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: If you remember back, or you want to make reference to it right now, in chapter 9, verse 51, we're told by Luke that "Jesus set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem." This is his last march. He has a few months left to live as he is walking toward Jerusalem to the cross. And that's what we are going to celebrate, by the end of the evening, the Lord's Supper together. Luke has told us all about the coming of Christ. The advent is in chapters 1, 2, and 3. Then he tells us about his activities in chapters 4 to where about we are now. After his advent and after his activities, there's a definite change going on, and it's now the antagonism toward Jesus Christ by his enemies. There's a lot of red letters. If you have a red-letter edition of the New Testament, many more red letters than black letters, as you heard in the introduction by video. We're now more focused on the words of Jesus rather than the works.
Luke has told us all about the activities, the miracles of Jesus, but now he's telling us more and more about what he said, his words. So with his words come a response or a reaction to those words. The disciples are being trained, but the enemies of Jesus Christ are listening with a critical ear and will be offended, and you will hear some of the offense, depending on how much ground we cover. If we cover as much as I would like to cover, then you'll get to it. If not, then you'll get to it next time. But let me just set this up so you---we can just sort of fall in where we left off. There are two big issues that are going on with this rising antagonism. Number one, the enemies of Jesus have accused him---if you remember that far back when we were together---accuse Jesus of doing miracles by the power of the Devil. "Where does he get his power? How is it that he can perform these incredible signs that we have never seen anyone ever do?
"It must be," said the enemies of Jesus, "by the very power of the Devil himself with whom this Jesus must be in league with." So they make that accusation. Number two, they demand a sign, which to me is laughable, because he has shown them sign after sign. I mean, how many more signs do you need? Let's see, deaf people can now hear, people who were lame are now healed, dead people are raised---"We want a sign." [laughter] Okay, I'm glad a few of you got that, but . . . . [laughter] Verse 29, "And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, he began to say, 'This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.' "Jesus is speaking principally of his resurrection. "Jonah was in the belly of the whale," Matthew tells us Jesus said, Matthew records it, "for three days."
Jesus said, "I will be in the heart of the earth for that same amount of time. The sign that you will get will be the sign of a dead body coming back to life. Not just like the ones I've done here, but my own." Now here Luke records that Jesus said that Jonah was "a sign to the Ninevites." I've often wondered about that. How is Jonah, a prophet---a reluctant prophet, might I add. He didn't want the job. He did not want to speak repentance to the Ninevites, lest they repent and God would be merciful. He didn't want that to happen. How was he a sign? Well, one of the ways perhaps he was a sign was the fact that he---after being in the belly of that great sea monster, beast, whale, whatever it was---coming to the Ninevites now alive, and he must have looked horrible. I think looking at him, it's like "Whoa!" I imagine he was bleached white. I imagine the gastric juices had eaten away his hair.
I say that because back in 1891 there is a story of a whaling ship down in the Falkland Islands. And the captain James Bartley was out whaling with his crew when a fin of a great whale hit the boat. One of the men fell off and was killed. Bartley himself was also cast off and they thought he was gone, until they captured a whale and brought him onto the ship and started stripping the whale. If you know much about whaling, it's the oily flesh that they're after. And as they were stripping down the whale and cutting it open, in the stomach was James Bartley doubled up in a fetal position but still alive. And he looked---they said, the account said---like a used parchment. His skin was whitened, kind of a yellowy white, just bleached. His hair was gone. And he just looked like death warmed over. So imagine a dude looking like that. His hair singed off. He looks like, kind of like, Michael Jackson redone. [laughter]
And he appears before the Ninevites and says, "Forty days and Nineveh's going to be destroyed." It's like, "Okay, I'm going to be the first one to repent now. I'm looking at this guy, I don't want to end up looking like this guy." So it could be that he himself was the sign just the way he looked alive after that horrendous ordeal. And he spoke to them and they repented. Jesus said that he would likewise---that would be the only sign. "And as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation." It tells me something interesting about Jesus' view of Scripture. He did not see the story of Jonah and the whale as fictitious; he saw it as literal. It wasn't a made-up story. He wasn't speaking of something that he just accommodated to the common belief of the people who were into superstitious stories, so Jesus lowered himself and accommodated to their ignorant level.
Jesus believed in the historicity of Jonah and the whale. So if you want to throw that out of the Bible, you have a real problem with Jesus and his credibility. By the way, this is one of the important prophecies of the resurrection. Some of you who are Bible students have wondered, and admirably so if you have, "Where exactly does the Old Testament predict the resurrection?" because there's often a reference to "as it was written." Where was it written that Jesus would rise? Well, one place is Psalm 16, quoted by Peter in the book of Acts, saying, "You will not leave my soul in Hades [hell], or suffer your Holy One to see corruption." And Peter said David couldn't have been speaking of himself; he was speaking of the Messiah, his long relative in the future, Jesus Christ. The other one is Jonah and the whale. "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of that beast, so Jesus would be in the heart of the earth."
He continues, "The queen of the South will rise up in judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah was here." The story of the queen of the South is found in the book of First Kings, chapter 10. The queen of Sheba heard about Solomon, and she with her entourage came to Jerusalem and met with Solomon and listened to him. And afterwards she was just so blown away, she said, "Man, the half wasn't told to me, and you're greater than all the stories I heard about you. You exceed even the trailers to your own movie. I mean, this is, like, wow!" So she marveled. She traveled 1,400 miles from the Arabian area.
Actually, she came from the area known as Yemen today and traveled 1,400 miles to Jerusalem. She was not Jewish. She was a Gentile. She heard of a Jewish king. She marveled, as a Gentile she marveled. Jonah traveled 560 miles from the port, Joppa. Eventually, he went to Nineveh 560 miles away. That was a Gentile town that repented at the words of a Jewish prophet, a reluctant Jewish prophet. So he traveled 560 miles, she travels 1,400 miles; the Ninevites repent, and the queen of Sheba marvels. Jesus came from heaven all the way to earth and they did nothing. There was no change of heart. There was antagonism building against him. Just think of this---all the miles, all of the money that would have to be spent by the queen of Sheba to get to Jerusalem, all the effort, and she was just, like, amazed, blown away. A prophet goes to Nineveh, 560 miles. They're blown away. They repent in mass.
Jesus comes from heaven all the way from earth. They don't have to go anywhere. He comes to them. There's no change. The only change is a harder heart, a more steeped-in-their-own-religion kind of heart. So what Jesus is saying is, "Gentiles acted more admirably than you [the Jewish nation] with whom my Father has had a covenant with." It's a striking contrast. And he says, " 'A greater than Jonah is here. No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.' "
There's little that we can do in life, there's little we do without the ability to see. We, with our eyesight, can drive, we can walk, we can run. We learn to navigate because light---that is, ambient light, and reflected off objects goes into our brains via the mechanism of the eye. And the eye is sort of like a window. If the window is clouded with dirt, or the curtains are drawn, little light will come in. If the curtains are open or the windows are clean, more light comes in and you can navigate clearly. I remember my mother after cataract surgery. And, by the way, I've heard from my eye doctor that everybody will get cataracts of some kind; it's just the nature of the way our eyes are. But when my mom had cataract surgery, she came and she goes, "I had forgotten how bright the color red was, and how yellow those flowers actually are, and how blue that sky actually is," because over time her vision was clouded.
And the removal of the cataract, which is such an incidental, easy surgery these days, it was---it opened up a world to her. Now, the disciples had the light shown to them and in them by being with Jesus for all of these months and these last few years. They were able to navigate, because the truth, the light of Christ was in them and shining through them. They were able to see the nature of this world, the purpose of their lives, where they were going. But having the light shouldn't just help them navigate, but they should shine the light. Having been enlightened, they would want to or should want to enlighten others around them. "And he spoke" or "as he spoke," verse 37, "a certain Pharisee asked him to dine with him. And he went and sat down." Wouldn't that be fun to have a meal with Jesus? "Hey, Jesus, you got time for lunch?" "Sure." "Really? What do you want, a falafel or what? Do you eat burgers? I mean, what?"
Just so fun to sit down with Jesus. Well, you will. That day is coming. In fact, there's a twist to this. Hold on to that thought, because it's going to be even better than you think. So, "He sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner." If we don't know the background of this, we sort of smile at that and go, "What's up with this Pharisee? I mean, he sounds sort of like my mom who is chasing Jesus around, saying 'Wash your hands before you eat.' " [laughter] Well, it wasn't about sanitation; it was really all about ceremony. By this time the Jewish leaders had a prescribed way of ceremonially washing before a meal. They would take their hands and cup them upwards, sort of like in this fashion with the fingers pointing up. Water would be poured from the fingertips down through the hand and off of the wrist.
And then they would reverse it and pour water on the wrists, so that it would drip down the hand and off the fingers. They did it before every meal. Some of the more strict religious types did it between every course. Now one of the superstitions---not all believed in it, but there were some that did. There was actually a superstition, and I don't find it much different that certain sects of Christianity today that are all hung up on "There's a demon here," and "There's a demon there," and "We gotta cast out this demon and that demon." They go demon hunting almost. But some of these Jewish leaders taught that there was a demon---and they had a name for him, Shibtah---that would attach itself to one's hands while you slept. So that if you would wake up and you had this demon attached to your hands---and, of course, you wouldn't see the demon, because their invisible, but it was there.
And you might become demon possessed by grabbing some food with your hands, putting it in your mouth, and the demon would gain entrance through your gullet. I mean, it's crazy, right? But that was part of the superstitions, and thus they found the need to ceremonially cleanse often. So Jesus just sat down and he ate, and they were shocked. You know, they were so hung up on their religious technicalities and they started judging him. "Then the Lord said to him, 'Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and the dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.' "How's that for a conversation starter as you take your first bite? "'Foolish ones! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.' "
"You are so hung up on incidentals and externals and you have neglected essentials. You're worried about washing your hands, and I say you need to wash your heart. It's all about the outside, and I know what's going on inside." So he's nailing them with these words. He says, " 'Rather, give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. But woe unto you Pharisees!' " Now when I say that they were hung up on incidentals and externals rather than essentials, here's the essentials. Jesus was so good to bring this out. If you were to boil all of the law of the Old Testament, all of the laws of Moses down to their irreducible minimum, you have two commandments. Jesus said, "Love God with everything you got; and love people, love your neighbor as yourself." Love God and love people. And, by the way, that's how the Ten Commandments are laid out, right?
The first part of the Ten Commandments deal with your relationship with God, the second part, your relationship with people. Jesus said, "On those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." So they're worried about washing and all the technicalities, and Jesus just sort of cuts through the smoke and said, "Get to the essentials. Get to the heart." " 'Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe' "---that is, give a tenth of---" 'mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and you pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done' "---that is, you ought to tithe, certainly---" 'without leaving the others undone.' " Okay, so here's the deal: the law of Moses in the Old Testament prescribed that the Jewish nation gave a tenth. They were to give a tenth of their produce. Actually, if you were to look at the entire doctrine of the tithe in the Old Testament, they gave more than 10 percent.
They gave around 30 percent, depending on what time of the season, the time of the year it was. But the tithe of the produce was that minimum, 10 percent. Now they were so fastidious and meticulous about tithing even the herbs in their herb cabinet, you know, in their spice cabinet. Jesus said, "It's good that you're tithing and it's good that you're wanting to obey the law; however, you've neglected the big picture---that is, mercy, God's love, the essentials." At one point he said, "You strain at a gnat and you swallow a camel." "So, it's great that you're tithing, but you're so concerned about one-tenth of your spice cabinet, when really God wants all of your heart. And that's the part you guys have left out. Give him all of your heart. Love him with all of your heart and love people with that love of God". " 'Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.' "
Now in the synagogues, there were benches up toward the front that faced the congregation. They were the chief seats for the elders or the visiting rabbis in the synagogue. And up front toward the front, sitting like the chairs are here or the pews are here, were also the chief seats for the choice people of the community. And they loved the best seats, and they loved to go through the marketplace and be recognized. "Oh, Rabbi So-and-so." "Oh, yes. No, it's Dr. Rabbi to you---Reverend Dr. Rabbi to you." [laughter] " 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.' " "You are like unmarked graves." Ooh, this is cutting to the heart, because graves defiled. Touching the dead defiles. And if you're going to a feast and they don't mark the grave---which they did, by the way. They would paint them white.
They would make sure that you could see a graveyard, lest you touch a grave and become ceremonially defiled. But Jesus said, "You're unmarked. You look so religious and so holy and so righteous, but you're really filled with corruption and defilement and death. You're unmarked graves." "Then, one of the lawyers answered and said to him, 'Teacher, by saying these things you reproach us also.' " Now the teachers of the law, these lawyers were closely associated with the Pharisees. So Jesus is hammering on the Pharisees, so these teachers of the law, these scribes associated with the Pharisees are sort of feeling the bite, feeling the pinch. And they're kind of squirming in their seats, and so they say something: "Hey, you know, by hammering on them, you're really kind of making us feel bad." Listen to Jesus' response. "And he said, 'Woe to you also, lawyers!' " "Okay, you want some of this?" [laughter]
" 'For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one finger.' " What did that mean? He was referring to the boatload of man-made, additional commandments, traditions, the oral law that had been accumulated over time and would eventually be codified around 200 AD, all the different practices and what the laws of Moses meant in different situations. So they become so entrenched with extra laws of what Moses really meant. Now, do you know how that came about, by the way? You need to know this. In the Old Testament there was a temple in Jerusalem, right? And that was the central place for worship. And then the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, as you know, in 586 BC and the children of Israel in Judah were taken captive. So now they're in a foreign land in Babylon.
The temple has been destroyed---thus, there are no animal sacrifices; there's no ceremonial law practiced; there's no covering for sin any longer. So in Babylon the elders got together and said, "In the absence of the ability to practice ceremonial law, we need to focus on written law." And they became quite scholarly and great Bible students. And that is where the synagogue developed. The synagogue never developed in Israel; it was developed in Babylonian captivity. Now, when they came back, they brought the office of the synagogue, and they're synagogues all over the world. But that developed in captivity. "We can't practice ceremonial law, so now we have to talk about written law. And when we read the law, and Moses said something, now we ask ourselves this question: What did Moses mean by that? What did Moses really mean by that? So let's discuss it and let's discuss it more and let's discuss it more.
"And well develop an interpretation of what we believe Moses really meant." That became the oral law which is, I say, was written later on, codified in writing. So, if you look at the Old Testament, the law itself, when it comes to the Sabbath day, it says, "Don't do any work on the Sabbath day." Don't do any menial labor. Don't do any regular work on the Sabbath day. There actually is little written about what not to do. And one of the things it says not to do is you can't carry a burden on the Sabbath day. Well, while they were in captivity, one rabbi looked at another and said, "What do you---what you think he meant by a burden?" What is a burden?" Or as they would have said, "What is a burden?" [laughter] So, in the Mishnah, listen to this, there are 24 chapters, 24 chapters written about what work is and what you can't do on the Sabbath.
There are 24 chapters or 156 folio pages. Those are the large pages, on both sides, of what you can't do, what work you can't do on the Sabbath. And when it says you can't carry a burden, they were very specific. A burden is food equal in weight to a dried fig, wine enough to mix in a goblet, milk enough to produce one swallow, oil enough to anoint one member of the body, and ink enough to write two letters with. Anything more than that is a burden. I mean, that's how crazy it got and picky---"You . . ." And it got, "Oh, you-you wrote three letters." [laughter] "You carried too much ink." It's like . . . . [laughter] It was stupid. You get the---you get the idea. So he says, " 'Woe to you lawyers! You load men with burdens hard to bear.' "It was harder keeping the Sabbath, I mean, you needed a Sabbath after the Sabbath. It's sort of like going on a vacation with your family sometimes. It's like, "Man that was hard. I need a vacation now." [laughter]
Sometimes it was harder to keep the Sabbath, more laborious than just the rest. " 'You yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.' " I mentioned that every year for the festivals---and do you know how many festivals there were when they went up to Jerusalem? There were three every year that were mandatory, right? So they made sure the roads were clear and they made sure the tombs were marked. You paint them. You whitewash them. You made them look, you know, good, but you're letting people know, "Stay away. This is a tomb." If you go to Jerusalem today, there are a couple of areas that are interesting that tour guides will point out as the tombs of the prophets.
One of them is on the Mount of Olives, they purport is the tomb of Malachi and I think it's Haggai. There's three of them. But down in the Kidron Valley they have what is called the tomb of Absalom, (which really is not), the pillar of Absalom, and the tomb of Zechariah. They're prominent. They're large. You have to imagine these things were painted and whitewashed, which because they were done by these religious Pharisees, made it look like these religious guys were actually honoring the prophets. "We're honoring them. We're keeping their graves look really good." Jesus said, "Yeah, it's a good show, but what you neglect to let everybody know is it was your forefathers, the religious elite of their day that actually killed those prophets. So it's like, "Oh."
" 'Therefore the wisdom of God also said, "I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them will---they will kill and persecute," that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say is to you, it should be required of this generation.' " The death of Abel is recorded in Genesis, chapter 4. The martyrdom of Zechariah, as mentioned here, is Second Chronicles 24. And that is because in the Hebrew Bible that is the last book of the Hebrew Old Testament, Second Chronicles. So he's saying, "All of them from Abel to Zechariah, from A to Z, your fathers have killed." And they were at that moment plotting to kill the greatest prophet of all; the Messiah, Jesus, was in their midst. They were all conniving behind the scene, and so Jesus just---he knows what's coming.
He lays it all on them publicly. Sometimes people say, "Well, you should never mention, you know, if there's a teacher on television or the radio who's, like, got some false stuff, you should never ever mention their name, because it's just not polite. It's not showing love." Hey, this is incarnate love speaking here, and he's naming them and calling them out publicly. Why would he do that? Because he loves the people. He loves the sheep. He's a good Shepherd protecting sheep from bad stuff, so he calls them out and tells the truth. " 'Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered. " 'You kept them away from the truth of the Word of God by loading people down with traditions that actually obscure the intent and plain meaning of the Word of God. The key of knowledge---you had the key. You interpret the Scriptures.
"You're able to look at them. So you've got the key, but you're keeping people from entering in and giving them the true knowledge of the Word of God. And, by the way, you yourselves, you religious guys, you students of theology, you're not entering in either." "As he said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail him vehemently," you can imagine, "and to cross-examine him about many things." Nobody really likes to hear the truth about themselves, especially from One who actually knows all the truth about who they are. It's very uncomfortable, and so I am not surprised to read of this reaction: "Lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch him in something he might say, that they might accuse him." So Jesus loved them, but he was very firm in his love. Now, in chapter 12 we continue on. As you can see, if you have a red-letter, there's lots of red letters in this chapter.
But let me tell you what he's honing in on. He's been with the crowds, and there's been a confrontation publicly, and that's going continue. However, what Jesus does here in these verses coming up in chapter 12 is take the events that just transpired, and some of the language and conversations that just happened, and he uses that as a teaching moment for his disciples. He's really spending these last weeks and months training the twelve. He's going to leave them in a few months. And he'll be crucified, and he'll rise from the dead, and be with them for forty days, and he's gone. He's going back up to heaven. So he's training them and he wants to teach them about some of the things that he has just talked about, warned them about, hypocrisy. He just called a couple groups of people, "Hypocrite! Hypocrite! Hypocrite! You wear a mask." And so he's going to teach them about hypocrisy and then greed, materialistic greed.
So, "In the meantime," in verse 1, chapter 12, "when an innumerable multitude of people gathered together"---it seems by the language that we started with in this study tonight, and then the language here, that the crowds were growing larger. And nothing will get a crowd like confrontation. You can just imagine, you know, the voices get raised, and, you know, Jesus is there, and he's already creating a stir because he's got a reputation going. And then all of a sudden, "Woe unto you." "Whoa, what's going on over there?" And then now the crowd has swollen. It's huge. So it says it's "an innumerable multitude." It's an interesting word, though. It's a Greek word muriadōn, which literally means ten thousand. There's a great verse of Scriptures in Revelation 5 in the anthems sung in heaven by the multitudes, the myriads of beings. It says, "And the number of them was muriades muriadōn chiliades chiliadōn," or "ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands."
That's the word used here, literally ten thousand. So it's translated here "an innumerable multitude." The crowd is big as people gather. It says so much "that they were trampling on one another, and he began to say to his disciples first of all, 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.' " If you know anything about leaven, you know that leaven is never good. It's not seen as something in Scripture typologically as something good. It's usually seen as something evil. It's yeast, that's what leaven is. Leaven is the yeast that causes a corrosion, really, a fermentation of the dough. So, you put a little bit of starter, it's called, into the loaf and the whole thing becomes leaven. In the Old Testament at Passover time all of the homes were to be purged of leaven. They were to go search out through the home and find any leaven and expel it for Passover.
When it came to offering the sacrifices in the tabernacle, and later on the temple, there was to be no leaven. It was to be pure. So leaven was seen as something to be purged. It was seen something that you'd remove because, because it by nature corrodes and corrupts the whole mass. "A little leaven," twice Paul tells us, "leavens the whole lump." Now here Jesus calls "leaven" hypocrisy. In another place in Matthew, Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." And then Matthew explains Jesus wasn't talking about the leaven of bread, but the leaven of doctrine. So leaven is seen in the Scripture as hypocrisy, hypocritical behavior, false doctrine. Paul sees immorality among God's people as something that will leaven other people. A bad example leavens people. It infiltrates. In the book of Galatians, leaven is seen as legalism. So all of those things are bad stuff and a little bit permeates quickly.
So, "Beware of the leaven of these Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Just a little bit of hypocrisy, you see it in somebody's life, somebody you've looked up to, somebody you thought as a strong Christian, but you see a little compromise in their life and you go, "Oh, well, maybe, maybe---I guess it's okay then for me to do that." And then pretty soon you've got a whole group, and then a whole movement, and then a whole---it spreads quickly. " 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there's nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.' "This is a scary thought. Are there any things that you have said that you definitely don't want anyone else to know about?
I find that frightening and yet I've discovered something. I've discovered that almost always when I've told people, "Hey, let me tell you something, but don't tell anybody," [laughter] that it's impossible. It always gets out. It spreads like leaven. It just goes quickly and nothing is really secret. " 'And I say unto you, my friends"---I love that. He calls his disciples "my friends." Isn't that a beautiful title to be given by Jesus? You know, I'm sure there was tension as there was thousands of people, and already there's an elevated sense of concern, because of the enemies are just in a rile, and then Jesus says, "My friends." It's like, you know, if I'm like Peter or Andrew, I'm going, "Oh, yeah, that's good." It's good to be reminded of that.
" 'And I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that can do no more---there's no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell; yes, I say, fear him!' "Don't be afraid of these nincompoops." 'Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; are you---or you are of more value than many sparrows.' " Now, we have similar passages in other gospels, but I just love these truths that Jesus---"The hairs of your head are numbered." Now just-just think for a moment what that means. I'm not going to get into bald jokes; don't worry. [laughter] But the average human being, the average adult has between seventy-five and a hundred forty thousand hairs, around a hundred thousand is the average.
Several of them are lost every single day by human beings. We all lose our hair, but then sometimes it regenerates, sometimes it doesn't. Leave it at that. But here's the point: the count on your head is different than it was yesterday. God knows what that is. I suppose you could ask someone who was really diligent to count the hairs on your head, and you could probably know them, but it would take a long time, and by that time you would have lost several anyway. And the others that are regenerating would be too small for you to even see, so you might not even get an accurate count, but God knows. Here is the point: your heavenly Father is even concerned about what most of us consider trivial, that we have a sovereign God who providentially cares for you and even knows the very hairs of your head. And he talks about sparrows, that not one of them is forgotten before God, and you are of more value than sparrows.
God knows when a sparrow falls. "Who cares if a sparrow falls?" most of us would say. God knows that and he's concerned even about the trivial things or what we would consider trivial. " 'Also I say to you, whoever confesses me before men, him the Son of Man will confess before the angels of God.' " The idea of confess means to agree with or identify with. " 'But he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And he who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven' " Now, why was this important for them to hear? Well, because they were getting nervous because of the vehement response of the enemies of Christ to the words and works of Christ.
And it's getting really tense, so he calls them "My friends, don't worry. They might kill the body, they can't kill the soul. And, by the way, your heavenly Father knows even when a sparrow dies. He knows the hairs of your head. They're all numbered. It's all under control. You can trust in him. Man, you can relax." "Your heavenly Father"---he's not their heavenly Father, he's their Creator, but no bird has ever been promised eternal life. No bird will have an eternal home with God in heaven like you will. So if God even cares about that, then you can relax. But then he says, "Stick with me here. Identify with me. Confess me before men. Don't be afraid to identify and confess with me, because the payoff will be in eternity. My heavenly Father will accept you because of the confession that I will make before the holy angels." And conversely he's speaking about the enemies.
When he says in verse 10, " 'Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be,' " we have covered this on many occasions, but let me just sum it up quickly. The enemies of Jesus Christ had ascribed his miraculous power to the power of the Devil. "He's doing this by the devil's power." The very fact that they could draw a line between the power of God, and say behind the power of the Son of God is actually the Devil, shows how hardened their hearts were. If that is their explanation, if blind eyes that can now see and dead people who can now live and lame people who can now walk---he has bettered their lives. They're praising God because of it. People are turning to God because of it. If they can say, "That is---that's the Devil," shows that there is a condition of heart as described here, I believe. I believe the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit refers to the continued rejection of Jesus Christ.
And here is why: it is the purpose, it is the job, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and to convince a person of his or her need for Christ. If a person, in hearing the gospel, continually spurns and rejects the work of the Holy Spirit, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the drawing of the Spirit of God, by rejecting the One God sent, if you die like that, there is no forgiveness for sin. There's none. It's over. And so the warning comes and he's tying it back into the previous chapter. " 'Now when they bring you into the synagogues' "---in other words, you're going to be---you're going to be in trouble by the religious institutions---" 'and the magistrates and authorities' "---you're going to be in trouble by the civil institutions---" 'do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.' "
Now please understand the context here. This is not a word of comfort to a lazy preacher. He's not saying, "Hey, you preachers of the gospel, you never have to study or prepare, or look at history or language, or really get a good education, because you just get up there and open the Bible and just say something, and the Holy Spirit . . . ." Boy, that'd be---I mean, that'd be, like, the easiest---it's like no wonder people say, "Well, you have an easy job. You just work on Sundays." [laughter] And I hear that, I go, "You, like, have no clue, do you? You don't even get all of the time that is necessary in preparation." What these words refer to isn't the preacher that goes into the ministry or the person who does a class or a Bible study. It's referring to those who are under the persecution of religious and civil authorities and are arrested, and they have to give some kind of a word or testimony.
"Don't even worry about the persecution and the need to give a testimony. It'll be given to you in that moment, in that hour." "Then one from the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But he said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or an arbiter over you?' " It's an interesting story. Somebody just shouts out from the crowd. He obviously has a financial issue in his life. There's been a death in the family. His father has died. There's an inheritance to be distributed. It was always the oldest son in the family who was in charge of distributing the inheritance. The oldest got a double portion, but he had to disperse it, and evidently there's been a lag time since the funeral. And so he figures, "Jesus is here---I'm telling." [laughter] And so he rats him out in public: "Jesus, tell my brother . . . ." And probably his brother's in there going, "Oh, man, this is bad."
But look, Jesus said, "Look, I don't care about this stuff. Who made me to be an arbiter over you?" Listen, there's a very important principle here: Jesus did not come to make bad people good; he came to make dead people alive. The issue isn't you have a little problem at home---and sometimes I get asked questions and it's like, "Okay, uh, you want me to fix that? You know, really, that's"---the real issue is what have you done with God and are you following the will of God for your life? This is so petty, it's ridiculous, but we do get into squabbles and quarrels, and we want to---we want to forget the big picture. "And so Jesus said, 'Who made me to be a judge or an arbiter over you?' He said, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness,' " see, he's using that as a teaching moment, " 'for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses.' "
Somebody in the crowd, maybe even somebody who purported to be a follower of Christ, but he's so hung up on what he gets or doesn't get, that he's going right to HR. [laughter] Jesus, I have a complaint I want to file." And Jesus said---well, you know what he said. [laughter] "So he spoke a parable and he said to them, 'The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, "What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?" So he said, "I'll do this: I'll pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years.' " ' " It's like my dad used to say that he would talk to himself because he liked to talk to a wise man. That's what he used to tell me. [laughter]
" ' " 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.' " But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will these things be which you have provided?" So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.' " It's dumb. It's foolish, in the words of Jesus, to be so concerned about materialistic satisfaction that you neglect the relationship, the reality, the essentials of walking with God, being saved. "I need my inheritance." No. You need to go to heaven. You don't need an earthly inheritance; you need a heavenly one. May God deliver us from being too concerned about what's perhaps important, but not all-important. God give us the balance. Well, we're approaching being out of time. We want to take the Lord's Supper together, so we'll leave it here till next week, and we'll get into some great words of Jesus as we finish up Luke, chapter 12.
So would you take your communion packet out. And, you know, before we pray and take these elements, I want you to be aware that you serve a radical Jesus. I mean, the words that he speaks here, and I know that's sort of a loaded word these days, "a radical," but it was---it was revolutionary. Jesus Christ was like a lightning rod wherever he went. You know, he didn't blend in; he stood out and he said it like it was. And I remember as a younger person, when I was brand-new, saved person, and I started reading the New Testament, and I went, "Man, this is not at all what I thought following Jesus was like." I grew up in a religious environment. It was just like, "I don't want to be that. I don't want to be a religious person." And it just sort of--- just this innocuous kind of very tepid kind of life. But then I read the New Testament, and it was like, "This is revolutionary. I want that." And I still to this day yearn for that.
And that's why when a person makes a commitment to Jesus, and then it's a total abandon, and it's like, "I'm all-in. I'm going to follow you all the way," it's like, oh yes! I love that. So the longer I live, I really understand why Jesus didn't really get along with religious people all that much. I get it. I don't like them either. And but the real deal, the authentic believer in Christ---"Just me and Jesus. And I trust him. And I want to follow his will. And I want to tell people about him. And I want to worship with abandon," I love that. And, anyway, I'm going to ask Nate and Jarrett, if you guys will come up and pray for the bread and the juice. Father, we thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ who came from heaven to earth.
Jonah may have gone to the Ninevites, and the queen of Sheba may have traveled across the hot desert to get to see Solomon, and the Ninevites repented, and the queen was moved and marveled, but Jesus came to this earth and he started revolution. And, Lord, we're part of it. We thank you that we serve the living Christ. He was killed, he died, he gave his life; but he rose again from the dead, and he's alive, and he's with us. I pray we'd never forget that, and that we'd wake up every day and think, "Anything is possible today, because Jesus is alive. And he can do anything he wants with my life. And he can work through me and use me to reach people and speak to people and change people's lives." Just love that thought.
Pastor Jarrett Petero: As we take the bread, let's pray. Father, we thank you that you call us your friend. And, Lord, that you would share the truth of the essentials with us to know that you not only provided this sign, but you became the sacrifice for us, and your body was crucified on a cross for our sins. Lord, we take this bread in our hands and we remember that as a symbol of your body that was broken for us. As your Word says that the joy that was set before you, you endured the cross for us 'cause the joy. Lord, thank you for your love tonight that we can rest in that. Thank you that we can know the truth and, Lord, be your friends. So, Lord, as we take this bread now, may it just be assimilated into our life. May we be cleansed of our sin and purified in the name of Jesus. Let's take the bread.
Pastor Nate Heitzig: Let's open up the next portion to the juice and let's pray. Lord God, we thank you for your blood, Lord, your perfect, pure, and holy blood; your blood which covers a multitude of sins, Lord, not just the little ones, but the big ones, the ugly ones, the ones that stare us down, Lord, when we close our eyes at night, Lord. We thank you that your blood covers those sins, that it washes us white as snow, that it symbolizes, Lord, that we no longer have to live in bondage and slavery to sin, but we can live free from our sin alive in you. And so, Lord, just as you died and you spilt your blood for us, Lord, we want to die to ourselves, God. We no longer want to live for us, live for our desires; we want to live for you. And so, Lord, as we take this juice, we thank you. We rejoice in your sacrifice.
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