Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Jesus introduced Himself back in Chapter 4 and gave His mission statement:
Luke 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
So Jesus has a mission from God to preach the gospel, which includes freedom to captives of sin and this fallen age, and to show that God’s love will be poured out on humanity through Him. But to accomplish this mission, to heal humanity from the terminal condition of sin, Jesus must die—having been rejected by man, man’s government and man’s religion—so that no one could boast that they’d participated in this rescue mission.
In Luke 9:50 Jesus “determined to journey to Jerusalem” in order to complete the mission – God’s chosen city of God’s chosen people and the place where God used to dwell among His people in the Temple (Ezek 10:19).
The closer He gets, like a space capsule re-entering the atmosphere, things start to heat up. This is nothing short of a hostile takeover from the men who had stolen the way to God. But they will not go down easily and they will not bow down to this new King at all.
- Challenges their man-made rules
- Declares that though it starts with one Man, His gospel is unstoppable in how big His kingdom will get and unstoppable in how deep it will spread permeating every corner of the earth and the soul
- To enter this big kingdom, you have to go through a very small door
- Jesus then declares His intentions to challenge the current leadership, however He hints that it’s not how the people expect
- Finally, Jesus shows that He is actually very sad over the state of how things have moved away from a true relationship with Yahweh.
10 – 17
As His usual custom, Jesus taught about the truth of God in the Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath. He spies a woman, bent over with severe scoliosis. Jesus doesn’t throw out a demon from inside her, but frees her from her infirmity—the influence of the demon over her spine. It’s amazing how much the enemy has influenced this age, making it difficult for us at every turn. It may not be a physical infirmity, but it could be mental or cultural as he bends us away from the truth.
Jesus demonstrates His mission of freeing the captives by laying hands on her. What’s the response? She glorifies God. That ought to be our response as well when Jesus frees us from the influence of the enemy.
But the response from the leader of the synagogue is very different. It is a full on challenge to Jesus in front of everyone. He is trying to shame both Jesus and the woman. It reminds me of the wizard in the Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy comes to ask the wizard to help her get home he says: “Go away. Come back tomorrow.” This synagogue leader says “there’s a schedule and a proper time for healing, but it’s not on the Sabbath!” How silly and how sad. Jewish rules did not allow healing on the Sabbath because the making of a salve that might used for healing might have come as a result of harvesting. Plus, you were supposed to rest so you couldn’t do “regular” work.
Jesus calls this hypocritical because no one would withhold life-saving food and water from an animal on a Sabbath by keeping them tied up, and here is a human, more important than an animal, yet the leaders want to keep this woman bound.
The leaders, Luke refers to them as “adversaries”, are humiliated, yet the people, like the woman, rejoiced. The Jewish religion had become self-serving. The rules were designed to keep the power, rather than point the way to God.
18 – 21
As we’ve seen, the Jewish leadership is really trying to stop Jesus. They reasoned that if they can destroy one Man, the whole thing will crumble. In Acts 5, Gamaliel, a leading Pharisee and Saul’s mentor, said basically that—once the leader goes away, so too do the followers.
God’s kingdom is different. Jesus describes it as a small seed (one Man) which grows into a giant tree, and as a small amount of yeast, which permeates a giant amount of flour (50 lbs. makes about 33 regular loaves of bread). You may have heard some suggest that Jesus is actually talking about evil and sin permeating the church, as in many places birds represent demons, and often yeast is a stand-in for sin.
It’s important not to make parables “walk on all fours” or woodenly interpret them. Jesus is clearly here making a point about the breadth and depth of His kingdom. No matter what you try to do, you can’t stop it.
Matthew 16:18 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Having said that, the size of the kingdom doesn’t speak to how you get in.
22 – 30
The kingdom started small like a mustard seed, and though Jesus taught widely, there were few who authentically followed Him at first. This leads one man to ask why so few were coming? I sometimes wonder why it seems so few come into a relationship with Jesus. It’s because there is only one way. We don’t get to make up our own deal with God. He made the way, we have to come to Him on His terms.
Many people think they are in good with God. Certainly the Jewish leaders did. But you can’t get into His kingdom by being Jewish. You can’t get in by joining a church. You can’t get in by listening to the gospel. You can’t get in by demanding that God let you in.
What does it hinge upon? Having a relationship with Him. You get that by bowing your heart and life to Him—admitting that God is right, admitting your failure to be good and throwing yourself on His mercy.
What will surprise the Jewish leaders is that many outside of Judaism will sit down with the Jewish Patriarchs at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, while the very leaders who rejected Him will be rejected by Him and not get to eat at this banquet (more on that next time). The idea of humbling yourself before the King also comes back in the next chapter.
Jesus is telling Israel that it will really anger them when they see the Patriarchs eating with Gentiles but they themselves left out. It’s not that they’ll repent, because they want in only through their way, and not God’s.
31 – 33
Apparently the Pharisees were trying a different tactic. Since they couldn’t trip up Jesus in front of the people, they thought that fear might motivate Him to give up and leave the scene. So they either report or make-up a story of Herod wanting to kill Him.
Jesus calls him a fox (an unclean animal, also always referred to in Hebrew in the feminine form). He wants them to report back that He continues to do His work from His mission statement, is determined to come to Jerusalem, and hints at His death, burial, and resurrection after three days.
34 – 35
This shows us that God is not dispassionate – in fact He cares very much about the Jews and has been watching year after year as the people turned their back on Him first to other gods and then started worshipping themselves in legalism. He wanted to just come in and hold them tight and make it all right. But He knew this was the only way, and He knew well that His own people would reject Him, despite His love for them.
John 1:11 (HCSB) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.
Because of that, God’s Spirit abandoned the Temple and it along with the whole city, would be destroyed a few years later. But eventually, the Jews will see who Jesus really is and bow to Him.
Zechariah 12:10 (ESV) “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
This happens in the last of days, during the Great Tribulation.
- Jesus is unstoppable
Matthew 21:44 (HCSB) “Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder!”
You can get in the way and try and stop it, and get rolled over like a giant steamroller, or you can climb aboard, humble yourself, and have eternal life.
- You have to come to Him His way, no matter how hard you try
You need to get on page with Him. You can’t make Him in your image. You can’t say “my God would never …” He will do and say things that you don’t agree with or confuse you, but you have to accept Him for who He is, not who you want Him to be.
- You can’t impress Him, so stop trying. He is unimpressed by our authority or shows of goodness and piety. He’s not impressed with our big buildings or programs or the amount of money we have. The only thing that matters is who you know—in this case, a relationship with Jesus.
- It is a narrow way, but a way of love, not burden or judgment or having to earn your way