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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Son of David

Luke 18: 35-43

Here Luke has the story of a blind beggar being healed. Matthew 20:29 has the same incident as two men being healed, and Mark 10: 46 has the blind man named Bartemaeus, in these two gospels they have Jesus leaving Jericho, while Luke describes it as Jesus entering Jericho. The verb Luke chose to use is ‘engizo’ and it can be translated ‘approach’ or ‘in the vicinity.’

In Luke Jesus was coming to Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, in the view of time, Jesus is approaching Jerusalem for His crucifixion, His teaching ministry is coming to an end. A crowd is gathering, a large crowd, which would be expected for this remarkable, young, rabbi has come to their village. Everyone has heard of Jesus, He can heal, He can forgive sins, He can even raise the dead, He might be the Promised One, and He is coming to visit us in Jericho. Culturally it would be common for the village to prepare a feast for this ‘dignitary’, this special visitor. (Kenneth Bailey has pointed out that the crowds run out to meet Jesus and escort Him into their village as an act of honor.)

Everyone is excited, then there is the blind man, whose ‘job’ is to provide an opportunity for the community to show mercy. The Law, in the explanation for Tithing, requires generosity, aiding the stranger, providing for the needy, and showing mercy, in addition to their tithe. So the common cry of the beggars was, ‘show mercy.’ The blind man hears the crowd, and asks what’s going on, they tell him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is passing by. So taking the opportunity, the blind man calls out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ This Messianic title, seldom used, Jesus used to confound the Pharisees in Luke 20:41, and now this uneducated man calls out for Jesus, calling Him ‘Son of David’. The men in the crowd are annoyed, and embarrassed by this guy, they are putting out their best for Jesus, not their dirty laundry, so they tell him to ‘shut up’. But he cries out all the more.

Jesus stops, amidst all the commotion, all the praise given Him, all the joyful shouting, He hears the cry of this man, this one voice, and orders the man to be brought to Him. Embarrassed, the men guide the blind man to Jesus. Jesus then questions the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” The choices might be ‘do you want money, a coin,’ or ‘do you want healing, knowing that your life will now be dramatically changed. You must no longer beg for existence, no one will give you anything, you have to learn a trade, you have to work, to provide for yourself.’ The man then says, “Lord” which indicates he understood the title he had called out earlier, ‘Son of David,’ and the ‘cry for mercy’ was not for a coin. Without hesitation he says “Lord, I want to regain my sight.” Jesus says then, “Receive your sight; Your faith has made you well.” The blind man immediately regained his sight and began following Jesus, in the fulness of the sense, and glorifying YHVH. When the people saw the transformation, they gave praise to YHVH also.

The Blind man, with acute hearing, had taken in all that had been said about Jesus in the preceding weeks and months, and had ‘seen’ Jesus for who He was, not a visiting dignitary but the promised Messiah, and when the opportunity arose, he seized it, and did not let his day of visitation escape. He cried with a loud voice, “Do not pass me by, Son of David, Messiah, Master, hear my plea.”

And Jesus did hear him, and answered his call of faith.

Blessings

Karl

Diligent Desire

Luke 18: 31-34

Jesus has just finished a series of teachings to the crowds following Him, about prayer, about pride, about riches and its use, about salvation, and finally about serving. Now he takes His twelve apart to disclose to them the coming events, which are very near. Luke 18:31, “Behold we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.” The servant songs of Isaiah, chapters 42, 49, 50, and 52-53 are what is being considered here, where Messiahs’ suffering is described in detail. vs. 32 “For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, (Romans), and will be mocked, and mistreated, and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”

Matthew 27:27-31 describes the Roman cohort stripping Jesus, placing a royal robe on Him, a crown of thorns, mocking Him and beating Him on the head with a reed, and spitting on Him. Luke 22: 63 “The men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, ‘Prophesy, who is the one who hit you?’ Mark 14: 65 “Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy! who hit You?’ And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.” Mark 15: 15 “Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” Mark 15:17 records the Roman cohort putting a royal robe on Jesus, a crown of thorns, beating him on the head, mocking, spitting and insulting Him.

Luke 18: 34 “But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.”

Like the twelve, who were the chosen twelve, we also do not grasp everything we need to understand from the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” We have the advantage over the Apostles, living in this age, we have the completed scriptures, yet the desire to read them, and the diligence to understand must come from us. There is no substitute for study of the scriptures. 2 Peter 1:4 “.. so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature,..” v.5 “Now for this reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith add, supply…” The words ‘add, supply,’ are the conditions required for the following list of moral and Godly qualities: moral excellence, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love.

The twelve did not understand the very words that Jesus, point blank, told them. As in the garden of Gethsemane, the twelve slept instead of praying, their desire was less than what was needed.

Friends let us be diligent and desiring to know the love of God, and to become partakers of the divine nature. The opposing side of this is described as ‘blind or short-sighted’, 2 Peter 1:9.

Blessings

Karl

Philosophy & Theology: Martyr

Abstract: At the start of the Christian Church, Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) defends the use of secular wisdom, Platonic, in relating the gospel.

Text Sampler: We have been taught that Christ is the firstborn of God, and we have proclaimed that he is the Logos, in whom every race of people have shared. And those who live according to Logos are Christians even though they may have been counted as atheists – such as Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them, among the Greeks […] Whatever either lawyers or philosophers have said well, was articulated by finding and reflecting upon some aspect of the Logos. However, since they did not know the Logos – which is Christ – in its entirety, they often contradicted themselves. […] Whatever all people have said well belongs to us Christians. For we worship and love, next to God, the Logos, who comes from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since it was for our sake that he became a human being, in order that he might share in our sufferings and bring us healing. For all writers were able to see the truth darkly on account of the implanted seed of the Logos which was grafted into them. Now the seed and imitation of something which is given on the basis of a person’s capacity to receive it is quite different from that thing itself, of which the communications and imitation are received according to the grace of God.

Comment: It is a curious coincidence that Plato had much to say about “logos” or “the word” (cp. Jn. 1:1-14). Martyr seems to say Plato planted some Christian idea seeds prior to Christ’s coming creating the happy intersection of secular and Spiritual wisdom. So, human wisdom comes from Logos, recognized or not. A more complete access to Logos is now more possible through Christ.

Question: Is it healthy or ill for Christianity and Platonic/Greek philosophy, in general, to converge?

Seek Eternity

Luke 18: 24-30

Luke 11:13

Continuing with the encounter of the rich ruler who came to Jesus seeking the key to eternal life by asking, “what shall I do.” Jesus response was to sell all his possessions, give it to the poor, and ‘come follow me.’ The text says Jesus ‘looked’ at the man and told him a parable about a “camel going through the eye of a needle.” All who hear, will say that it is absurdly impossible for that to occur, which is the point of the statement. (Note: There are some stories of a gate in the wall of Jerusalem, when the gates are closed at night, that require a camel to be able to get on his knees and crawl through, which is extremely difficult to do, but no historical record shows such a gate, or incident existed.) Jesus point is understood by all, that wealth is an impediment to spiritual commitment. It’s a simple truth that wealthy people tend to trust in their money to sustain them through all trials.

It is true that the wealthy cannot depend on their earnings to buy, or gain eternal life, which is Jesus aim of the story, but that which is impossible with man, is possible with God. When a rich man realizes his wealth is of earthly value only, and he desires spiritual wealth, becomes bankrupt in his spiritual understanding, and needs eternal riches, that is the point where God is seen working in his heart.

Peter now opens his mouth and declares that he, and the other disciples, actually did leave their homes to follow Jesus. Vs.29 Jesus then says, ‘There is no one who gives up everything for Me, houses, wife, brothers, parents, or children, who will not receive many more blessings right now, and in the age to come, everlasting life.’ (My paraphrase.) This is not a call to abandon our families, but to set our priorities on the spiritual side of life. Luke 11:13 says, when we ask for, seek the important values in life, God will give us His Holy Spirit. Here in this text, Jesus says, everything, give Me everything, and I will give you everlasting life, and I will provide all your needs while on this earthly journey. Put your trust in Me!

Luke always brings the spiritual side of events to the forefront of Jesus actions. Where in the sermon on the Mount in Matthews’ Gospel, Jesus says, ‘if you, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give what is good to those that ask Him.’ Luke is more direct, in saying the ‘good gift’ is the ‘Holy Spirit,’ he removes all doubt as to the earthly versus the heavenly, the temporal versus the eternal, the flesh versus the spirit.

Friends in this life we truly must, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness, then all your needs will be added to you.”

Blessings

Karl

Knowing God: Accommodations

Another approach to “God speak” focuses on basic ideas rather than entanglement in specifics. When one speaks to small children, one appreciates that they have intellect limitations. Origen (184-253) suggested that God faces a similar dilemma in His communications with human beings, like a grade school teacher He along with Jesus has made “accommodations” for the human heart and mind.

Good teachers understand the gulf that exists between themselves and their students. This expanse must be bridged if learning is to take place. As such, God has to come down to our level in His process of revelation.

God often is presented to have human attributes. Seemingly, this implies our eternal and spiritual LORD has been reduced to human likeness, “anthropomorphism” its termed. John Calvin (1509-1564) pointed out that some Bible wording has been necessitated to enable our weak intellect to appreciate divine self-revelation. More sophisticated ways of wording may be better but may not be understood by everyone.

Calvin’s concern is the taking of theological language too literally. A competent theologian must tailor the nature and extent of their verbiage in the form of “accommodations.” It is this principle that he employed to respond to the Copernican controversy regarding the solar system.

During the 16th century, a controversy existed between Nicholas Copernicus’ (1473-1543) heliocentric theory and the generally accepted biblical geocentric understand of our solar system. To this quandary, John Calvin created a new understanding of the solar system and preserving the credibility of the Bible.

His method was first to encourage the complete scientific study of nature, that it should be explored. His belief was this exploration would ultimately reveal order and testify to the wisdom and character of God. The deeper the study, the deeper the orderliness of creation is revealed. These ideals were taken up by societies and individuals in England like the Royal Society of Science and Isaac Newton.

Calvin’s second approach was to eliminate any obstacles to science studies because of biblical literalism. This taking everything literal in the Bible is a mainstay of fundamentalism today. Calvin insisted that not all Bible statements concerning God or the universe at large should be interpreted literally. They had been accommodated by the Bible writers and the Holy Spirit for the readers appreciation and understanding for all times of their reading. Their manner of speaking was to common folk like “nurses to little children,” so stated English writer J. Edward Wright (1561-1615).

Both of these arguments have, to a large degree, harmonized understandings between theological and natural and physical sciences.

Only God Is Good

Luke 18: 18-22

Romans 7: 7-8

Having just talked to the crowd about the attitudes needed in our prayers, and the need for humility, and child like faith when we approach God, a ruler comes to Jesus. This ruler says, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit everlasting life.” Jesus says to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” This statement by Jesus exposes a couple of things, (never spoken by Jesus but indicated by His continuing statements) : First; 1 Samuel: 16: 7 says, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but YHVH looks at the heart.” Second: ‘ If God alone is good, then by calling me good, are you ready to recognize me as God come in the flesh?’

To the ruler Jesus continues: “You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor you father and Mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ (Note these are 5 of the 10 commandments), “When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; And come, follow me.” When he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”

Jesus exposed to this man another one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shall not covet.” To covet is not just the desire for another ones goods, but the holding on to your own at all cost. Paul, who, like this man kept the Law vigorously, speaks to this issue in Romans 7: 7-8, “…I would not have come to know sin except through the Law: For I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.” It is one thing to keep the outward appearance of the Law, it is an entirely different thing to keep the inner attributes demanded. And by desire to keep what he owned at all cost, greed becomes that part of coveting that violates the First Commandment to ‘Have no other gods before Me.’ In one question, and statement, Jesus was able to expose this man’s heart, and his sin.

“Jesus then looked at the man and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Earlier Jesus had taught this same crowd who were still following Him the cost of discipleship, in Luke 14:33, “So then, none of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” So this is not a new demand put on the ruler alone, but a standard set for all. So this ruler either was not there for the earlier teaching, or as Jesus always closes is teachings, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” and this man simply did not hear.

The gospels do not contain a new, more demanding set of rules for us to follow, or a prerequisite for salvation, but the revelation of the New Covenant that Jesus ushered in, to present Himself as the sinless, substitutionary, sacrificial offering for the atonement for our sin, that we must recognize as God Himself, come in the flesh, to impute His righteousness to all who will believe.

Blessings

Karl

Faith Like A Child

Luke 18: 15-17

Luke is writing the parables, and first hand happenings of Jesus in a theme of reversal of the accepted normalities of the Hebrew culture in which they live.

So far in this series ten lepers are healed, but only a Samaritan returns to glorify YHVH. A Samaritan is absolutely despised by true Jewish culture, for good reason: They, being Jews, intermarried with the gentiles. They worship in Mount Gerezim, not in Jerusalem. They incorporate worship of Baal’s in their worship. They have set up feast days other than those set by Jehovah for Israel. They have re-written the Torah itself to accommodate their views. Jesus reveals a complete reversal of the suspected goal of this story.

A widow is recognized, and has standing before the Law. In Judaism women have no standing before the Law without a husband, or son to represent her. This is a truly patriarchal society, it is definitely not America. There are no equal rights, no one who will even remotely take up the case of a widow without familial male representation. Yet Jesus shows YHVH as a judge who will hear the cries of all who call out to Him for justice. Can you believe that is true?

A tax collector is preferred before a Pharisee for his humility. Pharisees are dedicated to piety, and committed to purity, and keeping the Law of Moses. They are the self proclaimed keepers of the Tanach, that is the writings of the Law, the prophets, and the writings. Exodus 24:12 says “Come up to Me on the Mountain, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandments which I have written for their instruction.” The Pharisee view is , ‘tablets’ refer to the ten commandments, ‘the law’ refers to the Torah, ‘and the commandments’ refer to the Mishna, ‘which I have written’ refers to the prophets and the writings, and ‘for their instructions’ refers to the Talmud. A complicated approach but one of separation from the ordinary man, which all the more adds to the mytsic of their notoriety. The tax collector is merely a greedy traitor in their sight, yet Jesus shows a reverse preference for him.

All of these parables were told in such a manner as to turn the hearers world upside down, as it were. Now come the children, Luke 18: 15 “They were bringing even their babies to Him so that he would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

Again the children in any culture have little, or no standing before the Law. A reversal of understanding, Jesus’ point being, the Law cannot save you, for no one can keep it completely, and any violation brings retributive justice. He is introducing a New Covenant of righteousness, not based upon the Law, or preconceived ideas of what is righteousness according to Law, but righteousness based on faith. Not faith in faith, but faith in Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself, in payment for our sins. 2 Cor. 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And all it takes is childlike trust, childlike faith in Jesus.

Blessings

Karl

Knowing God: Metaphors

There’s not much difference between metaphors and analogies except for its “like.” A metaphor words something that is suggestive of something else. For example, “God is a lion” at first glance makes little sense. So many differences are apparent. Thinking about it more, some similarities exist. As a writing tool, metaphors stress the parallels and divergences between subjects in a comparison.

To speak of “God as mother” does not define God as a mother, but relates our inability to relate to God through wording directly. Our best is suggestive of God, indirectly using language whose application is best used elsewhere. Metaphors are “open-ended” definitive statements. For this reason, they are attractive in their use within theology circles because some aspects of these discussions can never be clearly known or defined. Their use is similar to impressionism in art.

Metaphors are a way to convey strong theological emotions. The most common example is in comparing God and light. “God is light” suggests the harmonic overtones of clarity, purity, illumination, needful, and glorious to name a few. the theology writer Ian G. Barbour (1923-2013) expresses this point as follows:

“Where poetic metaphors are used only momentarily, in one contest, for the sake of an immediate expression or insight, religious symbols become part of a language of a religious community and liturgy in its continuing life and thought. Religious symbols are expressive of human emotions and feelings, and are powerful in calling forth response and commitment.”

Two Men, Two Prayers

Luke 18: 9-14

Acts 3: 1-10

Luke 1: 8-10

Luke 18: 9 “And He also told a parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector.’ (According to the Law there are to be two atonement sacrifices performed daily. One is in the morning, at dawn, the other is in the afternoon at three o’clock. Each service begins outside the sanctuary at the great high altar with the sacrifice for the sins of Israel of a lamb whose blood was sprinkled on the altar, following a precise ritual. In the middle of the prayers, there would be silver trumpets sounded, along with cymbals clanging, and the reading of a psalm. The officiating priest would then enter the Holies, the outer sanctuary, and offer incense, and trim the lamps. When the officiating priest disappeared into the sanctuary, those who came to worship then offered their own private prayers aloud, to God. Luke 1: 8-10 describes this event in action.)

Vs. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself, ‘ God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I pay tithes of all that I get.'” This man is a Pharisee, which was in fact an honorable discipline to be of. It required schooling from a respected teacher, memorization of the first five books of the scripture, the Torah, and an extreme disciplined life style. It was no small effort to be a Pharisee. The weakness of these men though, was pride. When it says that he stood, the indication is that he stood apart from the crowd, so as to not touch someone unclean, and become defiled. As all are praying aloud at the same time, his voice boomed above the rest so as to be heard by all.

Vs. 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner.’ ” A tax collector was a Jew who collected the Roman tax from his fellow citizens, and often cheated them by charging more than required so as to enrich himself. As such he was despised, and hated by his countrymen who considered him a traitor first, and then they all knew he was a cheater. This man, like the Pharisee was also standing alone, separate from the crowd, not by choice though. As he entered, the crowd shied away from him, so as not be in association with him. As he will not lift his eyes, so he does not lift his voice either. The Pharisee stands proud, with arms raised high in the standard Mosaic prayer position, and raises his voice to the heavens. The tax man, in contrast, with head bowed, arms beating his breast, in a quiet voice begs for mercy. Given the actual service at hand, it would be most appropriate to hear him say, ‘YHVH, is there an atonement for me?’ In essence, “can I be forgiven?”

Vs. 14 Jesus continues, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” To be justified is to be acquitted of sins, to be absolved. In American minds we like to describe justified as, ‘Just if I’d’ never sinned, which is a simile concept, while justification is a judicial statement of direct absolution, it is final declaration of the court. Romans 5:1 says it clearly, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Other passages like Romans 3: 24-26, and Romans 5:18 remit the same concept.

Friends, God cares not for the ‘show of prayer’, but the humility of the heart of the one who prays.

Blessings

Karl

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