John T. Willis

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Peter's Three Denials of Jesus; Jewish Authorities Abuse and Question Jesus--Luke 22:54-71

After relating the account of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and being arrested arranged by Judas Iscariot, Luke now relates the accounts of Peter denying Jesus three times, the Jewish authorities abusing Jesus, and the authorities questioning Jesus. This appears in Luke 22:54-71, and naturally falls into three parts. There are parallels in Mark 14:53-15:1a; Matthew 26:57-27:1; John 18:13-27. The order and specific details in these four accounts are quite different, but clearly deal with the same events.

I. Peter denies his relationship with Jesus three times. Luke 22:54-62.
   a. First, Luke sets the stage. The Jewish authorities seized Jesus and led him to the house of the high priest. Luke does not name this high priest, but Matthew 26:57 identifies him as Caiaphas. As this was happening, Peter followed at a distance. Apparently, the other disciples of Jesus had fled. The people outside kindled a fire in the middle of the high priest's courtyard and sat down together. Peter was in this group. 22:54-55.
   b. While they were waiting and talking, a servant-girl saw Peter in the firelight, stared at him, and said: "This man [Peter] was with him [Jesus]." Immediately, Peter denied this connection, and said abruptly, "Woman, I do not know him." Of course, this is a baldface lie. But Peter was afraid of what might happen if the authorities knew he was one of the Twelve whom Jesus called and with whom Jesus worked and taught for three years. Peter's courage failed. He said he would follow Jesus, but when times became challenging, he yielded to the temptation to deny his relationship with Jesus. 22:56-57.
   c. After a little while, someone else, when he saw Peter, said: "You [Peter] also are one of them [the Twelve]." Immediately, Peter snapped back: "Man, I am not!" Here Peter distances himself from both Jesus and the other members of the Twelve. 22:58.
   d. Approximately an hour later, another person, sizing up Peter, finally said: "SURELY this man [Peter] also was with him [Jesus]; for he is a Galileean." Matthew 26:73 states that the people in that crowd could detect that Peter was from Galilee because of his manner of speech. In our culture, people in Boston speak differently from people in Atlanta. This fact exists throughout the United States. So, it was clear that Peter was from Galilee, and thus it was clear that Peter had a relationship with Jesus. Luke 23:6 connects Jesus with Galilee--in North Israel. Peter immediately emphatically reacted, saying: "Man, I do not know what you are talking about!" Again, making a baldface lie. "At that very moment," while Peter was still speaking, the cock crowed. Peter immediately knew that Jesus had made this very prediction a few hours earlier in Luke 22:34. 22:59-60.
   e. Somewhere else in the courtyard as Jesus was talking with the high priest, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter immediately remembered what Jesus had predicted: "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times." Peter rushed out and wept bitterly. Jesus had prayed for him, not that he would not defect, but having done so and been converted would then become a support for his spiritual brothers [the other members of the Twelve]. This led to Peter's remorse, and soon he will restore his fellow-brothers. 22:61-62.

II. The Jewish Authorities Abuse Jesus. Luke 22:63-65.
     a. Luke now tells his audience how the Jewish authorities treated Jesus while he was before the high priest. First, those who held Jesus under arrest mocked and beat Jesus. Jesus told the Twelve that this is what would happen--Luke 18:32, and now this is fulfilled. Isaiah 50:5-6; 53:3-5 provide good pictures of the ways in which authorities treat their prisoners or enemies. 22:63.
    b. Next, Luke explains that the Jewish authorities blindfolded Jesus, and then constantly asked him: "Prophesy! Who is that that struck you?" They are attempting to do everything they can think of to show their superiority of Jesus and his helplessness. 22:64.
   c. Finally, Luke tells his audience that the Jewish authorities constantly heaped many other insults on Jesus. It is very difficult for committed followers of God to comprehend the hatred of Jesus' opponents when they arrested him and proceeded to put him to death. 22:65.

III. The Jewish Authorities Question Jesus. Luke 22:66-71.
      a. After going through a very dismal night, early the next morning, the assembly of the elders of the people, chief priests, and scribes, gathered together, and brought Jesus to their council. 22:66.
      b. The Jewish authorities ask Jesus two very pointed questions. The first is: "If you are the Messiah, tell us." Jesus responded: "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question you, you will not answer." Jesus already knew that they had made up their minds. They were not open to listen and think for themselves. We can learn a great lesson from this situation. Then Jesus said: "From now on, the Son of Man [Jesus] will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." What Jesus implies here is verified in 22:71. Jesus' statement about the Son of Man is deeply rooted in Daniel 7:13; Psalm 110:1. Jesus will be exalted to the highest power--see Luke 21:27. As universal judge, Jesus will judge and thus condemn his opponents--see Luke 12:8-9. See further Joshua 4:24; 1 Chronicles 12:23. 22:67-69.
      c. Second, the Jewish authorities ask another question: "Are you, then, the Son of God?" Jesus replied: "You say that I am." Then they said: We do not need any further conversation; it is very clear that Jesus has condemned him by what he has said from his own lips. The terms "Messiah" and "Son of God" are common terms in the Hebrew Bible for a king of Israel. See 2 Samuel 7:14-15; Psalms 2:6-8; 89:26-29. Yahweh the Father is the heavenly king, and Jesus is his subordinate to carry out the Father's will. 22:70-71.

Share YOUR beliefs and experiences and insights and understandings and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who Is The Greatest Sinner?

For some strange reason, throughout history, and even today, many religious people want to know: Who is the greatest sinner? I am suspicious that such a question is so that the questioner can be sure that "I am not as sinful as other people." I am reminded of the Pharisee in Jesus's parable when he said: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, of even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11).

For a very brief exercise, who would YOU say the greatest sinner is.
  1. Some might say: Jezebel, because she brought her prophets into Israel to get rid of the worshippers of Yahweh and exalt her own deity Baal. 1 Kings 17-21.
   2. Some might say: David, because he committed adultery, murder, coveting, deceit, conniving, etc. 2 Samuel 11-12.
   3. Some might say: Adolf Hitler, because he arranged the murders of approximately six million Jewish until Hitler's rule in Germany.
   4. Some might say: the people who murdered the innocent students at Columbine High School in Colorado.
   5. Some might say: Herod the Great, because he murdered many children, and murdered some of his wives.
   6. Some might say: Judas Iscariot, because he betrayed Jesus to hand him over to the Jewish authorities so he would be crucified.
   Just a little thought would certainly list several others that might be considered to be the greatest sinner.

It might be a big surprise to know that Paul the Apostle thought that he was the greatest sinner. At least three times in three different letters now preserved in the Bible, Paul declares to his fellow- Christians that he was the greatest sinner. Here are these texts briefly:

1. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10: "I am the LEAST of the apostles, UNFIT to be called an apostle, BECAUSE I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain."

2. Ephesians 3:8: "Although I AM THE VERY LEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ."

3. 1 Timothy 1:12-17: "I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judges me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a BLASPHEMER, a PERSECUTOR, and a MAN OF VIOLENCE. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save SINNERS--OF WHOM I AM THE FOREMOST. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in ME, AS THE FOREMOST, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."

Paul thought he was the FOREMOST of sinners, the worst sinner who ever lived. The truth is: "ALL HAVE SINNED and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). If anyone feels covered with sin, think of Paul. God saved the most foremost, Paul, and he can certainly saved everyone else.

Share YOUR insights and shortcomings and doubts and successes and failures with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jesus' Prayer and Arrest--Luke 22:39-53

After instituting and sharing in the Lord's Supper with his disciples, and teaching them four important truths connected with the Lord's Supper, Jesus followed a regular practice: he went aside to spend time with his Heavenly Father in Prayer. He took his disciples with him to the Mount of Olives. After praying, Judas Iscariot, knowing where Jesus would be, brought his wicked associates, "the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders," betrayed Jesus, and handed him over to the Jewish authorities so he would be crucified. These two events appear in Luke 22:39-53, which naturally falls into two parts.

I. Jesus' Prayer. Luke 22:39-46. See Mark 14:26, 32-42; Matthew 26:30, 36-46.
   a. Jesus went out of the upper room where he had shared with his disciples in the first Lord's Supper, and went to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:32; Matthew 26:36 identify the location at the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus did this "as was his custom," a common term found also in Luke 1:9; 2:42. Jesus' disciples follow him. 22:39.
   b. When they arrived at this spot, Jesus told them, "Pray that you may not come into the time of trial." When Jesus is arrested and suffers, this also become a test for all of his followers to see the faithfulness and perseverance of their trust in God. 22:40.
   c. Jesus then withdrew from his disciples "about a stone's throw" so they could see him, but could not hear his words. Jesus knelt down and prayed. A common practice in prayer is kneeling. See Mark 1:40; 10:17; 15:19; Matthew 17:14; 27:29; Luke 5:8; Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Romans 14:11; Ephesians 3:14; Philippians 2:10. The same practice appears often in the Hebrew Bible, as in Psalm 95:6; 2 Chronicles 6:13. Godly people often kneel before God our Father to demonstrate submission and humility. This is a very important spiritual gesture for godly people. The very fact that Jesus Himself PRAYED indicates that HE HIMSELF was dependent on his Heavenly Father and was in submission to HIM. 22:41.
   d. Jesus' prayer was simple and brief: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done." At his point, Jesus did not know in advance what his Heavenly Father might do. He left this decision totally in God the Father's hands. Jesus expressed his own desire, but he deferred to his Heavenly Father's superior will and desire. This attitude is very important for every follower of God through Jesus Christ. 22:42.
   e. At this very instance, in response to God the Father, an angel from heaven appeared to Jesus to give him strength. Obviously, the Father's answer is both Yes and No. Jesus, my Son, you must go through the crucifixion, but during that time, I will give you the proper strength to ultimately survive. 22:43.
   f. Knowing this response, Jesus was in anguish. He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground. Here Jesus was not attempting to persuade his Heavenly Father to change his mind, but to steel his heart about the events about to occur shortly. 22:44.
   g. When Jesus finished his prayer, he return to his disciples and found them sleeping because of grief. Jesus rebuked them for being asleep, and told them to get up and pray that they might not come into the time of trial. Jesus is calling them to rise about such human reactions as sleep and grief, and to trust fully in God our Father. 22:45-46.

II. Jesus' Arrest. Luke 22:47-53. See also Mark 14:43-52; Matthew 26:47-56; John 18:2-11.
     a. While Jesus was still speaking with his disciples, suddenly Judas Iscariot led a crowd to find Jesus. Judas Iscariot approached Jesus to kiss him. Jesus immediately responded, "Is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?" This fulfills the prediction in Luke 22:21-23.  22:47-48.
     b. Realizing what was happening, Jesus' disciples asked Jesus: "Lord, should we strike with the sword?" See Luke 22:38. Not giving Jesus time to respond, Peter struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. See John 18:10. Peter was only trying to keep Jesus from being arrested and crucified. 22:49-50.
     c. Jesus immediately retaliated, telling Peter and his companions not to try to defend Jesus. Then Jesus touched the slave's ear and healed him. Here Jesus shows compassion on his enemies, and demonstrated his miraculous power as divine. 22:51.
     d. Jesus then turned to his opponents and assailants. "Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit?" He reminded them that they could have arrested him while he taught in the Jerusalem temple many days, but they did not lay hands on him. But THIS is your hour, and the power of darkness. Darkness, a symbol of evil, dominates the hearts of Jesus' attackers, the very darkness that Jesus came into the world to bring to all people (see Luke 1:79). This darkness must first spread over the whole earth (see Luke 23:44). Jesus opponents came in the physical dark of the night to cover up the moral darkness of their hearts and deeds. In the world, there is always a strong contrast or antithesis between darkness and light--see John 13:30; 19:11. 22:52-53.

Share YOUR experiences and problems and feelings and weaknesses and resolutions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis