Posts Tagged With: Luke

Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

In Luke 24, we see that on the first day of the week (Sunday) at sunrise, they went to the tomb where Jesus laid. It was a beautiful tomb, owned by a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, Joseph of Arimathea. This man, like so many others, was looking for the kingdom of God, waiting for the Messiah to come and to rule and reign as promised.

On that Sunday, some women came to the tomb but noticed that the stone which was rolled at the entrance of the tomb, sealed, and guarded by two Roman guards for the purpose of keeping outsiders from coming in and stealing the body, was rolled aside. The body was gone. They were perplexed, the Scriptures tell us.

The two men standing beside the tomb “in dazzling apparel” were angels. During times of God’s incredible work and intervention, these angels would appear to help give some direction. An angel came to Joseph just after Mary told him that she would have Jesus, even though she was still a virgin. The angel came and gave direction to Joseph, saying that all was according to God’s plan—and that plan was, as the angel told Joseph, “to save His people from their sins.”

They asked an all-important question to these women,

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5-7).

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Obviously, the immediate context is that you cannot find a living, healthy being whose vitals are strong whose permanent bodily residence is in a cemetery. I’m always reminded of how my father, every time we would pass a cemetery, he would say, “You know, son, people are just dying to get in there.” And why would they seek after Jesus, when He told them repeatedly that he would rise in three days?

Human history is dotted with those who seek after life among things that are dead, even among those who are more devout. When God created everything, Adam and Eve were tempted to seek life in a place that promised death—eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They thought they would truly live if they partook of what was forbidden—and even destructive.

In Exodus, the people of Israel were delivered by God through the cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, refreshed by the rock in the waters—through the Spiritual Rock that is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). As they were going to the Promised Land, and even with all the provision God gave them, they longed to find their life among the dead: they wanted to return to Egypt where they would die in slavery. Even when their leader, Moses, was away, they crafted a golden calf—a non-living (that is, dead) idol that would lead them.

In Isaiah 44:9-20, we read about a man who had a large piece of wood. He took half of that wood and went to a craftsman. That craftsman shaped the eyes, the mouth, every bit of it, then set it up in a tent and would worship that idol. With the other he uses it to cook his food. Listen to what Isaiah says:

He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats mean; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

The Scriptures are littered with such examples of seeking life after dead things. But do we do this today?

Consider an automobile commercial I heard a few years ago touting the ‘soul’ of this certain brand when it hits the road. In reality, cars are just bits of metal, wire, and belts put together to function getting us from point A to point B.

Or consider a new service for married folks who wish to get what the recent movie called a “Hall Pass.” It’s a service where you can cheat (commit adultery) on your spouse, no questions asked. I remember talking to someone who was committing adultery against their spouse and said the reason they couldn’t discontinue it was because they “never felt more alive.” This demonstrates another example of seeing life among the dead-end of sin.

In fact, this is the paradox of sin: the very thing Satan tempts us to think will make us alive will actually make us dead. Even religiously devout folks find this out. The religious leaders began to count on something else besides the life-giving Word of God. In Mark 7, Jesus spoke to these leaders and quoted from the book of Isaiah:

This people honors me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me;

In vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

(Mark 7:6b-7; cf. Isaiah 29:13)

See, it’s not just bad things that can become objects of worship, it can even be good things. But there are good things—and there are God things. We were wired to worship—and ultimately, we are wired to worship the God of the living—the living God!

Remember how he told you… and they remembered.

Remember how the women were perplexed? The angel said these words, “Remember how he told you . . . .” What was it? Well, a number of places Jesus told the disciples what would happen. “… the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Then notice in 24:8: “And they remembered his words.” The word ‘must’ is of utmost importance. Rather than merely seeing Jesus turned over to the religious authorities and be an innocent man who was brutally executed, the angels reminded them that it must happen that way. Why?

Look with me at Hebrews 9:15-22:

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must b e established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Before us is a Lord’s Supper table, which signifies the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this He instituted a new covenant, instituted the night before His crucifixion. The first covenant, begun at the Passover was brought about through Moses. The only way to fulfill that was to keep every bit of God’s laws. But we couldn’t. Thus, the sacrifices of “the blood of calves and goats,” whose blood was to cleanse from sins.

But those things could not get to the heart of the matter. We were born with that DNA to pursue the living among the dead. Why? Because we are born dead in our sins (Psalm 51:4; Ephesians 2:1). But in order for that first “will” to be in force to redeem us fully from our sins, one had to die so it would be enacted. And the shedding of that blood set into motion the forgiveness of sins, cleansing us and redeeming us.

The angels called the women to remember what He told us. And they are calling us to do so as well. Allow me to ask you some questions:

  • Have you heard these words of Jesus before? The disciples had—but they hadn’t heard. You may be one here this morning who may have come with family and friends, and recall this account from many years back, but it’s been a while since you’ve encountered it. God brought you here this morning to you would hear them again, and not search for life among the dead things of this age.
  • Maybe you made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in your life. You may be one who comes every so often, you may be one who is here everytime the doors are open. Do you remember His words? Do you relish in His lavish love for you in how Jesus not only had to go to the cross, but willingly went. How much does that empty cross and empty tomb play in your life now? Is Christ a living reality in your life, or are you tampering trying to find life among the dead things of this world that will simply pass away?

Michael Horton said once,

The resurrection is the watershed in history, with dominion of sin and death falling into oblivion, losing its grip on its terrified subjects, and righteousness and life coming to reign. . . . The clock is running down on this present evil age. The first fruits of the harvest, Jesus Christ, has been raised, entering the everlasting Sabbath rest in conquest. The war in heaven is over, though insurgent battles must still be waged on earth.[1]


[1]Michael S. Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).

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Can Anyone Tell Me What Christmas is All About?

Linus can!

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The modus operandi of the Christian Life

One of the cardinal sins of our time in history and especially in our culture and especially in our churches is the fear of offending someone. This came to my attention this past week leading up to The Masters. Most everyone has heard about his scandalous activities that need not be recounted here. Let’s just say that his private life became very public very quickly and threatened all his endeavors. He took a break from the PGA Tour, but came back at a biggest major championship in golf, the Masters.

Everyone wondered what the crowd’s reaction would be to Woods’ return. From all accounts, everyone has welcomed him back, feeling that golf is just better and more interesting when he’s in the picture (and after 54 holes, Tiger is in third place—not a bad return).

Yet, one person had some things to say. Masters’ Chairman Billy Payne said this in regards to Woods:

"As he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.

"Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."

"Is there a way forward? I hope, yes. I think, yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change."

Some took offense to these comments, but is there anything false in these comments? No, there is not. But some want to move on and not deal with the lessons found here. Many want to forgive, which means in essence live and let live. Don’t offend. Let people be.

To those who say that we should not offend others because that is not Christlike, I would say that those individuals have never read the New Testament. Jesus offended by unveiling and opening up to them and us the heart of God and the truth of His Word. Jesus offended with the truth. And as you read through these two parables, you will see that there is no excuse for excuses when it comes to the truth of God’s Word and in dealing with God’s people.

Let’s read through Luke 14:12-24, known as the Parable of the Great Banquet or, as Leon Morris calls it, “The Parable of Excuses.”

12He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

15When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" 16But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’"

Some background is in order. Jesus had been preaching in the synagogue, and as a custom, the rulers of the synagogue would invite that teacher over for a Sabbath meal. First, a man with dropsy who was before Jesus. Jesus confronted them with a question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” The Pharisees had interpreted the law to say that no work of any sort could be done, but would often find loopholes around those laws. They were watching Jesus. Yet, when Jesus asked them this, they did not respond to him. Either way they answered, they would be in trouble, either with the crowd or within their own ranks.

Jesus then observed how there were those at this dinner who would spend their time looking to find places of honor at the table, noticing that those who tried to find those honorable places would find themselves having to move when someone of true honor came along.

So Jesus took time to speak truthfully (and offensively) to the Pharisees and lawyers, then to those who invited Jesus and everyone else to that dinner. Now he begins to look again at the host as well as those who are invited.

Look again at Luke 14:12-14. Jesus systematically exposes the motives of our hearts as he did the motives of those in his days of his earthly ministry. In that day, it was custom that when someone invited you to a feast, you were to return the favor. So on the surface, inviting someone to a feast like this seemed like an act of great hospitality. But in truth, they were doing this not only for recognition in having such a guest in their home, but they played on the custom that that person would have to repay them.

So Jesus turns this custom on its head. In that time, it was not customary to invite the poor, afflicted, crippled, lame (or even women) to a banquet. They were not only at the bottom of the list, they were not on the list. Yet Jesus said they should be on the list for this main reason: they cannot pay you back.

This is an easy, natural mindset to get in, to be sure. You’ve heard the expression, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Or the Latin expression quid pro quo (which means “something for something”). And lest we have an issue with this person who invited, do we not find ourselves marked right alongside this host?

  • Do we pray to God, and for the privilege of praying to God we expect an answer to the prayer we offer up?
  • Will we only help someone, but only if they insist on paying us back (even with interest?)?
  • Do we look at families that visit our church and think, “Those are nice people, clean, and good tithers, I bet!”?

We must consistently look at the motives of our hearts and not justify or make excuses for them.  Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we must deal with these motives and ask God to bring them to the surface.  We can then repent of them, be aware of the devil’s schemes, and persevere more fully through Christ.

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Readying Ourselves for Action: When He Comes, Will You Be Ready? (Luke 12:35-48)

(This sermon was preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on Sunday, December 27, 2009.  To listen to this sermon, go to the side bar of this blog and click on the link.)

1. Live with alertness (Luke 12:35-40)

35 "Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Two Saturdays ago, some of us had the privilege of seeing Eric Masters and Sarah Wasson married off. We Americans have our own traditions of how the wedding preparations and ceremonies go. The bride and groom are not to see each other on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony. You have the giving of the bride by the father to the new man in her life. You have the exchanging of vows and rings. You have the cutting of the cake, the obtaining of the garter, the throwing of the bouquet, the throwing of rice (or for those more conscience of how birds react, birdseed), then the honeymoon! There are other rituals that people involve.

Yet, most of our weddings (with the exception of Ron and Darlene who were married at sunrise at our park) take place in the afternoon or early evening. So in order for us to understand what Jesus is saying in this passage, we need to understand a few customs about Jewish weddings. For one, the festivities could last well into the night. It was a cause for unabashed celebrating, which included feasting and dancing the night away. Who knows when the party would end? The only thing that was for certain was that it would eventually end.

Another custom is that the groom would return with his bride back to the house. Would his servants be ready? Servants who loved their benevolent master would be. They would stay “dressed for action and keep [their] lamps burning.” In the original (and I believe the King James Version maintains this ), it read, “Let your loins stay girded.” In other words, they would tuck the end of their robes into their belt, leaving the legs free to move around. Kent Hughes imagines the welcome their master received:

Warm light streamed from the windows, breathless, smiling, eager servants bearing shining lamps gathered at the door, and no doubt there was a choice nocturnal snack on the table.[1]

I’m reminded of when Cindy and I went on our honeymoon to the Sandals resort in Jamaica. After we arrived at that resort, I remember bringing my bags and setting them in the designated area. Upon entry to the resort, I was ready to grab my bags when the host told me, “Oh, no, no, no, sir. You are on vacation! We will take care of that.” That’s the type of service I see here.

But notice how everything turns. The master arrives, thrilled at their faithfulness, then turns around to serve them! It is this part that really catches the listener by surprise! Masters in that culture did not “gird their loins” for service. But Jesus is telling them that this is what happens in the Kingdom culture. So when Paul wrote that Jesus came, taking the “form of a servant,” this is what that entails. Phil Ryken notes that “He had come to serve his people, and by serving them, to set them free.”[2] He came as a servant, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross so that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He serves us by giving of Himself, the Living Water (John 4), the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

2. Live wisely (Luke 12:41-48).

When Jesus told parables, usually these parables were for those who did not believe, followed by a clear explanation to his disciples. Yet, Peter here wanted to be clear: who is this parable for? Jesus answers… with a parable!

41Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?" 42And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

In examining verse 42, there are two ways to look at this:

First, that this parable applies to everyone. Warren Wiersbe notes, “Each of us has some work to do in this world, assigned to us by the Lord. Our responsibility is to be faithful when he comes. We may not appear successful in our own eyes, or in the eyes of others; but that is not important. The thing God wants is faithfulness (1 Cor 4:2).”[3] Community of believers (our churches) are called to tend over the Temple of the people of God. First Peter 2:4-5 says:

4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In commenting on this, Edmund Clowney notes:

Many medieval churches in Europe have crypts where kings, queens and nobles are entombed. Effigies of the dead may be seen in the dim light, silent figures carved in stone on the lids of coffins. Not so are Christians made part of God’s temple. They are living stone, and they are part of a growing house. God’s architecture is biological.[4]

Since we are living stones, which Christ serving as our chief cornerstone to keep those stones in line and the structure steady, each of us are to take care of each other. After all, there is a reason there are 30 “one another” passages in the Scriptures.

But this passage also applied to the leaders of God’s “temple”—the pastors, elders, and deacons of His people. In verse 42, see where he asks, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” We give the food of the Word of God and of oversight of the church. This is why we spend so much time looking at the character of incoming pastors and potential deacons who are to be “above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2).

We see too what happens to those who are commissioned to take care of God’s household, yet becomes an unfaithful steward? “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does no expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful” (v. 46). He goes on:

47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

What do we think of this? Severe? Harsh? Or, knowing that God is holy, is this a cause for us to examine ourselves? Again, listen to Ryken:

Do I believe that Jesus is coming soon, or do I live as if he has been delayed? Am I using my possessions for the good of others and the glory of God, or am I careless in my stewardship, using things mainly for myself? Am I teaching others the grace of God, or am I silent about my faith? These are good tests of our readiness for Christ’s return. Here is another good test, to use throughout the day: Am I a faithful servant, or would I be embarrassed if Jesus returned right now and found me doing what I am doing? Always act, said Spurgeon, “just as you would wish to be acting if he were to come.”[5]


[1]R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, 2 vols., Preaching the Word (Wheathon, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 2:61.

[2]Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, 2 vols., Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 1:684.

[3]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Paris, Ontario: Victor Books, 1989), 1:222.

[4]Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove: IVP, 1988), 87.

[5]Ryken, Luke, 1:690.

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Year End Matters for Serious Self-Examination

Do I believe that Jesus is coming soon, or do I live as if he has been delayed? Am I using my possessions for the good of others and the glory of God, or am I careless in my stewardship, using things mainly for myself? Am I teaching others the grace of God, or am I silent about my faith? These are good tests of our readiness for Christ’s return. Here is another good test, to use throughout the day: Am I a faithful servant, or would I be embarrassed if Jesus returned right now and found me doing what I am doing? Always act, said Spurgeon, “just as you would wish to be acting if he were to come.

–Philip Graham Ryken, Luke (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 1:690.

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