What Are We to Have Certainty About?

TODAY’S READING: LUKE 1-2

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4

Why did Luke write his gospel?

“That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

What things had Theophilus been taught?

There are many pastors, preachers, teachers, and Christians that seem to believe that Theophilus had been taught the law of Moses for this is what they primarily teach. If you just listen carefully to be what is being said, the scriptures being quoted, and the context and reason for quoting these scriptures, then you will see that this is true.

Because many act as if the teaching of the gospels is how to live Moses’ law, they believe that we are to have certainty about the law and the scriptures. We should hold them in reverence because they are completely. Shouldn’t we have certainty about the scriptures since they are inspired, or God-breathed?

Isn’t this so since Luke took to writing an account of all that the things that had been accomplished by Jesus among them? Jesus did come to fulfill the law, right?

In reality, all of this completely misses the point of why Luke wrote his gospel. He wasn’t writing that we would be certain of the law, that scripture was perfect, inerrant and infallible, as it was written.

Luke was writing so Theophilus would be certain of the things he had been. Luke compiled a narrative of the things that had been accomplished, which were the same things that the apostles and other disciples were eyewitnesses and ministers. The things that were accomplished, the things delivered by the eyewitnesses and ministers, the things Theophilus had been taught that he was to be certain of were the, singular, word.

Luke is writing so that we have certainty of the word.

Certainty of the word.

Not certainty of the Bible.

Christians have made the word and the Bible synonymous, but they are not.

We are not to have certainty about every single thing written in the Bible.

But, we are to have certainty about a certain word, a singular word, a word the apostles and disciples were eyewitnesses and ministers of, a word that Theophilus was taught.

Let’s start with the word certainty. It is the Greek word epiginosko.

Ginosko means to know.  Ginosko is to know by experience. While ginosko represents a knowing by experience, it is still somewhat abstract knowledge. The prefix epi means on, upon, above, or superimposed.

The prefix epi takes the knowing by experience to another level. Therefore, it means to be completely certain of what you know by experience. It is to know beyond a shadow of doubt. Epiginosko can even imply a special participation in the knowing of a thing such that the thing is fully a part of you. Epiginosko goes beyond abstract knowledge to real, practical knowledge of the thing.

So, the things that Theophilus had been taught he should know through his experience such that he has real, practical experience of these things such that he participates in these things. Then Theophilus would have certainty.

So, Luke compiled a narrative of these things, the things Theophilus had been taught. Both the Greek word for compile and narrative are used just this one time in the New Testament.

The word for compile means to organize in a series, to go regularly through again, to rehearse, to set in order.

The word for narrative means an orderly account, a statement of the case, a formal statement.

Luke was diligent in seeking out what had been accomplished. He specifically organized it. Luke went through the things accomplished again and again. He rehearsed them and set them in order. All so that we could have certainty of the things accomplished and taught.

The Greek word for accomplished means to fulfill, to convince fully, to be completely certain, to proclaim fully.

Paul uses this Greek word for accomplished, fully convinced, in a way that proves that the things accomplished, the things we are to have certainty about, are not the law.

Romans 14:5-6 says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

Paul is speak observing a day, the Sabbath. Some keep a day while others do not. Whether one observes the day or one observes all days, both do it to honor the Lord. The two do not have to agree.

There were many dietary laws in the Old Testament, including not eating things sacrificed to idols. But, Paul says the one who eats honors the Lord and so does the one who does not eat. But, the two do not have to agree on what can and can’t be eaten.

Paul explicitly says that we do not have to agree on the laws of the Old Testament. We only need to be fully convinced in our mind of which is better.

Therefore, the law, the literal letter of the Old Testament, is not the things that were accomplished that Luke compiled a narrative of. The law, the literal letter of the Old Testament, is not the things that Theophilus was taught that he should have certainty.

Instead of the law, the literal letter Old Testament, what Christians today deem to be inerrant and infallible, Luke is writing about the word. The word is what the apostles and disciples were eyewitnesses of. The word is what they delivered. The word is what Luke compiled a narrative of. The word is what was accomplished. The word is what Theophilus was taught. The word is what Theophilus should have certainty of.

What is the word?

Luke uses the Greek word logos.

It is Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1-2

The word is not some general thing about Jesus as if the scriptures in all their literalness are about Jesus. For, when Jesus said of the scriptures “it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39), he was speaking about a very specific word.

Jesus spoke in parables all the time. No one, including the disciples, knew the meaning of the parables upon hearing them because parables hid the meaning of the story. Only those that earnestly came to Jesus received the understanding.

But, in What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?, I wrote about the word that Luke is compiling a narrative of. What is the thing Jesus spoke plainly about? What is the word delivered by the eyewitnesses and ministers, the apostles and disciples? What is the word that was accomplished? What is the word that Theophilus had been taught?

Mark 8:31-32 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”

The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be crucified, and be resurrected.

This is the word.

This what Luke is compiling a narrative of.

These are the things that were accomplished.

These are the things witnessed and ministered

These are the things Theophilus was taught.

These are the things we are to have certainty about.

We are to have certainty about these things because these things are the gospel.

It’s not the law. It’s the inerrant and infallible scriptures. It’s not every literal word in the Bible. We are not to have certainty of those things.

Jesus was the son of Man.

Jesus suffered.

Jesus was rejected.

Jesus was crucified.

Jesus was resurrected.

These are things we are to have certainty about.

Luke is telling us this in the first four verses of his gospel.

We know this is so because it is these very things that Luke was compiling a narrative of, the things accomplished, the word witnessed and ministered, the things taught to Theophilus, that bring an end to Luke’s gospel.

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing [epiginosko] him. And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each as you walk?  And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does know [ginosko] the things that have happened there in these days?’ And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that the had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’ And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:13-27)

The two disciples still did not recognize Jesus. But, “when he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized [epiginosko] him.” (Luke 24:30-31)

When Jesus appeared to the other disciples a similar thing happened.

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me [not everything written] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'”

These things:

  • Jesus
  • the son of Man
  • the Christ
  • suffered
  • was rejected
  • was crucified
  • rose from the dead

are what we have certainty about.

These are the things that were witnessed and therefore ministered.

Why should we have certainty of these things, and only these things?

They are the foundation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

They are the gospel.

They are the word that we are to proclaim to all nations.

Do You Want the King of the Jews or Barabbas?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 15-16

“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”…But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.” – Mark 15:6-9, 11

The chief priests, elders, scribes, and the whole council had bound Jesus to deliver him to Pilate.

How had they bound Jesus?

With their rules, their traditions, their laws.

With their desire for a king like the other nations had.

“Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” – 1 Samuel 8:5

They wanted a king to stand up to Rome, a king that would fight and war and conquer. That is what the kings of other nations did.

They were given one last chance to choose their king.

Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

Do you want Jesus or Barabbas?

Jesus whose name is Joshua, Jehovah saves. Jesus who is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus who is the son of God. Jesus who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

Barabbas who is a rebel. Barabbas who is a murderer. Barabbas who is an agitator, a rioter. Barabbas whose name means son of a father.

Son of a father.

Now we come to the real choice.

Do you want the son of God, the son of the Father, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” and “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation?”

Or, do you want Barabbas, son of a father?

Do you want he son of God or the son of a father?

Who was Barabbas’ father?

In John 8:44, Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Barabbas, a murderer, the son of his father, the devil.

Do you want the son of God or the son of the devil?

Do you want the one who “had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9)?” Do you want the one who even Pilate asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”

Or, do you want the one who was a rebel, a prisoner, a murderer, and an agitator? Do you want the one who is violent?

Barabbas was involved in the insurrection. The Greek word for insurrection is stasis. It literally means a standing. Barabbas was one who stood up for himself, his life, his people, his country. Barabbas was one who would fight.

But, in Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it.”

But, Jesus didn’t stand like Barabbas, a murderer (in a revolutionary war mind you), the son of his father the devil.

In John 10:11, 15, 17-18 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep…For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”

Barabbas stood up, was involved in an insurrection against Pilate.

But, when Jesus faced Pilate, he laid down his life instead of standing up for it. Mark 15:3-5 says, “And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, ‘Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”

In Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “But whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Standing up and fighting for our lives, trying to save them, is the way to lose our lives.

But, losing our lives, laying them down like Jesus, without a fight, without violence, without murder, is the way to save our lives.

Stasis, the Greek word for insurrection, or standing, is used infrequently in the New Testament. In the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, it was used for the priests standing to do their work of the law and sacrifices.

Hebrews 9:6-12 says, “These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing [stasis] (which is symbolic for the age then present). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered, that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”

When the priests were doing their work, standing before the Lord, the first section of the tabernacle was still standing. It was not possible to enter into the second place, the holy place, the manifest presence of God.

But, Jesus, through his own body, the greater and more perfect tent than the tabernacle, offered his own blood. Instead of standing to do the work of sacrificing the blood others, goats and calves, Jesus offered his own blood by laying down his own life.

It was through the laying down of his life that Jesus opened the way into the second section, the holy place, the manifest presence of God.

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Instead of standing, Jesus laid down his life to open the new and living way. It was the laying down his life that the way through the curtain, which divided the first section from the second, the holy place from the most holy place, was opened.

So, it was that when Jesus was delivered over by the Jews and laid down his life before them and Pilate to be crucified that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38).”

So we have a choice.

Barabbas, a murderer who stood up for his own life to save it, the son of his father, the devil.

Or, Jesus, who instead of being a murderer was murdered and who laid down his life for others, the son of God.

The one who stands up or the one who lays down.

The murderer or the murdered.

Choosing the first will cause us to lose our lives.

Choosing the second will save our lives, taking us into the holy of holies.

Why Is God the Blessed?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 14

“Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” – Mark 14:61

Jesus was asked this question by the high priest during his trial the night he was crucified. Instead of asking if Jesus was the son of God, the high priest asked if Jesus was the son of the Blessed. Therefore, God is the Blessed.

Why is God the Blessed?

What does it mean that God is the Blessed?

The Greek word translated “the Blessed” in Mark 14:61 is eulogetos.  It is always used in reference to God as “the Blessed.” God is not called “the Blessed” because we speak a blessing to him or about him. Rather, eulogetos is an adjective that describes who God is. God is blessed, He is eulogetos, because that is his nature, his person.

Eulogetos is a compound Greek word. The first part is eu, which means good or well. The second part is logos, which means something said, including the thought, word, reasoning, logic.

To say that God is “the Blessed” is to quite literally say that God is the Good Word.

Is this not the first thing we learn about God in the Bible, that he is the Good Word?

In Genesis 1, God speaks, or words, the creation into existence. His word creates. And, after everything that God speaks, or words, Genesis 1 says that God saw that it was good. By the end of his work, God said that everything he created was not just good but very good.

So, John starts his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

Jesus is the Word, the logos. By starting his gospel, “in the beginning,” John is saying that is the word that is spoken that creates and is called good.

Eulogetos is used eight times in the New Testament. Eight is the number of new beginning and new creation. God is the Blessed, the Good Worded, because he is ushering in a new creation, a new word that makes all things good, indeed very good, through Jesus Christ.

Twice God is called the Blessed in connection with showing us mercy and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3). He is called the Blessed he is the Creator that spoke the truth – he creates good and only good – in opposition to the creature that spoke God was not good and only good to us (Romans 1:25). God is called the Blessed because he has visited us and redeemed us in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:68).

Why is God the Blessed?

Because he is the Good Word.

Because what he speaks is good, very good, only good.

Because he creates good through what he speaks, his word, Jesus.

It’s interesting to look at the other forms of eulogetos in the New Testament. Their use testifies of God, the Blessed.

Eulogeo is to bless, to praise, to speak well of. It is a verb and, therefore, the act of blessing. We could say that it is the act of “good wording.”

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed [eulogetos] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed [eulogeo] in Christ.”

God, the Good Worded, has good worded us in Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The word of God is a sword. Therefore, the word of God separates. It separates the flesh from the spirit in us.

But, notice that when God spoke his word to create what is good in Genesis 1 it separated. God separated the light from the dark, the waters above from the waters below, the land from the seas.

So, creation is the process of separation. Interestingly, eulogeo is used 41 times in the New Testament. The number 41 to separation through the flow of time, the process of separation. Study the lives of the patriarchs and you fill find that often the 41st mention of their name is connected with separation. Rehoboam became king when he was 41 years old. And, he was the king when Israel was separated into two kingdoms. Israel camped 41 times in the wilderness as they were separated from Egypt and led to the promised land.

So, we are “good worded” in Christm created by the separating power of the word of God that is living and active. We are made a new creation in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless [eulogeo] those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Paul says the same thing in Romans 12:14, “Bless [eulogeo] those who persecute you; bless [eulogeo] and do not curse them.”

We are quite literally “good word” our enemies, those who curse us, into a new creation.

Eulogia is a blessing, a generous gift, praise. Eulogia is a noun. It is the actual blessing.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed [eulogetos] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed [eulogeo] us in Christ with every spiritual blessing [eulogia] in heavenly places.”

The Good Word has good worded us with every spiritual good wording.

God has given us every spiritual gift.

What is the supreme gift we have received?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus is the gift above all gifts we have received from God. Jesus is every spiritual blessing, every spiritual good wording, we have received.

Why did God give us this gift, his son, Jesus Christ?

Because he loved the world.

So, it is quite interesting that eulogia is used 16 times in the New Testament. The number 16 symbolizes love. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists 16 characteristics of love. You find a connection between agape, love, and 16 throughout the New Testament

But, we just don’t receive a blessing. We are to be a blessing to others.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about the offering they were taking for the poor in Jerusalem. Verses 5-6 say, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift [eulogia] you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift [eulogia], not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully [eulogia] will also reap bountifully [eulogia].

So, God is the Blessed because he is the Good Worded that good words us with good words. In his Good Word, Jesus Christ, who is living and active, he separates us from the flesh and the things of this world to make us a new creation. As new creations we to good word our enemies through good wordings so that everything becomes part of the new creation, summed up in Jesus Christ. This is our part in the ministry of reconciliation.

What Will the Owner of the Vineyard Do?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 12-13

“He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.” – Mark 12:6-9

This is from the famous parable of the vineyard.

The vineyard is the land of Israel, which God planted to bear fruit, that was given to the tenants, the people of Israel. God sent servant after servant to collect the fruit. But, the tenants beat or killed every servant that God sent.

Finally, God decides to send his beloved son, Jesus. Surely, Israel will listen to him. But, Israel sees this as its chance to have the inheritance, the land of Israel, for themselves. So, Israel kills Jesus and throws him out of the vineyard.

Having told this story, Jesus asks a question.

“What will the owner of the vineyard do?”

How will God treat Israel for killing his son, Jesus?

Jesus answers the question, “He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

Many have used this scripture to support their belief that Jesus nice and peaceful when he went to the cross, but when he comes back he is going to destroy and burn in hell forever all those that rejected him and failed to believe in him.

But, is this really Jesus’ answer?

Is this really God’s answer to what he will do to those who killed his son?

Is God going to destroy the people of Israel in return for killing Jesus?

No, this is not Jesus’ or God’s answer to what they will do to Israel in return for killing Jesus.

In Mark, Jesus says, “He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others,” as the expected answer everyone would give. Vengeance is what mankind wants and expects. So, if you kill my son, then I am going to destroy you.

However, in Matthew’s account of the giving of this parable, Jesus does not say this. In Matthew Jesus asks the same question, “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

This time the answer does not come from Jesus but the chief priests and the Pharisees. Matthew 21:41 says, “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

The word destroy in Jesus’ answer in Mark and the word death in the chief priests and the Pharisees’ answer in Matthew are the same Greek word. So, in Matthew the chief priests and the Pharisees answer Jesus’ question while in Mark Jesus is answering the question for them as they would have answered.

We know this because Jesus asks another question that throws a twist on the answer we would all give. It is expected that if our son was killed then we would destroy the people that did it. So, Jesus asks, “Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

That seems a rather odd question to ask in response to the expected answer that God will come and destroy Israel for killing his son.

So, why did Jesus ask that question?

Of course, Jesus is the stone the chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, and Israel rejected.

When they rejected Jesus what were they rejecting?

They were rejecting God’s wisdom and God’s power. They were rejecting God’s way of answering violence. They were rejecting the cross.

But, the stone that was rejected became the cornerstone, or the head of the corner. It is actually the cross, loving your enemies, returning good for evil, the wisdom and the power of the God, that is preferred. Ultimately, this results in forgiveness as Jesus asked of the Father on the cross. This is what the owner of the vineyard will do in response to the tenants killing his beloved son.

The stone that was rejected, dying to yourself, loving your enemies, blessing those that persecute you, is the stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. It just doesn’t make sense.

1 Corinthians 1:22-23 says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles.” Jesus Christ crucified, a God who dies rather kills trips up the Jews and is done right dumb to the Gentiles. It makes no sense to either.

But, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

The word destroy here is the same word for destroy that Jesus uses in regards to the tenants. Man expects God to destroy people, but Jesus, through the cross, shows that God does not destroy people. Rather, God destroys what man thinks is wise, which is actually foolishness.

Trying to destroy violence by destroying the men committing the violence is foolishness. Is does not work. Mankind has tried it for thousands of years. All it has done is create more violence with ever more powerful weapons.

But, the stone that was rejected, Christ crucified, the cross which seems so foolish and weak, is actually wiser and stronger than anything man has ever devised.

This is the ultimate point of the parable. It is the answer to the question, “What will the owner of the vineyard do?”

God will not destroy people in return for killing his son. But, God will destroy the wisdom of those who killed Jesus. God will destroy all the wrong thoughts we have of them. God does this by dying on the cross. It seems so foolish and weak. But, it actually reveals the greatness of God’s wisdom and power.

What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 10-11

“And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.'” – Mark 10:32-34

This is the third and final time in Mark that Jesus tells the twelve disciples that he was going to be delivered to his death and rise three days later. Mark writes something very interesting the first time Jesus speaks about his death and resurrection.

Mark 8:31-32 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”

“And he said this plainly.”

The Greek word for plainly is parresia. It means boldness, confidence, plainly, frankness. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament parresia means freedom of speech, candor, boldness, public speech, categorical affirmation. It was originally a political term, which was the sign of one’s political liberty. The very act of speaking with such freedom implied the truth of what was being said. But, speaking with such freedom exposed the speaker to significant danger.

So, when Jesus spoke of his death, he spoke boldly, confidently, plainly, frankly. He did not mince words. Jesus was clear. He was not trying to obfuscate what he was saying or making it hard to understand.

His suffering, death, and resurrection is the one thing that Jesus spoke about plainly.

Mark 4:2 says, “And he was teaching them many things in parables.”

Mark 4:33-34 says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

Why would Jesus speak so plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection with his disciples but only speak in parables to everyone else?

Mark 4:11 says, “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.”

Jesus gave the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God to his disciples. He spoke to them plainly about it. The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God is that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected three days.

Why did Jesus tell his disciples this one thing – his suffering, death, and resurrection – so plainly?

I believe because it is so antithetical, so opposite, to the way we naturally think.

Mark 8:29 says, “And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.'”

It was immediately after Peter’s confession, on behalf of all the disciples, that Jesus began to teach that he would, be killed, and rise three days later. But, even though Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, this plain teaching of Jesus made no sense to him.

Mark 8:32 says, “And he [Jesus] said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

The one thing Jesus taught plainly, Peter said no way.

Jesus taught about his suffering, death, and resurrection a second time in Mark 9:30-32. Immediately after the second teaching, Jesus and the disciples journeyed to Capernaum. Along the way, the disciples argued, not about Jesus’ teaching that he would suffer, die, and rise even though they did not understand it, but about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. So, Jesus told them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The third and final time Jesus teaches that he will suffer, die, and rise, James and John ask Jesus that he would grant them to sit on his right and left hand. Yet, again when Jesus teaches plainly the secret of the kingdom – that the Christ, the Messiah, the king would suffer, die and rise – the disciples are still trying to be great according to the way of the world. They want to rule.

The other disciples became indignant at James and John. They are still arguing about who is going to be the greatest. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus responded, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus had to speak the secret, the mystery of the kingdom, plainly to his disciples because it was completely the opposite of everything they thought and believed about the way the world worked, who the Christ was, and what he would do.

Not only did Jesus speak plainly that he would suffer, die, and rise, but he acted plainly. In John 16:25, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly [parresia] about the Father.”

Jesus would tell them plainly about the Father in the hour. The hour is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. It was on the cross that Jesus’ actions would plainly reveal the Father just as he had spoken plainly to the disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection.

Colossians 2:13-15 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open [parresia] shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The crucifixion of Jesus was God disarming the rulers and authorities, those that had all mankind bound in sin and death. The crucifixion was Jesus plainly showing us who God is.

Did you catch the significance of this plain speaking about the Father in Colossians 2:13-15?

“Having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Jesus taught his suffering, death, and resurrection clearly because he wanted to boldly, confidently, frankly tell us that God forgives us.

Why did Jesus speak clearly to the disciples the secret of the kingdom yet in parables to those outside?

Mark 4:11-12 says, “and he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'”

Here Jesus links his plain speaking as opposed to his teaching in parables with forgiveness.

When Jesus was on the cross, when his actions most plainly told us about the Father, what did Jesus say?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom is so foreign to us that despite Jesus’ plain teaching and acting out his teaching on the cross, the disciples still did not understand.

Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

So, Luke 24:44-48 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for [the correct word is and] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Why did Jesus speak plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection?

So, that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed.

How did you Jesus start his ministry?

Jesus first words in the gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance is the first message of the kingdom.

How did Jesus end his ministry?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

Forgiveness is the last word of Jesus’ ministry.

So, Jesus told the disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the whole world. This was the evidence that the disciples had been transformed. See yesterday’s post.

Proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to the world is just what the disciples did. And, they did it plainly.

In the first sermon, Peter preached “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raise him up.” Peter preached that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected. Peter did not preach, “Believe in Jesus, get saved, or you are going to burn in hell forever.”

The disciples never once preached hell. They preached the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. They preached the gospel.

In acts 2:29, 32, Peter said, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence [parresia] about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb us with us to this day…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.”

When confidently, boldly, plainly taught the secret of the kingdom, the gospel, those who were gathered were cut to heart and asked what should they do?

“And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

The disciples knew the secret of the kingdom, the gospel – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. Therefore, they proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all.

Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness [parresia] of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:29-31 says, “‘And now, Lord, look upon their hearts and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with boldness [parresia], while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which there gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness [parresia].”

Acts 28:30-31 says, “He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness [parresia] and without hindrance.”

To speak the word with boldness is not

  • proclaiming the ten commandments
  • quoting the law and the prophets literally
  • telling people to obey rules and moral commands
  • preaching get saved or burn in hell forever.

To speak the word, the word of God, Jesus Christ with boldness is to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, as the Christ, the true king of the world, Jesus became the least of all, a servant, a slave. He willingly suffered and was crucified at your hands. But, God raised Jesus up. Jesus did this so that you could repent of your violence, your desire for vengeance, and receive God’s forgiveness for your sins and proclaim God’s forgiveness to the world.

This is what Jesus spoke plainly.

How Are We Transformed by the Renewing of Our Mind?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 8-9

“And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them…And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.'” – Mark 9:2-3, 7

In Romans 12:2, Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

This is arguably one of the most famous verses in the Bible. It is quoted all the time.

But, exactly how is our mind renewed so that we can be transformed?

And, what is the evidence that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind?

The Greek word for renewal in Romans 12:2 is anakainosis. It means a making new, a renewal, a renovation. Paul is talking about an overhaul of our mind.

The only other use of anakainosis is in Titus 3:4-5, which says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” So, the Holy Spirit plays a role in the renewal of our mind.

Just what does the Holy Spirit do though to renew our mind?

In John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit renews our minds by reminding us of what Jesus said.

The Holy Spirit speaks to us the words of one person, and one person only, Jesus. When the Holy Spirit speaks to us the words of Jesus our minds are renewed and we transformed.

The Greek word for transformed is metamorphoo. This is where we get our word metamorphosis. So, we can instantly understand the word by calling to mind the complete change of appearance of caterpillar goes through in becoming a butterfly.

Metamorphoo is not used often in the Bible. In fact, it is used only four times. We’ve seen one in Romans 12:2. We are to be transformed, to completely change appearance.

One of the other four uses in found in today’s reading. Mark 9:2 (and Matthew 17:2) says that Jesus was transfigured, or transformed. When Jesus was transformed he was clothed in light. Elijah and Moses appeared with Jesus when he transformed.

When Peter saw Elijah and Moses with Jesus, he thought that three tents, or tabernacles. The tabernacle was where the presence of God dwelt among Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness. So, Peter thought he would build a tabernacle for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses because he, James, John, and the other disciples could meet God through each one of them.

But, a cloud overshadowed them. And, a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

What happened after this voice spoke?

“And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.” (Mark 9:8) Elijah and Moses disappeared.

So, Jesus was transformed. Elijah and Moses appeared. A cloud, the Holy Spirit, showed up. God said from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And, Elijah and Moses disappeared.

So, Jesus’ transformation resulted in only his voice being left. The voice of Elijah was gone. The voice of Moses was gone.

And, we are transformed when the Holy Spirit speaks the words of Jesus, and Jesus only, in our minds.

So, how are we transformed by the renewal of our minds?

We are transformed when we listen to only the voice of Jesus.

This cannot be stressed enough.

If we do not want to be conformed to the world but transformed, then we can only listen to Jesus.

We are not to listen to Moses. This means we do not listen, or take heed, to the law.

We are not to listen to Elijah. This means we do not listen, or take heed, to the prophets.

Moses and Elijah have disappeared. They are gone.

Moses and Elijah are only useful to the extent that Jesus translates, or interprets, them into his voice. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke 24:44 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'”

Jesus said “my words that I spoke to you.” We are to listen to his voice. And, the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance what Jesus said.

Does Jesus say that everything in the law, the prophets, and the psalms would be fulfilled?

No, he does not.

Jesus said, “Everything written about me…must be fulfilled.”

What was written about Jesus in the law, the prophets, and the psalms?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Luke 24:45-47)

The writing of the law, the prophets, and the psalms that need to be fulfilled, that Jesus had to open our minds to understand, was that Jesus should suffer and rise from the dead the third day.

Therefore, repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed. The word for is not in the Greek, but the word and is there.

So, we are transformed when we listen to Jesus only.

We are transformed when the Holy Spirit renovates our minds to only hear Jesus in the Old Testament.

We only hear Jesus in the Old Testament when we understand the Old Testament to reveal that the Christ would suffer and be resurrected three days later.

We know that we are transformed and only hear Jesus when we proclaim repentance, the call for changed minds, and the forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, if we are proclaiming eternal damnation, eternal torment, and hell, then our minds have not been renewed and we have not been transformed.

If we are proclaiming eternal damnation, eternal torment, and hell, then we are still conformed to the world.

Jesus proclaimed forgiveness from the cross even as we crucified him. And, if we have been transformed then we will proclaim forgiveness too. This is the glory of the Lord, the forgiveness of sin.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We are transformed into light just like Jesus. We partake of his glory. We proclaim forgiveness of sins as he did.

Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

We are transformed by the renewing of our minds when we listen to Jesus, and only Jesus.

The evidence of our being transformed and no longer conformed to this world is that we proclaim the forgiveness of sins just as we have heard from Jesus.

How Do We Negate the Power of the Word of God?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 6-7

“And he said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.'” – Mark 7:6-8

The Pharisees and the scribes saw that some of Jesus’ disciples did not wash their hands before eating. According to the traditions of the elders, this meant that these disciples of Jesus were unclean. Therefore, the Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus why some of his disciples did not follow the tradition of the elders and ate with defiled hands.

So, Jesus answered with the words above from Mark 7:6-8. Instead of answering the question directly by addressing why his disciples ate without washing their hands, Jesus answered the question by addressing why the Pharisees and the scribes were even asking the question.

The Pharisees and the scribes asked about eating with unclean hands which defiles you because they only honored God with their lips yet their heart was far from him. The Pharisees and the scribes asked about eating with unclean hands which defiles you because they worshiped God in vain by teaching the commandments of men.

How were the Pharisees and the scribes appearing to follow, honor, and worship God but merely do it with their lips and in vain?

By leaving the commandment of God and holding to their own tradition.

Jesus gives a very specific example. He says that they rejected God’s command to honor their father and mother and that whoever reviled their parents would surely die.

How did they reject these commandments from God?

The Pharisees and the scribes told their parents, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban.” (Mark 7:11) In effect, the Pharisees and the scribes said, “Sorry mom and dad. We have nothing to give you because we have given everything to God.”

But this wasn’t really true.

To say something was corban meant that you had given it as an offering to God and put it in the treasury of the temple. Because it had been given to God, it was not allowed to be used for anything else.

However, who was the beneficiary of the treasury of the temple?

The Pharisees and the scribes.

Therefore, what the Pharisees and the scribes were really doing was claiming that couldn’t honor their parents because they had given everything to God, but they were still maintaining the use of their offerings for themselves. So, the Pharisees honored God with their lips and worshiped him in vain.

I believe there is an irony in the Pharisees and the scribes cry of “Corban” that just Jesus is calling out. Corban, or qorban, is actually a Hebrew word that means offering, gift, oblation. It is used 79 times in the Old Testament, almost exclusively in Leviticus and Numbers where it is translated offering.

Qorban comes from the Hebrew root word qarab, which means to get or come closer, approach, come forward, to step up to. So, a qorban, an offering, was something that was brought near the altar. And, it was meant to symbolize the drawing near of our hearts to God.

Yet, all the while the Pharisees and the scribes were crying “Corban,” honoring God with their lips, their hearts weren’t coming any closer to God. Just like the Pharisees thought external washings would make them clean and undefiled, they thought the external presentation of gifts and offerings to God would bring their hearts close to him.

Luke 11:37-41 says, “While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And, the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.”

Why were the Pharisees crying “Corban,” worshiping God in vain by appearing to give him their goods, yet maintaining access to them, so they could not give them to their parents?

Because of their greed.

What should they have done?

Instead of giving offerings of external, material things, they should have given the things that are within, specifically love. And, if we give love from within, then our material things will follow.

The Pharisees and the scribes knew that Moses said “Honor your father and your mother,” (exodus 20:12) and “Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die” (Exodus 21:17).

Why were the Pharisees and the scribes to obey the commandment of Moses to honor their father and mother?

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. In fact, everything in the law and the prophets hung upon, came out of, these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40) So, when he was asked what good deed needed to be done to have eternal life, Jesus first answered, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthews 19:18-19)

The Pharisees and the scribes were to honor their father and mother because to do so was to fulfill Jesus, and God’s, command to love your neighbor as yourself. So, they rejected the command to honor father and mother by failing to love their parents as themselves. They did so by keeping their possessions for themselves.

But, what about the commandment “Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die?”

How were the Pharisees and scribes rejecting this command?

First, we must understand that this command is not saying that God will kill those who do not honor their father or mother. Nor, is Jesus saying that those who do not honor their father and mother should be stoned to death.

A more literal translation of this commandment might say, “Whoever reviles father or mother will die the death.” Indeed, in the Hebrew of Exodus 21:17, the wording is the same as what God spoke to Adam. That if Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die the death.

Therefore, second, we should understand this commandment as a warning. If we revile, curse, fail to honor, our parents, then we are going to die.

How?

Not because God is going to strike us down. But, because failing to live by love brings death to our hearts. God is love. God is life. And, where there is no love there is no life, only separation and death.

And, if we don’t love our brother, our parents, then we don’t love God. As 1 John 4:21 says, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

If this commandment isn’t about stoning someone, putting them to death, for breaking the command, then how were the Pharisees and the scribes rejecting it?

They rejected it by believing that it did not apply. They rejected it by believing they could live without loving. They rejected it by believing that without loving they could go on living.

So, Jesus says that by holding to our traditions, observing what we have been taught by men, we are “making void the word of God.” (Mark 7:13)

Holding to traditions and observing what we have been taught by men keeps us focused on the external, the washing of hands and the material gifts to the Lord, instead of allowing Jesus to create in us a new heart from which we give love to God and our brother.

Traditions make void the word of God.

The Greek word for make void is akyroo. The Greek prefix a means without. The root word is kyrios, which means authority or power. So, akyroo means without power or authority. Kyrios is also the Greek word that is translated Lord in reference to Jesus hundreds of times in the New Testament. So, making void is to make something without power, without authority, even without the Lord.

What is being made without power, without authority?

The word, the logos, of God.

When we hold to traditions and observe them, we negate the power and the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, in our hearts. By holding to traditions, by failing to examine what we have been taught by other men, we strip the Lord Jesus of his power to change our hearts. We quench the Spirit from doing is work in us and fail to understand the book he is writing on our hearts.

Why do I say we fail to read the book the Spirit is writing on our hearts because of traditions that we keep?

Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6-8 in response to the Pharisees and the scribes question about washing hands. But, Isaiah 29:11-12 says, “And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, ‘Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read.'”

You can’t read the book either because it is sealed or you cannot read because you draw near with your, honoring God with your lips, keeping your heart far from him, worshiping him in vain.

Examine your traditions very, very carefully. Do not hold any of them so dear that the you cannot read what the Spirit is writing on your heart. For, observing your traditions just might negate the power and authority of Jesus, the Lord, the Word of God, in your life.

What Is Bearing Fruit 30, 60, and 100 Fold?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 4-5

“But those that were down on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and hundredfold.” – Mark 4:20

According to Mark, Jesus said that the seed, which is the word of God, that was sown into good soil, the hearts of men who would hear, would bear fruit and produce a harvest that was thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.

What did Jesus mean that the harvest would be thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold?

Did Jesus mean we should expect a harvest that is 30 times, 60 times, and 100 times larger than what was planted?

How would we even measure that?

If it is the word of God, Jesus Christ himself, that is planted in our hearts, then how would we measure that he produced fruit that 30 times, 60, times, or 100 times more?

I think sometimes people assume the fruit, the harvest is other people that are brought to Christ. But, that is not fruit in the Bible. Fruit in the Bible is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How would you know the word of God planted in you produced 30 times more love? 60 times more goodness? 100 times more self-control?

Why does Matthew reverse the order of the increase of the fruit of the word in you?

In Matthew 13:8, Jesus said, “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

And, why does Luke only mention the hundredfold increase?

In Luke 8:8, Jesus said, “And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.”

The following is one way to understand what Jesus was meant by the word of God, Jesus himself, in our hearts bearing fruit of thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold.

The number 30 in the Bible represents dedication to authority, leadership, or rulership.

The number 60 in the Bible has the idea of help, support, or being upheld.

The number 100 in the Bible means promise, specifically the promised son who came from one, Abraham, who was as good as dead. So, 100 also has the idea of life from death, or resurrection.

When we receive the word, Jesus, in our hearts, he produces within us a dedication to his authority, his leadership, his rulership.

When we receive Jesus into our hearts, when we truly hear him, we know that he is our help, our support, our strength.

Finally, when we receive Jesus, the word of God, in our hearts, we become sons of God, children of the promise. We go from life to death. We are resurrected.

This is the effect of the seed, the word of God, Jesus, that is sown into good soil, hearts that are soft and willing to listen to Jesus. We bow to the lordship of Jesus. We receive everything we need from him. And, we become like him.

In Mark, I think we could see the yield of the harvest increasing because MArk is the gospel of the servant. A servant is raised up. Servants are exalted by God.

In Matthew, I think we could see Jesus starting with the hundredfold increase and going down because Matthew is the gospel of the king. Kings cannot go higher. They must go down. Instead of being humbled, they must be humbled.

In Luke, I think only the hundredfold increase is mentioned because Luke is the gospel of the son of man. Jesus is the man of God (see Luke’s lineage). Luke has an emphasis on the inclusion of Gentiles in his gospel. So, we could see only the hundredfold increase being mentioned by Jesus as the emphasis on the word bearing fruit in all of mankind to become children of the promise one day. This is the ultimate goal of the word in us – to make us like Christ. Nothing else really matters.

So, there is just one possible understanding of bearing fruit thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold that the Spirit showed me this morning.

Why Is Immediately Used So Much in the Gospel of Mark?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 1-3

“And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” – Mark 1:10

As you read just the first three chapters of the gospel of Mark, the English word immediately jumps off the page. It is used over and over again. The English word immediately is only found four times in the Old Testament. It is found 79 times in the New Testament. It is used only once outside of the gospels and Acts. And within in the gospels and Acts it is far and away found the most in the gospel of Mark.

Why do we find the word immediately so much in the gospel of Mark?

Well, on a surface level, we know that the gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the servant, the ox. A good servant, which Jesus is, takes immediate action when they are given a task or an order. A good servant does not delay. In that way, it makes sense the English word immediately is overwhelmingly found in the gospel of Mark.

But, when we look at the Greek word for translated immediately in Mark, we perhaps come to a deeper understanding of what Mark is saying.

The Greek word for immediately is euthys. It is used 59 times in the New Testament. Only once is euthys used outside of the gospels and acts. Of the 58 times it is used in the gospels and Acts, euthys is used 41 times in the gospel of Mark. So, almost 70 percent of the time that euthys is used it is used in the gospel of Mark. And, if we account for the fact that Mark is much shorter that the other gospels and Acts, euthys is 15 times more likely to be found in Mark than the other gospels or Acts.

We could say the gospel of Mark is the gospel of euthys.

Mark 1:10, which I quoted above, is the first time the word immediately appears in the gospel of Mark. However, it is not the first time the word euthys appears in the gospel. Euthys first appears in Mark 1:3.

“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight [euthys].”‘” (Mark 1:2-3)

The first time the word euthys appears it is translated straight. Common meanings of euthys are at once, immediately, and straight. It can even mean direct, by the straight road, of going straight forward, level ground, right, upright.

In regards to time, euthys does mean immediately or at once. But, euthys has an underlying moral meaning – straight, right, upright, level – as well. In fact, euthys is a compound word. Euthys is made of eu, which means good or well, and theo, which means to place. So, in its most literal sense, euthys means well placed.

Perhaps somewhat interestingly, theo means placed in a passive or horizontal posture. However, there are other Greek words that are similar but different to theo. If stao were used, then it would give the idea of something placed in an upright and active position. And, if keimai were used, then it would give the idea of something placed in a reflexive and utterly prostrate position. (All of this is according to the Concise Dictionary of Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible.)

Why is this important?

In Mark’s use of euthys, something immediate or straight, there is the idea the thing is well placed or straight because it is passive or being acted upon. The thing that is well placed is horizontal or level or on the same playing field as everything else.

This is in contrast to something that is active, taking the action upon itself. This something is vertical, perhaps standing taller than the other things.

And, this is in contrast to something that is reflexive and utterly prostrate. This something ponders and contemplates, is reflexive, instead of something that acts.

So, given all of this, what is Mark saying about Jesus as the servant?

Jesus didn’t just ponder things in his mind and worship God in his thoughts. A servant would never do that. A servant needs to act.

But, Jesus did not take action on his own accord. Nor did Jesus elevate himself above others. He was a lowly and humble servant.

So, Jesus was a horizontal and passive servant. Horizontal in the sense that he did not elevate himself above anyone. And, passive not in the sense that he did not act, but passive in the sense Jesus was acted upon or through. In the case of Jesus, he was the servant of God because he was acted upon and through by the Holy Spirit.

It was the Holy Spirit that made Jesus the servant that was well placed. It was the Holy Spirit that made Jesus the servant who was straight. It was the Holy Spirit that made Jesus the servant who acted immediately.

All because Jesus humbled himself and made himself passive to the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit could be active through him.

Knowing this, consider how Mark is starting his gospel.

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”

What is not apparent is this passage is that Mark uses two different Greek words for prepare. The first prepare has the idea of an external preparation. This external preparation is done by the messenger that is sent before the face of the Lord. This preparation is done by John the baptist.

The second prepare has the idea of an internal preparation. The messenger is crying out that the way of the Lord needs to prepared. The way of the Lord is an internal way that needs internal preparation. The Lord’s paths, this internal way, needs to be made straight, euthys. It needs to make us passive and humble so that the Holy Spirit can work through us.

Now consider what Mark tells us in verses four through eight.

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John baptizing in the wilderness is an external preparation. It was a baptism done with water. It was an external sign. And, it was a baptism of repentance. John’s baptism of water was a baptism of changing the mind preparing it for the inward reality that was to come.

“And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus baptizes, or immerses, us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was how, the manner in which, Jesus was the good servant. The Holy Spirit is the way of the Lord that needs to be internally prepared within us. Jesus does this. He makes us well placed, straight, passive, humble, ready to receive the Holy Spirit who acts through to do God’s work.

All of this gets played out in the life of Jesus. Mark 1:9-10 says, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately [euthys] he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”

Jesus was baptized in the water, externally prepared, so that he was baptized by the Spirit. For when he came out of the water he was immediately internally prepared. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. He was filled with the Spirit.

“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'” (Mark 1:11)

These same events are recorded in Matthew 3:3-17. Matthew adds the additional detail of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming out for his baptism. John calls them a brood of vipers and asks who warned them to flee.

Matthew uses euthys in the same places as Mark. So, perhaps we can now understand John’s reaction to the Pharisees and Sadducees. They did not come to be passive and humble, to be worked through by the Holy Spirit. Their spirits were active and vertical. They wanted to take action and be elevated above others.

Luke records these events in Luke 3:4-22. I think this understanding of euthys, something well placed, one who is passive, horizontal, on level ground, straight, gives insight to Luke’s additional quotation from Isaiah.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight [euthys]. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight [euthys], and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (Luke 3:4-6)

Or, consider where the Lord told Ananias to find Saul/Paul after he had blinded by the light of the Lord and knocked off his high horse while he was on his way to persecute the church.

“And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight [euthys], and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying.” (Acts 9:11)

Paul was to be found at euthys. He had been made straight and put on level ground by the Lord. Paul was now passive and humble, ready to be acted upon and through by the Holy Spirit.

We should know that there is another Greek word translated to the English word immediately. It is parachrema. But, in my study, it more literally means instantly or immediately and does not carry the connotation of morally straight or upright that euthys does.

Therefore, Mark’s use of the word immediately, of euthys, is highly significant to what he has to say about Jesus as the servant of God. Beyond the surface of a servant taking immediate action in response to an order, Mark is telling us about the inward nature of Jesus that was passive and humble so that the Holy Spirit could upon and through him. This was necessary for Jesus to truly be the servant of God. And, it’s necessary for us to be servants of God too.

Did God Forsake Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 27-28

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” – Matthew 27:46

Most people read these words of Jesus from the cross and say, “Yes, God forsook Jesus.”

Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that God forsook Jesus? Do you really believe that God left Jesus for dead?

If you really believe that God forsook Jesus, then why would you ever worship God? How could you ever worship a father that forsook his son, left him for dead, abandoned him, at the most critical moment of his life?

The answer is that you could not worship a father that forsook his son in the most critical moment of his life.

If you really believe that God forsook Jesus, his only begotten son, then how could you ever trust God not to abandon you?

The answer is that you could never fully trust a God who forsook his only begotten son.

We must remember that these words of Jesus are a question. Jesus asks, “Why have you forsaken me?” It’s a question, not a statement of fact. Jesus did not say, “God has forsaken me.”

Have you ever asked a question and received an answer to your question that proved you were wrong?

Of course you have.

Jesus asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” But, the answer came back from his Father had not forsaken him.

How do we know this was the answer from God to Jesus? How do we know God told Jesus that he was not forsaking him?

We could read Psalm 22, which Jesus is quoting when he asks why God has forsaken him. The question is the first verse of the psalm. But, the entirety of the psalm answers the question negatively. The answer to the question “Why have you forsaken me?” is “No, you have not forsaken me.” Just read the psalm.

But, there’s another way to know that God did not forsake Jesus.

In Matthew (and Mark), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are the only words that Jesus speaks from the cross. But, Luke and John both record additional things that Jesus said while he was on the cross.

Let’s focus on what Luke has Jesus saying.

Luke does not record Jesus’ question, “Why have you forsaken me?” But, the words of Jesus that Luke records prove that Jesus was not forsaken.

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I find it unlikely that Jesus would ask the Father to forgive his enemies for crucifying him if he had been forsaken by God. For, if Jesus had been forsaken by God, then from whence would have he have drawn to utter those words?

Luke 23:43 says, “And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.'” Jesus said this to one of the robbers he was crucified with. Jesus’ real question was, “God why have forsaken me to the land of the dead?” The tense of the Greek verb forsaken in Jesus’ question indicates that the action of forsaking need not be a singular moment in time but that the action of forsaking could be over a period of time and just stated as a singular moment of time. And, ultimately, being forsaken by God would be to be left for dead in the land of the dead, Hades.

Jesus tells the robber that he can join Jesus in paradise that very day. If Jesus was forsaken by God, then would he consider where he was going that very day to be paradise? I highly doubt it.

But, Jesus’ last words from the cross in Luke are the most important. Luke 23:46 says, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit!'”

Would Jesus say he is commending his spirit into the hands of his father if his father had forsaken him?

No way.

In fact, these words of Jesus reveal that God had answered Jesus’ question, “Why have you forsaken me?” And, God’s answer was “I have not forsaken you.” Therefore, Jesus put his spirit in the Father’s hands. He trusted the Father to deliver him from death. Jesus knew that he was not forsaken.

There’s an interesting verse in Hebrews that reveals this. Hebrews 5:7 says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

Do you see what that is saying?

When was Jesus in his flesh?

Before he was crucified and resurrected. For after he was resurrected, he had a glorified body not a fleshly body.

So, in his flesh, on the cross, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications.

What was that prayer?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He offered up his prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. We just read that Luke said, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!'” We know that this declaration from Jesus comes after Jesus’ question, “Why have you forsaken me?” We know this because after Jesus’ question in Matthew, Matthew 27:50 says, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”

Jesus yielded his spirit to his father, he laid down his life, because he knew his father would not forsake him to the land of the dead. As Hebrews 5:7 says, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications “to him who was able to save him from death.”

Jesus was willing and able to yield up his spirit because he knew his father would save him from death. Jesus knew he had not been forsaken.

Hebrews 5:7 says that Jesus “was heard because of his reverence.”

Therefore, Jesus was not irreverent and lacking faith to ask his father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s not irreverent to ask the question. This is exactly what we see in Psalm 22. The psalmist asked the same question as Jesus. But, the remainder of the psalm is filled with words of trusting in and fearing (in awe) God.

Jesus’ prayer was answered.

His father would save him from death.

God did not forsake Jesus.