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: Let's pray. Father, we-we are so thankful, first of all, that you know all about us. Nothing in our thought processes, or our activity, nothing in our humanity takes you off guard. You are Sovereign God and we are told that "God so loved the world." That's an astonishing statement, because it's the kind of love we don't relate to. You know the world, and yet you love the world. You know all people, and yet you love all people. We don't even come close to that kind of affection. Father, we know that you are unique, and in your love for us, we come before you tonight, and we pray that you would just deepen our understanding of your truth, your Word.
And I pray, Father, that wherever people are listening right now, whether in this auditorium, or out in the community via radio, or somewhere around the world via Internet, how grateful we are for these tools. We don't take them for granted. We're humbled that you use this fellowship in Albuquerque to reach around the world and to strengthen believers. And so, Lord, as we have prayed for teams going out, we now pray for yourselves, we bring ourselves before you as living sacrifices. And we pray, Father that we would hear the voice of your Spirit speaking to us, in Jesus' name, amen.
On his way toward Jerusalem, Jesus prepares his disciples for what he knows is going to happen: he will be arrested, he will die, he will rise, he will minister, but he will leave. He will be gone. He is preparing them for future ministry. And as he prepares his men, his disciples, he tells them a story about an unjust manager, and about the owner of the property that hired the manager. It's a story about a worldly boss who commends a worldly manager for using worldly wisdom. But the reason Jesus uses it is by way of contrast, as if to say, "Look, look over there at the ungodly who with such passion and such devotion will do anything to secure their future. And so you, my disciples, if you were as devoted spiritually as even these bad people are physically, how great, how much greater the kingdom of God would be." So he's talking about this unjust steward or unjust manager. And because it has to deal with money, the Pharisees are not far away.
They're eavesdropping in on the conversation. They're listening carefully to what Jesus is saying, even though Jesus isn't talking to them. They're listening and they interrupt him. Don't you hate that? You're talking to somebody and somebody else goes, "Hey, now wait a minute," and you go, "Wait a minute, dude, I'm not even talking to you." [laughter] But the Pharisees heard it and because it says they were "lovers of money," they derided Jesus; that is, they looked down their nose at him, an arrogant, pious attitude. And so our Lord uses that as an opportunity, also teaching his disciples how to deal with enemies, by giving a parable or a story---and I'll tell you the difference in just a moment---a story to the Pharisees to answer their derision of Jesus in regards to what he was teaching his disciples. And he tells an interesting story about two lives, two deaths, and two hereafters, two people who lived and died and were judged by God.
And, again, it was meant to answer the Pharisees who were "lovers of money" and sneered at what Jesus was saying. Now, the story---and some people think it is a story, and not a parable. In other words, some people think it is a legitimate, actual, historical event that Jesus was recounting rather than a parable. And the reason they say this is because Jesus doesn't say, "Now hear a parable." But that doesn't mean anything, necessarily, 'cause Jesus didn't always say that when he introduced parables. Sometimes he just launched into an analogy that was a parabolic account. It wasn't an actual historical event. He just began by telling it and it was understood as a parable. But there's a second reason why some people think it is a story rather than a parable; and that is, because a name appears in it, a man named Lazarus. Not the Lazarus that you know of Mary and Martha fame, probably a different Lazarus altogether, but it was a common name.
And so Jesus mentioned---mentions a rich man and a man by the name of Lazarus. And so they say, "Well, because a name was put into the story, it must be a story and not a parable, because in no other parable is there an official name. But, again, I wouldn't submit to you there's-there's no, like, law of parables that says you can't, if you're going to give a parable, put somebody's name in it. So, it could be a story, it could be a parable, you can answer that yourself. Verse 19, "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple," the color of royalty, "and fine linen," very expensive designer clothes, "and he fared sumptuously," that is, he ate well, "every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate."
Now we don't know who this certain rich man is, but we can presume that since it's in the local area of either Israel or Judea, and because his audience is all Jewish, that this is a Jewish man, a very rich Jewish man, a certain Jewish man who was very wealthy. And why is this important? Because the Pharisees loved money. And the Pharisees had a faith theology that basically said---like the modern, false doctrine, faith theology---says that if you have a lot of money, it's a direct proof that God has blessed your life, the evidence of God's blessing is you're very wealthy. So, "a certain rich man," they would immediately associate with, "Oh, God has blessed him. This is a good man, this is a godly man, because God has blessed him with finances."
On the other hand, somebody who's a beggar (in many circles of ancient Judaism) was considered cursed by God, the very opposite, for something had happened in his life that has caused him to be in this condition, perhaps and probably some infraction, some sin, some sinful behavior, that God in an immediate cause-and-effect relationship is cursing him. So that's how it's set up and that would be the thought processes in the minds of his audience, the Pharisees. And notice it's "a certain beggar named Lazarus." He is "full of sores, who's just laid at the gate." He's so poor, he's probably paralyzed. That is why he has sores; he's been lying on this cot. And somebody lying on a bed or a cot for a long period of time, the skin touching that produces bed sores. He was "desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores."
So Jesus is being very picturesque here, enough to make people go, "Ugh, that's so gross." You know, dogs will lick anything. [laughter] I have a dog who licks the other dog's ears to clean them out. I know that's pack behavior, but it's like, oh. Then they want to come over and lick you. [laughter] "So it was"---sorry, my mind went there. [laughter] "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom," or that is, the side of Abraham. He was next to Abraham. "The rich man also died and was buried." Now, Jesus pauses before he tells you where the rich guy is. It just tells you the poor guy died. Jesus said the poor guy died; he's carried to Abraham's bosom or Abraham's side. Now, look at verse 23. "And being in torments," plural, not one but several, compound torment in the afterlife, "in Hades," that's hell, "he," the rich man, "lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom," or at his side.
Okay, so first of all, notice how easily Jesus passes from one world into the next world. He can describe things that go on in this life, in this world, but he can just as easily be in touch with and describe the next world, the hereafter, and what happens when a person dies. You and I don't have that benefit. You and I cannot peer beyond the veil. That is why if you wonder about life after death, go to the source. Go to the One who has been in this life, has died, has risen, and is back up in heaven. He's the authority. He and he alone can give you the accurate, adequate information of what happens when a person dies. This is important, because I have heard so many people talk about their loved ones after death, and they're up in that great fairway in the sky, and they're playing golf. [laughter] And they just make this stuff up. So we want to get accurate information, lest we be misleading to people, and Jesus is a good source.
Well, this rich, Jewish, blessed man finds himself in hell. It's the last place he would ever think he would be. And no Pharisee would think a rich man like this would be in hell. I'm sure they went, "Gasp! He's in torments? What kind of a story is this?" Now, I think it's safe to say---completely safe and accurate to say that since Jesus is answering the Pharisees who, number one, believed in an afterlife---remember the Sadducees did not believe in heaven, hell, an afterlife, angels, supernatural. Pharisees did. So they're listening. They track with the hereafter. But the rich man represents the Pharisee or the Pharisees, "lovers of money," very wealthy. And the last place any Pharisee would think that he would be, would be in hell. So, again, it's a shock. Now, before we go on, I just want to point something out that's obvious, but sometimes missed. Just looking at this story disproves the doctrine of something called "soul sleep."
And some of you may have come from churches that teach soul sleep; that is, the bo---that your being, your personhood from the moment of death until the resurrection just sort of goes into pause; there is no consciousness after you die until the resurrection; your soul just goes to sleep. According to Jesus, once you die, you are very much aware, you are very conscious, you are completely cognizant of your surroundings, and you can feel either pleasure, reward, or pain in the afterlife. That's embedded in this story as well. So the beggar died. He was carried by the angels to Abraham's side or bosom, the place of bliss. This is---this would be in their minds the place of heaven. Every Jewish person had this hope that there would be a great banquet in the future kingdom and that he they could sit next to Abraham. They were familiar with Genesis 15, that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.
And that Abraham would be in the kingdom because he was-he was the father of faith. They even knew that. So they had a desire to join Abraham in the afterlife, and to sit next to him would be an extreme honor. But, verse 23 threw them for a loop, he "being in torments in Hades." Now let me explain Hades. "Hades," sometimes translated "hell," is the New Testament, Greek equivalent of the Old Testament word Sheol. Sometimes you read that in the Bible, Sheol. It's the place of the departed dead. The spirits of the departed dead, the souls of the departed dead went to Sheol. Now often in the Old Testament both the good and the bad, the righteous and the unrighteous, the believing and the unbelieving all were in this place called "the grave," or Sheol. By the time we get to the New Testament, and especially in this story, now Hades is the place of the unrighteous departed souls, and this guy is in it.
"And he sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and he said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' " I want you to see something else that I think is pretty obvious in this story. There's no indication that the rich man did anything heinous. No heinous crime was committed. There's no record of it. He was just a rich guy. He was a rich guy who thought he'd end up in heaven. He died and he's in hell and he's in torment. And, you see, a lot of people get this wrong thinking that "All I have to do to get to heaven is just die. I'll just live a relatively good life. I'll do my best." And I've seen people do good deeds, and somebody will say, "You are going to heaven. You have a high place in heaven." In other words, "You get to heaven," they would say, "by what you do, by your good deeds."
And we think, "Well, you know, hell is only reserved for the---somebody who has done some bad thing like---okay, Hitler, he's in hell, and others like him." But there's no indication that this guy did anything like that, and yet he is in hell. Again, a big shock, a big surprise to those who would be listening. "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; and now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all of this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed"---fixed---"so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.' " So there's no passageway in eternity where a person can go from hell into heaven, or purgatory into heaven, or limbo into heaven. These are words that are made up. They're not in the Bible at all. There's no passageway. Once you're there, you're there. The gulf is fixed, and you can't pass from one place to the other.
Jesus said this is---or Paul said this is what happens when you die: "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." So if you were to die tonight---and we're not hoping that will happen. We want you to be alive. We want you to be with us. You have a life of fruitfulness ahead of you. But if you were to die tonight, your body would be eventually put into the ground and turn to dust. It would disintegrate by natural developments. But immediately when you die, your spirit, your soul, the real you would go into the presence of the Lord. You'd be absent from the body, which would go into the earth---dust to dust, ashes to ashes---your spirit would be in the presence of the Lord. You would be conscious. You would be aware. You would be rewarded. You would experience great bliss and great blessing. So heaven is real, and hell is really real, and Jesus spoke freely about both heaven and hell.
I heard about a man who was driving a car and he got an accident. And he hit a pole, a big sign. It was a Shell gas station sign. He hit it and he was rendered unconscious. Well, when he woke up, he looked up, and he looked outside at that sign. Now after he hit it, the jarring of the vehicle hitting the sign knocked the S off. [laughter] So, he was shocked. He rubbed his eyes, looked up, and he saw the sign: "Hell Open 24 Hours." [laughter] That would be enough to change your life. [laughter] "Then he said," verse 27, " 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him' "---this poor man who's now being comforted---" 'send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' " Do you know that if an unbeliever who has died could return today, they would preach the gospel?
If Charles Darwin were here, he would say, "Don't listen to these eggheads. [laughter] Don't listen to my book. You need to believe in Christ." If John Lennon were here, he wouldn't say, "Imagine there's no heaven"; he'd say, "I don't have to imagine, I know there is, and I'm not in it. Don't you make the same mistake." And so here he says, "Just send somebody to tell my loved ones about this place and this torment." "Abraham said to him"---an interesting statement---" 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.' " They have the Scriptures. They have the testimony of the Word of God. They have the revealed truth of God preserved through the centuries. They have it. " 'No,' " he said, " 'father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' " Now I'm picturing the Pharisees listening really closely, because this is going to happen to them. One is going to rise from the dead, but they won't believe even the resurrection of the one talking.
After he dies, Jesus himself won't be enough to persuade them to believe. It's an important point to note. Some people say, "Well, if I could only see a miracle, I'd believe." No you wouldn't. If you saw a miracle, you'd say, "I can't believe that I really saw that. [laughter] Maybe I hallucinated. Maybe there's some other explanation." "But he said to them, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' " There's one reason this man is in hell. It's not because he committed some heinous crime; it's because he didn't listen to the testimony of Scripture. That's all it takes, if a person rejects the clear testimony of Scripture, and so many do---"Well, I believe that all it takes to go to heaven is to do this," or "I believe if you just say this or do this, that you'll go to heaven"---instead of listening to the clear testimony of Scripture.
"If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." Somebody once said that a man's life consists of twenty years of his mother asking him where he's going, forty years of his wife asking him where he's been, [laughter] and one hour at his funeral where everybody sits around wondering where he went. That is so true for so many, sadly. I read something about a gravestone, and-and I didn't know if it was true or not until I actually had a photograph from a cemetery in New England, where it's snowing like crazy these last few weeks. And the gravestone, I have photograph of it. The snow's at the bottom of it. It says, "Pause, stranger, as you pass me by; as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. So prepare for death and follow me." Interesting gravestone. I've seen it with my own eyes.
But I heard that somebody came by, saw that, read that, and wrote a little plague and placed it at the grave that said: "To follow you I'm not content, until I know which way you went." [laughter] So this is a good story, because we know which way they both went. [laughter] And this was an absolute shock as Jesus answered the Pharisees, whom it says in chapter 16 were "lovers of money," and they derided Jesus for what he had told his disciples. He says that for their benefit. Now, chapter 17, he returns to preparing his disciples. And he teaches them about four basic things: forgiveness, faithfulness, thankfulness, preparedness. Those four things occupy Jesus' training of his twelve as they approach Jerusalem. First of all, forgiveness: "Then he said to the disciples, 'It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!
" 'It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.' " Man, did you get a load of that? You know what that sounds like? That sounds like what the Mafia say. [laughter] Right? "Tie a millstone around his neck." They will---they weigh several hundred pounds. If you've been with us to Israel, we have pointed out the upper millstone that is rotated by an animal on top of the lower millstone where you grind grain. To be able to fasten something like that around somebody's neck, and throw them into the sea, would make sure he hits the bottom and never returns. That's what the Mafia does. "Case him in cement." [laughter] It's a radical statement. You know, we just---I gotta say that, because we just sort of read the Bible with sort of this---aaaahhh-pious tone, and we don't go, "Man that would offend people."
But that's Jesus' point: "You have already offended people." And the word "offend" here, it's used twice in the text, is the word skandalon in Greek. And it literally means a bait stick. Inside of a trap they would put a stick and they put bait on it. And it was a movable stick to attract an animal into the trap to capture him. So it came to mean somebody who makes somebody stumble or trip, bait stick, skandalon, an offense. Now, what our Lord was referring to in the context of the passage is the group in chapter 15, verse 1, "the publicans and the sinners" were attracted to Jesus. His words were like no other words they had ever heard, and they were attracted and they pressed in around him. And they were like young, spiritual children believing in him and wanting to know more.
But---but perhaps the Pharisees interrupting Jesus teaching the twelve, and speaking against Jesus publicly, deriding him publicly, sort of threw and caused to stumble these young believers who wanted to learn more. So their public criticism of Jesus---you know, because they looked up to Pharisees. Everybody did. "These guys are the most righteous, if they're scorning Jesus, boy, I don't know if I should believe in him." So probably in context that's---he's referring to those young, once tax collectors and sinners who love and are following Jesus, are being offended, scandalized, caused to stumble by these religious elite. He said, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he was thrown into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones."
I read an interesting story about a guy who was talking about his childhood. He says, "When I was a kid, I used to play with my buddies out in a field. And the field was by an intersection, and the intersection had a sign with arrows pointing in different directions." Remember those old road signs? They're still in some country spots. And so he went up to the road sign at the intersection one day and he discovered the pole was movable, and so he moved it in the intersection. And he said, "In recalling that, I couldn't tell you, but I often wonder how many people I sent down the wrong road." And the Pharisees, the religious leaders were sending people down the wrong road. Listen, there's something worse than going to hell; and that is, taking others with you, pointing in the wrong direction.
I think of teachers in school, professors in college who they feel it is their job, their duty to dismantle the faith of young believers. When I hear them, I think, "There's a millstone waiting for you." Not here, not that we would do it, but they're going to face God's millstone of judgment. Or stars, rock stars, music stars, actors who take it upon themselves to make their aim in life to go against the gospel, causing people to stumble. "Take heed to yourselves," verse 3. "If your brother sins against you"---so let's say you're the one offended by somebody, somebody sins against you---"If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." It's very simple, is it not? Now let me---let me just draw a scenario and see if you fit in one or the other. Somebody sins against you or offends you, we typically react two different ways: we either run away from the conflict---we don't like conflict.
We don't like to be con---confrontation, so we run away from it . . . and tell a number of people. [laughter] Or we bite back. We antagonize back. We hit hard back at the person. Neither of those are appropriate responses if somebody offends you. It is to approach them and let them know, "You are offensive. That offended me and here's why," and give that person a chance to talk it out. That's Matthew 18. Go to the person, and you should go privately, not publicly, not tell thirty people first. Go privately and confront, lovingly confront, lovingly rebuke. You don't have to say, "You idiot! That's my rebuke, by the way." [laughter] No, that's not. That's just a shame. Just go and rebuke the person, say, "That was wrong and here's why." And if he repents, then you go, "I forgive you." Don't hold any grudges. It's over. Go to the person, get it over with, instead of holding onto a grudge for thirty years, and letting it eat at you and destroy your family.
You know how many people I have buried where that has happened in the family? And I go, "Goodness, one phone call would have taken care of that, one sentence of asking forgiveness." Even if the other person says, "No, I won't forgive you," at least you've tried. You're free. Go to sleep every night free. "And if he sins against you seven times a day"---then smack him. [laughter] Well, you laugh because it is human nature. "If he sins against you seven times in a day," strike that first part, "and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." Okay, so, heh, if that actually happened, you know, by the fourth time, you're thinking, "You are so not sincere. This is a shame. No, I don't forgive you." Now the point isn't the number of times. It's not like, "You know, he's done this---this is the eighth time now. Now I'm going to hit him." [laughter]
Here's the idea: the rabbis said, the rabbis used to say, "If somebody sins against you, forgive him three times." That was considered magnanimous. That was considered generous. So Jesus doubled the count of the rabbis and added one for good measure. But, again, it's not the amount of times, because "love keeps no record of wrong," First Corinthians 13. So if he says, "I am sorry," you forgive him, you extend a hand of forgiveness. Now, look at what the apostles say. I would say the same thing. "The apostles say to the Lord, "Increase our faith." Man that takes an enormous amount of spirituality, of faith, Christian faith, to be able to forgive somebody who's sinned against you that many times, to continue to extend forgiveness. Ooh, oy vey. [laughter] "Increase our faith, Lord." It's the appropriate response.
"And so the Lord said, 'If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, "Be pulled up from the roots and be planted in the sea," and it would obey you.' " A mustard seed is small, but it has life within it. It has power within it. Your faith, though it may be small, has life within it, has power within it. And Jesus said, 'If you have the faith that---even that small of a mustard seed, you'll be able to say to this mulberry tree, 'Be transplanted.' " Now, I do not believe that he is speaking literally here in the sense that you and I have the power to go around and start our own landscaping business [laughter] by saying, you know, "I don't like those trees over there. They would be much better over on this side. So, I'm going to just, by faith, confess it and foom it's going to move." [laughter] And I say that it's not literally, because we have no record of the disciples ever doing this, or anyone in church history ever moving landscape like this.
The related verse in the gospel of Matthew where it says, "You can say to this mountain, 'Be removed,' and it will be removed and thrown into the sea." Again, we have no record of anybody moving mountains that we know of. However, according to William Barclay, in ancient times, somebody who could explain truth and unravel spiritual mysteries was-was considered---was called the "remover of mountains" or the "uprooter" in some times, the uprooter. So probably a reference to that notable ideology, Jesus said these words. "And which of you"---because now he's getting back to his teaching. "And which of you, having a servant"---so he talked about forgiveness, now it's faithfulness. "Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, would say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?" "Who ever heard of a pampered servant?" in other words.
In those days slave or servant is somebody that the master would boss, and you wouldn't pamper or have a demanding servant. "But will not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did things that were commanded him?" I think not. Now this is an ancient world; this isn't a modern world. Of course, in a modern world today people will go to the human resource department if somebody doesn't treat them right. And, "He said something mean to me," and, "You know, my boss orders me around." Well, he's your boss. Bosses get to do that. If she hired you for this position, then do what she says. And that's how it was understood in antiquity. Servants never would upbraid their masters for such a comment.
"So likewise you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say"---here's what you say---" 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' " Let's examine that statement: "We are unprofitable servants." The servant here that Jesus uses by analogy was a very profitable servant. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He could farm. He could tend sheep. He could cook. He was very profitable to the master's business. So to say, "We are unprofitable servants," what does that mean? It means, "You don't owe me anything, Master." That's what---that's what the idea means, a servant without need or an unmeritorious servant. In other words, "The master doesn't owe me anything." So, if I serve the Lord with all my heart, I never come to a place where I go, "You owe me something." "Lord, I'm just an unprofitable servant. You don't owe me a thing. I've done what is my duty to do."
If the Lord tells you to jump, you simply ask him, "How high?" If he tells you to walk, you simply say, "How far?" or "I'll just go until you say stop." It's obedience he's talking about. There are a couple of attitudes we must never have when we serve the Lord. When you and I serve the Lord, we must never have a selfish attitude---"Well, I do it so I get something out of it. I'm doing it so that I get noticed by people, and God better reward me for it." That is the wrong attitude to have. A second attitude that is wrong isn't just a selfish attitude, but doing your work slavishly. You can do it selfishly; you can do it slavishly. "I hate doing this, but I'll do it anyway." [laughter] Now, what would you say if somebody came up to you and your son---wow. No. Let's not---let's take it out of the family. Let's take it to the workplace, or let's just say a friend says to you, "I've been doing this for you for years, and I'm just sick of it."
You'd say, "Don't do it. Don't do it anymore." If serving the Lord, if you're doing it slavishly---"I don't want to do it. I'm so bummed at God for making me do this, but I'll do it anyway." Or, "I do it so that I get a reward," selfishly---both of those are wrong attitudes. The Lord loves a cheerful giver, one who does it from the heart. I love people who love to serve the Lord, and it's not like, "Well, how-how-how much are you going to pay? What will you give me? Will I get promoted? Will you hire me if I do this?" "Lord, I'm an unprofitable servant. You don't owe me a thing." So he teaches on forgiveness, and then faithfulness, now thankfulness. "Now it happened as he went to Jerusalem that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And he entered a certain village," we don't know which, just a certain one, "and there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off."
Now, why would they stand afar off? Because the law required them to stand afar off. Three passages in the Old Testament say that a leper must shout out, "Unclean!" and certain Jewish records say that he must stand at least fifty yards downwind. So what would that mean if you had leprosy? Well, you're ostracized from society. You have no social life. You have no contact. And if you want to worship God, you can't just sit down next to somebody in the synagogue. There was a special room for you, a special room like a penalty box. It was called the mechitza/mehitzah. In the mechitza is where people who had these diseases, contagion, would sit ostracized from the community. They could only hear what was going on in the service. One of the most feared conditions of the ancient world was Mycobacterium leprae or leprosy. There was no cure for it then. It ravaged the body. It took limbs with it and it eventually took one's life.
So, they "stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and they said, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' So when he saw them, he said, 'Go' "---we don't expect to hear Jesus say that. We're so often used to him saying, "Come, come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest," or touching them and curing them. But he sees them. He hears them. They're afar off, at least fifty yards, and Jesus said, "Go." And notice what else he says: "'Show yourselves to the priests.' And so it was as they went, they were cleansed." I am very fascinated with the healing miracles of Jesus, because it wasn't a formula. It wasn't a method. He did each one uniquely, each one differently. One time he walked up to a guy and spit in his eye. Now that's an interesting method. You'd never see people in healing churches in the healing line try to pull that off. [laughter] They'd get sued.
Jesus spit in his eye, then he touched him, and he says, "What do you see? Can you see?" And the guy said, "Well, I see men that look like trees, walking." So he didn't have perfect vision after Jesus spit in his eye. And I suppose if anybody spit into your eye that would be the case perhaps. It'd be blurred vision. But it required---the point of that is Jesus touched him, he was able to demarcate between objects. "I can tell these are men, but they look like trees." So Jesus touched him a second time, and he was healed. But notice this: "as they went." Now, to do this, for these lepers to hear this command, "Go, and show yourself to a priest," that would take a---that would take faith. "Okay, I'm not going to come. I'm going to go, because you told me to go. And as I go, I'm taking a step of faith. I believe that what you said is enough." Do you see what I'm saying? It was a step of faith for them to obey this command and go.
And they're going to show themselves to a priest, which was required by law if somebody was healed of leprosy. But it was "as they went." So I do want to just say this: I'm intrigued by the healing miracles of Jesus, and I'm baffled by them. I do not know why the Lord heals some and not others. I know that Jesus healed people during his ministry, but not everyone, because in Acts, chapter 3, there's still a man who sat at the gate Beautiful for years. Jesus walked through that gate many times. He was still there after the ascension into heaven, and the disciples saw him one day, and it was then that he was healed. So I don't know why some are healed and some are not. I don't know why some Christians get sick and others have perfect health, or why unbelievers can have perfect health and godly people can get sick. I don't always get it. I don't always understand it.
But, "As they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan." No sense of entitlement whatsoever. "So Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not found any who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?' And he said to him, 'Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.' " One-tenth of these people who were healed thanked Jesus for the healing, one-tenth. Nine didn't; one did. I wonder if the ratio isn't the same today. I wonder how many of us believers actually look for and count and stop and thank God for the many blessings in our lives. So many of us complain about what we don't have instead of thanking and glorifying God for what we do have.
"Where are the nine? I'm glad you came, but what about the rest of you guys? Where are they?" But I love the fact---and I just want you to pick up on this and dwell on it, carry it with you---that here's a man who had to take a step of faith, and go to find a priest, not come to Jesus, not get touched by Jesus, and it was as he obeyed, as he went, he was healed. Some of you will remember Second Kings, chapter 5, the story of Naaman the leper in the Old Testament. Naaman was Syrian and he had leprosy. And one of the gals who worked on his payroll said, "Oh, if my master could go down into Israel, and if he could hang out with Elisha, he'd be healed. This guy heals people, cures people." So, eventually, without telling you all the little details, he went down. Elisha gave him a command, sent him this command: "Tell him to go wash himself in the Jordan River seven times and he'll be cured." Naaman the Syrian commander, he's a bigwig, got really miffed and up in arms.
And he said, "Aren't the waters of the---of Damascus," and he named two of the rivers, "better than all the waters of Israel? Why should I wash in the muddy Jordan?" If you see the Jordan, you'd get it. It's nothing to behold. It's like the mighty Rio Grande. [laughter] Well, it's like---it's like that big. Interesting. How did it get in songs? Well, the Jordan isn't like this big, crazy Mississippi River. It's a trickle in some places, so this really offended Naaman. And they said to him, "Look, Naaman, if he told you to do some great thing, you'd probably do it. And he's asked you to do something really humble; that is, get wet in this muddy water. If he says to do it, do it." So he dipped one time, two times, three times, four times---I'm thinking by the fourth, fifth time, you're going, "This is so stupid"---six times and the last. And when he came out the seventh time, he was completely cured. It took sort of that step of what you would call a foolish kind of faith.
As he went they were healed. This verse spoke to me when I moved to this town. I sent out resumes in my profession. I heard nothing at all. No one hired me. I could have easily said, "Well, if the Lord wants me to go, he's going to, like, provide, you know, like, a job and a lot of other things that I'll need." I could have just started naming them. Now, I was engaged to be married, so the plan was, "I'll find a job, come back, get married, and move here." No job offers. I was reading the Bible. I was having quiet time. I had come for a visit for a few days. I was here in town. It was in March. It was very windy. I was ready for the Lord to say, "You didn't hear me." And I would have gone, "Awesome!" at that time. [laughter] But I saw this, "As they went, they were healed." So I turned around to my friend Kent who was with me and I said, "I'm moving here to Albuquerque."
And he said, "Why would you say that? You've looked for a job. You haven't found one." I said, "I know, but I just sense the Lord's going to do something, and I'm making a commitment." I said, "I don't have to get a job at a hospital or at an office," my background was in radiology, "I could easily flip hamburgers. There's a lot of places that will hire. I could get a job. But I'm moving here." By twelve o'clock noon that day I had three job offers. They didn't come until I said that. "As they went, they were healed." So I saw the Lord really take that principle personally in my life. "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." "Now when he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation' "---that is, with outward display.
Hold that thought, because the kingdom of God will one day come with outward display when Jesus comes the second time like he promised, "If I go, I will come again." It will come with outward display. There will be a visible, glorious portion of the future kingdom. But when he came the first time, it doesn't come with outward observation or outward display. And he said this: " 'Nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" for indeed, the kingdom of God is within you' " Now, of course, this has been mistranslated by a number of people. And every cult in the world will said, "Well, it doesn't matter, you know, what you believe in. Doesn't matter what church you go to. You don't even have to go to church, because, dude, the kingdom of God is, like, in you." [laughter] Am I right? Have you heard that? I roll my eyes, say, "Oh my goodness, who made you a Bible teacher?" [laughter]
So it doesn't mean, like, it's in everybody. These were Pharisees; they were going to kill Jesus. I don't think the kingdom of God was in them nor do I think Jesus meant that it was. So, the Greek phrase translated here "the kingdom of God is within you" is "he basileia tou Theou entos humon estin," which literally translated mean the kingdom of God in your---the kingdom of God among you is in your midst. In other words, "You don't have to look for the kingdom out there; the kingdom of God is standing right in front of you. I am the King of that kingdom." The kingdom of God is in your midst. It's within your reach. All you have to do is believe in the King of that kingdom and you will be in that kingdom. That's what it means in a literal fashion: the kingdom of God is in your midst. The King of the kingdom was standing eye to eye with these jokers. "And he said to the disciples, 'The days will come' "---now he's giving them general facts on the coming kingdom.
" 'The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.' " So, fact number one, those disciples, those believers in him will long for him to come back, long for him to show his outward display of the kingdom. Second fact, verse 23, " 'And they will say to you, "Look here! or "Look there!" Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven and shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in his day.' " In other words, when that part of the kingdom comes, the outward demonstration part, everyone will see it. Everyone will know it. "But first he must suffer many things"---that's his first coming---"and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man.
"They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all"---i.e., in other words, people will be totally oblivious to the spiritual realities and future judgment. They'll just go about their lives normal, not think about God at all, and they will be shocked and surprised. But it's an interesting phrase and I expanded on it on Matthew. But, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man." What was going on during the days of Noah? Well, interestingly, number one, there was an increase of population on the earth, an incredible exponential increase in population. Genesis 6:1, "Men began to multiply on the face of the earth."
A second thing about the days of Noah, there was an increase in depravity on the earth: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and took them wives," and that's when God said, "I will not always strive with men." Number three, there was an increase in wickedness on the earth. "The wickedness of man was great," Genesis 6. I don't know exactly what verse, 2 or 3. "The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and the intents of the thoughts of man's heart were only evil continually." Number four, there was an increase in callousness on the earth. Noah preached for 120 years and no one repented, unheeded preaching. They heard him preach. He was a preacher of righteousness. He was foretelling the coming judgment. They laughed it off and they died. The generation is lost and there is ample evidence of the flood even in modern science.
"Likewise as it was in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all." By the way, over in Jordan right now is one of our church members and a team of people excavating ancient Sodom, Dr. Steve Collins. I plan, when I fly back home, to spend a few hours one day, before I hit the airport, to see this dig. Now here's what he has uncovered this year in Sodom. He's gotten down to the layer where he says all of the pottery, all the furnishings and furniture is encased in ash and soot. And the stones, the mud stones are fired, flash fired and are like glass, and the wood that is left is carbonized, which speaks of an instant, incredible heat event, an explosion. And that this town, whatever it is he's digging, was destroyed by some kind of explosion.
Of course, he believes it is Sodom, as do many of us. So it's interesting and amazing to read our Lord Jesus affirming the historic account of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Even so it will be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot's wife." When judgment comes in the future, in Jerusalem, in the tribulation, he's letting the people who dwell in Jerusalem know---"Don't linger. Don't go upstairs to get anything. Get out quick." You see, in the future tribulation period when the Antichrist---he will oppress the earth, but he will especially oppress those who live in Jerusalem. Jerusalem will become ground zero in the tribulation period. Zechariah 13 says people will try to flee Jerusalem, only one-third will make it. Two-thirds will be destroyed by the Antichrist.
And those that flee will be kept in a very special, secure place in the wilderness; Revelation, chapter 12, tells us. This is all an indication of those events that it's expanded on later on in Revelation. "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: one will be taken, the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: one will be taken, the other left. Two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left." Now, I do not believe this is taken in the rapture. The context is the tribulation period. It means they will be taken in judgment just like in context. Look at verse 27, "Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." They were taken away in the flood waters of judgment. They will be taken away in judgment during that time as well.
"And they answered and said to him, 'Where, Lord?' So he said, 'Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together,' " speaking of his coming. If you've ever been out in the mountains or the desert, how do you know that there's a dead carcass somewhere in the area? You see a vulture, you see birds circling. You see them in a circle, you go, "Oop, there's a dead something up there." Wherever-wherever that carcass is, those eagles or those birds are gathered together, the carrion, the flesh feeders, so Jesus Christ, his coming, that coming of the kingdom of God in---with observation, that second coming will be evident to the whole world. It will be unmistakable when it comes. So, so what a chapter, especially the part about the pious Pharisees who thought they automatically were in the kingdom, only to hear this parable of the rich man crying out in torment.
You know, in our country we have a law that says a man is innocent until proven---what?---innocent until proven guilty. Here's what you need to know: that is not the way it is with God. Because of the fall, because of sin, because we are sinners by nature and by choice, we are all guilty until proclaimed innocent. It's a proclamation. When you trust in Jesus Christ---that's all it takes---he proclaims you free and innocent and saved. So righteousness of religion never cuts it; trusting in Jesus does cut it.
Father, we thank you for being able to finish an entire chapter and even then some more. I thank you for that. I thank you, Lord, for people who love to hear your Word, who gather with a hunger. Thank you for teams going out. Thank you for a brother visiting us from across the world to be in fellowship tonight here. I pray, Father, you would strengthen everyone as they go and as we are equipped, Lord, I pray you would now use us, unlock and unleash the truth that is in us, deposited in us, to be a blessing and inspiration, perhaps even a rebuke if we need a reproof to somebody in order that we might strengthen them in their faith with you, in Jesus' name, amen. Let's all stand.
Closing: If you've missed any of our Expound studies, all of our services and resources are available at expoundabq.org.