THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the Life of Christ, Jesus healed a centurion's servant without even being near him, and He had great compassion on a widow whose son was being carried out to be buried by raising him from the dead. We ended with John the Baptist who sent out some of his disciples to Jesus to see if He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus confirmed that He was the one by working even more miracles.
In this lesson, we are going to begin by looking at what Jesus told the people about John the Baptist after his disciples left to take word back to John. There are two accounts of what Jesus said in Luke 7:24-35 and Matthew 11:7-19. Both of these accounts are almost identical, so I am going to use Matthewís account, but I will add in a few verses from Lukeís account that he covers that Matthew does not.
Matthew 11:7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?† 8 "But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.† 9 "But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.† 10 "For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'† 11 "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.†
After Johnís disciples left, Jesus took this opportunity to speak very highly of John. In fact, Jesus never spoke of anyone as highly as He did of John. As He reasons with the people about John, He wants to know if they went out to the wilderness to see something as insignificant as a reed that is easily shaken by the wind. Did they go to see a man who dressed in the best clothes as you would find royalty wearing?
No, they went out to see a prophet, and not just any prophet. He was the great prophet that would prepare the way for the Messiah as prophesied in:
Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts.
The angel foretold that John would be considered great by the Lord as we read in:
Luke 1:15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
As great as John the Baptist was, please notice what Jesus says in the latter part of verse 11:
but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
This is a significant statement because it proves that the church was not yet established as some teach because John was not in the kingdom yet, which is why those who are the least in the kingdom of God are greater the John the Baptist. When we are in the kingdom/church of God, it means we are in Christ, which is something John did not have access to. Of course, further proof that John was not in the kingdom is the fact that he was put to death before Jesus ever made this statement to Peter in:
Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
All Christians have the honor of being greater the John the Baptist and those before him because neither he nor those before him had the privilege of being in Christ or being in the kingdom/church that He build and purchased with His own blood. Notice what Lukeís account adds:
Luke 7:29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John.† 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
There is some disagreement by scholars if Jesus said this or if Luke was adding his insight to it, but either way, we can see that the those who heard the message, including tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God by submitting themselves to the baptism taught by John. Well, that is except for the Pharisees and lawyers. Did you notice that these Pharisees and lawyers who refused Johnís baptism were rejecting the will of God?
The same is true when it comes to the baptism that Jesus taught us in the Great commission.
Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,† 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Many today are no different than these Pharisees and lawyers because they refuse to accept that baptism is necessary for salvation. In the same way it was considered rejecting the will of God for not being baptized with the baptism John taught, it is rejecting the will of God to not accept and obey the baptism that Jesus taught.
Notice what Jesus says next as we continue in:
Matthew 11:12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.† 13 "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.† 14 "And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.† 15 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!†
Consider what Mr. Coffman says about verse 12:
Admitted to be one of the difficult passages of the New Testament, this verse in all probability was accurately understood and expounded by McGarvey who wrote:
Jesus here pictures the kingdom of heaven as a besieged city. The city is shut up, but the enemies which surround it storm its walls and try to force an entrance ... The gates of Christ's kingdom were not opened until the day of Pentecost (Acts 2); but men, hearing it was about to be opened, sought to enter it prematurely, not by the gates which God would open, ... but by such breaches as they themselves sought to make in its walls.
Instances of such violence are: (1) Some tried to make him king by force (John 6:15). (2) the mother of James and John sought to obtain secular appointments for her sons in the kingdom (Matthew 20:21). (3) Some supposed the kingdom would appear immediately (Luke 19:11). (4) The apostles quarreled over who should be the greatest (Luke 22:24-30). (5) The apostles themselves seemed anxious for it to be done "at this time" (Acts 1:6). Furthermore, they envisioned a restoration of rule to Israel! McGarvey further wrote:
The people were full of preconceived ideas with regard to the kingdom, and each one sought to hasten and enjoy its pleasures as one who impatiently seizes upon a bud and seeks with his fingers to force it to bloom. The context shows that even John the Baptist was then seeking to force the kingdom. (Coffman commentary on Matthew).
In verse 13- 15, Jesus points out how the prophets had prophesied up to John because John was the last O.T. prophet before Jesus was revealed. Though many of the Jews had thought that Elijah himself would return, Jesus lets them know that John the Baptist was fulfilling the Scriptures about the return of the Elijah. No, it was not the reincarnation of Elijah, but the spirit of Elijah that returned through John the Baptist.
Next we read:
Matthew 11:16 "But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,† 17 "and saying: 'We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.'† 18 "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'† 19 "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
These Jews had the unique opportunity to hear the forerunner of Christ speak. They also were able to hear Jesus speak as well, yet they did not want to listen to either one of them because these two †would not play along their religious games. Jesus points this out by giving an example of children wanting to play these various games, but they got mad because these other kids would not join in their game.
Instead of listening to John and heeding what he had to say, they brushed him off and simply said he has a demon. Instead of listening to Jesus and His message they brushed Him off by saying He is a glutton and a winebibber and hangs around tax collectors and other sinners.
Things have not really changed much because I am sure most of you have run across people that had the same attitude toward you. Instead of listening to your message, which comes from Godís Word, they will reject you based on something they make up or perceive is wrong with you. Perhaps they simply say you are a religious nut or that you are out of your mind. Whatever they come up with it is nothing more than a tactic to avoid hearing the truth. It should not surprise us when this happens to us because as Jesus said:
John 15:20 †"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
When Jesus said:
But wisdom is justified by her children.
This phrase simply means that John and Jesus were right in what they were doing because they following the will of God. To follow the will of God shows great wisdom. However, these opposing Jews were being foolish as they were rejecting the wisdom of God.
Next, Jesus begins to rebuke some the cities that He did great works in, yet He was rejected by the people.
Matthew 11:20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:† 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.† 22 "But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.† 23 "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.† 24 "But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."
Here we see three cities rebuked by Jesus. The Bible does not record all the works done by Jesus as can be seen here because the Bible says nothing about the works Jesus did in Chorazin and only a few works are mentioned in Bethsaida. However, we can know that Jesus did indeed do many works in all three of these areas that were about 3 to 4 miles apart from one another.
This section of Scripture certainly sounds like there are degrees of punishments in hell because Jesus point out how it's going to be more tolerable for the people of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon on the Day of Judgment than it will be for them. Why? Because Jesus says that if He had been at those places and worked the works they were getting to see, they would have repented, but these rebellious Jews would not believe what they were seeing with their own eyes. Instead, they continued to reject Jesus.
While I realize that none of us today will ever get to speak to Jesus directly in person or see His miracles first hand, I think this same principle applies to us today as well. We have Godís fully revealed Word and there is tons of evidence that show that Godís Word is true and that everything it says from the miracles to the promises made by God is all trustworthy. Since we have all this evidence, if we neglect the salvation that Jesus has offered us, I do †not think it is a stretch to say that it will be more tolerable for Sodom, Tyre and Sidon on the Day of Judgment than it will be for anyone today who rejects the will of God. Next, Jesus utters a prayer:
Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.† 26 "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.† 27 "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.†
In this prayer, Jesus is not saying that He is glad to have a bunch of men that are uneducated and that He can only work with the dumb. No, what He is thankful for is that these †men He chose had not had their minds spoiled by the Jewish traditions like many of the Pharisees and Scribes had. They thought they were so wise that they missed out on the greatest event that was happening for mankind. This same thing happens many times to those who get so steeped in their religious traditions or who become so educated through worldly schools that they become unteachable with the simplicity that is found in Christ.
While there is nothing wrong with becoming educated or getting your PHD, we must be careful to not allow our education to go to our heads and cause to think we are on a different level than everyone else or that we just too smart for God and His Word no matter how smart we become, we will never come close to the knowledge and wisdom found within God.
As Jesus said in the last verses, no one can know the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son except the Father. These two have always known each other and only Deity can truly know Deity. However, we have been given a glimpse into knowing the Father through Son by what He was willing to reveal to us through the Word. We have been given access to know the Father at least in part thanks to Jesus. As Jesus said:
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.† 7 " If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."
Jesus then gives what has been called the great invitation.
†Matthew 11:28"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.† 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.† 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
We all have the burden of laboring in a world of sin, but Jesus can give us rest from the burden of sin. This does not mean that we will never struggle with sin, but when we take up the yoke of Jesus, He gives us the power over sin. Please note that while Jesusí yoke is easy and His burden is light, there is still a yoke and a burden for us to bear. We must deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus every day. Though it can challenge at times to stand up and keep the commands of God, when we realize that His commands are for our eternal good, it should cause us to bear the yoke with joy and help us see that Godís commandments are really not that burdensome, we just have to have the right attitude about them.
For the final part of our lesson we are going to examine an encounter that Jesus had with a woman that I believe is unique to Luke even though it sounds similar to the account of another woman named Mary as found in Matthew, Mark, and John. To show you how they sound similar, I am going to read Johnís account and then Lukeís account.
John 12:1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.† 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.† 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.† 4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said,† 5 "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"† 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.† 7 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.† 8 "For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always."
Luke 7:36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat.† 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil,† 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.† 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner."† 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it."† 41 "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.† 42 "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?"† 43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged."† 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.† 45 "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.† 46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.† 47 "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."† 48 Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."† 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"† 50 Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
Some believe this is just another account of Mary the sister of Lazarus, and it adds that Mary was a sinner, and Simon the leper was a Pharisee. However, I do not believe this is talking about the same story because the facts say otherwise. While there are similarities in these stories, I will provide enough evidence to show that Lukeís story is talking about a different event that happened at a different time, location, and with different people.
I believe we have two different men named Simon. There is Simon the leper and Simon the Pharisee. Not only are they identified differently, their characteristics are different. In Luke 7, Simon the Pharisee was not that great of a host because He did not greet Jesus with a kiss as the custom was, and he did not provide Him with water for his feet or oil for His head. He was also very critical of Jesus. However, Simon the leper does not have any negative things recorded about him.
Another big difference is that Jesus rebukes Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7, but in the other accounts, He rebukes the disciples and points to Judas as being the main instigator of those complaining about the wasted money.
Another big problem is that Lukeís story is recorded while John the Baptist was still alive (Lk.7:19), yet the story in Matthew, Mark, and John happened in the last week of Jesusí life. Also, Lukeís account happened when Jesus was in Galilee (Lk. 7:11), but the other accounts happened in Bethany in Judea.
The Marys are different as well. The Mary or I should say the unnamed woman of Luke 7 was a known sinner, and the Jews would have had nothing to do with her. However, the other Mary and Martha are considered godly women and there were many Jews who were willing to come and comfort them when their brother Lazarus died (Jn. 11:19). If she had been a known sinner, she would not have had many Jews comforting her.
Finally, there were two different purposes for the anointing. Lukeís account was about a sinful woman who came before Jesus in need of forgiveness. She was so grieved by her sin that she wept and got tears on Jesusí feet, and then she wiped her tears with her hair. Next, she anointed His feet with the oil and kissed them. There is no hint of her doing this for the preparation for His death. Instead, it was done as an act of humiliation and grief for her sins. Jesus forgives her of her sins.
When we compare this anointing to the other accounts, we see a difference. Mary is not crying, nor does the text say anything about her being a known sinner or having her sin forgiven by Jesus. Instead of wiping tears away from Jesusí feet, she used her hair to wipe away the excess oil. Her anointment was for the preparation for the burial of Jesus. All this evidence shows that Lukeís account is talking about a similar, yet different anointing than the account found in Matthew, Mark, and John.
This encounter also teaches us that we must be like this unnamed woman who treated Jesus with more respect and honor than Simon did. She humbly submitted herself to Jesus, and Jesus forgave her of her sins though they were many. Jesus does the same for us today. Those who are willing to set aside their arrogance and are willing to humbly submit to the will of God knowing that they are a sinner, will be forgiven. Jesus had the power to forgive sins while on this earth, and through His death, burial, and resurrection, He continues to give us the power to overcome our sins in our lives today.
This is why Jesus is so wonderful. Not only did He come to this earth to die for us so we could be reconciled to God, His blood will continue to cleanse us of our sins as we continue to live for Him and repent of our sins.
In conclusion, we have seen how Jesus spoke highly of John the Baptist yet it says that the least of us that are found in the kingdom of God are greater than he. We learned that those who rejected the will of God in the first century are going to receive a worse punishment than those of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. We looked at the great invitation that Jesus offers to all. We finished up by looking at Jesus encounter with an unnamed woman who took better care of Him than the host Simon. I hope this lesson has shown you how fortunate we are to be living during the time that we get to be in Christ and be part of the kingdom of God. I hope we never lose sight of this great honor and that we will continue to humbly submit to the will of God.