refusing to believe Jesus was alive and asked the two men in the tomb where they had taken the body of Jesus so she could go get it (John 20:13). She did not recognize them as angels, nor did she recognize the voice of the risen Jesus from behind her until He called her by name. While she was still shocked to see Him; she finally believed that He had overcome death. Each of the Apostles had similar shock. Thomas insisted that he would not believe until he could feel Jesus’ wounds (John 20:25). Jesus eliminated all the doubt by walking with them for 40 days after His resurrection, and they watched Him ascend on the clouds into the air just before the Feast of the Pentecost.
Return (Luke 24:1-5a)
“The first day of the week” sets the day at Sunday. It was early Sunday morning when the women came to Joseph of Arimathea’s sepulcher where he and Nicodemus carried Jesus after removing Him from the cross (Matt 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56 & John 19:38-42). Two of the references states that Mary Magdalene and Mary (James’ mother) were by the sepulcher and saw where Nicodemus and Joseph laid Jesus.
The reference in John says that Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of burial spices for Jesus’ body late Friday. The other references say the women came to prepare Jesus’ body early Sunday. Both could be correct because the trauma of Jesus’ death and fear of arrest may have hindered complete communication between the two men and the group of women. It was customary for the spices and perfumes to be wrapped together with the body to prevent foul odors. The body would be allowed to decay in the tomb for about a year before the remains would be moved to a “Bone Box” allowing reuse of the tomb.
Recall the news reports a few years ago concerning the discovery of what was called the James Ossuary box with the inscription, “James (Jacob), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The box was proven authentic, but some questioned validity of part of the inscription. Regardless of how that turns out, there ossuary validates the statement about the removal of decayed remains and placing them in bone boxes. So, Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Joses came, found the stone rolled away and reported it to Peter and John who ran to the tomb. They looked in and found two men in shining garb announcing Jesus’ resurrection. They fell on their faces before them.
Remember (Luke 24:5b-7)
An angel spoke to them saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen, remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee? He said ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’”.
These comments were intended to get the Apostles and other disciples to recall Jesus’ prophesy about what was going to happen to Him as He returned to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, all were shocked that Jesus could die at all. Seeing all His miracles and hearing His teachings about who He was seemed to fulfill the Scriptures for the coming Messiah to overthrow Rome and set up His kingdom on earth. After His resurrection they would learn there would be another coming of Christ to the earth at which time He would establish His Kingdom.
Note also that Jesus’ Rapture of the Saints and His Second Coming were separate and distinct events. Paul explained three events this way: “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor 15:22-24. “Christ as the firstfruits” refers to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus discussed here and in Acts 1:9-11. “Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” refers to the Rapture of the Saints when Jesus returns for His Bride (the believing Church) but never touches the earth (1 Thess 4:13-18, 1 Cor 15:51-57 & Rev 4:1). “Then cometh the end” refers to the third and final part of the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6 & Rev 21.
Report (Luke 24:8-12)
It seems that the gentle reminder from the angels was sufficient to bring Jesus’ words into the Apostle’s remembrances. It was as if they said, “Oh, yes. I remember that, now! Jesus did say those things.” Verse 9 adds that the witnesses left the sepulcher to give their report to “the eleven.” The number of Apostles was reduced to eleven at Judas’ suicide after his betrayal of Jesus in the garden. The Apostles would not replace him until Acts 1:15-26 when they appointed Matthias as the twelfth. (As an aside, note the difference in man’s appointment of Matthias and God’s appointment of Paul as the twelfth Apostle. Matthias was never mentioned again while Paul did at least three mission trips and wrote at least one third of the New Testament; even more if one include the writings of his disciple and physician, Dr. Luke.)
So, the Apostles returning from the sepulcher told the eleven and they told all the rest. Verse 10 makes it clear Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women were parts of spreading the word as well. Luke places the disbelief and departure of Peter for the sepulcher at this point. Nevertheless, Luke points out that Peter saw the burial clothes laid by themselves. John’s passage in verses 20:5-7 adds more information about the linen cloth used for Jesus’ burial. Luke tells us that Peter left the sepulcher puzzled about what he saw and what happened.
The Shroud of Turin
History.com/news reports that “the earliest historical records of the Shroud of Turin place it in Lirey, France during the 1350s. A French knight named Geoffroi de Charny allegedly presented it to the dean of the church in Lirey as Jesus’ authentic burial shroud.” The 14-foot Shroud shows a negative imprint of the front and back of the man who was covered by it. It provides a great deal of information regarding what happened to the crucified man in its folds.
For example, scientists have claimed for years that the bodies of the crucified could not have been hanged on the cross with nails in their palms because the weight of the person would almost certainly rip the tendons of the hands leaving the man to fall off the cross. Romans were much more effective. So, they were more likely hanged by nails in the wrists. The shroud clearly shows this to be the case.
The Shroud presents a man of between 5’ 10” and 6’ 2” depending on assumptions made. For example, the man in the should is “frozen” in the posture of one hanging on the cross. His legs are bent at the knees and his upper body and head are leaning somewhat forward. One of the assumptions regarding the cloth is that it could have been stretched either vertically (the width of the man) or horizontally (the height of the man) over the decades of being displayed on the walls of the Turin Church. So, if the man was standing upright and the Shroud was in its original shape, the man would have been roughly 6 feet tall. Still an unusually tall man for that time in history.
The Shroud also shows that this particular man was beaten severely before being crucified. There was not a spot on the front or back of his body that was free of Roman cat-of-nine-tails lacerations. He also has marks on the front and back of his head like a series of sharp objects penetrated his brow and scalp. Wounds that could have been made by a crown of thorns. Further, the image showed a penetration just below his rib cage on the right side consistent with a wound from a soldier’s spear. These are all marks documented in the Bible as those inflicted upon Jesus as He was flogged, humiliated and crucified by the Romans. Of course, many skeptics have claimed the Shroud was so consistent with the Scriptures that it must be a fake. The proof of that charge still fails.
The Face in the Shroud of Turin
There have been many tests and investigations to determine if the Shroud was authentic. In my years as a Department Head and Professor of Mathematics at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Shroud was sent there as a part of its testing. The USAF Academy is renowned as an engineering school and contained the best and most sophisticated equipment for archaeological investigations of most schools. The Academy had several members on the renowned, 40 member scientific team selected for its research in the United States. So, in the early-to-mid 1980’s, the Shroud was at the Academy.
Most have read that the original carbon dating in 1988 suggested a medieval fraud, it was discovered that the threads which were tested were taken from a part of the cloth that was repaired with new cloth after a fire 1350. All that dating proved was that the new cloth woven into the Shroud in 1350 was, in fact from the 1260 to 1390 vintage. Fresh dating of the fiber of the original weave in 2013 “showed it originated between 300 B.C. and A.D. 400, well within the time of Jesus of Nazareth” (Stanglin, USA Today, 2013).
While at the USAF Academy, scientists attempted to fashion a bust of the man in the cloth in three-dimensional space. The was in a single dimension, of course, so the scientists had to use variations of image intensity to determine the features of the man’s face. A close-up view of the enhanced image of the Shroud and the resulting 3-D impression are shown on this slide. While it has not been determined beyond a shadow of doubt that the man in the Shroud was Jesus, there is certainly a lot of evidence that points in that direction.
The Academy protected this image by placing it in a locked room with bars on its entrance. But thousands of people (including myself and hundreds of my friends) climbed the steps into the main worship area of the Protestant Chapel to see this bust on the right side of the entryway. If nothing else can be said about the bust, it certainly looks like the man in the Shroud.
Just a couple other things we know. Many of the motion pictures we have seen show Jesus as a Western European. Some even show Him as having light hair and blue eyes. This man would have stood out in the population throughout Israel and would have been mentioned in the New Testament. In the absence of such a mention, I would say that Jesus looked like the people around Him. That means He would have had black hair, brown eyes and an olive complexion. In the final analysis, we know that Mary was His mother, but Joseph was not His father. The Bible states that Mary was impregnated through the Holy Spirit under the power of God (Luke 1:35). We know nothing of the DNA or blood type contribution of God, therefore, we have to agree with Isaiah as he says, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2, KJV). In other words, there was nothing unusual about the way Jesus looked as He mixed with the people of that locality, except that He was a tall man.
Understand the Context (Luke 18:31-10:26)
The question throughout the history of Christendom has been why the Apostles, of all people, were shocked at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? It seems that none of them believed He could die, and once dead, they could not believe He could be raised again. Conjecture of the centuries have included words like denial, disbelief, lack of faith or even lack of intelligence. Whatever the cause, the Apostles and disciples of Christ would not or could hear Jesus’ prophesies of His death, burial and resurrection.
In this week’s study, we back up to the touching stories of two men. The first was a blind man who hears Jesus coming near to him and begins to yell out to get His attention. The second, could not have had a greater contrast to the blind man. The blind man was poor and needy while Zacchaeus was wealthy and needless. The blind man seemed helpless and hopeless while Zacchaeus was powerful and had hopeful. The blind man wanted to be seen of Jesus while Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. The blind man shouted out to be seem of Jesus while Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus.
Jesus met the needs of both men and caused great transformation in them. The blind man started a new life of independence, joy and productivity. Zacchaeus started a new life of service, repentance and payback. Neither man would ever be the same after meeting Jesus. The truth is that we, like them, have never been the same since we met the Master.
The last part of the reference section is in Luke 19:11-27. The Parable of the Pounds or the Three Stewards is not just a story of how Gods gifts are to be used, but rather, a holy illustration of the godly balance of mercy and accountability. To those God blesses the most, He requires the greatest. To those He gives little, He expects less, but still requires wise use of even the smallest gifts. That being absent, He will take what little they have and give it to those demonstrating the wisest use of what they were given. All of us are given gifts by the Master. As the parable shows, whether we are given much or given little, we will be required to give account for how we used what God has given us. Are we ready?
Desperate (Luke 19:1-4)
Chapter 19 opens with Jesus going through Jericho on the next leg of His march to Jerusalem. Jericho was in the province of Judea and only about 15 miles from Jerusalem. Luke introduces a man named Zacchaeus who was the chief of the publicans in that area. Tax collectors did not enjoy good reputations among the Jews because they were put in place to collect taxes for Rome. The taxes were excessive and imposed on everything the local people grew, created or used. The tax collectors generally added their own wages to already excessive taxes required by Rome, the local government and tithes and offerings. Tax collectors were extortionists, traitors and thieves. Most of them became very wealthy, and Zacchaeus was no exception.,
When Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming through his area of town, he wanted to see who He was. The problem was the great crowds of people all pressed together to see Him, and no one was planning to help Zacchaeus get closer. He was further hindered because he was a short man, and there was no way he could position himself in the crowd to see when Jesus was passing by. Zacchaeus saw a sycamore tree near the road where Jesus was expected to be passing as He moved through town. He decided to climb up that tree to get a better vantage point to see the Lord.
Friended (Luke 19:5-7)
Verse 5 tells us that Jesus came to that place, looked up, saw Zacchaeus and spoke to him saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down, for today I must abide in your house.” Zacchaeus may have been absolutely astonished by Jesus’ invitation, but he wasted no time getting out of the tree and receiving Jesus into his home. He was only hoping for a glimpse of Him so he could recognize Him, but now, it looked like he was going to get a private audience with Him. Further, Jesus coming into his home would allow the enterprising tax collector to claim Jesus as his friend. He must have thought to himself, “The blessings just keep on coming.”
The ramifications for Jesus recognizing Zacchaeus in this manner were numerous. As stated, Zacchaeus’ friends and associates could only be other tax collectors and publicans. The Pharisees making up part of Jesus’ entourage’ would count all the guests at Zacchaeus’ home to be among the worst of sinners. Their fundamentalist interpretation of Moses’ Law said that righteous people must separate themselves from people like this. Their sinfulness would cause Jesus and His followers to be unclean sinners as well. For the Pharisees, this was a very welcomed, unforced error by Jesus that would be used to prove He could not possibly have been the Messiah. They would say, “A holy man would have sensed the caliber of these unrighteous curs.” So, the Pharisees and the other who wanted an end to Jesus’ work murmured among themselves that Jesus had gone to be a guest of a known and open sinner. He, then, must be evil as well.
Repentant (Luke 19:8-10)
But God’s plan could not be hampered by the narrow-minded attitudes of a few eccentrics. God had Jesus meet Zacchaeus at his house because God knew Zacchaeus’ heart and was ready to work with it to lead many otherwise unreachable people to Jesus Christ for God’s glory.
Zacchaeus, who felt drawn to see Jesus to at least recognize Him, finds his spirit is unusually open to communicating with Him. He speaks to Jesus as the insatiable drive to repent of past wrongs are verbalized. “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” These are words of a man newly recognizing the pain he has caused others and how he planned to make those past wrongs right. Many of the poor were exploited by his dishonest business dealings and setting of tax rates far in excess of the fair taxes he was commissioned to take. He pledges from his heart, a newly sensitized heart, to give back as much as half of everything he owns. Those he exploited through deceitful dealings and lies; he will give back four times what he took. An hour earlier, his heart was as hard as cement, but now the Spirit in him has been brought out of hibernation. He has become alive to God’s working inside him. He experiences new feelings of love, compassion, self-denial and generosity he has not felt for decades. Here is the new Zacchaeus speaking the language of God’s Spirit operating within>
Jesus knows what it is and how it sounds. He announces, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” Jesus recognizes that spiritual conversion has taken place inside Zacchaeus. Just as John can say to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13). So, Zacchaeus became not only a son of Abraham, indeed, but a son of God, as well. And Jesus summarizes in verse 10 that this is His whole reason for being. Truly, “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 & Matt 18:11). Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus so he might recognize Him, but he received so much more. He now knows Jesus in a way that only the justified can know Him. He is truly Our Father and we are truly His sons and daughters.
The Face in the Shroud
Last time, we looked at the face on the Shroud of Turin and the bust of Jesus Christ developed from the work of the US Air Force Academy scientists and artists (left and center pictures). Here is the artist conception with color (picture at the far right). The choices of the coloring are based on the knowledge of whom His mother was. She was Mary and her heritage shows she probably had the coloring common of the people lived and spent their lives in or around Nazareth. The prophet Isaiah stated that “My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2, NLT). In simple terms, He looked quite ordinary.
Now, we did see last time that not all His physical attributes were ordinary. If the Shroud truly held the Christ, He would have been between 5’ 10” and 6’ 2” tall. The span is included because the man in the Shroud was “frozen” in time with His legs bent at the knees and His shoulders and head leaning forward. He looked like He was still on the cross. Straightening Him out would likely have placed His height in the middle of the range, or about 6 feet tall. That was an extraordinary height for a man in 30 AD. While no one can prove conclusively that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, it certainly has a lot of know fact in its folds.
Understand the Context (Luke 20:1-21:38)
As we back up in Scripture from our studies for Good Friday and Easter, we return to Jesus’ final walk to Jerusalem to keep His appointment with the Triumphant Entry and the cross. Recall that the date of Jesus entry into Jerusalem to be declared Messiah was fixed between Daniel 9:25, where Daniel announced the 69 weeks of years (173,880 days) between the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and present the Messiah the Prince, and Nehemiah 2:1-6, where Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC.
Organized religion, under the leadership of the Jewish High Priests, Roman governance, and Satanic influence, would continue to do all they could to see Jesus killed before He could get to the saving grace of the cross. They had spies and religious lawyers assigned to His every move from the beginning of His ministry. Now, their activities had to be more intense. They tried to twist His words, accuse Him of blasphemy against God and treason against Rome. His clearing of the Temple of dishonest money changers seemed well suited to their mission (charged with heresy). False accusations of encouraging followers to stop paying taxes to Rome was another (charged with sedition & treason). His open opposition to the teaching of the Sadducees against resurrection was another (more heresy). When He said He would return in power and glory, they claimed He was declaring Himself to be God (charged with blasphemy).
Jesus often resorted to telling and illustrating the truth of the Gospel through common-sense stories or parables. Telling stories like today’s focal passages for study (the Parable of the Evil Tenants) is an example of showing how God provides gifts and talents and hold us accountable for use of them. It was difficult for the groups of dissenters to find evil accusation in such simple, common-sense illustrations of truth.
The Servants (Luke 20:9-12)
The Parable of the Evil Tenants begins with a man planting the vineyard and renting it out to tenant farmers while they took a lengthy trip outside the nation. Sharecropping was widespread in our nation’s history and still in use today. In our case, we purchased a small piece of land but had no immediate plans for it. A farmer who owned the adjacent land offered to pay a certain amount of money to continue his farm on to our land, as well. We agreed to accept a rental fee to allow him to farm the land, and he promptly paid the fee every year. Certainly, nothing like these evil tenants. When the season came for the owners to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard or to get rent payments, they would send a servant to collect. In this case, the tenants beat the servant and refused to give him any payment at all.
The owners sent a second servant whom the tenants beat, embarrassed and sent him away empty-handed, as well. So, the owners sent a third servant to collect their payment, but he was humiliated, wounded and thrown out without payment. It was clear that these tenants had no intention of repaying the owners for lending them the land.
The Son (Luke 20:13-16a)
So now, the owners are faced with three cases of the tenants refusing to pay them for their use of the land in addition to three cases of aggravated assault of the owner’s debt collectors. Simple assault would have been to beat them up and send them on their way, but these tenants refused to pay the debt, humiliated the owner’s servants and even wounded them. Nevertheless, the owner was reluctant to involve the authorities and had one more idea.
They decided to send the son they loved to speak with the tenants and collect to debt (now well past due). Their thought was that the tenants would recognize the son as an important part of the owner’s family and give him the respect he was due. Maybe if there was some reason for the tenants’ reluctance to pay their debt, the son would be seen as one with the authority to speak for the owners to resolve the problem and get the relationship back on the right track.
But verse 14 tells us that the tenants had even more dastardly thoughts than before. They reasoned that the son was probably the heir of the owner’s property, and if they were to murder the son, the land might be theirs, and they would never have to pay the past or future debt for using the vineyard. So now, the tenants have multiplied their failure to pay their debts and aggravated assault of three servants with the murder of the owner’s son. How would the owners react to this criminal treatment by the tenants?
Evidently, this story is told before law enforcement was available to solve the problem, leaving the owners responsible for taking their actions alone. Verse 16 tells us that the owners came to the vineyard and destroyed these tenants and rented the vineyard to others. I suppose the new tenants would be duly motivated to pay their debt appropriately knowing that the previous tenants paid heavily for their errors! The simple message is that the previous tenants were unworthy of the vineyard entrusted to them, so it was taken away and given to tenants believed to be more worthy of that trust.
The Stone (Luke 20:16b-19)
The last part of verse 16 hints at the horror of the listeners hearing this story. They said, “God forbid!” They must have personalized the story and thought of how they might react to losing a son this way. Maybe they felt the whole episode might better have ended with the owners simply getting the authorities involved to evict these low-life tenants for not paying their debt on time. Certainly, if the owners were “gone” for a long time” the debt must have come due on earlier occasions. Anything would have been better than risking the life of a son over it.
We already knew this story was a parable designed to drive home the point of the tenants’ errors. Jesus reminds the religious leaders it is written, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalms 118:22, KJV). The scribes and pharisees had just questioned Jesus’ authority to preach the Gospel. Their question may have focused on Jesus’ actions described in verse 45-46 of Chapter 19 where He cast out the moneychangers from the Temple. Nevertheless, the religious leaders, just like the tenants in the Parable of the Evil Tenants, were questioning the owner’s authority to collect payments and were planning His death. These religious leaders were rented the vineyard belonging to its Creator and they were not delivering the Creator’s due. Further, they were plotting to kill the Son of Man. Their destruction is every bit as certain as the evil tenants. Truly, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and Jesus IS that cornerstone. Those plotting to kill Him are plotting self-destruction of the worse kind: the damnation of their own souls to eternal sorrow in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15).
Jesus added to the quotation from Psalms 118:22 to warn those religious leaders that anyone who stumbles over the cornerstone shall be broken, and on whomever the stone falls will be ground into power. The reaction to Jesus’ solemn warning is described in verse 19. Iin the same hour that Jesus so specifically warned them, “the chief priests and the scribes sought to lay hands on Him” but they were afraid the people heard Jesus’ words as spoken against them and they feared the people. These leaders were sealing their own doom just as certainly as Jesus spoke it, “but on whomsoever (the cornerstone) shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
Copyright © 2020 Fishers of Men Ministries - All Rights Reserved.