Introduction: Welcome to Expound our verse-by-verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Father, you know the needs, you know the hearts, you know deepest thoughts of every one of us, and we commit everything in our lives, Lord that concerns us. You know our concerns; we commit them to you. And, Father, we lay our lives down before you in a way where we acknowledge your lordship over us, and we believe you desire to do a work inside of us tonight. You have things to tell us in particular, individually. We want to learn, we also want to be challenged. We do need the information, but, Father, we crave and pray for the inspiration that comes by the Holy Spirit, taking what we read together and applying it individually to our hearts and our conditions. I pray for my brothers and sisters who have gathered. You know what they're struggling through, and I pray you would lift their spirits and encourage them in this place with these words, in Jesus' name, amen.
"Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness." By reading just the first verse, it sounds like the rest of the chapter is going to be peaceful, doesn't it? Jesus, filled with the Spirit, and then led by the Spirit out into the desert. It's like, ahhh! It sounds like it's going to be just a great, wonderful, peaceful chapter. And we might even think by reading the first verse, "Great! Jesus is going to get some R & R out in the desert." Maybe you'll picture Jesus in Palm Springs by a pool with a Diet Coke, [laughter] little umbrella in the glass. Well, far from that, Jesus is walking right into oppression and affliction, conflict. We're going to find out that as soon as Jesus is baptized, which we read about the last couple of weeks, he goes out into the desert and for forty days he is tempted by the devil.
And wherever we read of our Jesus, we find him in conflict with Jewish leaders, the Jewish people, eventually the Roman leaders, and here, the source of all conflict, Satan himself. But by just reading the first verse, it sounds like it's just going to be a smooth skate into the future. No, no. He's going out into the wilderness and will face the temptation of his archenemy the devil. We're going to see not only that, but we're going to see Jesus in the synagogue where he is opposed by his own countrymen. Not only that, but we're going to see him in yet another synagogue where he is opposed by a demon-possessed man, and the demon speaks out of this man in the synagogue service. We're also going to discover the power of punctuation. My English teacher would love to hear those words, "the power of punctuation."
In this case, the power of a comma, the power of a comma in a single sentence that made all the difference. I'll explain in a moment. There was once a woman who was traveling overseas, a wealthy gal. Her husband was wealthy and she felt it was her calling to spend his money. And so she was overseas, and she had her little iPhone. And she found a bracelet, and the price was $75,000. She thought she had to have it, so she texted her husband to clear it with him, to get permission. She said in her text: "Found the perfect bracelet, only $75,000. May I buy it?" Question mark, good punctuation piece at the end, question mark. Well, he read the text, immediately re---he was in a meeting, but he said, "Excuse me, I have to respond to this now." And he wanted to respond, "No, price too high."
But he left the comma out between the "no" and the "price," so it sounded to her, she read it as: "No price too high." [laughter] Missing the comma made him miss $75,000 in his bank account. See what I mean by the power of punctuation? Keep that in mind as we get into this chapter. "Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days he ate nothing, and afterward, when he---when they had ended, he was hungry." Never think that if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will not be afflicted by the devil. Never think that if you are "led by the Spirit," words in this text, you will not be lambasted by the devil. In fact, I think it's safe to say if you are led by the Spirit, you are going to experience the attacks of the enemy.
Jesus, filled with the Spirit, Jesus, led by the Spirit, will face opposition. So don't assume: "I'm a child of God, I'm a Christian, I love Jesus, so it's going to keep me safe from all that evil and all that temptation." And here is the example of that. Not only that, but notice it's for a season, it's not like a day. It's not like it's over after the first week. There are forty days of this, almost six weeks. That's a season of temptation that Jesus is walking into. I think it's important that you recognize when our Lord is tempted: it was after he was baptized. He was baptized, a miracle happened during his baptism. The affirmation of the Father happened at his baptism. The heavens opened, they parted, the Spirit came down like a dove. And there was an audible voice that said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." And immediately after that he is tempted.
Is there something to be learned in that? Yes. Every time God gives you a blessing, your enemy the devil would love to steal that blessing. Just be aware of that. You don't have to be frightened of it, just know that's how he works. "We are not ignorant of his devices," the Bible says. Don't be ignorant of that. Don't think that, "Wow, I'm under the spout where the glory comes out, so that's going to happen perpetually. I'm going to have my daily miracle." Can I just say, if it's daily, it's really probably not a miracle. It's a daily occurrence; it's not out of the ordinary. You think back in the Old Testament, the children of Israel miraculously delivered out of Egypt by that final plague, followed up immediately by the pursuit of Pharaoh to destroy them.
Think back to King Hezekiah inaugurating the Passover, rediscovering the Passover, and celebrating a glorious feast in Jerusalem. Talk about wanting to be in the will of God. Talk about doing everything right. And as soon as they celebrate the Passover, it's then that the Assyrians under Sennacherib surround the city of Jerusalem and threaten to destroy it. The transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, saw that. They just thought, "Wow! Can you believe it? This is like the---it doesn't get any better than this." And maybe they thought they were now living at a plane above the rest of the disciples. As soon as they got that blessing, they went down the mountain. The first person they met was a demon-possessed boy who challenged the authority of the disciples.
"We asked your disciples to cast him out, and they could not." Now they were going from up here, to depleted down there. So, that's a pattern of attack. God gives a blessing; the enemy would love to rip that blessing off. When you're in the will of heaven, expect the wrath of hell. You're a target, you see. Again, not to make you afraid. I say, "Okay, that's part of the deal, bring it on." "Greater is he that is in [me], than he that is in the world." But I don't want you to be naive of it. These things happen; they did even to our Lord. I don't know if you've heard the name J. C. Ryle. Probably not, because he lived, like, over a century ago. But he was a bishop of the Anglican Church in Liverpool, England. And he was a great teacher, good expositor, and he said some pithy things.
And here's one of the things he noted about spiritual warfare. He said, "Sometimes Satan is more active in church than anywhere else." Now just think of the times you've come and maybe the Lord gave you some blessing at church, you heard something you needed to hear, you received a word from the Lord through his Word, the Scripture, in just the community gathering like this. And so you go, "I got my answer. I feel so good. Man, I'm on cloud nine. That's so good!" And then you get out in the parking lot or out on Osuna or you get up on the freeway and some crazy driver---and the Lord knows this place is filled with them---[laughter] aims to cut you off or run you off. Now your joy is challenged. Now I wonder what comes out of your mouth. Is it, " 'O bless the Lord, O my soul; and let all that is within me,' run him off the road"? [laughter]
Or you go out to the parking lot after the service and you discover your car has been broken into. We've had a few of those, even though we have security that go through the parking lot and they keep this place safe, such a great security team. We've had that happen and I just wonder, "Oh Lord, what they must be thinking, 'Great, I come to church only to get ripped off.' "Well, he was "being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days he ate nothing." He was fasting. That's a long time not to eat. Can you make it four days? I don't know if you've tried to fast. Let me just explain fasting. I have fasted; I have not gone on any prolonged fast. I've done a few days and it's been very difficult. What I'm told---I can't tell you by experience, only what I've read---that when you fast at first it's hard, then it gets harder, then it gets harder.
But then eventually if you withhold yourself from food and your stomach begins to shrink and your body gets used to it, eventually you lose your appetite. I do not know that by experience. I have not made it that far. But I'm told by what I read that you actually lose your appetite, and you're doing okay. Now, you're feeling weakened physically, but you lose your appetite. But then your appetite returns. When your appetite returns and you're experiencing hunger again, like Jesus was after forty days, now you're on the verge of starving to death. You will die if you don't soon remedy your condition with food. That's the condition we're dealing with, with our Lord Jesus Christ. He was hungry now after forty days. He's now on the verge of being so physically deprived that he is starving to death.
In the Bible, in a nutshell, people would fast for a few different reasons. Reason number one, mourning for the dead. Grief causes you to lose your appetite anyway. And sometimes to identify with another person, you withhold from food as an act of mourning. A second reason people fasted in the Bible was as an act of repentance. You've heard of Yom Kippur, yes, the Day of Atonement? They would fast. The biblical term for that both in the Torah, as well as the prophet Isaiah, chapter 58, is to "afflict your soul." That's a synonym for not eating: "afflict your soul." It's hard, but you're doing it out of repentance. A third reason it was done was for dependence. Dependence: I'm depending on the Lord; I'm getting in touch with him; I'm trying to learn his heart; I'm trying to ascertain his will.
And I'm adding to my prayers and my worship this aspect of fasting to show that I'm not dependent on physical nutrition as much as spiritual nutrition. Now, let me warn you about fasting. It is not spiritual diet. "Oh, I need to lose some weight, so I'm fasting today." It's good that you want to lose some weight, it's good to fast, but do it for the right reason. It's not a sanctified diet, nor is fasting simply a way to twist God's arm to get what you want. "Well, if I really show him that I'm serious and I mean business, and he'll see it in my fasting, then he'll give me what I want." Why would God want to let you have what you want if it's not good for you in the long run? What kind of a "good" God would that be? So all of your twisting of his arm won't help, rather it's simply a way to tune out the flesh and tune in the Spirit, to say no in order to say yes.
Acts 13, "As they worshiped the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I've called them.' "So those three reasons principally we find in Scripture: mourning---what was the second one? Yeah, thank you---repentance, and then dependence. "And the devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.' "Now that makes sense that that would be the first temptation. If he is weak physically, the devil is counting on him being vulnerable emotionally. You know how that works. When you are weak, when you're physically weak, you're very vulnerable emotionally. You will try anything to cure what ails you. You'll do anything to get that strength back. So capitalizing on his physical weakness, and hopefully his emotional vulnerability, is this first temptation.
Now in this first temptation, Satan is questioning God's provision in saying, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." You see, the little word "if"? It could be translated "since you are the Son of God." It's not a supposition, it's an affirmation. The Wuest's translation of the New Testament puts it this way: "In view of the fact that you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." "Since you have all power, use your power to satisfy yourself." Why is that a temptation? It's really a slur, it's really a slam, it's really a question on God's provision. "Hey, since you're the Promised One, you're the Son of God, since that's true, why isn't your Father providing for you out here? Why would he let his own Son, the Messiah, starve to death? So, use your power to satiate yourself, to satisfy yourself."
We find that same kind of temptation in the garden of Eden, do we not? There's the tree. There are many trees. Satan comes along and says, "Why don't you eat of this tree?" And Eve says, "Look, we can eat of any of the trees of the garden; this is the only one we can't. That's what God said." And the devil said, "Has God said that you will only eat of that tree?" Now he's questioning God: "Why would God keep something good from you? What kind of a God do you serve?" Or what about Abram and Sarah? God promised them a son, but it seemed like years went by and they're not getting any younger. They weren't spring chickens to begin with. They're old folks. So Sarah suggests, "Hey, not gonna happen. Take my handmaiden. Let's help God out a little bit." Really, questioning God's ability to provide what he said.
So, it's questioning God's provision. "Jesus answered," verse 4, "saying, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." '" He's quoting Deuteronomy, chapter 8. Just tuck that in your mind, Deuteronomy, chapter 8. It's the whole manna incident in Deuteronomy. "Man shall not live by bread alone." How many times have you had the feeling or the thought inside your little head: "Hey, I'm a child of God. I'm a Christian. I believe in Christ. I've devoted my life to him. Why isn't God taking care of me?" Have you ever had that thought? Has that ever been whispered in your head? "How come God isn't taking better care of you?" Second temptation, verse 5, this is now questioning God's promise: "Then the devil, taking him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time."
One has to wonder, can I just say, when you're out in the wilderness there, what high mountain is there? Now, I've been to this area. It's about thirty-five miles by twenty miles, the Judean Desert. You're going to laugh when I tell you this: most scholars will point to a mountain near Jericho, and they call that the ""Mount of Temptation," because it's the only high mountain in the area. You know how tall it is? Twelve hundred feet. You know how high Sandia Mountain is? Almost 11,000, ten thousand six, seven hundred feet. That's a high mountain. And, yet, keep in mind when the Bible speaks about the Sea of Galilee, it's not like wow, it's a sea, an ocean. Oh, it's a little lake, but "sea" in the language simply means a body of water, and "mountain" doesn't necessarily mean---it just means an elevated place, an elevated place.
And so this "high mountain" in comparison to that area, which is mostly below sea level, 1,200 feet above sea level, it's a pretty high mountain. So, anyway, just thought I'd throw that in, 'cause if you ever go there, you're going to go, "Now, where is that high mountain that the Bible tells me about?" [laughter] And we'll show it to you, and you can laugh as well then. "The devil, taking him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to him, 'All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me.' "He is called "the prince of power of the air," "the god of this world." "'And I will give it to whomsoever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all will be yours.' "This is questioning God's promise.
Can I paraphrase it? "Jesus, I know why you've come. You've come for the whole world. You've come to rule the whole world?" You know that one of the promises of the Messiah is that he would have world domination. Psalm 2 is your key verse for that, and you can write that down, look at it later. Psalm 2, the Lord speaks, "You are my Son, this day I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession." The Bible says that one day Jesus will rule and reign over the whole earth; first, he came to redeem it by his death on a cross. Satan is suggesting this: "Why go it the hard way? Why go it the painful way? You came for the earth. You came to redeem it back. I know why you've come. I know what the promise is.
"If you'll just worship me now---let's strike a deal---I'll give it to you. No fight involved. No pain involved. No cross involved. Just indulge me." It's what he's always wanted: "I will be like the Most High." "Just the satisfaction of having the Son of God bow before me, ahhh! It's yours. I'll give it to you. You don't have to go the painful way of the cross. You can have immediate gratification." Ever heard those words? "Why are you waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled? Just do something for yourself. You know that if you only did this, you'd be happy. Do something to be immediately gratified." The child of God will say, "No. I'm going to wait on the Lord for that. I'm going to wait for his promise to be fulfilled. If he wants me to have it, he'll do it and he'll do it in his time."
And so notice what Jesus says, "Get behind me Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.' "Now this comes out of Deuteronomy, chapter 6. Remember the first one was Deuteronomy 8? This is Deuteronomy 6; Deuteronomy 6 is the passage where Moses warns the people of Israel, "When you get into the land the Lord your God is giving you, don't think that you are here because you're such a great group of people. And don't forget the Lord your God, but you will bless the Lord and depend on the Lord, and thank the Lord." It was a warning chapter, Deuteronomy, chapter 6. "Then he brought him," verse 9, "to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, 'If you are the [or since you are] the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.' "
Now, in this third temptation he is questioning, I believe, God's protection over him. " 'Throw yourself down from here, for it is written' "---now the devil's quoting Scripture. Now the devil throws out a few verses of his own. You know that the Bible---or that Satan knows the Bible better than we do. You know, he was trained in the best seminary in the universe, right, heaven. And he's had long history with humanity. So, he knows the Bible and he knows what to bring in and what to leave out. Now, he's going to quote, but he's going to take it out of context. He'll leave out a very crucial part of the verse. You'll see it. Verse 10, " 'It is written: "He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you," and' "---that's where he missed out, because the original text says, "He will keep you"---here's the rest of it---"in all your ways."
What Satan was suggesting was not the way of God. It was not the way the Scripture predicted. It's just your own personal protection. "'"He will keep you," and, "in their hands he shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone." '" "Okay, you're the Son of God, okay, God the Father protects his Son sending his Son into the world, prove it! Let's give the Father a chance to fulfill what he promised. For it is written: 'You can jump and you won't stub your toe,' "I'm paraphrasing," 'God's angels will bear you up.' "Any text, any text of Scripture, any text taken out of context can become a pretext. You can prove just about anything you want with the Bible simply by taking it out of its context. That's how cultures started. That's how people use proof text for the weirdest, wildest, crazy schemes; they quote a verse of Scripture.
I see it in the secular news media, people quoting the Bible, and I think, "Out of context." Many examples; don't have to get into it. Now, please notice in verse 9, he was set "on the pinnacle of the temple." The pinnacle of the temple is the southeast corner of the Temple Mount. You can see a picture of it here before you. You see the little corner there? It's not shown in this picture, but below this is a valley called the Kidron Valley. You've heard that name, the Kidron Valley. The measurement from the top of that retaining wall, in Jesus' day, to the bottom of the Kidron Valley was over 450 feet. It was impressive. For Jesus to jump off that, past where the picture is being taken, down into the Kidron Valley, and have angels protect him as we goes down, that would make the nightly news. That would be on YouTube before night fall. Right?
Everybody would be tweeting that. That would make national news. You know, "Do something incredible to prove that God will protect you," that's the idea. Now, let me just sew up a few loose ends. The rabbis had predicted that when the Messiah comes, he will come to the pinnacle of the temple, or he'll come to the Temple Mount in this corner. And here's why they believed that. They said this before Christ. There's a text of Scripture, Malachi, chapter 3, it says this, listen carefully: "And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant." So there was this belief among some of rabbis that the Messiah will come to the temple, and he will reveal himself in this area where there are throngs of people and where people below on the road would be able to see him, and there'll be some demonstration.
So probably capitalizing on that interpretation of Malachi 3, that is where Satan's suggestion comes: "Let's make a show out of this. Let's make a display out of this." "And Jesus answered and said to him, 'It has been said' "---now quoting the Scripture once again---" ' "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." '" Again, he quotes Deuteronomy: " ' "You shall not tempt the Lord your God.' "Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time." Notice that. He ended his temptations for now, at this time. There were three times he did it. Now he's done. There will be more times. And when will that time be? Just the right time, "an opportune time." It's as if---can you get the picture?---that the devil looks to find the weakest moment, the right time, the opportune time.
The word the Greek is kairos, not chronos, not chronological time, but just the right showing of time. "Ah, that person is weak, right there,"---temptation, for "an opportune time." Please notice: "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." I'm wondering something. Let me throw this out at you. It's my belief that we test the Lord our God all the time. Example: we exceed the speed limit, and then have the audacity to pray that we won't get a ticket. [laughter] "Lord, please, just keep me. Oh, there's a police officer---O Lord, just don't let him see that." [laughter] We walk into a bar and we pray, "Lord, don't let me drink." We watch porn and we pray, "Lord, help me with my lust." You cannot expect to walk into temptation and then ask the Lord, "Deliver us from evil." He will. Stay away from it.
Don't deliberately test the Lord your God, place yourself in that kind of a position. What are the two ways that Jesus handled temptation? There are two ways, and here's two ways for you: number one, stand your ground. Stand your ground. Don't run away. Stand up to him. Stand your ground. The Bible says in James 4 "to resist the devil." It's a military term. Stand immovable. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm standing right here. I'm not afraid of you." Stand your ground, number one. Number two, study your Bible. Stand your ground and study your Bible. Those two things will help you in temptation. Face it head-on and know the Scriptures. Do you realize---and this is why it's so great that you're here. You have an advantage. You're learning God's Word.
I pity those who have become so biblically illiterate that in times of temptation they have no reference point, they have no source of authority. Remember what Jesus said to the religious leaders? "You do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." You'll never know the power of God until you know the Scriptures; they go hand and hand. Stand your ground. Study your Bible. Now, I just planted some thoughts in your mind along the way about Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy. Right? Jesus keeps quoting Deuteronomy. All that happened when the children of Israel were out in the wilderness. Jesus is out in the wilderness. He's quoting what happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness. Now, here's the---here's the corollary: in the wilderness, Israel failed; in the wilderness Jesus our Lord succeeded.
He was successful even in the wilderness, even during this time of temptation. "Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of him went out through all the surrounding region. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all." Jesus went to Galilee. I love Galilee. It's one of my favorite places to go. If you go there today, it's pretty rural. It's pretty much like it was. In fact, I would say it's less crowded today than it was back then. Flavius Josephus the Jewish historian said this: at the time of Christ there were no less than 204 little towns or villages---not "little towns"---towns or villages in Galilee, 204, each of them having "a population of no less than 15,000" per village or town. So we're dealing with a population of about 3 million people in Galilee, heavily populated.
Galilee, named after the Sea of Galilee principally is a region in that northern part of Israel. It goes by several other names though. Number two, its second name is the Lake of Gennesaret. You're going to find that name in chapter 5. I think it's verse 1, chapter 5, "the Lake of Gennesaret." Gennesaret is a little piece of land where they grow stuff, farms, right there to the left, the west of the lake. So Galilee is one name, Gennesaret is another one, a third name is the Lake of Kinneret. Today in Israel the Jews call it the Kinneret Lake, and that's because of the Hebrew word kinnor, which means harp. And why is it called "harp"? Well, look at a map at the back of your Bible and look at the shape of the lake. It's shaped like an ancient harp. It looks like a kinnor, so they call it Kinneret, named after a harp-like body of water.
The fourth name of this lake or area is Tiberias, named after a Hellenistic town that became a Roman---it became named for a Roman emperor. But it was a town that's still there today on the southwest shore of that lake. So all four names are given. Here it's called Galilee. The region with the lake is called Galilee. So, he returned---that is, from the desert, to the northern part, Galilee. "And news of [Jesus] him went throughout all of the surrounding region." Why Galilee? Well, he was raised in Nazareth, that's part of Galilee, but he will spend his headquarters, his days around the lake at a little town called Capernaum. He's going to move his residence. Why? Isaiah, chapter 9, predicted that the Messiah would arise out of Galilee. "Those who sat in darkness have seen a great light." And it identifies that place as the "Galilee of the Gentiles."
It was a place that was populated more than any other place in the land with outsiders, non-Jewish people. Wars had been waged in the past and Gentiles surrounded that region for a long time. And because of that, there were mixed marriages between Jew and Gentile in that region more than any other part of the land. That is why the people down in Jerusalem snubbed the Galileans, considered them outcasts, second-rate citizens, hicks, if you will. Did you know the Galileans even had an accent, a certain kind of a pattern of speech that gave away that they were from Galilee? When Peter was down in the courtyard of the high priest, and the servant girl said, "You were one of his disciples, for your speech betrays you." "I can hear by your hick accent that you're a Galilean."
Now, I'm not going to point to any part of the country that would have that kind of an accent, but you can use your imagination and have a lot of fun with it. Jesus headquarters himself in Galilee. "And," notice verse 15, "He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read." I hope you don't mind, but I want to give you as much background information as I can. We read here of a synagogue and the synagogues. You know why that's important? Because you never read about a synagogue when you read your Old Testament ever once. There's never a synagogue in the Old Testament. It doesn't appear. They don't exist.
Suddenly you start opening up the New Testament and you keep reading "synagogue," "synagogue," "synagogue." So I hope you ask questions like: "Where'd that come from?" In the Old Testament there was a tabernacle, then a temple, no synagogues. What happened? The temple got destroyed, that's what happened; 586 BC the Babylonians destroyed the temple, right, and then took the children of Israel captive into a foreign land? Now as captives in Babylon, they cannot practice ceremonial law. Priests can't offer sacrifices. They're in captivity. So now that they cannot practice ceremonial law, having no priesthood to offer sacrifices in a Jewish temple, being in captivity, they can only do one thing: study written law. The synagogue develops in Babylon.
They decided to have little meetings, little home Bible studies, let's call them that, that they called beit knesset, which means the house of gathering. "Come to my home. Let's gather. Let's talk about Scripture." The Greek word for beit knesset is sunagógé. Did I say that right, Steve? sunagó---he's my Greek professor, so he'll check me on this stuff. It means the same thing: you're gathering people together in one commonplace. The synagogue develops in captivity. So here's what goes on: they meet together, they can't offer sacrifices, they can't atone for their sins, so they start reading and studying Scripture. And this is where the office of the scribe develops. They start asking questions like: "H'm, what would Moses do in this situation?" "How do we apply these Scriptures to our lives?"
And they talk about it, and they argue about it, and they deliberate about it. And they right that stuff down and that eventually becomes the oral law: rulings, the Talmud divided into two---well, there's two of them, the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud---volumes of literature all developed because of the absence of a sunagógé, a beit knesset, a synagogue. Now that the absence of a temple, they gather together in these studies, and they try to figure that out. So when they come back, and they build their temple, they still maintain the office that never was a part of the Old Testament, but it came from the captivity, and they still meet in synagogues. So now every village in Galilee, in Judea, has a synagogue facing toward the temple. And enough said on that.
"So he came to Nazareth," this is his hometown, "where he had been brought up. As"---and this is---please notice this in verse 16, "And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read." Jesus had a custom to be in fellowship every weekend. We would say, to go to church every week. It was his custom. He didn't look for an excuse. He didn't say, "Well, you know, that rabbi's just a little too dry. I'm just not into it. I don't like the music in that synagogue." [laughter] "I'm worshiping God. I'm gonna be there. I'm gonna be there. That's my custom." That's how he was raised, with an emphasis. Now I've heard people, not live as examples, but look for excuses. "Well, I worship God, but I just worship him a little bit differently. I worship him on the golf course, in nature.
"The smell of that green grass just causes my spirit to rise up." [laughter] Well, I think there's a big difference between an admirer of God and a worshiper of God. Thirty-seven percent of Americans will go church this weekend. Ninety-six percent of Americans claim to be believers in Christ, Christians. Admirers or worshipers? When somebody says, "I worship God, but I'm on the golf course," I would honestly say, you're probably just worshiping golf. It was his custom. He was there. It was important to him. Now I don't think that the synagogue services were all that stimulating. It would be easy to say, "It's kind of boring. And we kind of stand up, do this little invocation, this little chant, sit down, read a Scripture, take on offering. Somebody kind of comments on the Scripture, not always too polished." But it was his custom. He did it.
"And he was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he opened the book, he found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.' And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down." Are you noticing something interesting? When they would read the Scripture, they would stand up. Jesus stood up, opened the scroll, and read the Scripture. Then he closed the book and he sat down. That was how they did services: You stand up, saying, "I respect and revere the Word of God."
Then you sit down and you hear from the preacher. The preacher would sit down like I'm doing here, and he would give an exposition of what he read. So he sat down. "And he began to say to them"---he didn't get to finish the message. You'll see why. "'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' "He's quoting Isaiah 61. The readings in the synagogue were prescribed. It's not like Jesus said, "I'm going to preach Isaiah 61 today." It was already what the ruler of the synagogue had prepared to be read. It was read on certain days. Jesus happened to be there that day. I use "happened" loosely. He walked in there, he opened up the Scripture to Isaiah 61, read it. That was the prescribed Scripture. And then he addresses them, and here's his message: "This Scripture has happened today, you're seeing it before your very eyes."
Quite a sermon. "So all bore witness to him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said"---now they're whispering to each other---" 'Isn't this Joe's kid?' " [laughter] "This is Joe's boy, right? This is the carpenter's little boy. This is Yeshua. This is Jesus. We know this guy. Did he just say what I think he just said? He's claiming to be what Isaiah 61 is all about?" They knew that was a messianic passage, by the way. They knew that. It was well established in their interpretation. "He's claiming to be what we've known that passage to mean, that he is God's chosen Messiah? He's saying it's fulfilled today in our hearing?" So it creates a little bit of stir in this synagogue service. "And he said to them, 'You will surely say this proverb to me, "Physician, heal yourself! Whatever you have heard done in Capernaum, do also in your country." ' "
"If you're such a good doctor, Jesus, and heal---us here, we've heard about your miracles in Capernaum. Pull off a few here, just don't preach us a sermon, give us a miracle." "And he said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon," up in modern-day Lebanon, "to a woman who was a widow." Notice two things there: it's a Gentile region, she's a Gentile widow; and she's a woman. Right? Just notice those things. Those are important.
"And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian," a Gentile. Women, lepers, Gentiles---the lowest rung of the Jewish ladder 2,000 years ago. They did not esteem lepers, they were outcasts. They did not esteem women, second-class citizens. They certainly hated Gentiles. Their saying was: "God created Gentiles as kindling wood for the fires of hell." And Jesus says, "You know, let me tell you about two prophets misunderstood by the Jewish nation in their time: Elijah and Elisha. And God didn't send them to the Jewish people, but to Gentiles who received them, and he did a miracle." There were plenty of lepers in Israel, there were plenty of widows in Israel, but these two prophets were sent to Gentiles regions.
So what he's doing, he's taking these second-class citizens---women, lepers, Gentiles---and saying they are better than unbelieving Israelites. You need to know that so you understand their response to his sermon. "Then all those in the synagogue," verse 28, "when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and they rose up and thrust him out of the city; and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down over the cliff." Augustine---you've heard his name, I've quoted him before---speaks about some people, even some people in churches who, like these people---he said that---he said this: "They love the truth when it enlightens them; they hate the truth when it accuses them." Jesus gets up and preaches a sermon: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Was it the truth? Yup. Did they like the truth? Absolutely not. "That's Joe's boy." Then he says, "Unbelieving Gentiles in your history received God's favor," and they're rejected him. They're rejecting Jesus, and they are rejecting his words, because he brings this up. "They love the truth when it enlightens them; they hate the truth when it accuses them," and Jesus is doing that here. Okay, we're coming to a close, and I wasn't able to get through it all. No problem. We'll do it again. But I'll say this: I've been on the brow of this hill outside of Nazareth where they attempted to throw Jesus off. In fact, usually when we're there, we have a worship service on the brow of that hill, and we recall this scene, and it's an incredible view.
Can I just let you know that Jesus, when he grew up in Nazareth, it's a hilly country, and from Nazareth looking out over the valley all of Old Testament history was displayed before Jesus as a young boy. He could look up north and see Mount Tabor and think about Deborah and Barak and the battle with Sisera that happened there. He could look at Mount Gilboa a little bit further down and think about Saul and Jonathan being killed on Mount Gilboa and the battle with the Philistines. And so much of it was just laid before him, all of the history of Israel, where Abraham came and Isaac lived. But also what Jesus was looking down at was a very interesting valley called the Valley of Armageddon. You see, Nazareth is attached right up to the north, and Jesus could look right down at the city of Megiddo and the entire Valley of Armageddon.
And what thoughts must have filled his mind as he could see not only what happened in the past, but what would happen in that valley in the future when all the world would come against Jerusalem in the last days and actually try to fight against the Lord. You know, Zechariah says that all the nations of the world will be against Jerusalem, so don't be surprised when you see this happening day by day in the news, and even what's happening in our political structure in our country. It's not happy, but it's predicted. Well, we're out of time. We're actually a minute over time, and I didn't even get to get into really the best part, which is Isaiah 61 and how Jesus incredibly put a period where Isaiah put a comma. But it's the most important comma in the entire world, because you're into it right now. More on that next time we meet. Let's pray.
Father, we believe this to be your Word. I think it was afternoon when Billy Graham at Forest Home opened his Bible on a stump and confessed that there was much of the Scriptures he did not understand, he did not grasp, he couldn't make sense of. But he said, "I believe that this is your Word and I believe that you can change a person's life by the preaching of your Word." And he committed himself there and then to the proclamation of truth. We thank you, Lord that in the hearing of your truth there is freedom. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." And not only are we freed by it, our faith grows because of it. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes through the word of God." We have heard your Word. We have heard these stories. We've imagined it in our mind's eye.
And I pray, Lord, with these principles, again, not only would we have the information, but have received the inspiration by your Spirit, especially as we deal in our temptations, in our struggles, to stand our ground and to study our Bibles, in Jesus' name, amen.
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