The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

Being wealthy is not all that it is cracked up to be!  Trust me, I know. Oh, no … did you think I was speaking of vast, personal riches? Not really, but I’ve often observed some wealthy people who have a lot of problems, simply because they are rich.

There is an interesting legal case going on right now with a woman from New Hampshire who is the winner of a $560-million lottery prize. Known only now as “Jane Doe,” she is suing to remain anonymous. One could imagine this desire, though it appears to be against state law. It was also stated in one article that she is losing $14,000 a day in interest by waging this fight. She has to be thinking that her life was a lot happier before all of this happened.

Today’s passage features a person in the crowd who says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

We don’t know anything about this person beyond his question. He clearly believed himself to be getting the short end of a family inheritance. We may presume his claim to be just and this man to be a victim, though we don’t know his attitude. Did Jesus know his heart and answer in light of that knowledge? Or did Christ just use the incident as a teaching point about temporary material concerns versus eternal spiritual values.

In any event, it was not the role of Jesus to arbitrate such questions (though rabbis of the time would be called upon to adjudicate legal affairs). Christ uses it rather as an opportunity to make a teaching point about greed and true values systems.

The parable is a simple one of a farmer who was very successful and could have a guaranteed income from his abundance for the rest of his life. He could take life easy and, to reference one of the most famous quotes of Scripture (one of those that many people use and don’t even know comes from the Bible and the words of Jesus) … “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

There has never been anyone who knew for certain the length of his or her life. We have seen in many ways in recent days and months how, for all of us, our lives hang by a thread. So it is foolish to presume upon the future with certainty.

It all comes down to our internal values systems. There is nothing wrong with seeking to be very successful. There is every good reason to prudently plan for the future. It is not sinful to have 401K plans or IRA accounts and other investments.

The error is to trust in them over trusting in God. Beyond that, it is wrong to horde the blessings that have their source ultimately in God’s grace and not be generous is using those resources to bless others in the Lord’s name.

Perhaps the functional question to test our hearts in this matter is to ask what we find ourselves both thinking about, along with what we find ourselves giving our time and treasure toward. Do we find ourselves focused upon accounts, investments, stock futures and closing bell indexes of the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 more than upon our ministering and serving lives?  Do we find that we are forever planning and intending to serve God and be more generous someday – after we just get a bit more financially stabilized?  These things can become patterns, and the next thing you know, there you are at age 75, still hoping to someday make God and service a frontline value of life.

It is one of those primary life enigmas … one of those counterintuitive truths: the way to GET the most is to GIVE the most. The way to find material world pleasure is through spiritual world investment.

Luke 12:13 – Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

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Warnings and Encouragements (Luke 12:1-12)

The current climate of political rancor in the USA has to be as bad as it has ever been. Accusations fly in every direction, and today’s leading voice may be tomorrow’s public goat for political exile – deservedly or not. Who will prevail in the end? With whom do you want to be identified?

As we saw yesterday, the divide between Jesus and the Pharisees was becoming more pronounced. The crowds, though still numbering in the thousands, were more often than not just curiosity seekers. They would not stick with Jesus to the end and be identified with him.

The time would come where it would be safer to not be identified with Jesus. The disciples needed to be prepared for this time. And as we know, they would not stand well in the darkest moments, though ultimately 11 of the 12 would go on to be effective witnesses near and far.

Being identified with Jesus was – both for them, and even for us – never going to be a popular stance with the masses of people. It could be fearful, for sure. And Jesus reminds the disciples to not fear human authorities who could even hold the power of capital punishment; but rather, they should have greater respect for the more powerful God who controls eternal punishment.

Even so, because of their relationship with God, their fear and respect was under the greater umbrella of God’s love and care. His love for them was the ultimate security – illustrated by being a God who cares even about the cheapest commodity of five sparrows who sold for 1/16 of a day’s wages. Even the number of hairs on their heads were known to God. So be confident; don’t fear.

The ones who should be fearful are the Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Spirit (by attributing the genuine work of Christ to the power of Satan). Even those who denied Christ but later repented (such as Jesus’ earthly brothers) would be forgiven, but there was no hope for the Pharisees. This passage likely indicates that there was a work of the Spirit in them to convict them of the truth of Jesus as Messiah, yet even with that they rejected him.

Even when everything went poorly (humanly speaking as the disciples would be brought before human authorities for condemnation), the Holy Spirit would be with them and help them know how to respond in such a contingency.

It is not our natural joy or inclination to welcome being in the minority, particularly when our safety or security is threatened by our convictions. Yet this has been the common condition of God’s people throughout all of time. This is not something to fear. When keeping the larger, eternal picture in mind, there is no harm that can truly befall us. Even the worst thing that can happen is, in the bigger picture, the best thing that can happen. There is health in reminding ourselves of this truth on a regular basis, as we cannot know what all of the days of our lives may bring.

Luke 12:1 – Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Woe on the Pharisees (Luke 11:37-54)

Imagine if your home community group, Bible study fellowship, or marriage cluster invited me to your house for dinner. After sitting down for a while and conversing on light topics like the Mueller investigation or in the inactive offseason of the Baltimore Orioles, I suddenly change the subject and say the following …

“You folks in this group, you claim to be great Christians and faithful to the church and its ministries, but in your hearts I know that you are evil to the core. Don’t you know that God wants you to not just act holy on the outside, but to be holy on the inside?  You are proud that you tithe to the church, but you have no personal generosity toward the poor or anyone else in need. While giving of your wealth, you should have given of the wealth of your time to serve others who have so much less. You sit up front where everyone can see you and you act very important, but you would never greet visitors or speak warmly to any you see as less worthy than yourselves … which is pretty much everyone!  You’re a bunch of empty shells. Nobody would miss you if you weren’t even there, and the church would be better off without your life dysfunction.”

Would that make for an awkward experience? One of the group would probably be sufficiently offended so as to speak up and protest that pronouncement. And then, I would double-down on your condemnation.

After this was over, you can imagine that you and your friends might be looking to form a pastoral search committee. But … but … and this is at least just a little bit of a stretch … what if I was the divine Son of God saying these things?  Would you then double-down on your irritation, or would you repent and recognize the truth of the condemnatory pronouncements?

This word picture perhaps can bring you into a sense of the setting in today’s passage about Jesus at the home of a Pharisee – at a dinner with other Pharisees and prominent teachers of the law. Jesus knows they are not doing this to fellowship with a dear brother or to even legitimately hear what he has to say. They are looking for entrapment. And Jesus does not play into their game, not even by the ritual washing before the meal. Knowing more than they know, he is even aware of their thoughts and is able to use their judgmentalism against them.

Though there were many things to applaud about my very conservative church background as a youth, there were also some problems of legalism. I was slow to invite or bring friends from school to my church, and that was because these friends might have had hippie hair, informal dress, and some colorful ways of expressing their thoughts. Though needing the gospel, they would have surely felt judged, out of place and unwelcomed.

Whereas there is the greatest of value on strict and accurate theology, strict religionists often fail in the matter of keeping the big idea, the big idea.

There are so many things that church people have fought about over the years that have simply not been worth the fight – stuff like musical styles and instruments, food and coffee, Bible versions, dress codes spoken and implied, and a focus upon the church as a spiritual country club for Christians rather than a lifesaving station from which to go out and save the lost.

And just as the Pharisees set out to exalt high values but ended up excluding people by the focus upon their supposed virtues, we may do the same if we do not keep our attention upon the main thing – proclaiming the gospel and a primary emphasis upon the stuff of eternal value and consequence. Woe to us if we fail in this regard.

Luke 11:37 – When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”

46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

The Lamp of the Body (Luke 11:33-36)

To protect the guilty, I’ll not mention which of my sons did the following. He took his vehicle to the gas station, opened the cap, filled it completely and turned on the engine to drive away. But it was rather immediately obvious that something was terribly wrong. Only then did it hit him that his vehicle required diesel fuel rather than the regular gasoline he had absentmindedly just put into it. As I recall, this was a rather costly mistake.

Perhaps this illustration will, in the end, help us to understand this somewhat perplexing, brief passage …

Luke 11:33 –“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

In the previous passage, Jesus asserted that something greater than Jonah or Solomon was in their midst. This was referencing his presence and the coming fulfillment of the kingdom and all that was magnificent about this ultimate event in history.

Verse 33 is talking about how Christ is the light of the world, there in prominence for all to see.

In the next verse where it says Your eye is the lamp of your body, think of the eye as the conduit through which light comes into the body. This is not the idea of letting our light shine.

Then, the phrase When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light, this is speaking of the quality of the light that passes into your life. When you allow the truth of the splendor of who Christ is and what he has done come into your life, you are full of good light and spiritual health. When you let other sorts of light come in, you end up filled with darkness.

The pastor/theologian John Piper said of this, “… there is much that passes for light through the eye that is not light. There are many bright things in the world that keep us from seeing the true light of Christ—just like city lights keep you from seeing the stars.”

So many things in this world may appear, for a time, to be so very good and the stuff of genuine light. But in the end, it is of no more eternal value than total darkness. When in a room that is brightly-lit with many lamps, it may appear very bright … that is, until you open the door and walk out into the midday sunshine on a snow-covered landscape.

We don’t want to be like so many in that generation who had Jesus right there with them but did not appreciate the light in their presence. We want to be people with eyes wide open to receive the light of eternal truths on a daily basis. Don’t fill up on gasoline when you need diesel!

The Sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32)

There were no television news reports, no videos to share on Facebook. There were no newspapers or radio communications. All that existed were word of mouth reports that spread slowly over time from village to village, from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Even so, more and more stories circulated about a preacher who performed occasional, incredible miracles. Oh yes … he was a pretty good teacher as well!  But, people coming out to see him, particularly for the first time, were especially hoping to see something extraordinary.

The religious leaders in the nation were increasingly annoyed by this distraction. The gospel writers all talk about how the leaders and the crowds were constantly asking for a sign – something extraordinary that was accomplished upon demand.

But the teaching should have been enough (though there was no shortage of the miraculous being witnessed by large numbers of people). We recently commented about how the leaders were going to attribute any sign or miraculous deed to being the power of the Evil One. And the peoples’ interests in miracles were more about their personal gains than about connection to the kingdom plan of God.

Today we see the irritation of Jesus come through as he considered the spiritual state of the nation…

Luke 11:29 – As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.

The only sign he says they are going to get is “the sign of Jonah.”  We recall the Old Testament prophet who went to Nineveh … well, he eventually got to that city after some days in the belly of the whale. Once there, he preached about the pending judgment of God, and the Gentile people believed and repented.

Likewise, another non-Jew, who was the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10), came from a great distance (likely 1200 miles away in what is modern Yeman) to see and meet Solomon. The amazing visit that featured the exchange of great wealth resulted in the Queen being convinced of the blessings of God upon Solomon.

These Gentiles who were removed from the history of the truth of God’s promises had more faith than the Jewish leaders and nation should have exhibited when hearing the words of Christ. They were physically present with something far greater, and that is the presence of the Kingdom in the person of Christ.

We are so often amazed at the lack of belief of Israel at the time of Christ. This should not have been, given all the blessings and advantages they had in their history and heritage. Though we don’t have the physical presence of Christ, we have for our day a tremendous resource in the completed word of God that reveals the completed work of Christ. So there is no excuse to not believe in the first place, and there is every reason to have great confidence for time and eternity in the truths of Scripture.

Jesus and Beelzebul (Luke 11:14-28)

A technique that has been employed over the millennia to cast a horrid aspersion upon someone is to identify them with the most terrible person or thing imaginable. We will sometimes hear a person referred to as a Nazi or a modern-day Hitler. A traitorous person is referenced as a Benedict Arnold. And in our over-heated political climate now, all sides are throwing accusations against the other by saying their opponents are in collusion with the Russians.

Once again in our text today we see that Jesus performs an undeniable miracle. Something powerful is happening that cannot be denied. For the opponents of Jesus to take away from the awe of the display (and the possibilities that more people will believe and follow Christ), they make the claim that this power comes not from God but from Satan. The reference is to Beelzebul, a well-known name for a dark figure associated with the Devil, originally the name of a Philistine god. This was slander at its finest.

Jesus answers it logically by essentially saying, “So you’re arguing that Satan is casting himself out?  Folks, that doesn’t make sense, does it?”  No, it doesn’t – the old “kingdom divided against itself” thing. Beyond that, others who were witnessing all of this remained unimpressed – desiring to see some sort of sign from heaven. Really? What was seen was plenty impressive and clearly the work of God. They simply were hard-hearted and did not want to believe.

This entire passage – one with details that are difficult to explain simply – has the major idea that Jesus is stronger than Satan, and the evidence of that power is such as to prove that Christ is indeed from God. He is the Promised One who should be believed and trusted and followed. The people could not remain undecided, the time of accounting was quickly approaching.

The paragraph in verses 24-26 is believed to be referencing the man who just had the demon driven out – picturing his life as a house. The description is of that demon finding seven other demons to return to the reconstructed person/house, making his condition far worse. This would be because the man did not make the choice to follow Jesus, remaining neutral. In Matthew’s account of this same incident, he records one additional statement of Jesus – “That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”  Indeed, the nation would not receive Christ in spite of all the evidence, and this generation would be worse off for their rebellion.

The final verses are one of several times in Jesus’ life where his teaching creates an awkward situation, and then someone blurts out a loud and sanctimonious statement to break the mood. On this occasion it is a woman who says, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”  But Christ one-ups her by answering, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

We live in a wonderful time. We have the entire history of the work of Christ recorded for us in the word of God. Along with that we have countless resources at our fingertips such as has never before been available. For example, just from this passage today, any one of you reading this could, within seconds on your computer or phone, research the background to the meaning of the name “Beelzebul.”  There is no reason for us to not believe the word of God and obey it.

Luke 11:14 – Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Teaching on Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

How much do you pray? How much should you pray? And how much do you need to pray?

I like to think of prayer as a sort of continuous conversation with God. The Holy Spirit lives within us and travels with us at all times, being right there when everything is going well or turning disastrous. So why not be praying in an ongoing fashion?

Throughout the gospel narratives we see that Jesus was regularly and continuously going to God in prayer. Now there is a model for us; if Jesus saw it as that necessary, we had best learn a first lesson simply from that pattern.

The disciples made note of this frequent discipline and one of them asks Jesus about how to pray, recalling that John had given his disciples some manner of specific instruction.

Luke 11:1 – One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

The answer of Jesus could be divided into five parts. Prayer should have an interest in God’s glory, his kingdom work, our basic needs, our relationship with him (through forgiveness), and our need for his help to avoid situations where sin may abound…

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread.

4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

Jesus goes on to use a couple illustrations about prayer. The first is one of those humorous stories that provokes quite a mental picture. A fellow goes to a neighbor at night because he has a special need: he is embarrassed that another friend has come from a journey and surprised him, and he has no food in the house. It is late. And if the petitioned person (likely in a small house with everyone sleeping in close quarters) is to help, it is going to wake up everyone, including the kids!  Yet if the petitioner is persistent, the friend will surely help him – maybe not first and foremost because of friendship, but rather because the persistence demonstrated a genuine need.

5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

The application is all about persistence. That is how we should be in prayer.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Some people are troubled by this story of the persistent friend. The homeowner with the children is obviously representative of God, but the picture would seem to be of a crotchety old fellow who is stingy and only willing to give up something after substantial pestering. Here is a point to remember about stories and parables: they are to teach a single, big lesson in particular. And not every point is to be taken in detail as a one-to-one exact representation. The big idea of the story is that a person with a genuine need will be persistent, and that true persistence will pay off. So pray openly and boldly.

The second story is a simple one. Even an average father cares enough about his children to meet their genuine needs. A dad is not going to replace a needed gift with one that is harmful instead. So if even sinful fathers are gracious, imagine the good heart of the heavenly Father to answer!

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

So, as you read this, how much conversation have you had with God so far today? Are you cognizant of his blessing? Are you looking to be rightly connected anew to him on this day? Are you trusting him for your needs and expressing your heart’s desires to him? If it is a genuine need, God is going to answer, though it may not always be in the exact way we imagine it. And if it is not a genuine need but is rather a desire to consume upon self, that awareness is likely to come to you through the ongoing conversation and the work of the Spirit in your life.

But more than anything else from this passage today, know of the rightful need and privilege to be a person of constant prayer with the sovereign God and heavenly Father who loves you more than anyone else ever has. He wants to hear from you. He desires your dependence, and he takes joy in supplying your genuine needs.

We can use the great words of Scripture today to describe this kind of prayer conversation: shameless audacity!  That is awesome!

Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42)

Surely you have heard it said of siblings who have very different personalities, “How can they be from the same family?”  Apparently the sisters of Lazarus – Martha and Mary of the village of Bethany – would have had such comments made about them.

I have heard it said that there are essentially two types of people in the word: paper people, and people people. Paper people are those who are oriented toward organization, detail, and doing things properly and in order. People people are about relationships and just hanging out with other folks. Martha was apparently a paper people, while Mary was a people people.

Those of you who are reading this and are nearby the church and conversant with our current activities know that this past weekend saw us have to call off an evening fellowship activity with our new fellowship of mostly African-American churches, due to the weather. I was really, really bummed about this – was so highly looking forward to everyone meeting my new friends and building upon this unique, new relationship. That was the Mary side of me.

The Martha side was really worried about food preparations and other details to make the event a success. I don’t actually like doing those sorts of plans, and I hate asking anyone to do much of anything. The food and drink elements of our church fellowships always seem to work out, though the mega-Martha types would say that is because they are there to make sure the merry Marys – like me – don’t forget the most obvious details.

We need both types of people in the world and especially in the church community. Thank God for Martha types who get the work done that needs to be done sooner or later. And the Mary types are indispensable in so many ways for interpersonal connections both within the church family and to the outside world.

The bottom line however is that the highest priority is to value the word of God so highly that it is the top priority in life. The food and hospitality can wait. Gatherings around the things of God with the people of God is about spiritual connection, growth and enrichment. It is not primarily about eating and the things of the material world. There is a time for these details to eventuate, but nothing is more important than growing spiritually.

Luke 10:38 – As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

There are few things I dislike more in the pastoral profession than this thing called an ordination council. I understand that there needs to be some process of evaluation for those who go into ministry – an affirmation of gifts, calling and skills. My own ordination in Texas was very fair. It was at the church where I had been an associate staff pastor for quite a while, so the leadership knew me well. They also figured that if you could survive Dallas Theological Seminary, you did not need a lot of grilling on your knowledge of Scripture.

At that time of my life, I had no anticipation that the bulk of my ministry years would be in the Evangelical Free Church – the best organization I have ever been a part of.  Had I known that, I would have done my subsequent doctorate at Trinity – the EFCA school in Illinois – rather than at Dallas. And I would have done my credentialing with them. But my ordination is from the same church where Chuck Swindoll was sent out into ministry, and if I had ever been led back to the independent church movement, it was an excellent credential.

Beyond that, there is little else I can think of that I would rather NOT do than go through the fires of an ordination council. I have even hated being a part of the examining team on several occasions in the past, and I always reject offers to sit on them now.

The problem is not the worthy nature of the exercise, it is the grandstanding nature of those who are a part of the questioning “Sanhedrin.” Though it is ostensibly about examining the candidate, it seems to always turn into a “who can outshine the other by asking the most difficult theological question imaginable, thereby looking like a genius when not only the candidate has no answer, but all of the other questioners are at a total loss as well … thereby additionally causing all in the room to look at the questioner for the answer, as the questioner gloats in his extreme display of theological aptitude by enlightening all with the grand intelligence of his explanation.”  Wow!  So gross!

The setting for the story of Jesus answering a legal expert (one of the Sanhedrin types) with the Parable of the Good Samaritan has always reminded me of an ordination council. So let me take you through the passage by writing for you what I think was the thought process going through the mind of lawyer … the Scripture verses from Luke 10 are in italics, with the thoughts of the lawyer within < the brackets >  …………..

< I am so sick of this Jesus character and the annoyance of seeing many people foolishly follow him. We need to ask him a difficult question that will catch him in his own foolish words. Okay… here is one that will surely work. >

Luke 10:25 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

< Haha!! Let’s see him give an answer to that one with anything but heresy! >

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

< Oh man! I didn’t ask for a question to be answered with another question!  I’m the legal expert here, you’re just a hick from Galilee. Okay, I’ll play along with his game. >

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

< Wow! That was good, if I do have to say so myself! Crisp and to the point! >

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

< Well, of course I am correct; that is what I do – answer questions correctly with my deep and insightful answers. Yep, got him where I want him … now I’ll finish him off with an unanswerable question, and he’ll look like the fool that he is. >

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

< Boom! Hit that curve ball. Sucker! >

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers.

< Oh dear, spare me. Another one of his intolerable stories! >

They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

< Well, of course he did. Maybe the man deserved to be robbed, being unrighteous. And the robbers might still be nearby, and a priest would make a special target for thieves, they knowing how blessed we are by God to be his special servants. This is not the problem of a priest. >

32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

< Again, this is neither the problem of a Levite. Helping the man would make him unclean for his important service.  Where is this story going? >

33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was;

< Haha! An evil half-breed Samaritan. Now the poor guy is really in trouble! And so is the story Jesus is telling! >

and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

< What??  That’s the craziest story I’ve ever heard!  This Jesus guy surely doesn’t know anything about Samaritans. Unbelievable… yes, literally unbelievable. >

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

< Forget this. I’m done arguing with this guy. I could fight about the Samaritan, but it was his story, and now his question. Gosh, everyone is looking at me for an answer. I’m out of here! >

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Now here is my story.

Once upon a time there was a guy named Dave Swacina. Sadly, he died five weeks ago. When with him in public, he could drive you crazy by wanting to help every person he met who had a need. Many of those people were dirty and scary, some were frauds. It was costly. I saw him take hundreds of dollars out of his oversized wallet to just give to people … money he’d never see again. But beyond that, he built relationships with those people; he pointed them to the greater gift of Jesus Christ. He was a good neighbor to those in need. Go and do likewise.

Sending of the 72 (Luke 10:1-24)

Philadelphia Eagles fans are feeling very fine today after the franchise won its first Super Bowl title ever last night. The great joy of being a sports enthusiast is to share in the elation of victory when your team is the champion.

But championships are difficult to come by. On average, it should only happen once ever 32 years in the NFL, for example. When I coached in high school and we were able to win some state championships, I told the kids that we really needed to celebrate. And that is because winning is not easy at all, and you may never again get to experience it.

In following Christ, we are a part of the ultimate winning outfit – God’s kingdom. Nothing can ultimately prevail against it. The creator God has called us to be a member, and this is indeed a great privilege.

Today’s passage is very similar to a previous section in Luke’s gospel where he wrote about the sending out of the 12 disciples. This chapter tells of another group of followers who numbered a total of 72 individuals. In similar fashion as the Disciples, these were other close followers of Jesus who could travel about to towns and villages and announce the nearness of the Kingdom.

As with the 12, these ministers would be subject to many difficulties and persecutions. Those who demonstrated hospitality were the true believers who responded to the message of grace and God’s messiah being upon the earthly scene. But a majority of hearers in places such as several mentioned in the passage (from northern Galilee) would not receive the message. Certain judgment awaited them – condemnation beyond other places that never heard the message or saw the miracles.

The 72 are amazed at the authority they possessed to serve – that even demons were subject to their message. But Jesus answers this by encouraging them to have what is a greater perspective – the blessing they had as members of the winning team.

This section ends with the joy that Christ has at seeing how these simple folks had received the message and were trophies of grace and faith. He reminds the disciples of their rare privilege – to be alive and to be seeing things that the prophets wrote about from a distance. Many of the great saints of the Old Testament had a deep longing to be able to see and experience what the disciples were a part of every day.

And now, post-resurrection, living in the church age with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are actually in an even better position. We live and serve in a wonderful time of opportunity to see the gospel spread creatively near and far.

So, in spite of the challenges of oft being like sheep among wolves, it is a wonderful privilege and identification to be a part of God’s kingdom, God’s team.

In serving, do so with joy and confidence, also praying that others may be a part of working in the same joyful harvest that we have as our assignment.

Luke 10:1 – After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”