Friday, March 22, 2019

Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we take the time and the risk to treat everyone as our neighbor...


This week we have been looking at an event from history that is recorded in a section of an account of Jesus life that is recorded for us in the Bible called the gospel of Luke. As Jesus was engaging in a conversation with His disciples about a short-term mission trip that they had just returned from, a lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test. 

This lawyer was setting a trap by asking the question "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Now this question, if communicated in the language we use in our culture today, would have sounded something like this: Jesus, what must I do so that I can experience eternal life with God in Heaven? What must I do to be right with God so that I can obtain a ticket to Heaven?”

The reason why this question was a trap was due to the fact that there was great disagreement when it came to the answer to this question. And the lawyer believed that however Jesus answered this question, Jesus would end up offending someone.

Instead of providing an answer to the lawyers’ question, Jesus, sensing the lawyer’s insincerity, responded by turning the tables on the lawyer. The lawyer, unable to resist the temptation to show off how much he knew about God, responded to having the tables turned on him by Jesus by quoting from a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of our Bibles called the book of Deuteronomy.

Jesus, hearing the lawyers answer to his own question, responded by affirming the lawyers answer. And in affirming the lawyers answer, Jesus quoted a section from a letter in the Old Testament of our Bible called the book of Ezekiel. Jesus basically said to the lawyer “You answered your own question correctly. Now make sure that you are living your life in obedience to your answer. To be right with God so that you can obtain a ticket to Heaven make sure that you are living your life in obedience to the Lord’s command to love the Lord with your total being and to love your neighbor as yourself, because you will show your love for the Lord by how you love your neighbor.”

The lawyer responded to having the tables turned on him by Jesus by asking Jesus a second question. "And who is my neighbor?" The lawyer recognized that his plan to trap Jesus had backfired. The lawyer desperately desired to vindicate himself. And the lawyer desperately wanted to demonstrate how smart he was and how much he knew about God. So the lawyer doubled down in his attempts to trap Jesus. 

Once again, the lawyer thought that he had trapped Jesus. The lawyer thought that he had trapped Jesus again because there was great disagreement when it came to the answer to this question. And the lawyer believed that however Jesus answered this question, Jesus would end up offending someone.

, Jewish people who were right with God were under obligation to love other people who were insiders that were right with God, but Jewish people did not have to love people who were outsiders who were not right with God. So there was great debate when it came to who was an insider and who was an outsider. There was a great debate when it came to who was right with God and who was not right with God. There was great debate over who needed to be shown love and who did not need to be shown love.  And now Jesus was being forced by this lawyer to enter into this debate.

Luke tells us that, once again, Jesus replied to the lawyers question by not directly answering his question. Instead, Jesus told a parable. Jesus began this parable by explaining that as a Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Jewish man who was on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by robbers who robbed him, beat him, stripped him naked and left him half dead on the side of the road.

However, by chance a priest happened to be traveling on the road to Jericho when he came upon this half dead man lying on the side of the road. Yet, when this insider of insiders saw his fellow Jewish man beaten, naked, and left half dead on the side of the road, he responded by moving to the other side of the road.

Jesus then explained that just by chance, a Levite happened to be traveling on the road to Jericho when he came upon this half dead man lying on the side of the road. Yet, when this insider saw his fellow Jewish man beaten, naked, and left half dead on the side of the road, he also responded by moving to the other side of the road. Today, we jump back into this event from history as Jesus then continued His parable by revealing a third character in Luke 10:33-35:

  "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. "On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.'

Now if you were a Jewish person in the crowd listening to Jesus parable, at the moment Jesus referred to a Samaritan, you would have gasped in disbelief. You would have gasped in disbelief because of who the Samaritans were. You would have gasped in disbelief because of how Jewish people felt about Samaritans. You see, Samaritans were people who lived in Samaria. And at one time, Samaria was a part of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Then, in 722 B.C., the Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In order to help control the regions that they conquered, the Assyrians developed a strategy that involved deporting large numbers of Jewish people and replacing them with large numbers of people from the nation of Assyria. The Assyrians who moved to Samaria worshipped false gods and simply added the worship of the One True God to their worship of their false gods.

Over time, the Jewish people began to intermarry and adopt the religion and culture of the Assyrians. The Samaritans rejected all of the Old Testament except the first five books and refused to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt Gerizim in 400 B.C. Now as you might imagine, the Jewish people did not respond well to what was happening in Samaria. And over time a great deal of animosity built between the Jewish people who lived in southern Israel and the people who lived in Samaria.

The Jewish people came to view the Samaritans as “half breeds” and wanted nothing to do with them. So, if you were a Jewish person you would have gasped at Jesus introduction of a Samaritan into this parable. Samaritans were viewed as outsiders. Samaritans were viewed as people who were far from God. Samaritans were viewed as those who did not need to be shown love. Samaritans were viewed as the enemy.

However, this Samaritan did six different things for this injured Jewish person that demonstrated that he loved this Jewish person as a neighbor. First, the Samaritan took the time and the risk to engage the injured Jewish man. After all, the robbers could have been hiding in the distance waiting to attack him as well. Second, the Samaritan took the time and the risk to bandage the wounds of the injured Jewish man.

Third, the Samaritan took the time and the risk to anoint the cuts with oil and wine, which would have soothed the wound and disinfected the wound. All of these actions would have exposed the Samaritan man to potential danger. Fourth, the Samaritan took the time and effort to load the man on his mule while he walked alongside the mule. Fifth, the Samaritan took the time and effort to take him to the inn in Jericho.

And sixth, the Samaritan took of his own resources to provide care and comfort to the injured man by staying the night and paying for his future care by giving two days wages. In the culture of the first century, two days wages would have paid for the injured Jewish man to stay at the inn for twenty-four days in order to recover from his injuries. After telling this parable, Jesus then asked the lawyer a very pointed question. A question that Luke reveals for us in verse 36:

 "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?"

Now can you imagine the scene as Jesus asked the lawyer that question? Can you imagine the tension that would have been present? Can you imagine the tension that comes from knowing the right answer but not liking the right answer? After all, Samaritans were outsiders. Samaritans were far from God. Samaritans did not need to be shown love. Samaritans were the enemy. Can you imagine how long it took for the lawyer to provide the answer to that question? Luke then reveals how the lawyer answered Jesus question in verse 37:

And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."

Now did you notice the lawyer’s response? I mean, he could even say the word Samaritan, could he? Instead the lawyer stated "The one who showed mercy toward him." However, Jesus does not let the lawyer off the hook, does He? Instead, Luke tells us that Jesus commanded the lawyer to go and do the same. Jesus commanded the lawyer to love just like the Samarian loved.

You see, Jesus commanded the lawyer to love just like the Samarian loved because love is not a noun. Love is a verb. Jesus commanded the lawyer to love just like the Samarian loved because there is a difference between knowing the truth about God and doing the truth of God. Jesus commanded the lawyer to love just like the Samarian loved because love is proved or demonstrated by our actions. Jesus commanded the lawyer to love just like the Samarian loved because being a neighbor is not about location or race. Jesus commanded the lawyer to love just like the Samarian loved because being a neighbor is about our actions regardless of location or race.

And it is here, in this event from history that we discover a timeless truth when it comes to inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus. And that timeless truth is this: Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we take the time and the risk to treat everyone as our neighbor. Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we not allow ourselves to get sidetracked from the kingdom mission we have been given by Jesus to instead engage in theological debates that are designed to show how much we know about God. Instead, inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we live out the truth about God in a way that demonstrates that we know God.

Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we love everyone as our neighbor, because love is proved, or demonstrated, by our actions. Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we be willing take and risk our time, treasure, energy, effort, and sometimes even our safety for the person who is far from Jesus.

Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we resist the temptation to restrict what Jesus commands us to do in order to make Jesus commands and demands more manageable. Instead of attempting to restrict or reduce Jesus commands and demands, as followers of Jesus we are to recognize that Jesus commands us to love everyone as our neighbor because loving our neighbor is about our actions regardless of location or race.

And inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we remember that inviting people to follow Jesus is often a slow process that takes time. You see, as Jesus engaged this lawyer, did you notice that Jesus was content to let him walk away without sharing with him the message of the gospel? Jesus let this lawyer walk away to ponder the issues in his heart that were exposed by Jesus.

When we read the accounts of Jesus life in the Bible, we discover that one of the main ways that Jesus engaged those who were far from Him was to ask good questions. And in the same way there will be times when people around us are not ready to hear the message of the gospel. And because of the reality, inviting people to follow Jesus will sometimes mean that we engage people in a way that does not always share the message of the gospel but instead simply asks them questions about where they are at when it comes to a relationship with Jesus while living a life that represents Jesus well. 

So here is a question for us to consider: If you were to find yourself as a character in this parable, which character would you be? Or better yet, if those closest to you were to place you as a character in this parable, which character would they say you would be?

Would you find yourself in this parable as the priest, who was considered an insider of insiders, but who was unloving to his fellow insider, let alone to anyone who was considered an outsider? Would you find yourself in this parable as the Levite, who was also an insider but who was also unloving to his fellow insider, let alone to anyone who was considered an outsider?

Or would you find yourself in this parable as the Samaritan, who while considered an outsider, loved the insider as though he was a fellow insider? If you were to find yourself as a character in this parable, which character would you be?

Because, inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we take the time and the risk to treat everyone as our neighbor...

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Doubling Down in an Attempt to Trap...


This week we are looking at an event from history that is recorded in a section of an account of Jesus life that is recorded for us in the Bible called the gospel of Luke. As Jesus was engaging in a conversation with His disciples about a short-term mission trip that they had just returned from, a lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test. 

When Luke says that this lawyer put Jesus to the test, he is revealing for us the reality that this lawyer was trying to trap Jesus with a question. This lawyer was setting a trap in hopes that Jesus would incorrectly answer the question in a way that would jeopardize Jesus status and credibility among the people. Luke then revealed the question that was posed to Jesus in order to trap Jesus: "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

Now this question, if communicated in the language we use in our culture today, would have sounded something like this: Jesus, what must I do so that I can experience eternal life with God in Heaven? What must I do to be right with God so that I can obtain a ticket to Heaven?” The reason why this question was a trap was due to the fact that there was great disagreement when it came to the answer to this question. And the lawyer believed that however Jesus answered this question, Jesus would end up offending someone.

Instead of providing an answer to the lawyers’ question, Jesus, sensing the lawyer’s insincerity, responded by turning the tables on the lawyer. Jesus basically said to the lawyer “What do you think? What do you think God said about how we can experience eternal life with God in Heaven?” Luke tells us that the lawyer, unable to resist the temptation to show off how much he knew about God, responded to having the tables turned on him by Jesus by quoting from a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of our Bibles called the book of Deuteronomy.

Jesus, upon hearing the lawyers answer to his own question, responded by affirming the lawyers answer. And in affirming the lawyers answer, Jesus quoted a section from a letter in the Old Testament of our Bible called the book of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 20:11, the prophet Ezekiel reminded the Jewish people that the Lord had given the Jewish people His commandments to reveal His nature and character and the nature and character that the Jewish people needed to possess and display in order to live in relationship with Him.

Jesus quoted this Old Testament passage as a command to the lawyer. Jesus basically said to the lawyer “You answered your own question correctly. Now make sure that you are living your life in obedience to your answer. To be right with God so that you can obtain a ticket to Heaven make sure that you are living your life in obedience to the Lord’s command to love the Lord with your total being and to love your neighbor as yourself, because you will show your love for the Lord by how you love your neighbor.”

Now I want us to imagine ourselves in this event from history as this lawyer. Place yourself in his shoes. You have just tried to trap Jesus with a question in a way that would jeopardize Jesus status and credibility among the people. However, Jesus just turned the tables on you in a way that forced you to answer your own question and that made Jesus look even better in the eyes of the people. You are this lawyer. What would you be thinking at this point? How would you be feeling? How would you respond? We see the lawyer’s response in Luke 10:29:

But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Luke tells us that the lawyer responded to having the tables turned on him by Jesus by asking Jesus a second question. "And who is my neighbor?" However, Luke revealed the true motive behind the lawyers question with the phrase wishing to justify himself. Now this phrase literally means to wish to vindicate himself.

You see, the lawyer recognized that Jesus had turned the tables on him. The lawyer recognized that his plan to trap Jesus had backfired. The lawyer desperately desired to vindicate himself. And the lawyer desperately wanted to demonstrate how smart he was and how much he knew about God. So the lawyer doubled down in his attempts to trap Jesus. 

The lawyer is basically saying “well Jesus if the Law says that I am supposed to love my neighbor as myself, who is my neighbor? And who is not my neighbor? Who do I have to love as I love myself? And who can I not love as I love myself?” Once again, the lawyer thought that he had trapped Jesus. The lawyer thought that he had trapped Jesus again because there was great disagreement when it came to the answer to this question. And the lawyer believed that however Jesus answered this question, Jesus would end up offending someone.

You see, in the Jewish culture of the first century, Jewish rabbis often taught that the Jewish people were to love their neighbor and hate their enemies. In other words, Jewish people who were right with God were under obligation to love other people who were insiders that were right with God, but Jewish people did not have to love people who were outsiders who were not right with God.

So there was great debate when it came to who was an insider and who was an outsider. There was a great debate when it came to who was right with God and who was not right with God. There was great debate over who needed to be shown love and who did not need to be shown love.  And now Jesus was being forced by this lawyer to enter into this debate. Luke then reveals for us how Jesus entered into this debate in verse 30-32:

Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. "And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. "Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

Luke tells us that, once again, Jesus replied to the lawyers question by not directly answering his question. Instead, Jesus told a parable. Now a parable is an earthly story that is designed to reveal a deeper spiritual truth. Jesus began this parable by explaining that as a Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. To fully understand the context of this parable, however, we first need to understand something about the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

You see, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a dangerous road frequented by robbers. The road descended 3,000 feet over 17 miles. This road would be very similar to traveling from Golden Valley to Bullhead City. There were many places along the road where robbers could hide in wait of unwary travelers and attack them by surprise.

Jesus then explained that the Jewish man who was on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by robbers who robbed him, beat him, stripped him naked and left him half dead on the side of the road. The robbers left this man on the side of the road to die of exposure or attack from wild animals after taking everything that this man possessed.

However, by chance a priest happened to be traveling on the road to Jericho when he came upon this half dead man lying on the side of the road. This priest was a Jewish religious leader who was a direct descendant of Aaron who had the position, privilege and responsibility to lead the Jewish people in following the Jewish sacrificial system. This religious person would have been considered right with God and would have been the insider of insiders. In our culture today, this man would have been like a Senior Pastor of a church.

Yet, when this insider of insiders saw his fellow Jewish man beaten, naked, and left half dead on the side of the road, he responded by moving to the other side of the road. This insider of insiders responded by distancing himself and walking right past his fellow Jew to instead continue on to Jericho. 

Jesus then explained that just by chance, a Levite happened to be traveling on the road to Jericho when he came upon this half dead man lying on the side of the road. This Levite was a Jewish religious leader who was the priest’s assistant and was responsible for the less important tasks at the Temple. In our culture today, this man would have been like an Associate Pastor of a church.

Yet, when this insider saw his fellow Jewish man beaten, naked, and left half dead on the side of the road, he also responded by moving to the other side of the road. This insider also responded by distancing himself and walking right past his fellow Jew to instead continue on to Jericho. 

Now I want us to imagine ourselves in this event from history in the crowd listening to Jesus as He had this confrontation with this lawyer. I want us to place ourselves in this scene for a minute. If you were there in the crowd listening, would you think that these insiders were very loving to their fellow insider? If you were there in the crowd listening, would you think that these insiders were acting like insiders when it came to having a relationship with God?

Or, if you were there in the crowd listening, would you think that these insiders were acting like outsiders when it came to having a relationship with God? How would you have responded to what these insiders did when it came to their fellow insider? You would have been disappointed in them, wouldn’t you?

Jesus then continued His parable by introducing a third character. A third character we will meet on Friday…

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Turning the tables on a question designed to trap...


At the church where I serve we are in the middle of a sermon series entitled “Invite”. During this series we are looking at several events from history where Jesus engaged and invited those who were far from Him to follow Him and live in relationship with Him.

During this series, we are going to discover what Jesus said to invite those who were far from Him to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. During this series, we are going to discover how Jesus said what He said to invite those who were far from Him to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. And as we go through this series, our hope and prayer is that God would move by the power of the Holy Spirit in our heads, hearts, and hands in a way that equips and empowers us to follow the example of Jesus when it comes to inviting those who are far from Jesus to follow Jesus and live in relationship with Jesus.  

This week I would like for us to look at an event from history that is recorded in a section of an account of Jesus life that is recorded for us in the Bible called the gospel of Luke. And it is in a section of the gospel of Luke that we see Luke give us a front row seat to a confrontation that reveals a timeless truth about how Jesus engaged and invited someone who was far from Him to follow Him. So let’s discover that timeless truth together, beginning in Luke 10:25:

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

Luke brings us into this event from history by explaining that as Jesus was engaging in a conversation with His disciples about a short-term mission trip that they had just returned from, a lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test.  Now this lawyer, who were also known as a scribe, was an expert in the Law, which are the first five books of our Bibles today, which the Jewish people referred to as the Law or Torah.

When Luke says that this lawyer put Jesus to the test, he is revealing for us the reality that this lawyer was trying to trap Jesus with a question. This lawyer was setting a trap in hopes that Jesus would incorrectly answer the question in a way that would jeopardize Jesus status and credibility among the people.

Luke then revealed the question that was posed to Jesus in order to trap Jesus: "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Now this question, if communicated in the language we use in our culture today, would have sounded something like this: Jesus, what must I do so that I can experience eternal life with God in Heaven? What must I do to be right with God so that I can obtain a ticket to Heaven?”

The reason why this question was a trap was due to the fact that there was great disagreement when it came to the answer to this question. And the lawyer believed that however Jesus answered this question, Jesus would end up offending someone.

Now here is a question to consider: Has anything changed? Is this not the question that is still asked today? And do not people argue and debate the answer to this question? Doesn’t the answer to this question still end up offending someone? Maybe you are here this morning, and this is a question that you have.

Maybe you are wondering “What must I do to experience a relationship with God?  What must I do to be right with God so that I can obtain a ticket to Heaven?” You see, regardless of whether or not you buy the whole Bible, Jesus, or church thing; regardless of how often you have attended church in the past; regardless of the fact that you may feel like you do not know and do not feel that you can ever know about whether or not the Bible or church is real or relevant; regardless of all the bad experiences that you may have had with Christians and churches, this is a question that resonates within us.

This is a question that will cause us to stop and think. Is there a God? And if there is a God, who is God? And if there is a God, how do I get right with God? However, while the lawyer thought that he had trapped Jesus, the lawyer was not prepared for what Jesus would do next, as we see in verse 26-28:

 And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE."

Instead of providing an answer to the lawyers’ question, Jesus, sensing the lawyer’s insincerity, responded by turning the tables on the lawyer. Jesus basically said to the lawyer “What do you think? What do you think God said about how we can experience eternal life with God in Heaven?”

Luke tells us that the lawyer, unable to resist the temptation to show off how much he knew about God, responded to having the tables turned on him by Jesus by quoting from a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of our Bibles called the book of Deuteronomy. The lawyer, who was not interested in learning from Jesus, but just wanted to trap Jesus with a test, quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, which was part of the Hebrew Schema, which was the Jewish people’s confession of faith. The schema would be recited by all Jewish people as part of their daily prayers and was committed to memory.

This answer would not have surprised those listening and would have seemed like the right response. The idea of loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind conveys a sense of total commitment. In our culture today, we would communicate this concept by saying that we should love God with our total being. In addition, this lawyer also quoted from another section of a letter in the Old Testament of our Bibles called the book of Leviticus.

Luke tells us that Jesus, hearing the lawyers answer to his own question, responded by affirming the lawyers answer. And in affirming the lawyers answer, Jesus quoted a section from a letter in the Old Testament of our Bible called the book of Ezekiel.

In Ezekiel 20:11, the prophet Ezekiel reminded the Jewish people that the Lord had given the Jewish people His commandments to reveal His nature and character and the nature and character that the Jewish people needed to possess and display in order to live in relationship with Him. Jesus quoted this Old Testament passage as a command to the lawyer.

Jesus basically said to the lawyer “You answered your own question correctly. Now make sure that you are living your life in obedience to your answer. To be right with God so that you can obtain a ticket to Heaven make sure that you are living your life in obedience to the Lord’s command to love the Lord with your total being and to love your neighbor as yourself, because you will show your love for the Lord by how you love your neighbor.”

Now I want us to imagine ourselves in this event from history as this lawyer. Place yourself in his shoes. You have just tried to trap Jesus with a question in a way that would jeopardize Jesus status and credibility among the people. However, Jesus just turned the tables on you in a way that forced you to answer your own question and that made Jesus look even better in the eyes of the people.

You are this lawyer. What would you be thinking at this point? How would you be feeling? How would you respond? Tomorrow we will see the lawyer’s response…

Friday, March 8, 2019

Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we challenge people to follow Jesus in a way that elicits, encourages, and exposes a genuine relationship with Jesus...


This week we are looking at an event from history that is recorded in a section of an account of Jesus life that is recorded for us in the Bible called the gospel of Matthew. After having a confrontation with the self-righteous religious leaders of the day over His unwillingness to have His disciples follow their man-made rules, which we looked at last week, Jesus and His disciples withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. Upon arriving near these cities, as Jesus and His disciples remained outside of the city, a Canaanite woman approached them to request that Jesus heal their daughter.

As a Canaanite, this would be a woman who was not Jewish ethnically or religiously. Instead, this woman was from an ethnic group who were considered the enemies of the Jewish people and who worshiped false gods instead of the Lord. This was a woman whose descendants the Lord had commanded the Jewish people to conquer and destroy from the land that they had been given by the Lord, which the Jewish people referred to as the Promised Land. In spite of the risks of approaching Jesus and His disciples, took the risk to approach Jesus from a distance and request Jesus to do what she believed He could do to help her daughter.

Matthew explained that Jesus responded to her request with silence. Now for this Canaanite woman, this response would not have been that unusual, based on the history of the ethnic hostility and animosity that existed between the groups. The woman, however, responded by persisting in her request, which would have challenged the social and cultural expectations of the day. While Jesus listened to the woman, the disciples wanted nothing to do with the woman. Instead, they wanted Jesus to drive the woman away. Matthew tells us that Jesus responded to the disciples request by explaining, loud enough that the woman would have been able to hear, that "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Once again Jesus response would have been what would have been expected by a Jewish person to someone who was viewed as an enemy of a different ethnicity. This response would have challenged this woman as to why she was asking Jesus to do for her what she was asking Him to do. Instead of being on her way and leaving them alone, Matthew explained that this woman came closer to Jesus. And upon approaching Jesus, this woman bowed before Him and proclaimed, “Lord help me!”

Jesus responded to this woman’s request by telling a parable: "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." Now a parable is an earthly story that is designed to reveal a deeper spiritual truth. The point that Jesus wanted to make unmistakably clear in this parable was that the children, i.e. Jewish people, were in a position of right and privilege, which the dogs, i.e. Gentiles like this Canaanite woman, cannot hope to share.

Now I want us to take a minute and imagine ourselves in this event from history as this Canaanite woman. I want us to place ourselves in her shoes. You are this Canaanite woman. You have heard about this Jewish guy named Jesus. You have heard the word on the street that He teaches like no one else teaches. You have heard the word on the street that He can miraculously heal people who are sick or who are possessed by evil spirits.

And your daughter, whom you love, is suffering greatly at the hands of an evil demonic spirit. And you know enough about the Jewish religious system to know that Jesus was doing the very things that their Messiah was predicted to be able to do. So you approach Jesus and place yourself in the most vulnerable position possible, risking verbal abuse and even physical harm, in hopes that Jesus would heal your daughter. And how does Jesus respond to you? Jesus responds to you by refusing to answer your request and then calls you a dog. Jesus ignores you and then calls you an ethnic slur. You are the Canaanite woman. What would you be thinking? How would you be feeling? How would you respond?

Now right about now you are thinking “surely Jesus would not have used an ethnic slur to disrespect this woman. Dave, you cannot be right. Jesus would never speak to someone in such a way.”  If that thought and question is running through your mind, here’s the thing: as much as you may want to sanitize Jesus words here, that is exactly what Jesus said. And we know that is the case because of how this woman responded to Jesus.

Now this begs a second question, which is “Why? Why would Jesus say such a rude and disrespectful thing to this woman?” We discover the answer to these questions in what the woman has to say next, which Matthew records for us in Matthew 15:27:

 But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."

Now the woman’s response, if communicated in the language we use in our culture today, would have sounded something like this: “Well, if we Canaanite Gentiles are dogs, at least the dogs have their due as well. Even Canaanite Gentile dogs like us have a right to be fed, even if all we get is the leftovers.” You see, this woman responded to Jesus ethnic insult with a feisty response. This woman responded to Jesus parable by turning Jesus parable against him.

And whether she realized it or not, this woman’s response revealed the important reality that the Messiah and His mission of rescue, while beginning with the Jewish people, would not end with the Jewish people. This woman, in her response, was reinforcing the reality that the Messiah's activity amongst the Jewish people was designed so that the Jewish people would be a light to all ethnicities and nations, not just the Jewish people.  

You see, by telling this parable that contained an ethnic slur, Jesus was challenging this woman in a way that stretched and humbled her heart. By telling this parable that contained an ethnic slur, Jesus was challenging this woman in a way that would elicit and encourage her faith in such a way that her faith in Him would be exposed for everyone to see. We see Jesus reveal the reality of this woman’s faith in Jesus by His response to the woman’s feisty and witty comeback, which Matthew records for us in verse 28:

Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.

Matthew tells us that Jesus responded to this woman’s feisty and witty response to His parable by proclaiming her faith in the presence of His disciples. Jesus recognized the justice of her case and the boldness of her refusal to accept defeat when He ignored or denied her request. As a result of her faithful persistence and humility to continue to engage Jesus, she won the argument and Jesus responded by granting her request. You see, Jesus did not change His mind and mission. Instead, Jesus used this verbal debate to draw out the great faith of this woman who was an enemy of the Jewish people from a different ethnicity.

And it is here that we discover a timeless truth when it comes to inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus. And that timeless truth is this: Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we challenge people to follow Jesus in a way that elicits, encourages, and exposes a genuine relationship with Jesus.

Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we recognize the reality that, just like the Canaanite woman and her love for her daughter, people may be drawn to Jesus because of the admirable qualities and strengths within them. Inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we recognize the reality that, just like the Canaanite woman, Jesus did not always make it easy for people to respond.

Instead, Jesus challenged the woman and stretched and humbled her heart, because Jesus desired that there be a response of genuine understanding and deep commitment. And in the same way, inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we challenge those that we are inviting to follow Jesus and live in relationship with Jesus with a desire that there be a response of genuine understanding and deep commitment.

You see, when we read the accounts of Jesus life that are recorded for us in the Bible, we discover that Jesus never presented the gospel in a way so as to make it as easy as possible by ignoring the challenging or difficult elements of the message of the gospel. The timeless reality is that the message of the gospel contains challenging ideas that are difficult for people to hear, such as the call to turn from their rebellion and turn to a relationship with Jesus that places Him first.

The message of the gospel contains challenging ideas that are difficult for people to hear, such as the call to live a life that is driven by a desire to become like Jesus, and not just receive forgiveness from Jesus. And as followers of Jesus we are called to share the message of the gospel to those in our immediate sphere of influence, to dare to reach out with the message of the gospel to those who are not in our immediate sphere of influence, and to care about the whole world hearing about the message of the gospel.

So here is a question for us to consider: How are you inviting people to follow Jesus? How do you share the message of Jesus with those who do not know Jesus? Are you trying to invite people to follow Jesus by ignoring challenging or difficult elements of what it means to follow Jesus? Are you simply inviting people to receive something from Jesus, or are you inviting people to follow Jesus as they receive something from Jesus? 

Because inviting people to follow Jesus in a way that follows the example of Jesus requires that we challenge people to follow Jesus in a way that elicits, encourages, and exposes a genuine relationship with Jesus...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Would Jesus use an ethnic slur?


This week we are looking at an event from history that is recorded in a section of an account of Jesus life that is recorded for us in the Bible called the gospel of Matthew where  Matthew gives us a front row seat to an event from history where Jesus invited someone to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. After having a confrontation with the self-righteous religious leaders of the day over His unwillingness to have His disciples follow their man-made rules, which we looked at last week, Jesus and His disciples withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon.

Historically these two cities were enemies of the Jewish people. And because of the history of animosity and hostility between the Jewish people and these cities, Jesus traveled to this region to get away from the opposition that He was experiencing from the Jewish religious leaders of the day. Upon arriving near these cities, as Jesus and His disciples remained outside of the city, a Canaanite woman approached them to request that Jesus heal their daughter.

As a Canaanite, this would be a woman who was not Jewish ethnically or religiously. This woman, who was familiar with the Jewish religious system and their hope in a promise of a Messiah, called Jesus the Son of David. So this woman, fully aware of the history and animosity that existed between her descendants and the Jewish people, took the risk to approach

We looked on as Matthew explained that Jesus responded to her request with silence. Now for this Canaanite woman, this response would not have been that unusual, based on the history of the ethnic hostility and animosity that existed between the groups. The woman, however, responded by persisting in her request, which would have challenged the social and cultural expectations of the day. You see, this woman was prepared to suffer ridicule and rejection and even physical danger in order to bring her daughters need to the attention of Jesus.

Now, while Jesus listened to the woman, but failed to respond to the woman, the disciples had a much different response: "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." While Jesus listened to the woman, the disciples wanted nothing to do with the woman. Instead, they wanted Jesus to drive the woman away. Matthew tells us that Jesus responded to the disciples request by explaining, loud enough that the woman would have been able to hear, that "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Once again Jesus response would have been what would have been expected by a Jewish person to someone who was viewed as an enemy of a different ethnicity. This response would have challenged this woman as to why she was asking Jesus to do for her what she was asking Him to do. At this point, the disciples were hopeful that this woman would be on her way and leave them alone. However, that is not what happened, as we see in Matthew 15:25:

 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"

Instead of being on her way and leaving them alone, Matthew explained that this woman came closer to Jesus. And upon approaching Jesus, this woman bowed before Him and proclaimed, “Lord help me!” By using the word Lord, this woman was expressing her belief that Jesus had the power to do what she asked. This woman responded to Jesus silence and the disciples hostility by placing herself in perhaps the most vulnerable position possible in hopes that Jesus would do what she requested.

Now you might be thinking “Well Jesus is not being like Jesus here. I mean, after all, Jesus loves everyone, so why is Jesus being so indifferent and so unloving to this woman. I mean if Jesus was taking the test “what would Jesus do” in this situation, he would fail the test because he is not doing what Jesus would and should do.” Now if I have just described what is running through your mind; if you are here this morning and think Jesus is not being very Jesus like here, just look at what Jesus does next.

Because what Jesus does next is to respond to this woman’s persistence by making a statement that is one of the most shocking and stunning statements recorded in the entire Bible. As a matter of fact, the statement that Jesus makes next is so unlike Jesus that we may have a hard time wrapping our minds around the reality that Jesus would make such a statement. So let’s look at Jesus statement in verse 26:

 And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."

Matthew tells us that Jesus responded to this woman’s request by telling a parable: "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." Now a parable is an earthly story that is designed to reveal a deeper spiritual truth. To fully understand this parable, we first need to understand how Jewish people viewed dogs.

In the Jewish culture of the day, dogs were viewed as unclean animals that were not to be associated with. And in the Jewish culture of the day, Gentiles, like this Canaanite woman, were often derogatorily referred to as dogs. Jews often referred to Gentiles as dogs as an offensive ethnic slur. In our culture today, this would be similar to using the “n” word to describe a black person. The point that Jesus wanted to make unmistakably clear in this parable was that the children, i.e. Jewish people, were in a position of right and privilege, which the dogs, i.e. Gentiles like this Canaanite woman, cannot hope to share.

Now I want us to take a minute and imagine ourselves in this event from history as this Canaanite woman. I want us to place ourselves in her shoes. You are this Canaanite woman. You have heard about this Jewish guy named Jesus. You have heard the word on the street that He teaches like no one else teaches. You have heard the word on the street that He can miraculously heal people who are sick or who are possessed by evil spirits. And your daughter, whom you love, is suffering greatly at the hands of an evil demonic spirit. And you know enough about the Jewish religious system to know that Jesus was doing the very things that their Messiah was predicted to be able to do.

So you approach Jesus and place yourself in the most vulnerable position possible, risking verbal abuse and even physical harm, in hopes that Jesus would heal your daughter. And how does Jesus respond to you? Jesus responds to you by refusing to answer your request and then calls you a dog. Jesus ignores you and then calls you an ethnic slur. You are the Canaanite woman. What would you be thinking? How would you be feeling? How would you respond?

Now you might be thinking “surely Jesus would not have used an ethnic slur to disrespect this woman. Dave, you cannot be right. Jesus would never speak to someone in such a way.”  If that thought and question is running through your mind, here’s the thing: as much as you may want to sanitize Jesus words here, that is exactly what Jesus said. And we know that is the case because of how this woman responded to Jesus. Now this begs a second question, which is “Why? Why would Jesus say such a rude and disrespectful thing to this woman?”

Friday we will discover the answer to these questions in what the woman has to say next...

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How can a loving God destroy whole civilizations like He did in the Old Testament?


At the church where I serve we are in the middle of a sermon series entitled “Invite”. During this series we are looking at several events from history where Jesus engaged and invited those who were far from Him to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. During this series, we are going to discover what Jesus said to invite those who were far from Him to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. During this series, we are going to discover how Jesus said what He said to invite those who were far from Him to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. And as we go through this series, our hope and prayer is that God would move by the power of the Holy Spirit in our heads, hearts, and hands in a way that equips and empowers us to follow the example of Jesus when it comes to inviting those who are far from Jesus to follow Jesus and live in relationship with Jesus.  

This week I would like for us to look at an event from history that is recorded in a section of an account of Jesus life that is recorded for us in the Bible called the gospel of Matthew. And it is in a section of the gospel of Matthew that we see Matthew give us a front row seat to an event from history where Jesus invited someone to follow Him and live in relationship with Him. So let’s take that front row seat together, beginning in Matthew 15:21-22:

Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed."

Matthew begins to give us a front row seat to this event from history by providing the context in which this event from history took place. After having a confrontation with the self-righteous religious leaders of the day over His unwillingness to have His disciples follow their man-made rules, which we looked at last week, Jesus and His disciples withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now Tyre and Sidon were cities that were located north of the region of the Galilee that marked the northern edge of the territory of the Jewish people. And historically these two cities were enemies of the Jewish people.

And because of the history of animosity and hostility between the Jewish people and these cities, Jesus traveled to this region to get away from the opposition that He was experiencing from the Jewish religious leaders of the day. You see, no self-respecting Jewish religious leader would consider traveling to such a place where there were people that they viewed to be enemies of the Jewish people.

Upon arriving near these cities, as Jesus and His disciples remained outside of the city, a Canaanite woman approached them to request that Jesus heal their daughter. As a Canaanite, this would be a woman who was not Jewish ethnically or religiously. Instead, this woman was from an ethnic group who were considered the enemies of the Jewish people and who worshiped false gods instead of the Lord. This was a woman whose descendants the Lord had commanded the Jewish people to conquer and destroy from the land that they had been given by the Lord, which the Jewish people referred to as the Promised Land.

Now, as we have talked about in the past, so often when I talk with people about God and Christianity, one of their biggest push backs is “How can a loving God destroy whole civilizations like He did in the Old Testament. Your God sounds like a God of wrath, not a God of love. If that is what God is like, I want no part of Him”. Maybe you are here this morning, and this is one of your biggest reasons for resisting or rejecting Christianity. My response to that objection or push back is this: to understand why God commanded the Jewish people to destroy the nations that inhabited the Promised Land and to possess the Promised Land, we first need to understand two things about these nations, which are referred to in the Bible as the Amorites or the Canaanites.

The first thing that we need to understand is that the people who made up the nations that inhabited the Promised Land were some of the most inhumane and cruelly wicked societies that ever lived. These were societies that sacrificed their infant children to false gods; these were societies that were involved in sexual behavior that was so twisted and perverse I cannot even begin to describe in mixed company. In these societies young children were often suffocated and buried alive in the foundations of their homes as an act of worship to their false gods.

In fact, many historians and archaeologists describe the Canaanite society as being perhaps the most wicked society that ever lived. In another section of the Bible God made it clear to the Jewish people that they were not receiving the Promised Land because they were especially good; they were receiving the Promised Land because the inhabitants of that land were exceptionally evil.

The second thing that we need to understand is that God did not simply wake up one morning and decide to wipe out an entire culture and society as a wrathful, angry God. Some 400 years before commanding the Jewish people to conquer and destroy the peoples that lived in the land of Canaan, God predicted and proclaimed to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, that after being enslaved in Egypt, the Jewish nation would return to and take possession of the land that was promised to his descendants.

For 400 years God endured the incredible wickedness of the Amorites and the Canaanites. God extended grace for 400 years in order to provide that society the opportunity to change their evil ways. And after 400 years, God chose to use the Jewish people as an instrument to exercise His justice and judgment on the people of the land of Canaan, who had refused to change and were left with no excuse or defense for their wickedness. 

In addition, God also used other nations to exercise justice and judgment upon the Jewish people as a result of their wrongdoing and injustice. Throughout the Old Testament, God used the Assyrian Empire and the Babylonian Empire to exercise His justice and judgment upon the Jewish people for their wrongdoing and injustice. And during the period of history in the life of Jesus, the Jewish people were living as a conquered people under the Roman Empire as a result of their selfishness and rebellion. Throughout the letter that make up the Bible, we see God use nations to exercise His justice and judgment of the wrongdoing and injustice of other nations. 

Now, with that background information in mind, Matthew tells us that this woman, who was familiar with the Jewish religious system and their hope in a promise of a Messiah, called Jesus the Son of David. You see, God had promised the Jewish people that He would send a rescuer, a deliverer, a Messiah, who would bring the Jewish people back to God and back to prominence in the world. And one of the titles that was used to describe the Messiah was the Son of David, as the Messiah would be a descendant of the Jewish people’s most famous king, King David. 

So this woman, fully aware of the history and animosity that existed between her descendants and the Jewish people, approached Jesus from a distance and shouted a request that He would heal her daughter. In addition, this woman, in making her request explained the reason behind her request. Apparently, this woman’s daughter was possessed by a demon and was being treated cruelly and severely by this demon. So this woman, in spite of the risks of approaching Jesus and His disciples, took the risk to approach Jesus from a distance and request Jesus to do what she believed He could do to help her daughter. Matthew then recorded Jesus response to the woman’s request in verse 23-24:

 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." 24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Matthew explained that Jesus responded to her request with silence. Now for this Canaanite woman, this response would not have been that unusual, based on the history of the ethnic hostility and animosity that existed between the groups. The woman, however, responded by persisting in her request, which would have challenged the social and cultural expectations of the day. You see, this woman was prepared to suffer ridicule and rejection and even physical danger in order to bring her daughters need to the attention of Jesus. The strength of this woman’s love for her daughter drove her to see her need for Jesus.

Now, while Jesus listened to the woman, but failed to respond to the woman, the disciples had a much different response: "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." The disciples response, if communicated in the language we use in our culture today, would have sounded something like this: Do what she wants so that she will go away and leave us alone. While Jesus listened to the woman, the disciples wanted nothing to do with the woman. Instead, they wanted Jesus to drive the woman away.

Matthew tells us that Jesus responded to the disciples request by explaining, loud enough that the woman would have been able to hear, that "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." With this phrase, Jesus was basically saying to His disciples and to this woman who was within earshot of the conversation “the Messiah was sent to the Jewish people, not those who were not Jewish.”

Once again Jesus response would have been what would have been expected by a Jewish person to someone who was viewed as an enemy of a different ethnicity. This response would have challenged this woman as to why she was asking Jesus to do for her what she was asking Him to do. At this point, the disciples were hopeful that this woman would be on her way and leave them alone.

However, that is not what happened, as we see tomorrow…