It was not written by Matthew but given his name. It was probably written after Mark, around 80 A. D. but there is no firm date. It uses 90% of the material of Mark. It was written to Jews and refers to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not strictly chronological.
The purpose of the book.
1. Evangelistic. It is a filling out of the story of Jesus. It teaches facts about Jesus to bring Jews to faith in Him. Jesus reached out to the Samaritans, who generally sided with the enemies of the Jews.
2. Apologetic. It is a defence of the faith. There is an attempt to prove the facts from the Old Testament.
3. Ecclesiastical. It is orderly and systematic. Matthew groups the teaching and works of the Lord. It emphasises Christology or the person of Jesus to show that Jesus is the Messiah in fulfilment of the Old Testament. Peter’s confession in chapter 16 at Caesarea Philippi is the central point in the book. Peter is often the spokesman for the Disciples. Matthew invites the readers to come to the same conclusion as Peter did, as he presents the evidence.
Like looking at a plane, it takes several pictures to give a comprehensive understanding of the ground below. So it is with Jesus. There are 4 gospels. Mark tells what Jesus did. Matthew and Luke tell what Jesus said. John describes who Jesus is. To understand it is necessary to know the writer’s insight. To whom was he writing and for what purpose. Mark is pure journalism. Mathew adds 5 sermons to Mark – each one to match the Pentateuch. It is a very Jewish book. Matthew links his book to the prophets and Old Testament. He emphasises that Jesus was innocent and that Jesus did not come to destroy the law. In Jesus’ day there would have been about 250,000 people living near the Sea of Galilee. Only Tiberius remains. Chapter 23 contains many woes to the Jews. Matthew desired that the Gentile believers would not lose their Jewish roots.
The book seeks to guide the new Church in respect of 1. Worship. 2. Discipline. 3. Missionary activity. It shows Jesus in the role of King, Priest and Prophet in fulfilment of Scripture.
The Messiah is the anointed one. The Son of God in Ch 26 v 63. The Son of David in Ch 21 v 9. The Son of man in Ch 24 v 30. Various names confirm Jesus as the one to come. Each prophet had a theme. The theme of Jesus is the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in the hearts of men – with Jesus as King. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Seven parables posed the question – “which one am I?” A parable is to convey one truth. It was a favourite device of Jewish teachers. A scribe was given a symbolic key when he received office to show his authority. Chapter 16 v 19. The keys of the Kingdom were given to Peter on behalf of the Disciples – then and now.
1. Ancestry and birth of Jesus. ( Ch 1 v 1 – ch 2 v 23.).
Matthew starts at the birth of Jesus. There are almost no details of the first 30 years of His life. The Old Testament references are saying that God was in all of this. Jesus words and works were a witness to what God was doing through Him. It was written for the Jews and the genealogy was important to them. Only real people have ancestors. Every Jewish man kept his genealogy. The ancestry of Jesus is important to establish His credentials as descendent of David. Josephus had his genealogy back for 1300 years. There are 3 groups of 14. The word “begat” does not imply an immediate succession. There is an emphasis of completion. Jesus came in fulfilment of God’s promise to David, despite the break in Babylon. It was unusual to mention women but shows the mercy and grace of God.
Jesus started His ministry at the age of 30. That was the age when a priest started. Jesus fulfilled in Himself what Israel was meant to have done – to bring salvation. Isaiah ch 26 v 18.
Being betrothed was nearly as binding as marriage. Joseph was to give the name, thereby showing that he accepted Jesus as a member of his family. The first name – Jesus – shows His work as saviour. The second – Immanuel – shows His person – God with man. All that went before Jesus was imperfection. Herod was only half Jewish. The purpose of the two genealogies in Luke and Matthew is to show that Jesus was in the complete sense a descendent of David. Through Joseph He inherited the royal line by law. Through Mary He was a blood relative of King David. So for the Jews it was a logical place to start the book.
King Herod and Jesus. Herod was a Roman appointee and not a true king of the Jews. He was not a pure Jew. He was partly an Edomite by race but a Jew by religion. Although a man of ability he was cruel. The objects of his suspicion became the victims of his cruelty. He killed some of his sons, whom he suspected were after his throne. Hence he did not like the idea of Jesus being called King of the Jews. That was a threat to him. Herod was the first anti-Christ.
The Magi. The name Megus was synonymous with astrologers. They were seen as the Gentiles paying homage to the King. They were not contemporary with the visit of the shepherds but came later. Hence Herod sought to kill all two year olds. Hosea chapter 11 v 1. “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” In Hosea God was talking about Israel as His first-born son. Matthew saw a profound theological truth. Jesus fulfilled in Himself what Israel was meant to be. Israel failed. Jesus fulfilled and succeeded. Jeremiah chapter 31 v 15. People were going through Ramah and passing the grave of Rachel, weeping for her children. It was happening again. There was suffering for the descendants of Rachel. Nazareth was an insignificant place. There is a play on words. The word also means a branch.
2. The ministry of John as forerunner. (Chapter 3 v 1-12.) There had been 400 years since Malachi. Expectations of the Messiah came and went. John the Baptist came as a forerunner to prepare the way. He was Elijah foretold in Mal ch 4 v 5. John preached the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven – the reign of God in the heart of man. He called for repentance. He fulfilled Isaiah ch 40 v 3. Jews were not baptised as such but Gentiles were baptised when they became proselytes. John was baptising Jews for repentance. This disturbed the religious leaders. It involved humbling themselves and that was a stumbling block. Jesus was baptised to show His submission to the will of God. He did not need it for repentance for sin. His baptism was in sharp contrast to the refusal by the religious leaders.
It was a necessary step to secure righteousness for men. The baptism in water foreshadowed the baptism in blood. The dove descending demonstrated the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The dove, which Noah sent out, found no resting-place for its feet. Jesus was a permanent resting-place for the Holy Spirit. The audible voice of God is a rare experience. God interprets His special events with words. The words combined two verses from Psalm 2 v 7 and Isaiah ch 42 v 1. “You are my son – in whom I am well pleased.” The person is both the King and the servant. Psalm 2 is the great King. The crown and the cross go hand in hand.
3. The Temptation. Chapter 4.
It was God’s will that Jesus should be tempted. The Devil is sometimes used within the larger purposes of God. The temptation shows man his weaknesses and throws him back on God. Jesus was tested for 40 days to ensure that He could as a man cope with the pressures. Jesus fought with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. The three temptations:
(a) This was not to doubt His Son-ship but to presume on it. Jesus used God’s Word to attack Satan. He was to be the servant of God and could not presume anything. When John was in prison he was looking for the power of Jesus to help Him and the lack of it caused him to doubt Jesus. John suffered from spiritual depression, despite all the facts. It was a demonic attack. Believers may be tempted to use the powers of God outside of His will to show off.
(b) Satan is artful and quotes from Scripture. He quoted out of context. It is essential to examine the Scripture when a believer quotes from the Bible. It may omit part of the whole passage and so misinterpret the meaning of the passage. A man ought not to experiment with God and dare not take liberties with Him.
(c) This one was different. “Worship me and you will benefit in the short time.” Jesus knew that He had to go through the suffering before He would rule the Universe. Satan tempted Him by offering these without the suffering. There are no shortcuts to a purposeful relationship with God. Satan was trying to divert the divine purpose. All the Scriptures were from Deut chapters 6-8. It is essential to know the Word of God to guard against its misuse. Believers need divine power to face temptation.
The commencement of the Galilean ministry. (Chapter 4 v 12 -25.)
Jesus was waiting for a sign. John’s arrest was the sign. The darkness brought in by paganism started at Galilee. This was the first place the Assyrians entered the land. Jesus quoted Isaiah ch 9 v 1-2. The people had seen a great light. Galilee was the first place to be enlightened by the light of God. There were more Gentiles in Galilee than in Judah. Galilee. Jesus chose a Gentile area and a place called Capernaum, which was a crossroads of trade. His message would be carried to many other lands from there. The Assyrians had entered the land there bringing in darkness. Isaiah ch 9 v 2. Jesus was the light come into the World to banish the darkness. The Disciples responded to the call of Jesus. It was an extraordinary thing to leave the family business. Jesus was engaged in 3 types of work. 1. Teaching in the synagogue. 2. Preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom – with Himself as King. 3. Healing diseases and casting out demons. Yet the cross was always in view.
Sermon on the Mount. (Chapter 5 v 1 – chapter 7 v 29.)
It was not necessarily given at the one time. A good teacher repeats his material. However, it reads like one address, coming to a climax in chapter 7. It was not intended as a programme for social reform. It is not the heart of the New Testament message. That is the cross and the resurrection. The crowds were different from the Disciples. The crowds did not accept the authority of Jesus. The preacher stands. The teacher sits. Teaching and training were a major part of the strategy of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount was designed to bring people to be like Jesus to carry on the work by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Beatitudes are the attitudes, which all Disciples should have in total. The passage has to be read together. God’s future belongs to such people. Mercy is a product of faith. Those who have received mercy want to show that mercy to others out of a grateful heart. This is one of the qualities of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees taught that a Jew was a child of God because he is a Jew. Jesus said that, if a man was truly a child of God, he should show some of the characteristics of God in his life. Jesus asserted the eternal validity of the Old Testament revelation and the moral law. The Gospel did not abolish the moral law in any way. While the Pharisees emphasised outward conformity, Jesus stressed inward attitudes. Adultery springs from within the heart of man, in the form of lust. Murder springs from anger in the heart. The law gives justice to the one offended against. Jesus said that His Disciples should be freed from the spirit of retaliation.
Poverty of spirit is an antithesis of pride. Pride rules in the kingdom of this World. The Greek glorified in intellectual achievement, the Romans in force, and the Jews in their religion. Mercy is more than pity. Mercy moves a man to intervene for others.
Piety. The Pharisees made a parade of their piety. Jesus condemns this. The word “hypocrite” means play-actor. It all stemmed from their desire to be seen and approved by men rather than by God. The secrecy fits in with the inner attitude of the heart. God judges the unseen attitude rather than the visible demonstration of the outward action. Piety is an expression of a relationship with God. To pray “Our Father” assumes a relationship within the family of God. The spiritual battle is fought against the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Roman authorities and Satan himself, reaching a climax in chapter 12 when the Pharisees challenged the authority of Jesus and ascribed His work to the Devil. The unpardonable sin was to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. By His healings and miracles Jesus was asking a question of the people – “who is this man?” The enemies asked: “By what authority do you do these things?” Jesus was in touch with a higher authority.
“You have heard it said – but I say.” This is not a contrast. Rather Jesus is saying: “Although the new demand is deeper than the old one, it results from it and includes it.” It unfolds the earlier rule rather than sweeps it away. “It is written,” means that the passage is authoritative Scripture. Prayer occurs only where outward-ness is attached. Greed and anxiety are enemies of true spirituality. They stem from a wrong scale of priorities. Lack of faith breeds anxiety. Worry is destructive of faith. Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning wealth. Mammon was the Canaanite god of prosperity. To seek first the righteousness of God demands that a man should have a right set of values.
Judgement. If a man has a legalistic view of God he judges simply by what he can see. Because he cannot see his own faults, he cannot judge others. A false prophet is an agent of Satan. The real test is fruit. Repetition is characteristic of Matthew’s writing. There are warnings against three enemies of the Church.
1. Formalism. 2. Paganism. 3. False teaching. There is a strong emphasis on doing and not just saying. The words of Jesus express the will of the Father. Wisdom is based on doing what God says. Jesus taught with authority. The manner of His teaching astonished them. It was unusual to the people of His day. The scribes relied on what others had said, especially eminent rabbis in the past. Precedent was their guide. Jesus said: “I say to you.” It implied that Jesus was a special person, who was in touch with a higher authority.
Chapter 23 v 1-ch 25 v 44. A man will be judged depending on his response to the words of Jesus. The first time Jesus came to save. The second time He will come as judge. He made sure that the people realised the urgency of His message. Chapter 24 v 36-chapter 25 v 30. Jesus gave clear signs about His Second Coming. He was concerned that people would be ready for that day. Be ready!
Giving, praying and fasting. Chapter 6.
To gain approval of man is to lose God’s approval. The number of people attending the morning service reflects the popularity of the Church. The number attending an evening service reflects the popularity of the preacher. The number attending a prayer meeting reflects the popularity of the Lord. In giving a man should avoid ostentation. That is seeking the praise of men. It is not how much but a man’s attitude, which is important and how much is left. Tithing was the accepted practice of the people of Israel. Jesus challenged a man to give as well as tithing. The tithe is necessary to sustain the running of the Kingdom of God. Giving beyond that is vital to extend the Kingdom. Giving is an act of generosity and the Lord loves a generous giver. Jesus shared everything He had with others and in that way set an example.
Prayer. Standing with outstretched hands was the usual attitude in Israel. Mark ch 11 v 25. Jesus knelt at Gethsemane. Avoid ostentation, repetition and insincerity. God operates within the realm of a man’s expectations. If a man expects little, he receives little. A man should make big demands of God.
The power of Jesus to bless. (Chapter 8 v 1 – chapter 9 v 34.)
Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil. There were a variety of different situations. No one person was beyond His reach or care. No situation was beyond His power. There is an emphasis on faith. There are several titles given to Jesus. 1. Lord. 2. Son of Man – an exalted title from Daniel. It implies a king with universal domain and an eternal kingdom. 3. Son of God. 4. Son of David. Jesus was different from everyone else. Readers are led from the manhood of Jesus to the deity of Jesus. All the sins caused by Satan can be used by God. Satan can hardly move without serving the purposes of God. v 32. Jesus met a dumb man. The man had a demon. The senses are very vulnerable to demonic attack and appear to be easily controlled by demons. When told to go the demons try to hang onto their place in the body.
The Call and Commission of the Twelve. (Chapter 9 v 35 – chapter 10 v 42.)
Jesus shows His tremendous concern for the people, who were like sheep without a shepherd. God is the real shepherd. Ezekiel ch 34. There is a lot about false prophets of Israel. Jesus came to fulfil the role of the good shepherd. The people were harassed by the Pharisees as false shepherds. The sheep were amongst wolves and there is persecution for the followers of Jesus. A disciple is a pupil, while an apostle is a delegated messenger. The disciples were given authority to heal, cast out demons and to preach. The commission was to the Jews first and then the Gentiles. Judas held a formal position in the Church but had no personal commitment. Sometimes disciples are perplexed and just have to hang on and trust Him. The final commission to the Disciples in chapter 28 v 16 follows on the instructions to them in ch 10.
John stood on the edge of a new era but would not be in it. Rather like Moses, who took the Children of Israel to the edge of the Promised Land but did not enter. There were lots of people who were eager to hear. Malachi ch 4 v 5 was a prophecy about the coming of Elijah. John disclaims that he is Elijah but Jesus seems to say that he is. John’s parents were told that he would be like Elijah. He was not physically Elijah but his ministry bore the marks of Elijah’s ministry. Elijah was to come before the day of the Lord. Jesus was saying that He was the Messiah.
Pride and Prejudice. (Chapter 11 v 20 – chapter 12 v 50.)
The pride of the Pharisees and the humility of Jesus are in sharp contrast. Capernaum was a proud place. Isaiah ch 14 v 12-15. It is contrasted with Tyre and Sidon. The Lord of the Sabbath must be the one who ordained it. God incarnate was also God incognito. There are three sayings – greater than the Temple – greater than Jonah – greater than Solomon. This speaks of the priest, prophet and king.
Jesus cut across the rules of the Pharisees, who were entrenched in unbelief. They had made up their minds. A day and a night made an “onah” i.e. a 24 hour period. A portion of an onah is recognised as an onah. Part of Friday, the whole of Saturday and part of Sunday makes a total of 3 onahs.
The Kingdom of Heaven. It really means the reign of God in the hearts of men. It does not apply to territory or people. The coming of the Kingdom was synonymous with the coming of the King. The Kingdom had come with Jesus. The first 4 parables were to the crowds and the last 3 were to the Disciples. The main point was to bring the hearer into a judgement situation by ridicule or indignation. They pose the question: “Which one am I?” The World had become the scene of a divine drama. The religious leaders were censured.
1. The parable of the sower. The kingdom is to be proclaimed now. The difference is in the soil. The seed is the same.
2. Tares. The Kingdom exists alongside the Kingdom of Satan.
3 and 4. Great results come from small beginnings.
5 and 6. The Kingdom is not always obvious. Treasure is hidden from sight. But it is valuable.
7. The net. The emphasis is on the final separation at the end of time.
It is essential to get the central meaning. It is wrong to try to interpret every detail of the parable. Most details are just part of the furniture of the parable. Understanding in spiritual things is related to open eyes – eyes opened by the Holy Spirit. The Parables unfold their meaning to the simple- hearted. They help the spiritually-minded but do not help those who resist the truth and they actually bring further confusion to their minds.
The interest of the Gentiles is highlighted during the northern journey of Jesus. Throughout the book is the Christological theme whereby the person and work of Jesus is unveiled.
Peter’s Confession. (Chapter 16 v 13 – chapter 17 v 13.)
The transfiguration is a sequel to Peter’s confession. The events were within 6 days of each other and are related. This brings in a period of private teaching for the Disciples. The Old Testament looks beyond itself to a day when God would reveal Himself in some new and special way. Peter saw Jesus casting out demons and revealing Himself as the Messiah in victorious combat with the forces of evil. The Disciples did things, which they could never have done in their own strength. Peter made the confession but the Disciples must have discussed the Messianic characteristics of Jesus. Peter had seen all the signs and had heard all the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah. He told John that He was the Messiah when He quoted Mal chapter 3 v 1. Peter knew from John about the dove descending on Jesus. Only God could forgive sins. Peter heard Jesus challenge the authority of the Pharisees. The uniqueness of Jesus had spoken to Peter.
On this rock. There is a play on words in the name of Peter. Petra in Greek is the rock beneath your feet. Petros is a detached rock – a pebble. There are 3 ways of interpretation.
1. Peter is the rock.
2. Christ is the rock.
3. Peter’s confession of Christ is the rock. Abraham was called a rock by God. Abraham is the father of the faithful. Christ is the foundation. Making confession of Jesus as Lord is an act of faith in Jesus.
The Keys of the Kingdom. A scribe was given a symbolic key when he received office to teach others. Peter was to teach others the knowledge of Christ. Binding and loosing relates to ethical teaching. To bind is to permit. To loose is to forgive. There were two schools of Rabbis at the time. The School of Hillel was the less strict. The School of Shammai was the stricter. Shammai bound it and Hillel loosed it. Peter was to be the authority on teaching.
The Transfiguration. Only three were taken up the mountain. It was a time of special sharing and intimacy. Moses’ face also shone when he had been with the Lord. John said that they beheld His glory. He was probably remembering this event. Deut chapter 18 v 15-18. “Listen to Him.” This verse was fulfilled in the very presence of Moses. As Moses and Elijah disappear it proves that the purpose of the Old Testament was to testify to Jesus. God endorsed Peter’s confession.
Discipleship from Matthew.
1. Disciples need a knowledge of Scripture to deal with Satan’s temptations.
2. To be salt. To fertilise and kill the germs of sinful behaviour.
3. To have love for one another.
4. To be holy and pure in their language.
5. To be forgiving of each other and of their enemies.
6. Submitted to the will of God. To do what pleases God and to avoid those things, which displease Him.
7. To be sincere and loyal.
8. To be obedient – doers of the Word. James chapter 1 v 22.
9. Go out with the message and heal and cast out demons.
10. Not to look for a reward in Earthly terms.
11. To trust God and have concern for lost sheep. Chapter 18 v 12.
12. Service in leadership. The washing of feet is a clear guide.
13. Put the Kingdom of God before self.
14. Be peacemakers and obey the moral law.
15. Freedom from criticism and judging.
16. Love for enemies. To return good for evil.
Chapter 18 v 1-35. There was a problem about pride and status. Jesus stresses humility. There is no place for pride in Heaven. Satan was expelled because of his pride. There is a tremendous responsibility for causing others to sin. Even worse than sinning is helping others to sin. If someone sins against a man he should go to the offender. If he will not repent, take others. If he still refuses and is persistent, it raises questions as to whether or not he is actually a believer. The believer should first be sure that it is not his own sin. There is no limit to forgiveness. An unforgiving spirit shuts out the Spirit of God. The pattern of Jesus’ thinking was different from others. He challenges His hearers to look at things from God’s point of view.
Marriage and divorce. (Chapter 19 v 1-12.)
The Pharisees were really asking if Jesus agreed with the Hillel school – the less strict school. The schools differed on the question of divorce. Deut ch 24 v 1f. Shammai restricted it to adultery. Hillel allowed it for poor behaviour. Jesus went back to Genesis. Marriage is at the foundation of God’s plans for the World. It is the basis of society. It is binding because God has made it binding. Jesus is saying that there was no obligation to divorce for adultery. Moses allowed it because of hardness of heart.
The Rich Young Ruler. (Chapter 19 v 16-30) He was complacent and considered himself good enough by keeping the commandments as he saw them. He thought that he could buy salvation. Jesus asked him to repent of his attitude to money, rather than the money in itself. He was a materialist. The Pharisees were teaching that money or wealth is a blessing from God. They were lovers of money also. Only the grace of God allows a person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Human merit will not suffice. The Labourers in the vineyard is related to the question of attitudes to money. (Chapter 20 v 1-16.) Pride was bothering Peter. He had done so much for Jesus and was looking for a reward. The penitent thief on the cross did nothing yet received eternal life. There is no limit to how much a man can do for the one who did everything for him. How can a man put a value on eternal life? There was self-seeking in the hearts of all the Disciples. Service and not pride is the basis for leadership. Jesus set them an example to follow. Jesus always shows that people matter more than the teaching or the meetings. Bartimaeus is used to illustrate this.
The entry to Jerusalem. (Chapter 21 v 1-9.)
The horse was the animal of war. If Jesus had used a horse it would have suggested that He was a king to overthrow the Romans. Yet He was a king – humbly riding on a donkey. Matthew emphasises the meekness of Jesus. Psalm 118 was sung by the people on the way to the Temple. Jesus may have led the people in the singing of the psalm. It finishes in verses 28-29 as the people acknowledge Jesus as King.
Questions and Answers. (Chapter 21 v 10f.)
Jesus poses some of the questions and answers them. “Who is this man? By what authority did He drive out the money-lenders from the Temple?” It was a judgement on the Chief Priests rather than on the money-lenders. The priests allowed it to go on. They were the ones most upset. They, as Sadducees, had no expectation of a Messiah. They did not want to upset the Romans. The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable. Jesus was stating that the people of Israel bore no fruit for God. “By what authority do you do these things?” It was a fundamental matter of authority. Jesus was making the leaders face the fact that their own authority was in question. When He asked them a question, they were unable to answer and showed a lack of authority. The wedding garment was provided by the host. If a man accepts the King’s invitation he must go on His terms. People who were naturally enemies of each other were united in their opposition to Jesus. Demons are only united when in opposition to the believer. Otherwise they are at war with each other. The Pharisees detested payment of taxes to the Romans, while the Herodians who were the Roman puppets supported it. Jesus was caught up in their dispute and pointed out a man’s duty to support secular government but to be aware of a higher responsibility to God.
The Greatest Commandment. (Chapter 22 v 34-40.)
The two schools often debated the relative weight of the commandments. Jesus quotes Deut chapter 6 v 5. He challenges their attitude. Only God can say which is the greatest. By His answers Jesus silenced the leaders. No one dared ask Him any more questions.
Teaching on Judgement. (Ch 23 v 1 – ch 25 v 44.) Jesus indicts the Pharisees for pride, for doing their deeds to be seen by men and for putting heavy burdens on the people. They loved the place of honour at feasts. They liked titles, which aided their pride. They wanted the praise of men rather than of God. The seven woes. The first two were keeping men out of the Kingdom of Heaven. A scribe had a symbolic key. They shut the doors for men by urging men to conform to standards and ritual thereby damning them and not saving them. The remainder of the woes deal with the fact that they had the sense of proportion wrong. While scrupulous about tithing and ceremonial pollution, they did not emphasise the really important matters of mercy, justice and faith. It was what they did not do, which was the problem. It was fundamental to Jewish thought – like father, like son. Jesus accused them of rejecting Him in the same way as their fathers had rejected the prophets before Him. As Jesus left the Temple He was acting out the words of Ezekiel, which tell of God leaving the Temple.
The signs of His Coming. There was a twofold question. “When will the Temple be destroyed and when will You come again?” The answers refer to both questions. Events, which were brought together, were often separated in time. The fall of Jerusalem was typical of the end of the age. It was a manifestation of divine judgement. It foreshadowed the ultimate judgement. Some aspects seem to be applicable to one and some to both. The godly will meet hatred. The elect will be persecuted. There will be:
1. Religious deception. False Christs.
2. Persecution and tribulation.
3. Spiritual decline.
4. International trouble and natural calamity. The Universe is wearing out through sin.
5. Universal proclamation of the Gospel. God had done something and Jesus was coming again.
6. Portents in nature.
The principles for judgement are the same. There is an ascending scale. The World is unstable but not the words of Jesus – they will never pass away. He asserts the eternal significance of His teaching. The date of His Second Coming was up to God. In the parable do not put too much emphasis on the equal division. Jesus deliberately chose a fifty – fifty split to avoid people claiming that a certain percentage would be saved. The parable talks about wisdom in preparation for the coming.
The Sheep and the Goats. Judgement is universal. Whether or not a man loves his brother is seen as a test of his love for God. The basis of judgement is compassion. If there is no compassion, then there is no love of God in a man. Over and over again there is a division of those for and those against Christ. The heart of the Gospel is rooted in the Old Testament and Matthew refers to the Old Testament at the beginning and at the end.
Peter is a central figure – a spokesman for the Disciples as a group. He asserts loyalty. He slept in the Garden. He cut off the ear. A man often wants to do God’s will in his own way. So often the motive was right but the action was wrong.
Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. He came out into the open later, after giving the matter careful thought. Better that than a rash show of support, which withers away later in the heat of the battle. He alone had a grave available.
Judas Iscariot. He lacked a personal relationship with Jesus, though he was close to Him. He showed repentance and then committed suicide.
Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Annas was the evil architect of the death of Jesus. He officiated on the Day of Atonement as the High Priest. He should have been more sensitive to sin than anyone else. He was a man of implacable hatred. Meetings should not have taken place at night. There were false witnesses. The members of the Sanhedrin were out in force at the cross to see that the job of getting rid of Jesus was completed.
Pilate. He had the power to deal with the matter in any way he chose. He was weak and stubborn. He did not like the Jews and they did not like Him. He appeased popular demand. There was a travesty of justice. He clearly knew that Jesus was innocent. The Gospel is personal. Many people were affected by meeting Jesus – Pilate, Peter, Joseph of Arimathea, Judas, Caiaphas, Herod and those healed. The question is posed – “How do you respond?”
The trial and death of Jesus and His resurrection. Chapter 26 v 57- capter 28 v 10. This is the heart of the Gospel. The final week in Jerusalem is narrated fully. The events of the arrest, two trials and crucifixion are masterminded by Jesus Himself. The curtain, which was as thick as a carpet, was torn in two. This must have made an impression on the religious leaders in Jerusalem. It was the divine witness to the accomplishment of the atonement. The Earth shook – nature was affected by this Earth-shattering event. Graves opened and the saints came out. What happened to them? There is no further information.
Mark was probably written about 65 A. D. in Rome for non-Jewish readers. There are few Old Testament quotes. Mark explains many of the Jewish customs. Mark does not deal with the formal events of Jesus’ life but concentrates on the marvellous things Jesus did and the places He went. Mark writes as one who had firsthand experience of the events. He is probably the one referred to in chapter 14 v 52. He relied on information from Peter. The theme of the book is “Who is this man Jesus and by what authority does He speak and perform miracles?” Mark also presents Jesus as a man of action and as a servant of mankind. The World into which Jesus had come was in trouble. Disease, suffering, blindness, paralysis and poverty were everywhere. There was no social security for the poor and unemployed. The Jewish people were in bondage to the Roman Empire, the cruellest power in the World. Everything in the World was moving from order to disorder. Broken relationships littered the pages of history. A realistic look at the World revealed that things were not getting better. The Jewish people had been under the yoke of one military power after another since the days of Babylon hundreds of years earlier. There was empty religion. That was the bad news against which the story is written. Mark presents the good news that a man has come with power to change things. There is a way for a man to rebuild his life. Jesus is the way to do it. The events in the last week of the life of Jesus occupy one third of the book. Mark appreciates the significance of the purpose of Jesus coming to Earth. Perhaps chapter 10 v 45 is the key verse. Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many. Mark explains how lives were changed by Jesus.
Who is Mark? He was not an Apostle, but just an ordinary worker – a friend of the Apostles. Acts chapter 12 v 12. Mark was the son of one of the Marys. He was a nephew of Barnabas. Acts chapter 15 v 36 – 41. Mark became a companion of Peter and recorded Peter’s statements. It centres on the actions of Jesus. Mark describes Jesus as the servant of God who came to do His will. The resurrection authenticates all that Jesus did. The writer’s perspective is all-important. Mark wanted to encourage the Christians in Rome at a time of persecution. Jewish words are explained as are Jewish customs. Latin words are often used. The average Roman citizen cared little for doctrine or teaching but was more impressed by action rather than words. Mark presents Jesus as an action man. Mark’s message is to convey the role of the servant – the servant of God and of men. In the last days God has spoken through His Son. Heb chapter 1 v 1. The Scriptures had looked forward to this day. Where is the Lamb? John said – Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World. Jesus stood up and declared that He had come to bring in the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in the hearts of men. This was a new chapter in the purposes of God in relation to His dealing with men. He had come among men in the person of His divine Son. Deut chapter 18 v 19. Those who refuse to listen to Jesus God will hold accountable. While it was difficult to listen to the Holy Spirit and to follow God, the presence of Jesus as a man like other men made it easier to understand the person of God. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Mark does not mention the wise men, the virgin birth or the shepherds. Perhaps this is because it was not so much as a record of events like the other two Gospels of Matthew and Luke but it asks more questions of the readers. “Who is this man Jesus?” On many occasions Mark poses the question – “What sort of man is this?” Jesus Himself often asked people not to tell others. He wanted them to work it out for themselves. He even asked the Disciples – “Who do you say that I am?” Unless people believe in Him, He can do nothing for them. The High Priest asked Jesus – “Are you the Messiah?” Pilate asked Jesus – “Are you a King?” The baby Jesus did not threaten anyone. The man Jesus challenged rulers and religious people by His presence. At the end of the Gospel, Mark quotes the centurion at the crucifixion – “This man was the Son of God.” He got the message. The clues are all there. The real question mark is asking is: “Do you believe in Jesus?”
Mark does not start with a chronology of Jesus like the other Gospel writers. Mark’s book asks the question – who is this man Jesus? He challenges his readers. That is the question the people of His day asked of Jesus. The man Jesus was like no other man of His day nor was He like anyone before Him or since. Mark invites the readers to ask the same question today. What is so special about the man Jesus? Was He really the Messiah, the one anointed by God for a special purpose? Was He really both a physical man and yet divine? Had He lived in Heaven before He was born as a baby? The Jewish people had waited for centuries for one to come to fulfil the special purpose. Isaiah the prophet had written 700 years ago that it would happen. The Roman Governor, the greatest military and political power in the land, was forced to ask this humble carpenter if He really was a King. Was He really the Son of God? Was He really God the Son?
But now there was good news. A saviour had come into this World in order to change things and offer reconciliation between mankind and God. It was now possible to communicate with the Creator and have the assurance of eternal life, not just after death but right now. Mankind no longer had to live in bondage to its enemy Satan, because Jesus had defeated the enemy and the power of the Holy Spirit was available to mankind. Great news! Mark wants to get it down on paper for future generations like today’s generation. There was an opportunity to clear away the rubble of everyday lives and build a new a life pleasing to God. Sin no longer has to reign over a man and be his master. “I am the way to do it,” claimed Jesus. “Follow me.”
A Gospel is like a newspaper – a new bulletin. When a person dies there are three aspects of an obituary.
1. What the person did. 2. What the person said. 3. What made the man the person he was. This is the same for all men and it applies to Jesus. Mark was the first to write his Gospel and he looks at what Jesus did. Matthew later looks at what Jesus said. John reflected on who Jesus was. Matthew writes of Jesus as King of the Jews. Mark writes of Him as the Son of Man. Luke regards Jesus as the Saviour of mankind. John writes of Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus has 250 names in the Bible – far more than any other man. Matthew and John wrote for believers. Mark and Luke wrote for unbelievers.
Mark is not named as the author but it is implied that he was the young man who ran away in the Garden and lost his bed sheet to the guards. chapter 14 v 52. He probably heard Jesus praying while the others were asleep. The Last Supper was possibly in the house of Mark’s father. Mark is a number two type of person. He served as a personal assistant to Barnabas, Paul, Luke and Peter. He knew Latin and could translate for Peter when he was in Rome. All of the New Testament was spoken before it was written. Mark records the actions of Jesus and pays little attention to the teaching. There are more miracles in Mark and little of the parables. It started when Jesus called Peter and includes nothing of the birth of Jesus, since Peter knew nothing about that. He exposes Peter’s weaknesses. He includes Peter’s denial but not Jesus reinstating him. It was the Gospel of Peter, written down by Mark.
Chapters 1-3 are the acclamation by the people. Chapters 4-6 deal with opposition to Jesus. Chapters 7-9 concentrate on the teaching of the Disciples. This leads to Peter’s declaration at Caesarea Philippi in ch 8 v 29. “You are the Christ.” At Banias there was a statue to Pan, the god who was supposed to have appeared as a mortal man and Caesar, who was a man declared to be a god. It had taken Jesus two and a half years to reach the stage when the Disciples knew who Jesus was. Then Jesus could start to build his Church. Jesus cannot build a Church until people know who He is. Immediately thereafter there is the first mention of the cross. Jesus took three Disciples up the mountain to reveal His glory.
Firstly Mark explains the person of Jesus. Then he describes the work of Jesus and then he focuses on the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is a real challenge to the Disciples either to live under fear or by faith. The choice is theirs – as it is for every man. Fear towers over men. Will they trust in Jesus or cower under the power of fear? Despite living under frightening circumstances Jesus was never afraid.
The arrest of John was the sign to Jesus to start His public ministry. He was under no illusions as to what would happen to Him after what happened to John for speaking the truth to Herod. The Kingdom of God had come in the presence of Jesus and was close to everyone who heard. All they had to do was believe in Him who had sent Jesus and the Kingdom would come into their lives. The Jews felt that they did not need to repent. That was for the Gentiles
Jesus called men not for what they were but for what He would make them into as followers and Disciples. His call is not so much as an invitation as a command. Jesus knew that His Father had a concern for the whole World. Although Jesus never left Israel, He trained others to go into the whole World. Those who were sent out had a living knowledge of God. A man can do nothing, if he does not know God personally. Mark presents Jesus as a man of action. One third of His ministry deals with Jesus casting out demons. As Jesus continued His ministry the enemies became increasingly hostile. One third of the book is devoted to the last week of Jesus on Earth, especially the crucifixion and resurrection.
Mark covers the start of Jesus’ ministry very briefly and is straight into spiritual warfare – an unclean spirit, a fever, leprosy and the sick and all manner of demon possession are dealt with by Jesus.
John came to call men to repent. He dealt with the past. Jesus was to baptise with fire rather than water. Jesus came to deal with the future. A man has to get the sins of the past dealt with by repentance in order to be empowered by the Holy Spirit for service in the future. Jesus was led into the desert. God needs to test a man to see if he can stand up to the stress and strain of Discipleship. It is not an easy road to follow. Jesus proved Himself worthy.
v 5. Judea and Jerusalem. These places are in the news today. The mountains of Judea is the West Bank or the Disputed Territories. A man no longer needs to just hear about Jerusalem. He can see it every day on television and can hear people speaking live from the very city Jesus visited. What privileged days in which to live. Hebron, the burial place of Abraham, is the centre of the battle-ground between Arabs and Jewish settlers, who believe the Word of God that they should occupy the Land as in days of old.
v 6. There was nothing about John to draw the people, except the power of his message. John looked forward to the coming of Jesus.
v 10. Jesus was baptised and then rose out of the water. That means He must have been down in the water and rose up out of it. It is impossible to interpret that any other way than total immersion. If Jesus was totally immersed at His baptism, why should a believer today settle for anything less? There was a supernatural event – an audible voice from Heaven. Believers serve a supernatural God. God operates in the realm of a man’s expectations. If a man does not expect God to act or speak, then He will neither act nor speak. Faith anticipates that God is there and will act. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will find Him. A man has to believe that God is there in order to find Him.
v 13. Temptation was real for Jesus. It is real for believers. “If you have never encountered Satan in your walk through life, you must be going in the same direction.” Jesus understands temptation. He has experienced it first hand. He has been through it. He can be trusted, because He speaks from first-hand experience. Jesus knew that by trusting God, He could overcome the Devil. James, the brother of Jesus, who was converted after the resurrection, when Jesus revealed Himself to His brother, says: “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” When a believer recognises the temptation coming, he should resist it. “I’m not falling for that one again, Satan. Get out of here in the name of Jesus.” A believer can resist it in any way he finds suitable. Believers too have to trust the Word of God to experience it. They should consider the areas in life where they are tempted. Find out what the Word of God has to say and use the Word of God to speak back to the demon when the temptation occurs. He will not like it. If the believer cannot remember the appropriate Word of God, he should just say: “No.” That is the single most powerful word at his disposal. Angels were real too. They are real today. Mark spoke of angels because he knew that angels were real. He did not need to explain them or prove their existence.
v 14. When John was arrested, Jesus knew that was the sign that He was to begin His public teaching ministry. Within the Jewish religion a priest had to be thirty years old. Jesus was thirty before He started to fulfil the role of the High priest – the one who stood between man and God and united the two, restoring the relationship, which had been broken by sin. There is power in the name of Jesus. When a believer is in a discussion and feels lost for words, he should bring in the name of Jesus. There is power in the name. The spiritual enemies of Jesus hate the name and tremble before it.
v 15. God’s Kingdom is near. Each prophet had a theme to his preaching. Jesus had the theme of the Kingdom of God. It recurs throughout the Gospel. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heart of man. When a person is submitted to the rule of God in His life, he lives within the Kingdom of God. Jesus ushered in or established the Kingdom, by being totally submitted to the rule of God in His life. Some believers teach that the Kingdom is coming when Jesus comes again. But Jesus said the Kingdom is near? In John ch 3 v 5. Jesus said: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit one cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
v 16. Did they know Jesus before He called them? Perhaps He knew them during the previous 30 years. There was no promise to them or conditions to their following. It was a simple – “Follow me.”
v 17. How long passed between Jesus being baptised and calling Peter and Andrew? It is not known but Jesus operated an amazing schedule. He used His time to the full. He did not wait for things to happen. He was in touch with God and knew the urgency of the days in which He lived. Time is a gift from God to be used and not passed. Jesus knew that His time was limited and got on with the task set Him. A believer should use his time well. There is a limit to the time allotted to a man. Many people live to pass the time. That is what a pass-time is. It fills the time and helps it pass, as if it was a burdensome thing. It is for a prisoner.
v 19. Whatever became of Zebedee? It is not known. But when Jesus called his sons to follow Him, life would never be the same for Zebedee, as it is never the same for members of the family of a believer, when the member decided to follow Jesus. Others are affected by his decisions in life.
v 22. The people were amazed at the way Jesus taught. It was the style of teaching in the days of Jesus to refer to Rabbi so and so as the authority. Rather like a court case today when the lawyer refers to precedents – previous cases on the same point. Sheriff so and so said this or the House of Lords decided this principle. But Jesus did not refer to others. “I say unto you.” This was a standard way in which Jesus spoke. Here was a man who knew what He was talking about. He spoke on His own authority. Jesus was the only person to have lived in Heaven and come to Earth. He knew what lay the other side of death. He was uniquely qualified to teach about these matters. Only a fool does not heed His advice. The Messiah was the one chosen by God to make a new beginning in the story of mankind. It was to be a new covenant or deal between God and mankind. The enemies of Jesus never questioned the miracles He performed. People today cast doubt on the miracles of Jesus 2,000 years later and thousands of miles away, but those who were present did not do so. They asked: “On what authority do you do these things?”
No sooner had Jesus started to preach and teach than he encountered evil spirits. A man possessed by a demon addressed Jesus – in a Church of all places. His was a religious spirit. If the people did not know who Jesus was, the demon surely did. There was no shouting or praying or anything other than a word of authority. The man convulsed and screamed. Man need not be disturbed by such activity. It is all under control. “What sort of new religion is this?” Today the same thing is said. Is this a sect or something sinister? Evil spirits obeyed Jesus. News spread quickly. “Have you heard what’s going on at His meetings?” Ask people today if they believe that there are such things as evil spirits and they will mostly say that they do not think that there are such things. There are evil people e.g. the man up the street, but not evil spirits. Jesus did not think so. He did not dismiss their presence. He challenged them and cast them out of people. John says that was one of the reasons Jesus had left the glory of Heaven to identify with mankind and lead them out of bondage. He came to destroy the works of the Devil. Either Jesus did a good job and banished all the demons, or, there were only evil spirits in Israel, or they are here today causing depression, disease, bondage, misery, robbing people blind of their money, peace of mind and their opportunity of being within the family of God.
v 27. The people asked: “What sort of new religion is this?” This was not the sort of thing, which happened in their Church. David Watson said: “I could take you to Churches in this land where, if something supernatural happened, half the people would walk out in indignation.” What Jesus did was meant to be a natural expression of the power of God changing things. The Children of God are seated in Heavenly places with Christ. Therefore they have power over the demonic forces.
v 29 – 30. Jesus met a new problem – a fever. This is in the body. It was a foreign organism – an infection living within her body. It ought not to be there. Jesus did not use penicillin. He simply issued a rebuke. “Get out of there.” Peter’s mother was well at once and made a meal. Soon there were dozens of people with demons and diseases. The demons could speak through the people in whom they dwelt. They used the voices of those whom they inhabited. They were real beings. All they lacked was a body. Mostly the healing system within the body, put there by God when He created man, will do the task, but the person of Jesus also had power over that virus. Jesus did not have antibiotics, but He had the power of God the Creator at His disposal. So do His believers today.
v 35. An exhausting evening. No time to bask in the glory. More work to do – prayer is work. Jesus could have stayed and enjoyed the celebration. He had other work to do. It would be good to omit verse 35. It is uncomfortable. After an exhausting healing ministry Jesus was up before dawn. He had to receive His orders from His Father. His was a life of total commitment.
v 39. Jesus released many from the power of demons. It appeared that the problem was rife. What of today? Jesus healed all who came to Him. He healed the Leper. He was moved with compassion.
v 40. Jesus healed a leper. If healed, would the leper give his life to Jesus as a sacrifice? He disobeyed Jesus and look at the trouble he caused Jesus. When the Bible gives a negative command it is always for the good of a believer and within the will of God.
v 43. Let the evidence speak for itself. Do not tell them. If they are not interested enough to ask how it happened, then they do not want to know. People see quite clearly when there is a change in the life of another. If they do not ask, they do not want to know. They may know very well.
v 45. The leper disobeyed Jesus immediately – so much for gratitude. This spoiled Jesus’ plan. He could not go into the city as He wanted. There is a lot of healing in this first chapter. Believers cause God no end of trouble, when they disobey Him. God may have to use someone else to carry out the work He had set aside for a particular child of His when that child disobeyed.
Wherever Jesus went, things happened. People were changed. Their lives were never the same again. How are the words of Jesus going to change lives? If a man rejects them, his heart will be hardened against Him. If he responds, his life will be different. Deut chapter 18 v 19. “Whoever will not give heed to my words, which He will speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” The Living Bible puts it this way: “I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to Him and heed His messages from me” A man today has the privilege of access to the words of Jesus just as much as those who heard Him by the shore in Galilee. Reflect today on what the Lord has been saying.
CHAPTER 2. Jesus spoke and taught with such authority. He did not rely on the opinions of others but spoke as one who knew what He was talking about. A man is healed. A Disciple called. There is involvement with people. Teaching about fasting and the Sabbath. It is all in a day’s work. People were coming looking for Jesus. The Holy Spirit was drawing them to Jesus. How anxious were the people to get to see Jesus? Desperate enough to open up the roof and lower their friend down to Jesus. They must have believed that it was important and that Jesus could heal their friend. Healing and sins are closely related. Sins cause disease. Deal with the sins and healing can take place. Many today want the healing without dealing with the sins. “How far would you go to be healed?” It must have been an embarrassing experience for the paralytic. “Are you prepared to be embarrassed or are you too proud?” By forgiving sins Jesus challenged the religious leaders. He had not signed up to one of their denominations. He did not wear a dog collar. But He could heal and they could not. Where was their joy at seeing the lame man walk? Jesus perceived in His spirit that they opposed Him.
Jesus called Matthew. A tax collector was one of the lowest of men. He collected more than he was allowed from his own people. Jesus was well able to mix with sinners without being contaminated by them and thinking like them. He listened and was aware of what they were thinking and saying. He was in the World but not of it. Until a man recognises that he is spiritually sick or poorly, he has no need of Jesus. Pride choked the life out of the religious people. Moving from the duty of religion to the joy of a personal relationship. There is a time for seriousness but God delights in a living relationship with His people. The religious knew nothing about such a joyful experience. For them fasting was a religious thing, like penance. Was Jesus stating that fasting was a thing of the past? Mat chapter 6 v 16 – 18. Jesus taught that fasting as a religious observance was of value only when done without ostentation for the sole purpose of pleasing God. If food is given up because there are more important things to do for God, then that will please God. The time and the cost matter to God on these occasions. It is useless to mix the old legal way of doing things with the new way of living under the Kingdom of God. When the Church gets the upper hand, the Lord is driven out. The religious are always trying to justify their views and lose sight of the real meaning of the Scriptures. The Sabbath was made for man to relax and enjoy and spend time with God.
v 28. Jesus has authority to decide what a man can do on the Sabbath. A man should ask Jesus if what he wants to do is acceptable and should not rely on religious leaders.
The religious leaders were looking for faults. They were glad when they found something to criticise. The religious leaders could see the good Jesus did but accused Jesus of working for the Devil. Jesus in turn warned them of the seriousness of their situation. The battle lines were drawn. Jesus went in the opposite spirit. He did not allow them to manipulate Him. He trapped them with a good question. It is a good idea to ask a relevant question when others are out to upset. Jesus confronted their attitudes. Negative opposition can kill faith. The religious spirits brought the Church leaders under their control.
v 2. They watched Jesus closely, looking for an opportunity to pick on Him. People watch believers closely looking for fault. Jesus came to save and not to judge and yet by His very presence He did judge the hearts of people.
v 5. Jesus was angry at indifference to human need and their hardness of heart. Where was their compassion for the sick? He is angry with believers, who are indifferent to the needs of people. He cleverly drew their argument from them. It is important to answer the question before it is asked, realising what line of opposition will be coming.
v 6. Early in His ministry the opposition planned to kill Him. Was this because He healed others or taught, or was it demonically inspired? Religion and witchcraft are mixed together in the New Age. The teachers of the word and those into magic were together.
v 7-8. Many went to see what Jesus was doing. Did they want the spectacle or the discipline?
v 11. The demons recognised Jesus and He forbade them to speak about Him.
v 13. The Disciples were chosen. Their commission was to preach and cast out demons. Is the commission any different today? Judas was among them. Was this a mistake or a calculated risk? There is always a risk. Any Disciple with free choice may depart from Jesus. Moses chose 70. Jesus chose 12. A leader should choose those who are to go with him. Clear the demons out first before the work begins. A man has authority in the name of Jesus. God gave man authority over the animals. Naming a person gives authority over that person.
v 21. The family of Jesus felt that He was going too far. They tried to dissuade Jesus from carrying on. It is always those closest who are most challenged and aware of the work of the Holy Spirit. They knew all about Jesus, how exceptional He had been in the home and at work. He had never sinned. Some people even accused Jesus of being out of His mind. Were the members of the family embarrassed? They sought to control Him. They tried to use their authority over Him. Jesus was under a higher authority. He obeyed His parents but not when they were in conflict with God’s commands.
v 22. The religious leaders accused Jesus of being possessed of the Devil. The religious spirit and the spirit of murder always go together.
v 27. It is necessary to bind Satan first and then to take his possessions. He is the strong man but he is not the strongest. Christ is in a believer. He is stronger than Satan. Hell will not prevail. Satan has no weapon, but has the will to fight. Believers have the weapon but do not always have the will to fight. Satan reminds believers of their past. It is good to remind Satan of his future.
v 29. The unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They knew full well that this had to be of God. Whatever they knew about the Devil, they knew that he did not go round healing the sick and casting demons out of people. They had seen the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus and denied it. This was conscious, persistent, wilful, determined, malicious rejection of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the deity and saving power of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus and God the Son. The religious leaders spoke in light of the knowledge they had and were not speaking out of ignorance or carelessness. Jesus answered them in a way, which left them without an answer. Isaiah ch 49 v 25. There is a certain parallel to the passage in Hebrews ch 6. That passage addresses believers who have fallen into apostasy. There is a warning that they might reach the stage of being unable to be raised to repentance again. At that stage they will not want to be back in touch with the Lord. This passage is a warning by Jesus that if they do not mend their attitude to Him as God, they would commit the unforgivable sin and there would be no way into the Kingdom of God. Some of them undoubtedly did that. Many of the religious leaders were still utterly hostile to Jesus at His trial. Others may have responded. It was a warning. It also serves as a contrast to the wideness of the mercy of God that anyone can come to Jesus, who truly repents and confesses Jesus as Lord. Wrath is the harsher side of love. Nahum ch 3 v 19 shows that there are limits to God’s mercy. Pharaoh was guilty before God. Moses was sent to him to call him to repent and let the people go. He steadfastly refused and God hardened his heart.
v 33. The real members of the family of God are those who do the will of God, not those who talk about it or admire it. Jesus went in the contrary spirit. When His mother sought to control Him, He declared that He had to be His own man. His Mother had sought to hold Him back. He graciously set out His priorities in life.
v 2. Jesus’ usual method of teaching was to tell parables. The parable of the sower. A parable is told to force a response from the hearers. “Do you get the point of the story?”
v 11. Those who did not have the Spirit did not understand the parable. Those who did still needed an explanation, but at least they were able to receive the teaching. Maybe the non-believers got the point and did not want to know. That was the purpose of the parable – like a joke – it was designed to make a point to those listening. It was never so striking to those who were not present on that occasion.
v 13. If man is having difficulty with the parable of the seeds, what hope is there for the other deeper truths of Scripture?
v 15. Were those in the first category ever believers?
v 17. What of the second category? They give up the process of salvation at the first obstacle. They never got passed the milk stage. They could not stomach the meat. It is essential to get into the deeper truths of the Scriptures in order to survive in times of difficulty. The trees with the deepest roots last longest in times of drought. The Word of God gets crowded out with the pleasures of this World.
v 21. A lamp and a torch are different. The lamp shines out. The torch shines at. Believers are to be witnesses, shining out and not shining at people, thereby making them feel uncomfortable.
v 25. Does this seem unfair? This is not talking about justice but mercy. Those who cry out for mercy will receive it in abundance. Those who are blessed with common grace shall lose it. In the parable of the talents the one who had buried his one talent ended up with nothing. He did not know Jesus.
v 31. Faith is not in relation to size or importance. Believing the Word of God is the same whether it relates to a small personal matter or an issue, which affects a whole nation.
v 41. The miracles are all designed to challenge the people present to ask: “Who is this man?”
Mark’s stories of Jesus are designed not only to tell something of what Jesus did but also to dramatise or symbolise important points. The three incidents go together. The place where the first event happened was in an area controlled largely by Gentiles. Jesus is ministering to non-Jews. Jesus laid down a precedent for going to the Gentiles. Pork is forbidden to Jews. The phrase Most High God is not one used by Jews but by Gentiles. Jesus told the demoniac to tell others how much the Lord had done for him. This contrasts with the usual advice of Jesus not to tell others. This is a foretaste of the mission to the Gentiles. The man is clearly possessed of evil spirits – many of them. One quarter of Jesus’ ministry was involved with casting out demons. Legion was beyond the control of the people, who could do nothing with him. Those possessed often have supernatural strength and act in a strange way. Self-mutilation is a sign of demonic possession. The conversation was between the evil spirit and Jesus.
Legion is healed as a challenge to the materialistic city people who had no concern for him. The man himself probably knew nothing of the events. Jesus asked the demon to give his name. Demons all have names. People today can do nothing with the possessed but lock them up and keep them out of the way. They cannot live among the other people. Jesus shows His power over demons, no matter how many there are of them. The destruction of the herd of pigs shows what a powerful force they were. A Roman legion was 6,000 men. “Who is this man? Even the demons recognise Him.” The other aspect is the response of the people. They do not want to know. They were afraid, like Adam when God came to speak with him. Fear entered him. It is costly to have this man around. He might ask for their money to build the Church. Money was their god. Jesus did not force Himself on them. If He is not wanted in a situation or in a Church, He will leave quietly. No one is beyond the help of Jesus. The people are more concerned for the loss of the pigs than for the health of the man. They reach the point of asking Jesus to leave. “We shall manage by ourselves without your help.” This is humanism. The religious people, like the atheists, threw stones at Jesus. The humanists walked past as if He did not exist. Good people do that. They may hear about Jesus, but they simply ignore Him.
Other dramatic healings are told to reinforce the question – what sort of man is this? Jesus is seen in the collection of healings of being involved with those whom the Jews considered unclean. Jesus released them from their enslavement. The dead girl was considered unclean. Sometimes the doctors cannot heal a person. This seems to be so with M. E. and also Aids. The woman exercised faith. She knew she was healed. When a man has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he may feel drained. It is like electricity passing through him. The power had gone. Jesus did not want to embarrass her but did want a public declaration. The people laughed at Jesus when He said she was only asleep. She was truly dead. They were sure of that. Jesus put those who laughed out of the house. Drive mockers away. They are not interested in anything but bringing down the name of Jesus. Give her something to eat – to prove that she was well. Ghosts do not eat food. The women were second-class citizens in their culture. Jesus shows their worth to Him. The woman was healed because of her faith in Jesus. Jesus has a compassion for people and not a desire for power. Jesus took with Him people of positive faith and not those with negative faith. These miracles are followed by rejection in His hometown. Matthew chapter 8 v 28 mentions two demoniacs. There is no untruth there. Both accounts are true.
Anger is a sign of spiritual power trying to frighten a man and intimidate him. Demonic forces have territorial control. Man is in danger of putting animals before people. “Kick the kid and stroke the cat.” There is something wrong when a person spends more time with his pet than with people.
v 21-43. Jesus operates within the realm of a man’s expectations. He had to be asked and did not act on his own initiative. The woman was not delivered. It is not known what caused the bleeding. Her testimony was important to the public at large. It was evidence of what had happened to her. Jesus sent her away whole. Would Jesus have reached the young girl before she died, if He had not stopped to heal the woman? It is not clear. Jesus balanced the needs of the two and the risks involved. The girl was certainly dead. Jesus banished those with no faith in Him. Their faithlessness might have prevented His acting. After she rose Jesus asked others to feed her. He was aware that she had physical needs also.
Jesus is the one who holds the future. The only one fit to unravel the scroll in Revelation chapter 5. Jesus was an offence to those in His own family and town. “Who does He think He is?” A believer’s testimony is to take place in his hometown and in his family. That is where it is noticed, because there has been a change. He is a new creation, changed by the power of God. There may be a spirit of suspicion. Where there is a corporate lack of faith, no miracles can be done. This is so where a Church is dying and there is unbelief.
Discipleship is like an apprenticeship. Try it again and again until you get it right. Show them how to live. Parents have abandoned their duty to teach their children how to live. They have left it to the television, the teachers and the doctor etc. v 9. Disciple children. Jesus was teaching them to be wholly dependant on God. They were to abandon their supports. They were to kick the dust off their feet to show their authority to pass judgement on that town.
The lives of men have been out of synchranisation. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are getting lives back into touch with God. Believers do not have to put up with problems. They are over-comers. It is important to show that they can put their own lives in order before they dare seek to help the lives of others. The problem may be physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual.
The Disciples and the Children of Israel might seem to have been favoured. However, they were troubled with memories of the past and with uncertainty about the future. They could see their friends prospering. They had to sort out new relationships. What was Jesus asking them to do? It was just as difficult for them as it is for a believer today.
John the Baptist was beheaded. Mark reminds the readers of the World into which Jesus had come.
v 3. When Jesus taught, the people asked: “Where does the son of a carpenter get His wisdom from?” The familiar spirit speaks: “This is just the carpenter.” There was no enthusiasm in His hometown for one of their own. They were offended by Jesus. He did not have a degree. He did not belong to one of the denominations. Jesus responded by pointing out that a prophet is not honoured amongst his own people. Because of their lack of belief in Him Jesus could not do any mighty miracles there. God operates within the expectations of the people. Great miracles are happening in some parts of the World but not much is happening in other parts because of unbelief. The Disciples were commissioned to cast out demons. Do not be cluttered by material possessions. Travel light.
v 11. Enough is enough. There is a time when God washes His hands of certain situations. If there is no response, believers should kick the dust off their feet and move on to somewhere where they can be of use. Tell the people to turn from sin. The miracles were designed to get people talking about Jesus.
v 20. Herod liked to listen to John preach but he did not do the words spoken to him. Many people are not hostile but never get round to following Jesus for various reasons such as fear of a member of the family. What a fool to promise to do something evil in itself. Do not make a careless promise. In doing so a man opens himself to the enemy’s wiles. Herod could not lose face before others. It is a powerful force.
v 31. There is time for rest and refreshing of a man’s spirit. It did not work out this time but it is an important principle.
v 34. Jesus had compassion on the people – they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus taught them many things, which they needed to know – not things, which they did not need to know. Teaching should be of practical value.
v 37. “You feed them.” It is no use for one person to do everything. The people do not grow, unless they accept responsibility and do it themselves. How did Jesus know that God was going to feed the people with so little food? It had happened before. 2 Kings chapter 4 v 42 – 44. Jesus believed the Word of God.
v 46. Jesus went off alone to pray. It is necessary to be alone at times. Even then Jesus saw that the Disciples were in trouble. He set off to deal with the situation. Do believers stand idly by when they see people in trouble? “It is their own fault after all.” Or do they make themselves available to help them?
v 50. God is a supernatural God. Some people complain that they do not want anything supernatural happening in their Church. The Disciples did not want to believe. It might mean that they had to do the same thing.
v 56. As many as touched Jesus were healed.
When a person becomes a believer, it is as if he is stood upright after hanging upside down for a long time. It takes time for the man to become orientated. Before, he was fumbling in the dark and suddenly the bluff is taken off and a bright light shines in the eyes. The religious men brought in the big men – bishops from Jerusalem. Jesus fired a broadside at them. There was no messing about. Jesus used the Word of God to speak to them and used the authority of the Word. God looks at the heart and not on the outside. Guard your heart. It is out of the heart that the mouth speaks. Jer chapter 17 v 9. The heart is deceitful. A change of heart is what is required. Jesus asks some serious questions to establish what is in a man’s heart?
Traditions kill faith. Traditions are the dead faith of the living. They are man-made. Jesus was very hard on them. They are used to impose the tyranny of “the ought.” The Pharisees were looking for an opportunity to find fault with the Disciples and with Jesus. It is foolish to give people the opportunity to find fault through carelessness. Their worship was a farce. They ignored the commands of God and substituted their own rules and regulations. Tradition was elevated above the commands of God. Mark’s readers were probably Gentile Christians. The arrival of the Kingdom of God was not dependent on ritual preparation, but on God’s will to bring in the Kingdom. There is a need for a man to re-order his life to enter the Kingdom.
Rules were an impediment to change. Ignoring the needs of parents and giving to others, breaks the commands of God. Charity begins at home. It is insulting for a man to tell someone in need that he could have helped them but has chosen someone else instead. It is better for a The unforgivable sin. man not to tell anyone what he has done with the tithe money. If a son made a dedicatory vow, it meant that it could not be broken, even to support his parents in need. Corban is a Hebrew term to denote objects or people as dedicated to God exclusively.
All food is good for eating. A man is not harmed by what he eats. Some people today claim hyperactivity is caused by crisps or chocolate. It is what is inside the heart, which causes all the trouble. It is the thought life, which pollutes. All the vile things come from within and find their physical manifestation outside of the heart. These are the things, which make a man unfit for God. The emphasis on ritual runs the risk of ignoring the fact that the seat of sin and true impurity is in the inner area of human intentions and thoughts.
v 27. The Children of Israel were to get the Gospel first – then the dogs. The woman gave a good reply. It was a word of faith. Jesus confronted the demon at a distance. It is not necessary to be present when casting out a demon. Sometimes Jesus took the person away from the crowd, if He suspected that He would be met with unbelief. If there is unbelief, leave those who do not believe and do the business in quiet.
Jesus was so well known that He could not have any peace and time to do what He wanted in private. The woman who came was not a Jew. Jesus was testing her. He would never tempt her but sometimes God tests a man to see if he really means what he says. The word “dogs” was the word the Jews used for the Gentiles. The two were playing a game with words. It is likely that there was a twinkle in the eye of Jesus when He asked her the question. She was quick to press her claim. She was persistent. Jesus liked her and admired her faith in keeping on asking. Jesus did not even see the child or confront the demon. Every Gentile believer would have seen themselves in this story and found encouragement. That is what Mark intended. Those outside of the Jews who show the same kind of readiness to recognise their need and to trust in Jesus can be saved. The word dogs probably meant pet dogs but there may well have been a pun on the word. The children ate first. The woman was saying that the dogs got the scraps. There was no need to interrupt the meal plans in order to help her. She only wanted the scraps. It was her tenacity and humility, which won her the blessing of Jesus. Jesus’ call was to the Jews, but He did not need to interrupt that plan to meet her needs.
The deaf and dumb man. What was behind the strange actions of Jesus? The man had a speech impediment – perhaps a stutter. What causes a stutter? Jesus had an aversion to excited throngs of people. The description of the healing is indicative of an exorcism.
Five incidents. 1. Feeding a crowd. 2. A hard saying. 3. A blind man. 4. “Who am I?” 5. Public challenge.
1. Why a second large scale feeding? Teaching for three days. What was Jesus teaching them for 3 whole days? The Disciples had not learned from the previous occasion. Does a man keep making the same mistakes over and over again?
2. What does Jesus mean? He did not explain it to the Disciples. Do believers today understand any better than they did? v 11. The local religious leaders came to argue with Jesus. They had not been listening at the teaching seminars for three days. They were superfluous now that Jesus had come. Presumably the people were not listening to them. They asked for a miracle. That was the limit of their interest. There was something spectacular to talk about. Jesus was clearly upset about their lack of real interest in what He was about. People are prepared to talk about a healing at Lourdes or some amazing event, but they have little interest in the teaching of Jesus. He was quite hard on the religious leaders. He was equally hard on the Disciples. They were not sensitive and did not understand what He was saying. What was He saying? (a) ”If I can feed 5,000 and 4,000 why do you not feed yourselves? Do you rely on the prayers of others? Why do you not ask the Lord Himself? Have you not grasped it yet, that God has committed Himself to meet your needs, as long as you are committed to bringing in the Kingdom of God?” (b) “You can remember the numbers and facts but lack understanding of the meaning behind the miracles. You may be able to quote a Scripture from memory but do you know what it means and are you obeying the teaching?” (c) The numbers are symbolic. 5 stands for grace. 12 stands for the Jewish people – the 12 tribes and salvation to the Jews. 4 stands for the World. 7 stands for the perfect number. The provision of the physical food was to teach the people that Jesus was their spiritual food. Jesus was the perfect spiritual food for the Jewish people. Some of these people had come from afar – probably from Gentile areas. This was symbolic of Jesus’ ministry reaching out to the Gentile World. He is the spiritual food for the whole World.
3. Each healing is different. Jesus chose to heal in two stages to act out a principle that the Disciples needed two stages of understanding. Jesus clearly chose to be alone and again asked the man not to tell others. Let them work it out for themselves. People like something spectacular. Personal faith is more important to God.
4. The theme of the book. “Who is this man?” Jesus Himself asked the question. “Who am I?” Jesus recognised that it was Satan who was using Peter to try to divert Him from His purpose. Satan will use human beings to divert believers from their purpose, playing on emotions and fear of what others will think. How could this normal human being be God? Perhaps He was a great man from the past come back to life again. Jesus talked about the forthcoming events in Jerusalem quite frankly. It was a matter of fact. He personally would arrange the facts. Jesus challenged the Disciples at Caesarea Philippi, where there were many shrines to false gods. “Am I like one of these?” You are the Christ. Mark asks: “Will you follow Jesus?”
5. A public challenge to those present and for all time. Jesus called the multitude to Himself. What really matters in this World? Money? Reputation? Personal credit? Only those who sacrifice their own personal interests to the interests of God, putting His interests first will ever know what it really means to live. Jesus knew that each person would stand before Him on judgement day to give an account of his life and no amount of possessions or achievements in his own strength would be of any value. Some things are important but how important are they really? The most important thing for a man is to do the will of God.
Everything Jesus did had a special significance. The transfiguration was not to show off but to teach the Disciples that God was the God of the living. Moses and Elijah were in existence at the same time as they were. There was no waiting period after death. Jesus bridged Heaven and Earth on the top of the mountain. A man is forbidden to speak to the dead but Jesus could do it. There is an illusion to Exodus chapter 24 v 15, when God met Moses on the top of the mountain. What took place is a manifestation of God – a theophany. Jesus was the one spoken of by Moses in Deut chapter 18 v 15. “Listen to Him.” The reference to dazzling white clothes is an illusion to Daniel chapter 7 v 9. Jesus is clothed in divine glory. The transfiguration is a special privilege for those close to Jesus.
v 6. He said this just to be talking. Peter blurted out something foolish, just to be saying something. There is a time for silence and a man needs not be afraid of silence. Perhaps Peter thought that this meant that the Kingdom had arrived. But without Christ’s suffering and death, the Kingdom of God could not fully come. This experience was a foretaste of Jesus’ true glory.
v 10. The Disciples could not understand about the raising from the dead. Believers today are so privileged. They were told not to speak of the event. Only in the light of the crucifixion and resurrection could the true person of Jesus be understood.
v 11. There was an expectation that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes. Elijah’s presence was endorsing Jesus as the Messiah. Mat chapter 11 v 14. Jesus explained that John the Baptist was one like Elijah. He had come to fulfil the prophecy. But the Messiah will come twice. Another like Elijah will come before the Messiah to prepare the way for His coming. Rev chapter 11 v 3 – 6.
v 14. Why could the Disciples not do what Jesus had done? Why can believers not do what Jesus did? There is an analogy between this story and the time when Moses came down off the mountain in Exodus chapter 32. He was also met by unbelief by the religious leaders and lack of discipline and spiritual awareness on the part of the Disciples. “O unbelieving generation.”
v 19. Humility is the key to discipleship. There is no room for selfish ambition.
v 23. The man had faith in Jesus – which is why he had brought the boy to Jesus. Jesus gives a lesson in deliverance. The story brings the reader down to Earth after the glorious heights of the transfiguration to a confrontation with evil and unbelief on the part of the followers of Jesus.
v 30. Jesus is teaching the Disciples about His suffering and death. Meantime the Disciples are ashamed to admit that they were discussing which of them was the greatest. It is one of the ways of the World that a man looks for position rather than integrity.
v 42 – 50 are solemn words.
Jesus deals with marriage, the place of children, the danger of wealth and greed, the lure of ambition and still finds time for a blind man, Bartimaeus, as He challenges those who are spiritually blind. Who is this man who has come to give His life a ransom for many?
Marriage, children and possessions. Marriage is the area of greatest responsibility for a disciple. If the marriage fails, the witness is destroyed. Marriage provides one of the most common areas of strife. In ancient Judaism divorce was a right only for husbands. Women were legally the property of the husband and had no power to end the marriage. Deut chapter 24 v 1 – 4 is mainly concerned with prohibiting a divorced person marrying a second time the woman to whom the man was once married and who has since been divorced by another man. This passage had been used by rabbis to sanction divorce. Jesus goes back beyond that fact to quote the primary purpose of God in relation to marriage – one man and one woman for life. It is the proper guideline for marriage. The two are equal partners. Jesus further stresses the rights of women in relation to marriage, when He says that a man, who divorces his wife for another woman, commits adultery against her. Jesus defines marriage as a relationship in which both husband and wife are responsible both to each other and to God for maintaining its sanctity. It is not Jewish customs which matter but what Jesus says. Herod and Herodius both shed their spouses to marry each other. John condemned it and lost his life. Jesus did the same. He repeatedly struck at sensitive areas of the lives of the people.
Jesus’ response to the children is another example of His positive attitude towards those who did not have important social status, such as tax gatherers and women. Children had no rights in Judaism. In this respect they were totally dependent upon the good pleasure of God. The person who imagines that he is somehow worthy of God’s favour and that participation in the Kingdom of God depends upon social or religious rank will never really enter the Kingdom of God. This emphasis is the background for the next episode in which a wealthy man aspires to be a disciple of Jesus but finds that the demand is too great. Riches make it more difficult to be a disciple and that the total sacrifice of a man’s goods and position in society may be demanded. The decision to decline the offer of Jesus shows how powerful the possession of riches is. If a person will not give up his possessions, how will he be prepared to face persecution? The interest of the ruler in the next World, however sincere, is not enough to enable him to give up what preoccupies him in this World. The only thing, which stood between the man and Jesus, was his possessions. Riches are not evil in themselves but they can be and usually are a hindrance to a man’s participation in the Kingdom of God. .
Not even obedience to the Old Testament laws and great social and economic standing will substitute for answering the call of Jesus. Following Him and joining His mission are to be put ahead of all other interests. Even a man’s relationships with others may have to be sacrificed.
Satan received a really big surprise, when Jesus finished His work on the cross and especially when He rose again. “He is not here. He is risen.” sounded throughout Hell. The Gospel is the power of God at work to bring salvation. Sceptics have no power, since they do not believe. Hosannah means – “Save now.” Bethphage means “house of unripe figs.” Bethany means “house of unripe figs and dates.” Demonic forces were at work in the area stopping salvation coming to the area. Will God find fruit on the tree of a man’s life when He comes again?
Believers are not in P. O. W. camps surrounded by the enemy, passing the time until Jesus comes. They are the ones on the outside. Satan is bound on the inside. The Church is to be known as a house of prayer. Religious spirits and murder go hand in hand. The religious spirits brought the leaders of the Church under their control. Jesus turned the tables on His opposition and asked them a question. This is a good tactic. It avoids casting pearls before swine. Mark devotes one third of his book to the last week of the life of Jesus. That is how important Mark thought it was.
v 7. Jesus chose to ride in on a donkey rather than a horse. The horse was the symbol of power and of war. The donkey was the symbol of humility and peace. As He entered Jerusalem Jesus knew that He had not come to judge but to save, so He deliberately chose a symbolic gesture to convey His message. Zechariah chapter 9 v 9. Genesis chapter 49 v 11. Even so the people proclaimed Jesus king.
v 10. They spoke of the Kingdom of David. Acts ch 1 v 6. The Disciples asked Jesus if He was going to restore the physical kingdom to Israel. They were restricted in their thinking to the physical realm.
v 11. Jesus took a good look around at the state of affairs. Believers should take a good long look at the state of the spiritual life of their town before making decisions. It is easy to be taken in by a religious pretence.
v 12. Jesus acted out a parable with the fig tree. The fig tree was the symbol of Israel – like the thistle is the symbol of Scotland. The nation would not bear fruit. Jesus’ disappointment with the fig tree indicated His disappointment with Israel. The cursing of the tree is not a rash action but a solemn prophetic word for the benefit of the Disciples. It was not the time for fruit, so Jesus was not looking for something to eat. The leaves were deceptive and indicated that the business of the Temple was deceptive – there was nothing worthwhile taking place there. Outwardly it was impressive, suggesting great devotion to God, but it was a hollow show. Lives can be deceptive – religious trappings but not really doing the will of God. Mark chapter 15 v 38 – the great curtain was torn in two. This had separated the inner sanctuary from the outer one. Jesus had become the new and only access to God the Father. Was it interest or commitment on the part of the people? The barren fig tree suggests that it is only interest.
v 15 – 17. Jesus was right to be angry. This was righteous anger. He was angry on behalf of His Father, whose Temple it was. If a man sees someone being abused, he is entitled to be angry. Often believers are too nice and gentle. There is a time to speak out the truth and if it hurts – too bad. This is the only time Jesus took violent action against anyone. The stalls were in the area confined to Gentiles and so would have prevented any Gentiles using the place for prayer. Jeremiah chapter7 v 11 predicted this use of the Temple. Use of the words “den of robbers” was to remind the priests of the accusation of Jeremiah. It was a solemn warning as to what God would do to His people. Mark was writing to Gentiles. The religious leaders were shutting the door on Gentiles by preventing them from praying.
v 18. Jesus had exposed the religious games, which were going on. The authority of Jesus was challenged by the religious leaders as they became increasingly uncomfortable by His presence. It was pretence but worse than that there was money to be made out of religion. Like charging tourists for going into St Paul’s Cathedral and selling postcards. People visit certain Churches to see the ancient building without any interest in the Lord. It is a holy relic – an antique. Jesus put the religious leaders on the spot. They wanted rid of Jesus but were afraid of riots, because the people admired Jesus. He was their champion. But they were weak.
The people were going up to Jerusalem for a religious festival, unaware of the presence of the one they should be worshipping. Many today go to a religious institution unaware of the person of Jesus. Moving from the duty of religion to the joy of a personal relationship. Jesus went right to the Temple, which was His to inspect.
v 20 – 25. The empty religious activity is contrasted with faith. With faith in God a man can move mountains of fear, sickness etc. Faith means receiving what a man believes will come to pass. Forgiveness is a prerequisite to faith.
v 26 – 33. Jesus gives the Disciples a lesson on how to deal with those trying to trip Him up. They are not sincere. Find out if the question is genuine or false. If false, it is a waste of time to answer it. Challenge them with a deep question, which puts them on the spot. If they are not sincere, they will go away.
This chapter highlights the opposition of the religious leaders to Jesus. The leaders had rejected John the Baptist, just as their predecessors had rejected the prophets. Prophets do not flatter like religious people do. The leaders tried to trap Jesus into an incriminating statement. People are often looking for any excuse to ridicule Christianity. Jesus alludes to Isaiah chapter 5 v 1 – 7, Psalm 118 v 22 – 23, Amos chapter 3 v 7 and Zecheriah chapter 1 v 6. God had entrusted the nation to the leaders, who had failed to look after them. Ezekiel chapter 34. God always demands a higher standard from leaders than from the ordinary people. The leaders make the people to sin. The crowd was inclined to support Jesus and this made it harder for the leaders to get rid of Jesus. Jesus was more than a servant. He was the Son of the owner. The purpose of the parable was always to leave the hearers caught by it. The leaders understood the message. There are several things, which religious leaders like to do.
1. They like wearing their religious clothing.
2. They like to be greeted – it gives them importance.
3. They like to have a place of religious recognition.
4. They like social acceptance in public.
5. They like to make lengthy prayers in public and be thought of as important.
v 8. This is a picture of Calvary. Man shakes his little fist at God and tells Him to keep out of this World. Jesus took them to Psalm 118 v 22. They should have known the Scriptures. Religious spirits want to kill and control. They also like to pass blame onto others.
v 12. Jesus provokes the final challenge by the religious and political leaders with His parable of the wicked tenants. They got the point. They knew that Jesus was pointing at them. They sent others to try to trip Jesus up with clever questions. It was a traditional practice for a wealthy landlord to let out his vineyard to tenants for a share of the profits.
v 14. It was a trick. They knew very well who He was. They tried to trick Jesus but He was ready for them.
v 15. Jesus saw through their hypocrisy. The Sadducees believed that there was no life after death. Jesus told them that they were wrong. He did not reason with them or put it tactfully. They were simply wrong.
Render to Caesar. The rich and tax gatherers benefited from a stable government. Those who were doing well financially took advantage of the Roman rulers. Others suffered at the hands of the Romans. The tax was paid with a coin, which showed Caesar on it in his role as divine. It undermined the blasphemous claim to divinity. The coin was considered to be the property of the emperor while it was in circulation. The Pharisees were resentful of the Roman occupation. The trick was to force Jesus to compromise. If He supported the tax, He could be accused of being a religious compromiser, supporting the blasphemous Roman state. If He challenged the tribute Jesus could be accused by the Herodians of sedition against the state – an offence punishable by death. By asking for a coin Jesus showed that He did not carry such a coin. The questioners had one. So they could not be too concerned about having one. The people who heard the reply were amazed. Jesus drew a distinction between loyalty to the state and loyalty to God. The state ruled with God’s permission as His agent but was answerable to Him. Therefore Jesus cannot be accused of sedition, because He gives legitimacy to the state. However, He placed God above the state and distinct from it, so that He could not be accused of blasphemy. The Pharisees were normally hostile to the Herodians but in their opposition to Jesus they were drawn together. Believers too have to reconcile his relationship with a pagan government and loyalty to God.
v 18. Next come the Sadducees and the teachers of the law. They were all opposed to Jesus for different reasons. They are not sincere, because they did not believe in resurrection or life after death. Jesus told them that they were wrong. He did not reason with them or put it tactfully. They were wrong. They were well-off and nominal in their religious beliefs. Theirs was not a genuine question. Deut chapter 25 v 5 – 10.
v 25. There will be some kind of physical body but there will be no renewal of Earthly relationships, such as marriage and family. They believed in oblivion. Jesus referred to Exodus chapter 3. God is the God of the living and not of oblivion. They did not know the Scriptures.
v 35. Jesus asked a question of His own. Jesus points out that the definition of Messiah as the Son of David was inadequate. David is not a fully adequate model for the Messiah. By referring to Psalm 110 v 1 Jesus is pointing out that the Messiah is greater and has a greater purpose – to bring in Gentiles to the Kingdom of God as well as Jews. David was only a type of Messiah but the Messiah’s role was far greater and was involved with the full sweep of God’s plan of salvation to the ends of the Earth. Even believers are inclined to see God’s purposes as centred on their situation. Jesus was making a declaration to the demons. They were under His feet.
By faith a man understands things, which he cannot see or prove. He can understand religious powers, which control people. God asks a man where is the fruit in his life? God sent a second and third servant. He gives every man several opportunities to sort out his life. God does not give up easily. Religious spirits hate prophets. The vineyard is Israel.
v 35. In His answer, Jesus was also making a declaration to demonic beings – “You are under my feet.”
v 41. Jesus only did what His Father did. God the Father watches what goes in the plate. It all counts.
The Disciples asked Jesus for the meaning to their question and He answered them privately. Each evangelist has shaped his account of the teaching of Jesus with the needs of his own readers in mind. What was said must have meant something to those first readers, or else it would not be included. A man must ask what the first readers thought of the information before he rushes off to interpret it for today. The dominant theme of the whole passage is a warning against being deceived by false claims about the end being near. False teachers were always a danger – it is one of Satan’s best weapons. Mark cared more about the welfare of his readers than to give them a chronology of the end times and to calculate God’s future plans for the World. It is the desecration of the Temple, which explains the harsh treatment. As in Jeremiah’s time, the people simply could not believe that God would allow it to take place. Jesus challenged the Disciples to be ready. Endurance over a long period is what really matters. Jesus encourages them to lead a sober and disciplined life necessary for the trying times ahead.
Opposition will come particularly from a man’s own family. Jewish believers found intense opposition from other Jews. The abomination, which causes desolation, is described as an unparalleled disaster. Jesus wants His followers to be prepared and not to be overcome by it. Floggings were to consist with 39 blows of a whip across the back. When the city of Jerusalem fell, Josephus narrated that there were so many crucifixions that the hills around Jerusalem were denuded of trees to provide the crosses.
v 5. Jesus answers two questions about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age with the same information as He fulfils the role of the Prophet. For the sake of the elect. God is ultimately in charge of history and will not permit its evils to exceed the bounds, which He has set. God will bring His story to its predetermined end. The words “that day” in verse 32 is a technical term for the future manifestation of God, rather than a particular period of 24 hours. The sun, moon and stars were viewed by many people in the ancient World as gods. They were words for deities, who controlled World affairs. Israel believed that when God acted, these powers or false gods would be shaken and fall. Those powers, which other nations believed controlled history, would be shown as helpless under God’s power. The overall thrust of the teaching of Jesus in answer to the questions of the Disciples is to persevere to the end through whatever situations confront them and to be alert and watchful of false teaching.
Mark contrasts the devotion of the woman with the treachery of Judas. The theme of the book is – “Who is this man, Jesus?” What kind of man instils such devotion and extravagant worship and adoration on the one hand and stirs up such hostility on the other hand? There are always those who adopt the social Gospel of looking after the poor in financial terms, although when Jesus talks about – blessed are the poor in Mat chapter 5 v 3, He is referring to the poor in spirit. There is nothing blessed about being poor. Poverty is a curse, often brought upon by laziness, disease, exploitation or ignorance or even theft. It was never God’s intention that a man should be poor in physical terms. Consider the riches of the land and the sea.
There is no need for poverty. Jesus has been proved to be quite right. There have always been poor people for the very reasons mentioned. There is another contrast between the perpetual opportunity to help the poor, which is a command to be generous to the poor. Deut chapter 15 v 11. In the final analysis, a man cannot take his riches with him into eternity. When a man stands before the judgement seat of Jesus, he will stand alone and without any possessions. Those who were complaining about how the money could be better spent were showing their true colours. They were materialists, making their value judgements on the basis of material possessions. There is nothing wrong with material possessions, as long as the spiritual dimension is uppermost in the thinking of a man.
There is another contrast in the story. The Disciples had been told quite plainly on several occasions about the death, which Jesus was to experience in the immediate time ahead. They seemed to have had a blank where that was concerned. Perhaps it was because they could not contemplate survival without the presence of Jesus in their midst. It is true that a man is inclined to hear only what he wants to hear and pushes out unwelcome news from his conscious level. On the other hand the woman is credited with performing her action in recognition of the coming death of Jesus. If the Disciples had not grasped the situation, the woman had. Jesus promised that her deed would be remembered wherever the Gospel was preached in the future – like right now, 2,000 years later. It is the deed, which is remembered and not her name. It is her act of faith, which mattered – not who she was. John says in chapter 12 v 3 that it was Mary, the sister of Martha. Mark did not consider that it was necessary to mention who it was. Principles are more important than people. John also confirmed that it was Judas, who was so upset about the expensive perfume. John chapter 12 v 6. Judas was in the habit of helping himself from the fellowship moneybox. He was a thief as well as a traitor. In the last analysis it is only faith, which pleases God. A man is challenged in the story not by who she was but by the undiluted devotion to Jesus at a time when He needed human support and encouragement. This would have been an encouraging incident for Jesus. At least someone has grasped what was about to happen and how important it would be for the World. Actually Mary should not have been present. It broke tradition and culture for a woman to be present at a formal dinner where men were eating, except to serve them. Jesus took positive steps to restore the role of women and children and provide for their needs in society. A few eyebrows would have been raised.
How expensive was the perfume? It was made from nard, an aromatic oil extracted from a root found in India. It would have been sealed in an alabaster flask to preserve it and the flask would have to be broken to use the perfume. It might well have been a family heirloom, something, which could have been sold if times were hard. It had a value of more than a year’s wages. This was a most generous act on her part and it is hardly surprising that it brought about such a response. Some called it a waste. It cost a fortune and could certainly have relieved poverty for some people. It was an act of great love and devotion. Jesus is more precious than silver and gold. For this woman it was true to say that. The Disciples were busy about their business but the woman gave Jesus her undivided attention and love. Judas, who was entrusted by Jesus with the money, saw the incident. He was the one to complain of the waste of the money. Despite seeing it – or perhaps as a result of seeing it – he hurried off to betray Jesus and provide the authorities with details of Jesus’ movements. Satan had entered into Judas. It would be easy to be kind to Judas and suggest that he was not personally responsible, because Satan was the one in control of Judas. But Satan can only possess a person, if that person is open to being possessed, either through carelessness, ignorance or hardness of heart. Satan needs fertile ground in which to operate. Peter warns against giving Satan a foothold in man’s life. Perhaps he wrote that out of the experience of seeing Satan get a foothold in the life of Judas. God holds a man personally responsible for everything he does. A man cannot blame Satan, when he is commanded to resist him and when he is given greater power than Satan has. Not only did the Disciples let Jesus down on many occasions but the life of Judas shows what is possible even for one very close to Jesus.
It is known from events after the meal that Jesus was betrayed by Judas and deserted by His closest followers. Usually Jesus ate the evening meal at Bethany but on Passover night Jewish men were required to eat the evening meal within the city of Jerusalem. Passover usually lasted until midnight. That meant that Jesus would have to be under the jurisdiction of the religious authorities late into the night. It appears that some secrecy was necessary and that Jesus had arranged the place secretly beforehand for privacy. It was usually women who carried water in jars upon their head. If a man were carrying the water in a jar, he would be easily spotted. The man was probably a follower who had obtained a lamb for the supper. The religious leaders were watching Jesus and looking for any opportunity to arrest Him.
They regarded Jesus as a heretic who should not be allowed to take part in the Passover festival. He had to eat the meal in peace to fulfil His mission of being the sacrificial Lamb and to train His Disciples. It was not yet the right time and Jesus was totally in control of the events of His trial and crucifixion. The last few hours were to be lonely as His followers would fail Him and the pressure of the crucifixion was imminent. The divine command to lay down His life as a ransom for many was to be accomplished without the assistance or encouragement of any – apart from the action of Mary, as she anointed the feet of Jesus. There are times when a man has to make a decision to obey Jesus and he can be very alone. Others may not share the vision or even support it. It is then that he is tested to the limit of endurance.
The procedures for the Passover meal required the eating of roasted lamb sacrificed in the Temple, bitter herbs, a fruit-paste dish, unleavened bread and red wine. The participants had to recline at the dinner table, demonstrating their freedom obtained at the exodus from Egypt. One – in this case Jesus – acted as host of the meal and led the ceremonies, which included set questions from other members of the group about why this meal was different from all others. The host replied and pointed to the items on the table, explaining their symbolic significance e.g. the bitter herbs symbolised the bitter bondage in Egypt. Because the meal was to be unhurried and involved much discussion, it lasted a long time but it had to be over by midnight.
Later when the meal was taking place, Jesus said that one of them was going to betray Him. A great sadness swept over them and they asked Jesus one by one; “Am I the one?” After 3 years of being with the Lord and receiving such wonderful teaching, there was little assurance. Where was the unshakeable faith of Daniel, who faced the den of lions, or David, who strode out to deal with Goliath, burning with zeal for the Lord? These verses challenge every reader: “Will I ever be guilty of betraying Jesus? Could I ever reach the stage, when I am no longer interested in worshipping Jesus, when I no longer have a hunger for the Word of God, when my friends and family are not aware that I am a follower of Jesus?”
The Passover meal itself was very symbolic and all the Disciples would have recognised that. So when Jesus took the bread and wine it was clearly a symbolic use of the elements. There was no question that the bread and wine were actually the body and blood of Jesus. The living Jesus stood before them. In the ancient World the eating of a meal together was a serious matter. To share a meal was to establish or perpetuate a relationship. Any meal had a sacred significance. It was considered irreverent to cut bread with a knife, since bread was a gift from God. The distribution by Jesus of the torn bread was signifying the tearing of His body and the taking of the bread was signifying the sharing by the person with the person and purpose of Jesus – to be broken for others. It was a very intimate participation in the mission of Jesus to be a sacrifice for others. In a semitic way the pouring out of blood spoke about a violent death. Gen chapter 4 v 10 – 11. The death is for others. Reference is made to the coming Kingdom of God.
v 25. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the hearts of men and women. If the followers are to live under the rule of God and be filled with His Holy Spirit, reigning with Christ in the Heavenly places, regular fellowship with Jesus and one another is essential. All covenants in the ancient World were sealed with the shedding of blood. Ex chapter 24 v 1 – 8. In order to bring in the Kingdom of God, Jesus knew that His death was necessary to deal with the sin of mankind. He would not drink wine again until that time came, opening the way for restoration of the relationship between man and God.
v 26. What hymn did they sing? Probably the second part of the Hallel Psalm 113 –118, especially 118 v 14. “The Lord is my strength and my song in the heat of the battle. He has given me victory.” That would have been significant and encouraging to Jesus.
All Peter’s brave talk, set against his cowardice later, shows that the life and mission of the Church after the resurrection rests upon Christ alone and not human leadership. It will be the acts of the risen Jesus. Again as Jesus goes to pray, the Disciples fail to sense how important the moment at hand really is. They fall asleep at a critical moment for the World. Does a man grasp the urgency of the days in which he lives? Is he too busy in the ways of the World? Today is the day of salvation. The Scriptures are full of urgency. The Devil suggests delaying until tomorrow. Jesus is totally in control of the events leading up to His arrest and crucifixion. Judas had a part to play but Jesus was in control. Jesus had made Himself available to the High Priest late at night in a location, which was not protected by a crowd. v 51 – 52. The young man who fled naked may well be Mark himself, who was an eyewitness to the events. Amos chapter 2 v 16. In a time of crisis even the bravest will run away naked. The people who came to arrest Jesus were probably from the Temple Police – armed with the permission of the Roman Governor.
v 62. Jesus makes no attempt to hide anything or escape their intentions to put Him to death. He answers clearly that He is the Son of God. Mark is also indicating to his readers how they should respond, if similarly challenged before the authorities. Mark is also contrasting the openness of Jesus with the cowardice of Peter in his denial. He uses this method of telling the story of the events to contrast the right and the wrong things to do. It is not a full or chronological account of the events of the night. Peter’s failure shows Jesus in a more favourable light. While Jesus stood firm before the highest authorities in Judaism, Peter floundered before a serving girl. Peter is the representative of the Disciples and falls to his lowest point. Peter probably approved of Mark including this episode in his book, despite the embarrassment to Peter as one of the leaders of the Church. The book is designed to tell who Jesus was and not to promote the reputation of the early Church leaders. It also stands as a warning to others, who might be under interrogation. The work of salvation was carried out by Jesus alone, unaided by any human instrument.
CHAPTER 15. The trial before Pilate, where Pilate is on trial before Jesus. Release of Barabbas. The crucifixion and death of Jesus followed by His burial.
CHAPTER 16. The resurrection of Jesus. The appearances of Jesus and His final commission to the Disciples. The Ascension.
(For comments on chapters 15 and 16 see Passover in Jerusalem under Crucifixion and Resurrection.)
Who wrote it? Luke gives the fullest life-story of Jesus. This book has been compiled carefully from reliable, first-hand witnesses. The overriding purpose of the writer was to find the truth and to present it to the World of his day. Luke selects stories and events from the life of Jesus in order to present Jesus as the ideal man. Jesus is described as every man should be. Luke had a particular interest as a doctor in what Jesus could do in relation to diseases and healing and helping the poor and needy and the social outcasts. Luke accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys and saw the consequences of the Gospel, which Jesus declared to the people of His day. He witnessed the spiritual powers in opposition to Jesus and His message. Archaeology has proved Luke to be an accurate historian. To whom was it written? The book was written for non-Jews to tell them the facts about Jesus.
It is centred on Jesus from His extraordinary birth to His death. Luke presents Jesus as a teacher, leader and healer. It follows His battle with religious leaders and spiritual powers, political authorities, His dealings with His natural family and His introduction of the Kingdom of God.
Luke sets the scene by describing the events before the birth of Jesus – both in the distant past and the immediate period before the birth. He cites Isaiah as authority for the coming Jesus and records the visit when the birth was announced. The baby was not to be called Moses, since the law had been given to Israel. He was not to be called Solomon, because God’s wisdom had been given to Israel through the Scriptures. He was to be called Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins. Mary was obedient to the Word of God. She believed it, although it was to be a costly sacrifice. Not only would her own family not believe her and suspect that she had had intercourse outside of marriage, but she was to witness her own Son die a dreadful death on the cross. Elijah inside his Mother’s womb recognised the Messiah. When testimony is given there is often anger when comfort zones are disturbed. God always chooses a person, or a Church or a people to serve His purposes. Here He chose Mary. Mary asked questions. “What does this mean? What is God asking me to do?” John means “Grace of God.” Mary was willing to serve regardless of the consequences. The word “blessed” points to the one who is doing the blessing and denies any glory going to Gad.
The exact details concerning the birth are recorded so as to verify the birth for all time. This was to counter stories circulating. It was important to Luke to get the facts straight. Luke consulted with Mary to get the facts accurately from her. v 19. Mary treasured all the events in her heart and often thought about them. What did it all mean? There was a burst of supernatural activity as there always is when God is at work. God breaks through the natural order created by Himself, as if He cannot contain Himself. A host of angels announced the birth to the most unlikely people. God often works in the least likely areas in life. Other people are involved in the birth and circumcision ceremony in order to verify the events. This was no spiritual baby but a real physical child. By the age of 12 Jesus knew who He was and He was already teaching the teachers of the Law. How did Jesus know who He was? Did Mary take Jesus aside and explain the unusual events concerning His birth, which led Jesus to understand that He was the Messiah foretold in the Scriptures? v 49. “Did you not realise that I must be about my Father’s business.” When a Jewish boy had his bar mitzvah – his coming of age ceremony – he became a partner in His father’s business. Jesus was pointing out to Joseph that he would be involved in His Father’s business. God was his real Father. Believers ought to be about their Father’s business. v 52. Jesus was loved by God and by men. It is important that believers have a good reputation with non-believers. It is a bad witness, if a believer is not respected by people in the World, especially if he is a leader of a Church. 1 Tim ch 3 v 7.
Jesus took the mark of the Jewish man on His body. When Jesus was crucified he body was naked. This was a final insult to the Jewish people. The Catholic Church and other religious people have shown the body on the cross, covered by a loincloth, thereby hiding the Jewishness of Jesus. Blood was shed at the time of circumcision. The parents put God first and obeyed the commands. They were poor people and could only afford two pigeons. What happened to the gold brought to Jesus by the wise men? Simeon alone knew that the Messiah was coming. How many are ready for the Second Coming of Jesus? The message from the angels made no impact on the priests. They must have seen the star also. Are Christian leaders aware of the times or are they concerned with their own agendas? Do they dismiss a word from the Lord given through another believer? At eight days old Jesus was already dividing people as to whether they were for Him or against Him. Young people and old people were together a part of God’s plan.
Before Jesus started His preaching, John the Baptist prepared the way for the people. Water baptism was to deal with the past, so that they were ready to hear what Jesus had to say.
v 22. At the start of His public ministry God the Father endorsed His Son as Messiah. Jesus started His ministry at the age of 30. Within Judaism the priest did not start his public work until he had reached the age of 30. Jesus was a priest, as well as a prophet and a king. This avoided a young and inexperienced leader making mistakes. Luke states the credentials of Jesus by listing His parental lineage. There were 4 rulers in Israel and 2 High priests. There was political and religious disarray. The stage was set for the prophet, priest and king to take center-stage. John preached and the Holy Spirit drew the people to listen. The Good news began with Hell and judgment. The nation was dead until God made a visitation. John told the people to be doers of the Words and not just hearers. There was no message of pacifism. The preaching got to Herod and John lost his life as a result, as did Jesus. Jesus was baptised. It was the right thing to do in order to identify Himself with John’s message. Adam was never a boy. He was created a man by God.
It may seem strange that at the outset Jesus is directed by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. While Jesus was without sin and morally perfect, God the Father had to be sure that His Son as a man could handle the pressures of the job and allowed Him to be tested in a wilderness situation, where Satan was allowed to tempt Him. By proving that He could cope with the pressures, Jesus proved that He was able to carry out the task, which lay ahead of Him. God will never ask a believer to do a work, which he cannot do. If the believer fails, God is robbed of glory. So there may well be a time of testing first to prepare the believer for the life’s work. Right at the start He challenged the powers of darkness and proved perfect in His suffering.
Jesus started His public ministry at Nazareth and proved that no prophet is accepted in his own country. v 24. At the outset Jesus made it clear who He was. There was no hinting or untruth. He spoke the truth, even though it would hurt those who heard it. Because of unbelief Jesus could not do His work there. v 28-30 At Nazareth spirits of anger in the members of the congregation rose up and tried to throw Jesus over a cliff. This was a carefully orchestrated attack by the demonic powers on the ministry of the Son of God. Demons make people they are living in believe that the thoughts and feelings of the demons belong to them. The reason why a person chooses to commit suicide is that he has believed the lie of the demon. As soon as He left the area and went to Capernaum, things began to happen. There are particular areas where the Devil has strongholds.
The first aspect of the work of Jesus was His teaching. It was the practice of rabbis to teach by quoting the authority of other rabbis. It is like a judge making a decision by referring to previous cases. But Jesus taught on His own authority. He said: “I say to you.” He seemed to have access to a higher authority. Those who were happy about His miracles never questioned that the miracles happened. Instead they asked by what authority He did these things. They recognised that Jesus was in touch with a higher authority.
The second aspect of His work was confrontation with the powers of darkness. 1 John ch 3 v 8. “The reason the Son of God came was to destroy the works of the Devil.”
The third aspect of His work was to heal the sick. Jesus came that men might have life and have it in all its fullness. Nothing detracts form the enjoyment of life than sickness or disease.
Jesus told the demon to be silent. He did not want a witness from Hell. Jesus did not touch Peter’s mother in law. People are clamoring to hear what others are saying but not what God is saying. Jesus healed in the synagogue, at home, in the place of work and in the city as He met people. Today men are afraid to touch people and many are crying out for physical touch. Jesus cut through culture and tradition. The religious people were there to put Jesus down. Jesus did not exclude anyone.
Jesus was in a battle when He was on his own. He was anointed by God yet not exhausted. The enemy picked his time. He comes with doubts – “if”. Jesus knew that spiritual needs were greater then physical needs. Satan attacks the mind. The mind is like the reception centre of a hotel. Only those who have booked can gain entry. Thoughts come to the mind all the time and the believer should only allow in those, which are wholesome. The ground was prepared for temptation to attack. Satan offers to share the powers he has. There is a temptation to soft peddle the message. Compromise results in falling out with both parties. Jesus was tempted to do something spectacular to attract the crowds. He was invited to entertain the crowds with supernatural activity. The Church is not a protection against attack. Jesus won the battle over temptation. The enemy attempts to divert a believer from following Jesus. The enemy looks for the achiles heel. The family of a believer needs to hear the Word or see the strength of the believer’s testimony. Rev ch 2. Jesus was able to speak from personal experience.
The Church was very weak in Jesus day. Only 7 % of the population were religious. A lump of coal taken out of the fire soon loses its heat. Jesus did not stop going to the synagogue on the basis that it was dead. He did not seek to by-pass the synagogue. A believer cannot stop going to worship because of other pressing matters.
“On this rock I shall build my Church.” Mat ch 16 v 18-19. Nothing has proved harder to understand. Wars have been fought over this saying. It has been used to support the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. It contains some phrases, which are difficult to understand. The gates of Hades. The keys of the Kingdom. Binding and loosing. It is preceded by the question: “Who do people say that I am?” Peter is the spokesman for the group when he answers that Jesus is the Messiah. What was it that Peter was commended for? Faith in Jesus. Isaiah ch 51 v 1. It was faith in God, which distinguished Abraham as the father of believers. Genesis ch 15 v 6. Once Abraham had believed, God could start to work out His plan. There is a resemblance between these words and those of Jesus to Peter. There were many who had different ideas of what was expected of the Messiah. Peter had sorted it out in his mind and was not disappointed in finding the Messiah’s role fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus could now say: “At last I can begin to build.” Peter was a particularly unstable character. He was not the one on whom to build an enterprise. All men are frail and liable to fall. Even Abraham fell on a number of occasions. So did David, who was described as a man after God’s heart. So it was not the person of Peter but faith in God, which was the key. Peter the confessor is the one chosen by God. The keys of the kingdom. The keys of the kingdom were entrusted to the chief steward, who carried them on his shoulder. Isaiah ch 22 v 15- 25. Eliakim was a type of Christ. He stood in contrast to the Worldly Shebna. His was the physical manifestation of the spiritual reality. Rev ch 3 v 7. Christ holds the keys. The words are used in everyday language. So and so holds the key. Without that person, nothing will happen. Peter was to be the chief steward of the new Church. Peter spoke at Pentecost and was the first to take the Gospel to Gentiles – Cornelius. What Peter did on Earth was ratified in Heaven. It was also inaugurated in Heaven. The Church today holds the key as to the future of the World. Without evangelism, no one will be saved. The Church is the body of Christ on Earth. Binding and loosing were expressions in Judaism to denote the promulgation of rulings either forbidding or authorising various kinds of activity. So power was exercised in the Church under the authority of the Holy Spirit and through the Disciples.
CHAPTER 5. Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in the hearts of men. He set about training men to run the business in His absence. Jesus showed characteristics of leadership. He encouraged men to realise their full potential. He brought out the capabilities and trained them for leadership. The genius of leadership is to bring the best out of everyone. “You have seen me do it, now you do it.” Jesus did not attempt to hold men back or keep them down. Instead He built them up to take over the family business. Jesus encouraged people to put their faith in God and not in themselves or in other human beings or institutions. He exposed the emptiness of religion and the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He did not exclude the religious men and yet He did not compromise with them. That is not an easy thing to do. In fact some of the religious leaders did become believers. Jesus stuck to a master of personnel training. He stuck to His principles without upsetting too many people.
CHAPTER 6. The Sabbath is for the benefit of man and not man for the benefit of the Sabbath.
Religion and its rituals force a man to conform to traditions. Jesus broke this particular yoke on the people. Jesus knew that every man, woman and child would stand before Him on Judgment Day and He went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that as many as possible would be able to be greeted by Him as a good and faithful servant. He alone knew the full extent of the consequences of ignoring Him. God can use dispirited people. Forget past failures. Testimony is important. Jesus had come from Heaven and was going back there. “There are many rooms in my Father’s mansions.” He knew what His Father was looking for in mankind. He urged them to be like that – mature and adult in their outlook on this World. He knew that all they could take with them was their integrity. He knew what was in their hearts. He had an amazing insight into the heart of man. He understood where they were at and what passions drove them. “Adam – where are you?” Jesus sought to reach them at their point of need.
CHAPTER 7. Jesus was a man of authority, establishing His position and setting priorities for people.
He recognised the soldier as such a man. Jesus did not need to be present with the child, to lay hands on him or even to see him in order to heal him.
v 12. How did Jesus know that God would raise the boy from the dead? The story of Elijah came to Him in His spirit and He knew that God has said what He would do. “I only do what I see my Father doing.” Jesus was filled with compassion and sympathy. 2 Kings ch 4 v 32. How could the people doubt Jesus after what He had done? They had seen His power. How can people doubt Jesus today? Look at the evidence. Jesus gave a gentle rebuke to John the Baptist. “Blessed is he who does not lose faith in me.” It was a gracious comment – perhaps with a smile or a twinkle in His eye. John said that he beheld Jesus full of grace and truth.
v 28. Believers are greater than John the Baptist.
v 35. The words of Jesus penetrated to the core. He saw through their words to their heart. Out of the mouth the heart speaks. Nothing pleased them – they were always looking for an excuse to justify themselves.
v 40. Jesus could see what they were thinking by their facial expressions and what He did not say about the woman. Graciously He told a story to make the point, but He did not condemn them outright. It left the door open for the prostitute. They saw no need of salvation and did not consider themselves sinners in the sight of God. The hard-hearted had an opportunity to generosity and grace and not physical appearance. The ideal man frees a man from religious observance. Jesus exposes worthless religion. Jesus was prepared to take on the bullies and people who lead others astray by exposing their empty religion.
Jesus made Himself available to all the parties who needed Him. It was most unusual for a Roman soldier to be concerned for a slave. They were cheap and of no concern to the Romans. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. The centurion had a crisis. Jesus did not reject the soldier or suggest that he should leave the army. It was a huge thing for a Roman soldier to say to a Jew that he was not worthy to enter the house of a Jew. He recognised the authority of Jesus. Authority comes from submitting to a higher authority. Jesus was submitted to God. There would have been an element of danger for Jesus to go to the house of a Roman soldier. It might have been a trick. What a man does with his problem is greater than what the problem can do to the man.
Imagine stopping a funeral procession and raising the dead person. The man who was dead and his mother had not approached Jesus. 1 Kings ch 17 v 19-22. Did these words come to Jesus’ spirit? Jesus did what no Rabbi would have done and touched the coffin. The procession of death and the prince of life met one another on that road and one of them had to yield.
John was imprisoned for his preaching. He called people to repent but was not part of the Jesus movement. He preached judgment and repentance. Being in prison can impact a true believer. It is perhaps understandable that John had heard of Jesus and His ministry of working miracles and wondered why He had not come to visit or help him. The enemy attacked with a word of doubt. “Is He really the Messiah?” A spirit of depression hovered over John. John and Jesus both did their work for God but they were not the same type of work. People have different ministries for the Lord. There were four people in the passage, all with different needs. Jesus met them all at their point of need.
John had his own ministry. Jesus endorsed John’s ministry. John spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit, who overshadowed him. He was not in the position of the Disciples of Jesus who have the Holy Spirit living within them. In that sense Jesus said that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John. The religious people criticised both John and Jesus. There is no way religious men can be pleased. They criticise all denominations. God can use people in each denomination. It is not clear why Jesus went to the house of the Pharisee – presumably by invitation. God the Father arranged it. The prostitute visited the house. The religious men did not seem to notice her needs. Simon was not comfortable with her presence. “How could Jesus allow a prostitute to do that to Him?” Jesus challenged Simon. Students could disagree with a teacher but disciples never disagreed with a master. Simon replied: “I suppose.” It was unthinkable but it might just happen. v 49 “Who does He think He is?” Her actions made the men think. She went over the top in worship. Jesus lifted her burdens and sent her forth with peace. In chapter 8 Luke makes the point that women were also disciples and used their own funds for the ministry. There is not the slightest suggestion of moral impurity or impropriety.
Jesus was a man of action, calming the storm, healing the sick and casting out demons. Jesus had a strategy or vision and made it happen. He enlisted some wealthy supporters to finance the project. All the wealth is His and there is no reason why He should not make use of it. There is no sin in being rich. This World is incredibly rich – by the grace of God. What matters is how a man gets the riches and what he does with them. Jesus taught in picture language so that even the children could understand. The parables were a mystery to those whose hearts were closed to the truth yet were a vivid portrayal of the truth to those whose spirit was enlightened. Jesus did not come to bring peace in the sense of peace between men. His very presence divided the loyalty of men and those who made a decision for Jesus were ostracised. Families were divided.
v 1-3. Mary Magdalene was delivered of seven demons. Where there has been sexual sin of any nature deliverance is an important part of the healing process. Sexual abuse brings with it a whole chain of problems. There is a need for sexual purity in the hearts of those men who minister to women. Jesus was probably one of the first men Mary had ever met whom she could trust 100 per cent.
v 22-25. An evil spirit whipped up a storm on the Lake and tried to drown Jesus and His Disciples in order to frustrate the purpose of God. Jesus proved that He is in control of the weather. Storms, drought, flood and hurricane are all within His control. The World was perfect when He created it and it was spoiled by sin. The implication is that by faith – like Elijah – His Disciples could also control the elements. First they have to recognize the presence of an evil spirit behind the attack. Jonah ch 2 v 12. “I am responsible for this storm.” God had sent the storm to bring Jonah back within His purpose. The enemy often chooses moments when believers are apparently off guard to launch his most dangerous attacks.
v 26. There is no indication that Jesus ever sought out demonic powers. He met them on His way and dealt with them accordingly. It may be that the Holy Spirit led Jesus to meet this man. Jesus was not afraid of the demons, however many there were. Jesus was not unaware of them. Jesus was not in any doubt as to what to do with them. He cast them out. It was the demons who confronted Jesus by crying out to Him. Jesus saw the potential in Legion and sought his good. He did not ask for faith on the part of Legion. He was so overpowered by the demons that he was not in a position to ask for help. Jesus used the situation to speak to the wider community and He posed a challenge to them. They got the point and asked Jesus to leave. The challenge was that the life of a man was worth far more than all the wealth of the pigs. Jesus was not distressed or impressed by the event. He was just doing His Father’s business.
v 44. Doctors are used by God as instruments of grace. However, when the doctors are defeated and do not know what to do it is often a case of demonic activity. Jesus had a power like a transformer. When the person touched Him, the power flowed out of Him. Jesus called for a public confession. He did not seek to embarrass her but it is right that He gets the honour and that there is no room for superstition or self help. Jesus also had power to raise the dead on specific occasions. All those who were raised eventually died in the natural order of things, since the wages of sin is death. The miracles were all designed to draw attention to the person of Jesus and to give God the glory. Jesus gave her something to eat, partly to prove that this was no ghost, partly to calm the person down after a traumatic event, and partly to meet a need, since she may have been very hungry. The physical body needs sustenance. Jesus showed her practical care.
CHAPTER 9. Jesus had a vision for the work not only to continue after He had returned to Heaven but also to expand to the ends of the Earth. He set about training His people. Yet Jesus had time to teach, minister to sick. No one is beyond His concern, even in the midst of the crowd. Jerusalem was always in His mind.
v 9. Jesus made such an impact that even the King wanted to see Him.
v 11. Jesus was never too busy for those in need. The crowds needed to be taught and He set about teaching them about the Kingdom of God. They also needed to be fed. Spiritual food is one thing but Jesus was mindful of the practicalities of feeding their bodies also. How did Jesus know that the people were there with so little food? Did He ask His Father in prayer and receive a word from God in the words of 2 Kings ch 4 v 42 – 44? I only do what I see my Father doing. Here was the ideal man, meeting the needs of the people in the power of the Spirit of God, relying on the Word of God. The Bible does not explain everything but encourages a man to use the wonderful mind, which God has given him.
Why were there 12 baskets of food left over? Jesus was acting out a parable for the Disciples, teaching them that He had brought spiritual food for the House of Israel and that there was ample spiritual food to feed everyone.
v 20. Jesus asked a lot of questions of people, designed to challenge them and put them on the spot, encouraging them to use their minds. Perhaps this is one of the great questions of all time. “Who do you say that Jesus is?” Peter replied for the group. Having answered the question, Jesus followed it up with a personal challenge to follow Him with all the implications, which that has for the individual. The challenge is hard because man is a fallen creature with a fondness for his comfort zones and self-interests. Change usually involves discomfort. With all seriousness Jesus urged the Disciples to follow Him, knowing that one day they will stand in judgment before Him.
v 27. As part of the training Jesus told the Disciples that they would see the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in the hearts of men. Then He took three of the closest Disciples with special experience. It was not to show off but to deepen their understanding of the things of God and the fact that one day they will live outside of time. Man is so bound by the existence of time, that it is difficult for him to understand eternity. It is almost as if the three were given a glimpse into Heaven. Moses and Elijah had stepped out of Heaven into time on Earth.
v 35. God was authenticating Jesus before the Disciples so that they would have an experience to carry with them for the rest of their lives.
v 37 – 40. There was little respite in the busy schedule of Jesus. Immediately He was confronted with a child possessed of a demon of epilepsy. How slow the Disciples were to learn what power was available to them. Are the modern day disciples any quicker to learn? It is possible that a particular sin had given a spirit of infirmity a right either to enter or to be activated if it had been lying dormant after being inherited through the generations.
v 42. Jesus challenged people by telling them that they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. Here He demonstrated the role of God.
v 48. It is one of the ways of the World to be more highly thought of by others, whether by physical strength or achievement, by appearance, by academic prowess or by possession of more material things or money. Jesus contrasts the Kingdom of God by saying that what matters is a man’s care for others. That is the measure of greatness. No greater love has any man than to lay down his life for another man.
v 49. Man likes to compartmentalise others into groups or denominations or types. With a shake of the head Jesus pointed out that the real test is whether the person is for Jesus or against Him.
v 51. Jesus knew from the earliest age that He had come to die in Jerusalem and He steadfastly set His will to fulfill that objective. He had an iron will. This is seen in the answers He gave to those who had what seemed important things to do before following Jesus, such as burying a parent. Jesus invites everyone to get their priorities right. He had His priorities right.
God came first in every decision. That is the ideal for every man. Seek first the Kingdom of God and God will meet the needs of that man. Many would like to be Christians but cannot stand the cost of sacrifice.
CHAPTER 10. Jesus had a blueprint for mission to reach the whole World. It was a clear strategy with no uncertainty. Jesus sought and seeks to give as many men as possible the opportunity to make peace with God. In v 20 He confirms the vision. For each man the vision should be to have his name entered in the Lamb’s book of Life. Heaven is the goal. Everything else must come second to that goal.
v 24. The Disciples were privileged to live at that time. Disciples today are even more privileged as they approach the end of time and have total access to Jesus.
v 30. It is a searching illustration in a parable to make the point without condemning the expert on the law. Jesus leaves the door open for a response. It is only by living in the spirit that a man can love his enemies. The Spirit level is a higher level than that of the mind or the soul. In the natural a man cannot do good to his enemies. He needs a greater power to do that. The best of intentions is not enough. Power is required. Jesus has made a deposit in a man’s bank account in Heaven but that man must draw on that deposit in the spirit to gain access to the power.
v 42. Jesus, without taking sides or criticizing Martha, posed a question. What is the most important thing in life? It is a man’s relationship with God and spending time with Him. The enemy tries to keep believers so busy that they do not have time for Jesus. Everything else, however relevant, has to take second place. Jesus did not condemn Martha but was both firm and gracious.
CHAPTER 11. How does a man speak to God who created the Universe? Only Jesus knew how to do that and He taught His Disciples how to pray. Jesus was uniquely qualified to teach them, since He knew His Father and was in the habit of speaking to Him.
v 14f. Teaching on demonic spiritual warfare. Again Jesus was uniquely qualified, since He had seen Satan thrown out of Heaven. Jesus addressed the crowd about Judgment Day. He had not come to judge but had come to save. However one day He will judge the population of the whole World.
v 39. Ritual and traditions hide truth. Purity is linked to generosity and grace and not physical appearance. The ideal man frees a man from religious observance. Jesus exposes worthless religion. Jesus was prepared to take on the bullies and people who lead others astray by exposing their empty religion.
Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
CHAPTER 12. Jesus focuses on what is really important in life. Acknowledging Him before men is vital to a man’s eternal destiny. All hypocrisy will be brought to light. Jesus warns that wealth chokes the spiritual life out of people. v 21. The love of money is one of the roots of evil. Jesus invites a man to settle the question of wealth and contentment and being responsible in life.
v 25. Jesus warns about anxiety. It is another Satanic killer. Anxiety is a sin. Satan loves to encourage a man to be anxious and unfaithful. God can do anything. Nothing is too hard for Him. Seek first the Kingdom of God and God will meet every need. Whatever is first in life, that is idolatry, if it is not God. A man should be ready – a man never knows the day when he will be called to account. This is good advice from the ideal man. A man may die tonight. Is he ready to face the Lord? Employees want to be commended to their employers for their work, if they have done it well. So it is for believers.
v 51. Honesty. Jesus speaks the truth, even though it is not comfortable. Families will be divided – and they are. Jesus cannot help that. Some see the truth and shut it out for various reasons, while others respond. The evidence is staring men in the face – but most refuse to accept it. Men will study everything and anything – but God.
v 58. This is great wisdom. Settle out of court. Both sides lose out in a court action – financially, emotionally and physically. Only lawyers gain. Anxiety plays havoc with nerves and body. The ideal man gives excellent advice.
CHAPTER 13. The call by Jesus to repent and His concern for the people who would not repent.
Jesus went to great lengths to encourage people to think about the consequences of their actions. He highlighted that people were dying in differing circumstances and posed the question “Why?”
v 15. The Sabbath. Religion distorts its true meaning. The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. What better day to get right with God and experience His healing? “Why?” What better day to for a man to benefit from time to be with God and to rest from his labour. The Kingdom of God was the principal message, which Jesus had come to teach. This is the rule of God in the hearts of men. In order to demonstrate that God ruled His heart, Jesus refused to be upset by the report that Herod was after Him. His task was to go to Jerusalem. That was what His Father had told Him. Nothing was going to prevent Jesus from going there to fulfill the task.
v 10-17. The woman had a spirit of infirmity. There are many medical conditions, which have a spirit of infirmity at their root.
CHAPTER 14. Jesus stands the World’s standards on their head. A man looks for recognition and honour. Jesus calls on a man to show humility. v 11. Those who humble themselves before God will be honoured. It is necessary to count the cost of being a disciple.
v 14. Jesus shows an understanding of human thinking. “If I do another a good turn, he will do one for me.” It is giving in order to receive. The motive is wrong.
v 24. There is an open invitation to receive eternal life. Those who refuse the invitation of God will find that it is withdrawn and given to others. Those who have no need of God lightly dismiss the invitation.
v 27. Jesus lays down the exacting standard of being a Disciple. It is daily sacrificing of personal desires to those of God and putting God’s interests first before personal interests. He invited people to count the cost before making a decision. It is sad when a person makes a declaration of obedience to Jesus and then deserts the Lord. As long as a man enjoys his comfort zones and is not prepared to give them up then he is not fit to follow Jesus.
CHAPTER 15. As the ideal man Jesus had a way with words, which He used to make important points without embarrassing those who heard Him. Yet they felt trapped by the point of the story and force them into a decision. Who cares for the lost? That was the purpose of a parable. Like a joke, the parable loses its impact on retelling. The parable of the prodigal son challenged the listeners as to their attitude to the lost.
CHAPTER 16. Honesty in business and the question of divorce.
Jesus told the story in verses 1 – 12 to impress that believers will lose their inheritance, if they are not found worthy of serving the Lord here on Earth in small matters. If they fail to do that, why should He put them in responsible positions in the government of the Universe when they enter Heaven? One of the ways of the World is to buy friendship by devious means. Birds of a feather flock together.
v 13. Possessions are a real test of loyalty. Satan has as his purpose to steal the affection of a man for God and to place anyone or anything on the throne of his heart in place of God. Material possessions are the favourite thing, which Satan uses. Material man puts his trust in what he can see rather than in God whom he cannot see. This is the real test of loyalty. It is easier. Money represents the power to acquire possessions. The Pharisees loved their reputation and status. Hypocrisy is an abomination to God.
v 17. A man likes to play games with God and plays around with words in order to justify his decision. Jesus spelled out that to marry someone, who had been divorced, was to commit adultery. A man can justify to himself the holding of wealth for genuinely good reasons in the future in order to avoid meeting the need to share with the poor. He makes his own moral rules to justify his actions. Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man to prove that every action will be put under the microscope in Heaven to test the motive and sincerity of it. The point of the story was that the rich man had said: “No” to the Word of God. A man sends himself to Hell by saying: “No” to Jesus as revealed in the Word of God as Saviour of the World. For a man to deny the need for a saviour is to justify himself in his own eyes and to declare that he is good enough for God.
CHAPTER 17. The wonderful thing about the words of Jesus is that they penetrate to the heart. They force a man to consider what he may think as trivial matters. It is a serious matter to be the source of temptation.
v 10. If a man does what he is commanded to do, he should not look for or expect praise. He is but a servant doing what he is told to do. As if to prove this point Luke tells of the incident when Jesus healed ten lepers and only one bothered to come back to thank Jesus. How did Jesus know to heal the lepers? Did the Word of God from 1 Kings ch 5 v 10 come to Him?
v 21. Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in the hearts of men. “It is within you.” This is like a theme running throughout the book.
v 26. When Jesus returns, the World will be as indifferent to the things of God as they were in the days of Noah, when social order continued but there was no credit given to God for His grace, which sustained the very social order. It will be as in the days of Lot. It will be “business as usual” right up to the very day of the end.
CHAPTER 18. The ideal man again takes His followers to the essential matters in life – money – trust in God – specific prayer – dealing with one, who is rejected by society.
v 8. Will He find faithful people when He returns? It is one thing to have faith for tomorrow but another thing to believe God for a promise for years ahead. Jesus encourages a man to keep his eyes on Him and to look for opportunities to serve Him.
v 16. Jesus informs a man that he should be like a child – not childish. Children are not full of guile, with hidden agendas, saying one thing and doing another. That is the quality His Father is looking for. Simple trust of God is what is called for in the lives of believers. As a man Jesus could speak from personal experience.
v 22. Jesus proved that He was able to cut through all the idle chatter and get to the heart of the matter in the life of a person. The love of money gripped the young man. No amount of discussion would advance matters. Having perceived that Jesus put the man on the spot and in the course of doing so brought the conversation to an end, saving both of them time spent in futility.
v 32. Jesus knew His Scriptures and therefore knew exactly what lay ahead. Believers should know what lies ahead in this World, if they are able to read the signs. The crucifixion was always in the mind of Jesus as He prepared for it.
v 41. Again Jesus makes it clear that believers should be specific in prayer. A vague request will bring forth a vague answer. He brought the blind man to the point of stating exactly what he wanted.
CHAPTER 19. Jesus perceived that Zacchaeus was serious. Normally a tax collector would not have been seen dead at a meeting held by Jesus. If a person is asking a serious question, it is important to bring him to the point of challenge before the moment passes.
v 9. Jesus looked for tangible evidence of a change of heart as against pretence. He saw it in Zacchaeus. The real challenge of the story in v 11 – 27 is that the man who hid his talents did not know Jesus personally. The test of eternal life is knowing Jesus. Paul spoke on knowing Jesus and His resurrection. Those who know Jesus trust Him. It is about relationships and not duty.
v 38. The extraordinary thing about the entry into Jerusalem is the speed with which the ordinary people changed from crying out: “Long live the King” to crying out “Crucify Him.” How fickle men are. How easily they forget and how easily they are influenced by peer pressure to conform to the ways of the World. It is a somber warning to all believers. Again Jesus knew their hearts.
v 44. He knew that they would reject Him and His offer of salvation. Jesus was able to achieve His declared objectives of teaching and healing confronting the enemy all at the same time. He never lost the vision for His life.
v 3. Jesus was confronted by religious demons. They challenged His authority. They lingered behind the religious men. When they tried to trap Jesus, He cleverly turned the tables on them by asking a difficult question before He would answer their question. This is the ideal way to handle an attempt to embarrass or trap a believer. If a question is not a genuine attempt to find the truth, then do not answer it. There is no point.
v 9 – 15. Jesus told a story to make a point against the religious leaders.
v 19. They got the point. It is an ideal way of making a point without accusing the listeners. The religious leaders did not have authority to prosecute Jesus, because they were under Roman rule. They had to rely on Jesus doing or saying something, which would cause the Roman authorities concern. So they tied to trap Jesus.
v 25. Jesus was not deceived in His answer but recognised the position of Caesar. Of course, Caesar held his position as a result of the grace of God. The Sadducees did not believe in life after death. Jesus did not fall for their trick but was able to speak the truth despite their question. He then seized the initiative and dealt with the issue of resurrection.
v 37. Jesus referred them to the Scriptures. Jesus took advantage of the cessation to ask them a question to declare His Messiah-ship. At the same time He exposed their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. Jesus did not shrink from declaring the truth when it was necessary to do so. It was then and is now essential to expose worthless religiosity. Religious leaders lead the people astray and it is necessary to help people see that what the religious leaders teach is not truth.
CHAPTER 21. Jesus the prophet speaks of His Second Coming and the need to be ready to receive Him.
The ideal man sees through the pretence in life and the concern for the immediate and material. While others may have been impressed by the giving of the rich, Jesus saw that the widow, although giving only a small sum, which would do little to help others in need, was giving all she had to the point of self-sacrifice. The others hardly missed what they had given. A man is impressed with figures rather than attitudes. Even the Disciples were impressed with the size of the Temple building. Many are today impressed by huge cathedrals, mighty bridges and tower blocks as monuments to the achievements of man – like the tower of Babel. Jesus pointed to something far more important than buildings and material possessions.
v 12. Jesus does not give words of comfort. If they hated Him, the World would hate His followers. There will be a time of persecution. It will be the ultimate test of their obedience to God. Integrity and commitment may be tested to the point of death. As the man of truth, Jesus had to tell His followers the truth, however unpleasant it was for them.
v 20 – 24 is the time in A. D. 70 when the Romans sacked Jerusalem with the loss of over one million lives. Jerusalem has been trodden down by the Gentiles until A. D. 1967 when Jerusalem came under Jewish rule for the first time since it was captured by Babylon in 586 B. C. This opened up a new phase of World history. The focus of God’s attention would turn again to Israel. This was Jesus the prophet speaking. He paints a terrifying picture of the circumstances in the World at the end of time, just before He returns. Whether the disaster be caused by war, flood, which v 25 implies, or financial crisis or disease, or perhaps a combination of these circumstances, it will be a time of tribulation such as the whole World has never known from the time of creation. If a sick person calls in the doctor, he wants to hear the truth, even if it is to find out that the illness is terminal. So Jesus as the ideal man has to tell the patient – mankind – that his condition is serious, calling for solemn decisions. Like any good teacher He wants His pupils to be ready when it happens. Watch out!
v 15. Jesus had looked forward to the moment, although He knew what lay ahead. Jesus gives a man a lead as to how to conduct himself in time of pressure. He was under the greatest pressure knowing what lay ahead, but still He planned the move meticulously. He knew that Satan could only operate as far as God allowed him. Jesus was living above the circumstances and not under them. He knew that in the days and months ahead this night would be etched in the memories of His Disciples and He wanted them to have a special significance from it. Jesus was in total control of the events leading to His death, yet still had time and compassion for His disciples.
v 25. After 3 years of teaching the Disciples had not yet mastered the fact that in the Kingdom of God greatness is measured by service to others. Many believers are still trying to come to terms with that teaching.
v 31-34. In His time of greatest need Jesus was concerned for Peter, even though Peter would deny Jesus. Jesus was seeking to turn the circumstances to His advantage. When things look black believers are encouraged to seek how to turn them to their advantage. They never have failures – only learning experiences.
v 48. Jesus chided Judas, even though He knew that Judas was going to do it. Indeed Jesus sent Judas off at the precise moment in time to carry out the purpose. Even though Jesus arranged His own death, it does not excuse Judas from his sin. A man is personally responsible for every sin he commits.
v 51. Jesus healed the ear of the servant. “You never so much touch the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.” Jesus demonstrated this at the very moment of His great distress. What control! What impact did this act of love and grace have on the servant? Satan was reigning supreme because God was allowing him to do so.
v 70. Jesus spoke the truth even under pressure and when the people did not believe it, when the people did not like it and when it was to His disadvantage. He claimed to be the truth and therefore He had to speak the truth at all times. That is the ideal, which God requires of His children.
CHAPTER 23. Throughout His trial Jesus posed more questions than He answered. The others were more on trial than Jesus was. Jesus refused to answer the questions of Herod, since he was not sincere. Herod was not really wanting answers to his questions. Jesus discerned that. Herod was only curious and not serious about Jesus. Many are in that category. Both Herod and Pilate recognised that Jesus was not guilty of anything deserving the death penalty. Pilate intended to release Jesus, although it was quite common for a prisoner to die from scourging. The strength of public opinion is very strong. Pilate bowed to it and sacrificed truth to it.
v 28. Even in great pain on the cross Jesus was concerned for the people.
v 43. Jesus even had time for the thief on the cross beside Him. Even in the act of dying Jesus changed the life of Joseph of Arimathea. The task was finished
As soon as Jesus had risen He had different priorities. Within a limited time He had specific objectives – to train the disciples and give them their commission to carry on the work of bringing in the Kingdom of God – God’s rule in the hearts of men. He chose to meet two Disciples on the road to Emmaus. By His conversation Jesus drew out of them what was in their hearts and what was on their minds. Sadly what was on their minds was not in their hearts. They had it wrong. Jesus had not come to deliver the Jews from the Roman authorities. That was what people warted but Jesus came not to meet wants but needs. Their need was of salvation before freedom. Their minds had heard that Jesus had risen but that information had not lodged in their hearts. They did not believe it or else they would have been rejoicing. Jesus came not to meet wants but needs.
v 25. Why do people believe some of the Scriptures but not all of them? They tend to believe what they like and disregard the difficult parts. One of the objectives of Jesus was to finish His teaching of the Disciples in light of the resurrection.
v 31. How did they suddenly recognise Jesus? If Jesus had been wearing a cloak with long sleeves, His wrists would have been covered, until He passed the bread to them. As He did that, the sleeves would have slipped further up His arms, revealing the scars on His wrists. That is one possible explanation. In v 38 He showed all the Disciples His hands (wrists). The nails would not secure the body on the cross if driven through the hands.
v 48. It is easy to be critical of the Disciples. After the event it is obvious but it was very hard for them to believe that a man would rise from the dead. To believe the words of Jesus: “You will do what I have done” is still extremely difficult even with the power of the Holy Spirit available.
Luke has presented Jesus as the ideal man in character, purpose, compassion, power and authority. He fulfilled everything, which His Father had asked Him to do. He has shown what is required of a man and how to go about carrying out his life’s work. There is no aspect of Jesus’ life, which falls short of God’s ideal for mankind.
THE BOOK OF ACTS.
1. It is the follow up book by Luke. Book one was the life of Jesus and Book two is the acts of the risen Jesus or the acts of the Holy Spirit.
2. There is reference to the former and the latter days. “Latter” refers to all the days after Jesus’ resurrection.
3. Jesus made no other arrangement for His Church than the Disciples. It was up to them. The book tells of the beginning of the Church, persecution and scattering, mission to the Gentiles and Paul’s arrest and journey to Rome.
4. It is all about people taking God’s message into the World and changing the lives of the people. The Kingdom of God is spread by the changed lives – God ruling in the heart of man.
5. The moral condition of the World in Roman times was deplorable.
6. The Holy Spirit always works in conjunction with the Word.
7. The Disciples did not expect people to follow someone if they did not know who He was, what He had done and what He could do. Therefore they preached Jesus.
8. Acts is an apologetic book giving the true account of the facts of Christianity in order to counter the many lies, which were being spread by its enemies. e. g. disciples guilty of incest and cannibalism.
9. The followers knew the truth of saying: “Live Him – they will love Him. Debate Him – they will hate Him.”
10. Believers were so often blamed for the ills of the day. Luke is at pains to show that the believers were not a threat to the political order of the day i.e. the Roman Empire. Every time a Disciple was accused before the authorities he was absolved.
11. A strange feature of the book is the lack of an ending. The best reason is that this is a continuing story of the acts of the followers of Jesus. Each man carries on the story and writes his own chapter.
12. The main feature of the book is how a loving God cares for the lost and how His chosen people set out to spread the Good News that a Saviour has come into the World to deal with sin.
1. Stephen’s speech in defence. This is true to Old Testament teaching. Jesus was the Messiah spoken about by Moses.
2. Paul’s defence on two occasions (a) before the Jews in Jerusalem and (b) before King Agrippa and Festus in ch 26. Felix, Festus and Agrippa all agreed that Paul had not committed an offence.
3. Paul and Silus at Philippi. Ch 16. They were seized by the magistrates for creating trouble after speaking to the slave girl with a spirit of divination, but released with an apology. No offence had been committed.
4. Thessalonica. Ch 17. Religious leaders attacked Jason’s house but Jason was released by the authorities.
5. Beroea. Ch 17. Flying pickets were sent from Thessalonica to stir up the crowds. There was no trouble caused by Paul.
6. Corinth. Ch 18. Jews brought Paul before the proconsul of Achaia, Gallio. He refused to hear any charge and said that it was nothing to do with him.
7. Ephesus. Ch 19. Demetrius the silversmith stirred up the workmen with fears of loss of business but the Town Clerk intervened on Paul’s behalf. There were no proceedings to answer. Paul was dismissed.
8. There was no attempt to stop Paul as he did missionary work in Rome.
9. Gamaliel said that if it were not God it would fizzle out. Ch 5.
10. Instead look at the facts of changed lives and healing.
11. Paul spoke at the Areopagus in Athens in the centre of all beliefs and some were converted.
12. Every time there were charges or complaints brought against the believers they were cleared of all charges of sedition or insurrection.
ASPECTS OF MISSION.
1. Obedience of man.
2. Spreading outwards from Judea.
3. Cities first – then the heaths. (heathen.)
4. Different people were converted and in different places.
5. Jews first and then the Gentiles.
6. Churches were appointed and then elders were appointed.
7. Witnessing is man’s business.
8. Healing work continued, as did preaching.
9. The persecution of Jesus is repeated.
10. The believers were guided by the Holy Spirit.
11. Theology was born in practical situations.
12. Team-work was involved.
13. A time of furlough or rest was essential.
14. There was an inclusion of testimonies.
15. The Holy Spirit is the primary witness to the truth.
16. There was no single Church structure or government.
JESUS appears as:
1. The commander and instructor of His people.
2. The great hope of the Church.
3. The guide of the Church in perplexity.
4. The giver of the Holy Spirit.
5. The centre of all sermons.
6. The one who added to the Church.
7. The only hope of a perishing World.
8. The active partner in the service of the Church.
9. The personal agent in the conversion of Saul.
10. The encourager of His much tried ones.
1. Where, when, why and by whom was the book written?
It was written by Luke and could be called Luke Two. He was the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. He explains right at the beginning that the first book was all about the life and teachings of Jesus. The second book clearly follows on from the first and narrates the events, which followed the ascension of Jesus. It covers a period of 30 years from the birth of the Church to the time of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. It could be called the Acts of the Risen Jesus or the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The two books are the Acts of the life of Jesus in the flesh followed by the Acts of Jesus in the Spirit. It was under the direction of the Holy Spirit that the Church became an international movement. Luke’s writings prove him to be a reliable and accurate historian. He obtained his material from Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James – the Lord’s brother – and other Church leaders. He was present at many of the events recorded in the book. It was almost certainly written about A. D. 63. This was prior to Nero’s persecution and before Paul’s death in A. D. 67. It ends on an optimistic note, which would have been impossible if Paul had died and serious persecution had started.
Where was it written? It was probably written in Rome while in the company of Paul. Perhaps Luke compiled it on the long journey to Rome with Paul as the two talked over the events of the last thirty years.
Why was it written? It was written to give an accurate account of events over the last 30 years. There were many untruths circulating and stories of incest and cannibalism. It has a strong apologetic theme. There had been many attempts to blame the Christians for the troubles of the day. Each time accusations had been brought the Christians had been acquitted, Luke sought to put the record straight. He also set out to show that the Christian faith was the fulfilment of the Jewish religion. It may have been for the benefit of those who would consider Paul’s case in Rome. Also he defended the Christian faith against Pagan religions.
2. An apology is a defence of the Christian position. It seeks to correct false statements and untruth.
3. Luke had a tremendous opportunity to obtain facts direct from the people who had experienced the
situation first hand.
4. There is an immediate link with the first book in verse 2. There is an account of events in their
historical and geographical settings. The book provides helpful historical information for the epistles.
5. The ascension. A cloud hid Jesus from their eyes. In Exodus the cloud symbolised the presence of God. It is as if God took Jesus back to be with Him. It was clearly a final departure, different from the previous departures, as Jesus had come and gone. Luke ch 9 v 34-6. Ex ch 40 v 34.
6. The first gathering of believers included Mary and the brothers of Jesus. This is the last time Mary is mentioned in the Bible and the first time His brothers are associated with the Disciples. James had seen Jesus alive after the Resurrection. 1 Cor ch 15 v 7. For the first fifteen years the Church was entirely Jewish. It was only after Paul’s commission to preach to the Gentiles that Gentiles joined the Church.
7. v 12. The Sabbath journey. The Law allowed travel on the Sabbath to 2000 cubits – 2 thirds of a
mile. The 12th Apostle was chosen. This is important. Why? The credentials are given. He had to have been with Jesus while alive and have seen Him after He had risen. He must have been an eyewitness. They knew from Scripture that a twelfth disciple had to be chosen. Twelve is the number for government.
8. The State of Israel is very much on the minds of the Disciples. Jesus did not say that it would not
happen but rather that this was not to be their priority. Their priority was to be preaching about the Kingdom of God. Jesus implied that it would happen some time in the future. His Father had the date in His diary.
9. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was essential to enable the Disciples to continue the work of
spreading the news about the Kingdom of God. The Disciples were unique, having been with Jesus
for three years but they had still to receive the Spirit.
10. He will come back. How? In what way? Personally and physically. In the same place? Out of the clouds of glory indicating the presence of God.
11. Why did Jesus choose Judas? Did He make a mistake?
12. It starts in Jerusalem, spreads and finishes up in Rome. There are three parts: Jerusalem – Judea and Samaria – the uttermost parts.
13. Forty Days. This is a time of testing for the Disciples, just as Jesus was forty days in the wilderness. In scripture “forty” is the number for judgement and testing. The Church celebrates Ascension Day.
(a) They held everything in common. Is this the basis for Church life or was it a one off?
(b) Growth seems to be dependent on their style of life. It appears to be a prerequisite.
(c) The sermon was simple and not a sophisticated address. It was centred on the resurrection.
(d) “You will do what I have done and greater things still.” John ch 14 v 12.
(e) Jesus knew from the Old Testament that the prophecies about resurrection were speaking about Him and that God would raise Him from the dead.
(f) Peter proves his case from Scripture.
(g) v 42 is the basis for life as a believer. Teaching – prayer – fellowship – breaking of bread or meals.
1. The Disciples were still attending the Temple. In Judaism prayers were said three times a day.
2. The man looked only for money to meet his immediate need. There was no thought of a supernatural event. God operates in the realm of the expectations. If a man expects nothing, that is what the man will get.
3. Healing happened in the name of Jesus. In verse 16 it says he had perfect health. There are no half measures with God. Why should it not be so today? Peter and John had no money. The Church is too preoccupied with wealth. A man can only give away what he has himself. They had the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus to give away.
4. The people were filled with wonder. Is that the response today?
5. Peter grasped the opportunity and was not lost for a word about God. Again it was not an eloquent sermon. He identified the people with those who had been crying: “Crucify Him”. God had masterminded the whole situation and the consequences. One miracle affected many people.
6. They may have been ignorant then but they surely knew now that Jesus was the suffering servant spoken of by Isaiah in chs 42 – 52. Again Peter quotes Scripture – Deut ch 18 v 15. Those who deny Christ face destruction.
7. God allowed Peter and John to be arrested to witness to the people. There was a clear alternative – freedom for the lame or suppression of those who did good. There was jealousy on the part of the leaders. The Disciples had power, which the leaders did not have. The leaders had a choice. The Sadducees were opposed to resurrection yet did not debate the matter of the resurrection of Jesus with the Disciples.
8. The apologetic aspect. They were proved to be not guilty.
9. Despite the crucifixion, the problem of Jesus just would not go away. It is still the same today. The evidence was staring them in the face. A man had been healed and the Disciples were changed men.
10. “Ask and you will receive.” Solomon asked for wisdom. The Disciples asked for the Holy Spirit and received Him.
11. Again there is a reference to sharing all things. There was no pressure brought to bear on the people. It had to come from the heart to be of value. Religious observance counts for nothing in God’s eyes. The Church met the needs of the people. It was not communism but a question of meeting the needs of the people. The sermons were powerful. The fellowship was warm. There was no poverty. This would be a powerful witness to the non-believers in difficult times.
12. There is no other name by which a man may be saved. Chapter 4 v 12. This answers all who suggest that it is narrow to think that only through Jesus can a man reach God.
13. Peter and John had a choice also – to obey God or man. In this instance it was no choice really. They had to obey the command of Jesus to preach the Gospel.
14. Details of the man who had been healed are given in chapter 4 v 22, well after the initial episode. There is a need to search the Scriptures for truth and not take the story in isolation.
15. When released they went to tell their testimony to the Church. There is a need for testimony in order to bind the believers together and give them a cutting edge to their prayers. Believers overcome the Devil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Rev ch 12 v 11.
16. Predestination. Chapter 4 v 28. God allowed it all to happen for a purpose.
17. Sharing is basic. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen ch 4 v 9. If a man is in need and sees someone with plenty, he knows what he wants others to do. So the man with plenty knows what he should do. It is simple.
CHAPTER 4. The Arrest of Peter and John. Ch 4 v 1-31.
They are arrested because of the healing and the explanation. The Jewish officials were not happy. The Sadducees were conservative in their theology. They were opposed to resurrection, angels and spirits. They were opposed to the early Church because of the preaching about the resurrection. The Romans allowed religious meetings. They preferred meetings like that rather than nationalism. It is the same today. People will listen to any old ideas but they are united in their opposition to the preaching about the risen Jesus. The very name threatens them. Men can teach yoga or reincarnation and there will be no problem, but Jesus offends them. Oh for a public debate by men like Peter and John, filled with the Holy Spirit! The Sanhedrin included Elders, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Rulers (chief priests.) The first thing to note is the speed at which the enemy of the Gospel moved. The two men were still speaking, when the opposition arrived. The healing of a man lame from birth is ignored. Was jealousy at the root of the problem? The religious men had no power or delegated authority, despite all their theological training. This was the same question, which all kinds of people asked Jesus concerning His miracles. “By what authority do you do these things?” They never questioned that the miracle had happened. It is only now 2,000 years later that people cast doubt on the miracles of Jesus. Those who saw them did not doubt the evidence of their own eyes. The miracle was not their own doing, but done in the name of and with the authority of Jesus. Even the members of the Council did not doubt the miracle. v 16. Peter and John were uneducated and untrained. They did not wear ecclesiastical clothing. Peter and John did not use smooth religious pieties to comfort the people. The Sadducees were collaborators with the Roman authorities and were sensitive to anything likely to disturb their comfortable status and life style. That can often be the case for a Christian, who is challenged by the Word of God. He may quickly realise that some cherished activity, which did not seem wrong to him, is regarded by God as sinful and it has to go. A decision is forced on him and he would certainly prefer that it were not made a public decision. A gracious God usually affords a man time to settle the matter in private, thereby preventing it becoming a public scandal.
Usually one warning was given and then there would be a sentence for a second offence. v 18. The Disciples also would have to suffer – as Jesus did. John ch 15 v 18. Behind the people, who are against God’s people, are principalities and powers – the forces of darkness, which stir these people up to their hostility, using as the fertile ground their pride and jealousy. They should have been thrilled that a lame man was healed. They were not.
The second thing to note is that those, who were normally divided amongst themselves, were united in opposition to the Disciples and their teaching. There was a full enquiry. Again Peter grasped the opportunity and spoke about Jesus. His defence was based on facts. The lame man was healed only by the power of the name of Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead. The key was again the resurrection of Jesus. Peter pointed out to them that they had had their opportunity when Jesus was amongst them. They had rejected His teaching, despite the warning in Deut ch 18 v 15 – 19. That hurt! “You blew it! Do not blame us. It is all your own fault that we have the power and authority and you do not have it.” Psalm 118 v 22. Isaiah ch 28 v 16.
The members of the Council were, like Pilate, more on trial that Peter and John. The people were appreciative of the healing. The religious men tried to shut them up. Peter turned the tables on them and said that they must obey God first. That meant that the Council members were in collision with God. “You decide whether God wants us to obey you instead of Him!” That really put them on the spot. Peter and John had seen that the World plots against God and His Messiah. Psalm 2. It is still the same today.
v 30. This had not been the best of days. A night in a Roman jail would not have been too comfortable. But there is no suggestion that it should be an end of the matter. “Do it again, Lord.” They knew that God had spoken through His Word and they had had faith to believe and heal.
They were asking God to speak again to them, so that they could believe Him for healing, regardless of the consequences. Persecution had brought the believers together. Persecution is always good for the Church. It is sad that the same unity is not always found when there is no persecution. When the house shook they spoke with boldness. The wonder was not that the building shook, but that they were all of the same mind. One angel could have shaken the house. If only the believers today would stop their divisions and doctrinal posturing and be of one mind. If the believers would be united against the enemy instead of themselves, there might be a big difference.
Having received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they received Him again for their mission. They were baptised at Pentecost and then filled. Believers need to be filled up daily, but there is only one baptism as there is only one Spirit and one Lord. 1 Cor ch 12 v 13. There is no reference in Scripture to a second baptism. Nowhere does Paul call for Christians to seek a second baptism. But there is a constant need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There may be a very distinctive experience at some stage in the life of a believer, which appears like a second baptism. Perhaps some deep-seated sin has been dealt with or some weight or family tie or curse has been broken, setting the believer free and allowing the Holy Spirit to flood into the life of the believer.
Barnabas. Ch 4 v 32-37.
The gift of the Holy Spirit produced a sense of fellowship. The bond of the Spirit distinguishes Christians. He brings about the sharing of goods in common, witnessing, preaching and blessing. Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus. There were more Jews outside Judea than within it. The believers were all of one mind. This was before the denominations reared their ugly heads. It has been a great work of the enemy to bring about different denominations with different emphasis on teaching of the Truth. It is Satan’s principal line of attack on the Church. He brings about false teaching and causes division in the body. No wonder Paul spoke about doctrines of demons in 1 Tim ch 4 v 1. He knew what was happening. After 2,000 years believers ought to have sorted out the truth and be aware of false doctrines. Joseph was renamed Barnabas which means son of encouragement. It is a command in Scripture to encourage one another. There was no obligation to contribute to the common fund. God wants His children to help others out of love and not duty. Moving from the duty of religion to the joy of a personal relationship. Nor was there an equal distribution like under Communism, where everyone was to be equal. It was a case of giving to those with the greatest needs.
1. Lying to God. v 1-11. Annanias and Sapphira. It resembles the story of Adam and Eve. They were in it together and neither tried to prevent the other from doing the act. The real problem was not that they deceived the Disciples but that they lied to God or rather to the Holy Spirit. What actually caused their death? Fear. When Adam sinned he heard God coming and hid because he was afraid. Fear gripped him. When believers speak to others about God, often fear is on the faces of the people. There was no compulsion on the part of the Disciples to put the money in. It was purely voluntary. Self-deception crept in to their thinking. They tried to make out that they were better than they were. The lesson to all was that sin is serious and that a man cannot play around with God. Peter knew that Sapphira would react in the same way and said that she would die. The combined shock of hearing that her husband was dead plus the fear of God was too much for her. Fear in the mind releases toxins from the brain. These toxins attack the body, including the heart, and can cause a heart attack. Jesus warned a man to fear God. Does he? Are believers just a little pleased with themselves that they do not need to fear God? Since the Holy Spirit is a part of the Godhead it is equally serious to offend Him. It is a denial of the truth to acknowledge God and Jesus and not the Holy Spirit.
2. God’s work continues. v 12-15.
They met in Solomon’s Portico. Now there is a mosque at this place. The work of God continued. Signs and wonders occur when God is at work. The Disciples were well thought of by the non-believers. They were all healed. There is mention of evil spirits in people. This is not even recognised in many places within the Church. Mental hospitals and prisons must contain some of those who are affected by evil spirits. Peter’s shadow indicates a degree of superstition. The people were aware of the Disciples but afraid of them. The Church often tolerates superstition – the Gospel plus superstition. Mohammed allowed it, as does the Catholic Church. It smacks of compromise. Men speak of magic rather than the power of God. It gives the glory to the evil one and not to God. There is a mixed response when God is at work.
3. Emotional Problems. v 17-32.
Persecution. It appears and the Apostles were put in prison. An angel appeared. It was not The Angel of the Lord. It was clearly a miracle that they escaped. The facts bore this out. There was no doubt that something had happened beyond the normal. The Trinity is in verses 30 and 31. Jealousy is at the heart of the problem. v 17. Also guilt. v 28. There are emotional problems all over the place. A man cannot break the Word of God and get away with it. The Holy Spirit tugs at his emotions. The Disciples were immediately obedient to the command of the angel. They had no concern for the consequences, which they could have foreseen. As soon as a man says “no” to God the opportunities dry up. He ties God’s hands. Tradition is a way of driving out the Holy Spirit. The truth hurt the leaders and anger rose up within them, causing them to want to kill the Disciples.
4. Advice from an old man. v 33-42.
Gamaliel who was a Pharisee (perhaps a secret believer) gave good advice. Paul was one of his pupils. He gave a reasoned and logical argument. If it is of man, it will die but if it is of God, it will grow and cannot be defeated. Even so they had the Disciples whipped with at most 39 lashes. The Disciples remembered the words of Jesus when He said that they would be blessed for being persecuted for His name’s sake.
1. Right away there are problems. There was a dispute between the Greek-speaking Jewish believers and the native Jewish believers. The former adopted Greek customs and the latter adopted local customs. The Greek mind needs an explanation for everything. The Jewish mind can accept and retain what seems like contradiction without needing an explanation. Tension between groups of different backgrounds is inevitable. The workload was getting too much for the 12 Apostles and they needed to delegate the work. The preaching is essential to the spread of the Gospel. There were certain qualities for deacons.
(a) Men. (b) Good reputation. (c) Filled with the Spirit and wisdom.
This raises the question of women deacons and if it is in order to appoint anyone who is willing to serve.
The number grew and it seems that God endorsed their decision. The passage is reinforced by 1 Tim ch 3 v 8. It lists additional qualities:
(a) Serious and not double-tongued.
(b) Not addicted to much wine and not greedy for gain.
(c) Hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
(d) Tested to see if they are blameless.
(e) Husband to only one wife. (Today there is serial polygamy – one wife after another.)
(f) Their wife must be faithful and temperate and not a slanderer or gossip.
(g) Able to manage their own household.
Romans ch 16 v 1 is the only possible deaconess mentioned in the New Testament. The laying-on of hands was symbolic of approval by the Apostles and fellowship with them.
Stephen qualified as an Apostle. Others were jealous of him. They plotted secretly against him and the steps, which they took, were just like those taken against Jesus. False witnesses. It is easy to misquote and misrepresent what others say by taking their words out of context. Stephen gives a reasoned reply and is quite calm and relaxed. But he is also thoroughly prepared and confident about what he is saying. This is one instance of an apology. The first opposition will come from the religious people. They are most in danger of being exposed as hypocrites. The economy of Jerusalem was based on the Temple. Any lessening of the allegiance to the Temple would put some out of a job. Many Jewish priests were joining their numbers. This caused problems both for the ordinary members who might be suspicious and a little jealous of them and for the religious leaders who would feel betrayed.
Often it just takes one significant event to knock the barriers down and let loose the flood of protest or persecution. The stoning of Stephen seems to have let out the wave of persecution and acted like a signal. The fences were down e.g. the Abortion Act encourages abortions. The men who buried Stephen may have been believers or just devout Jews who were concerned about him.
Was Simon converted when he was baptised? Later he acted as if he was not saved. Mat ch 28 v 19 seems to be the key. It is to be baptism in the Father, Son AND the Holy Spirit. v 20 seems to suggest that he had not been converted. The story lends credibility to a second experience but this was, like the Disciples, a unique experience. The Samaritans were a halfway house towards taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Simon had believed and been baptised but not converted. The indication is that he had not exercised faith. The presence of the Apostles authenticated the joining of the Jews and Samaritans. The Ethiopian Eunuch had been to worship God but did not understand the Scriptures. It seems to be a speedy conversion and there was little time to see if there had been a lasting or true conversion before the baptism took place.
The work of the Holy Spirit includes:
(a) Directing God’s servants where, when and what to do or preach.
(b) Choosing and commissioning workers.
(c) Teaching the Church the truth.
(d) Testifying to the Son and magnifying His glory.
(e) Reproving sinners and convicting them of their guilt.
(f) Communicating the truths of Scripture to men.
The Holy Spirit may be resisted, quenched or grieved.
1. When Paul was converted God used others to take part in the events of his life – Ananias. God involves others in the life of a believer as instruments of His grace to him. God planned it all out beforehand.
2. Paul knew a great deal and the only piece missing was Jesus. He was like a light bulb, which was illuminated when connected to the electrical power. He was an exceptional man and should not be held up as an example to all. Few are able to speak for the Lord as quickly as he did. Even so Paul took fourteen years to sort it all out in his mind.
3. Paul was without sight for 3 days – as Jesus was 3 days in the tomb. By the third day he was Brother Paul. At what point the conversion took place is not clear but it had been accomplished by the time Ananias arrived.
4. Tarsus had a population of half a million with a university. It was no mean city. Paul had the full backing of the religious leaders in his persecution and also of the Roman authorities
5. After his conversion there was a time of peace for the Church. The leading persecutor had gone and the others must have been dumbfounded by the conversion. There is a time for everything under Heaven. Paul was used of the Devil before his conversion. It is important to use the times of peace to prepare for difficult times ahead and to guard against complacency. There was a time too for Paul to run away and not argue it out. v 25.
6. The early description of the believers was “the way.” They followed the way of God as opposed to the ways of the World. Jesus said that He was the way of salvation – the only way – as well as the way to live. John ch 14 v 6.
7. Suffering goes with God’s people. v 16. Paul was warned that he would suffer.
8. Where is the soul after death? Why did God raise Tabitha? Where had she been between death and resurrection? The healings by Peter are the work of the risen Jesus carried on through the body of believers.
9. Paul is chosen for a purpose. v 15 – a chosen instrument. He did not choose God but God clearly revealed Himself to him. Certainly of all men Paul was not deserving of salvation.
1. God’s timing is perfect. He spoke to both at the same time to bring them together.
2. Peter had acted in faith on the vision without question although he did not know what lay ahead.
3. v 34 is a momentous statement of truth. v 34 to 43 are a synopsis of the Gospel. It is compact.
4. There was no great conference or deliberation. Peter acted on what he had witnessed – the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.
5. The Jews considered the Gentiles to be unclean. Baptism is the outward sign of invisible grace. This was a work of God.
CHAPTER 11. Crisis at Antioch.
v 22. Barnabas was sent to investigate. The Followers were first called Christians at Antioch. There was a famine. This happened fairly regularly. There was a large-scale famine in A. D. 46. The Church at Antioch took a collection for the Believers at Jerusalem. Gal ch 2 v 1-10 mentions Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. It was almost certainly the same famine visit as in Acts ch 11 v 30. Paul went as the result of a revelation. The Church in Jerusalem became poor at an early stage. Romans ch 15 v 25f. This helped the bond of fellowship between Antioch and Jerusalem.
CHAPTER 12. Paul’s Arrest and Release.
Claudius was the third Roman Emperor. Herod Agrippa 1 ruled from 37- 44 A. D. He ruled ever larger areas in Palestine, Syria, Judea and Judah. He was given Judea in 41 A.D. and was called: ” King.” This is not the King Herod in Jesus’ day. (That was the grandfather of Herod Agrippa 1.) The family were Edomites, descended from Esau and opposed to spiritual matters. Obadiah tells the history of the Edomites. Certain trends run in families. He liked popularity and it was popular to execute Christians. Herod posed as a champion of the law. Like Darius the Mede he was bound by the law of man and not of God. Herod was on friendly terms with the religious leaders. The religious spirit was opposed to the believers, especially the leaders of the new Church. What kind of religious festival was to be followed by an execution of a good man? It pleased them to have James executed. It is a dangerous path to please men. A man who does so becomes their slave. James son of Zebedee was the first of the 12 to die as a martyr. Perhaps his preaching upset Herod as John the Baptist had upset his grandfather. Peter escaped the same death. Satan meant it for harm but God turned the situation to His advantage and arranged for a miraculous escape. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. Peter was in a crisis. How did he exercise faith? Would a believer follow an angel in such circumstances? Dan ch 3. Daniel did not question the provision of an angel. God operates in the realm of a man’s expectations. In a similar situation, the Word of the Lord may come to a believer by bringing to mind this passage and he would know that the Lord had planned an escape for him. That is why the story is there – for future use, so that God can speak through His Word in similar situations. No matter how impossible the situation, there is absolutely nothing that God cannot do. Peter did not fully appreciate God’s provision for him until afterwards. Then he realised the full extent of grace. Believers often do not appreciate the full extent of God’s provision for them until after the event. It is good to meditate upon the grace of God. Clearly Peter was as good as a dead man. If Herod had killed James with the sword, by beheading him, Peter was to be the next to die.
In 1 Cor ch 15 v 17 Jesus appeared to His brother James and after that James became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. He was given a special appearance of the Lord. James was stoned to death in A.D. 61 at the hands of the Jewish authorities. It is hard to imagine that people would reach such a state as to clamour for the death of a human being who had done no harm – but only good. Remember Peter had healed people in the name of Jesus. Could it happen in today?
In the eyes of the World it is unfair that James died and Peter survived. But James was the more blessed. The sooner a believer leaves this sinful body and sinful World and steps into eternity the better. James was the winner and Peter the loser to some extent and not the other way round.
The saints had been praying. The angels are only released by the prayers of the saints. It does not say too much for their prayers that they refused to believe that their prayers had been answered. Peter left for safer quarters. Was it wise for Peter to move on? Being delivered from prison by God was one thing. There was no point in waiting for Satan in the form of Herod to catch him again. The Christian law of suffering for Christ has not repealed the natural law of self-preservation. Satan always directs his attacks against the leaders of the Church.
Was it right that the sentries should be put to death? It was not their fault – or was it? They must have known that Peter was innocent. Can any man stand back and watch injustice without bearing a share of the guilt? All men are guilty in some respect concerning the death of babies through abortion.
Kill the leader and the flock will scatter- unless the leader has wisely provided a successor. It is the task of a leader to train others to replace him. Leadership is always plural in the Scriptures. It does not always work out that way. The guards looked everywhere for Peter. Once mankind has rejected the saviour, he is left looking in every other area of life for answers to the questions, which simply do not go away. Today the supernatural is investigated as never before to find answers to the events in the unseen World.
Tyre and Sidon relied on Galilee for food, while they were traders. Ezekiel ch 27 v 12 – 17. They were economically dependent on trade with Herod’s country. They gave Herod the status of a god and he welcomed that. Foolish people value men by their outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Herod ascribed God’s grace to himself. He did not rebuke their flattery. How fallen man likes praise! History records that Herod died suddenly of a grave intestinal disorder at the age of 54. The persecutor died but those whom he had persecuted thrived. Sinners will be called to account – sooner or later. Ch 12 v 24.
John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas. ch 12 v 12. He was Peter’s interpreter in Rome and wrote the second Gospel. Herod died in A.D.44. Those who oppose God will be punished. He was recorded in Josephus’ Book – the Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus was a Jew but pro Roman since he wrote in Rome.
CHAPTER 13. The Mission to Asia Minor.
Those going on mission were sent off with the laying on of hands, which was a sign of blessing. Jesus had appeared before Herod Antipas the Tetrach at His trial. Cyprus was the home Island of Barnabas. He had a natural concern for his own people. How concerned are believers for their own people? There were already Christians there. They went to the synagogues first. Romans ch 1 v 16. Paul did likewise. Paul used his Roman name when he was in the Gentile world. Then after Cyprus they went to Turkey – Asia Minor. It was the cross roads between East and West. There were always travellers passing through. Pisidion Antioch was right in the centre of Turkey and it was in a Roman province. There were Jews scattered all over the Province. Paul always had a strategy in his evangelism. He went to the head of the households, on the basis that, if the head were converted, he would be more likely to bring the rest to the Lord. On the contrary if a child were converted, it would not necessarily bring the parents. The parents may well prevent the child from growing in God.
When Mark left, Paul felt that he was a deserter. Later in 2 Tim ch 4 v 11 Paul, near the end of his life, asked Timothy to bring Mark to Rome where he would be useful. The rift was healed. Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark there. All along Paul went to the synagogue first. But it was the Jews who stirred up trouble. Eventually Paul shook the dust from his feet as advised in Mark ch 10 v 14. In Iconium Paul was stoned and left for dead, but went back to the city. This suggests that he was healed miraculously. The pattern was – preaching – miracles – Church built up and established – elders appointed – report.
v 3. The Holy Spirit had directed the operation and anointed them on His task. The Holy Spirit selected the best men for the task. There are natural as well as supernatural gifts. John joined them, in order to give them credibility with the Jewish believers
The Roman Empire was built on trade and commerce. It was worshipped as a god. A god is anything or anyone, which fills the mind and controls the activities of a person. All matters of morality are of secondary importance and had to be subjected to matters of trade. Making money and acquiring material prosperity was the objective of materialism, as it is today in Western culture.
There are different gifts identified – teachers – prophets. Paul used the authority of the Holy Spirit to make the magician blind. It sounds like a curse. God used the same means to others as they had used towards His people. It is the reverse side of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is this: “Do unto others as you would them do to you.” The reverse is this: “As you have done to others, so it will be done to you.” Both have to be taken on board. People will do to others what others do to them. A sorcerer sounds like something from the Middle Ages. Magic and sorcery attempt to influence people and events by supernatural or occult means. The word sorcery is linked to drugs and poisons. It is linked with herbs and charms or spells. Today it is behind herbal remedies, taking the minds of the people away from sin in the heart as the root cause of God’s disfavour. Turning the mind from the truth is always the purpose behind sorcery. Making evil triumph over good in stories for children. The mark of the beast is seen in the man who is crafty, devious and malicious.
As soon as a man shows an interest in the Gospel, as the pro-consul did, Satan is in there using someone to divert the interest and fill the time available. Paul recognised the attack of the enemy and tackled the opposition head on. The Gospel is about power. “You neither know the Scriptures nor the power of God.” The sorcerer makes the ways of God twisted. He distorted the truth. v 8. Hos ch 14 v 9. God’s ways are straight.
v 19. The inheritance of the physical land is symbolic of the spiritual inheritance, which awaits the true believers. v 22. David, for all his sins, is declared by God to be a man after God’s own heart. It was customary for the leaders of the synagogue to invite visitors to share a word with them. Paul grasped his opportunity. The point he was making is that the history of the Jews does not make any sense without Jesus. As Isaiah said in ch 26 v 18: “We were with child but have brought forth wind.” All the history pointed to the Messiah who would fulfil the role as Prophet, Priest and King. The Jews knew the history but not the point of it all. Paul freely quoted the Old Testament to prove his point. It was not David who was the object of the Scriptures but one greater from his family. Paul in his sermon is speaking to Churchgoers, who had the outward form of religion but did not know the Lord. There was a favourable response from some. There are some who respond positively and others who are negative. “You are either for me or against me.” However, jealousy was in the hearts of the religious leaders. If God blesses another it is easy for the first flames of jealousy to arise in the human heart. Barnabas had learned how hard it was to play second fiddle. “It takes more grace than I can tell to play the second fiddle well.” It is essential that these flames be put out quickly before they are inflamed. Jealousy was followed by contradiction. Satan was jealous of God and contradicted His Word to mankind. Gen ch 3 v 4. When others are blessed by God, is there any jealousy? What happened to those who had heard and were interested after Paul left the area? It is not known – other than that they were filled with joy and presumably went on to establish a fellowship.
The Roman Empire had succeeded the Greek Empire but only in relation to power. Hellenistic thought still prevailed. Today it is known as humanism. The wisdom of God offends human wisdom. A man likes to think that he can solve all the problems independently of God and has an answer to everything. God’s wisdom involves faith – trusting in what a man cannot see – like life after death.
As soon as the Word of God is spoken in power the result is always division. Some believed, while others were hostile. Those who were opposed sought to stone Paul – presumably to death. Paul moved away smartly, concerned for his own life. The preaching in power was accompanied with miracles – perhaps healing. At Lystra there was a miraculous healing – a cripple from birth, so that there was no question of doubt. There is no healing without faith. How did Paul decide that there was faith on the part of the crippled man? Paul noticed the man and he obviously did or said something to indicate that he believed that he would be healed.
The response of the people was to look to man and not to God. They gave the men the praise and recognition. There is the same trend today to admire leaders, especially of sects. Even when Paul rejected their praise and pointed to the Lord, they were not impressed. They were into idol worship and embraced these new people as the latest idols.
Paul took the opportunity to speak about the grace of God. Romans ch 1 v 19. Paul chose to start somewhere and best to begin with basic facts. Consider our miraculous bodies and the beauty and orderliness of the World in which we live. The possibility of all this happening by chance is ridiculous. In the days of El Nino the weather challenges mankind as to how helpless they are in face of the elements. God is in control of the elements as Jesus proved.
The religious men from Antioch and Iconium followed Paul to Lystra and set about killing Paul. It seems that Paul was virtually dead. The people who had one day watched a miraculous healing were roused into a lynch mob. How fickle mankind is. It must have been a miraculous recovery to enable Paul to stand up and go back into the city. The enemy knows no limits and will go to great lengths to kill off the believers. There will be hardships, when a believer is involved in a battle. Paul appointed elders in the plural. It is important to have shared leadership in face of the enemy. One man alone is more vulnerable.
The Greeks had no television or books and were interested in new ideas. What was this new idea from Paul? The heathen like praise heaped on them as do Worldly men today – chat shows – sportsmen – anything a man does seeking praise is vanity.
1. Their gods were false idols.
2. Paul invited them to turn to the living God.
3. God is their Creator.
4. God’s patience has allowed the Earth to continue despite sin.
5. Consider the evidence of the World. Man cannot control the weather.
CHAPTER 15. The Council of Jerusalem.
This comes after the famine visit and the tour of Galatia. It is the most important incident in the early Church. Should Gentile believers have to keep the Jewish law? That was the issue. The circumcision party said that circumcision was a condition of salvation. God always intended the Gentiles to be saved. It says so in the Old Testament. For that reason He sent Jonah to Nineveh. The debate centres round the ceremonial rather than the moral law. v 11 contains the conclusion. “We are saved by faith through grace.” There was a practical compromise in v 23-29 and a letter was sent round the Churches. There were 4 points:
1. Gentiles were to refrain from meat offered to idols.
2. Gentiles were to refrain from meat with blood in it.
3. Gentiles were to refrain from strangled animals.
4. Gentiles were to refrain from fornication and unlawful degrees as set out in Lev ch 8 v 6-18.
Fellowship. Lev chs 17 and 18 set out the rules for fellowship with non-Jews, such as resident aliens. Important because:
1. This was an official statement that Gentiles were now accepted in the Church. Otherwise Christians would have been a sect in the reformed Jewish Church.
2. Grace is the most important word in the Gospel. It is the only condition of salvation.
3. All of the decisions are in line with the Old Testament. There is nothing new or contradictory.
The early Church was coming to terms with the Gentile World. Paul stressed not to do anything, which would upset the body or damage the faith of a weaker brother. Theology was born in the practical situation on mission to the World.
Even when things are going smoothly, new problems always seem to rise up out of nowhere. “I was having a good week and suddenly there is an unforeseen problem.” Welcome new problems. Believers need them to challenge them and to enable them to grow. Things were going well at Antioch and suddenly some men arrive with a new doctrine. They came to stir up trouble and rob the new Church of its peace. The programme of outreach and social work may have been thrown into confusion when the energies of the Church were taken up with doctrinal discussion. Believers need to be on guard and be sure of their doctrine or else they will be blown off course by some new ear-tickling teaching. There is a strange proneness in man to make his opinion and experience a rule and a law for everybody else. “My way of being saved must be the normal and every other way is suspect.” “The way our denomination worships is the right way.” The Jews were so entrenched in their ideas about the Messiah that they could only see that Gentiles had to become Jews in every sense of the word – including circumcision.
Those who sought to add extra rules were of the party of the Pharisees. This could be National Church people, who join another denomination. They still carry their traditions like – no adult baptism – with them. Or else they add extra rules like how to dress or no drinking. They import culture into their Church life. The old man has a lot to be untaught or taught out of his understanding. That is why a leader must not be a recent convert. The question is this: “Is it Biblical or cultural?” Is it right or wrong according to the Bible? It is very hard for a man to be rid of his prejudice. He will defend His position in spite of the Word of God. Old religious attitudes prevailed amongst those of the former Pharisee party. The old man wrestles with the new man within him. Worldly attitudes and ways have to be altered and minds renewed. Salvation is a gift without preconditions. Circumcision was always intended to be of the heart, with the old fallen heart cut away. It was a symbolic lesson – not a physical one.
There is a time to debate controversial issues at length in order to get at the truth. It is too damaging if the truth is not found. The divisions amongst Christians is a bad witness to the World. “If they cannot agree amongst themselves, then how does an unbeliever know what is the truth?” Paul warns about doctrines of demons. 1 Tim ch 4 v 1. There is a time for everything under Heaven. A time to dispute and find the truth and a time to refrain from public debate on non-essential aspects of Christianity. Are believers guilty of defending their own treasured experiences and doctrines? Satan’s principal tactic for believers is to teach false doctrine. It will lead them astray and cause divisions.
When the matter was debated Scripture was quoted – not to prove the favourite position but to get at the truth. How could the Jews have failed to see that they were meant to bring salvation to the Gentiles? It was as surprising to the Jews that God had a place for the Gentiles as it is today for Christians that God has a place for the estranged Jews. He is not finished with them as many Christians suppose and as Muslims believe. Believers do not need to force Jews to be Christians – just to enjoy their relationship with Jesus as Jews.
It is essential not to put too hard a burden on new believers. They have so much to learn and it all takes time. There were only three requirements listed for Gentile converts. These are absolute musts. They are rocks on which the new life will perish very quickly.
1. Keep well away from idol worship. Whatever is a man’s idol or that of his friends is a real danger. Satan will attempt to steal his affection for God by any means possible. If a believer is associating with people who worship a particular idol, then it will be easy for Satan to capture his heart. It might be entertainment, drinking with pals, a club or some other organisation, which claims loyalty.
2. Fornication is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage. That is now quite a foreign idea for so many who regard sexual relations outside of marriage as normal and as a hobby for some. It is unthinkable to many and a real stumbling block to people becoming believers – just as tithing is. If everyone is doing it, it becomes hard to step away but clearly this is one powerful force, which will destroy the purity of a new believer and draw him back into the World’s clutches. The witness will be destroyed in an instant. The World likes nothing better than a believer caught in infidelity – either within a marriage or prior to it. The person is always afraid of the other person appearing in later life to cause embarrassment. Be sure that the enemy will mark that down for a future score. Disagreement is almost unavoidable among Christian brothers, such is the diversity of teaching and experience of believers.
There were problems for Timothy, whose parents had intermarried. He had not been circumcised as a Jew, because his father had refused to allow it. Paul had just argued that it did not affect salvation. Ch 15 v 2. Why the change of mind? Doctrinal principle did not require it but strategic considerations made it desirable under the peculiar circumstances of the time.
If an act is inherently wrong – like fornication – it can never be performed, no matter what the circumstances and however expedient it might be. But many acts are not inherently wrong, like circumcision and may be performed depending on whether or not it will promote the Gospel. Paul said previously that eating meat offered to idols was not sinful in itself but yet he would not eat it, if it caused his brother to stumble. Here Paul felt that it would be useful for the propagation of the Gospel amongst the Jews, if Timothy were circumcised. He would then be one of them and as such acceptable. Paul did not operate in the letter of the law but in the spirit of the law in order to commend Timothy to the Jews as one of them. There may be certain things believers have to do with other believers, which are not wrong, but which should be done to get alongside them.
There were certain areas where it was not wise to go at this particular time. There is a time for everything under Heaven. There is a need to be guided by the Holy Spirit and obedient to Him.
Despite the vision from God and the certainty in the heart of Paul that God has spoken to him, there was only a small group of women, which met to pray. That was not very encouraging. God called Paul to Macedonia but said nothing more than that. Just because a believer has a word from God it need not be for a mighty ministry. A believer can only go through the doors, which God opens. The woman worshipped God but not Jesus. She was like Cornelius, who was a devout man and a godly man, but He did not have a relationship with the Lord. She opened her heart to the Word of God through Paul in a mysterious way. Why does one respond and another not? There is a mystery deep within the heart. When her heart was open to the Lord, her house was open to His people. She did not want to let go of these men of God.
1. v 2. Timothy was well regarded. He had a good reputation. This is in marked contrast to Mark, whose reputation was damaged by his walking off the job. Reputation is important, as the Lord’s reputation is at stake. With privilege goes responsibility.
2. There were all sorts of opportunities open to them. Which one would they take? Which one did the Lord want them to take? When faced with alternatives believers must consult the Lord, believing that He will direct them. Luke appears for the first time in the first person. v 10 speaks of “us” for the first time. Luke stayed on in Philippi, when Paul left.
3. v 13. They sought out the believers. When, having moved to a new place, believers should seek out other believers. Believers need the strength and protection of others in a hostile environment. The Church at Philippi was a favourite of Paul’s. It was started by a strange group of people – a jailer, a business- woman and a slave girl.
4. v 14. Lydia was a worshipper of God. Was she a believer? It seems that she was not, since the Lord opened her heart. She was ripe and prepared for the visit of Paul. He came to reap what someone else had sown.
5. v 16. What is a spirit of divination? Horoscopes are big business today. The demon was cast out. It is roughly the attempt to discern events, which are distant in time or space, and which cannot be perceived by normal means. There are two types: a trance (inspirational) or mechanical e.g. tea leaves in a cup. There are 7 types mentioned in the Bible.
(a) Rhabdomancy. Throwing sticks in the air. Omens were deduced by the way they landed.
(b) Hepatoscopy. Examination of entrails.
(c) Teraphim. Spiritualism – the images of dead ancestors.
(d) Necromancy. Consultation with the departed. Mediums.
(e) Astrology. Drawing conclusions from the position of the planets.
(f) Dreams. A spontaneous dream is often a means of divine guidance but seeking guidance from
dreams is forbidden.
(g) Hydromancy. Crystal gazing and divination through water.
6. v 17. The Devil played into Paul’s hands by announcing that they had come to proclaim the way of salvation. Sometimes this happens and, if believers are slow to say why they are there, a person will say it for them.
7. v 19. Why do some people not respond? Their whole life is at stake. These people made money out of horoscopes. There are occult books. Some write them. Some publish them. Some sell them. Jobs are at stake today in the same way. The people were laying up their treasure on Earth.
8. v 21. What Paul was saying created a problem since the law of the land had come into conflict with the Law of God, e.g. homosexuality and soft porn is legal according to the law of the land but not according to the law of God. Note that there was no trial. They were not innocent until proved guilty. It was much more dangerous for Paul to speak than it is for believers today. There was no legal aid then.
9. v 27. Others benefited by Paul’s being in prison. Their fetters were released also. Jonah ch 1 v 12. “Throw me into the sea and the storm will calm down.”
10. The jailer would face death for failing in his duty. There was no tribunal for unfair dismissal. He must have known something about the Gospel since he asked to be saved.
11. v 31. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. It is simple. The entire household was saved. That was the culture of that day. Today people in the West are more individualistic – each man must be saved by himself.
12. v 35. Why did the judges change their minds? The Holy Spirit honoured Paul’s witness. There was no proof. Cyrus ordered the Jews to go to Jerusalem. The grace of God was at work. No situation is beyond the control of God, if it is for His purposes. Never despair.
13. v 37. Paul’s reputation was at stake. Justice was also at stake. It is not enough just for believers to get out, if there is an implication that they were wrong. There is more than just forgiveness. Justice and truth are involved. Paul wanted the record put right. This is one of Luke’s purposes in writing the Book – to show that the believers were not guilty of breaking the law of the land.
1. This was more fertile ground, since there was a synagogue. As usual there is division. Some join and others hold back. Jealousy rears its ugly head. Demonic forces were upset by the intrusion into their territory of those preaching salvation. The Devil is the Prince of the air. The accusations were exaggerated. No uproar had been created. Luke is at pains to prove this is the case. Unless there is a spiritual explanation there can be no other reason for the authorities being troubled than a carpenter from a distant land should be a threat to Caesar.
2. The people at Beroea tested the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. Paul would have been pleased at that. There was a time for Paul to retreat from Beroea. He had done enough to stimulate the believers to grow.
3. Are cities today as full of idols as Athens was? There are different idols but they are just as destructive to faith in God.
4. There were Epicureans and Stoics there then and these people are still around today. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” They were seekers of pleasure. The stoics were propounding a philosophy of self-sufficiency and dogged endurance. Debate and discussion were the interests of the people there. Many today are interested in religious things. Man is incurably religious. God made him that way.
5. Paul started at a common point – their religious interests – and he developed his case from there.
6. v 26. All men are descended from one man Adam. Paul’s desire is that all men should seek for God. He quoted from one of their own poets. He trapped them. Not everything, which a non-believer says is wrong. There was part truth there and Paul built on it to present the whole truth. These people were used to that type of reasoning. It is wise to adapt preaching to the particular audience. He finishes with a warning. “Time has run out for you, if you continue to ignore God.” The resurrection is the evidence of Jesus being God. The Gospel is foolishness to the Greeks.
7. Paul made converts from the devout Greeks. These were the people who were interested in Judaism and were the ones whom the Jews were hoping to accept as proselytes. No wonder they were cross. They were the wealthy Church members who left to follow Paul’s Christ.
8. Paul had a clear strategy – Turkey – Greece – Italy – Spain. He chose seaports and centres of trade so that the message would be spread outwards by those accepting it. Athens was the centre of philosophy and culture but a stony ground for the Gospel. It appears that there was no Church founded at Athens.
9. v 6. If the people could not get Paul, they would get at Jason. If people cannot get at Jesus, they will attack His weakest followers. The doctrine of repentance is taught throughout the New Testament.
1. Judaism was a legally recognised and licensed religion. Paul was anxious to ensure that Christianity should be seen and accepted as a sect of Judaism and thereby it would receive the same protection from the authorities. In essence it was Judaism fulfilled. Gallio was not impressed by the complaint and dismissed it – one up to Paul. The World is not really interested in disputes between believers. “A plague on you both” is the attitude of Gallio. Luke has as one of his purposes to defend the believers and to prove that they were not guilty of causing rebellion. Paul did not even have a case to answer. Gallio was not even concerned to find out what it was all about. It seemed irrelevant to him and not worth bothering about – just a matter of words. Paul would have had something to say about it. The World thinks that ecumenical disputes are just words and of no importance. Do not expect non-believers to be excited about the things of God.
2. Claudius had passed an edict about 49-50 A. D. forcing the Jews to leave Rome. The people were accused of constantly rioting at the instigation of Christ. This was probably as a result of disputes between Jews and believers. It gave them all a bad name.
3. v 6 suggests that there is a time for giving up on relatives and neighbours and not nagging them to death. There comes a time when a believer has said it all, prayed about it and the heart of the person is set against the Lord. Leave them – seems to be the message from this passage. Paul was clearly guided as to where to go by the Holy Spirit. If he had relied on his own common sense, the results would have been far less impressive.
4. Why did Paul suddenly have a haircut – he shaved his head? Numbers ch 6 v 2. Where a person made a special vow – the vow of the Nazarite – perhaps he wanted to identify with the Jews there and this would affirm his Jewishness.
5. Gallio did not bother when Sosthenes was beaten up. It looks like the pagans who beat up one of the Jewish leaders. Sosthenes had succeeded Crispus. Maybe he was converted also or sympathetic or maybe the disappointment of the crowd was vented towards one of their own leaders. This is a matter of spiritual darkness. The enemy can stir up the passions of people to carry out his plans. Gallio was not even interested in justice. It is dangerous for a believer to overstate his position. He loses sympathy for things, which matter. Gallio had lost interest in all their complaints and did not respect them, as he would have done otherwise. If Jews persecute believers, or believers persecute Jews, it is not surprising that pagans persecute them both.
6. Paul turned to preaching from the house of Titius Justus. The leader of the synagogue was converted. That must have caused uproar. God works in mysterious ways. Paul is believed to have written the letters to the Thessalonians from Corinth. A good letter might be as vital as a sermon.
7. Apollus. He was a Jew, born at Alexandria and of Jewish parents. He was a good speaker and had a great knowledge of the Scriptures. He was baptised with John’s baptism and not with the Holy Spirit. Was he a believer? In all that he knew he was diligent and faithful. Many are sincere and dedicated but have not heard all that God is doing. That does not mean that they are not believers. Others inevitably will know more. He was defective in his knowledge of Christianity and Acquilla taught him the parts, which were missing. Acquilla did not knock him down and claim that she knew more. She took him aside and filled him in. Instructing young ministers in private is a useful ministry – if they will learn. Apollus did not rest in what he knew but was glad to learn more. Yes, he was a believer.
1. v 1-7. Are they Christians? Is there a two-tier religion? The baptism of John is about self-denial. The baptism of Jesus is about power.
2. The usual pattern. Paul went to the Synagogue first and then, after they had had ample time, he set up a house church, taking in the true believers.
3. The Sons of Sceva. v 15. The demons live in the man who is afflicted. The demon speaks. The demon attacked in the body. To do harm the demon must possess the mind and commit suicide or possess another and attack through his body. Like Legion, the man who attacks had tremendous power. Magic was very common and there were plenty books – not just the poor people were involved.
4. Vested interests. False gods bring financial rewards – pubs, football and beauty contests, gambling at Las Vegas. The Gospel threatens vested interests today.
5. The Crowd is out of control and chanting and some do not even know why they are there. They would not listen to reason. There was no concern for the truth. There was a spirit of confusion. The people would lose credibility, if they went over the top. There was no basis for their riot. They were guilty of making a fool of themselves. When others are upset and angry, ask them what is it that is the problem. They may well be unable to identify any cause.
Artemis. (Diana) The many-breasted mother goddess figure of the ancient religion of Asia Minor was a fertility goddess. The temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It symbolised the culture of the whole area. The sacred stone out of the sky was a meteorite.
v 10. Paul taught all night long, disturbed only by the healing of the young man who clearly died and was brought back to life. How did Paul do that? 1 Kings ch 17 v 21.Did Paul hear the Word of the Lord speaking these words to him, so that he acted in faith and healed the boy? There was a sign, which accompanied the preaching of the Word. Mark ch 16 v 18.
v 27. Paul had taught the people the whole counsel or purpose of God. Too many believers are content to stay on milk and never move onto meat. It is not good enough to blame the leadership, given the large number of books, internet teaching web sites, DVDs, CDs and videos, which are available. It is up to each man to study the Scriptures for himself.
Paul wrote the letter to the Romans while in Greece. This was in A.D.57. Paul refused to claim support but had worked for his living and did not covet any one else’s wealth. The elders are called overseers, or bishops or presbyters. The words are synonymous. No single structure of Church government is advocated. Paul’s address is an apology or defence of Christianity. It was also a testimony. When about to be whipped, Paul played his trump card and claimed his Roman citizenship. It was illegal to beat a Roman citizen without charges. Roman justice was better to Paul than Jewish justice. When Paul said that he did not know that the High Priest was speaking, he may have been in error but may well have been using sarcasm. He almost certainly knew who he was.
The charges against Paul were: 1. He was a common troublemaker. 2. He was the leader of an illegal or subversive group. 3. He was attempting to dispute the Jewish religion. His answers were: 1. He was not in Jerusalem long enough to cause a riot. 2. He believes the Old Testament just as much as the Jews. 3. It was people from Asia who had stirred things up. Felix looked for a bribe and was not too concerned for justice. When Paul spoke before Agrippa it was another apology. If Judaism was tolerated in the Roman Empire, Christianity should be also. Agrippa was a Jew. In chapters 27 and 28 Paul speaks of the providence of God and the fair treatment by the Romans as well as his righteous behaviour. What happened to Paul after house arrest?
Three questions arise from this chapter.
1. Paul was determined in his own will to go to Jerusalem, despite all the advice of others and the warning by the Holy Spirit. In v 4 and v 11 Paul was clearly told by God not to go to Jerusalem. Events later proved that this was right. God did not need Paul in Jerusalem, nor did he want him in prison. But Paul decided that God did need him there. The power of the will in very strong. A strong- willed person is hard to persuade. There are certain big decisions, like marriage, moving house or job or service for the Lord, where it is absolutely essential to find out the will of the Lord.
2. The Jewish believers were determined to hold onto their own traditions as well as the Gospel. Even though they had the teaching of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Apostles that God, through Jesus, had done a new thing. The leaders of the Church asked Paul to conform to a tradition of having his head shaved to identify with them and not cause them offence. It seems that Paul was prepared to do this. Paul’s personal rule was never to offend others unnecessarily. He was not being insincere but was being sensitive to the feelings of others.
3. v 29. The Jews from Asia saw Paul with the Trophimus and assumed that Paul had taken him into the Temple, which was forbidden in Judaism for Gentiles. Gentiles were allowed into the outer area of the Temple but not the inner area. This would defile the Temple according to Jewish tradition and belief. They were wrong, having acted on a supposition, which was not supported in fact. They acted on this supposition and caused a great storm of protest.
Much of the book written by Luke is an apologia – a stated defence of Christianity. There were so many false accusations around and false teachings that Luke felt the need to set the record straight from time to time. v 1 declares that this speech is a defence. It is a good idea to begin by identifying with the listeners before explaining the reason for the different position, which is now taken. Paul was exactly like those who were now accusing him. Then he goes on to tell the facts of what happened to him. He is not expressing an opinion but testifying to facts. The Gospel is a fact. He did not hide his sinfulness from them. Paul obviously held their attention so long but eventually the mob raised their voices against Paul, when he explained that Jesus was sending him to the Gentiles. There was such hatred by the Jews against the Gentiles that they could not conceive that the Gentiles could have any place in the plans of God.
v 17. Jesus had warned Paul to leave Jerusalem because the people would not accept his testimony about Jesus. Of all people Jesus knew the depths of the fallen human heart. Even though Paul was prepared to admit his sinfulness before men – something, which those listening would never do – they still would not hear him finish. Jesus knew that. As soon as Paul mentioned the name of Jesus two enemies rose against him – the Beast from the land – the State – and the Beast from the sea – organised religion. These two are always there when the Gospel is preached. These Jews did not want to know the truth.
Paul was not hiding anything or trying to avoid punishment. He was again simply stating the truth. He was a Roman citizen and had done nothing to deserve a whipping. It does not say much for the Roman law that they were prepared to whip him to find out the truth without a trial or enquiry. The tribune wanted to get to the truth quickly and torture was the quickest method. The Romans were good to their own people and the tribune could easily have been in deep trouble, if he had punished a Roman citizen without a fair trial and without the right to appeal to the Emperor. Once an appeal was granted nothing further could be done until the Emperor acted. In Paul’s case the appeal was granted – but this was not automatically granted. A person was a Roman citizen, if both his parents were Roman citizens. The Romans were cruel to the peoples whose lands they occupied. They ruled with a rod of iron. Daniel ch 7 v 19. They crushed their enemies and made an example to others.
The tribune handed Paul over to the Sanhedrin – the Jewish parliament. Just as Pilate had done, he passed the buck to the Jews themselves.
Paul was not motivated by privileged people. He had a holy authority. Paul’s conscience was clear. The Sadducees had hidden agendas and ulterior motives. Although Paul’s motives were clear, that of Annaias was not. This was the man who had sought to kill Jesus. Paul reminded him of that by his presence. The High Priest was acting completely out of turn by what he did. Paul was indignant that this man, who could influence so many, was opposed to God and he spoke a curse on him. What Annaias did as a judge was unforgivable. He was supposed to be impartial and allow the prosecutor and the defence agent to debate the issues without the judge interfering. Paul responded not in anger but in holy zeal. He responded like David did in the challenge of Goliath.
Paul used his own privileges and ingenuity in order to escape. It may be of the Lord or of the enemy. Self-preservation ought to apply unless the person is sure that the situation is of the Lord. The Sadducees were wealthy people, often from priestly families, who sided with the Roman authorities. They were deists, who believed that there was a God who had set the World in motion and then sat back with His arms folded watching to see how the people would work it out. They saw God as the manager in the stand, while the theists saw God as the player manager, playing in the team on the pitch and changing His game plan as the match developed. His people should look to Him as the captain for guidance during the game of life. Their doctrine was right, but their hearts were cold. The words of Jesus had come true, when He said that they would drive His followers out of the synagogues in the name of Jesus. The Pharisees were popular with the people. Jesus had His toughest words for the Pharisees. Religious people today are popular at weddings and funerals. They had great influence. They are held in certain respect and fear.
Satan tried to destroy Paul by using these people, whose hearts were as cold as ice. The Roman soldiers did have some regard for justice, especially where Roman citizens were involved. Caesarea was a city on the coast built by Herod in grand style as a Roman H.Q. and centre for administration in Judea. The Romans allowed the nations conquered by them to have their own religion as long as it did not threaten the peace of the empire and they allowed free trade and prosperity. Disturbances had to be put down. It looks as if Paul was in the hands of the enemy, but God is seen to be in ultimate control. God used Satan yet again to work out His purposes.
The enemy went a long way to accuse Paul, even though they had no real case and they knew it. They even hired a lawyer and therefore spent money. v 3. The religious people were grateful to the Roman authorities and wanted to distance themselves from the believers. Believers were branded as troublemakers. They upset established opinions. The religious people refer to believers as a sect. The real accusation was that Paul believed in the resurrection of the body. By any standards of law, there is clearly no case to answer. But along with resurrection comes judgement – and that is the challenge to mankind.
Felix knew a lot. He knew that Christians did not start riots. He had a Jewish wife. Although he listened he took no action. He was not hostile but yet Jesus made it clear that “you are either for me or against me.” Felix was against Jesus. He was looking for a bribe. It was one of the ways of the World and still is. Felix tossed it around in his mind for two years but was no nearer taking a decision for Jesus.
CHAPTERS 25 – 26.
Even after 2 years the religious people were still determined to discredit Paul. The enemy never knows when he is beaten. They got hold of Festus to influence him. Festus was keen to keep in with the Jews. To him Paul was dispensable. He upset the establishment. When a man is the centre of his own universe all sorts of things and people are dispensable. Festus and Agrippa were playing with truth and justice when the life of a man was at stake. Paul lost two years of his life while they played their little games with sin. Samson did the same when he flirted with Philistine women. Festus knew that Paul was innocent and had done nothing deserving of death. It was a major aspect of the book of Acts by Luke that he wanted to show that Christianity had a clear reputation. Christians were law-abiding, despite rumours to the contrary.
v 16. Roman law did not convict a man before his trial. Festus used great savagery and cruelty to crush a revolt. He lusted for gold and women. The message from Paul troubled him. They could have released Paul at any time within the two years, if they had really wanted to.
v 26. King Agrippa got the point. Paul was trying to convert him. Immediately they all got up and left the room. When the Holy Spirit is coming close, people change the subject or move away. Both Agrippa and Festus knew very well that Paul was innocent of the charges. When Festus said that Paul was mad, Agrippa knew that Paul was not mad. He knew that Paul was speaking the truth. Agrippa made a joke and left. He saved his face but lost his soul. He had his opportunity to ask Paul to help him but pride held him in its grip.
Luke demonstrates his concern for detail and accuracy. These are real events. God hammers out His message on the anvil of history. Real people in real situations are involved as God watches to see how they will react under pressure. The Mediterranean experiences considerable storms, even though it is not tidal.
v 11. People still pay more attention to the politicians and to the businessmen. There would be a loss of profit, if the ship did not sail.
v 20. The storm raged unabated many days. While all around people were panicking, Paul took the situation to the Lord and was able to declare to all on board that no one would lose his life. The ship will sink. In times of tribulation many will suffer and even lose all their possessions but not their life. God is teaching that life is worth more than mere possessions. A man can build another ship, but cannot make a new life.
v 22. Paul took the circumstances to God and prayed not only for his own safety but for the safety of his enemies.
v 24. Paul had asked God to save the lives of the crew and passengers. Was no one else able to ask God for that? Psalm 24. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His Holy place?” There was a shipwreck just as Paul had said and not one life was lost. With 276 on board, it was a big ship.
v 42. The soldiers feared men rather than God. Even in dire circumstances, they would rather have killed the prisoners than let them go. They certainly did not believe the word of the Lord through Paul. Julius wanted to spare Paul. God used this man to save the life of Paul. Not one thing affecting the life of a believer can happen but first it must pass before the Lord for His decision. This chapter raises issues of providence against Gad and Meni. Isaiah ch 65 v 11.
v 4. So many superstitions are riddled throughout life. Not for the first time was Paul regarded as a god.
v 9. Despite all the traumatic events of the journey and shipwreck, an attack by a snake and near death from the soldiers Paul’s first thought is to heal the father of Publius. This was a Roman man and one of his enemies. He had learned Galatians ch 6 v 10 and the demand of Jesus to do good to his enemies. Could Paul have had any idea what life would be like when he decided to follow Jesus? Paul had wanted to go to Rome and God has said that he would tell people in Rome about Jesus. ch 23 v 11. So escape would have put him out-with the will of God. As soon as he arrived in Rome he had opportunity to gather the Jewish leaders to speak to them about Jesus.
v 24. As always some believed and others refused to believe. To those who did not believe Paul recalled the words of Isaiah when he prophesied that their ears were closed and the eyes of their hearts could not see. Accordingly Paul was true to his calling – to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles.
The book drifts to a close without any conclusion. It invites believers – like the rest of Scripture – to ask questions of themselves, the World and where they stand before God.
Why is there no ending to the book? There are various possibilities.
1. Luke’s readers knew the ending. There was no need to repeat it.
2. Acts was written before Paul died.
3. Luke intended there to be another volume.
4. Luke simply wanted a happy ending.
5. To include Paul’s death would add to the feeling that the apostolic age had come to an end.
By excluding his death Luke leaves the impression that the Acts of the Apostles are still going on to this day. Believers are invited to write their own chapters with their own lives, accepting whatever the Lord provides for them and seeking at every turn to serve their fellow man.