The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 6)
28. Withdrawal to Ephraim
Reference: John 11:47-54
The reason for the withdrawal to Ephraim was the intense hatred and conniving of the chief priests and the Pharisees. After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, many more of the Jews believe on Jesus and the rulers feared that the whole nation would become His followers unless they took action to stop Him. The chief priests were Sadducees and His bitterest enemies. The reasoning of Caiaphas, the high priest was that if the whole nation acclaimed Jesus as Messiah and King, the Romans would come in with their armies and destroy their nation. Therefore, it is expedient that this one man, Jesus should die for the people, so that the whole nation should not perish. Caiaphas was not preaching substitutionary atonement: he was merely saying it is either Jesus or them. Either they kill Him or they will all get killed. But at the same time it was true: he being the high priest prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for that nation only (the Jews in the land), but that He should gather in one the children of God which were scattered abroad (the dispersion of Israel). This could not refer to the Gentiles, for they were not the children of God at that stage and they were not scattered abroad. The dispersed Israelites were the covenant children of God and they were scattered among the Gentiles.
It would seem that the Lazarus episode was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Caiaphas said to the others in the Sanhedrin, “Ye know nothing at all.” That is, you don’t understand how serious this matter is. We must take action. And so we read: “From that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” It was for that reason that Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but retired to a wilderness area to a town called Ephraim, where He continued with His disciples. This takes us back to the record of the Synoptists who record some of the further events before Jesus went back to Jerusalem for His last Passover, where He Himself became the Passover Lamb.
29. Ten Lepers Healed
Reference: Lk. 17:11-19
This story illustrates again the great variety Jesus used in His healing ministry. These ten lepers in a certain village Jesus passed through stood afar off (cf. Lev. 13:45,46), and cried: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus did not anoint them, lay hands on them, or go through any kind of ceremony, but simply said: “Go show yourselves to the priest,” for the priest was the one who had to examine the leper and pronounce him either clean or unclean. It was only after they had started off to find a priest that they were healed. But the unusual thing about this miracle is that only one of the ten turned back to thank Jesus and he was a Samaritan. Un-thankfulness is a sign of apostasy. Paul describes the apostasy of the human race in Rom. 1:21 in this way: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful …” Only one out of ten glorified God and was thankful. Thankfulness is one of the chief attributes of the true believer.
30. The Coming of the Kingdom
Reference: Lk. 17:20-37
The first two verses of this section are peculiar to Luke. Much of the remainder of the section is repeated in the Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24. We will reserve most of our comments until we get to that part of the narrative.
The Pharisees demanded to know when the Kingdom of God should come. Jesus’ answer has been twisted to mean that the Kingdom of God will never come in a literal sense upon this earth, but that it is entirely a spiritual condition within the hearts of men. Even a superficial reading of the text should be evidence enough that Jesus was not telling these Pharisees who were plotting to kill Him that the Kingdom of God was in their hearts. That would have been the last place to look for the Kingdom of God.
What Jesus said was, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” The central theme of Christ’s preaching was that the Kingdom was near. The King of that Kingdom was in their midst. The statement that the Kingdom of God does not come with observation does not contradict all of the other statements of Christ about His visible return in power and great glory to establish His kingdom upon the earth. In fact, just a few verses after vs. 20, Christ states: “For as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day.” When Christ came the first time the Kingdom was present in His person. It was in their midst, but it did not come with any spectacular, sudden events. It was like the seed that fell into the soil and gradually developed. It is interesting that the cognate verb of the word “observation” is used in Lk. 6:7; 14:1; and 20:20 of the Pharisees, “And they watched (or observed) Him.” They were watching Him, of course, to try to trap Him in either His words or His works whereby they might accuse Him.
While very similar to parts of the Olivet discourse this section does contain several other statements unique to Luke. One is that the days would come when the disciples would long to see one of the days of the Son of man and would not see it; that is, Jesus would be absent from them and they would be going through persecutions and would have to stand alone.
The other is that besides speaking of “as it was in the days of Noah,” here He says: “Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot, they ate, they drank, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed.”
And finally, there is an additional word concerning those who are taken and those who are left which is not in the Olivet account. Many expositors teach that those who are taken are the saints who are raptured at the coming of Christ. It is evident that the ones taken in Noah’s day were taken in the flood and Noah was left. The same was true in Lot’s case. He was left and the others were taken away. But here the disciple asked, “Where, Lord?” and He answered: “Where the body is, thither will the eagles also be gathered together.” Where are they taken? Surely not to heaven, but to judgment, the same one mentioned in Rev. 19:17,18, which is called the “supper of the great God,” when the eagles will consume the bodies of the ungodly.
31. The Parable of the Unjust Judge
Reference: Lk. 18:1-8
This parable is similar to that of the Importunate Friend in Lk. 11:5-10. There the comparison was between two friends, one which came late at night seeking a favor, and the other refusing to get out of bed to help until he was moved by the importunity of his friend. Here the comparison is between a poor widow who has been wronged and an unjust judge who refused to discharge his obligations to the woman, but who finally did so because he became weary of her continual coming to him.
In neither case does Jesus teach that we have to keep praying until God gets weary of hearing our prayers before He will be moved to answer. Rather, the lesson is that if an unjust judge would avenge this widow because of her continual coming to him, how much more will God avenge His elect which cry day and night unto Him?
The application of this prayer parable is also to the time of the great tribulation through which God’s elect remnant of Israel will go, which will immediately precede the coming of the Son of man, referred to in vs. 8. The answer to this prayer will be the outpouring of God’s wrath upon those who have been venting their wrath on God’s elect.
32. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
Reference: Lk. 18:9-14
The preceding parable of the Unjust Judge was also eschatological in nature, having to do with God’s elect in the future tribulation. This one is soteriological, having to do with salvation. However, it must be interpreted dispensationally. The Publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” has been adopted by many evangelists as the model prayer for new converts, only they add, “and save me for Jesus’ sake.”
While it is true that it is only by the mercy and grace of God that any sinner gets saved, this Publican was not simply asking God to be merciful to him. The verb, “be merciful” is “hilaskomai,” to be propitious. It is the same word translated “reconciliation” in Heb. 2:17. The noun form, “hilasterion” is translated “mercy seat,” in Heb. 9:5. By referring back to Ex. 25:17-21 it will be seen that the mercy seat was the lid of the ark of the covenant which contained two tables of the Law. The Israelite killed his animal sacrifice and the priest took the blood and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat. The blood thus intervened between God and the Law which had been broken and effected an atonement for sin.
No doubt this publican had offered his sacrifice and now he prays that God would accept his offering and be propitiated toward him. This was the divine order before the death of Christ. But now since the death of Christ we learn that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25). Therefore, God has already once and for all been propitiated: there is no need to pray for God to do it again. All we need to do is to receive the propitiation and thus be reconciled through the death of His Son. We do not pray for God to send His Son to die for our sins: He has already done that. Why, then, should we tell new converts to pray that God would be propitiated when He already has been? Rather tell the sinner, or the new convert, that God has been propitiated, that is, that His holiness and righteousness have been completely satisfied by the death of His Son, so that He is now free to justify ungodly sinners simply upon believing in Jesus.
The Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous and therefore had no need of reconciliation. Jesus said the Pharisee prayed with himself. Even though he told God he was thankful he was not a sinner, his prayer got no higher than his head. He informed God about all of his fine qualities and goodness, while the Publican, convicted of his sinfulness, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast in contrition. This Pharisee fits perfectly into Paul’s description of Israel in Rom. 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” See Paul’s self- righteousness in which he once boasted and what he did with it after his confrontation with Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:4-9).
References: Matt. 19:3-12; Mk. 10:2-12
If we had only Mark’s account of Christ’s discourse on divorce and the two verses in Luke (16:17,18), we might suppose that there was no situation where Christ would permit divorce. But in this account in Matthew, as well as in Matt. 5:32, He does make the exception in the case of fornication. The Pharisees asked Him about the legality of a man putting away his wife for any and every reason. They hoped to find something in His answer by which they could condemn Him.
As usual, Jesus answered by asking them a question: “What did Moses command you?” And they replied that Moses permitted divorce. But Jesus told them that God’s plan from creation was that man and wife become one flesh and remain in that relationship. However, because of the hardness of man’s heart Moses wrote this law permitting divorce. Marriage is a relationship in the flesh, “one flesh,” and therefore death which brings an end to the flesh, brings an end to the marriage, so that the remaining partner is free to marry again.
Jesus plainly taught that a husband who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the same rule holds for the wife. Paul teaches essentially the same principles for this present dispensation. He teaches that death dissolves the marriage bond (Rom. 7:2,3). In the same verses he taught that a divorced person who remarries commits adultery. He went back to the Eden edict that man and wife become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). He taught that married partners should not separate, but if they do they should remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7:10,11,39). He further taught that when one partner dies the other is free to remarry, but only to another believer.
If a man or woman is married to an unbeliever (apparently married before one of them became a believer), the believer should remain with the unbeliever in hopes of converting him or her to the faith, but if the unbeliever deserts the believer, Paul says the believer is not under bondage in such cases (1 Cor. 7:15). Some understand this to mean that the believer is then free to remarry. Paul also teaches, among other things, that officers in the church should have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2). Living under the dispensation of grace does not mean that the believer is free to sin. Next to our union with Christ, Paul upholds the marriage union as the highest of all human relationships. In fact, he illustrates our union with Christ by the marriage relationship, teaching that having been raised from the dead through identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, we are married to Him (Rom. 7:4).
Matthew gives us a little added detail in that the disciples, when they heard what Jesus taught about divorce, said, “If that’s the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” Christ’s answer, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given,” does not mean that His teaching about divorce applied only to the few who heard it. Rather it applies to the statement of the disciples: “it is better not to marry.” For Jesus goes on to say there are three classes of men who remain unmarried: those who are sexually incapable from birth, those who have been made incapable through surgery, and those who for the sake of the Kingdom of God have chosen to remain single. Paul was an example of the latter (1 Cor. 7:7-9,32). Paul does not command celibacy. He says that every man has his proper gift of God. Some are able to live pure, clean lives apart from marriage. Others do not have this gift, and for them, Paul says, it is better for them to marry.
34. Christ Blesses the Little Children
References: Matt. 19:13-15; Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17
Matthew introduces this section with the word then, which indicates that Jesus’ words on the sanctity of marriage apparently prompted mothers in the audience to bring their children to Jesus for His blessing. It is interesting that Matthew and Mark call them “paidion” (young children) and Luke calls them “brephe” (a new born baby). There was probably quite a range of ages represented. The disciples thought it was beneath the dignity of Jesus to be distracted from His more important work by children, so they scolded the mothers who were pressing forward with their little ones.
Mark says that Jesus was indignant with this action of His disciples. Great emphasis is given throughout the Scriptures on the importance of the proper care and training of children, and yet many pastors, like the disciples of old, think it is below their dignity to minister to such. They always want to be delving into the “deep” things of God. Why waste their years of study and training on such simple folk? Relegate the children to those of lesser or no special training!
Both Mark and Luke record the further application which Christ made that unless one receives the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter in. Because children are of such a trusting nature it is doubly important that they be given God’s truth to believe, and to be protected from false teaching which they would receive with equal readiness. Parents who take the attitude: “I am not going to force my beliefs on my children. I am going to let them grow up and choose what to believe for themselves,” are not only unwise but are definitely disobedient to the Scripture (Prov. 22:6).
There are certain Christian denominations which teach that the Church is spiritual Israel and therefore heir to Israel’s covenants. They believe that the children who are members of their church family are children of the covenant and therefore have a special relationship to God which other children do not enjoy. They believe baptism has taken the place of circumcision, so that at baptism the infant is regenerated as a child of the covenant. Some call this “presumptive regeneration,” that is, they presume the child is regenerate until later in life the contrary becomes evident. Thus, churches become filled with young people who presume they were regenerated at baptism but are in fact un-regenerated. Regeneration takes place only in association with personal faith in Jesus Christ.
The logical conclusion of infant baptismal regeneration is that unbaptized children are lost and if they die in an unbaptized state, they will be forever separated from God. Rome tries to mitigate this harsh doctrine by teaching that such infants do not actually go into the fires of hell but are confined to a place called “limbus infantium,” forever shut out from heaven.
Much confusion and harm has been done by a failure to distinguish between Israel and the Church of this dispensation, and the relation of people to the covenants of Israel. Baptism never took the place of circumcision in New Testament times. Both were practiced concurrently by the believing Jews. No child is regenerated by baptism. Children are born with a sinful nature and need to be saved as they become able to personally receive Christ as their Savior. They need the redemptive work of Christ the same as an adult. And on the basis of that redemptive work, God is now free in His elective purposes to apply that work to any and every infant that He chooses to remove from this life in infancy. But God has not set an age of accountability, so that we can say, the child is covered by the work of Christ until he is six or twelve years of age. That age may differ widely with different individuals. We cannot begin too early to tell our children the story of God’s great love and grace in giving the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)