Study 1 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

The Faithful Work of God

Discussion Question

What makes a church great?

Background

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he commanded his disciples to go and make disciples in all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel started in Jerusalem and spread out into the world. One unexpected disciple was Saul who began as a persecutor of the church but was dramatically converted and became the greatest missionary the world has ever known. In Acts Chapter 18, we read of him preaching the gospel in the city of Corinth and, although there was great persecution there, he sowed the seeds of a church.

He now writes a letter to this church to encourage, correct, rebuke and train them in righteousness. Paul knew this church personally, having spent 18 months with them at the beginning. But has been absent as the church continued to grow in their knowledge of the gospel. Rather than predict what issues had arisen before reading the letter, it is sufficient to simply read the text and allow the story to unfold before us.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

What did you see?

Structure

  • From Paul via God (1-3)
    • Who is the writer? (1)
    • Who are the readers? (2)
    • A relationship made in heaven (3)
  • Evidence of God’s work in them (4-6)
  • Confidence in God’s faithfulness (7-9)

From Paul via God (1-3)

“…called to be an apostle” Paul did not climb the ladder seeking to be a world-wide missionary for God – he was called. Paul (FKA Saul) was miraculously reborn on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul began many letters with this credential because he does not speak from human philosophy or religion but as a servant of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1). See Galatians 1:1 and 2:8.

Apostle” means messenger – someone commissioned by another to represent him in some way. Like every word in the bible, it is just a word but when used in context, it refers to those commissioned by God through Christ to represent Christ in the world.

“…and our brother Sosthenes…” This is the same synagogue leader who was beaten by fellow Jews for allowing Paul to preach in his synagogue. The beatings did not stop him from being a follower of Jesus! See Acts 18:12-17. What a glorious picture of a man who will choose truth over earthly protection. He, like Paul, had given up everything to serve the gospel of our LORD.

To the church of God…” The letter is addressed to a brotherhood of believers meeting in Corinth. They are…

“…sanctified in Christ…” ie, made holy in Christ. This is not to be overlooked as we begin a journey through 1 Corinthians. They are not a church becoming holy but a church that IS holy in Christ. That is, for all who call upon the name of Jesus, they are saved, redeemed and made righteous in the eyes of the LORD. Paul expands on this later in these first 9 verses.

…called to be his holy people…” As holy people in Christ, they are called to be holy! We are not saved in order to return to our old selves. Sanctification is a now and progressing language in the bible. We cannot progress TO holy without being MADE holy by grace. And we must not remain in sin once we have been called out of it!

…together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours…” The gospel is the gospel no matter where you go. There is only one way to be saved and it is through Jesus Christ. Likewise, there is no super church anywhere that has better access or higher knowledge than any other church of God anywhere in the world. An illiterate man saved by God is just as sanctified as a multi published theologian. As God has called us to be holy, we call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; 1 Kings 18:24; Psalm 116:4; Joel 2:32; Zephaniah 3:9; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Calling on the name of the LORD is a sign that you are putting your trust and hope in Him – it is a way of describing faith. This is not a personal invite to the Corinthians but an invitation to the whole world to call on Jesus to be saved.

…Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” At the end of this first section, which is the announcement of who is writing to who – we see the reason the letter is being written. Namely, that because of God, this relationship exists. Without God, who is Paul and who are the people in Corinth? Both are nobody! Neither is anybody. Both those sentences are true! Paul’s authority comes from Christ to write to them; the people’s assembly is in the name of Jesus, otherwise it would not be a church of God made holy in Christ; and the relationship that exists is on the basis of grace and peace that only God the Father through Christ the Son can have achieved! Church exists because of the grace of God and the peace of God. Outside of this dome of truth, Paul is a nobody to these people and why should they care to listen further?

Evidence of God’s work in them (4-6)

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Paul was a prayer. His letters are filled with the prayers that he offered up for the church. An excellent book by Don Carson called “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” takes the prayers of Paul in the Scriptures to show us the heart of a faithful prayer praying the mind of God for the church. The simple reason for Paul’s thankfulness for the church in Corinth is for the gospel of Jesus being effective among them. He doesn’t praise them for what he hears. He thanks God for what he has heard. And he doesn’t praise the Corinthians for being anything but he praises Christ for his grace reaching the church in Corinth! Paul is thankful that his grace is at work in Corinth. The church is not brilliant apart from the grace of God.

For…” because – and here is the proof…

“…in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way…” Their speech and their knowledge are examples of how they have been enriched but notice that their deposit book is filled already with the grace of God. They have been fully enriched. There is no lacking area of investment yet to be accessed and deposited. The church may be boastful about their speech and their knowledge, but Paul reminds them that this is from God. So don’t get cocky.

“…God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.” This appears to be Paul saying that they are showing signs of the gospel taking root in their lives. The confirmation of salvation is in their conduct and enriched lives of faith. In other words, Paul came and told them about Jesus (his testimony about Christ), and God confirms the testimony about Jesus by bearing fruit in the lives of the Corinthians.

Confidence in God’s faithfulness (7-9)

Therefore…” and so. It follows, that since God has blessed you and enriched you fully…

…you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Firstly, what we do now that we are saved is wait for the return of Christ. We have been living in the last days since the resurrection and ascension. Secondly, there is no second blessing. God has saved the church by bringing the testimony of Jesus to them and the evidence of conversion is in the way that the church talks about God and Christ and faith. There is not second blessing of the holy spirit to await, no special gift that we need to beg God to bring to seal the deal. The church in Corinth have every page in their Kingdom of God passport stamped already – and each was a free gift of grace through Christ.

He will also keep you firm to the end…” A promise of God to the saved. Not only is there no second blessing, but there is also no higher order of working hard to stay saved. Those called by God will be kept safe by God. That is why it is called grace. Be careful of who we might call ‘strong Christians’ since God has promised to keep all of his little ones safe.

…so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul said in Colossians 2:6-7 that we grow up in Christ be sticking with him. We are made righteous by Christ and we will be kept righteous by Christ on the last day. This is God’s promise. NB that it is called the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. A day when all will see him as Lord of all.

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” See how Paul is on point here? He has begun the letter describing the church of God in Corinth as sanctified, called to be holy, made holy by Jesus, given everything they need for salvation and sanctification and reminded that God will continue the work that he begun in them till the end. They have no reason to boast in themselves and every reason to give thanks and praise to God for his grace shown to them in Christ Jesus.

What did we learn?

See Verse 9!

Now what?

Topic A: Getting grace right. Christianity 101 is about the grace of God. Can you explain God’s grace with ease? What issues arise when you try to explain it? Discuss.

Topic B: Prayer as faith speaking. Although this passage is not about prayer at the heart, it shows the natural flow of Paul giving thanks to God for what he sees happening in the church. Prayer has been described as ‘talking to God’. But real prayer is much more than that because it flows out of a relationship and true knowledge of God. We pray the very things that God has promised to answer and out of thankfulness for everything we see that God is doing. Prayer is faith speaking. What we pray for is a reflection of our knowledge and trust in God.

Topic C: What is church? Discuss what we can say of church from this passage. Are we able to correct or train our thinking about church because of this passage? For example, church is not about rosters or watered grounds, or a 75 minute meeting once a week. What is church then?

Study 12 – Luke 19:28-48 (41-44)

The King Has Come

Context

Luke has not let us forget that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. Having fixed his eyes on that destination in Luke 9:51 we finally have arrived with Jesus. On his journey to this place he has taught about the nature of discipleship and the urgency to separate oneself from this world and commit to God’s kingdom now. But we have been told that on arrival into Jerusalem, Jesus will be arrested, handed over to the Romans, mocked and killed but three days later he will rise from the dead. Many, including his disciples, had thought that when Jesus arrived, he would usher in the kingdom of God right there and then.

Jesus is at the doorstep of Jerusalem and crowds have followed him. Among the crowds are the disciples who have left everything to follow him, others who have embraced Jesus as Lord, general onlookers who are enjoying the healings and teachings but have perhaps not yet jumped on board with Jesus. And then there are the Pharisees. We leave this whole series on Luke here with the anticipated arrival into Jerusalem.

Read Luke 19:28-48 (41-44)

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”t

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Observation

Structure

  • 28-31 Jesus sends an advance party
  • 32-40 Jesus’ reception
  • 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
  • 45-48 Jesus stirs the pot

 

28-31 Jesus sends an advance party

“Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives…” Bethphage is a village on the Mount of Olives near the road from Jericho to Jerusalem and near Bethany. So, Jesus stops here first before entering the city of Jerusalem itself. Bethany is about 3km from Jerusalem. This is where Mary, Martha and Lazarus live. Also the home of Simon the Lepar where Jesus’ was anointed with perfume (Mark 14:3-9). The Mount of Olives was frequented by Jesus (Luke 21:37; 22:39; see also Matt 24:3; 26:30).

“…you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.” Jesus’ instructions to the two disciples are quite precise, including his prediction of what they might be asked and how to answer. Either Jesus had arranged this colt with the owner on a previous visit or, he is the Sovereign God who knows stuff like this, just like he knew the name of Zacchaeus and that he’d be sitting in a figtree waiting for him. Jesus is deliberately fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. This is a donkey which the Messiah will enter Jerusalem on in victory. As we will see by the response of the people, Jesus is preparing Jerusalem to view Jesus as their King.

“…say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” As just mentioned, Jesus is priming everyone to notice what is happening as he enters. He doesn’t wish to sneak in quietly this time like times before. This entrance into Jerusalem is the one when he comes to be anointed as King.

32-40 Jesus’ reception

“As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” The two disciples that went ahead of Jesus with the message that “The Lord needs the colt” seems like enough info to get a welcoming crowd to respond with a makeshift red carpet welcome! This is a scene like a true kingly reception. Huge crowds had been attracted to Jesus’ teaching while he travelled toward Jerusalem, so word may have easily reached the city that Jesus was on his way.

“When he came to the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives…” At this point, the journey into Jerusalem becomes real. The road coming out from the Mount of Olives down into the Royal City of David pushes out from the trees to reveal the city in full view. I found a tourist website which contains images of a track down this mountain (important not to wear flip-flops on this road!). https://www.verywellfit.com/mount-of-olives-palm-sunday-and-holy-thursday-walk-4020347

“…the crowd whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God…” As Jerusalem bursts into view, the disciples in the crowd burst into cheer. It is the travelling company of Jesus who have been part of his background crew who stimulate the praise and worship session. It is an exciting moment as they arrive at the city. This is likely to be more than the 12 disciples but those in the crowd who are buzzing for Christ to arrive in Jerusalem.

“…for all the miracles they had seen…” Their witness is of all the amazing things they had seen Jesus do. What accompanied Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God was the affirmation from God through signs and wonders that the Messiah had come. They saw the blind see and the lame walk and they believed that this is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! See Psalm 118:26; Luke 13:35. Psalm 118 is a resounding song of national victory as all of Israel are called to praise the LORD for his victory.

“…Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Some Pharisees were unimpressed by apparent blasphemy and gave Jesus the opportunity to correct his disciples. IF, for some weird reason, Jesus had accidently chosen the wrong animal to ride into Jerusalem on and give the wrong impression, now was the time for Jesus to apologise and set the record straight with, “I am not the Messiah, sorry to steer you all wrong!” But instead, he says,

“…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” An exaggeration from Jesus to make the point that the disciples are only doing what the world and creation ought to be doing! They are exactly right for saying what they say and for getting excited. They are using the correct emotion for the occasion. Besides, the rocks were relieved that people had finally got something right! See Isaiah 55:12. It is no small moment for the promised King of Israel to finally arrive in the Holy City to claim His eternal throne. We should not overlook this moment as though it is a day like any other day. Jesus is on the move! His face was set on Jerusalem, to win victory for his people, and he is now arriving. The week that follows this arrival will be a week that changes the world.

41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” While the crowd of disciples were celebrating and praising God, Jesus was mourning. He not only knows what is laying ahead for him but he knows that Jerusalem has already been left desolate by God (Luke 13:35). Although the disciples are responding correctly with their joy, Jesus is also correct to be sorrowful for the city that He has been preaching to and shepherding for 1000 years since David took it from the Jebusites and shepherding its people for 1000 years longer when he called Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldeans and move to the promised land.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…” The Kingdom of God has been spoken of in secret all this time. Only after the cross and resurrection, did the converted apostles understand all that had been written about God, the Messiah and the people of Israel. The revelation began in Genesis 3:15 and has been sprinkled across the pages of the Old Testament. The people wanted the Messiah to come to bring peace but the way it would come was not expected by anybody.

“…but now it is hidden from your eyes.” In God’s sovereignty, the people who receive him with gladness today, will either flee or join in on the cries to crucify Jesus in less than a week’s time. They see a triumphant King riding into Jerusalem, but peace will come when that same King gives up his last breath on the cross.

“The days will come upon you when…they will not leave one stone on another…” Jesus must be referring to the destruction of the Temple which took place in 70AD. The Jews who were waiting for the Messiah and did not see him arrive on that day (did not recognise Him as the Messiah) but crucified the carpentar from Nazareth, will have their place of worship taken from them. It is on par with the exile of the people into Babylon. Many still wait for the Messiah to return and are buried on the Mount of Olives so that when he finally arrives, they will rise to life and march into the city. But, the Kingdom of God has already come and it has left the building! When Jesus rose from the dead he instructed his disciples to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. This Temple has no purpose for God any longer and it never will.

“…because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.” Once Christ has risen, his kingdom will expand to the ends of the world and many in Israel saw the Messiah but did not recognise him.

45-48 Jesus stirs the pot

“…Jesus entered the temple courts…every day he was teaching at the temple.” Jesus has come to his Temple and stands right in the heart of Yahweh worship to teach people. His ministry is not secretive and he is not preaching in upper rooms or small villages any longer.

“…he began to drive out those who were selling.” People had found a money making venture at the place of prayer and worship. Isaiah 56:7 describes the true purpose of the Temple. It was not an exclusive place but for all to come with welcomed sacrifices. Trading money for acceptable sacrifice had become a profitable trade. This robs the place of God of its true purpose.

“But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.” It is just too sad a state of affairs. All of the people listed were to be shepherds to Israel, leading them to repentance and true worship but instead, they want to put the Messiah to death. The betrayal of Jesus illustrates how damning our human race is and how loving God is to put up with us.

“Yet they could not find any way to do it, because the people hung on his words.” So ironic. If only they would hang on his every word too! Don’t you just wish the world would stop speaking for a day and listen to the word of God! This also helps us to see why they needed to find a secret way to arrest Jesus and put him on trial at a secret hour.

Meaning

When Jesus arranged for a donkey to be ridden into Jerusalem, he was making the statement that the Messiah has come. The crowd with him were praising God and giving testimony to the many great things they had seen Jesus do. Returning to the house of prayer every day, the Word of God was present in the Holy City, but rather than being embraced by the leaders, he is hated. Jerusalem will not see the King that is right in its midst. Jesus will bring peace despite Jerusalem’s blindness and hate. The city will be destroyed, but the Messiah will bring the victory of Yahweh and extend peace throughout the world.

 

Application

Topic A: Considering the Holy Land. Jerusalem was the place that God himself had allocated as the position of the Temple. The Temple was the place that God had allocated to meet with His people. The Mount of Olives was the place where Jesus was baptised (tradition holds in the Jordan just passed the Mount of Olives), where he raised Lazarus from the dead (in Bethany), where he arrived victoriously into Jerusalem, where he spent many nights sleeping and praying and where he prayed in anguish the night of his arrest. But the gospel has moved on from there. God dwells with man through the Holy Spirit and by his Word. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, he is there with them. Jerusalem and the surrounding places now serve as historic sites but they are no longer where Jesus has his throne now will it be for there will be a new Jerusalem and a new heaven and a new earth.

Topic B: Praising God with joy! Read through Psalm 118 and spend time rejoicing that God has won the victory over sin and death through Jesus. The day Jesus arrived into Jerusalem is remembered as Palm Sunday because of the other gospels which mention palms as well as cloaks. A joyful Sunday because Jesus actively pronounced himself as King that day and arrived to fulfill prophecy.

Topic C: Hanging off the words of Jesus. We will love Jesus and know Jesus, know God and love God, follow Him and obey Him when we listen to Him. A closed heart, closed ears and closed bible will bring a rebellious response to God. Come to the Lord and listen to him before it is too late.

Study 11 – Luke 18:31-19:27 (19:11-27)

The Time is Coming

Context

It was Peter, back in Chapter 9 who declared that Jesus is God’s Messiah. In that same chapter, Jesus forewarned his disciples on what to expect when they go to Jerusalem (9:22, 44). Jesus and his twelve disciples have been travelling toward Jerusalem for these past 9 chapters. A common theme in this travelling narrative has been about what kind of a person will choose to follow Jesus. Now, in Chapter 18 Verse 28, Peter declared that he and the disciples had left everything to follow him. He made this announcement because Jesus watched a rich man choose wealth ahead of the kingdom of God. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,” said Jesus, “than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

As Jesus and the twelve come close to Jerusalem, is there an example of what it looks like to follow Jesus when he calls?

Read

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

17 “ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”

Observation

I suggest reading the whole passage as a Growth Group to get the big picture and then focus in on either 18:31-43; 19:1-10; or 19:11-27.

Growth Group Leader Tip: think about how much context and info is needed to deliver to your group in order to let the group discuss your selected text for themselves. As leaders, we are trying to encourage group discussions and, when the discussions have landed well, praise the group and let them know that they have done a good job. What 20% material do you need to provide in the form of context, recapping and orientation and discussion guiding SO THAT your group speaks for 80% of the time?

Structure

 

  • 18:31-43 – What has been told will be seen and praised

 

      • 31-34 – The disciples do not see what Jesus is saying
      • 35-43 – A blind man shows everybody what he sees

 

  • 19:1-10 – A little story of big faith

 

    • 1-4  – Zacchaeus investigates Jesus
    • 5-7 – Jesus meets with Zacchaeus – a sinner
    • 8-10 – Zacchaeus accepted by God
  • 19:11-27 – A Mina story of big rewards
    • 11 – 15a – The parable begins in two stages
    • 15b-19 – The faithful servants
    • 20-23 – The bad servant
    • 24-27 – Rewards and punishments

 

18:31-43 – What has been told will be seen and praised

31-34 – The disciples do not see what Jesus is saying

“…everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” That there is a remarkable statement! The disciples are given notice that they are about to witness the fulfillment of generations of prophecies where God promises to come to Zion and redeem it! What parts of the bible is he referencing? Well, that’s like looking at a cup of tea and asking which part has the tea flavour in it!!! The most interesting and jaw dropping lesson that a Christian can do is to sit under a teacher of Biblical Theology (God’s Big Picture is an example of this teaching) and get a handle on how the entire bible speaks of Jesus. Sometimes, the prophecies are clear and obvious (2 Samuel 7) but often the lessons are part of a greater theme that travels across the whole bible. Three key features emerge when reading all of the prophets:

  1. The ultimate solution to the problem of sin and judgment in Israel and all the world is for God himself to come and do something about it! (Malachi 3:1)
  2. When God saves, it will be through the line of David. (2 Samuel 7)
  3. This king who is promised will be a suffering servant. (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53)

One thing is certain, when the prophets spoke the word of the LORD in the Old Testament, they were not simply telling Jews how to be Jewish! They were proclaiming the works of the LORD, the sinfulness of man, the coming judgment and need to repent, and the promise of a saviour greater than Moses, David and Elijah.

“He will be delivered over to the Gentiles…” Gentiles is synonymous with Nations. In the story of God’s salvation plan (the Old Testament), the nations represent the rest of the world that lives outside the boundaries of the promised land of Israel. They were not living in direct blessing as Israel was. When God was angry with Israel, the ultimate judgment was being exiled from Israel into all the nations. When Jesus gets handed over to the Gentiles (Pilate and the Romans), this is yet another strike of shame and judgment illustrated in the person of Jesus. When he dies on the cross, he is undergoing the shame and judgment that God would deal out on Israel.

“They will…kill him…he will rise again.” We’ve been saying that Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem and knew that this would mean his death. The accounts of Jesus present us with a man who knew the future and knew why he was walking directly into it. He also knew that what he was accomplashing was not just an example to others of laying down your life for love but that it was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets. We put our trust in Jesus as LORD for such a deep and well founded bunch of reasons. The more we know about this man, the more convinced we become of who he really is.

“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden…” Peculiar that although they were told bluntly with their own native language what was about to happen, with no obscure riddle or parable to veil it, and yet the meaning was hidden from them. Are we being told that they didn’t understand because of their own blindness or are we being told that even direct communication can be made muddy by the work of the Spirit? If the latter, then God may very well be protecting them and the mission of God while also laying out the plans for later revelation. Mark 9:32 gives the impression that they were confused by Jesus’ words and that they were too frightened to ask him about it. They later understood all too well what he meant (Acts 2:23).

As we leave this paragraph, notice that we are reminded that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and he knows that he must go to Jerusalem to conquer the grave but his disciples are blind to see all that he is talking about. The next story Luke gives us is of a blind man who saw more than all the crowds did.

35-43 – A blind man shows everybody what he sees

“As Jesus approached Jericho…” In the next story we will see that he arrives in Jericho where we meet Zacchaeus. Jericho was the famous location where the people of Israel first entered the promised land and defeated the city by marching around it and blowing their trumpets. I see no importance to the mention of this city other than to locate us about 27km outside of Jerusalem and on our way to see Zacchaeus.

“…a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.” Incredibly, the moments that Jesus heals blind people, are often paralleled with stories of the disciples or the Pharisees being blind even though they see.

“They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”” Well, it may not seem like much but this is a pointed moment in the story. See, the crowd refer to Jesus as the Jesus of Nazareth. This is no big deal at all. Of course, everyone knew that this Jesus was a teacher and healer but he is given only an earthly name. Jesus was a common name and so the Nazareth is added to be specific. We’ve just left the last paragraph telling us that Jesus is this ‘Son of Man’ and the fulfillment of the Old Testament! Notice how the blind man refers to him!

“Son of David, have mercy on me!” This blind man must have heard all the reports about Jesus and believed in his heart that this man is the promised descendant of David. This is a Messianic title (Luke 20:41). David was the king of Israel – God’s anointed king. His throne was promised to endure forever (2 Sam 7). The man does not name him Jesus of Nazareth as he was told, but Son of David. He cries out for the Messiah to stop and show him mercy and healing. The legend of Jesus as a healer was well known.

“Lord, I want to see.” When asked by Jesus what he wanted, he declared that he wanted to see. He did not doubt that Jesus was a healer. If Jesus willed, then he could be healed.

“…your faith has healed you.” Not the amount of faith but the object of his faith. This man believed who Jesus was and that Jesus could heal. We are told that if we believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he was raised from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). This man believed that Jesus was the son of David – the Christ – and that he could heal with his will.

“When all the people saw it…” Notice this theme of the crowd beginning to see who Jesus is rather than just the blind man receiving sight. As readers of Luke’s account, we can see who Jesus is, who sent him, what he has come to do, what he is about to do in the story, how people ought to respond and what Jesus has to offer: the Kingdom of God.

19:1-10 – A little story of big faith

1-4  – Zacchaeus investigates Jesus

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.” Luke mentions this town for a second time and yet tells us that Jesus is passing through. Obviously he is heading to Jerusalem – we get that! But his encounter with the blind man and now with a tax collector seem almost too wonderful to be acts of ‘passing through.’ We have learned that those who have eyes to see (and ears to hear) will see that Jesus is the Christ who has come to show mercy and conquer the grave. Now, we will see the story of how the kingdom of God is open to all sinners and what a sinner will do once they have ‘seen’ Jesus.

“A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus…” The blind man was not named but we know this little man’s name. He has gone down in history as a brilliant example of the response of a saved sinner. He will show us that God is not looking for good people but that once you are saved you will no longer regard the things of this world the same again.

“…he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” Jesus has spoken against rich as a hindrance to the kingdom of God (Luke 6:24; 8:1412:16ff; 16:19ff; 18:24-25). Zacchaeus was not just a tax collector but a chief tax collector, presumably having a network working below him. Tradition tells us that his position leant to dishonest gain but he is referred to as a sinner because of his workings with the Roman empire to collect taxes for them. When he is converted, he says IF I have cheated anybody. Not an argument for him being an innocent man but only as corrupt as he was expected to be in his occupation. We need to be able to see ourselves in this character without turning him into some Mafia thug.

“…he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see [Jesus]…” I’ve often wondered why the height of this man is important or even why climbing a tree was significant. It makes for a cute story and good children’s illustrations but what is Luke telling us this for? Although wealthy and powerful (money brings power), he was noticeably short. Not an impressive man. He was not a fast rolling Tom Selleck kind of guy or impressively awesome like King Saul was described. He was a nobody who had money. A sycamore tree was very common (1 Kings 10:27). Finally, and probably most importantly, Zacchaeus was keen to meet Jesus and went out of his way to get a look. He was beyond curious. When Jesus came near, Zacchaeus went to meet him.

5-7 – Jesus meets with Zacchaeus – a sinner

“…[Jesus] looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus…’” It seems like Jesus knew that this sinner was ready to become a Christian. Zacchaeus was curious and made a move but Jesus already knew him, calling him by name, and said, it’s time that we spoke. What an amazing picture of a Christian’s conversion moment. It’s not that we come to Jesus but that he comes to us. He sees us from afar. He knew Zac before he was even born. Ephesians 1:4.

“…the guest of a sinner.” Jesus did not come to save the righteous but sinners. How often we fall into the headspace of the people in this story though! We may get that God saves sinners and we are all sinners, but what about THAT guy?!! No, God shows no favouritism.

8-10 – Zacchaeus accepted by God

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord…” The ‘But’ in Verse 8 ties Zac’s response to the remarks of the people in Verse 7. Although they were poo-pooing what they were seeing, Zach says No way man! I’m changed and I’m for the Kingdom of God now!

“…half of my possessions to the poor…” Remember the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-15)? Zach has put money in its place! He is not selling everything but he has taken his account and shown generosity – radical generosity. Like, maybe instead of sitting on $1M, he will now live of $500K, or whatever. If he was a very wealthy man, then 50% of his wealth is probably still a good amount to live off – practical and still able to continue to do good in his position.

“…I will pay back four times the amount.” His repentance is certainly not half-hearted. What a turn-around for this guy! What a difference Jesus makes to people! We cannot serve both God and money.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…’” It is not his generosity that has saved him but this is the outworking of his faith. All of his hope is in Jesus now. His hopes and desires are for God and his Messiah. He is no longer to be called a sinner but a son of Abraham. His title and reputation in the sight of God has been changed.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” He is like the shepherd who travels to find his sheep. Our God is compassionate and abundant in mercy. We remember that Jesus also said that this Son of Man will arrive in Jerusalem to be handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked and killed and three days later rise again. Salvation will be via the cross but salvation will be personal too, like this intimate story of Jesus and a lost sinner. Zac was lost, but now he is found.

19:11-27 – A Mina story of big rewards

11 – 15a – The parable begins in two stages

“While they were listening…” I think it’s kinda cool to picture the teaching of Jesus happening in the presence of Zacchaeus, in his house, knowing that he is approved by Jesus because of his faith. This story is not a Zacc attack.

“…because…people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” Jesus is about to reach Jerusalem and many thought that, if Jesus is the Son of David, then this is the time for God to fulfill all prophecy and usher in the kingdom of God. A kingdom where the whole world will be in awe and come from the ends of the earth to see the Messiah ruling. Jesus is going to show them that the fulfillment will not happen so neatly.

“…A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.” As the parable continues, it seems clear that Jesus is the appointed king. But, to map the details too neatly onto Jesus becomes tricky. Parables are like an artist’s impression of something and is given to make a point. In history, Herod the Great travelled to Mark Antony to receive his kingship over the Jewish region. So, the hearers would understand this principles of this parable. Jesus, however, left which place to be appointed King? Which servants in the place that he left, did he leave a task to be good stewards? This parable is dealing with the time between Jesus first and second coming. Before His kingship is totally realised, he will leave his stewards to manage in his absence.

“But his subjects hate him…we don’t want this man to be our king.” Historically, Archelaus was appointed ethnarch, rather than king, of Judea, Samaria and Idumea because the Jews sent a delegation to Augustus protest his rule. This is true of Jesus’ kingship and will be a reality when he arrives in Jerusalem. Although he is destined to be the King, he will be rejected and mocked and sent to the cross to be killed – eliminated from kingship.

“He was made king, however, and returned home.” Jesus will not be stopped as king and his kingship is a reality now (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; Rev 3:21). His crowning moment was at the resurrection (Romans 4:1). His return is the second coming. Recall the parable of the shrewd manager who had to give an account of his management. This parable shares a similar tone. The emphasis, in this parable, however, is on the servant who failed to be faithful.

15b-19 – The faithful servants

“…he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money…” The ten minas that ten of his servants had received was about 4 months worth of wage. Not an amazing amount. On Jesus’ return, he first deals with the servants that he had given responsibility to manage while he was gone.

“Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” The first servant has doubled the kings property. His reward is to be given the command of ten cities. Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”

“Sire, your mina has earned five more.” The second servant increases the kings wealth by 50% of what he received and is rewarded with a proportion worthy of his stewardship. He is still congratulated. This reward is not a punishment but a proportional reward. Do we get different rewards in heaven (I hear people asking in Growth Groups)? What the rewards in heaven equate to is unclear and not important. We know that all Christians are promised to be co-heirs with Christ to share in His glory. What else could we want on top of that?! The language of rewards and great rewards is an earthly way of motivating us to persevere in the faith. In this life, Christians will seem to not gain much or any credit for their works. But they do not go unnoticed by God. We are not saved by grace in order to be slothful for the kingdom. God has saved us in order to mature fully in Christ. Be for the kingdom and be active for the kingdom. Whether we double what God has given or if we are small workers in the kingdom, we are sure that the God who graced us with salvation will continue to bless us in the age to come.

20-23 – The bad servant

“…here is your mina…I was afraid of you.” This poor servant has done nothing with the King’s riches. He will also be judged for his slothfulness due to his disengagement with the king’s work. He gives a pathetic excuse for doing nothing for the king.

“…you wicked servant!” It is true that a person is either for Jesus or they are against Him. Many who believe they are safe because they believe in God will be judged as wicked by Christ because they did not pursue Him, serve Him, love Him, or know Him.

“Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit…” Remember that a parable is a story in it’s own right – obeying it’s own storyline rules – that we don’t need to pair everything up with everything else – that is not a parable but allegory. Having said that, I wonder if a disciple of Christ who loves Jesus but doesn’t know how to grow the kingdom, is shy to speak with people, feels inadequate to evangelise, but invests in their church and in others who are gifted to expand the gospel – would that fit the scenario of the servant who at least put the mina in the bank?

24-27 – Rewards and punishments

“Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas…even what they have will be taken away.” He is no longer treated as a trusted servant at all but is treated like the wicked. Can Christians lose their salvation? A true Christian reveals their conversion by their response to serve. The false Christian – one who mimics the saved without actually having a renewed heart – will reveal their true colours too by what they do. Their fruit will prove their faith. The Holy Spirit encourages us to persevere through the word of God as we are encouraged with rewards and warned of consequences. Some may read this parable and declare that the last servant has not lost their salvation but is simply shamed in the kingdom. Well, I suspect that this is not the case but that this parable is given as a warning to us to invest in the kingdom of God and not to be lazy or wicked.

“But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king….kill them in front of me.” The kingdom of God will not be established when Jesus enters Jerusalem. At that point he will inaugurate his kingship and return to his throne to intercede for us. But when he returns, he will reward his faithful servants and remove all of his enemy. We live now in that time between the first and second coming – where Jesus Christ is King, and we are left to be faithful while we await his return.

Meaning

Jesus of Nazareth, born and lived 2000 years ago, is the appointed King of God’s kingdom as foretold by the prophets. He is the Son of David who has come in the first place to invite people into the kingdom of God. The first stage is to go to the cross. The true servants of God – his disciples – you and me – are given responsibility to manage what is his. The faithful will be rewarded while the wicked will be rebuked and excluded from the kingdom. We are to be like the blind man who, although he did not see Jesus, he knew who he was. We are to be like Zacchaeus who, although had worldly wealth, surrendered it all to Christ in joy because he was lost but now is found.

 

Application

Topic A: Calling Jesus LORD. The crowds were referring to Jesus as the man from Nazareth. But the blind man referred to him as the Messiah (Son of David) and Lord. Where are you with Jesus. He is still a strange figure of history, is he a character in the bible stories, or is he, in your mind, the Son of God, King of kings and LORD of Lords? When did you come to see that? In what ways do you acknowledge this in your life?

Topic B: The faith of Zacchaeus. This little man expressed his joy in becoming friends with Jesus by making radical reductions to his worldly wealth. He didn’t get rid of everything, which is a helpful bit of detail, but he was radically generous. I wonder how far we can stretch our generosity as a direct response to belonging to the kingdom of God?

Topic C: The work of a king’s servant. What is it that Jesus left his disciples to do while he was gone? Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 24:47-48 give the leaving commands of Jesus to his disciples. The teaching of the kingdom of God which is about Jesus being king, calling people to repent and enter the kingdom today and to testify across the globe that Jesus Christ is Lord. Well, where do you find yourself in that order? What is your plans for serving Christ with this call?