Triumphal Entry

I. Introduction

In our bible study lessons, we are getting closer to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Oddly, just in time for Easter. What are the odds?

Jesus has been making His way toward Jerusalem for His final Passover. Along the way, He has been telling parables and teaching in synagogues. He has been describing the Kingdom of Heaven, prophesying about the end times, sharing difficult wisdom such as “It is easier to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God,” healing the sick and the lame.

Jesus has set out resolutely toward Jerusalem to fulfill His purpose. And in Luke 18:31-34, Jesus tells His disciples what He’s doing, but the disciples do not understand.

Now He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be ridiculed, and abused, and spit upon, and after they have flogged Him, they will kill Him; and on the third day He will rise.” The disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

And they continued toward Jerusalem. Jesus gives sight to Bartimaeus, offers salvation to Zaccheus, tells the parable of the Ten Minas.

On a side note, I’ve been attending a bible study on the doctrine of the rapture, and it’s opened my eyes to better understanding some of the things Jesus says, including the Ten Minas. Jesus prefaces His parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19:11-12 with,

Now while they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then to return.

Jesus is explaining to Israel, who is expecting their Messiah to deliver them from Roman occupation, that their expectations will not be met, at least not in the way they expect. Jesus will die, prepare a place in heaven for them, and then return. That’s what Jesus has been doing for the last 2000 years. Interceding on our behalf, and preparing a heavenly place for us.

And now, in Luke 19:28,

After Jesus said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Jesus continues with His purpose. He has resolutely set His feet toward Jerusalem.

II. The Unridden Colt

Luke 19:29-30,

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.

Two thousand years later, and I read this and barely give it a second read. Did you know all four gospels record this event? Why are all four gospel writers giving this focus to this event? It seems so insignificant, Jesus on a donkey.
I mentioned earlier that Jesus has been performing miracles on His way to Jerusalem. Our scripture says Jesus is near Bethany, where Jesus performed probably His greatest miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating Jesus’ power and authority over life and death. This had, as you can imagine, a huge effect on the Jewish population. Here is the scene from John 11:43-46 – Jesus prays to His Father in heaven,

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Out came the man who had died, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

The next chapter, John 12 verse 9, still near Bethany, crowds are following Jesus. They’re even following Lazarus, so they may see a man raised from the dead. All the people believed Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and they yearned for His deliverance.

But the Pharisees denied He was the Messiah and plotted to kill Him. They even plotted to kill Lazarus. They wanted to destroy this revelation that the Messiah had come, not knowing or understanding that their very plot to kill Jesus was fulfilling His prophecy.

And now, Jesus asks for a donkey. What’s going on?

I think one possibility we cannot overlook is that, not only is Jesus fulfilling prophecy, He is making prophecy. In Zechariah 9:9-10 is the following prophecy about the triumphal entry of the Messiah –

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is righteous and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

And I will eliminate the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
And the bow of war will be eliminated.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

It would be easy to simply fulfill this prophecy, but Jesus adds a layer of complexity to demonstrate His sovereignty. He says in Luke 19:29-31,

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent left and found it just as He had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.”

Jesus said it, so it is so. This Mount of Olives is a hill outside of Jerusalem, which a day’s journey from Jerusalem. It is a place of great significance. It was on the Mount of Olives that king David wept, along with his faithful followers, as he fled from Jerusalem and from his son, Absolom. According to Zachariah 14:4, the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives, which would then be split in half, forming a great valley. It is here that the “triumphal entry” of the Messiah will occur.

Jesus paused here on the Mount of Olives before entering Jerusalem. He sent two of His disciples on ahead to fetch the donkey. Jesus didn’t need to ride, it was not a long walk into Jerusalem. I think this is the first time Jesus rides an animal, the only other time is in Revelation 19:11 when He returns on a white horse.

No, the purpose for riding into Jerusalem on a never-ridden foal of a donkey was to fulfill prophecy, and thereby to proclaim He is the Messiah.

Jesus’ exact knowledge of the location of the donkey, as well as the response of the owners, indicates Jesus is completely aware of and in control of His environment. The fact that the donkey on which Jesus rode had never been ridden may also be symbolic of His deity. In Numbers 19:2 and Deuteronomy 21:3, animals sacrificed to God were not to have ever borne a yoke. The unyoked, unridden donkey is a clue that the donkey is an offering to God, something to be used in His service.

I also think Jesus riding on a never-ridden donkey is also miraculous event. Ever watch those old cowboy movies with the colt bucking and leaping because it’s never been ridden or broken-in? The donkey’s owners were probably saying, “I gotta see this. I’ll get my iPhone camera and video it.”

It’s also interesting that the disciples did not ask first to borrow the donkey. Jesus as Lord has the right to use anything we think we own. Think of the various ways in which a previously unridden animal could have been acquired. Jesus Himself could have gone and asked to use it. He could have identified Himself as Messiah, and explained that He had certain prophecies to fulfill, and the use of that person’s animal would be an important contribution to His kingdom. Or Jesus could have sent His disciples to say the same thing. Once they explained who Jesus was, surely the owners would let them borrow the donkey. Or they could have rented or bought the donkey.

But that’s not the way it was done. Instead, the two disciples went into the village, and without asking, started to take the donkey. Right in front of the owners. Exactly they Jesus said to do it. Exactly the way Jesus said to. Find the donkey, take it, give an explanation only if they were challenged.

The owners said, “Hey, that’s mine,” and the amazing thing is that the disciples said, “The Lord needs it,” and the owners were like, “oh, ok.” The two disciples walked off with the donkey. No promises made to return the donkey.
Back in those days, wealth was often measured in terms of cattle. Today, it would be like getting into somebody’s Maserati and driving off. “Sorry! The Lord needs it!”

Maybe the owners understood who Jesus is, and recognized Him as Lord. If Jesus was indeed Lord, then He had every right to use what He had created.

If Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, why did He need to borrow a donkey? Why not just … I dunno, make one? I think Jesus is consistent throughout His life. His parents didn’t stay in a fancy house, they had to borrow a stable. Jesus said He had no home of His own, and no place to rest His head, Later, Jesus was even buried in a borrowed tomb.

Why did the Creator of the Earth put Himself in a position where He had to borrow what belonged to others? Well, in the first place, everything does belong to Him. The donkey did not belong to men, but to God. They were only stewards of things. Thus, for the Son of God to “borrow” what belongs to others is really for Him to possess what is His.

Second, as the Creator of the Earth, and as the Creator of man, our Lord also possesses man. Man is not free. We are either slaves to Christ or slaves to sin. Only God is truly free, free to do with His creation as He chooses. Jesus could claim the donkey because He owned the donkey, and He owned the owners. We are His, and we belong to Him.

Today, we are far less inclined to let go of things we own. We say Jesus is Lord but withhold that which we idolize. Jesus continues this challenge to us, even today. He carries out His earthly work through the hands and feet of His disciples. It is when we release our idols, and give freely to Him that we are a testimony that He is Lord.

One day, Jesus will return and claim His kingdom and all that is in it. Nothing is exempt. Every knee will bow and profess Jesus is Lord. Our ability to do this freely of our own will is limited, and He will eventually claim His own.

III. In Service to Our Lord

Luke 19:35-40 –

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

At the birth of Jesus, wise men had searched for the One who was born King of the Jews. Now, the messianic expectations of the people appeared to be at hand. They shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This echoes the praise Psalms, like Psalm 118:24-26 –

This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let’s rejoice and be glad in it.
Please, O Lord, do save us;
Please, O Lord, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;

The people believed the Messiah would come in the name and power of God to restore the kingdom to Israel. They did not understand Jesus’ kingdom was a different sort than they desired, yet they still shouted praise.
The second part of their praise also reflects aspects of Jesus’ birth. While the baby lay in a manger, shepherds were confronted with an angelic host that proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” (Luke 2:14).

The crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem praised God for His peace and glory. The peace and glory of God who reigns in heaven. The peace between God and humankind made possible by the Prince of Peace. The people offered praise for Jesus because they believed He was the Messiah.

Believers rightly worship Jesus for the works of God we have seen. Jesus’ miracles today continues to transform sinners into saints. Believers have every reason to enjoy His work and join in the chorus of praise for the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.

Interestingly, in verses 39-40 Luke tells us that some of the Pharisees in the crowd admonished Jesus to rebuke His disciples for their worship. They were not merely saying to quiet them, they were demanding that He literally reject their assertions that He was the Messiah King. They believe He is not worthy of their praise. Jesus replies with a paraphrase of Habakkuk 2:11,

“For the stones will cry out from the wall, and the rafters will answer them from the woodwork.”

The Messiah was publicly presenting Himself to the nation, and even inanimate objects would be called upon to testify that He was the Messiah King, He was worthy of praise.

There were those in the crowd who got it and those who did not. What was expressive for some was offensive to others. The Pharisees were seeing the crowds grow in their support of Jesus. They apparently thought Jesus would agree with them that the crowd had gone too far. But Jesus knew what they did not know, though these crowds were now cheering, in a few days, the crowds would be taunting.

Though crowds were saying Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, by the end of the week the crowds would be shouting Crucify Him. This celebration of adoration would be short-lived. But for the moment, there was praise and adoration for the King entering on a donkey. The road to the cross was always going to be taken by riding a donkey, a sign of humility and obedience. It was not the entrance that was heralded from the mountain tops; it was an entrance that was embraced by those on the side of a road who had open hearts and minds to the Savior riding into town on a donkey.

IV. Jesus Wept

Jesus understood all this, and recognized that, while the crowds were rejoicing now, the same crowd would soon reject Him. Luke 19:41-44 –

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known on this day, even you, the conditions for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will put up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground, and throw down your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

What an amazing contrast there is here between the joyful reception of Jesus by the crowds with our Lord’s tears. They thought they had received Him in a way that was appropriate and fitting; Jesus viewed the event as a disaster, and as leading to disaster, for Jerusalem.

Jerusalem failed to grasp “the things which make for peace.” The majority of the people thought that this peace would be accomplished by a sword, and by force. They supposed that when the Messiah came, He would utilize military might, and that He would throw off the shackles of Rome. When Jesus wept because Jerusalem did not know what would bring about peace, He wept because He knew what lay ahead for this wayward, wrong-thinking nation. Instead of Messiah’s coming bringing about the demise of Rome, the rejection of Jesus as Messiah meant the destruction of Jerusalem, at the hand of Roman soldiers. Jesus therefore spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 A.D.

It was not by the Messiah’s use of force and power, nor by the death of the Messiah’s enemies that the kingdom was to be brought about, but by the Messiah’s death at the hand of His enemies. It was not triumph which would bring in the kingdom, but the tragedy of the cross. God’s ways are never man’s ways. Man would have brought about the kingdom in many ways, but man would never have conceived of doing so by a cross, by apparent defeat, by the suffering of Messiah Himself, for the sins of His people.

V. Conclusion

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not only Jesus’ claim to be Israel’s Messiah, but also a clear declaration of His deity. He was Israel’s Lord. But Jesus is about to be rejected by His own people, handed over to the Gentiles, persecuted, abused, and crucified. To some, it may have seemed that Jesus had failed to militarily declare victory. To others, the cross may have seemed a disaster and a defeat. But just prior to His death, Jesus declared His deity, demonstrated His right to possess, to receive man’s praise, and to determine how the kingdom would be established. Jesus’ death on the cross was not an evidence of Jesus being overrun or overpowered by His opponents, but of His laying down His life voluntarily, for the sins of His people, as God’s means of establishing the kingdom.

We are not like Israel, for if we have truly received Jesus as our Savior, we have also received Him as Lord. We acknowledge Him as the King whose kingdom will soon be established on the earth.

Revelation 19:11-16,

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Worship the One, the True King, whose Triumphal Entry will usher in His Kingdom for 1000 years.

To God be the Glory.

Amen

Neighbors

I.      Introduction

Sometimes it’s difficult to teach a familiar parable; we have pre-conceived notions, or perhaps previous bible studies left in our heads.  The Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, the Faithful Servant, the Ten Virgins, and so on.  Even non-Christians have heard the phrase “good Samaritan.”  Let’s see if we can look at this parable with fresh eyes today, and see if perhaps we’ve become complacent, and really look to see if there is an application for us today.

Through a powerful parable, Jesus lets us know that the good Samaritan exemplifies an important facet of the Christian character: How to be a good neighbor.  So what makes a good neighbor?  Someone who sells State Farm insurance?  You know, “And like a good neighbor….”

I have a neighbor, sometimes I think we’re competing with, and losing to.  On the day we moved into our new house in Sugar Land, it took longer than we thought it would.  The truck wasn’t quite big enough, so it was like after 9pm when we started the second run back to the old townhome. Our next door neighbor Fai stopped by to meet us, found out we hadn’t had any dinner, and immediately brought over dinner for the both of us.  And she hasn’t stopped, she brings vegetables from her garden, she weeds our garden, she sweeps our sidewalks, and so on.  And if we should every try to do something kind for her, she redoubles her effort to bring us groceries.  Everybody should have a neighbor like Fai.

Who is a neighbor?  Or for that matter, who is a Samaritan?

The Jews considered the Samaritans to be a corrupted religion that in many ways mirrored Judaism.  Well, “corrupted” might a kind way of putting it.  One text I read said the Jews considered the Samaritans as ignorant, superstitious mongrels.  Way back in 2 Kings 17, the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel, killing most of the people living there.  Anybody who survived were taken away to foreign lands, and eventually became known as “the lost tribes of Israel.”  Only a few stragglers, mostly poor, sick or unskilled people, were left behind with Israeli identity or culture.  To finish them off, the Assyrians sent five eastern pagan tribes to settle in Northern Israel and intermingle.  They became a sort of hybrid people, part Israeli, part pagan.  They developed their own customs; they still worshipped Yahweh, but their holy books were in Aramaic, not Hebrew, and didn’t contain many books the Jews had, especially the poetic and prophetic books of the Hebrew scriptures.  They eventually became known as the Samaritans.  They built their temple to the Lord on Mount Gerizim instead of Jerusalem, which irritated the Jews, so the Jews destroyed Mount Gerizim in 128 BC.  Here’s an account from Ezra 4:1-3 –

Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for like you, we seek your God; and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.”  But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build for the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.”

The Jews tell the Samarians to get lost.  Now, the Samarians weren’t much nicer, here’s an account from Nehemiah 4:1-3 –

Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry, and he mocked the Jews.  And he spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy people of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore the temple for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish it in a day? Can they revive the stones from the heaps of rubble, even the burned ones?”  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him, and he said, “Even what they are building—if a fox were to jump on it, it would break their stone wall down!”

Jews and Samaritans were at odds with each other for centuries.

So you see, “good Samaritan” was an unlikely phrase.  Jews expected animosity from Samaritans.  To the Jews, there was no such thing as a good Samaritan.  But funny thing about people, they’re all made in God’s image, and Jesus didn’t feel the same way about the Samaritans.  Or the Gentiles, fortunately.  Later, in Acts 1:8, Jesus will tell his disciples,

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

God still had a great deal of affection for the Samaritans.

So we begin our study, starting at Luke 9:51 –

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

I love that part – Jesus is on a mission, determined to go to Jerusalem, and teach all along the way.

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”  But Jesus turned and rebuked them.  Then he and his disciples went to another village.

There’s a lot of new perspective here – the disciples wanted to rain down fire and destroy the Samaritans, the Samaritans not especially happy with Jesus going to Jerusalem to the temple there.  And Jesus seems concerned about the Samaritans, even when His disciples don’t.

II.      Follow the Scripture, Luke 10:25-28

So Jesus resolutely continues to Jerusalem, teaching along the way, until one day a lawyer stands up to question Jesus.  It’s a trick question from a lawyer, but I repeat myself.  It’s designed to trip Jesus.  Turn to Luke 10:25-28 –

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied.  “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied.  “Do this and you will live.”

The lawyer didn’t just ask a question, this isn’t idle curiosity.  The lawyer “stood up to test him.”  The lawyer has a serious question, knows the law, but he wants to see if Jesus is authentic.  He’s challenging Jesus.  He wants to know, “What does Jesus know?”

And it’s one of the great questions of all religions.  What must I do to live an eternal life?  What happens when I die?  What must I do, what must I say, how should I act, what do I believe?  It’s an expert question, coming from an expert lawyer.  What must I do?

Jesus responded like a rabbi, and answered the question with a question of his own.  Now Jesus is testing the tester.  Jesus challenged the lawyer back, but to answer his own question from scripture.

The first part of the lawyer’s answer comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9,

“Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.  You shall also tie them as a sign to your hand, and they shall be as frontlets on your forehead.  You shall also write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

This is what the Jews would understand as the Shema Yisrael, or just Shema.  Shema Yisrael means, “Hear oh Israel,” and observant Jews would say this prayer as part of their morning and evening prayers.  The Shema encouraged Jews to love God, and it was a twice daily affirmation of God’s place in their lives.

Notice that it doesn’t just say to love *the* Lord God.  It says to love the Lord *your* God.  It’s personal, the relationship between you and your Creator.  Love Him with everything you have, with your whole person.  Heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Love God with your emotions (heart), your consciousness (soul), your motivation (strength), and your mental capacity (mind).

The second half of our lawyer’s question is much like the first.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  This comes from Leviticus 19:18 –

You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Not a selfish love, or a love of oneself, but how much you love others based on how much God loves you.  A “neighbor” means someone of our own kind, not an outsider.  Sometimes it’s hard to grasp that this outside we pass by on the other side of the road is not an outsider to God.  God loves everyone, not just believers.  God gave His life to us while we were still unbelievers, still sinners.

Some have misinterpreted the scripture here.  What must I *do* to inherit eternal life?  Do this and live.  Is this a philosophy of works?  Is there a way we can earn our way into heaven by a life of good works and good deeds?  No, there is not – our works, our deeds, even our very selves are like worthless rags compared to the almighty glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But because we love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, we *do* these things to show this love to others.  Our feisty lawyer answered correctly, but he did not affirm a theology of works.

Jesus said, “Do this and live.”  This is what Jesus means by abundant life.  Practice what you know out of love for your Lord, expressed as love for others.  The real test is a right heart with God, not knowledge or works, but putting into practice, love in action, a grateful response to God’s love.

III.      Listen to Jesus, Luke 10:29-35

Was our feisty expert embarrassed by Jesus’ response?  And if so, did he feel the need to repair his reputation?  Or was he trying to find out whether there were any limits?  In other word, how much is enough to get into Heaven?  The lawyer asked a follow-up question, “who is my neighbor?”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper.  ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

The question from the lawyer implied some people could be excluded from Heaven.  Gentiles, Samaritans, tax collectors.  In this case, especially exclude those backward, disgusting Samaritans.  I mean, certainly we can exclude those people, right?

Who do we exclude today, that we do not consider a neighbor?  Are we putting a limit on God’s love?

Jesus didn’t answer directly, He told a parable that illustrated what it meant to demonstrate the love of God.  Who was the traveler?  We don’t know, he’s never identified.  Might be a Jew, maybe a Gentile, might even be a Samaritan?  The only thing we know for sure is that the traveler is human and therefore made in God’s image.

This man was beaten by robbers on the road from Jerusalem.  This would have been a well-known road for the Jews, from Jerusalem 2500’ ASL to Jericho which is actually below sea level, winding through mountains and rocky terrain with many hiding places for robbers.  The man was not just robbed, but stripped of his clothing and beaten and left for dead.  The attitude expressed by the robbers is, “What’s yours is mine, and I’ll take it.”

What were the motivations of the priest and Levite?  Jesus doesn’t say.  The priest may have refused because the man was dead, didn’t want to defile himself.  Touching a corpse would have entailed a lengthy cleanliness process to become pure again.  We don’t really know their motivation.  Bottom line, though, is it doesn’t really matter.  Whatever the motivation was, it was a convenient excuse to absolve them from being a good neighbor.  Both the priest and the Levite considered themselves religious people, knew the “love your neighbor” statement.  And both refused to help.

In fact, they went out of their way to avoid helping.  They passed by on other side.  The priest and the Levite expressed an attitude of, “What’s mine is mine, and I’ll keep it.”  This attitude is hardly better than, and in many ways worse, than the robbers who beat the man up.

But the Samaritan helped.  This startled the listeners.  This *Samaritan*, they would have spit out, isn’t Jewish, isn’t to be trusted, doesn’t know the law… but he was helpful.  The Jews expected animosity, but received compassion instead.  In fact, this Samaritan gave up his own ride for the injured man, and in so doing expressed an attitude more pleasing to God, “What’s mine is yours, and I’ll give it to you.”

We can’t help everyone, of course.  Our resources are limited, we have to pick and choose.  But on what basis do we pick and choose?  Do we withhold our help from outsiders just because they’re outsiders?  They are not outsiders to God.  Who we are neighborly to should not depend on whether they are outsiders to us.  Jesus admonishes us to do this and live, practice what we know, put love in action.  Our salvation involves faith expressing love to God and neighbor.  James 2:15-17 says it this way –

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

 Faith that does not show itself to our neighbor is dead.

IV.      Show Compassion, Luke 10:36-37

Jesus turned the question around perfectly, of course.  The lawyer had asked, “who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answered by describing who *is* a neighbor.  In other words, the lawyer asked about others, who qualifies to be his neighbor.  Jesus answered by examining the heart of person asking the question.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So Jesus challenged the lawyer.  Now who is your neighbor?  While the lawyer tried to enact boundaries, Jesus used this parable to remove boundaries.  A merciful God we should imitate by showing mercy.  Go and do likewise.  Any person in need gives you a chance to show you are a good neighbor and being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Emergencies aren’t always convenient.  They don’t happen at planned times.  I suppose if we could plan them, they wouldn’t be emergencies.  Diane and I were coming home from San Antonio, driving along I-10, in a section under construction with those long concrete barriers on each side.  And we’re cruising along at a respectable 70mph when the car in front of us drifts to the left and scrapes up the entire left of the car against the concrete, then drifts to the right and does the same before coasting to a stop.  We stopped, too, completely blocking all traffic on I-10.  The car in front of the damages car also stopped.  I was amazed at how many miracles God worked that day.  The car in front that stopped had an EMT in the front passenger seat.  Diane and I called 9-1-1 before the cars even stopped.  And once the man was on the concrete freeway on his back getting CPR, on his from seat was his cell phone.  Unlocked.  It only had a single contact on his phone, labeled “wife”.  We were able to notify her and keep her informed and tell her which hospital they were going to take her husband to.

I think about an example from Jesus about showing compassion even at inconvenient times.  In Mathew 14 is the story of Herod and John the Baptist.  John apparently had been hanging around outside Herod’s place, telling Herod that there was something wrong with Herod for taking his brother’s wife.  I can’t help but think of how awkward that would be at family get-togethers, Herod and Philip and Philip’s wife Herodias.  John the Baptist is outside telling Herod that fooling around with your sister-in-law is wrong.  So one night after dinner and dancing by Herod’s daughter, Herod decides to behead John the Baptist.  John’s disciples buried the body and then came to tell Jesus.

Look what it says in Matthew 14:13-14 –

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

John the Baptist is the second cousin of Jesus, and John was the one that paved the way for him, a voice crying out in the wilderness.  You know Jesus is grieving the loss of John.  And yet, He found the time and energy for compassion at that moment, to heal the sick people that had come to see Him.

Our role model for compassion is God.  We were sinners, opposed to God, but He showed compassion for us, even while we opposed him.

Compassion isn’t obligation; compassion isn’t doing something out of duty.  Compassion isn’t even caring for somebody or taking care of them when they’re hurt. 

I went looking for the root word of “compassion,” and found enough to rethink my idea of what compassion is.  The root words in Latin are “cum”, which means “with” or “along side”.  “Passion” originally didn’t mean anything like the ardent love we associate it with today, it comes from the Latin “pati” which means “to suffer.”  It’s the same root word that gives us a hospital “patient,” somebody suffering.  So how did we associate this with passionate love?  Perhaps from the “Passion of the Christ,” the suffering Christ went through on our behalf.  Christ’s love and suffering, His passion.

So “compassion” means to suffer together.  It’s not just caring for somebody.  It’s suffering with them, making their pain also your pain.  How difficult is that to love a neighbor that much that we would suffer as though their pain is ours.

One of the clearest examples of compassion was Mother Teresa.  Nobel prize winner, she eventually opened 517 missions in more than 100 countries.  One of her early ministries confounded people in Calcutta, to help people nobody else would help.  Poor people dying of Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy.  These people, even if they lived, would still be a burden on society.  Mother Teresa converted an abandoned Hindu temple into a free hospice, the first Home for the Dying.  People brought here received medical care and given an opportunity to die with dignity.  Hindus received water from the Ganges, Catholics received Last Rites, Muslims were read to from the Quran.  “A beautiful death,” she said, “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels — loved and wanted.”

In a book about her life, “Mother Teresa, In My Own Words,” are hundreds of inspiring stories and quotes from this amazing woman.  She said,

“Someone once told me that not even for a million dollars would they touch a leper.  I responded: ‘Neither would I.  If it were a case of money, I would not even do it for two million.  On the other hand, I do it gladly for love of God.'”

She was truly a person of compassion, demonstrating God’s love daily and seeing God in those suffering.

            V.      Conclusion

So who is your neighbor?  How can you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind?  Do they have a need, and can you go beyond the “bring them a casserole” and truly show compassion, to suffer along with them, to bear their pain?  The story of the Good Samaritan tells us that we are challenged to be the good neighbor, regardless of their culture or how we feel about them.  To show compassion for those around us, in glorious imitation of the compassion Jesus showed for us. 

As He loved us, let us love others.

To God be the Glory.

Amen

Lord of the Sabbath

I. Introduction

We’re in Luke 6 today, and yet again the Pharisees are trying to trip Jesus up, and yet again Jesus sets them straight. We’re going to read about 2 Sabbath days that the Pharisees because angry because Jesus was doing good.

But first I want to talk about who we are, or rather, who we think we are. Back in the old days, people used to shake hands. You might remember old people like that, unafraid to touch one another. We’d stick out our hand, they’d grasp it, and say, “How do you do? I’m Michael.”

And they’d usually say something like, “Hi Michael, what do you do for a living?”

Odd. After my name, what I do is the first piece of information we exchange about ourselves. In many ways, work defines who we are. And work is good – in Genesis 2:5, before God creates man, scripture says,

Now no shrub of the field was yet on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.

Then God creates man from dust, and before God even creates woman, scripture says in Genesis 2:15,

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and tend it.

God put man to work. Even before “go forth and multiply,” God put man to work. No wonder what we do defines us.
But it wasn’t God’s intent that we should become workaholics. And He set an example for us at the beginning of Genesis 2:1-3,
And so the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their heavenly lights. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.


But Michael, you say. I thought we were studying Luke.

Well, in man’s fallen nature, we’ve corrupted God’s plan for us. In Luke 6, this corruption is evident in the pharisees, and Jesus addresses the problem we inherited after Adam and Eve were removed from their work in the Garden of Eden. So let’s see the first Sabbath day and see the event , then we’ll study the details. Luke 6:1-15,

Now it happened that Jesus was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath, and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And Jesus, answering them, said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

There’s a lot to digest here, so let’s look at each verse. Luke 6:1,

Now it happened that Jesus was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath, and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.

Sabbath is the biblical idea that we should set aside one day a week to rest and not work. Sabbath stands for the Hebrew verb, shabbat, which literally means “to rest from labor.” This concept of Sabbath can be traced all the way back to the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 where God rests – or shabbats – after six full days of work. Sabbath is also the 4th of our Ten Commandments,

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11,

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

Israel was to treat the Sabbath as a holy day, one that was set apart, to follow God’s example and rhythm of creating, working, and resting.

But from the first two verses in Luke 6, we see that the Pharisees – the religious elite and scriptural scholars at the time – accused the disciples of violating the Sabbath.

Luke 6:2,

But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

Now, it doesn’t seem like a major infraction to me. Are the disciples were breaking the Sabbath by simply plucking off a few heads of grain and eating them? And why would somebody do that? This would be worse than those oat bran muffins, they’re just eating oats. Right off the ground.

The Pharisee had corrupted God’s plan for the Sabbath. The Pharisees had developed the Halakha. A comprehensive, overreaching, complex and ever-evolving set of laws that regulated everything – religious observances, daily life, and conduct of the Jewish people. It provided very particular scenarios and actions of what would and would not qualify as an infraction against God’s law. At the time, the Halakha prohibited 39 different forms of work on the Sabbath day, one of which was reaping grain.

The Pharisees lived by the Halakha and regularly added more and more addendums to God’s commandments. Originally I’m sure they meant well, just to help practically guide the Jews in their daily lives. Also, they imposed upon each other these new rules as a type of “hedge.” They neither wanted to break God’s laws themselves or let a neighbor do so. The Pharisees wanted to ensure God’s blessing on themselves and their community, so they kept adding addendums to God’s law to keep people further and further away from breaking them.

Jesus points out that they completely missed God’s intent with the law, Luke 6:3-4,


And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?”

Jesus’ response sounds unrelated to the Sabbath, but the Pharisees understood. There was a complicated and confusing situation in 1 Samuel 21 that muddled the otherwise mechanical, simple framework of how the Pharisees understood and related to the laws of God.

In 1 Samuel 21, King David is running for his life, runs into the tabernacle, and eats the Showbread. What was showbread? Twelve loaves of bread, each weighing about 5 pounds, arranged in two piles on a special table. These showbread were always present and changed weekly, and represented a continuous offering to God. And David eats it.

David does what appears to be an act of deliberate disobedience. But God’s response is astonishing: God does not condemn him for doing so.

The Pharisees knew this story, but it didn’t fit. It didn’t agree with the way the Pharisees understood how rigid and demanding God was. They wrote their Halakha laws about the Sabbath, and just sort of ignored this story. Maybe they just didn’t want to think about because it just made many rules and regulations too complicated, even for the Pharisees. So… let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.

And yet, Jesus brings this story of David eating the showbread right in front of their noses. Not as excuse against the Sabbath, but as an illustration for better understanding it.

II. Misplaced Laws on a Misplaced Rest

Jesus prompted the Pharisees (and us) to think thoughtfully – not mechanically or legalistically or simplistically – but to think through this story. Was David in violation? Why was God’s response surprising?

God’s response to David when he ate the showbread in 1 Samuel 21 is that sometimes the Sabbath laws and worship laws can be set aside when there are more important things at hand. Not more important than God, but more important *to* God.

Not the moral laws – there’s no exception to commit adultery or to slander our neighbor. But 1 Samuel 21 shows us that there are times where the ceremonial, ritual and priestly laws can be set aside. Why is this the case?

It is because the ceremonial laws are provisional. They are meant to point us to the messiah. But when the messiah arrives, the provisional laws no longer have the same purpose. They are obsolete.

In other words, Sabbath laws, worship laws, priestly and sacrificial laws existed in Old Testament times to point to the Messiah who would come to fulfill those laws. Jesus.

Luke 6:5,

And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Notice that Jesus does not say that He has come to take the Sabbath away; but rather, that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is telling the Pharisees, “I am the one to whom the Sabbath regulations all point. Everything that the Sabbath is designed to point you to for rest and restoration – I am. I am the Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus is not advocating lawlessness or abolishing the law. He is actually advocating for the true intent of the Sabbath law that the Pharisees have clearly misplaced. He is reframing the Pharisees’ (and our own) sense of law and of rest. He is saying that the Sabbath law is not merely for following the regulation itself, nor is deep rest the reward for having kept the
law. The Sabbath is designed to lead us to where we can find true rest.

Jesus is saying that these particular Sabbath laws – which the Halakha outline in great detail – are obsolete because something greater is now at hand. Deep rest for the soul is found in Him and in His work for us.

What is deep rest, what does it look like, and how can we get it? Let’s look at the next part of Luke 6 verses 6-11,

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

This story happens on another Sabbath where Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. Again, the Pharisees looked on, seeing what Jesus would do – whether He would violate a Sabbath law in the Halakha or not. Scholars say that the Halakha actually did include a provision for a doctor to work on the Sabbath if there were a great medical emergency. For instance, if someone was on the brink of death on the Sabbath, a doctor would not be condemned for laboring to save a life.

The medical case in our story was not great or urgent; it was a medical condition that had persisted for some time, likely since birth. It did not qualify for the medical provisions made in the Halakha. So, when Jesus, who was known for His many miraculously healings, approached the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees looked on with condescending anticipation. They actually wanted to see Jesus break their own law. They were ready to accuse and to condemn Him. In the face of these hostile Pharisees, Jesus healed the man’s withered right hand. And in doing so, He also exposed the Pharisees’ withered souls.

Ironically, the Pharisees and the Halakha already knew there had to be provision because of the medical practice was acceptable as long as it was something important. But they missed the “something important” because they were only focused on the law itself, rather than what the law pointed to: Someone more important. The purpose of the law to to enable man to flourish under God’s care, but they focused on the law, not the purpose of the law.

The purpose of the Sabbath is to provide rest in Him. And this story from Luke 6 illustrates this purpose. He takes what is withered in our life, and He restores it.

Luke, a doctor himself, made sure the readers understood it was the right hand. What is interesting is that in the Hebrew culture, the “right hand” was the clearest symbol of “power” and “work.” So when Jesus restores the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, Jesus also demonstrates that He has the right as the Lord of the Sabbath to restore our “right hand,” our “work,” our “power” to be free to do good on the Sabbath. The Lord of Sabbath works in our souls, our lives, and our daily work.

III. Restoring the Withered Soul

The Bible tells us that humanity ultimately cannot find deep peace and hope in this temporal life, what the Jews call “shalom,” not because we are overworked, but because we have all sinned against God and are separated from Him. God is the source of all peace and life. We feel this deep dissatisfaction because we are trying to fix what is wrong deep down by working at it, do fix this broken peace using our own ability and effort. But only God can restore what is broken and withered. God fixes it for us when we finally accept we cannot fix it on our own.

Remember in the Garden of Eden, before the fall of mankind and the introduction of sin, mankind was working. Work was a part of the paradise in which we lived. Work is good. Our sin, however, separated us from that paradise with God, it broke our relationship with the work He gave us to do. Work itself is not the problem; the problem is why we work, and for who we work. The problem is not that work exists, but the peace while work does not. We want to work and work and work to restore our peace, ease our turmoil, eliminate our insecurities and dissatisfactions.

Religious people often try to solve this deep dissatisfaction by their work for God. They think, “If I do many good works, then God will bless me.” Sometimes they even think, “God owes me.”

But non-religious people feel the same inner turmoil as religious people, but maybe they think, “If I do many great things, my self-image will be improved, I will have worth.”

Both religious and non-religious groups are working to prove themselves. We may think, “More work is what is needed. I can work my way up, I can work my way out.”

But how many good works is enough to be worthy? How much must I do for God to accept me? We will never know. Those religions that push good works can never answer this question. How much is enough? There is no rest; our soul withers under this unknown.

Jesus says, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath.” The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that we cannot work our way through moral goodness back into right relationship with God. And we cannot work our way through worldly accomplishments to achieve deep feelings of acceptance, approval, and justification in our self-worth and self-image. A soul that has been forgiven and loved and restored can only happen when we trust in Jesus’ work for us on the cross, not our work for Him for ourselves. Our work will never be enough. His work is finished.

Matthew 11:28-30,

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Are you looking to your “moral work” to give you a sense of deep peace and relief that God really loves you and accepts you? Are you looking to your “vocational work” to give you a sense of deep peace that you matter and are significant? Both moral work and vocational work will not save our souls from existential dread. Only Jesus on the cross can. To our withered souls, He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus’ work restores our relationship with God, restores the way He relates to us, and the way we relate to Him. But His work also restores the way we relate to our work.

IV. Restoring the Withered Hand

How does Jesus’ work restore not only our souls but also our work? The gospel says we are not God, our identity is not in our work, and therefore, we can rest from our work. As Christians, we do not have the “rules” surrounding the Sabbath any longer, as the Old Testament or the Halakha outlines. But this does not mean we neglect the Sabbath altogether; after all, it is a moral law. It’s one of the Ten Commandments.

The question is not what laws we follow regarding the Sabbath, but how we follow the intent of the Sabbath. What is in our hearts? God gave us the Sabbath to restore our withered hands, bodies, and minds for a continued, renewed sense of work. We must employ a structure and follow disciplines in our own lives to ensure that we have a day off from our work.

So what should we do? Here are some ideas to make sure you have a Sabbath in your life that restores your soul, mind, and body –

A. Take the Sabbath religiously. Maybe you can’t be at church on Sunday or when most people would typically “Sabbath.” But set aside 1 day a week after the example of God to rest from your work. Makes sure your day off is truly a day off. Forbid yourself from working on your Sabbath. Work hard on work days. Rest hard on rest days.

B. Spend time in contemplation, reminding yourself who God is and who you are. Worship Him.

C. Unplug. Don’t structure your day. Let yourself be drawn into what you like to do instead of what you must do.

V. Conclusion

God wants to bless us through our work, but He doesn’t want us to be slaves to our work. We need a healthy balance of working hard and resting well. And that rest can only be found in Him, and recognize the work He did, He did it all. Our own efforts cannot fulfill us. Rest in the Lord Jesus Christ and the work He did can restore our withered lived.

Why did God create the Sabbath? Like so many precious things from the Lord, it’s a gift to us. Mark 2:27,

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath. Receive the Sabbath as a gift to restore your mind, your body, and your soul.

To God be the glory.