Judge Not Or You Too Will Be Judged

The most useful service of the United States Postal Service is the informed delivery daily digest. Or simply, it is an email with pictures of the mail coming to the mailbox today. And so, there is no more need to wonder, be anxious, concerned or surprised when it comes to the mail. Well, except on Tuesdays.

Last Tuesday, even knowing all that would be delivered, there was still a surprise. There was the junk mail – no surprise; there was a bill – no surprise; there was a notice from the insurance company – no surprise. The surprise was what was inside this larger, but not too large, envelope addressed clearly to a James Sperry and my corresponding home address. With some curiosity, I opened it and began to read. It went something like this: Many men in their 60’s struggle with hearing loss. We are here to help. Schedule your free consultation today. At 38 years old this would have been more encouraging if it was an offer to help with hair loss.

Luke 6:20-49 is Luke’s record of probably the best known teaching of Jesus – the Sermon on the Mount. In the middle of this sermon, the largest portion of this sermon, Jesus pauses to prevent hearing loss. “But I say to you who hear…” (Luke 6:27). Perhaps another way of saying it is, “Now pay attention. And keep paying attention.” Listen. You must really listen to this.

If we think of sermons as having a big idea and points to support or flesh out the big idea, then the middle of this sermon is point number two. What is the big idea of the whole sermon? Jesus is primarily addressing his disciples. There are other people there listening, a lot of other people there listening, but this sermon is for his disciples. Jesus’ aim is to show how his disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave in less than ideal or negative circumstances – in poverty; in hunger; in grief and sadness, even prolonged grief and sadness; in loneliness and persecution on account of being his disciple; and in love. Jesus’ disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave in less than ideal or negative circumstances in love.

How to Meet the Needs of Others

Sermons are to have a big idea and points that flesh out that big idea. The first point of this sermon was Luke 6:20-26. The third point of this sermon will be Luke 6:46-49. But the second point of this sermon is Luke 6:27-45 and it is the biggest point. This second point is about others. There are two perspectives of others.

The first perspective is Luke 6:27-36. This perspective is about meeting the needs of others or how to meet the needs of others. How do Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others? In love; Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others in love. Love is the predominant word in those ten verses, appearing six times. Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others in love, but loving those who are rather difficult to love; loving those who do not and will seemingly never love in return; loving when we do not want to love and when it seems really reasonable to not love. And what I love about this is how Jesus captures our ability to meet the needs of others in this way. Listen. It is Luke 6:35-36. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

What does this mean? Loving in this way, meeting the needs of others in this way, you will be what you are, a child of God. This is the great reward! The disciple John who heard this sermon and this point in person wrote these words: See what kind of love – this is the same word Jesus used six times in his sermon. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!” (1 John 3:1). How do we have the ability to meet the needs of others in this way? This is how God met my greatest need when I was really hard to love; when I was lost and without hope and an enemy. Christ died for me (cf. Romans 5:8). The affections of God for me are to affect my affections for others.

Judge Not Or You Too Will Be Judged

This is only part of this second point – how to meet the needs others. The other part of this second point is Luke 6:37-45 or how I relate to others. I want us to think upon a simple question. Who are these others?

Let’s notice how this part or part two of point two begins. “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Pause there. I think we would all agree that this is something probably very familiar – do not judge. Considering Luke 6:37-38, it has been said that these are some of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible. Today they serve as the Magna Carta of much of American religion. Some people do not know a single Bible verse – they might not even know there is an Old and New Testament. But let them know the slightest disapproval and the King James comes forth: judge not, and ye shall not be judged.

Do not judge. What does this mean? First, there is more to those three words. It is accompanied by a sure warning: or you too will be judged. Still, what does it mean? Well, there is more to those words. Just consider for a moment this command. It is written as an imperative, so it is to be obeyed. Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not judge.” The word judge is often a legal term. It means to bring to trial and give a determination of right and wrong. And it can be just a very general word meaning to distinguish, come to a choice by making a judgment. So, is this here a determination of right and wrong or coming to a choice by making a judgment?

We are to judge or determine between right and wrong. Matthew 18:10-20 is a tremendous example which Jesus himself gives to us. If a disciple is caught in sin or an allegation is made that a disciple has sinned and is refusing to admit or acknowledge such wrongdoing, then Jesus gives a patient process that the church is to follow to determine between right and wrong. In 1 Corinthians chapters four, five and six the Apostle Paul writes about judging. First, he tells Christians to not judge others (4:5), but then he tells Christians to judge others (5:12; 6:1-3). There must be a difference. So, what is the difference? Luke 6:37 is the difference. This verse is about coming to a choice by making a judgment or being judgmental. In other words, based upon your actions, I am going to make a choice about your motive without really knowing your motive. Or based upon your actions, I am going to make a choice about you. A guiding principle would be, especially in church relationships, always think the best of one another. And you will sleep better.

But still, there is more to these words than simply do not judge or you too will be judged. There is more because Jesus says more. Luke 6:37-38 is one long sentence or something said all in the same breath. In addition to not judge Jesus also says to not condemn, but also to forgive others, always ready to forgive others. So far, which is harder, to not judge others or to forgive others? What if the judging others is related to forgiving others? Who are we to forgive? This is to say, who are these others?

Forgiving others would be forgiving those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us. And who might we be too quick to judge? Could it also be those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us? There is one more command. Do not judge, do not condemn and forgive are each commands or demands Jesus makes of his disciples. The last demand is give. Who are we to give to, ready to supply, furnish, what is needed? It is those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us. And contextually, this is it!

What did Jesus talk about in the first part of this second point? Meeting the needs others. These others are described as your enemy; those who hate you; those who curse you; those who mistreat you. And Jesus said to love your enemy. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Does it seem reasonable that in the second part of this second point, how I am to relate to others, that Jesus still has these kinds of people in mind? Do not judge your enemy. Do not condemn those who hate you. Forgive those who curse you. Give to those who mistreat you. It seems that these four demands in Luke 6:37-38, correlate to the four demands in Luke 6:27-28.

Listen to the last part of Luke 6:38. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” The standards one applies to others God applies back. A sobering thought to say the least.

Can A Blind Man Lead a Blind Man?

In Luke 6:39-45, Jesus is still relating to this point of how his disciples are to relate to others. And he does so by asking a question. It is in the form of a parable or an illustration of the truth just spoken of in Luke 6:37-38. Can a blind man lead a blind man? Of course not, but what does that mean?

What Jesus says next is really interesting. He talks about a disciple and his teacher. As the teacher molds and shapes and informs the disciple, the disciple will become like the teacher. Meaning, why are there disciples who judge others, condemn others, are not forgiving and not very generous? Like teacher, like student. It just said to me that Bible teachers have a profound effect on Bible students or pastors have a profound effect on churches. There are churches like Luke 6:37-38 because there are pastors like Luke 6:37-38. And the root problem is Luke 6:41-42. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” In other words, why are you so quick to deal with the sins of others without first dealing with your own sin? Their sin is the size of a speck. Your sin is the largest beam which supports a building. Your own sin is the bigger issue! There are students like this because there are teachers like this. There are churches like this because there are pastors like this. It is about repentance – take care of your beam.

The Abundance of the Heart

And it is a heart issue. Jesus near the end of this big point addresses the hearts of his disciples. Something is always filling your heart. Disciples do not have empty hearts. Listen to Luke 6:45. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

How am I to relate to others? Humbly (Psalm 51:3). Prayerfully (James 5:16). Biblically (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Lovingly (John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13:6). Mercifully (Hosea 6:6; Luke 6:36). Privately (Matthew 18:15). Exemplarily (1 Corinthians 10:31). Gently (Galatians 6:1, 2). Patiently (Matthew 18:15-20). Hopefully.

What is filling my heart? This is the big question. Is it joy? Restore to me the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12)! Is it God Himself (John 14:23)? Is it the peace of Christ and the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16-17)? Jesus’ disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave out of what fills their heart.

Be Merciful, Even As Your Father Is Merciful

Why did Luke write Luke’s Gospel? It is because there are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over. And what must be done with these things which have happened? Preach. Preach these things. Since there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over and these things must be preached, then what is preaching?

The word itself, preach, was originally associated with politics, like campaign is associated with politics. Preaching was the function of a herald (a word for preacher) of the king. A king would send his herald to deliver his message to his people. So the herald would arrive in the town square of a city and cry out (a synonym for preach) the king’s message. And the herald would do so in a serious and formal and authoritative voice: Hear ye! Hear ye! – this was the introduction. And to ignore the herald’s message was in effect to ignore the king and the king’s authority. The herald had to handle the king’s message with care and clarity and accuracy. Imagine if the herald misspoke or misunderstood the king’s message, what then?

Listen to 2 Timothy 4:6. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” Notice the word for. This verse is the reason for the previous verses, but what does this sound like? Does it sound desperate, in a sense? Does it sound like time is short? These are the words of the Apostle Paul and for him time was short. His departure was his death. His days were numbered. And because his days were numbered he says 2 Timothy 4:1-5 to Timothy. Notice how it begins. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…” This wording seems serious, as if Paul has weighed carefully what he is about to say and will say to Timothy in the hearing of God himself. And what is the charge? Listen to verse two. “Preach.” And Paul then specifies what to preach. “Preach the word.” Preach the Bible and preach all of it. The importance of preaching rests in its content, not in its function. Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.[1] There are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over. These things must be preached. Preaching, then, preaching these things, is what keeps us from tottering over.

Fulfill Your Ministry for Their Ministry

Now, quickly, pay attention to what Paul says at the very end of verse five. “…fulfill your ministry.” This is just another way of saying, preach the Bible. These three words, fulfill your ministry, is something Paul demanded of just one other person. His name was Archippus (Colossians 4:17). And considering what Paul says here, it seems that Archippus was to preach the Bible. Do not give up preaching the Bible. However, notice the word ministry. We get the word deacon from this word. Ministry, or to deacon, means to serve, but to serve in such a way as to meet the needs of others. The ministry of a pastor is to meet the needs of others by preaching the Bible. But who are these others?

In another letter, the letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells a whole church not just an individual, what is to be expected of a pastor. He says there, too, that a pastor is to meet the needs of others by preaching the Bible. But who are these others? The pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12a). Equip is a meeting needs word! It means to mend, to repair, to renew or to re-supply. It is to mend, to repair, to renew or to re-supply the saints. The saints are the others! But catch this; the word equip was a fishing word. It was used of fishing vessels; to mend, to repair, to renew or to re-supply a fishing vessel. Is that not interesting? Do you know what a disciple is? It is a person who is a fisher of people, a gatherer of people (cf. Luke 5:10). But keep looking at Ephesians 4:12. A pastor is to meet the needs of the saints by preaching Bible. Why? So that the saints get mended, repaired, renewed, re-supplied to go do ministry. A pastor is to fulfill his ministry for your ministry. And guess what? This word ministry means to serve, but to serve in such a way as to meet the needs of others. When it comes to your ministry, who are these others?

A Preacher You Must Listen To

Luke 6:20-49 is a sermon and is probably the best known teaching of Jesus. And Luke 6:27-36 is a part of the middle portion of that sermon. So Jesus is preaching this sermon and is primarily addressing his disciples. There are others there, a great multitude of others from all over the place. But Jesus is primarily addressing his disciples (cf. Luke 6:20). Why is that? A preacher is to meet the needs of disciples by preaching the Bible so that the disciples get mended, repaired, renewed, re-supplied to meet the needs of others. And who are those others?

A disciple is someone who is learning from Jesus. A disciple, too, is someone who weighs everything in comparison to Jesus. A disciple, too, is someone who embraces those who are unwanted. A disciple, too, is someone who has abandoned the old life with its old ways for new life with Jesus and his ways. A disciple, too, is someone who delights in the finished work of God, the cross, and so then can delight in God. A disciple, too, is someone whose happiness remains large whether wealthy or not; healthy or not; weeping or not; friendless or not; looked down upon or not. And so Jesus is preaching this sermon to his disciples. I read this week that there are three kinds of preachers: those you can listen to; those you cannot listen to; and those you must listen to.[2] Listen to how the middle portion of this sermon begins. “But I say to you who hear” (Luke 6:27). Some translations have the word listen. It is actually a present active participle, meaning it is a verb with an -ing on the end. It is a listening that is happening right now. It is almost as if to say, “Now for those of you still listening, you must listen to this.”

Luke 6:27-36 is about meeting the needs of others. And it answers the question, who are these others? But it also answers how to meet the needs of others. Jesus gives eleven ways to meet the needs of others. And he gives them as commands: Love. Do good. Bless. Pray (and keep loving, keep doing good, keep blessing and keep praying no matter how it is received – see Luke 6:29). Give (and keep giving). Do as to others as you would have them do to you. Love (love is mentioned quite a bit in this portion; 6 times). Do Good. Give. Expect nothing in return. Be merciful.

But Who Are These Others?

So, it is pretty straight forward how to go about meeting the needs of others. But who are these others? Jesus has a very specific person in view. These others are your enemies. These others are those who hate you, really hate you. These others are those who curse you, meaning, these others wish or desire that really bad things happen to you. These others mistreat you. The natural response to meeting their needs is, “No. No way. This is impossible. I cannot do this. I will not do this. How could I even want to do this?” I think that is part of Jesus’ point. It is not natural to do this or to want to do this, to meet their needs. So, why must we do it? Are there any exceptions? The answer to that last question is, no.

I wondered, though, who is my enemy? I do not think I have an enemy. Facebook says that I have 264 friends and nothing about enemies. Who hates me? I do not think anyone hates me. I cannot think of a reason that anyone would hate me. Who curses me, besides the maniacs on the highway? I do not think there is anyone who wishes really bad things to happen to me. Who is mistreating me? I do not feel mistreated. Oh, I forgot to mention, each of these verbs are present active participles, meaning these are actions happening to you right now. So who are these others? Let’s just ask one simple question. Who is my enemy?

Here is the key. See the word but at the beginning of this middle portion. “But I say to you who are listening…” It is a connecting word and why Jesus is addressing those still listening, that they must listen. This word but connects to what he just said, or something he just said which is Luke 6:22. Who is my enemy? Who would hate me? Who would curse me? Who would mistreat me? It is all on account of Jesus. Your happiness remains large (blessed) even “when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man.” Then in this middle portion Jesus turns it around and demands, meet their needs.

Who are these enemies? Listen to Romans 5:8-10. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” And listen to Philippians 3:18-19. “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Who are these enemies? Yes, these enemies are sinners. Yes, these enemies are unbelievers. Yes, these enemies are the lost. But I was once this enemy.

Be Merciful, Even as Your Father is Merciful

Look at that first demand because it explains it all. Love your enemies. The word love does not mean romantic love or plain old love like loving pizza. It is not even friendship love. The Bible kind of goes out of the way to not define this love. It is the Greek word agapé. But we do define it. We define it as a deliberate love, a love by choice. “I will love this person because, by God’s grace, I choose to love this person.” We define it, too, as a sacrificial love. And these definitions are good and correct, but the Bible, again, really does not go out of its way to define it for us. Instead, the Bible says this: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1a). It is a love to see or a love that is shown. Listen to 1 John 4:9. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” It is a visible love. And it is a visible love that is only known by looking at God at the cross. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And happening at the cross, Jesus was loving those who put him there. He died not so much because of them, but for them and in their place.

And so, at this point when Jesus first said these words, love your enemies, it must have been so difficult to understand or comprehend. But it is the gospel. The cross makes it clearer. This is what was done for me. And it is a love that has been given to me. How?

Notice what Jesus says in Luke 6:35. In loving like this, doing good like this, giving like this and expecting nothing in return, “you will be sons of the Most High.” In other words, you will be what you are (1 John 3:1). And this is your reward. How often have you heard that you look, sound, act like just like your dad or mom? Or, “that is something your dad or mom would say or do.” Well, that is this! Loving and doing good and giving and expecting nothing in return is what our Father does! The reward is two-fold. Meeting the needs of others in this way is showing who I am, who I belong to. God is my Father. But the other part of the reward is that this is how he saved me. While I was still a sinner, an enemy, God loved me and gave his Son for me.

It is saying to disciples how much we need the gospel. It is because the gospel reveals the affection of God. And my affection for others drives me to meet their needs because of God’s affection for me which was his motive to meet my need – the affection of the Father for me affects my affections for others. And my Father is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Jonah knew this and it is why he did not want to go to Nineveh (Jonah 4:2). He knew that God’s love and loving like this would meet the needs of his enemies. And so, Jesus ends with this last command. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

[1] H. B. Charles, Jr., On Preaching, page 16.

[2] H. B. Charles, Jr. On Preaching, page 10

He Turned His Eyes Upon His Disciples

These are the days, oh, these are days…you’ll remember. These are also words of a song by the band 10,000 Maniacs. It was a song which topped the music charts, coincidentally, nearly 10,000 days ago.

In these days, oh, these are three simple words…to remember. These are also words written by a man named Luke. These three simple words top what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus for nearly 730,000 days. The teaching has been called The Sermon on the Mount.

What is the Sermon on the Mount?

The Sermon on the Mount is recorded for us in two books of the Bible – the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. In Matthew, the sermon fills three whole chapters (Matthew 5; 6 and 7) and can be read in about ten, maybe fifteen minutes. In Luke, the sermon fills just the remainder of a chapter (Luke 6) and can be read in a couple of minutes. In Matthew, the sermon consists of 107 verses. In Luke, the sermon consists of just 30 verses. The point is not so much that the sermon in Luke is shorter. The point is that the sermon in Luke is the same sermon as in Matthew, only different. How is the same sermon in Luke different?

The sermon in Luke is introduced by those three simple words – in these days (Luke 6:12). And in these days Jesus “went out to the mountain.” Pay close attention as to why Jesus went to the mountain. It was “to pray.” Now, what are these days? These are days that must be seen through the lens of the preceding verse, Luke 6:11. “But they,” let’s pause there. They are the Bible teachers and the Bible experts of these days. “But they were filled with fury” – fury means no mind or angry to the point of losing the capacity to think. “And discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” These are the days. And in these days, what did Jesus do? He went to the mountain to pray.

In these days, Jesus did not pray for himself. Instead, he prayed and continued to pray all night for his disciples. On the eve of the cross and before he was arrested and before he was betrayed and before he went to the garden, what did Jesus do? He prayed and he did not pray for himself. Instead, he prayed for his disciples (John 17). Now listen to Hebrews 7:25. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost [at all times or completely] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” What is Jesus doing right now for his disciples? Part of the application from Luke 6:12-16 is the necessity in these days to be praying for one another; praying that we might comprehend together the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ; and that our love for others would abound and keep abounding some more; and that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus our Lord and Savior, even in these days (Ephesians 3:18-19; Philippians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18).

But look again at Luke 6:12-13. And just mark this down – Jesus prayed for his disciples. And in that statement too, it is in Luke 6:13; highlight those two words “his disciples.” These two words appear here and again in Luke 6:17 and then again for a third time in Luke 6:20. So, three times in this portion of Luke, the best known teaching of Jesus, are these two words – his disciples.

So, the sermon in Luke is different in that Luke takes time to first emphasize these days. A reason may be that the words of this sermon are especially significant or needed for days like these days. But there is one glaring difference between this sermon in Luke and this sermon in Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke include right at the beginning something called the Beatitudes. Just to clarify, these Beatitudes are not attitudes to be; this is not why they are called the Beatitudes. The word beatitude does not even appear in the sermon. But it does mean to make happy and is similar to the word bonus. It is like a bonus of happiness. In Matthew, there are nine beatitudes. But in Luke there are four beatitudes. Why does Luke only include four beatitudes? It is because Luke also includes four woes (Luke 6:24-26).

And He Came Down With Them

Jesus went to the mountain to pray and to pray for his disciples. He then called for his disciples and selected from among them twelve men that he would send out on mission. These are called the twelve apostles – Peter, Andrew, James and John; Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew; James who was the son of Alphaeus; Simon who was a true patriot; Judas whose dad’s name was James; and Judas Iscariot.

Now notice Luke 6:17. “And he came down with them.” Who are them? It would seem that these are the newly chosen twelve apostles. He came down with them and stood on a level place. This is significant, but we will see why in a little bit. Then notice what Luke does and I think it is to distinguish the them. Luke draws our attention to a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people. Why does Luke do this? There are three groups of people, each different in size. There are the twelve apostles (them); then a larger group – the great crowd of his disciples and then a much larger group – the great multitude of people.

Notice the great multitude. These are people from “all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.” I think this is so exciting. Mentioning Tyre and Sidon is an indication that the renown of Jesus is not contained within all Judea and Jerusalem. It is spreading. The good news of Jesus is spreading beyond borders. This is expressed in one of our Bible readings from this week. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (cf. Psalm 67:1-4a).

And these are people who have come to hear him – do not miss this – and to be healed of their diseases. But really notice the last part of verse eighteen. “And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.” The word troubled (vexed or tormented) is a word that is found one other time in the New Testament. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). The word troubled is the picture of a raging mob. And the affect of such trouble is upon the heart and mind of an individual (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-19). Here it is demonic possession and/or influence which is the cause of such trouble. So what is the affect of such possession and influence? It is upon the heart and mind of an individual.

What does Luke say about those who were troubled by these unclean spirits? They were cured. The word cured, it is healed in some translations, is just so unexpected. What though was cured? It was the heart and mind. I love this word. It is the Greek word therapeuó. What word do you see? It is the word therapy. Listen to this word. It means willing service and refers to a faithful attendant who voluntarily serves another, like a friend serving in a tender, noble way (cf. Hebrews 3:5). Jesus tended to, served like a faithful friend, those who were troubled by unclean spirits. This is how he cured them.

This is such an amazing scene! What did it sound like? There must have been clamor, clamor of joy and tears. What did it look like? Were families embracing? Were the lame now leaping? Were people breaking out into praise of God? Lives were being fully restored. Most importantly, what was the mood? I want us to all agree that the mood was happy. This place was filled with happiness.

And He Lifted His Eyes Upon His Disciples

Listen to Luke 6:20. “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples.” It is during this whole scene with the great multitude of people. Jesus then turned his attention to the great crowd of his disciples. Jesus had been standing, but now he was sitting. Matthew tells us that he was sitting (Matthew 5:1). A teacher would sit to teach. As soon as he did, the place grew silent. Remember the great multitude did not come just to be healed, but also to hear him. But notice Jesus has his attention on his disciples, meaning what he has to say is primarily addressed to his disciples. But the great multitude is listening. He does not turn his back on them. Why is that important?

The same power that restored lives is the same power that will be experienced in this Spirit-anointed, authoritative teaching. Yes, it is for his disciples but it can awaken unbelievers to the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus gives his disciples four beatitudes and four woes. The word blessed correlates with the word woe, that is, whatever blessed means, woe is the opposite. And each beatitude correlates with each woe. And by the way, the woes sound pretty good.

The word blessed is an adjective, actually. And often we think of this word as simply meaning happy. I learned this week, though, that it does not mean happy. Happy is way too small of a word. Blessed means to make your happiness large. And here it is used as a statement of fact. Disciples, your happiness is large!

What is a disciple? In Luke, this word first appears in Luke 5:30, part of a chapter called “Jesus Calls His First Disciples.” And I think from there until now, Luke is helping us understand what a disciple is. A disciple is a learner, one who is learning from Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). A disciple has left everything and is following Jesus, meaning, everything is weighed by this question: When it comes to Jesus, what is everything to me? (cf. Philippians 3:7-16). A disciple loves the unlovely, the seemingly unlovable and the unloved. Those who are unwanted know the loving embrace of his disciple. A disciple, too, has abandoned the old life for new life with and in Jesus Christ. And a disciple then is one whose happiness is made large. How is it made large?

Some disciples are poor, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples are hungry, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples weep, maybe for long seasons of life, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples are friendless and ridiculed and marginalized, but their happiness is made large (Luke 6:20-23). So, what does it have to do with the woes?

The word woe (ouai) itself sounds bad. A woe is an expression of grief; a denunciation. These woes or expressions of grief are about pursuing wealth and health and joy and friends and acceptance, to enlarge happiness (Luke 6:24-26). Some disciples are rich and are healthy and never really weep and have friends and are accepted. But take it all way and their happiness remains large. What is the difference?

Blessed is a synonym for faith. And what is faith? It is simply looking to Jesus. Hebrews 11 is the famous faith chapter. It describes those who had wealth and health and joy and friends. Some though had it all taken away (Hebrews 11:32-38). But in all things, no matter the circumstance, these looked toward and longed for something better. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). And their testimony ends with these words: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2). But how do we do that?

Sometimes you must fight for it. There are days, perhaps these days, that just bring you down. But in all the days, sing together. Read God’s Word together. Recite God’s Word together and to one another. Hear God’s Word taught together. Pray together. It is called worship. And there we are reminded, our happiness is large.

In These Days Jesus Prayed

Happy days. Sunday, Monday, happy days. Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days. Thursday, Friday, happy days. Saturday, what a day, rockin’ all week with you. Or at least that was true for Mr. and Mrs. C; Richie; Potsie; Ralph Malph and of course, the Fonz. But what about these days?

What one word best describes these days in which we are living? What is the first word, right now, that comes to mind when you think about these days? Empty. Exciting. Titanic. Hectic. Challenging. Depraved. Unrespectable. Perilous. Uncertain. Scary. Divided. Ungodly. Unsettled. Faithless. Evil. Declining. Baffling. Dangerous. Anticipation. Heartbreaking. Ridiculous! Outrageous! Sad. Unbelievable. How about this word? Opportune.

If these are the days, then what now?

What Are These Days?

Listen. Listen to the first few words of Luke 6:12-16. In these days… Some translations may read in those days or one of those days or at this time or during those days. Regardless, mark those words.

Luke 6:12-16 is just five verses, but these five verses serve as a kind of introduction to the remainder of Luke 6. And the remainder of Luke 6 is basically a sermon, best known as The Sermon on the Mount. Now it is more familiar with the Gospel of Matthew, but it is also much longer in the Gospel of Matthew. Instead of being the remainder of a chapter, it is three whole chapters (Matthew 5 through Matthew 7). But there is a reason that Luke includes it here as the remainder of a chapter. And the reason being is that this sermon is a response to, or better yet, a response for these days. A big question in the first few words of Luke 6:12-16 is, what are these days?

These days are anything but ordinary. This is felt in the original Greek construction of this verse. Listen to how this is translated, word-for-word, from the Greek text. “It came to pass then in the days those.” The word days has a definite article (the), meaning that this is a definite or particular period of time. And Luke then adds the word those as if to say, “It came to pass in the days, yes, those days.” And it is why we are asking a rather big question. What are these days?

The previous passage, Luke 6:1-11, focused on a day that was anything but ordinary. It was the seventh day or Sabbath. We know it as Saturday. Luke 6:1-11 consists of two parts. On a Sabbath is part one (Luke 6:1-5). On another Sabbath is part two (Luke 6:6-11). And throughout these two parts, Luke is really intent on bringing the Sabbath to our attention. The word itself is mentioned six times. In the Old Testament, it was God’s will that the Sabbath be remembered and treasured (cf. Exodus 20:8). It was a day that he set apart, having its own purpose that was different than the other six days. It was even a day, the only day, that he blessed. And blessings are always good.

The basis for the Sabbath is Genesis 2:1-3. The context is creation which in those three verses it is called work (think on what it means that creation would be called work). On the seventh day, it was a Saturday, God rested. Why did God rest? It was because God finished his work. The work was done. We discovered that this word rest, the Hebrew word sabbath, means to stop or to cease, but means so much more. It means to celebrate. The heart of Sabbath is to celebrate that God finished his work. The work was done. Isaiah 58:13 tells us that if we call Sabbath a delight, if we find it a delight that God finished his work; the work was done, then we will delight in God. And it just gets better. It gets better because the fullness of sabbath is realized in Jesus Christ. It was on a Friday. Soon, in just a few hours, Sabbath would begin. But Jesus had something to say. He was nailed to a cross. He was ugly and disfigured. He was bearing my sin and suffering the penalty for my sin. And with this he cried, “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30). Then Sabbath would begin.

So, Sabbath is a big issue in the previous passage. Jesus is satisfying hunger on the Sabbath. Jesus is restoring lives on the Sabbath, the day to celebrate that God finished his work. The work was done. And it ends with these words. “But they were filled with fury [literally, lost their minds] and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” They are the Bible teachers and the Bible experts of these days. So, then comes verse twelve. “In these days…” What are these days? How might we in one word describe these days? This is the context for what is about to happen in this introduction. If these are the days, then what now?

In These Days, Jesus Prayed

In these days, Jesus went to the mountain. And he went to the mountain to pray. Now pay close attention to the rest of verse twelve. “And all night he continued in prayer to God.” Often Jesus would get alone to pray to his Father. In Luke 5:16 there is this general statement. “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” So, this is not unusual. But this is unusual. This is the only record of Jesus praying all night long; in fact it is the only record in the New Testament of anyone praying all night long. The words “all night he continued” express persevering energy. He prayed until day came. So, if the sun set at around 8 or 9:00 p.m. and he kept praying until the sun came up over the horizon maybe at 6:15 a.m., this means that Jesus prayed and continued praying for nine to ten hours! Why?

Did Jesus pray a really long prayer because it is the long prayers that really matter? I once heard a man say that if you pray a five minute prayer, you will get a five minute answer. It has been said that Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers, never prayed for longer than five minutes. But he was always praying. Jesus warned against lengthy prayers. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7). This was one of his points in his sermon on the mount. I think there are two parts to his warning. Do not pray lengthy prayers thinking that it is the length that gets God’s attention, but also do not pray empty phrases. What does that mean? Prayers are measured by their strength and not their length. Still, what does that mean?

I think it will help to also ask this question, why did Jesus pray so long? In other words, the length of the prayer says something about the prayer. It is not that long prayers really matter. It is that what is prayed really matters to the person praying! Something really mattered – it was not empty – to Jesus to the point that he prayed about it and all night continued to pray about it. So, what was it?!

It is in the context of these days. But I do not think he was praying about these days. He may have prayed about these days a little bit, but the prayer was not about these days. He was praying because of these days.

In These Days, Jesus Prayed for People

In these days, Jesus prayed for people. Do not miss the gravity of this! This is the only record of Jesus praying all night long and to think that he prayed all night for people! How do we know, though, that Jesus could have been praying for people? When the day came he called his disciples. The word called means to call to one’s self. And then from these disciples he chose; pause there. The word chose means a heart-felt choice. There is so much intimacy that follows this all night prayer session. And so he chose from the disciples twelve men. He would name them apostles or ones sent out on mission.

After Jesus prayed he did not go to bed, but instead immediately called for his disciples which had to be at least thirteen people. This is an indication of what consumed his praying. He was praying for these people. But then the majority of these five verses are all about twelve of these people – Peter, Andrew, James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Simon who was a true patriot; a man named Judas and another man named Judas who would become the traitor.

Jesus prayed seeking God’s will in the choosing of twelve men. Think about these twelve men. Peter is famous. Without a doubt we all know Thomas. And Judas Iscariot is infamous. But the other nine men are…nobodies. Well, there is John. He wrote the Gospel of John. He also wrote 1 John and 2 John and 3 John and Revelation. But the other eight men are…nobodies. Jesus prayed to know and understand God’s will that he might do God’s will. Could it then be that Jesus spent the rest of the night praying for each of these twelve men individually and specifically?

These were common, ordinary and uneducated men (Acts 4:13). You could not pick them out of a crowd because they looked like the crowd. The fact that they number twelve is interesting. There are twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament. There are twelve apostles in the New Testament. And both are part of this story called the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ which causes great joy for all kinds of people. What is there about these twelve ordinary, common, uneducated men? God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources (Oswald Chambers). Listen to the impact of these ordinary lives: These men who have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). And it began in these days when Jesus prayed.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is “calling on God to come through on his promise.” It is something rooted all the way back in the book of Genesis. People calling on God to come through on his promise (cf. Genesis 4:26 and Genesis 3:15).

What do you make of Jesus praying all night, most likely for these disciples? A disciple is someone you teach, someone who learns from you. My job is to teach. And I love it. It is hard. Preparing to teach is hard, but teaching is fun. And it is not that I love to teach, though. I have found that the secret, that is not the right word. It is not a secret. It is the difference. I have found that the difference in Bible teaching or the Bible teaching that makes the difference is when the teacher, the pastor, loves those he teaches. It takes some pastors a long time to learn this difference (or after a long time they forget this difference). Again, what do you make of Jesus praying all night, most likely for these disciples? Thursday morning my response, in prayer, was “O Lord, make me a praying man, a praying pastor!”

Jesus was a praying pastor (pastor means shepherd). And he prayed for those he was teaching, those who were learning from him. So, in these days, these empty, exciting, titanic, hectic, challenging, depraved, unrespectable, perilous, uncertain, scary, divided, ungodly, unsettled, faithless, evil, declining, baffling, dangerous, full of anticipation, heartbreaking, ridiculous, outrageous, sad, unbelievable, and opportune days we need pastors who pray for us. Is that not just the wisdom of God? In these days, pray! And pray for disciples, pray for the disciples, pray for your church members. Pastors must pray like this! How, though?

1. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).

2. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:17-18).

3. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11).

Oh, pastor pray!

The Son of Man and a Withered Hand

James Holzhauer made a promise to his grandmother that he would appear on a game show called Jeopardy someday. Well, he has appeared on a game show called Jeopardy…for twenty-two consecutive days. He will soon appear for a twenty-third day after the annual teachers tournament (and we will see how much these teachers really know).

James has answered 759 of 786 clues correctly. He has answered 49 of 53 Daily Double clues correctly. He has answered 21 of 22 Final Jeopardy clues correctly. In twenty-two days, he holds eleven of the top eleven single game winning totals. He set the highest single game winning total on April 17 – $131,127. In twenty-two days, Jeopardy has paid him more per game than its host Alex Trebek. In twenty-two days, James has won a grand total of $1,691,008. And it could have been more if he only answered correctly the four hundred dollar clue on Thursday.

It was not that he answered incorrectly, but that he did not attempt to answer (neither though did the two challengers). The category was called “Of Biblical Proportions.” Listen to the clue: A day’s journey was around twenty miles, while the journey named for this day was less than a mile. And listen to the correct question: What is the Sabbath? And that is not just the correct question, but it is a good question.

Luke 6:1-11 has two parts. On a Sabbath is the first part (vv. 1-5). On another Sabbath is the second part (vv. 6-11). Each part asks a question. Part one asks, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (6:2). And part two asks, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” (6:9). Throughout these two parts, Luke seems intent on bringing something to our attention. It is there in verse one; it is there in verse two; and it is there again in verse five. It is there in verse six; it is there in verse seven; and it is there again in verse nine. It is there throughout these two parts six times. What is it? It is the Sabbath. And we may need to be asking not just the correct question, but a good question. What is the Sabbath?

What is the Sabbath?

It is a word. It is a word that first appears in Genesis 2:1-2. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” It is the word rested. But there is so much that surrounds this word! What is really being emphasized in these two verses?

The first verse I memorized was in pre-school at Shoaff Park Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I was sitting “criss-cross, applesauce” on a carpet square. The sun was shining through a window to the left. In my hands was a round piece of orange construction paper. And written in black marker were these words: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And on the first day, it was a Sunday, God worked. On the second day, it was a Monday, God worked. On the third day, it was a Tuesday, God worked. On the fourth day, it was a Wednesday, God worked. On the fifth day, it was a Thursday, God worked. On the sixth day, it was a Friday, God worked. On the seventh day, it was a Saturday, God rested. And why did God rest? It was because God finished his work. The work was done.

The word rest is this word sabbath (or shabath pronounced shaw-bath). But notice something from Genesis 2:3. “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested [there is that word again] from all his work that he had done in creation.” Notice that God made this seventh day, Saturday, holy. Meaning, he set it apart. It was a day that was different from the other six days. It was different or holy in its purpose. But notice, too, that God blessed this seventh day. What does that mean? Blessing is good, right? Why, though, did God bless and set apart this particular day? It was because he rested. Rest does mean to stop or to cease, but there is so much more. It means to celebrate. Can you imagine this?! God celebrated on the seventh day! And why? It was because God finished his work. The work was done!

And So Remember the Sabbath

It is quite a while before this word, sabbath, appears again. It first appeared in the first book of the Bible, but does not appear again until the second book of the Bible. In the context of time, this was a lot of time! In Exodus 5:5, Pharaoh is responding to a particular request made by Moses. “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” Maybe we should remember this verse – rest from burdens.

But then comes Exodus 20. This is after God has rescued the Israelites from Egypt, redeeming them with his outstretched arm (cf. Exodus 6:6). God has a plan and purpose for them, but there is something he wants them to do. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). And holy means set apart and different; set apart and different in its purpose. He then reminds them that there are six days to work – Sunday through Friday. There are six days to do your work, your business, but there is one day that is for God. What is the reason for it? Listen to Exodus 20:11. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” He connects this back to Genesis 2:1-3. Rest because God rested. Celebrate because God celebrated. And why did God celebrate? It was because God finished his work. The work was done! There is something about our work that is to say that God has finished his work. The work is done. And so we celebrate!

How was the Sabbath to be treated? Listen to Isaiah 58:13. “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure [business] on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure [business], or talking idly.” How was the Sabbath to be treated? If you call the Sabbath a delight… And listen to Isaiah 58:14. “then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” How was the Sabbath to be treated? If you call the Sabbath a delight then you shall take delight in the Lord. If I call the finished work of God a delight; if I call it a delight that his work his done, then I will take delight in the Lord. The work is finished that I may take delight in Him.

The Son of Man and a Withered Hand

On a Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were walking (Luke 6:1-5). And as they were walking, the road all of a sudden turned into a grainfield (which was not uncommon). The men were talking and the heads of the grain would brush their hands. So naturally, they each began to pull on the grain. The kernels would pull gently off. The men, not even really paying any attention, began to roll the kernels in their hands. The wind took the chaff away leaving just the grain, now a delightful snack (just like sunflower seeds). So each man began to eat. Then appear the Pharisees – where did they come from? Remember, the Pharisees are the Bible experts. “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

The Pharisees had given much study as to what it means to not work on the Sabbath. The rubbing the chaff off the grain was considered work! Traveling further than 3,000 feet from home was work. Carrying anything that weighed more than a dried fig was work. But you could carry half a fig two times on the Sabbath. Eating anything more than the size of an olive was work. If you ate an olive and hated it and spit it out, you could not replace it with a good olive. Why? That was work. So, Jesus answered them asking if they have ever read the Bible. And of course they have! He refers them to 1 Samuel 21:1-6. It was when David was given food to eat, bread, actually. It was bread that was offered to the Lord and bread then that only the priests could eat. Why did David and his men eat this bread? It was because they were hungry. Why was that okay? When Matthew records for us this scene he includes another passage Jesus referred to these Bible experts. He reminds them of Hosea 6:6. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” What is the point?

Jesus ends it with this declaration. “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” It was something that Jesus had said earlier to this group regarding forgiveness (cf. Luke 5:24). “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” The Son of Man is a title from Daniel 7:13. The Son of Man has been given dominion and glory and a kingdom. And Jesus is saying that he is that Son of Man, he is the Messiah. And so when Jesus makes these statements, he is letting the Bible experts know that he is here, the Messiah is here. And he is in charge of Saturday. He is in charge of the Sabbath. He is in charge of rest.

Then comes another Sabbath. This time Jesus is teaching in a synagogue. A man with a wasted and useless and withered hand is there. But so are those Pharisees. Each are sitting in the front row, eager as can be. I kind of think that the man with the withered hand is there close by, perhaps sitting with them. Maybe the Pharisees saw him and invited him to sit with all the important people.

Jesus is teaching and the Pharisees are watching (6:7). The word watched means to watch up close and personal. These men are sitting in the first row with binoculars watching Jesus’ every move. And it is to see if he would heal this man. Is that not something? It seems that these Pharisees did not doubt Jesus’ power and authority to heal. They did not doubt his ability or his willingness to heal. To them it was no illusion, but the real thing. And who since the world began has had the ability and the willingness to heal anyone of anything? And yet they are watching, not out of compassion for the man, but to catch Jesus in the act…on the Sabbath.

Listen to verse eight. “But he knew their thoughts.” I wonder what Jesus was teaching; what book of the Bible? And then he stopped, perhaps midway through his sermon, maybe after just making a big point. He called to the man. “Come and stand here.” What is the man thinking? Jesus then looks at each and every Pharisee. “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” There were whispers throughout the synagogue. “To do good! To do good! Save life!” But Jesus just stands there, waiting. Someone speaks up, “The answer is obvious.” But still Jesus waited. He waited for the Pharisees to answer, but nothing. Why do they not answer? It is because they do not care.

As Jesus looked around at each Pharisee he said, “Stretch out your hand.” And immediately the man’s hand was restored. Yet the Pharisees were filled with fury or rage [anoia]. It is a word that means no mind; a state of extreme anger and incapacity to use one’s mind. It was now that they began to plot Jesus’ demise.

Why did these Pharisees get so angry? They loved and lived for the Sabbath. Their eternal destiny was resting on this day of rest. But they lacked something. You cannot enter the Sabbath without a Sabbath heart. It was not a delight to them and therefore they did not delight in God. They did not celebrate that God had finished his work because they lived as if there was still work to do.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus said that, but is it true? How can it be true? On a Friday evening, just as Sabbath was about to begin, Jesus cried out these words: It is finished! (John 19:30). And then Sabbath could begin.

The Bible exhorts us that our works do nothing for the rest of our souls (Ephesians 2:8-9). Instead, the Bible keeps reminding us that the work is finished. God has finished it. The work is done. And so what do we do? We celebrate! We do good. We love justice. We pour ourselves out for others. We seek that others be satisfied. And the Bible then says, “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

Why Do They Not Fast and Pray?

There is nothing quite like a Chipotle burrito with white rice and extra white rice; grilled chicken; corn salsa, green salsa and hot salsa; cheese and extra cheese and lettuce. Oh, and a bag of chips with green salsa. There is also nothing like baby back ribs, slowly smoked and then basted with Montgomery Inn barbecue sauce (it was Bob Hope’s favorite). Oh, and a side of cheesy potatoes is good, too. There is nothing quite like a homemade Cherry Coke made with authentic Coca-Cola and grenadine syrup. Go ahead and put the cherry in with it, too.

There is a question that begins and a question that ends Luke 5:33-39. However, there is no sound of a question at the beginning or the end. Listen to the beginning. “And they said to him, ‘The disciples of John fast often and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.’” So, where is the question that begins Luke 5:33-39? Here it is: Why so much eating and drinking? Why do the disciples of Jesus eat and drink?!

And now listen to the end. “He also told them a parable.” A parable is an illustration or a story that contains a truth being conveyed. In Luke 5:34-35 Jesus answered the beginning question, but then tells a parable to illustrate further his answer. And in his illustration Jesus uses the words old and new. He talks about a piece torn from a new garment and fitted to and not matching an old garment. He then talks about new wine being contained in old wineskins. And Jesus finishes with talking about old wine and why no one desires to drink new wine. It is because “the old is good.” In his illustration Jesus uses the word old some five times and the word new seven times. Both words seem to be kind of important to the illustration. So, where is the question that ends Luke 5:33-39? Here it is: What does it mean?! What does a new and old garment, new wine and old wineskins, preferring old wine over new wine, have to do with burritos, chips and salsa; baby back ribs, cheesy potatoes and Cherry Coke? What does the parable have to do with Jesus’ disciples eating and drinking?

Why Do They Not Fast and Pray?

Really, the question that begins Luke 5:33-39 seems to be, “Why do they not fast and pray?” And maybe first we need to ask, who is asking the question? Look at Luke 5:33 and no matter the translation this verse pretty much starts the same way. “And they said to him…” Who are they? Who is asking this first question?

Matthew who wrote the Gospel of Matthew records for us this very same conversation. Listen to who he has asking this first question. “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’” (Matthew 9:14). Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark records for us this very same conversation. Listen to who he has asking this first question. “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’” (Mark 2:18). Matthew says that John’s disciples ask this first question. Mark seems to be ambiguous; it is people asking this first question (most likely the people are both John’s disciples and the Pharisees disciples). But Luke just says it was they; they asked this first question. Why does Luke do that?

Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this conversation. And Matthew, Mark and Luke each include the parable about the old and the new. When Matthew, Mark and Luke record this conversation and this question and this parable, they do so in a certain order. Here is what I mean – these three gospel accounts each begin first with the paralyzed man and then the tax collector and then this conversation and this question and this parable. And why do Matthew, Mark and Luke do that? It is all connected. The paralyzed man, the tax collector, this conversation and this question and this parable are all about the same thing. In other words, the parable about the old and new is not limited to the question about eating and drinking.

But why the eating and drinking? Again, look at Luke 5:33. “And they said to him…” In only considering Luke, who are they? Luke already told us. In the previous verses, Luke 5:27-32, Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of Levi. Levi was a tax collector, the worst of the worst and a person no one wanted. And Levi also invited other tax collectors, more of the worst of the worst, more people no one wanted – those with disfigured lives – and others to join them. The others are later described as sinners – those who are lawless and godless and hopeless. The Pharisees somehow catch wind of this; they either see it or hear of it. Look back at Luke 5:30. The Pharisees and the scribes – these are the Bible experts and the Bible teachers – ask a question. “And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’”

And it continues. This is the point. It all continues. Luke wants to connect for us what happened in Luke 5:27-32 with Luke 5:33-39. “And they said to him…” They are those who asked the question in Luke 5:30 and are trying to ask a question again! This time it is not about who Jesus’ disciples eat and drink with, but just about the eating and drinking. Why do Jesus’ disciples eat and drink at all? John’s disciples fast often and pray. The Pharisees’ disciples fast often and pray. But Jesus’ disciples eat and drink. Why do they not fast and pray? Should Jesus’ disciples be fasting and praying? Should we be fasting and praying?

What is Fasting?

Really, the concern is fasting. Why do Jesus’ disciples not fast? And it is because fasting and praying go together. So, it is not to suggest that Jesus’ disciples do not pray. These Pharisees just want to know why these disciples do not take it up a notch and fast and pray.

What is fasting? Fasting means to abstain and most often in the Bible it is to abstain from food. The command to fast is found just one time in the Bible and then it is only implied. It is found in Leviticus 16:29-34. There it is a day, called the Day of Atonement and it was a day to take a good look at yourself and your heart. It was a day to look at your own heart in relation to sin, to grieve and mourn how sin breaks God’s heart. There are other instances of fasting and praying in the Bible. There was a call to fast when Queen Esther interceded for the Jewish people. David fasted in regard to the life of his newborn child (cf. Esther 4; 2 Samuel 12:15-23).

However it was something that became ritualistic; something that the Pharisees’ disciples and perhaps even John’s disciples came to value as an essential virtue in regard to worship. What is the problem with those things that become ritualistic? “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?’” (Zechariah 7:5). There is no heart in it! “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

Should we, though, be fasting? In Luke 2, we were introduced to Anna, a prophetess (one who would tell the mighty works God will do and the mighty works God had done). She was old and had fasted and prayed for years. Why? She was waiting and looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when she saw Jesus, as a baby, she rejoiced and told all that God was doing (Luke 2:36-38). In Luke 4, Jesus fasted. He waited on God his Father to provide. I share that, just wondering and asking, should we fast? Fasting is simply intensified prayer.

Is there something you have been praying about? Is there an unbeliever you would like God to awaken to spiritual things? Is there a broken relationship you would like God to reconcile? If you are praying [for example] for the salvation of someone and it literally dominates you to the degree that you have no appetite, that is the true and pure fast that is born of the heart. John MacArthur shared that insight. So, should we fast? Should we be experiencing intensified times of prayer? The answer is…yes.

Is Jesus Encouraging or Discouraging Fasting?

But in Luke 5:33-39, is Jesus encouraging or discouraging fasting? The answer is…neither! He is not affirming or denying fasting in these verses. He does answer the question, though. But I think he turns it around and wants those asking the question to ask themselves, “Why would I not fast and pray?” Remember, he is addressing John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples. At this time John the Baptist is in prison (Luke 3:18-20). And so John’s disciples do not have John around to answer their question. And later they will really want to know along with John if Jesus is truly the Messiah (Luke 7:18-27). So, I think John’s disciples are just genuinely asking the question. But it is really the Pharisees and their disciples that Jesus challenged.

Jesus’ answer is short. The reason his disciples do not fast is that he is present! He is the bridegroom and as long as the bridegroom is around there is no fasting, just celebrating, eating and drinking (Luke 5:34). There was a rabbinical rule about weddings and bridegrooms. All in attendance on the bridegroom [wedding guests] are relieved of all religious observances which would lessen their joy. This included fasting which was to be observed twice a week on Monday and Thursday. In addition, a newly married couple did not honeymoon but stayed home for a week long open house during which there was continual feasting and celebration.

Yet, there were days coming that the bridegroom would be taken from them, literally taken violently. Then when the bridegroom was not present there would be fasting (Luke 5:35). This seems to be pointing toward a Thursday night through a Sunday morning (Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection). It seems plausible to suggest that during that time, his disciples had no desire to eat. But do you know what Jesus did and did with his disciples on Resurrection Sunday? He broke the fast and ate with them (Luke 24:28-35).

But then Jesus goes further and it is with an illustration. The point is that there is something bigger, something of greater concern here than fasting. Jesus says that no one would tear a piece from a new garment just to add it to an old garment. It will not fit! When the garment is washed and dried the new piece will tear away from the old. Also, the new will never match the old no matter what is done. Then he brings up wine. New wine would never be poured into old wineskins. The chemical reaction still taking place in the new wine would cause the old wineskins to burst.

What does it mean? Or, what is the old and what is the new? The parable has to be understood in the context of Luke 5. In Luke 5, Jesus said to Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” This was new. In Luke 5, Jesus traded places with a leper. Jesus became a leper that a man would be whole again, clean and now accepted into community and communion with God. This was new. Jesus hugged the unlovely and unloved and seemingly unlovable that they might know the limitless bounds of Jesus’ power and authority and affectionate embrace. This was new. Jesus restored a paralyzed man that all would know that he has the authority to forgive sins. This was new. Jesus saw a tax collector. Jesus grasped his significance. He saw a person no one wanted. Jesus saw a disfigured life but then so much more. He saw a Matthew, a gift of God. He saw a gospel writer; he saw an evangelist; he saw a disciple maker; he saw a humble man. This was new. Jesus was glad to eat and drink with those with disfigured lives; those who were godless and hopeless. This was new. Jesus taught his disciples to do the same. This was new.

So, Jesus challenged the thinking in this first question. It was thinking to take part of Jesus, take part of what he teaches and just add it to the old. Jesus, his teaching, his heart does not match or fit the old. The old cannot restrain it. What is the old? It is the old life. It is the old way of doing things. When it comes to Jesus the old has to be left behind. And the new embraced. What is the new? Twice in Luke 5, there were men who left everything and followed Jesus. I really wanted to know and understand the fullness of what this means. So, I shared that it means, at least, to ask a question. When it comes to Jesus, what is everything to me? (See Philippians 3:7-16). But Luke 5:33-39 helps complete this understanding. It means to abandon the old. Peter could not go back to the boat. Levi could not go back to the tax booth and be satisfied with just a piece of the new or try to fit the new into the old life and that tax booth. It never works. The result is that the old cannot restrain the new; the old will break and the new will spill out and be lost. And the answer to Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees – Why do you not fast and pray? – is that they were comfortable with the old.

Come, taste the new. It is Jesus. It is his teaching. It is his heart. And let go of the old.

This Jesus God Raised Up; What Then Shall We Do?

In December 2012 there were five sermons. In all of 2013 there were fifty-two sermons. In all of 2014 there were fifty-two sermons. In all of 2015 there were fifty-two sermons. In all of 2016 there were fifty-two sermons. In all of 2017 there were fifty-three sermons. In all of 2018 there were fifty-two sermons. And thus far in 2019 there have been twenty sermons. In six years, three months and three weeks there have been 333 sermons preached at Calvary Community Church.

These 333 sermons amount to, approximately, 10323 hours. There are two parts to all those hours – the hard part and the fun part. The hard part has taken about 9990 hours – an average of thirty hours per sermon studying, reading, praying and writing. The fun part has taken about 333 hours – an average of forty-five to sixty minutes per sermon. Preparing a sermon is the hard part, preaching a sermon is the fun part.

In Acts 2:14-37 there is one sermon, one of the greatest sermons ever recorded. It was a certain man’s first sermon he ever preached. And it was preached without notes; preached without any deliberate preparation; preached without a heads up that now was the time to preach. And it was preached without hesitation. So, what makes this sermon so great?

We Hear Them Telling the Mighty Works of God

There were people there to hear it. These were religious people or we might say, spiritual people. These were moral people. These were worshiping people. These were people who knew the Bible. These were people who love God.

And it was on a day called Pentecost which simply means “fifty days.” So we might then just call this day the fiftieth day. It is also a day known as the Feast of Weeks which we just read about in our daily Bible reading (cf. Leviticus 23:15-21). It is called the fiftieth day or the Feast of Weeks because it takes place fifty days or seven weeks after Passover.

There are two reasons for this fiftieth day. Acts 2:5 says that devout men and women from every nation under heaven came to Jerusalem for this day – some gathered from the Middle East; some gathered from Asia; some gathered from Africa; some gathered from Europe; and some gathered from all over Israel. And why? This fiftieth day is a celebration of the harvest God has gathered. And this fiftieth day is a commemoration of God giving his written word (the Law) to Moses on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19 through Exodus 34). Now this is kind of interesting; this fiftieth day is just about the best time to come to Jerusalem. The weather is wonderful. This fiftieth day, every year, falls somewhere between May and June. And out of the whole year, this fiftieth day is one of the highest attended celebrations, meaning there are a lot of people in town. There are a lot of different kinds of people in town.

Each of these different kinds of people hear something. What was it? It was a sound. Each of these different kinds of people hear the same sound. It was first described as a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2). But there was more to this sound. All of these different kinds of people gather toward this sound both amazed and perplexed. The sound is speech and it is not one person talking or two people talking or three people talking or ten people talking. There are a lot of people talking and each are saying the same thing. Listen to the last part of Acts 2:11. “We hear them telling in our own languages the mighty works of God.”

Would you like to know what mighty works of God were being told?! I think there is a clue in Acts 2:22, but take in this mighty work. The mighty works of God were being told in the languages and dialects of the Middle East.

The mighty works of God were being told in the languages and dialects of Asia. The mighty works of God were being told in the languages and dialects of Africa. The mighty works of God were being told in the languages and dialects of Europe. How was this possible? Listen to Acts 2:4. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The word filled is the idea of being permeated. Ephesians 5:18-20 describes being Spirit filled as “addressing one another in psalms.” Pause there. Where do we find psalms? Let’s keep going. “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So, what did this fiftieth day sound like? I want us to notice, though, that being filled with the Holy Spirit results in speech.

What Does This Mean?

And there is a big question: what does this mean? (Acts 2:12). The answer is one sermon preached without any notes; without any deliberate preparation; without a heads up that now was the time to preach. And preached without hesitation. It was Peter’s first sermon. Listen to Acts 2:14. “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them.” Notice the word addressed (or said or declared or proclaimed). The first time this word is ever used is in Acts 2:4. Listen to it again. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” It is the word utterance (or enabled). The point is that when Peter preached his first sermon he was filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit results in speech.

There is further indication in this sermon that Peter is filled with Spirit. Three times Peter recites from the Old Testament. He recites Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:17-21). He recites Psalm 16:8-11 (Acts 2:25-28). And he recites Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:34-35). And remember that Peter was preaching without any notes; without any deliberate preparation; without a heads up that now was the time to preach and without any hesitation. This means that Peter knew Joel 2 and Psalm 16 and Psalm 110 by heart. This means that Peter had been thinking about Joel 2 and Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. And the reason that Peter was ready without any warning to preach was that he was filled with the…Word of God. Colossians 3:16 sounds really similar, almost identical to Ephesians 5:18-20 except for one difference. Ephesians 5 was about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3 is about being filled with the Bible. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Listen to the result. “Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” It is just like Ephesians 5:18-20.

But still, what does this mean? It means that these are the last days.

It Means These Are the Last Days

Listen to Acts 2:17. Peter begins to recite Joel 2:28-32. “And in the last days it shall be, God declares…” What is the defining characteristic of the last days? Keep reading and listening. “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” In English, does it not seem that filling and pouring should go together? And what is the result? “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” young and old. Keep reading and listen to verse eighteen. “Even on my male servants and female servants in those days [referring to the last days] I will pour out my Spirit.” And what is the result? “and they shall prophesy.”

What does it mean to prophesy? Basically, it means to either foretell, telling what will be or forthtelling, telling what is. But if we stay in context, in Acts 2, it means to tell the mighty works of God. Or put it this way: it means to tell the mighty works God will do from books of the Bible such as Daniel or Revelation and it means to tell the mighty works God has done from books of the Bible such as Genesis or the Gospel of Luke. The point is that this prophesying is not done apart from the Bible. And who can do this? It is those filled with the Spirit. And who can be filled with the Spirit? All kinds of people – male or female; young or old; God’s servants (Acts 2:18). It is all kinds of people who are looking to Christ for their eternal hope, their eternal joy, their eternal satisfaction.

There are two parts to these last days. How many are these last days? So far it is about 730,000 days! We have been in the last days for two thousand years! There is a bright part to these last days, that is Acts 2:17-19. And there is a dark part, the last day of these last days, still to come, which is Acts 2:19-20. But what is the point of the last days, the bright part? Listen to verse twenty-one. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How does that happen? It is with male or female, young or old, God’s servants, filled with God’s Spirit speaking the mighty works of God.

Now, there are more questions to be asked. But first, who is the Lord? Please, only answer this by looking and listening to Acts 2:21. What is the name of the Lord? It is not given…there.

His Name is Jesus

In the next verse is a name: Jesus (Acts 2:22). Jump down to Acts 2:36. It connects with Acts 2:21. “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” What is the name of the Lord? It is Jesus. Now get ready for Acts 2:22. What is there to know about Jesus? God did mighty works and wonders and signs through him. And this Jesus, was delivered up – betrayed, arrested, tried, tortured, and finally, nailed to a cross – according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Now listen to the rest of verse twenty-three. “You crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless of men.”

Keep in mind the people hearing this; these are religious people. These are good people. These are worshiping people. These are people who know the Bible. These are people who love God. How can it be said that they or even  I crucified and killed Jesus? What if I was not even there? God has shown [attested] you and me exactly who Jesus is. And to reject him, to not adore him, to not welcome him as Savior, Lord and friend is just like being one who drove the nails into his hands and feet. It is just like being one who killed him at the cross.

This Jesus God Raised Up

But this Jesus God raised up. I love Acts 2:24. God raised him up out of that tomb. And since he raised him up out of that tomb, the agony of death has been loosed. But listen to this glory filled statement: it was not possible for him to be held by it [death]. And it is exactly what David, King David, although here he is called patriarch and a prophet, it is what he saw. He saw there would be one that God would not abandon to the grave. He saw that there would be one called the Holy One that God would not let decay in the ground. His name is Jesus. And he now sits at the right hand of his Father until his enemies become his footstool (Acts 2:25-35).

But why are these last days? It is because of Easter Sunday. These are the last days because of the resurrection. These are the last days because the grave could not contain Jesus. These are the last days because God raised him up!

What Then Shall We Do?

This sermon cuts to the heart (2:37). Those words are rather uncommon in ancient literature. The picture is that of horses trampling the ground with their hooves. And all these different kinds of people, those who love God ask, “What then shall we do?” There are two answers. Repent. Repentance is a turning, a turning toward God. It is a turning of the heart toward God which means the heart was turned away from God toward something else other than God. Something else had my heart! Repentance is a turning of the heart away from sin and turning the heart toward God. It is a turning away from a behavior God hates and turning toward a behavior God loves. It is a turning away from my own effort and my own strength and turning toward the strength of God. And what causes the turning? It is God; it is the riches of God’s kindness (Romans 2:4).

What then shall we do? In these last days God’s purpose is to empower his people again and again with extraordinary outpourings of the Spirit until the witness to his name has reached all the peoples – to the end of the earth…But in the midst of all that there will be obstacles. There will be disappointments. There will be difficulty. There will be unbelief. There will be coldness. There will even be treachery. In all of that the true church of God will have extraordinary power, extraordinary zeal, extraordinary passion and love for Jesus and so will continue to press on. So, what shall we do? Being filled with the Spirit, press on.