Category Archives: Mission

Study 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:3

The Power of the Cross

Discussion Question

If you were given ten minutes to speak on any topic, what would you feel confident to speak about?

Background

Paul is able to write to the church in Corinth because they are all servants of the gospel together. Without the grace of God, there would be no church and there would be no authority of Paul to preach and teach. “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

After reminding the church of their foundation and unity in Christ, he appeals to them as a brother in Christ to stop creating clubs within the church. The importance in church is not the preacher or the denomination but the message of the cross of Christ – that is the power of God!

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:3

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”l

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”l

2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.

What did you see?

Structure

  • We look to God for wisdom, not ourselves (18-25)
  • We boast in the Lord, not ourselves (26-31)
  • We preach God, not ourselves (2:1-3)

We look to God for wisdom, not ourselves (18-25)

“…the message of the cross…” Surprisingly, the phrase ‘the cross’ is used rarely by Paul and only twice in 1 Corinthians (1:17-18). It refers obviously to the crucifiction of Jesus but Paul always treats it as a clear division between those for Christ and those against him. This is a watershed moment in history where the sins of mankind are taken care of justly and lovingly and is a watershed moment in the minds of humanity – you are either proclaim the cross of Christ or you reject it. See Galatians 5:11; 6:12-14; Ephesians 2:16; Philippians 3:18 and Colossians 1:20; 2:14-15 for how carefully Paul uses this statement.

…is foolishness to those who are perishing…” The message of the cross is central to the faith of Christianity. Anyone who claims to be Christian and yet rejects the clear teaching in scripture (see references above) that this is how God makes right with unrighteous people (those who are perishing) are not Christians at all. A mark of the perishing is to misunderstand the message of the cross or to disdain it.

…but to us who are being saved…” The tense of the word SAVING or BEING SAVED does not infer that we are not yet in Christ since we are, as 1 Corinthians 1:2 states, both holy and being made holy. But Paul describes us as those who have found the life-boat and are being taken back to our home.

…it is the power of God.” God’s power is summed up in the message of the cross. Romans 1:16-17 describe the message of the gospel as nothing to be ashamed of as this is God’s power on display! He is able to conquer sin, death and rebellion – turn death to life, dark to light and flesh to spirit! Paul puts the cross of Christ on a pedestal and says: look at it! Do you see the power of God and worship him? Or do you perceive stupidity and yawn? Answer that and you’ll know if you are saved or not.

For it is written…” Isaiah 29:14. See the verse in context (11-16). God shake his head at those who think they know a thing or two but don’t need to listen to God! They treat him like they are the boss and like they are the ones who decide who he is like! What nonsense. This is a perfect quote for Paul to use to say to the church: remember who made you and who saved you!

…wise person…teacher of the law…philosopher of this age…” Paul challenges the world to come up with a solution that beats God’s. The wise man is the one who instructs kings. The teacher of the law is the theologian. The philosophers are those who look at the world and deduce truth from it. Paul moves on to say that all have failed because all have concluded untruths about God.

…in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him…” God can sit back and watch the world write essays on how the world works and move further and further in their own minds away from the truth about God.

…through the foolishness…to save those who believe.” I think of the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 who was cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. But he was angry at first because the prophet did not declare him cured with a mighty and powerful conjuring of the power of God. Rather, he was instructed to simply wash in the dirty Jordan River several times. God’s power is to save us through the death of his Son. The world wants powerful miracles and clear visions from heaven and signs that the Spirit is working. We are saved because we believe that God is right and the cross is precious.

…Jews…Greeks…but we…” Greece was the influential culture in Paul’s day – that is, the culture inherited from Alexander the Great, now under Roman power, is a world of philiosophy and clever thinking. Greeks want logic and clear explanation. The Jews want signs like those received by Moses. Our present culture is a bit of both. We are like the Greek, wanting scientific proof. Yet we are like the Jew, wanting experience. And in Christ, both are satisfied at the cross! Although Paul’s point is that the foolishness of the cross is what we thrive on.

…but we preach Christ crucified.” A crucified man is guilty, shameful, disowned and dead. And this is what we preach. We don’t mix up this gospel with cleverness to win people over. To the Jew who demands signs and wonders, a dead Messiah is a stumbling block. This is not what God seemed to be promising. To the Greek who demands logic, a crucified Messiah who is claimed to have risen to life again is just fairytale nonsense and superstition. They want strength and 7 tips to a better life! But we preach Christ crucified.

…but…to those God has called…the wisdom of God.” When the cross makes sense, it just makes sense. It can be very frustrating to speak to someone and just know that they do not understand the power of the cross. They may have followed all of the steps and nodded as you described sin, penalty, substitution, grace and forgiveness. But they do not see the power of God in those words. It’s like the difference between someone who describes a sunset in terms of what caused it, when it happened and that it indicates the end of a day – compared with someone who sees the sunset! The cross of Christ is not simply a sign from God nor a logical lesson in forgiveness, it is the personal sacrifice God has made for my sins and for yours.

“...wiser than human wisdom…stronger than human strength.” No generation can step forward and declare that they have found God, found the cause of life, found the meaning of existance, found eternal life, found contentment in all circumstances, found the answer to pain and suffering, found peace in truth. Every human effort only ends in frustration and defeat sooner or later. Find a culture anywhere on earth ever that has worked out how to live in unity without violence, deception or corruption. Only God brings peace and can guarantee it for eternity. And it took the so-called son of a carpenter to be nailed to a cross to achieve it! Verse 25 must also be believed in order to be a Christian because it involves submission to God as God. Any attempt to match Him in wisdom or strength is an outright challenge to his deity.

We boast in the Lord, not ourselves (26-31)

“…when you were called.” The scriptures teach that those who believe the message of the cross have also been called by God. This is part of the doctrine of grace as well as the doctrine of assurance. Grace, because if we first moved toward God, then we would credit ourselves with the first righteous act. Assurance, because since it is by grace you have been saved, then it is a sure deal that you are saved. While it is the god of this age that blinds mankind from seeing the wisdom and power of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), it is God who calls us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9).

“…wise…influential…noble.” This may be a triplet paralelling the wise man, the teacher of the law and the philosopher. But it is another layer of Paul teaching that we are not to be praised for our friendship with God. When we look at the church, how many governors and PHD doctors and kings and CEOs etc do you see? Paul doesn’t mean that you can never see a CEO in church – of course not! But look around and tally all the influential people in the church and what do you get? God is not building his church through important people. And we should not pretend that this is what God is looking to build in his church. But the Corinthians had caught the vision that they needed great preachers and world-standard geniuses in their midst (1 Corinthians 1:12).

“…so that no one may boast before him…” Humility has always been part of the message of the gospel. The last will be first and the first last. God brings down the proud.

“…our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Another trilogy by Paul to match the wise, the influential, the noble and the wise, the teacher, the philosopher. We, in Christ are made righteous, holy and redeemed. Christ is the wisdom of God. All three of this statements can only be applied to us because of Christ – his death and resurrection. We must always stop ourselves if we credit any part of these to ourselves.

“…therefore…boast in the Lord.” Bible reading TIP: Paul’s writing style (as is common to his age) is to place an important sentence at the end of his arguments. This is not always the truth, but while we train our modern students to begin a paragraph with the point of the paragraph, Paul will often conclude his section with a statement of what he has been arguing for. Look out for it and see if you notice this as we read through this letter.

We preach God, not ourselves (2:1-3)

“… I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom…” It’s quite probable that Paul was not an excellent speaker. Of course, he had some great moments and he is described as persuading people as he talked (Acts 18:4) since this is the job of a teacher and preacher. But he also almost preached a boy to death (Acts 20:9)! Paul is saying that his tool of the trade is not so much being an excellent salesman but that the product he is promoting is just excellent. His product is the testimony about God. He is simply letting people know what God has revealed to the world already. God’s church is not built upon the excellence of great speakers – but on the power of the gospel.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It’s not that Paul doesn’t have other things to tell people – perhaps he could go on and on about how to make tents! But he has decided in his mind that his mission is to preach the gospel and so that is what he will do. Perhaps Paul has a particular view on politics or on who will be the next winner of Survivor Australia! But he forgets all of this and preaches Christ crucified. All Scripture is about Christ and the cross of Christ. Paul’s mission is clear.

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.” Does this match your impression of Paul? Don’t you imagine him as a confident, bold preacher who walks into town and says, “where’s the synagogue. Let me tell you what’s real about God! Repent and know Christ!” Boom! Then he stays a while before being driven out or convinced that the Spirit wants him elsewhere and off he goes – only heard of again when he sends a letter from prison saying, “I’m all chained up but that’s cool! No worries, God’s got this and I fully trust him!” Well, here is his confession in 1 Corinthians 2:3. When he arrives in town and finds some people to talk to, he opens his mouth because he has resolved to speak the truth about God but he is feeling weak, perhaps unworthy, perhaps ill-equipped, but nervous about how people will respond and what will happen next. Heaven forbid that we should presume that our preachers and heroes of the faith are any bolder than Paul? The gospel did not spread because Paul was a great man. It spread because God called Paul and he put one foot in front of the other. Because, against his natural instinct to flee, Paul stood and spoke. Many Christians say they are too shy or something else to go around talking about Jesus – they are no St Paul! Well, perhaps St Paul is not as St Paul as we imagine him to have been!

What did we learn?

People will not swarm to the church and to the gospel because it shines like the most powerful message in the world. This world will continue to respond with a face of pitty. But to those who hear the gospel and repent because they believe they are unworthy of God and yet through Christ they are made righteous, holy and redeemed – they will know that they are called by God and that the cross of Christ is amazing. Before we look for amazing charismatic, energetic, inspiring preachers, check that they are ministers resolved to preach Christ crucified.

Now what?

Topic A: If God is God, why do we put science or the human heart above Him? It seems that we only believe things that have either been proven by science or that our hearts long to be true. The gospel of God rejects both of these and simultaneously satisfies them. To those who do not wish to know God will use science and human experience to dispel the logic of salvation by grace. But to those whom God has called and saved, we find that the gospel satisfies science and completes our human heart! Scientifically, the resurrection is the only sound solution to the havoc caused after Jesus was crucified. Emotionally, the gospel reveals that we are broken apart from God. Why, though, does humanity insist on putting faith in God on hold until a) we see him or b) we feel him?

Topic B: How long does it take before you are found boasting in God? Discuss ways you have found to speak about God in your life? Listen to one another with encouragement to praise God more.

Topic C: Is fear and weakness reason to say nothing? Courageous people are not those who do amazing things but those who overcome their fears and weaknesses. It’s a sign of faith to testify of God’s goodness through Christ when we are personally convinced that this is the greatest news of all – especially in times when it is not easy to speak up.

Study 7 – Luke 13:22-14:24 (or 13:22-35)

The Heart of God

Context

Luke announced in Chapter 9 Verse 51 that Jesus had turned his face toward Jerusalem and he will remind us again in Chapter 13 Verse 22 and Chapter 17 Verse 11. Jerusalem is at the heart of the Jewish faith. It is the city which houses the Temple of the LORD. The people there were called by God to be special to him. As Abraham’s descendants, they were given the promises of God to be a blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12). They were given the city of Jerusalem as the true location to worship God. They were given the law of God which provides life and teaches them of the coming King. Jesus knows that as he approaches Jerusalem, his people will cry out for his execution. His own people will disown him.

He has talked about the kingdom of God which will not appear great at first but will blossom into greatness. He has welcomed his disciples to ask, seek and knock and the door of the kingdom will be opened. He has warned his listeners to be reconciled before it is too late. He rebuked the Pharisees and experts in the law for their hypocrisy and evil teaching. Jesus picks up a number of themes in this week’s reading as he answers the question, “are only a few people going to be saved?”

Read

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

14 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”

Observation

Structure

 

  • 13:22-30 – Many will be saved, but will it be you?
  • 13:31-35 – The heart of God and the will of man
  • 14:1-14 – Jesus describes the danger of feeling important

 

        • 14:1-4 – A scene of proud Pharisees eating and drinking with Jesus
        • 14:5-6 – Jesus rebukes their silence
        • 14:7-11 – Jesus rebukes their pride
        • 14:12-14 – Jesus describes the heart of God

 

  • 14:15-24 – The invitation to the kingdom has gone out and those who feel most important are not coming.

 

      • 14:15-16 – The great banquet invitation
      • 14:17-20 – The invitees make no effort to come
      • 14:21-24 – the banquet will be filled, but not everyone invited made the effort to get there.

The following reflects on the entire passage but for a focused discussion, Luke 13:22-35 is recommended. We will see that the teaching in that section is played out in the accounts of Luke 14:1-24

13:22-30 – Many will be saved, but will it be you?

“…teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.” See context section for the frequency of Luke mentioning where Jesus is heading. He taught along the way. This whole section of Luke 9-19 is revelation after revelation of the things that were on Jesus’ mind. As he teaches, we hear the words of the kingdom of God. The great prophet is making his way to the city of God, Jerusalem, and testifying to the nature of the kingdom and the great need to be a part of it.

“Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” We know that literally thousands of people were coming to hear Jesus speak. His following was huge. We also know that he wasn’t swayed by the crowds and new that they would all turn against him. His teaching has warned of being dressed and ready because the time of judgment will come. Lastly, we know that the Pharisees were blasted just prior to this for their evil whisperings and religion that kills the soul. So does Jesus expect many to be in the kingdom of God? Is it harder to get into the kingdom than once was thought? If those who are children of Abraham, keepers of the law of Moses and leaders in the church will be excluded, then who will be saved? But perhaps the question infers the opposite: will only the elite get into heaven!?! Either is possible, but Jesus takes up the question to teach us that it is important to make an effort to be a saved one!

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door…” This should raise questions for us. What effort is needed? What is this narrow door? Jesus has created a metaphor for being a saved one – it involves going through a door. We see that he carries this analogy on, so we’ll stay with it and see where it takes us.

“…many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Well, now we have more questions. It seems that not every effort will be successful. So, if we are to make every effort, it appears that some will try and fail. So where does that take us? Is the effort too much for everyone to succeed? Or are there those who try but do not do it the correct way? We want Jesus to keep talking to help us understand this. And he does…

“…you will stand outside knocking and pleading…” This brings back the memory of Jesus telling us to ask and seek and knock because the door will be opened. But now we are told that a time comes when the owner of the house will not get up any more. But why? What has changed?

“…I don’t know you…” Here is the sting. Four words that we never want to hear coming from the mouth of God! The time has come for the door to be closed to strangers. Our standing with God is on the basis of Him knowing us, not just on us knowing Him. Those who have been locked out have played with religion or considered themselves part of God’s family but they have done nothing toward knowing God in truth and being known by Him. How can we get to be known by God? We need a Mediator. We need to have responded to God’s invitations to come to Him and know Him through His Son.

“…or where you come from.” No family heritage will count you right with God. No membership of a denomination will make you right with God. No childhood memory of listening to stories of Jesus will make you right with God. No nationality. Only those who have pursued God in truth.

“We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” The Pharisees ate and drank with Jesus and Jesus taught in their streets. But their hearts were far away from God. They were hypocrites. God will say to them, go away, I don’t know you or where you come from. It is vitally important for us to know whether we are known by God or not. It sounds like something out of our control but have you turned to Christ to proclaim him as your Lord and Saviour? Imagine a party being held at your house and hundreds of people were there but only ten people talked to you and thanked you. The next day a person comes to your house and walks right in. They tell you that they were at the party and it was awesome but you turn to them and say, “who are you? I’ve never met you. I don’t know your name or anything about you.” They were one of the 90 people who cared very little about the owner of the house when they attended the party. Does that illustration fit with how Jesus will one day reject many who thought they were on the inside? Luke 14:1-24 illustrates exactly what Jesus is teaching us here.

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth…” These descriptions reappear elsewhere as illustrating the anguish of hell (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51). Other references to gnashing of teeth all describe the attitude of anger or threat.

“…and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” Jesus is affirming that the prophets of the Old Testament were of God and were in the right. But many of his hearers will not join them in the kingdom of God.

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast…” It must have been insulting to hear that many people will come to God from the ends of the earth while the Pharisees and many in the crowd of many thousands will not be welcomed. The kingdom of God is for those who hear the word of God and obey it! They hear the news of Jesus and follow him! The kingdom of God is not for the Jews but for the entire world to hear and respond to.

“…those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” The theme is of God rejecting the Jews and Pharisees and welcoming in Gentiles and sinners.

13:31-35 – The heart of God and the will of man

“…some Pharisees came to Jesus…Leave…Herod wants to kill you.” It’s nice that they are looking out for Jesus’ safety given that they are by and large trying to kill Jesus too. It is very likely that they are not concerned for Jesus’ life but they would just love for him to leave and disappear. A hiding Jesus is better for the Pharisees than a Jesus who has the audience of thousands of people.

“Go tell that fox…” Given that Jesus is in the middle of rebuking people just like the Pharisees, he could be using the phrase ‘fox’ for not only Herod but the Pharisees also for their cunning ways. Jesus doesn’t flinch at the warning of his death because he knows that’s his near future anyway. What he says next may well allude to that.

“…today and tomorrow, and on the third day…” This phrase seems to primarily mean something like, firstly, secondly and then finally. The third day has a sense of finally or lastly to it. We naturally hear the allusion to the resurrection but the hearers of Jesus would not have heard that. Jesus has a goal to get to. It is the cross, grave, resurrection and ascension. The kingdom of God is coming and the goal will be met in Jerusalem.

“…no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Jesus compares himself to the prophets. Jesus was indeed a prophet: a man of God who declared the word of God to the people. The word of God being the declaration of the kingdom of God. He doesn’t speak his own words but only what he has been told to speak (John 14:10). A prophet is not someone who knows the future. He is someone who speaks what God has directed him or her to speak. Jesus has described already how many of the prophets were killed fulfilling their call. Jesus too will die bringing the kingdom of God to fulfillment.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” Jesus appears to speak in silique – to nobody in particular or to the deaf city itself. His song mourns how often God had sent messengers and longed Himself to gather his people together but the people were always resistant to have Him.

“…you were not willing.” The heart of the gospel is all about the heart. It’s about the heart of God to love and embrace sinners. And it’s about the heart of sinners needing to be transformed to stop loving themselves and all kinds of evil, but to love God. The gospel is told to us and retold so that we will learn to understand and trust the love of God and so love him in return. God desires us to want him. The chief purpose of people is to glorify God and yet the chief desire of people is to glorify themselves. This desire must be changed within us. The Pharisees and the history of the people in Jerusalem were consistently against reform, repentance and returned love to the one who loved them first.

“…your house is left to you desolate.” Jesus speaks of Jerusalem compared to that house that was left empty and ready to be reoccupied by many demons (Luke 11:24-26). The house is desolate of God. His heart has been longing for them for thousands of years but they have failed to engage with Him in spirit and in truth.

“…you will not see me again until you say…” Jesus speaks a word of Prophecy since when he arrives in Jerusalem, the words he will hear from the people there is “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Luke 19:38; Psalm 118:26.

14:1-14 – Jesus describes the danger of feeling important

14:1-4 – A scene of proud Pharisees eating and drinking with Jesus

“…Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee…” Two things to note here: 1, Jesus is eating (and drinking) with the Pharisees which is exactly illustrating what Jesus has just completed testifying to. Just that he is eating there does not make the Pharisee known by God or welcome at the feast of the kingdom. 2, Luke says a prominent Pharisee. This will be the major theme for the rest of this section. It won’t be the great who will be welcomed into the kingdom but the least. It won’t be rich and influential people but poor and lame and unwanted people will be invited in and will accept the invitation. This is not a statement against riches or class systems, but about those who think highly of themselves and are not living like kingdom people.

“…abnormal swelling of his body.” This is hydrops or dropsy. It relates to the issues spoken of in Leviticus 15:1-12. It is not so much a disease as a symptom of something else. At the time of Jesus, it was regarded as a sign that you were suffering at the hand of God’s judgment on you. It is likely that this man was invited to such an event in order to trap Jesus. It is possible that he was not invited but just turned up as is common in the era  (Luke 7:37). More likely, though, that he was brought there to trap Jesus (Luke 11:54).

“…but they remained silent…” See also Verse 6. This account illustrates the very people that Jesus had in mind when they will one day come to the door of the kingdom and find it shut, being told that they are not known. They eat and drink with Jesus and Jesus is teaching in their street but they don’t know him and don’t understand what his kingdom is on about. They are silent because Jesus’ question about healing on the Sabbath is known to be unlawful and yet it clearly shouldn’t be! Their silence shows their default answer as ‘unlawful’.

14:5-6 – Jesus rebukes their silence

“And they had nothing so say.” See Verse 4. Jesus illustrates how absurd the wisdom of the Pharisee is, that they would help an ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath but would not allow a man to be healed. See Luke 13:15. Jesus’ question is not entirely rhetorical. They had a chance to defend themselves but they remain silent. If they were trying to trap Jesus by organising the sick man to be present, then this is their moment to condemn Jesus but his question leaves them silent.

14:7-11 – Jesus rebukes their pride

“…the guests picked the places of honour at the table…” Jesus’ parable in Verses 7 to 11 follow the theme of the Pharisees thinking they are important when in fact, they are not known by God. The dinner party that Jesus has been invited to is playing out the messages of Jesus’ teachings in Luke 13:22-30. They will get a rude shock on the day that Jesus comes to serve and they are told that they are not in the right seat, and that the crippled, the poor, the blind and the lame will be given their seats. The Pharisees presume too much of themselves. Sure, this is a good lesson on humility in life but the context tells us that Jesus has in mind their place at the banquet table in heaven. See Luke 20:46.

14:12-14 – Jesus describes the heart of God

“…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” These verses remind us that it is easy to love those who love us and it is easy to give when you know that you will give in return. But, the deeper lesson here is about the heart of God. He has sent his Son into the world to invite sinners who can pay nothing back to God. His invitation into the kingdom of heaven comes with no repayment plan or entry fee. The only thing God expects from his invitation is for those invited to feel privileged to come. The following parable illustrates those who are invited but do not respond with gratitude, rather, they have better things to do.

14:15-24 – The invitation to the kingdom has gone out and those who feel most important are not coming.

14:15-16 – The great banquet invitation

“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Isaiah 25:6 in its context gives the metaphor of the reward of the righteous forever is a banquet prepared by God. Jesus has been talking about the reward at the resurrection and a man bleats out a praise to Jesus.

“Jesus said, ‘a certain man was preparing a great banquet…’” Another parable begins and it’s about an invitation to a great banquet. The context is clearly about eternal life for the righteous. Even those present would need to be dimn to not see what Jesus is preaching. So, God is inviting many guests to His banquet. Remember the theme of this whole section of 13:22-14:24 – there will be many coming but who will they be?

14:17-20 – The invitees make no effort to come

“Come, for everything is now ready.” Everything about this banquet is done and the invitation has gone out with the date given as NOW.

“But they all alike began to make excuses…” We make excuses to be absent from something because there is another thing of greater value to us. We have made up our minds that there is something better to go to. The people in this parable who make excuses have all regarded their excuse as a greater priority and have declared the banquet invitation as not important enough for them.

“I have …bought a field….bought five oxen… just got married” Property, investments and estate have taken priority over an invitation of the “certain man”. They are not interested in his banquet but in their kingdoms.

14:21-24 – the banquet will be filled, but the original guests are no longer welcome.

“…the owner of the house became angry…” It is insulting to our God to reject his invitation. Why wouldn’t it be? We are created to be in unity with God and yet we habitually return to our own glories and loves in exclusion to Him. The banquet has been prepared by Him for the pleasure of the guests and they refuse His hospitality.

“…the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” It’s not hard to connect the dots of Jesus’ stories. Luke 13:28; 14:13. These are exactly the types of characters that the Pharisees would exclude from their banquets and would find excuses not to go to theirs! Revelation 19:9 says, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

“…compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” We see that God has no desire for an empty banquet table. His grace is generous and his love is wide. God desires for all to be saved but he will not permit those who do not want to enter. Revelation 7:9; 19:1; 19:6 describe the celebration in heaven as attended by a great multitude that nobody could count.

Meaning

Jesus has come to prepare for the great banquet. When he reaches his goal, the banquet will be ready and the invitations to come will go out. This is the spreading of the gospel which those stuck in pride and self-worth will reject but many from far and wide who do not deserve the invitation will hear and accept. The celebration in heaven will be filled with a crowd too large to count. It won’t include everybody though. Many who have heard the news of Jesus (teaching in their streets) and have pretended to care about him, will be rejected because they were more concerned with themselves than they were for the kingdom of God. Many will be at the banquet but will it be you?

Application

Topic A: Imagine the size of the kingdom of God. When we talk about God, we talk in unlimited sizes. He is eternal and infinite. The world is finite but the number of people who have existed since the beginning is large. But not infinite. There was a day when things were not and there will come a day when things will be no more. Only those who have committed their trust to the eternal God will be ready to enjoy a festive eternity. God’s invitation to be part of his kingdom does stretch far and wide and we should not imagine heaven to be a small church service.

Topic B: What effort is required to be known by God? Jesus said to make every effort to enter through the narrow door and he said that a time will come when people will want to enter but will be told they are unknown to God. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life – nobody comes to God except through Him. The crucial question is: do you want to be on the other side of the door or not? If so, then invest your life in getting to know and follow Jesus. Go to church regularly to hear the word of God and be encouraged by other believers. Read your bible for all its worth – not like it’s your push-bike that you used to ride around everywhere but now you have other interests – but like in that book are the words of eternal life, and every tool you need for a transformed life and mind. Try to understand the mind of God as if you are so glad to be invited by Him to His banquet.

Topic C: Matching the heart of God. Our God has viewed the crippled, blind and lame and has entered our world to save us. We are not the well-off, rich and unneedy. We are poor and mourning who are overwhelmed to be known by God. But do we see the world around us as in need of saving or do we see others as underneath us? Of course you will want to say the former but how do you live it? In practice, are you more inclined to see yourself more deserving of the kingdom than other people? Can we truly be on mission for God’s kingdom if we see others in this way? Pray for a heart like God’s.

Matthew 9:35-38

Praying for mission

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

Context

Our church has set aside the next fortnight to heighten our work on spreading the gospel and calling people to return to God through Christ. In this week’s study, we will look at a short account from Matthew on spreading the gospel which will hopefully lead to praying for the week ahead.

In this passage in Matthew, Jesus, who began to gather his disciples in chapter 4 and tell them to be fishers of men, has been drawing in many people through his teaching and healing. While the disciples have been following Jesus and learning by watching, they are about to be sent out on their own to fish for men (chapter 10 following).

Observation

“Jesus went…proclaiming the good news of the kingdom…” This first sentence is echoing Matthew 4:23. Jesus is doing what he did from the beginning of his ministry. While he healed diseases and sicknesses, Jesus proclaimed the good news. By proclaimed, he declared, taught, and announced publicly. The good news is literally the gospel and the gospel is the good news about the kingdom. This is, of course, God’s kingdom. In Matt 3:2 he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The first good news about the Kingdom is that it has come near and it is not too late to repent. This is the primary message of the good news – it is good that the Kingdom has come near. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as for those who are poor in spirit and who thirst and hunger for righteousness. The Kingdom of God is open to those who seek it!

“When he saw the crowds…” People were flocking to see Jesus. He not only had a message that they wanted but he had the ministry of healing. Note that this healing ministry, though not undesirable, is by and large limited to Jesus and his disciples (see 10:1).

“…harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Perhaps harassed and helpless is related to the physical needs but it is more likely related to their spiritual needs because of the sheep metaphore. They need leadership into the kingdom of heaven. They are being pushed this way and that with no direction. They need to be shown the way.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” This is no longer a metaphor of shepherding but of reaping a crop. In Jesus’ message he sees that it’s harvesting time. It’s not time to plant or wait but to bring in the fruit. There is work to be done and the shortage is in the workers department, not in the fruitful crop.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” God (the Lord) is the farmer here. His field. His crop. His work has come to the moment of harvesting. What he needs is labourers to go and reap. The prayer of Jesus is not for the lost souls. He has compassion on them. The prayer request is for workers to step up and collect what is waiting to be collected. Are there prayers in the bible that ask for people to be saved? Even if there are, aren’t there far more prayers directed to Christians to go, to minister, to be God’s ambassadors, to be bold and to raise up?

Meaning

Jesus has called the disciples and taught them about the kingdom of heaven. He has modelled to them what it is like to announce the good news that God’s kingdom is ready to receive people who repent and desire it. Jesus expresses the need for more workers to do what Jesus is doing. His desire is for us to pray for more workers.

Application

  • Pray for workers for the harvest. The week of mission is upon us and we need to pray for the following:
    • The clear announcement that Jesus is Lord.
    • The clear announcement that Jesus saves.
    • That our church community will want more people to join us.
    • That our church community will proactively and boldly speak to others about their trust in Jesus.
    • Thank God that we have good news to tell.
    • Thank God that this is his mission and that he is the Lord of the harvest who wants this work to prosper.
    • Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Thank God for one another and pray for one another for specific ideas and plans for mission.
    • Ask God to grow his kingdom through us.

Prayer of the Week

Father, please raise up more workers for the harvest and may we see fruit in your mission. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.