Free excerpt below
On Faith, Healing, Jesus and John the Baptist
7, verses 1-23]
by Minister Paul J. Bern
You can find my other 5 titles on my website at https://www.authorrevpauljbern.com
Last week when we concluded our dissection of Luke chapter 6, we left off at the parable Jesus told at the conclusion to his Sermon on the Mount about the wise and the foolish builders. One built his house on a bedrock foundation, the other homeowner built his on stilts. So much time goes by and then along comes a tropical storm with heavy rain, damaging winds and much flooding. The first house built on solid rock stood firm, but the house on stilts washed away. Jesus compared this to 2 men who heard his Word in church, but only one put those words into practice, whereas the other did not. As a result the first man’s house stood firm, but the second was destroyed. If we hear the Word of God and fail to put it into practice, we sow the seeds of our own destruction. So today let’s pick up where we left off beginning at verse 1 of chapter 7.
“When Jesus has finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, who the master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, ‘This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue’. So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself to be worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one ‘Go’ and he goes, and to that one ‘Come’ and he comes. I say to my servant ‘Do this’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’. Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (Luke 7, verses 1-10)
This is one of the most inspiring stories in the Bible, and there are a ton of those. It’s also one of my personal favorites because it proves that faith – full-fledged, unreserved, undiluted faith – is the least common denominator to a fruitful and productive Christian walk. Without faith, everything else about our praise and worship becomes nothing more than going through the motions of religiosity, pomp and circumstance. How can we worship a god we don’t believe in? But when one becomes filled with the Spirit of the living God, which is in a class by itself, all that same-old-same-old becomes rejuvenated and invigorated into an entirely new self, which is where the phrase “born again Christian” comes from.
“The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” As you can see here, this unnamed Roman centurion was a thoughtful man. He didn’t send his own servants to ask Jesus to come and heal that sick servant. He sent elders from the Jews, presumably from the Temple at Jerusalem who would have the most influence on Jesus, to convince him to come. “So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself to be worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” As you can also see, the centurion in this parable was a very considerate man who understood that Jesus was the Promised One (“I do not deserve to have you come under my roof “) from what we now call the Old Testament. Moreover, the primary mode of transportation in those days was on foot, and the centurion had enough faith to realize that Jesus didn’t need to be there to heal that sick servant. He wanted to save Jesus some steps, and this would be even more true if this were during the merciless Middle Eastern summertime.
“When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’. Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” Evidently Jesus had the 1st century equivalent of an entourage. Moreover, Jesus pointed out to the crowd that the Roman centurion had more faith in the Jewish Messiah than many of the Jews did, particularly those in positions of leadership. But the main thing here is that Jesus was impressed by the faith of the centurion to the point of granting his wish and healing his sick servant in absentia. And now, let’s move on to the next part of our study, beginning at verse 11.
“Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her, and he said, ‘Don’t cry’. Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’. The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us’, they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” (Luke 7, verses 11-17)
What has gotten lost in the translation here are the commandments of the Law of Moses regarding the handling and burying of dead people. Any deceased person was regarded as “unclean” and was not to be touched, and Jesus walked the earth as a Jewish man. So basically it was contrary to the Law of Moses for Jesus to even approach that funeral procession. And yet there he was, raising the deceased from the dead. If the Pharisees of Jesus’ time saw him do that – and they’re not mentioned here – they would have gone crazy, possibly even attempting to execute him on the spot. But just like in Luke chapter 4, which we recently studied, the Father did not allow any such thing to occur to the Son before it was time.
“They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us’, they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’” And who are “his people”? This includes everyone who believes in and puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. They are those who believe he is the Son of God, the risen Lord, the Savior and Kinsman Redeemer of all humankind, and the blessed Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! Jesus is not just a ‘great prophet’, he is the Prophet of all prophets. And he hasn’t just come to help his people, he came and died for us all so that we may live, and live forever with him! I oftentimes find myself similarly filled with awe and praise for God! And now let’s conclude today’s study beginning at verse 18.
“John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7, verses 18-23)
As you know, John the Baptist had followers too, just like Jesus did. But even John the Baptist sometimes had doubts, so he sent two of his disciples to Jesus for verification purposes. As a 3rd party observer, this seems reasonable to me, given the lack of direct communication that existed back then, such as phones and the Internet. So along comes John’s 2 disciples and they ask Jesus, “Are you the real deal or aren’t you? John the Baptist wants to know.” Jesus responds, “Don’t take my word for it – judge me by my actions!” and then he lists all the miracles he had performed and would perform as proof of his authenticity. Two thousand years later, multitudes and throngs of people of all races, nationalities, creeds and ethnicities still place their faith in this same authenticity that is the personification of Jesus Christ. It hasn’t changed one little bit during all this time! Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, and the Son of the Living God!
It also says Jesus “preached the good news to the poor”. And what was that? Their lack of resources is only temporary, he told them. If you want to store up treasure for yourself and save for your future, don’t store it here on earth – store it in heaven instead, where no one can get to it (see Matthew 6, verses 19-21). Stop worrying about your lack of possessions. Stop fretting over not having enough cash on hand, it happens to all of us. No matter how much we accumulate here, we can’t take anything with us after our physical lives are over. Materialistic pursuits and the accumulation of wealth are all illusions and a complete waste of our time. The only things that will last forever are Jesus and all his followers. “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” In other words, blessed are those who prefer Christ, who is eternal, over earthly riches, which are anything but. Blessed are those who prefer Jesus over all other things, so let’s all make sure we are blessed to the hilt! And next week we’ll finish up Luke chapter seven.
Your Sins Are Forgiven (Luke chapter 7, part 2 )
7, verses 24-50]
Minister Paul J. Bern
For this week’s study we’ll be covering the second half of Luke chapter 7. When we left off last week, John the Baptist had sent 2 of his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the true Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord. Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” Jesus was telling John’s disciples they should be certain about Jesus’ true identity by his actions and not his words. Today as we take up where we left off last week, we find out what happens afterwards as Jesus addresses the ever-present crowds of admirers, followers and hangers-on, beginning at verse 24.
“After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? This is the one about whom it is written, ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’. I tell you, among those who are born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’ (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the Law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)” (Luke 7, verses 24-30)
The quote Jesus used from the Old Testament, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you”, comes from Malachi chapter 3, verse 1. Jesus knew the Bible as it existed back then better than anyone who ever lived, as you can see from this relatively obscure scriptural quotation. “‘What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” I can almost hear the nervous laughter rippling through the crowd. “But what did you go out to see? A prophet?” ‘You went to see a real prophet, didn’t you’, Jesus was saying! Our Savior then answers his own question, “I tell you, among those who are born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” To receive a compliment like this from the Lord Christ Jesus was nothing short of superlative from John’s standpoint. It sure would be to myself! I’d be happy just to be John the Baptist’s maintenance man at his mansion in the sky!
“… yet the one who is the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” There is unconditional equality in God’s kingdom! The least in God’s kingdom to come (and soon!) are still greater than John the Baptist. How can this be? Is this because no one is considered to have any superiority over anyone else, or great authority? That’s partly true, but I think the main reason is that no one who made it to God’s kingdom did so by their own efforts. Only the shed blood of Christ qualifies any of us to be there in New Jerusalem (heaven) with him. “All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right”. They embraced Jesus’ teachings because they had embraced John’s, who had told them in advance of Jesus’ coming. There’s something to be said in favor of faith right here. When these people came to hear Jesus, that was the proof of the pudding as far as they were concerned. This was a confirmation of their faith, and of the teachings and prophecies of John the Baptist. The Pharisees and “experts” in the Old Law rejected Christ, much to their own condemnation. And now let’s move on to the second part of our study, starting at verse 31, as Jesus continues to speak.
“‘To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry’. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’. But wisdom is proved right by all her children.’ Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7, verses 36-39)
Jesus compared the religious establishment of his day, the Pharisees and Rabbi’s, to children playing who, when no one would join in their games, sat around pouting and sulking because they didn’t get their way! “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’” John the Baptist lived by himself in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey for his main diet. This gentleman was evidently a hermit of sorts who would go out and preach sporadically but frequently in the desert areas of Judea, in what is now called the West Bank area of Israel. One thing is for sure – John was not a normal, everyday kind of guy. But since the religious establishment didn’t understand him or believe what he preached, they said John was some kind of demon-possessed individual. Jesus then told his critics that day, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’. But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” The Pharisees and Rabbi’s were so arrogant that they passed judgment against both John the Baptist and Jesus without so much as a second thought. The religious establishment of today hasn’t changed a bit, no matter which faith it may be.
Then, the text does a 1st century version of ‘fast forward’ as it jumps over to the dinner at the Pharisee’s house. As the “sinful woman” weeps at the feet of Jesus, “she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’” So it’s plain to see that the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner was judging this woman, possibly someone involved in the sex trade, and he assumed he could hide his thoughts from our Lord. But he assumed incorrectly, as we will now find out, beginning at verse 40.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher’, he said. Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, the other one 50. Neither of them had the money to pay them back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’ ‘You have judged correctly’, Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’.” (Luke 7, verses 40-50)
Here again we find ourselves being confronted by Jesus who granted unconditional equality to everyone no matter who they were. As you can see, our Savior took great exception to anyone who considered themselves better than others, no matter what the reason. He was reprimanding Simon the Pharisee in a diplomatic sort of way. Simon had provided Jesus with a nice dinner in comfortable surroundings, that is true. Did Simon the Pharisee reap an eternal reward for that? I would think so, but Jesus was gently telling him that he shouldn’t think so highly of himself. The woman who wept at the feet of Jesus, although described by the apostle Luke as “sinful”, she was evidently shedding some tears of repentance. ‘You didn’t wash my feet, but she did. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she has kissed my feet nonstop since I’ve been here. You didn’t anoint me with oil, but she has doused my feet with perfume. Your dinner has been nice, Simon – very nice! But she has done more – much more!’ Jesus regarded the acts of the sinful woman as being more noble than all the religiosity that Simon could muster.
“…. her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’.” For she loved much? But he who has been forgiven little loves little? Yes, the (previously) sinful woman had been forgiven many sins, so she loved Jesus more than all the others, particularly Simon. Simon loved Jesus the least of everyone at the dinner because he held himself in high regard and probably had a ‘holier than thou’ attitude to boot. But it’s not our own efforts that can save our souls, but faith combined with our acts most definitely can! If that formerly sinful woman’s faith saved her, so can ours. Only, let’s similarly be formerly sinful like she was after she met Jesus, and let’s all do our level best to live the rest of our lives in this way. And next time we meet, well start on part one of Luke chapter eight…..