Sunday, May 31, 2009

Greatest in the Kingdom

Luke 9:46-50 (also Matthew 18 and Mark 9)

  • Pride is the original sin of men and angels

Who Is the Greatest?

46 Then a dispute [discussion] arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him,


[Matthew 18 says they asked Jesus who was the greatest, Mark 9 says Jesus asked them because he knew they had been arguing about it. Weave these 3 accounts together and it probably went something like this. On the road to Capernaum the disciples were reasoning or debating among themselves who (meaning which of them) would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus either hears or just knows what is going on and wants to use it as a teaching opportunity, so he asked them "what were you talking about on the road back there?". Well they are a little embarrassed by his question, because they were apparently reluctant to ask Jesus about it in the first place, probably for fear of looking petty or prideful. Finally they relent and say Master who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus saw a child in the house with them there in Capernaum, and uses the child as an object lesson.]


48 and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great."


[Children had no standing in Jewish society. If a child asked you question you would tell him to go ask his own father. We had something like this growing up, when we had holiday meals or family reunions there was an adult table and there was a kids table. And when you got to be a teenager you could not wait to get away from the little kids and be invited to the adult table. When you got to the adult table it meant you had standing, you had arrived and were invited into the adults conversation. Jesus pointed to this child and said you want to be great, them receive this child the way you would receive me. For the one who esteems himself they lowest will be the greatest.


James 4:6…God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)


Jesus said the ones who make of themselves the servant of children who have no social standing, they will be greatest in heaven. So those who serve with humility, the ones who are unable to reciprocate or repay you, that person is highly esteemed in heaven.]

Jesus Forbids Sectarianism

49 Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."
50 But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."

[When people serve the Lord with a pure heart they really don't need anyone's permission. The Church has spent too much time historically speaking, arguing with other denominations and fellowships, about things that had nothing to do with sound doctrine. And much of this flows from the creation of false hierarchies were you have folks Lording over serving Pastors instead of serving themselves.

As the apostles preached and established churches they would try to appoint a Bishop or pastor to continue the work before they moved on, and they would communicate with the Bishop of each church to keep them on track and help them with any problems that arose. As Christianity grew and the apostles died, the Bishops with the most standing among their peers were those who had been directly appointed by the Apostles. But for a while the Bishops were considered a fellowship of equals. It was only after Constantine, Emperor of Rome, made Christianity the official state religion, that the Bishops of the main political centers, began to assert control of the other Bishops and even added a rank beneath bishop, that of presbyter, and those were the true pastors. Later when Constantinople fell to the Turkish Ottoman Empire, then the Bishop of Rome claimed to head the entire or "catholic" church. This power grab, led to the separation of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and eventually to the protestant reformation, because those who studied the Bible were powerless to influence workings of their local church. Clearly Jesus fear that some of his servants would exert Lordship over one another was well founded.]

Luke 22:24-30

The Disciples Argue About Greatness

24 Now there was also a dispute [contention] among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.

[The dispute is actual strife, not just an academic discussion. Because this is right after the Lord's supper, some believe they were arguing about the seating order during the Lord's supper. If the Lord's had chosen apostles could fall to such petty prideful moments, how must more careful do we need to be, to protect ourselves from attitudes and opinions that lead to strife.]

25 And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.

[This was polar opposite of the way Jewish society worked. When you had a dinner party, the guest would arrive and the host would seat the guest according to their social standing. The most honored guest would be seated at the place of honor next to the host, then the next and the next until the table was filled. And the servants would serve them in the same order, and they very last ones to eat were the servants themselves.]

27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.

[I am often amazed at the patience Jesus showed in teaching his disciples. Even when flirting with pride, his rebuke is gentle and instructive.

John 13 records that about this same time, after supper, Jesus laid aside his clothes, wrapped himself in a towel and washed his disciples feet as an object lesson in humility. Then he said this:

13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Some churches still practice foot washing, just to remind themselves against self importance. ]

28 "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

[They were looking for earthly recognition (a better seat at the table) but Jesus promised them a place at his heavenly table, and a throne among the patriarchs. Our reward is not of this world, but to those who serve humble and willingly, the heavenly reward is sure.]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13 (also in Mark 4 and Luke 8)

The Parable of the Sower

 1 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"


[Jesus was teaching the people in parables, using familiar subjects to teach spiritual truth. The Greek root for parable is para-bolle, to cast beside, to create a similitude or a parallel comparison. Here the familiar element is farming. Everyone likes to eat, so all land owners would sow the ground with wheat or barley seed so they would have grain to make their bread. It is something that would be very common to his audience. Here are the elements of the parable: seed, sower, ground, sun, rocks, thorns, crop or harvest. Nice story, nobody had any idea what it meant.]

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

      ' Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
      And seeing you will see and not
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
      Their ears
are hard of hearing,
      And their eyes they have
      Lest they should see with
eyes and hear with
      Lest they should understand with
hearts and turn,
      So that I
heal them.'

[Jesus, why do you speak to these people in parables? He answers because they are not supposed to understand. And we say "what! I thought Jesus always wanted people to understand so they can be saved". To understand the answer you need to look at Isaiah 6:]

Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

      " Whom shall I send,
      And who will go for Us?"

Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
9 And He said, "Go, and tell this people:

      ' Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
      Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.'
       10 " Make the heart of this people dull,
      And their ears heavy,
      And shut their eyes;
      Lest they see with their eyes,
      And hear with their ears,
      And understand with their heart,
      And return and be healed."

11 Then I said, "Lord, how long?"

   And He answered:

      " Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant,
      The houses are without a man,
      The land is utterly desolate,
       12 The LORD has removed men far away,
      And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
But yet a tenth will be in it,
      And will return and be for consuming,
      As a terebinth tree or as an oak,
      Whose stump remains when it is cut down.
      So the holy seed shall be its stump."

[So Isaiah says ok God I'll be your preacher, and God says great here is what you will say and BTW – nobody will listen to you because they are under judgment, and their judgment is not yet complete. Then Isaiah said "How long Lord", and God says until there is only a remnant, just 10% of the people remain. This is when Israel was captive in Babylon as a judgment for Idolatry.]

Matthew 13: 16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

[Jesus said you are not the ones under judgment, you will see and hear and understand what I am teaching. And this understanding will be a blessing to you.]

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 "Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

[The temptation in looking at these examples, and what I started doing when I was studying, is trying to figure out which of these hearts are saved, and which are unsaved. The ground by the "wayside" is the only one of these where it gives us a clear answer as to their salvation. Luke 8:12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. Now if there are 4 examples why do you think only one of them is clearly pointed out as not saved? Simply put, the parable is not just about salvation but about being fruitful. Having the word of God grow in your life and bear fruit, and if not, why not. So when you read these don't ask "are they saved?", instead ask "what did they do with the word of God". The ground by the wayside did not take in the word of God, because the ground was compacted indicating a hard heart , and the birds snatched the seed away, meaning the devil causes the hard hearted to dismiss the word of God without even considering it. They hear but do not understand.]

20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

[The stony ground can look like the good ground to a farmer because there is a little bit of dirt on the top, but just underneath are rocks that make it impossible for a root to secure the plant. These are people with a superficial belief. I saw a lot of this growing up at youth rally's. Lots of kids, emotional invitation, everyone comes forward, "you don't want to go to hell, do you?". They repeat a prayer, someone tells them that they are saved, and they start out excited. Monday they all come to school with a new Gideon Bible in their pocket. By Wednesday they wonder why they are carrying that Bible around. By Friday some has mocked them and their new belief and then can't even remember the sermon that made them want to get saved in the first place. They go back to life the way it was, and wonder what really happened at that Church. They receive the Word but they do not keep it. ]

22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

[I see a lot of these people today. They want a better life, a better marriage, better family, better finances. And someone tells them if they will just get saved, everything will turn out better. God was never their goal, just the means to get what they really wanted. So they go to Church sometimes, and maybe they even pray before a meal, because that is what good people do, but all they have really done is add religion to an already crowded life. They still seek money and pleasure more than God, so the Word of God never bears fruit in their life. ]

23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

[The good ground are those who hear the word, receive it, keep it, cultivate it and watch it grow. Faith for them is not a catch-phrase on a bumper stick, but a way of life. The Word of God convicts their heart, leads them to repent, seek forgiveness, and receive eternal life. They hunger and thirst after righteousness, so they crave God's Word, to nourish their soul. And they eliminate those things in their life that compete with God for their affection, their attention, and their worship. So the Word of God bears fruit 30, 60, and 100 times more than they received. Some read this and think fruit is winning converts. But Jesus never sought converts, he wanted disciples.

Matthew 28: 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The Apostles were not selling Fire Insurance, they were teaching and preaching a new way of life. A restored relationship with God, to where we once again reflect the image of God, in which we were originally created. The Apostles did not even call their gospel Christianity, the called it "The Way" Jesus put it like this:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

In the Greek, way is hodos meaning journey, truth is aletheia meaning truth, and life is zoe meaning lifetime. So Jesus did not portray himself as a one-time-experience, that you forget about a week later, but rather the Journey of Truth for a Lifetime. Those who live this journey of truth, will bear fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. This is the parable of the sower, and one day each of us will stand to answer "What did you do with the Word of God?" Did you receive it, did you keep it, did you weed out anything that interferes with it, and when it bore fruit, did you turn yourself and become a sower of the Word?]


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Mount of Transfiguration

Also Mark 9 1-13, Luke 9 27-36, 2 Peter 1 16-18

Matthew 16 28 Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

[After Peter's confession, Jesus foretold his own death and resurrection then told them that some of them would see Jesus in his Kingdom before they die.]

Matthew 17

 1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;

[Peter, James and John are consistently seen as Jesus' inner circle, those he confides in the most. Here again he takes the 3 aside, leaving the other apostles. In Galatians chapter 2 these 3 are referred to by Paul as the "pillars" the support structure of the early Church.]

2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

[Jesus was transformed, the Greek word is metamorphoo, he changed before their eyes to assume his glorified form. This was Jesus as he will be in his kingdom, his face shining like the sun, and his clothes glowing white. Mark 9 says of his clothing "such that no launderer and earth can whiten them". In Matthew 13 Jesus said the righteous in heaven will shine like the sun. This was the vision of the glorified Lord. Luke 9 says this transformation occurred while Jesus was praying.]

3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

[How appropriate to have Moses and Elijah there to represent the Law and the Prophets which testify of Jesus. Revelation 11 also tells us that in the last days two witnesses emerge to prophecy against the world, and the signs they will do are similar to those of Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament. For that reason many believe those two witnesses will be the resurrected Moses and Elijah.]

4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

[What is the proper response to the glorified Lord, Worship? Peter offers to erect 3 tabernacles or shelters such as are used during the feast of tabernacles. But what Peter is describing would be too close to idolatry. Moses and Elijah were still men. We don't have shrines to the prophets, where we burn candles or incense. We are to worship God only. Luke 9 says Peter did not realize what he was saying ]

5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"

[Putting a stop to Peter impetuous response, the voice of the Father from the cloud directs them to listen to Jesus. God's presence is often accompanied by clouds as a symbol of his glory, I think also as a covering protecting men in their earthly bodies from experiencing the full glory of God, much like the veils of the temple. Notice also the Father's words match those spoken at Jesus' baptism. There is an important message for us here. Always let your worship be directed by the Word of God.

The modern form of idolatry is letting anything other than God be the most important thing in your life. Some people follow God because they think he will bless them with money, they worship money, not God. Some people come to church because they think it is good for their marriage or their family, they worship marriage and family. Now God may do all those things for us, but our focus, and our motivation should be The Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).]

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

[The voice of the Father from the cloud, not only puts an end to Peter's foolishness, but it struck them with fear. They fell on their faces, which is similar to others responses to the presence of God. Jesus calmed their fears, and restored their courage so that they lifted their heads. When they did the vision was gone and they saw only Jesus.]

9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."

[Again we see that Jesus does not want his glory be widespread knowledge, until after his death, and resurrection. So Peter James and John share this vision of the glorified Lord. Very soon they would see Jesus suffer. They would see him beaten, mocked, and shamed in every way imaginable, then they would watch him die. And after his ascension, they would endure hardships and suffer for the Gospel of Christ. But they would never forget his glory. Some 30 years later Peter wrote about the day. ]

2 Peter 1

16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17
For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;

[Peter says we saw his majesty, that day he received honor and glory, and we were there. Moreover the day will come when you will see it to. So let that vision seen by three encourage you, motivate you, let it bring you joy. You see when we look at the cross, we remember his suffering and shame, and it reminds us what we were saved from. But when we read about this vision, how heaven was opened and Jesus received glory and honor, it reminds us what we were saved to.

Seeing the glorified Lord reveals just how dramatic a change salvation really is, how we were adopted into the very family of the Holy living God.

1 John 3: 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Christ's glory teaches us what our destiny is like, how that we will one day be like him. Your future state was forever changed when God showed you grace, and you received his salvation, by faith. And since our future was changed by God, we should live changed lives in the present also.

Ephesians 2: 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God;  And the firmament shows His handiwork.. Romans 1:20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.


Saved from sin, saved to glory. If all creation works to declare the glory of God, how much more should we, who are heirs to the promise of eternal life.