The CLEVER question about the wife who saw off 7 husbands!

The CLEVER question about the wife who saw off 7 husbands!

Luke 20 v 27-39 “Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” 34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no-one dared to ask him any more questions.”

 

Jesus has known attacks of every kind, deceit, manipulation and flattery. But here we read of what a group called the Sadducees thought was a very clever question designed to trick him.

The Sadducees were a group of Jews who were known more for what they didn’t believe than what they did.

They held to the Torah, the first 5 Old Testament books of Moses. But nothing much else.

They did not believe in angels or spirits, life after death or anything supernatural.

More importantly to us here as we have read these verses, they also did not believe in what their question suggested they did!

In what to us seems like a crazy hypothetical story, they then ask this, “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her? But they don’t believe in the resurrection. So they are not interested in the answer to their own question because they don’t believe in what the question is intimating! This is therefore an attempt to trick Jesus. But it is laden with assumption. Will she make the resurrection? Will the seven husbands make it? The Sadducees are trying to appear superior, clever, above anyone else. In a few minutes Jesus made them loom ordinary and foolish.

 

  1. Marriage is for the world we live in.
  2. Resurrection to life is for those considered worthy. Not everyone then.
  3. In that resurrected world we will not be in need of marriage. It will not have the same importance in the after- life.
  4. In that resurrected world there will be no death and in that sense we will be like the angels.

And in a grand finale twist of the knife, Jesus adds:

  1. Even their hero, Moses, believed in the resurrection.

 

The Sadducees may have died out but they still exist in different forms today. We all know the clever question. “Why does God allow suffering?” coming from someone who doesn’t believe in God is difficult to answer because if there is no God then why is there a need to ask the question? But even if the question is genuine the answer is the same as when Jesus implied, ‘your picture of the resurrection isn’t the one I have.’ The answer is ‘your picture of God is not the God I worship’. ‘The picture of a God who controls our will and prevents our selfish greed and our potential to be wicked is not the God I worship’.

So the next time you are quizzed, slow the question down, the answer may lie within the question. The CLEVER question isn’t always that clever.

Flattery

Flattery

Luke 20 v 20-26

20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”

25 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

There is a whole lot of difference between honour and flattery.

However, they look the same.

You can be congratulated on your work, how you speak, your wisdom and how you are with people. You can be praised for your righteous lifestyle. You can have lots of ‘likes’.

These comments can honour you and yet be a manipulative ruse, a dishonest ambush and as much an attack as if someone had punched you.

The religious leaders wanted Jesus to fall into their trap of making him say something against Rome. His answer was perfect as it always is.

The duplicitous are always close by.

Some don’t even know they are doing it. They think they are simply being nice. Flattery is nice, right?

Raised to truly believe you are capable of being an astronaut soon leads to despondency and questioning your factory-working father (nothing wrong with working in a factory) who wanted his son to travel further in life than he had done and thus satisfying the deep discouragement and failure within himself.

There are so many examples of flattery leading to failure, even inside the Church.

We learn flattery early on in life and then some can become experts in it.

Some have friends that are actually friends with benefits (sorry about the connotation but it’s true). They are hoping to get. Their new friend will open doors for them etc.

Secret plans are being made today based on greed and selfish need. This is spiritual warfare and the Church, the Christian, you, can be at the centre of that plan. Make sure at least you are not the one making the plan.

So how are we not duped? Well of course, we are taken for a ride throughout life. But we try and strengthen our defences without being defensive.

How does Jesus help us?

1. Jesus saw through their duplicity – if there is one gift of the Spirit we need today it is discernment and secondly wisdom. We need to know whether the approach is from God or the enemy of our soul or just our own desires and appetites. We need to pray for this gift.

2. Find the question – Jesus was the master of the right question. He does it again here. Throughout his life there are records of 307 questions. Your question can open up the real reason you are being questioned.

3. Centre your answer around giving – Jesus clearly shows that he is no rebel. Taxes should be paid because the coins bearing Caesar’s image belong to him. Similarly if you bear God’s image then you must give your life to Him. I have found throughout my life that giving to others and giving to God has proven to be the right path to walk on.

Don’t let the Stone crush you.

Don’t let the Stone crush you.

Luke 20: 17-19 “Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.”

The use of Psalm 118 by Jesus brought further fury from the religious leaders. This was a pilgrimage Psalm and used by the pilgrims surrounding Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.

Jesus uses it to end his parable on the vineyard and is saying ‘I may be rejected now but I will be seen as the Messiah very shortly.’ 40 years after the parable was taught, the Romans entered the city, flattened it and then led the religious leaders bound in chains into foreign nations. They came under God’s judgment. The stone had fallen on them just as Jesus had said. Whether it comes on you or it becomes a stumbling block to you, Jesus, the Living Stone demands a response.

It is far better to make Jesus the cornerstone of your life. There is a key place in all our lives. Some say the capstone, the place above the door. Some say the cornerstone, the first stone in a building. Whatever it is, it is of huge importance. Is Jesus occupying the place of huge importance? Is he in the decision making part? If he is not Lord then you may stumble over him and worst still you may be crushed by Him.

Where would you put your ‘God forbid!’?

Where would you put your ‘God forbid!’?

Luke 20 v 9-19

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

 

Every Jew would understand this parable and even we can see it clearly. The owner is God, the farmers/tenants are Israel and the son is of course Jesus.

All seemed well until harvest time. The farmers were paid by what the harvest brought with a percentage going to the owner. God was wanting a portion, a return from their lives that indicated they belonged to him. God has the right to that. He owns the whole thing. Surrender of the fruit of the harvest is still a problem for some today. Some Christians are still struggling with a tithe never mind giving from the 90% and it has nothing to do with debt or personal circumstances, just greed.

So God sends His servants the prophets.

They beat one, physically hurting the prophet.

“When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” No they didn’t.

Another servant came and this time was dishonoured. To the Jew they understood full well honour and shame, it is part of their culture as in many parts of the world. The prophet was sent away in shame.

“When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” No they didn’t.

The third one came and they wounded him, the word is ‘traumatizo’. The prophet was thrown out traumatised by them.

“When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” No they didn’t.

So the son came, the one who was loved, Jesus. In a prophetic message of what would happen in a few days, Jesus describes how the son was taken out of the vineyard and killed (outside the city wall). The owner’s son, killed by those benefiting from the owner!

“When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” No they didn’t.

So the owner returns. When He comes He comes with severe judgment and what the farmers thought was theirs is taken away and the vineyard is given to others, which clearly is understood as the other nations, the people that the Jews despised.

“When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

The point is, we don’t seem to think it is wrong to judge ruthlessly and deal harshly, to be unkind, to abuse, manipulate and treat ruthlessly. Why would we when we are right?

But when the same judgment is used on us. That’s a different story. God forbid!

 

The battle for authority

The battle for authority

Luke 20: 1-8 “One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

 

3:21-22 “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

That seems a long time ago. However, not only did Jesus live in the light of what happened, Luke was writing his gospel with this very much in mind. The scene in the Jordan River propelled Jesus forward in the authority that was his. Luke has the cross and the resurrection very much in mind throughout his gospel. This was the ultimate battle in answering the question, “…by what authority are you doing these things?” (v2) Luke is not so much seeing the fiercest battle with the High Priest and his entourage but with Caesar.

Luke 2:1 “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”

We will read soon these verses, 20: 22-25 “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? …”Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied … He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

The religious leaders incredulously are seen to support the authority of Caesar (who they hate and oppose) in order to seek the downfall of Jesus in Luke 23: 2 “And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

At the crucifixion around the cross stood the authority of the world, the power of religion and the power of the world system. The religious leaders representing the High Priest and the Roman soldiers, the representatives of Caesar. When Jesus rose from the grave, the declaration was that of Jesus having the highest authority!

So back to the Temple. “What gives you the right to come into this Temple of great authoritative structures with the High Priest being the final authority and do what you have just done? Who gave you this authority?”

Jesus takes them right back to the Jordan River, to John the Baptist, who they hated for declaring the Messiah title on Jesus. He doesn’t ask “Was John the Baptist sent from heaven?” But they are asked about the baptism. That’s where it really happened. That is the moment of the Messiah authority. It was ingenious. He had trapped them and they knew it, for John the Baptist was a hero amongst the people. I can imagine Luke writing with a smile.

Now here is the challenge. How do we see the authority of Jesus displayed in our churches and in our lives as we live in this power-hungry world? What kind of Jesus do we portray? How do we reveal Him as Master, Owner, Keeper, Lord of all, Sovereign and Final Authority on all things?

That has to mean at least over-turned tables in the Temple.

This kind of authority will offend someone.

The outworking of the battle for authority has been displayed in every generation. Sadly, history reveals the Church doesn’t cover itself in glory with this. Either it rises beyond its status with a man-made authority or it buckles and gives way to the pressure of the authority of the world. The Church that goes to the cross, surrenders and lays its life down for others, is the body of Christ that displays true authority.

May we walk in that authority today.

 

 

 

 

How to be a Christian every day!

How to be a Christian every day!

Luke 19: 47-48 “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.”

Every day Jesus was consistently doing the same thing.

Every day the enemy of his life was trying to find a way but couldn’t.

Every day Jesus was influencing, winning over, gaining favour and leaving people fascinated with what he was saying.

This Christian life is pretty much the same every day. Yes, there are a variety of things we do in work, rest and play. We meet lots of different people and go to different places. But when we break it down the same 3 things happen:

  1. We live our life for Jesus revealing his teaching and values and we do this daily.
  2. We face the enemy of our soul who through disappointment and discouragement is trying to bring us down and that happens every day.
  3. We live our life trying to influence and impact the lives of people we meet and we do that daily.

That’s it. It is that simple. And so here goes another day.

 

Don’t miss Him

Don’t miss Him

Luke 19:46 “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers’.”

The priests and people “did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44) and maybe this was the reason. The heartbeat of their faith and community, the Temple, was the place where they met with God. It was the place where communication happened between them and God. However, Jesus reveals that this had stopped. It had become anything but that place. It was a trading place. Many would say it was still a place of sacrifice and worship. In fact, the trading was for the sacrifices. But the house had become something it was never meant to be.

 

How does Jesus think when this happens?

We know what he thought!

He had already done this once before (John 2) and here again he drives the traders out.

The money-changers had to be there, the traders had to be there for people to get the animals for sacrifice, but the priests and the traders were abusing the people by deceitfully making money from them. Others were taking short-cuts through the Temple courts to go about their business.

 

There were people in the Temple. The crowds were there. If numbers were everything then they had it all.

But they were missing it. The House was meant to be a place of communion with God. A place to speak and hear from Him. Without that they would surely miss every visitation from God.

 

Is your house a house of prayer?

I mean is your life a house of prayer?

Is your Church?

What has it become?

If what it has become has replaced what it was meant to be then you will miss what God is going to do and what He is saying.

A few months ago having served in leadership teams all my working life I walked into the most poisonous one that I have ever attended. It was terrible. I had to sadly dissolve that team because it was making a mockery of the house of God. How can we hear Him if the polluted noise is raging?

The Church in the UK needs to hear from God more than at any time before.

What is God saying?

When the preacher gets up to preach, ‘what is God saying?’

When leadership teams meet to discuss the ‘what next’, ‘what is God saying?’

When the Church looks out the window at a fallen world, ‘what is God saying?’

When it all goes wrong and you are on bended knee asking for His help, ‘what is God saying?’

Don’t miss what God is doing and will do simply because the house is too busy, or too toxic or too distracted.

The house, His house, your life, is created to speak and hear from God. Don’t miss Him.

What needs to go?

What needs to go?

Luke 19: 45 “Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling.”

The first place Jesus enters is the Temple area.

From the tears to the Temple.

Luke is briefer than the others in the description of what takes place.

‘He drives out’ are the same words used for when Jesus cast our evil spirits.

On those occasions he didn’t ask them nicely nor for a voluntary act of departure. No, he just forced them to leave. He became angry and his anger became forceful.

What makes you angry?

If you could drive out anything in the Church what would it be?

Jesus saw the selling as an anathema. It had to go.

What needs to go?

Here comes the problem and what the Church still tries to deal with.

The Church cannot self-clean.

It will come up with lists to do with appearances, authority and accuracy. The lists will come from its leaders.

The reason why the Priests hated Jesus for what he did with the traders was because they were receiving a cut from the trading. They were benefiting.

If we are going to do what Jesus did maybe we should start there, in the pulpit, with the leadership.

With the high office of responsibility and privilege there should be high accountability also.

Everyone knows the Church in the UK has been struggling for some time now.

May the Spirit of God shine a torch and sweep the Church from things that should never be in there. If that seriously affects its leadership so be it. If leaders become angry so be it.

As a leader my role is to lay my life down for the sheep. Nothing else. Let everything go so that this is what is left.

Real Tears

Real Tears

Luke 19: 41-44 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.”

The journey into Jerusalem has been made up of false honour, imperfect praise, fearful offence and now real tears.

Jesus bursts into tears. He prophetically sees what happened in AD70 when the siege and fall of Jerusalem took place. The Romans’ killed a million Jews who took refuge in the city. They then burnt it to the ground. Why did God permit this? Jesus tells us it was because they did not recognise the visitation of God, namely, Jesus.

There will be tears today at the cenotaphs. There will be weeping as many remember loved ones.

But Jesus is weeping for what is to come.

His tears are at the centre of Christianity.

This is not weakness.

This is a pronouncement of judgment but through tears.

Tears for others.

Acts 20:19 “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.”

I remember sitting with a leader on a journey who was passing on his leadership ability to me.  

He told me of his many fights with people and how he had won the arguments. I could see how people wanted to be like him for his rhetorical skills, his dogged determination to deal with any slight confrontation and his strength of character for any situation.

But I wondered if he ever wept.

What broke his heart?

I need to learn to ask that question of leaders that inspire me: “What makes you cry?”

I believe good leaders weep.

The Apostle Paul wept night and day for people.

In doing his Father’s will Jesus offered up loud cries and tears (Heb 5)

So how do we learn tears?

By serving with great humility:-

A gentleness towards others.

A desire for the best in others.

A willingness to wash the feet of others.

A higher perspective and a sobering reality of what lays ahead for others.

A commitment to carry the cross for others.

A satisfaction to lose the fight in order to win the war.

There is no true leadership without tears.

Fearful offence

Fearful offence

Luke 19 v 39 “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

There was false honour, imperfect praise and fearful offence.

Right now, someone, somewhere is getting offended!

The crowd are surrounding Jesus, the sound is increasing, the energy levels are rising, singing, cheering, whistling, shouting, jumping around. Sound like church?

But unfortunately within the crowd are some grumblers. The most committed followers can be the ones who whinge the most! You seem to not be able to shake them off!

Why were they offended? Why did they tell Jesus to end the show?

1. They were afraid excuse of the use of the Old Testament Messianic scriptures towards Jesus. They were God-agents. They believed that they had to stand up against all kinds of injustice and wrong-doing for God’s sake.

2. They were afraid of what the authorities would do if there was yet another messianic proclamation. The Romans were stamping down on such groups. But the crowd was big and the effect would be immense.

3. They were afraid because their own following was diminishing as people ran after Jesus. They were fearfully jealous. In Johns gospel they defeatedly said, “Look the whole world has gone after Him.” (12:9)

Fearful offence is still here. You can find it in most Churches. I see it a lot.

> Haranguing people. Hurting, wounding, making people feel bad, pulpit to the pew and vice versa. All in the name of God, afraid for the holiness of God and the Church. We try and rebuke like Jesus rebuked his disciples on occasions, but we fail because we are at the centre of every rebuke and we are not good enough.

> Decorum reigns. Decency, orderly, don’t ruffle the suits. Emotionless worship. Keep it quiet, don’t disturb the neighbours, be careful what we say. Some become offended for those who just may be offended.

> Jealous motives. If this was truly God he wouldn’t be blessing the Church up the road with the crowds. He would be blessing us right? Those crowds well, it’s mere entertainment, not true, not real. No it is here, with us, we have it right. We might not be attractive but we are right.

The response of Jesus to fearful offence?

Nah!