John T. Willis

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Religious Leaders Criticize Jesus about the Sabbath--Luke 6:1-11

Times and people never change. Unfortunately, many people are born in the negative case and in the contrary mode. Their food is opposition, criticism, and fault finding. The religious leaders in the time of Jesus looked at life in this way. Thus, it is not surprising that they constantly CRITICIZED the divine Son of God. Good Christians will always encounter criticism. Be encouraged by that, because Jesus regularly was on the receiving end of criticism. Two occasions on which the religious leaders criticized Jesus are when Jesus' disciples were plucking grain on the Sabbath and when Jesus healed the man with a withered hand related in Luke
6:1-11. This section of scripture falls into two parts.

I. Jesus exposes some Pharisees who rebuked Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat grain on the Sabbath. Luke 6:1-5.
a. On some unnamed Sabbath day [Luke does not state the date], Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples plucked some of the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. The Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 23:25 states that a person may pluck ears of grain from a neighbor's field if he or she does not use a sickle. People rubbed the ears of grain in their hands to separate the kernels from the chaff. 6:1.
b. Obviously, the Pharisees were watching everything that Jesus did or say to try to catch him committing a sin. They were following Jesus and his disciples as they walked through the grainfields, and they saw some of the disciples plucking and eating the grain on the Sabbath. They declared this is unlawful. They were really stretching this violation, possibly thinking of Exodus 34:21. This is a real stretch indeed. 6:2.
c. Jesus countered reminding these Pharisees about a well-known biblical text in
1 Samuel 21:1-9. When David was fleeing from Saul, he came to Nob and asked the priest Ahimelech to give him some bread for himself and his companions because they were very hungry. Ahimelech had only the Bread of the Presence, and so gave David and his companions five loaves of the Bread of the Presence, which ordinarily ONLY priests could eat. See Exodus 25:30; 35:13; 39:36; 40:23; Leviticus 24:5-9. People are much more important than rules in the eyes of God. 6:3-4.
d. In addition to scripture, Jesus says: "The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath." As Son of Man, Jesus has authority to do whatever he wishes. 6:5.

II. Jesus restores the right hand that is withered. Luke 6:6-11.
a. On another unnamed sabbath [again, Luke does not give the date], Jesus entered into the synagogue [Luke does not name the place] and taught, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. This is very significant because this man was undoubtedly right-handed and this prevented him from working. 6:6.
b. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Jesus like a hawk to see whether Jesus would heal someone on the Sabbath so they could make an accusation against Jesus. Are people too lazy and have nothing other to do than to watch other people to find a way to criticize other people? How unChristian and how wicked and how ungodly are people who live their lives in this way!!! 6:7.
c. Jesus, as divine, as Son of Man, Jesus already KNEW what these critics were THINKING. But he approached this situation by going to the man with the right withered hand, asking him stand up, and he did. 6:8.
d. Then Jesus turned to the scribes and Pharisees and said: "I ask YOU [thus condemning his opponents], is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" THEY were condemning Jesus for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, and in this process THEY were DOING HARM and seeking to DESTROY Jesus on the Sabbath. 6:9.
e. They did not respond. Jesus looked around at all of them. Then he told the man to stretch out his hand. He obeyed Jesus, and Jesus restored his hand to full health. What a miracle!!! 6:10.
f. The scribes and Pharisees were filled with fury. They discussed with each other what they might do to Jesus. Remember, they were making these plans on the Sabbath. Is that good or evil? 6:11.

If we but open our eyes, we might change our hearts and quit criticizing others. We can also learn that there are people on earth who are on the search to find faults with other people. Do not be surprised at such people.

Share YOUR experiences with other. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lift Up Your Hands

The gesture of lifting up the hands permeates the Bible--Old and New Testaments. This gesture contains several rich and deep connotations. The way in which godly people lifted up their hands was by lifting up the palms of the hands upward to God. Anyone who knows Hebrew recognizes immediately the significance of the palms of the hands. There are at least TEN meanings of lifting up the hands. This blog sketches these meanings briefly.

1. To do something; to perform an action. Genesis 41:44:
"Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall LIFT UP HAND or foot in all the land of Egypt.'"

2. To be hostile toward; to triumph over. 2 Samuel 18:28:
"Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, 'All is well!' He prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground, and said, 'Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who LIFTED UP THEIR HAND against my lord the king.'"

3. To make an oath; swear. Genesis 14:22.
"Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'I have LIFTED UP MY HANDS [that is, sworn] to the Lord, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth.'"

4. To summon. Isaiah 49:22:
"Thus says the Lord God,
I will soon LIFT UP MY HAND to the nations,
and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders."

5. To Praises. Psalm 63:3-4:
"Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will PRAISE you.
So I will BLESS you as long as I live;
I will LIFT UP MY HANDS and call on your name."

6. To show need and dependence. Psalm 143:6:
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land."

7. To entreat. Psalm 28:2:
"Hear the voice of my supplication,
as I cry to you for help,
toward you most holy sanctuary."

Psalm 141:2:
"Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the LIFTING UP OF MY HANDS as an evening sacrifice."

8. To bless. Luke 24:50:
"Then he [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and LIFTING UP HIS HANDS, he blessed them."

9. To confess. Ezra 9:5:
"At the evening sacrifice I [Ezra] got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, LIFTED UP MY HANDS to the Lord my God, and said . . ."

10. To claim consistency of profession and daily living. Isaiah 1:15:
"[God says to hypocritical worshippers]
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen."

Lamentations 3:40-41:
"Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord.
Let us LIFT UP our hearts as well as OUR HANDS
to God in heaven."

1 Timothy 2:8:
"[Paul says to Timothy] "I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, LIFTING UP HOLY HANDS without anger or argument."

These texts are only samples of MANY BIBLICAL texts throughout scripture. Good a good concordance and you will find many examples of lifting up the hands for various reasons.

Share YOUR insights and experiences and failures and confessions and desires with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jesus Disciples Levi, leading to Two Conflicts--Luke 5:27-39

After relating the accounts of Jesus cleansing a leper and healing a paralytic, Luke relates the account of Jesus making Levi his disciple, which led to two conflicts between Jesus and his opponents. This appears in Luke 5:27-39, and falls into two paragraphs.

I. Jesus makes Levi his disciple, which leads to a conflict about eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. Luke 5:27-32.
a. After healing the paralytic in a house [5:19], Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax booth and told him, "Follow me." Levi got up, left everything, and followed Jesus. Matthew 9:9 calls this individual Matthew. First century CE=AD Palestinian Jews often had two names: one Semitic and one Greek. This probably explains why this person is called both Levi and Matthew. Luke does not tell the hearer or reader where this occurred. The overall context suggests this was somewhere in Galilee, possibly Capernaum, but we do not know with certainty. Levi was an agent at work for a chief toll-collector seated at his post. Levi left everything--cf. 5:11; 14:33. Levi left his occupation to assume another occupation, that is, to follow Jesus. 5:27-28.
b. Upon following Jesus, Levi gave a sumptuous banquet in the honor of Jesus at Levi's house. There was a large crowd of tax-collectors and other people sitting at table. 5:29.
c. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to Jesus' disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" There have always been people who are looking for opportunities to criticize other people. What a history the Church of Christ has had about this. Many of us have established a reputation for criticizing other people. When we do this, we are putting ourselves in the shoes of the Pharisees and their scribes. Jesus strongly opposes such a mindset. 5:30.
d. Jesus responds by emphasizing his purpose [and by following Jesus' example, our purpose] is to love, encourage, support, transform, change sinful people. If a person is well [If a person has no sins], he or she needs no physician [does not need Jesus or any of Jesus' followers]. Only those who are sick desire to be with Jesus and Jesus' followers. Jesus has come to planet earth to call sinners to repentance, because the righteous have no need of repentance. Is there anyone on earth who does not need repentance because he or she is sinless? 5:31-32.

II. The Pharisees and their Scribes rebuke Jesus for teaching his followers not to fast. Luke 5:33-39.
a. When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and their scribes for denouncing Jesus' followers for eating and drinking toll collectors and sinners, the Pharisees and their scribes responded to Jesus by rebuking Jesus' followers for eating and drinking instead of praying and fasting. The Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist fast and pray, but Jesus' followers eat and drink. In the Hebrew Bible, fasting meant abstaining from food and drink (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9) often connected with wearing sackcloth and ashes (Daniel 9:3), symbols of expiation of sins (Leviticus 16:29-31), penitence (1 Kings 21:27; Joel 1:14; 2:15-27; Isaiah
58:1-9), and mourning (Esther 4:3). 5:33.
b. Jesus replied that fasting was incompatible or inappropriate while the bridegroom [in this context, Jesus] is present and the wedding guests are celebrating his presence. Fasting expresses gloom and sorrow, not joy. Jesus came on earth and inaugurated a new period of God's kingdom, so this was a time of joy, not of sorrow and mourning. So, fasting would be inappropriate in this context. When Jesus died on the cross, this was a time of fasting, but not during his lifetime. On some occasions, fasting is compelling; on other occasions, fasting is inappropriate or incompatible. 5:34-35.
c. Then Jesus added a parable: One cannot successfully sew a piece of new garment on an old garment. The new piece does not match the old garment. No one puts new wine into old wineskins. This would destroy the wineskins. New wine must be put into new wineskins. No one after drinking old wine desire new wine, but says, the old is good. The Pharisees and their scribes were clinging to the old and closed their minds to Jesus' message about the new life of salvation. Many of us cling to old beliefs, old views, old traditions and refuse to open our hearts to new truths which God reveals in his revealed word which we had not seen or perceived or understood. This is a powerful, incisive message to all who will accept it. 5:36-39.

Share YOUR understandings and insights and perceptions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lift Up Your Voice

Throughout scripture, there is a call for God's people: "Lift Up Your Voices." It is very natural for all human beings to lift up their voices in different kinds of contexts. Here we will mention only a few of these contexts.

1. A Situation in which someone is mistreated by another person or group.
When Jacob [with the help of Rebekah] deceived Isaac and received his blessing, Esau killed an animal and prepared it and brought it to his father. When Esau realized that Isaac had already blessed Jacob [thinking Jacob was Esau], Genesis 27:38 says:
"Esau said to his father, 'Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!' And Esau LIFTED UP HIS VOICE and wept."
When someone mistreats us, it is imperative that we "lift up our voices." This is what Martin Luther King, Jr., did when narrow-minded Anglo-Americans were mistreating African-Americans in the USA. He "lifted up his voice," and as a result changed our nation.

2. A Situation in which people are under great stress.
When the twelve spies returned from spending forty days in the promised land of Canaan and ten of the spies gave a negative report, Numbers 14:1 says:
"Then all the congregation LIFTED UP THEIR VOICES with a loud cry, and the people wept all night."
When we expect to receive a good report and the report is very bad, it is natural for us to "lift up our voices" and complain. This is what God's people did when they received the bad report from the ten spies.

3. A Situation in which people sin and a godly spokesperson rebukes them.
During the time of the Judges, an angel came to the people of God and rebuked them because they did not obey Yahweh and thus Yahweh will punish them. Judges 2:4 says:
"When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the Israelites, the people LIFTED UP THEIR VOICES and wept."
When godly people rebuke us because we commit sins against God, we need to "lift up our voices" in remorse and repents, and return to God.

4. A Situation in which God's people are worshipping God.
2 Chronicles 5 relates the account in which Solomon and the priests brought the ark of the covenant into the Jerusalem temple which they had just finished, and were worshipping God. 2 Chronicles 5:13 says:
"It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and when they LIFTED UP THEIR VOICES in song, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,
For he is good,
his steadfast love endures forever,
the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud."
When we gather as God's people to praise and give thanks to God, it is important for us to "lift up our voices" to God.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and feelings with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis