Is It Lawful on the Sabbath to Save Life of Destroy It?

TODAY’S READING: LUKE 5-6

“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” – Luke 6:9

On the Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and was teaching. He saw a man whose right hand was withered. Jesus knew the scribes and Pharisees were watching him, waiting to see if he would heal on the Sabbath so that they could accuse him of breaking the law. So, Jesus called the man with the withered hand forward and asked a simple question.

Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or destroy it?

At least it should be a simple question to answer.

Is it not obvious that doing good is better than doing harm?

Is it not obvious that saving life is better than destroying it?

So, why did the scribes and Pharisees remain silent? Why was it so hard for them to answer this seemingly simple and obvious question?

Traditions

Rules.

Laws.

Keeping traditions, rules, and laws had became the most important thing for them.

Keeping the Sabbath, doing no work on it, was paramount.

Because keeping traditions, rules, and laws was the most important thing, it was easy to rationalize that in some cases it was okay to do harm or destroy life. Perhaps it was easy for the scribes and Pharisees to justify not healing this man in their own minds because he had a withered right hand. In other words, he was not productive. He was a drain on society. He was of no use to them.

Now, you might be saying that just because the scribes and Pharisees did not want to heal on the Sabbath does not mean that they were doing harm to this man or destroying his life. But, the point that Jesus is making is that whenever we see someone in need and do not take action, regardless of the traditions, rules, and laws, then we are doing harm and we are destroying life.

In every situation, we have a choice.

Do good or do harm.

Save life or destroy it.

We are all guilty of this at some point. However, as organizations and institutions grow, they tend to become more beholden to keeping traditions, rules, and laws instead of seeking to do good and to save life regardless of the traditions, rules, and laws.

In this situation, Jesus shows that regardless of the traditions, rules, and laws that he does good, he saves life.

Jesus never does harm. Jesus never destroys life.

In the parallel account of the man with the withered hand in Mark, when the scribes and Pharisees were silent at his question, Jesus looked at them with anger and he was grieved by their hardness of heart.

When traditions, rules, and laws become more important than a man’s life and his healing, it reveals our hardness of heart. Further, it shows that we prefer to do harm rather good, destroy life rather than save it.

Mark 3:6 says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

in John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

They would rather destroy Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, rather than admit to their hardness of heart and do good and save life.

So, the question becomes who are you unwilling to do good to, to save their life, because they are against your traditions, rules, and laws?

Who is unworthy of your love because they break your moral code?

Who is it okay to look past because somewhere in your mind you have deemed them a sinner?

We should not gloss over these questions, thinking, “I don’t do that. I love everyone.”

Instead, we need to seriously examine how our lives, not just our words, are a witness to Jesus’ question. We need to seriously examine the sorts of people that we have a hardness of heart towards thereby justifying not doing good to them and saving their life.

Just because we have become a Christian or say that we follow Jesus does not mean that all of our little biases and prejudices immediately disappear.

So, we need to think deeply about what Jesus is asking.

Does the whole of my life say that doing good and saving life is more important than any moral code, any tradition, any rule, or any law?

Do I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Do I love others as Jesus loves me?

For, Jesus, and therefore God, continually broke the moral codes and traditions, rules, and laws to do good and to save life.

 

Why Is Jesus the 77th of God?

TODAY’S READING: LUKE 3-4

“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son ( as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli…the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” – Luke 3:23, 38

Luke 3:23-38 gives the genealogy of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. According to this genealogy, Jesus is the 77th of God.

Why is Jesus the 77th of God? What is the significance of this?

Adam was made in the image of God. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Adam was the first man, a living being, the natural man, from the earth, of the dust. As Adam was, so are we. We have borne the image of Adam.

But, Jesus was the last Adam, became a life-giving spirit, the spiritual man, the second man, from heaven. We will also bear the image of the man of heaven. Jesus is the image of God.

In essence, Paul is saying that Jesus is the revelation of the spiritually perfect man. Jesus is man as God had always intended him to be.

Virtually everyone that studies numbers in the Bible concludes that the number seven symbolizes spiritual perfection. Or, some consider the meaning of seven to be just perfection. It is also quite common to see that the duplication of a number, in this case 77, intensifies the meaning of the number. Therefore, Jesus as the 77th of God is an intensification of the spiritual perfection of man.

But, we can also see 77 as 7 x 11. Seven and eleven are the only two factors of 77.

Google the meaning of the number 11 in the Bible and you will find that most people say that it means it disorder, chaos, or incompleteness. And, in many ways, I believe this to be true. However, I think there is another meaning to the number 11 that is more applicable to Jesus.

The first time the number 11 is used in scripture is Genesis 32:22. In this story, Jacob receives a revelation from God and who he is as his name is changed from Jacob to Israel.

The second time we see the number 11 is in Genesis 37:9. The context of this passage is Joseph’s dream, or revelation, of who he is and what he will do.

Deuteronomy 1:2 says that it was an 11 day journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea. Horeb means arid or desert. It was literally a dry place. Kadesh-barnea means the holy purifying wanderings or the holy place of the desert wandering. Kadesh-barnea was an oasis of watery place in the desert. So, it took 11 days to get from a dry place to a place of water. Water often represents spiritual of revelation. So, 11 days was the time it took get to a place of revelation.

Also, it was to the eleven disciples that Jesus, after his resurrection, gave the revelation of all Scripture, which was that the son of man, the Christ, had to suffer, be rejected, be crucified, and rise from the dead three days later.

So, the number 11 can be seen to have a meaning of revelation.

Therefore, as the 77th of God, Jesus is the revelation of of God in the spiritually perfect man. Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” And, Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

There is another important meaning to Jesus as the 77th of God.

Lamech was the seventh from Adam through Cain. We could think of Lamech as the perfection, or completeness, of the fallen line, the seed of the serpent.

What was the epitome of Lamech, of the fallen line?

Genesis 4:23-24 says, “Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.'”

Through Lamech, the fallen line of Cain, the seed the serpent, we see that 77 is related to complete and total vengeance. This vengeance even comes completely our proportion to the offense as Lamech would kill a man for merely striking him.

But, Jesus completely transforms the meaning of 77 to forgiveness from complete and total vengeance.

John the baptist came to prepare the way of Jesus. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

How did he do this?

Luke 1:77 says that John the baptist was “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.”

“And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3)

So, in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus announced his ministry by quoting Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In these verses, the Greek word for liberty is the same word that is exclusively translated forgiveness everywhere else in the New Testament. Jesus’ ministry was one of forgiveness.

So, Jesus was the 77th of God, the revelation of the spiritually perfect man, the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God’s nature, who transformed the complete and total vengeance of fallen man, seen in Lamech taking vengeance 77 fold, to complete and total forgiveness.

Therefore, Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against men, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

The end result of Jesus as the 77th of God, the perfect revelation God’s nature in man, was repentance and forgiveness of sins.

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

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.