Moses, Mary, & Martha

The reading this week takes us from Luke 10-11:36 In this reading we’ll see Jesus send out 72 disciples to prepare the way for his ministry, teaching on the Good Samaritan, Mary and Martha, the Lord’s Prayer, and a rejection of Jesus’ power and authority by some of his followers. I want to focus on the 72, and Mary and Martha since recent teachings at East Side have focused on these other areas.

Most Christians are familiar with the 12 tribes of Israel, and can readily see a connection between them and Jesus’ 12 closest disciples (often called “the twelve”). Most have no idea where the 72 comes in, but it is tucked away in the often ignored pages of your Old Testament. Numbers 11:24-26 share with us a story of Moses gathering 70 elders from the tribes of Israel together, and God took some of the Spirit’s power that rested upon Moses and extended it to the elders. You may be thinking, “Yeah, but that’s 70. Not 72.” The text tells us that there were two who didn’t join the other 70 (named Eldad and Medad), but God’s Spirit came to rest on them anyway and they also prophesied along with the others, bringing our total to 72.

When Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples (keep in mind these are 72 besides the 12 according to 10:1, and may have been males and females [see 8:1-3]), this is a clear sign that Jesus has supplanted Moses as spiritual leader of Israel. What God did for Moses has also been done for Jesus, but to a more powerful extent. As the Hebrew writer would tell us: Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. – Hebrews 3:3

Later, Jesus and his disciples are invited into the home of Martha and her sister Mary. Martha provided great hospitality by making preparations for Jesus and his disciples, but Mary took the position of a disciple by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his teaching. In the first century Jewish culture women could hear the Torah taught in synagogue, but females were not taught by rabbis. It was expected for women to fulfill their domestic responsibilities, just as Martha was doing. Martha, who understood this cultural practice well, tries to get Jesus to side with her, but Jesus wasn’t concerned with cultural norms. Let’s look at their conversation:

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – 10:40-42

Jesus praised Mary for sitting at his feet, something their culture would never do! But we misapply Jesus’ comments by suggesting that Martha’s work wasn’t important, and further misapply when we suggest we should elevate learning about Jesus to the exclusion of working for him. Jesus teaches nothing of the sort. Jesus doesn’t discount Martha’s work, but does indicate that only one of these actions is eternal (will not be taken away.) Doing the work of Martha is important, yes, but what we learn at the feet of Jesus keeps us focused on the who, and the why of what we do. We absolutely should be like Martha, busy with the work of the kingdom. But let us never forget to be like Mary, or else we won’t focus on who we are working for.

Ministries and good works will come and go, but the Word of the Lord will endure forever. – Matt

Advertisements

“He is Not One of Us”

Our Gospel reading this week is Luke 9. Let’s begin by looking at verse 46-48.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” – Luke 9:46-48 NIV

Why would an argument break out over who was the greatest? It could possibly be a result of the three who went on the mountain with Jesus (Lk. 9:28-36). But if we’re honest with ourselves, we all want to be the greatest, right? Our society is set up this way. We are taught to look up to those who are “the greatest” and try to be like them. Our school systems are set up this way where we honor those from the earliest age who are “the greatest” in grades, attendance, sports ability, and the list goes on and on. We are taught that earthly success, standing high above everyone else in your field, is the most important thing you can do.

Jesus doesn’t say that. In fact, he says exactly the opposite. I like how William Barclay summarizes this passage:

Jesus was saying, ‘If you are prepared to spend your lives serving, helping, loving people who, in the eyes of the world, do not matter at all, you are serving me and serving God. If you are prepared to spend your life doing these apparently unimportant things and never trying to be what the world calls great, you will be great in the eyes of God.’”

I think this same thinking is involved with the very next thing Luke tells us.

49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” – Luke 9:49-50 NIV

It seems that John viewed this person as competition. He was more concerned with who was doing the work than what was actually being accomplished. Notice he says “we saw someone driving out demons…” This guy was actually casting out demons, not just trying. God had given him the ability and desire to serve these needy people by casting out demons, and John tried to stop him.

Have you ever done this? Have you ever seen someone doing good works in Jesus’ name but had a problem with it because they were “not one of us?” I know people who refuse to support local efforts to feed the hungry, or clothe the poor because the group doing it are “not one of us.” In light of this passage, how do you think Jesus would handle this? Would he support the good works being done in his name, or would he refuse to join them because they are “not one of us?”

Years later, the same John that tried to stop this man would record for us this prayer of Jesus.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:20-21

The “Promise”

I love Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It seems no matter how deep I dig into the text here I find something new every time. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to write this letter in such a beautiful way, truly showing that in Christ we are all one! (1:10, 16, 18, 3:6, etc.)

Here’s another way he does this. Paul reminds his Gentile audience that they used to separate from God and his promises.

…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without home and without God in the world.” – Ephesians 2:12

Later he reminds them that they now share in these promises with Israel.

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 3:6

Sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. It’s in Jesus that we get to share in the promises made to Israel. Though there are many promises God made to Israel (that now Gentile Christians are included in), I want to focus on only four. These are known as the Passover promises and they are found in Exodus 6.

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will save you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD you God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” – Exodus 6:6-7

In case you didn’t catch the four promises, let me list them here:

– I will bring you out…

– I will save you…

– I will redeem you…

– I will take you…and I will be your God. (This is marriage language…God entering a marriage covenant with Israel)

Now watch what Paul does in the letter to the largely Gentile Ephesian church.

– I will bring you out…

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… All of us also lived among them at one time…” – Ephesians 2:1-3

– I will save you…

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

– I will redeem you…

“In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” – Ephesians 1:7-8

– I will take you…and I will be your God. (remember, marriage language)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:25, 28-32

God brought us out of the sinful ways of the world we once lived in and gave us new lives in Christ. God saved us from the sin we were slaves to through Christ. It is by grace we have been saved. God has redeemed us through the blood of Christ, and forgiven our sins. And Christ has taken us…married us, his church.

“For through him we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:18-19

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” –  Ephesians 3:6

We are ONE in Christ. Praise God!

Jesus and Women

This week’s reading comes from Luke 7:31 through the end of chapter 8.  This article will focus on Luke’s references to women in the ministry of Jesus.

Beginning in 7:36, Luke recounts an invitation Jesus received to eat at the house of Simon, a Pharisee. In first century Palestine it was viewed as highly virtuous for someone to invite a traveling rabbi for dinner. From the context it seems this was the only reason Simon welcomed Jesus as he and his other guests question Jesus’ actions (7:39,49).

This questioning came because, “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house…”, and she interrupted dinner with an outpouring of affection on Jesus by washing his feet with her tears and hair, anointing his feet with perfume, and kissing his feet as well (7:44-47). Simon had not offered Jesus a foot washing, anointing of oil, or a kiss of greeting, all of which were expected in that culture. This would indicate that Simon conspicuously insulted Jesus by doing this.

This woman would have been considered as worthless by her culture, yet Jesus elevates her higher than Simon and the others at the dinner! “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (7:47) This sort of treatment of women by Jesus, especially one with her background, would have been considered shocking and likely offensive.

Luke continues to tell us about Jesus and some women who were his disciples and patrons, supporting his ministry financially. Luke even gives us a few of their names: “…Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”  (8:2-3)

The fact that Jesus’ ministry was supported financially by many women would have been quite odd, and likely a source of ridicule for criticizers of his teaching. But a shocking aspect is that Jesus let them be disciples (students/followers) and let them learn from him (See Lk. 10:38-42 in the same light). Very few Roman and Greek philosophers allowed women disciples, but they were almost unknown among Jewish rabbis. Furthermore, Luke’s choice of wording here is interesting. The words above translated as “helping to support” is the Greek word “diakoneo” from which we get our English words “deacon” and “minister.” It would seem that these women were working and serving with Jesus right alongside the men. Which brings another shocking point:  women, both married and unmarried, traveled with Jesus just as the other disciples did! (See 8:1-2) This was a practice that Jewish sages and rabbi’s had taught against repeatedly! Yet Jesus treated them as equals in a society which did not.

We’ll explore this further as we progress through Luke, but while you read look for who Luke tells us is with Jesus. Do we sometimes assume we know who Jesus is speaking to/sending out, or are we basing our beliefs & understanding on what Scripture actually says? – Matt

Jesus is Lord!

This week’s reading comes from Luke 6 – 7:30. A good portion of chapter 6 is Luke’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Since we discussed that in our study of Matthew, I’m going to focus on three other passages within our reading.

The fourth commandment called for a day of Sabbath rest. The command indicates that just as God created the world in 6 days and rested (literally stopped the creation work he had been doing) on the 7th day. While Israel was in the wilderness gathering manna, they were to gather for 6 days (collecting an extra day’s worth for the 7th) because on the 7th there would be none. Israel still looked for manna on the 7th day. I believe God did this because he wanted his people to rest, and to trust in God for provision. We often work so hard that we only trust in ourselves. If God was not faithful the people would have starved, but God is faithful and can be trusted. The command simply indicates it is a day of rest and no work should be done. The Israelites then created rules defining what work was.

Jesus (who had the authority of God to rightly interpret and apply the commands) and his disciples pick some heads of grain and ate them. This was against the rules. Jesus also heals a man with a lame right hand. Since the man’s life was not in danger this healing act again broke the rules. It seems that the Pharisees here had almost idolized the Sabbath because even doing good was considered wrong by them! Jesus gives an example of David who ate the Bread of Presence in the tabernacle and violated the law, but he did so not out of impure motives, but out of doing good for himself and his men (1 Sam. 21:1-6). Jesus said this concerning the healing: “I ask you which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Lk. 6:9) Jesus indicates that he is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Lk. 6:5) and that doing good did not violate the Sabbath. Jesus had authority to overrule their beliefs about the Sabbath.

Jesus then chooses 12 apostles from among his many disciples. I want to look at two names (Lk. 6:15): Matthew (a tax collector for the Roman government) and Simon who was called the Zealot (who was a sworn enemy of anything related to the Roman government.) In any other context, Simon would have considered it his God-given duty to kill Matthew because of his association with Rome. Truly following Jesus should remove all barriers between us and other believers. Jesus is Lord even over our relationships.

The last we’ll look at is the faith of the Roman centurion. This man was a Gentile who was very kind to the Jewish people. It seems the Jews actually liked the centurion which is highly unusual (Lk. 7:4-5). The centurion had such faith in Jesus that he indicates (through messengers) that he believed Jesus could heal his servant from wherever he was; there was no need for Jesus to come physically to the servant. Luke tells us: “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’”  This is one of only two times in Scripture that indicate Jesus was amazed and it was because of the centurion’s belief in the healing power of Jesus.

May we all place Jesus as Lord over our beliefs, over our relationships, and may we truly trust in His healing power in our lives. – Matt