Abrecht Curer - Praying Hands, 1508

Luke 18 – Coming Before God in Prayer

In chapter 18, Jesus begins with a parable of a Judge. He tells that there “was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” (v 2, NASB)  He also tells that there was a widow in the same city who repeatedly came to him asking for legal protection. The judge was initially resistant, but after several times he chose to give her what she wanted because she kept bothering him.  Jesus explains that the point of the parable is that if even a man like this judge would give a person what they asked for just to get rid of them, how much more with God, who is just and righteous, give people what they need when they ask. I think it is interesting that Jesus chooses to use a negative example to emphasize the goodness of God.

The next parable that Luke recounts, Jesus used to address people who believed that they were righteous. He tells the story of two men who went to the temple to pray. The first was a Pharisee, and the second was a tax collector. Jesus explains that the Pharisee prayed in such a way that seemed to emphasize how much better he was than others, specifically the tax collector. In other words, the image seems to imply that he is thankful that he does not need God to make him better.

The tax collector, on the other hand, prays in an entirely different fashion. He is unwilling to lift his face to God and was saying, “was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (v 13) Jesus explains that it is the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who is justified in his prayer because he came before God with humility.

In one of those abrupt transitions between accounts, Luke begins to tell about people bringing their children to him. He tells us that there were so many that the disciples started to discourage them and turn them away. Jesus promptly corrected this, telling them to allow the children to come. He says to “not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ (v 16) Jesus is telling them that these children are not a bother, but are an example of how we should be when we approach God. We enter the kingdom of God through the innocence of a child.

Continuing with the question of entering the kingdom of God, Luke gives the account of a rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven. Jesus tells the ruler that he knows what the commandments say. When the ruler says that he has kept all of these Jesus ups the ante by saying, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (v 22)

This, however, proves one step too many for the young ruler. He was very, very rich, and loved his possessions. To give things up, was too much of a challenge. Jesus sadly points out that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (v 25)  I think this is something we all see far too often in the world today, and sometimes in our own lives.  Our love for money can be overpowering. As a result, those around him asked who could be saved.  Jesus answers by pointing out that “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (v 27)

Peter’s response to this is to point out that they, the disciples, had given up everything to follow Jesus. His underlying question seems to be, what does this mean for us? Will we receive eternal life? Jesus’ response is that those who have given things up will receive much more “at this time and in the age to come.” (v 30)

Jesus then took them aside and told them that they were going to Jerusalem. He told them that there he would be handed over to the Romans to be beaten and put to death. But he also told them that he would rise again on the third day. But even though it was spelled out to them, they could not understand it. The meaning had been hidden from them.

Finally, Luke closes the chapter by telling of Jesus and his disciples traveling to Jericho. On the way, they were met by a blind man who asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus tells him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” (v 42)

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) We need to regularly and continually bring things to God in prayer. 2) We need to come before God with humility. 3) We need to come before God with the innocence of a child. 4) We need to come to God by letting go of the things of this world. And 5) we need to come before God with faith.

James Tissot - The Healing of Ten Lepers, 1889 - 96

Luke 17 – Preparing for the Kingdom of God

In chapter 17, Jesus continues his teaching by acknowledging that there are going to be stumbling blocks in life. But there is something worse than facing stumbling blocks. It is the one who causes the stumbling blocks. Jesus says, ” It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (v 2, NASB)

He then goes a step further telling his disciples that not only do they need to avoid causing stumbling, the need to watch out for each other. He tells them, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (v 4) What is more, it does not matter how much someone sins. If they ask for forgiveness over and over, we need to forgive them over and over.

The response of the apostle is the response of anyone honest. Living up to what Jesus is asking seems impossible. In light of this, they turn to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. Jesus tells them what we all need to understand. Faith is a powerful thing. Even with the smallest amount of faith, “like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (v 6)

Jesus next discusses doing what he had commanded us to do. He draws the comparison to a person with a servant. He says the master tells the servant what to do. When the servant does it, the master does not say thank you, because the servant has only done what he was commanded. In the same way, Jesus says “when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (v 10) It seems a little harsh, but it is the truth. We do not deserve any thanks for simply doing what we are supposed to do. We are to do it because it is right.

Luke then goes on to tell us about an event as Jesus was traveling between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, he was met by ten men who were suffering from leprosy. The men asked Jesus to heal them. He tells them to show themselves to the priest. As they were traveling, to see the priest, they discovered that they had been healed. One of the ten immediately returned to Jesus, thank him and praise him. Luke also points out that this one man was not even an Israelite; he was a Samaritan. This does not go unnoticed by Jesus, who says, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Vv 17 – 18) Jesus tells him that it is his faith that has made him well.

After this, Luke tells us that the Pharisees had been questioning Jesus about when the Kingdom of God was going to come. Jesus tells them that it is not coming with signs. He tells them that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (v 21)

As we come to the end of the chapter, Jesus now turns to his disciples to talk to them about the coming of the Kingdom. He tells them that the day is coming when you will not need to run after signs. He says, “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” (v 24) Jesus then points out that he must suffer and be rejected.

Jesus also tells them that when it comes, it will come as a surprise. Just as the people in Noah’s day, and the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, were eating and drinking up until the disaster hit, so too will people be surprised by the coming of the Kingdom. When it comes, there will be no time to turn around. He then gives several examples of two people together and one is taken away suddenly.

Luke finishes by telling us the Disciples’ response. “And answering, they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.’” (v 37) I have to admit, this is a little confusing, but I believe that Jesus is telling them of the disaster that will come in that day. The vultures are symbolic of death. That is what it will be like on that day.

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) we need to help others not to stumble and help restore those who do. 2) Faith, even in the smallest amount, can accomplish great things. And 3) The Kingdom of God will come quite unexpectedly.

James Tissot - The Bad Rich Man in Hell, 1886 - 94

Luke 16 – Using The Thing of This World For God’s Glory

As we start chapter 16, we find Jesus speaking with his disciples. He tells a parable of a business manager who has been accused of squandering the rich man’s possessions. As a result, the rich man tells the manager. The manager makes a decision to have each of the rich man’s debtors come in so that he can cut their debts. His reasoning is that if he does this for them, they will be willing to welcome him when he no longer has his job.  It turns out that the rich man is impressed by how shrewd the manager has proven to be. Jesus is using this as an example for his disciples. He says, “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.) (v 9, NASB)

Now honestly, this seems a little too self-serving to be something Christ is recommending for our behavior. But if we look closely at this, we see that Jesus’ point is not to be self-serving, but to be generous.  He is saying to be wise in the ways of the world because Christians often fail in this. This is what Jesus means when he says, “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” (v 8)  We should use the wealth of the world to make friends. It is through these relationships that we can impact people for eternity.

Jesus tells them that if they can be faithful in small things, such as worldly wealth, then they can be faithful in big things, such as heavenly wealth. He makes it clear that money is a necessary part of this world, but it can not be our focus and purpose. Instead, it a tool to be used for God’s purpose. Jesus tells them, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (v 13)

Jesus then speaks directly to the Pharisees, who had been listening and scoffing at his views of money. He tells them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (v 15)

Jesus then seems to take an odd change in direction with a statement that the law does not pass away and a discussion on divorce. How does this fit in with what came before? I think Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees. They are the ones who are supposed to be teaching and supporting the law. But they have instead put their selfish desires ahead of the Law, because as Luke has stated, “were lovers of money.” (v 14) He even gives a clear example of his point in the positions taken on allowing divorce for any reason.

In the second half of this chapter, Jesus presents a parable to explain what worldly wealth is meant to be used for. He tells of a rich man who lived in great splendor and contrasts him with a poor and sick man, named Lazarus, who laid at the gate. Jesus actually gets quite graphic in the description of the Lazarus. He says that he longed, “to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.” (v 21)

He tells that the poor man died and was taken to “Abraham’s Bosom” (v 22), which is a term to describe paradise in the afterlife. Similar to heaven, but not in the presence of God as the redemption Christ had not yet taken place on the cross. The rich man also died and was buried, but found himself in Hades, what we more commonly refer to as hell. The rich man then cried out in agony look for something as little as a drop of water on his tongue. It is to Abraham that he cries out, as Abraham is the father of Israel. Abraham replies, “Child, remember that during your life, you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.” (v 25) Abraham then points out that on top of this, there is a great chasm that separates them.

As we read this, we can begin to see this in the context of his earlier parable about using worldly wealth. The rich man had all the world could give, yet he kept it to himself. He did not use his wealth to help others, and Lazarus stood as a clear example of his selfishness. He did not, “make friends for (himself) by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fail(ed), (he was not received) into the eternal dwellings.” (v 9)

The rich man makes a new attempt to help others, though this time it is his own brothers. “He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’” (Vv 27 – 28) Abraham explains to him that this will not make a difference. “he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (V 31)

This ending stands as a foreshadowing of what is to come. I believe that he seems to be pointing out that even though they have all the information in front of them (the law and the prophets), the religious leaders are still missing the point. What is more, even though Christ himself will rise from the dead, many of them will still not be persuaded.

My takeaways from chapter 16 are: 1) We need to use what we have been given in this world to build relationships with people and to reach for Christ. 2) The word of God stands for eternity. And 3) all the law and the prophets point the way to God (in Christ).

Domenico Fetti - Parable of the Lost Drachma

Luke 15 – Rejoice, The Lost is Found

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. The candle for this day represents joy. In Chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables that emphasize the joy experienced by finding the lost. These parables come in response to the Pharisees’ grumblings that Jesus “receives sinners and eats with them.” (v 2, NASB)

In the first parable, Jesus draws on one of His most common themes, that of a shepherd and his sheep. The reason this is such common imagery is that Israel was soundly based in an agricultural society. Furthermore, the role of the shepherd goes beyond that level to religious significance, being used regularly throughout the Old Testament to describe God. Here Jesus asks a question that has an obvious answer for anyone in that culture. He asks, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (v 4) He then emphasizes that this is not just a good thing, but a reason for great celebration. Jesus explains his reason for the story when he says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Two things strike me about this parable. First, I have to question leaving the 99 sheep unattended. But as I think about, it seems the emphasis on it being the “open pasture” is the thing of which we take note. This, with the combination of them being identified with the righteous, would seem to indicate that they were safe in the open pasture. But this then takes us to the second question that strikes me when it describes these individuals as “righteous persons who need no repentance.” If I had no other knowledge of scripture, this would seem odd to me, but in light of Romans 3:10, “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one'” I really have to question this. My conclusion is that Jesus is using hyperbole, an extreme hypothetical situation, to make his point. He is not saying that there are people who do not need repentance but explaining how important it is to him to reach the lost.

He then presents a second parable to make his point, telling of a woman who lost one of her 10 silver coins. He says that she would “light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it.” (v 8) In modern terms, she would “tear the house apart looking for it.” Again, finding it leads to great rejoicing. And again, Jesus explains that his point is that “in the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (v 10) This carries an even great emphasis if we understand that the coin was 1) about a day’s wages, and 2) the ten coins may have been a dowry often worn as an ornamental headdress.

Jesus finally concludes his teaching on the subject of finding the lost with a parable most commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son. Here we find a rich man with two sons. The younger son decides that he has enough and asks his father to give him his share of the inheritance now. Now while most of us may laugh in our son’s face, and some may consider completely disowning him there for his greedy nature, this father does what to me is unexpected. He agrees and divides his belongings down the middle, giving half to the younger son, as he requested. I think that in this Jesus is emphasizing the point God does not force us to live his way. Instead, if we choose to walk away from God, he will let us. What comes next is no surprise, the young man moves away to live the “highlife” with his newfound wealth.

As we expect, the wealth eventually runs out, and of course, that means that his new “friends” disappear, leaving him destitute. To make things worse, a famine strikes the land. So to survive, he takes a job swilling the pigs. We should take note of the fact that pigs were, of course, considered unclean under Old Testament law, therefore emphasizing how far he had fallen. To make the final emphasis clear, he says that the young man was so hungry, he wanted to each what was being fed to the pigs.

After coming to his senses, the young man realizes that his father’s servants have more than he does. As a result, he decides to go back and ask his father to take him on as a servant.

Here is where things again change. As he approaches his father’s home, “his father saw him (at a distance) and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (v 20) The son tries to tell his father that his remorse, but he is ignored. Rather, his father “said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Vv 22 – 24) The point here is also clear. Just as God allows us to walk away, he is always waiting ready to embrace us when we return. 

This parable, however, does not end with the celebration, but rather with a response of the older brother.  Now I think it is important to remember that Jesus is speaking in response to the Scribes and Pharisees grumbling about his hanging out with sinners. Here we find the older son becoming angry as he learns of the celebration being given by his father, in honor of his brother. He goes to his father and says, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never]neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” (Vv 29 – 30) I think that it is very easy to fall into this category. When we feel that we have done everything right and yet we see those who have done everything wrong, “repent” and suddenly all is forgiven. For all the work we have done, we end out in the same boat as those who did everything wrong only to turn around. 

The father recognizes the frustration being faced by the older son and responds by reassuring him that his reward is sure. But he points out that this is still a reason for celebration. “He said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Vv 31 – 32)

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) A key part of the mission of Jesus was, and still is, to reach the lost. 2) God gives us the freedom to choose whether to follow him or not, And 3) we should not judge the past life of those who were lost, but rather, we should rejoice with Heaven when they are found.

Jules-Alexandre Grün - The End of Dinner, 1913

Luke 14 – Do What is Right Without Seeking Returns

In chapter 14 we begin with Jesus dining at the house of one of the Pharisees on the sabbath. While there he observes that one of the people is suffering from some sort of swelling. Jesus takes the opportunity to challenge the religious leaders with a question. He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (v 3, NASB) While the answer would seem obvious to us, we need to remember laws and rules that had been set up surrounding the sabbath, even including how far you could walk on the sabbath. So you know they are torn. Their understanding of the law would have them say know, but to say yes was to say that caring for a sick person was not important. So, they simply remained silent. Jesus seized the opportunity and pointed out that they would help their own sons or their oxen if the fell in a whole and while that would be “work” it would be the right thing to do. And again, they remained silent.

Jesus then tells a parable about a dinner party. He begins by telling people that when they arrive they should not seek the place of honor. It might not be for them and it would be humiliating to be asked to move “down” in front of everyone. Rather he tells them that they should seek the lowest place, then if they are asked to move it will be up and they will be honored. He concludes by saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v 11)

He continues the imagery of the dinner party by speaking of the host and saying not to invite friends, family, and wealthy neighbors. This seems an odd instruction from Jesus. Why should it matter about our relationship with those we invite. Jesus explains his reasoning by saying, “they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.” (v 12) His point is to do things without looking for reward or repayment. He says, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Vv 13 – 14)

Jesus continues his imagery of the dinner party with yet another parable. This time, the host has invited many people but when the time comes for the party, none of them will come. Instead, they all make excuses. The host becomes angry and has his servants “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” (v 21) When this does not fill the seats, he sends the servants even further out to do the same thing along the highways.  I believe the point of the parable is that those who do not respond to Christ call, will be shut out and instead, the call has been opened up to all who will respond.

For the final part of the chapter, we transition away from the dinner party image. Now Jesus says a peculiar thing. He says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (v 26) Is Jesus really saying that hating these people is necessary to follow him? I think what Jesus is using here an extreme to make his point. He is not saying to hate them, rather he is saying that if you truly follow him, then your relationships with others will seem like hate in comparison. This is not a new concept, it is an image that God himself used in the Old Testament when he says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Malachi 1:2 – 3)

He follows this immediately by saying, “ Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (v 27)  From here Jesus expounds upon needed to know the cost before beginning anything. And while we may not know the exact cost of following Christ, Jesus makes it very clear that it will be high, one way or another.

He concludes with the image of salt that has lost its saltiness. Salt is used for flavor and preservation and it represents the followers of Christ in the world. When we fail to count the cost, when we fail to take up our cross, and when we fail to make the needed sacrifices, we lose our saltiness in the world.

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) It is always lawful (right) to do good. 2) We are not to seek our own glory, but to take the humblest of positions. Let any honor we receive comes from God. 3) We do not do things, to be repaid but to serve those who are most needy. 4) God’s invitation is to all who will respond. 5) We are to love God totally and unconditionally, beyond any relationship we have on earth. 6) There will be a cost to following Christ. And 7) we are worthless if we are not willing to make sacrifices to serve God.

Luke 13 – The Kingdom of Heaven

Luke 13 picks up with Jesus, still in the same location as teaching. As he is teaching, some people in the crowd “reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” (v 1, NASB) Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly was not expecting such a discussion. Who are these people that Luke is talking about? Scripture does not say, but the assumption is that the readers in Luke’s day would have known exactly what he was talking about. Most likely, it is individuals who were killed while sacrificing.

Jesus’ response is not to address these individuals, but rather to address the thoughts behind their statement. We remember that Jesus had just given the people several warnings, including the unpardonable sin. It appears from Jesus’ response that their real question has to do with the sinfulness of these individuals. But Jesus quickly dismisses this when he says, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Vv 2 – 3) Jesus’ point is that we are sinful and separated from God. Those who perished in this terrible way are no worse than anyone else. The way to escape is through repentance.

To make his point, he tells a parable about the parable of a man who planted a fig tree. After a long time, no fruit had been produced, and the man ordered the tree cut down. The keeper of the vineyard asked him to wait and allow him some time to care for the tree and see if it revived. Jesus’ point is that we are no different. If we are to repent, then we need to change how we care for our souls.

Next, we find Jesus in the synagogue on the sabbath teaching.  While teaching, he noticed a woman who was bent over sick. Jesus calls her over and heals her. The healing angered the synagogue official. He argued that there were “six days in which work should be done.” (v 14) He insisted that the sabbath was not one of them, so those seeking healing should come back on a different day.

Jesus calls him on the carpet for his position. “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?: (Vv 15 – 16) His point is that it is always acceptable to do good.

Jesus then explains to them what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The first image is that of a mustard seed. The mustard seed is a tiny thing that can grow into a large tree big enough for birds to sit in. The second image is that the kingdom of God is like leaven placed in a loaf. It allows a tiny amount of dough to grow into a large loaf. So too, the kingdom of God grows as we follow him.

At a later time, “someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?'” (v. 23) He tells them that gate into the kingdom is narrow. He follows this up with a parable of a man who shuts the door for the evening only to have people outside ask to be let in. The man responds that he does not know them and will not let them in. His point is that not everyone will enter.

He follows this, however, by saying that those who enter the kingdom “will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” (v 29) Jesus, having just confirmed that not everyone will enter, now emphasizes that those who do enter will come from every corner of the earth.

The chapter concludes with the Pharisees telling Jesus to leave because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus first dismisses Herod but then acknowledges that he must proceed to Jerusalem. Jesus says that he wants nothing more than to gather Israel to him, but they will not respond. He finishes by looking forward to the day when they will cry out, “will come from east and west and from north and south and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) we are all sinful and separated from God, none any more than others. 2) Doing good is right always, no matter if it is the sabbath or not. And 3) while not everyone will enter the Kingdom of heaven, those who do will come from every corner of the earth.

Albert Bierstadt - The Coming Storm, 1869

Luke 12 – Warnings from Christ

In Luke chapter 12, we jump from Jesus, giving warnings to the Pharisees and scribes, to his warning his disciples of the dangers they face in their spiritual life. He tells them to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (v 1, NASB) What is this leaven? We know that leaven is the substance that makes dough rise, most typically yeast. In other words, it is that thing that causes the dough to change its very character. So too is the leaven of the Pharisees. It is those things that change the very character of the spiritual life. In this case, it carries the implication that these changes are negative. Jesus points out that even those small things that we keep to ourselves, those inner thoughts and opinions, those actions that we believe no one knows about, will become evident known. This is what leaven does. Even the smallest amount will become evident as the dough begins to rise. 

His next warning applies to our motivations. He says, “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Vv 4 – 5) We often feel motivated fear. It is normal, but there are those things we should be afraid of and those things we should not. Now, most people would tell us that someone who can kill you is someone to fear. But Jesus tells us that death is not the worst thing that can happen. I do not think that he is saying that we should invite death, but he is pointing out that anything involving this life is transient. What matters most is the state of our eternal souls. Jesus then reassures them that we need not fear. God cares what happens to the sparrows, which are sold for very little. If he remembers them, how much more will he remember us. As such, we need not fear.

Jesus’ next statement is “I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Vv 8 – 9) I think this is not as confusing a statement as it seems. We can ask, “Is he saying that God’s acceptance of us is conditional upon our profession of him?” This can lead us down a rabbit trail of debate. I think what Jesus is saying is that those who accept him and follow him will have a place in with him in eternity. Those who do not will not. 

Speaking of rabbit trail debates Jesus’ statement, “he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him” (v 10) Certainly can do this. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Are there really things we can not be forgiven for? While these are things to think about, the point is that if we are following Christ and confessing him before others, then we are most likely not guilty of such a sin. What is more, if we are walking in such a manner, then the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say as we profess him before others.

While Jesus is teaching, a man “said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.'” (v 13) Jesus’ reaction is straight forward.  He tells the man, it is not his job to settle such disputes. He says this because he realizes that it is not equity that is driving the man, but greed. So he tells that parable of a farmer who built new barns for his abundant crop. He believed he was set for life but did not realize his life would end that night. I think Jesus’ point is clearly that we need to keep temporal things form occupying our minds when our focus should be on eternity.

Jesus again returns to his disciples and tells them “I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Vv 23 – 24) Jesus emphasizes his point by speaking of the ravens who are fed without planting lilies that are clothed in beauty without spinning or sewing. If God does this, then how much more will he care for his people. 

Jesus sums up by telling his disciples to let go of their earthly possessions to build up treasure in heaven that will not fail. The reasoning Jesus gives is that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v 34) If our treasures are in this world, this is where our heart will be, but if our treasures are in heaven, our hearts will be there.

Here we find Jesus transitioning to a warning of the need to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. To make his point, he uses both the imagery of servants awaiting the return of their master and of a homeowner protecting his home from a thief. In each of these, the importance of being ready is connected with not knowing the exact time of the persons coming. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” (v 41) Jesus’ answer, while not direct, is telling. His parable is for those who will hear and are ready for his coming. Those who make wise decisions will be entrusted with their “master’s possessions,” that is to say, God will bless them.

As we come to the end of the chapter, Jesus’ warning grows darker. He starts with, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth.” (v 49) A fire he wishes had already begun but had to wait until his second “baptism,” that is, His crucifixion and resurrection. Like I said, this sounds very dark, and Jesus does not leave it at that. He goes on to say, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on, five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”” (Vv 51 – 53) Jesus does not specifically expand on this division here, but I see this division as that which occurs so often when people choose to follow Christ. In the west, it is not as evident, though it is growing. But when you look at many other places around the world, the division that is created, even within families, when someone chooses to follow Christ is evident.

Jesus’ final two points are that just as a person can judge the coming weather by looking at the sky, we should be able to see God’s truth through the evidence around us. And second, we should be wise enough to settle our disputes one on one, and avoid the repercussions of letting them grow.

My takeaways from this chapter are 1) We need to be careful of those things, big and small, harm our walk with Christ. 2) We need fear nothing as God cares for us. 3) We need to be wary of greed for things of this world, but rather desire heavenly things. 4) Christ may come at any time. And 5) following Christ can create wedges with those in our lives who do not.