Luke Chapter 7

Luke Chapter 7

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Luke 7:1-50 NLTse When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. (2) At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. (3) When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. (4) So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, (5) “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” (6) So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. (7) I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. (8) I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” (9) When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (10) And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed. (11) Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. (12) A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. (13) When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. (14) Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” (15) Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. (16) Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” (17) And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside. (18) The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, (19) and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (20) John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?'” (21) At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases and illnesses, and he cast out evil spirits and restored sight to many who were blind. (22) Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard–the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. (23) And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” (24) After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? (25) Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. (26) Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. (27) John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’ (28) I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” (29) When they heard this, all the people–even the tax collectors–agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. (30) But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism. (31) “To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? (32) They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’ (33) For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ (34) The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ (35) But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” (36) One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. (37) When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. (38) Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. (39) When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” (40) Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. (41) Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people–500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. (42) But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” (43) Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. (44) Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (45) You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. (46) You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. (47) “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (48) Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (49) The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” (50) And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

I like to look at key words in the introduction and summation before I begin a study. I’m sure those key words will tell the main theme of the chapter. As we can easily see, the introduction contains a number of words associated with movement. When we look at the summation, the key word forgiven jumps out. On the surface, these two don’t appear to be related, but in the spiritual world it’s easy to see how this world needs to move towards forgiveness. This chapter is a continuation of Jesus’ sermon in the the previous chapter.

People seem to think understanding one parable or sermon seems to be enough. People seem to think seeing an answer in one part of the Bible is as far as the lesson goes. A seasoned student of the Bible, one who has a relationship with God knows better. They will wait to see, not only wait but dig to see how one lesson leads into the next lesson, and the next, and next. As well as studying with the understanding and need to look back and review previous stories with the lessons they contain.

Before we can fly, we have to admit, we are nothing but little chicks in a nest. No feathers, no way of defending ourselves, no way of moving on until we’re fed enough to grow. If we take Bible Study seriously, we’ll often feel we are less than a chick in a nest. We’ll see ourselves like a chick stuck in an egg. When we approach God’s throne to learn, we feel more like a worm when we compare what we know to God’s knowledge. God doesn’t want us to feel that way, but we have to be careful with the information God gives us. All we are is a conduit to transfer information. God created those brain cells responsible for comprehending, and memory. As well as that part of the brain we say is dedicated to imagination which is another form of communication with God in what some people refer to as visions.

I love this first story because it deals with a man few people would consider one of Jesus’ followers. A man of authority who showed how humble he really was when he entered Jesus’ presence. Then he explained why.

Before we get into this study, I think it’s important to look at the modern definition of context.

context

[kon-tekst]

noun

1. the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect:

You have misinterpreted my remark because you took it out of context.

2. the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

(Thanks to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/context)

As we can see by the definition of context, we need to look back at how one event led into another to understand context within the Bible. I hear a lot of people, particularly preachers teaching their own definition of context. They substitute the definition of a story or lesson for the definition of context. Giving the wrong meaning frees them up to substitute scripture from different sections of the Bible they think will support their personal concept on a particular subject. In many cases texts they use have little more than a single word in common. When you cross reference the chapters, you’ll often find the events have little or nothing in common. But that doesn’t stop some preachers from insisting they are the same context. If their proof texts do not share similar circumstances and concepts, they are not the same context. Nor do they teach the same lesson and should not be used to support a private interpretation on a subject or lesson.

Jesus Healed a Roman Officer’s Slave

Luke 7:1-10 NLTse When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. (2) At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. (3) When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. (4) So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, (5) “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” (6) So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. (7) I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. (8) I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” (9) When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (10) And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Before we get into the first section of the chapter, it’s important to look back at how the last chapter closed. We saw chapter 6 end with Jesus telling a parable about a house being built on two different foundations, rock and sand. Jesus said, “I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. (Luke 6:47-48 NLTse). The end of chapter 6 also served as an introduction to what Jesus came to teach in chapter 7. We see Jesus moved to another city. In Capernaum, Jesus was met by none other than a group of Jewish elders. Jesus could tell by their dress, they weren’t priests. This is an important point to distinguish those elders from the priests who harassed Jesus. But they were still Jewish church leaders. Those elders were of course thankful the Roman officer build a synagogue for them. Their gratitude out weighted any negative reports they may have heard about Jesus. Some of them may have been interested in meeting Jesus, and put Him to the test so to speak.

We can see, to an extent, those elders are taking the role of the priests who were supposed to closely inspect that leper and announce his cleansing, and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to determine if He was a prophet or more. Jesus didn’t preach to them. He didn’t try to gather support, or tell those elders how far off base some of those priests were, or all the prophecies they missed. Jesus simply complied with their request and followed them. Jesus went out of His way to help a slave just like those elders did. Why would a group of Jewish elders go out of their way to help the salve of a Roman officer? What’s behind the whole story?

A synagogue may be enough to entice those elders to do a favor for the Roman officer, but when we look at a study based on context, we look back to gather information to answer questions. We want to look into the personalities involved in the stories. All we know at this point is, the Roman officer loved the slave. We also know the slave was sick and near death.

Somehow the Roman officer heard about Jesus. Being a Roman officer, he must have heard reports about Jesus, who was accumulating a large following. Part of the Roman officer’s job would have included gathering and sharing information about possible threats, which included everything. The way news was spreading about Jesus’ ministry, it wouldn’t have taken much for this officer to know, Jesus had the gift of healing.

What would it have taken to convince those elders to travel around the countryside looking for Jesus to ask Him if He was willing to heal that slave? Those elders must have had a conflict of interest to one degree or another. Their loyalty was to the synagogue and Jewish faith, which included rejecting Jesus as well as any other self proclaimed prophet. It was something they had to weigh before making that trip.

Then there was the chance Jesus would reject their plea. Imagine the thoughts those elders must have had going through their minds as they walked along the road. They must have made up a hundred stories aimed at convincing Jesus to go with them. Much to their surprise and relief, Jesus instantly went with them. This immediately vaporized many of the stories they heard about Jesus from the priests.

When the elders pleaded with Jesus, they appealed to His national dedication. They knew Jesus was a Jew, so that seemed to be the best route to follow. No one made any mention of the slave’s nationality. But they didn’t try to hide the fact, the slave was owned by a Roman officer. They had no idea that wouldn’t make any difference to Jesus.

The officer must have been rich if he could afford to build a synagogue. Many officers paid for their promotions, as well as assignments. This brings up a question. If the officer had enough money to build a synagogue, why didn’t he use the money to buy his way into an easier assignment?

Just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. Some authors say, the officer came out to meet Jesus. Luke said, he sent out some friends. Because Luke repeated the phrase, “I am not worthy,” indicated the officer personally met Jesus. What the officer had to say is the main focus of the lesson at hand.

I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” Where did a Roman officer learn this? We can assume the officer obtained a copy of scripture translated to Greek. Or he may have purchased one of those rare copies of scripture in Hebrew. At any rate, he knew something about God and how He worked.

What stories do you think would have impressed a Roman officer? What parts of scripture would have shown him, Jesus had the power to heal from a distance? That Roman guard must have focused on stories about angels in the Bible. He may have read the story about Jacob’s vision of the ladder between Heaven and earth with angels going up and down. This would have made him question their purpose and roll on earth, not to mention their intercourse with men. There are other stories that would have interested a Roman officer. The time Joshua met an angel. The angel who met Balaam on the road. Then there was that angel who nearly destroyed Jerusalem after David numbered the men. One story that must have stuck in his mind is when the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. (2 Kings 19:35 NLTse).

The Roman officer must have put together a number of stories in the Bible to figure out, God had an army of angels able to accomplish fantastic feats. Then He went a step further, figuring out, if Jesus could heal, their must be a connection between Jesus and God’s Spirit.

The Roman guard was able to understand more about that spiritual battle around us then most people are able to comprehend. The officer also heard stories about Jesus casting out demons. The officer knew Jesus was battling that spiritual war on this planet with God’s help. Who knows what that officer read to put it all together. The fact of the matter is, the answer is in the Bible and he understood it.

One of the most interesting details about this story is the three factions involved and their normal relationship between them. Jesus of course is the main character, the Roman officer another, and the Jewish elders the third. The Jewish elders were closely associated with the Pharisees and priests, who didn’t trust or like the Romans as a whole, and rejected Jesus’ ministry. Roman officers didn’t trust or appreciate the Jewish priest or Pharisees, and had their suspicions about Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus wanted to reach out to all of them. What brought these three groups together? We have to give credit to God’s Spirit, who is always working hard to bring people together. Just think of what could happen in this world if all those different Christian factions could come together to accomplish something. Too bad over half of the Christian denominations today make a religion out of criticizing every other denomination. What a waste of time, effort, and resources. To think some of those preachers claim to be the only people with a connection to God’s Spirit, and claim they know the only path into Heaven. But they can’t understand a simple story like this.

Luke showed us how God used a slave to bring those people together. Hint, hint, can you see the spiritual meaning behind that slave? What did that slave do? Nothing! He was sick in bed near death. He didn’t go out to arrange the meeting. The Roman officer didn’t need a slave to provide reports about Jesus. The officer had men under his command to watch Jesus and deliver reports. We’re not told what nationality the slave was, but what if he was a Jew and attended the synagogue? What could that slave tell them about Jesus the priests didn’t already tell the elders?

The slave could have been a really nice guy all the people liked. After all, his master loved him enough to send those elders to Jesus. What we have here is God using a well loved man to bring people together. His testimony about Jesus wasn’t required to bring this meeting together, but his reputation was all important. But he was still a slave. God was able to use him where he was, sick in bed, and a slave. No money, power, or political influence.

God used a slave to teach a lesson. The slave represents our efforts. God’s Spirit worked in the back ground setting up the timing and prepared those people to set aside their prejudice. That was more effort that the slave could have done by himself. If only preachers could learn that lesson. If only Christians could see, our major roles in God’s plan of salvation is to be the example God needs us to be and led people to Jesus. We need to learn our role so we know when to react, how to react, and when to step aside to let God’s Spirit lead.

Jesus Healed a Widow’s Son

Luke 7:11-17 NLTse Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. (12) A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. (13) When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. (14) Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” (15) Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. (16) Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” (17) And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.

This stories seems to lack key words with the exception for the related set of went, approached, visited, and the second set of related words died and dead. When we look at the two sets on a spiritual level, a lesson becomes clear. Luke continued to repeat a series of action words relating to movement. It’s unusual for a story like this to lack key words. So we have no choice but to work with what we have, a relationship between movement and death. The question is, are the lessons moving closer to death or further away?

We also need to compare the previous story to find the spiritual link. Luke also recorded a series of movements in the previous story. The key characters were of course Jesus, the Jewish elders, the Roman officer, and the unnamed slave. One thing is shared by all of those. The key lies in what the Roman officer told Jesus. He saw how God’s Spirit worked and shared it with everyone there, Jesus and the Jewish elders. Jesus had a Roman officer teaching not only those Jewish elders, but His disciples.

Imagine the thoughts going through the minds of those disciples as they listened to the Roman officer share his faith in Jesus’ gift to heal and how he understood the unseen spiritual war. This marked a new movement relieving the Jewish priests of the role as spiritual leaders. They had their chance and they failed. It was time to move on.

The elders were the next line in the Jewish order. Not as high ranking as priests, but still well respected throughout the Jewish community. And that slave no one knew anything about. What did he represent? Jesus brought him back from near death, another link to this story with the widow’s dead son.

Jesus walked into a new city to find a long funeral procession. Jesus read the anguish on the face of the poor widow. She grieved for her only son as her mind drifted off into an uncertain future. From the scene it seemed she had plenty of support. The entire town turned out to pay their respects. But people attract people similar to themselves. All her friends were as poor as she was. Jesus looked upon an entire city plunged into some of the deepest levels of poverty. The entire city felt anguish. The funeral was a way to come together to share their grief.

The community could help the widow a little. They could feed her and help out on her farm for a time. But eventually it would fall. She knew it. The entire town knew it. Without a man to run the farm, plant seed, weed, and harvest, there was little or no chance of income. Without income, she couldn’t pay her taxes. Eventually someone would come along, pay her taxes and receive the deed to her land. If she was lucky, they wouldn’t sell her into slavery to recover the remaining funds.

Jesus and the entire city knew, people behind the scene were planning to take over her land in her hour of grief. Back room deals were being hammered out. It was just a matter of time. Laws have already been initiated and changed to make it easier for ambitious investors to take advantage of people dwelt a loosing hand in the game of life. That’s all life is to them, a game of monopoly they planned and schemed to win. It was a game of winner takes all, at any cost.

That game is nothing new. Its been around for who knows how long. People have always been hungry for land, money, power, and glory. Driven on by the same demons who’ve perfected take overs to an art. Not even those who think they are on top are safe.

Jesus knew He had to do something and He knew exactly what to do. That slave in the last story was near death. The widow’s son was dead and they were getting ready to bury him. We see one movement. Jesus moved from healing someone close to death to a man imprisoned by death.

It only took Jesus a few words to raise that man from the dead. It was like the Roman officer saw, God’s Spirit was working ahead to set up the event. The city gathered to witness the miracle. Jesus’ disciples would learn from the progression. Even those investors would hear of the miracle and be faced with a decision. The impact on each person was personal. A time for soul searching.

No one would pay a higher price or receive a bigger benefit than that young man. He had to come back from the dead to this world. And it wasn’t going to be an easy life. Trying to make a farm profitable on his own would be nearly impossible. He would live long enough to see his mother die. The threat of loosing the farm was on his mind. Investors and businessmen would also being taking advantage of him.

Jesus didn’t walk into the city, see the long funeral procession, and use it to give a long sermon on the state of the dead. Get real. It doesn’t matter if the boy was asleep, like Jesus pointed out when He raised other people, or living in Heaven, like some people teach. It really doesn’t matter in the larger scheme. The young man was taken from the clutches of death back to this world to suffer along with the rest of the city at the hands of the enemy Jesus said they had to learn to love.

That sermon was the beginning of class for His disciples. We can see how Jesus is teaching in a prescribed sequence. Some people saw one miracle or heard one lesson. Other people followed for a time. But Jesus’ disciples saw and experienced it all. But how come some people spend a few hours at a seminar, read a book, maybe read the Bible once, then feel they have all the answers. After more than three years, Jesus’ disciples couldn’t understand why He was on that cross. How many people today really know why Jesus was on that cross? Look what Jesus did. He spoke a few simple words and the young man came back to life. Why did Jesus humble Himself and allow those priests and other people to have their way with His life? One of the greatest lesson the disciples had to learn was, what not to say or do.

John’s Disciples Question Jesus

Luke 7:18-30 NLTse The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, (19) and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (20) John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?'” (21) At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases and illnesses, and he cast out evil spirits and restored sight to many who were blind. (22) Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard–the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. (23) And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” (24) After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? (25) Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. (26) Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. (27) John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’ (28) I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” (29) When they heard this, all the people–even the tax collectors–agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. (30) But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism.

Without a doubt, listening to God’s voice can be difficult to say the least. Then there are times, you can’t miss the message. This is one of those times. I’ve been listening to the book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim. Much to my surprise, the chapter I listened to the other night gave a graphic description of the prison John was held. Edersheim’s description was quite unlike other descriptions I’ve heard and nothing like anything shown on some movies. Hollywood does not do a lot of research on details they don’t think are important. You can read the whole chapter for yourself to get a more detailed description. I just found out that book is available as a new download on E-Sword, the Bible Study program covered in an earlier chapter. Following is a description of Herod’s palace and the prison John was housed in which is loosely based on Book 3, chapter 28.

After a long journey, they finally arrived at Machaerus, the location of Herod’s second palace completed at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John was chained with a long iron pole across his back and under his arms holding them in a painful position. Not as painful as when he fell and the pole would strike the ground pulling his arms out of joint. The guards didn’t want to take any chances. Their lives depended on delivering John to Herod’s prison. John wore an iron collar with four heavy chains attached. Each chain weighted close to eighty pounds. The other end of each chain was carried by a guard. John’s neck supported the other end of those four long chains. The weigh was not only uncomfortable, but made it almost impossible for John to lift his head.

The guards didn’t give John any food during their three day journey and little water. They wanted to keep him in a weakened state to reduce the chance of escape. They had to deliver John alive, but Herod cared little about what condition he was in when he arrived.

The last mile was up a steep incline to the top of the mountain Herod’s new palace was build. Reaching the plateau, they traveled a short distance across flat ground to the single gate into the fortress. Tall walls spanned the short distance between a set of shear cliffs standing like sentinels on either side. Towers stood on either side of the gate as well as joining to the stone cliffs. Walking through the gates, John raised his head to see thick walls of about ten paces wide. Iron gates were installed on the outside and inside of the gate. John saw every imaginable defensive and offensive weapon on the walls, towers, and inside the court.

John knew where the money for those weapons came from. John knew who those weapons and walls were build to protect Herod from. Rome had conquered the Greeks including Jerusalem and the surrounding area more almost a generation ago. There wasn’t any threat from another nation. Herod had no reason to protect himself from Rome. He served Rome. And the fortress was manned by Roman soldiers. Herod’s small contingency of personal guards would not last for an hour against the Roman guard if Rome decided to depose Herod.

Herod wasn’t afraid of Rome. They left him alone as long as he collected taxes to forward to Rome and kept Jews and other nationalities under control. The only purpose Jerusalem serves was to keep the trade routes open. Rome’s concern was to keep business thriving. That included keeping trade routes open and safe as well as sea ports. This also included a regular and reliable supply of slave labor.

After they entered the city, John looked to the south at Herod’s new palace. Slaves were still putting the finishing touches on the elaborate structure which was a never a ending process for a king who wanted everything bigger and better than anyone in the region. John wasn’t going to the palace. The guards took John to the citadel on the east end of the fortress. They took John into the building, down through the first level where most prisoners were housed, into the lower prison. An iron gate on the floor covered the steps leading to the lower prison.

The prison was cut out of solid rock. Cells in the lower prison were cut into the walls. They were large enough to house a single prisoner. The cells were only a few feet deep and high. Barely tall enough to sit up. There were no windows or ventilation. Iron chains were fastened to John’s ankles and the iron bars locked over the small cell. Once the Romans left, John was left in total darkness.

There are a few similarities between John and Jonah. It’s obvious how Jonah tried running away from God, but not so clear with John. Most people skip right over John’s mistake. When Jesus came to be baptized, John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14 NLTse). The other mistake we’re shown tells us why John was cast into prison. Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Philip). John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet. (Matthew 14:3-5 NLTse).

John’s role was to announce Jesus’ ministry. That didn’t include standing up against the local government or pointing out sins, no matter how obvious they appeared. So far we haven’t seen Jesus pointing out mistakes and sins. When John announced Jesus’ ministry, he pointed out, Jesus was far greater then himself. Why would John go beyond his assigned duty into a ministry he obviously thought was important, but not within God’s time line.

Looking at those details Matthew recorded, we see who Herod was afraid of and why he had to build an impenetrable fortress. Herod was afraid of the people. Herod wasn’t only afraid of their religious beliefs, he began construction on that stronghold long before Jesus began His ministry. Herod was well aware of the cruel and unusual ways people were treated to extract taxes and keep them in control. Herod was behind plans for those methods the tax collectors and guards used to enforce laws and collect taxes. God knew Herod was tortured by every sin he committed, ordered, and every person he corrupted along the way.

Corruption flows both ways. It feeds off both sides like a cancer, growing until it consumes and kills the host it relies on for survival. New guards assigned to Herod’s district soon learned how to threaten, beat, and sometime assassinate people considered dangerous and expendable. Rich and powerful merchants came to Herod with new ideas to expand business, which usually included plans to take advantage of the lower class. Taxes were used for personal satisfaction and often given to those wealthy merchants as a private investment. Sort of a private retirement fund for those in charge.

John may have seen or heard about one of Herod’s sins, but he had no idea how far it went and how evil Herod and his government was. John saw some of that wasteful spending on the way to his cell, but that was not even the tip of the iceberg. Not even Herod had any idea how far his corruption reached. There is no honor among thieves. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Pass one law allowing them to legally take advantage of one group, and they’ll pass that line in a heart beat to grasp onto all they can.

One of the keys words that draws attention in this story is disciples. We see two groups of disciples. Luke described them as Jesus’ and John’s disciples. We’ve seen two groups, each learning the same lesson from different aspects in previous stories in this chapter. Luke pointed that aspect out in this story about John’s disciples.

We’re not sure how much Jesus’ disciples comprehend at this point and how much they’ve missed. We can’t be sure about John’s disciples either. Luke gave us only a few details. To understand, we have to look at the circumstances. John is being kept in a prison so small he can hardly move. It’s a miracle Herod allowed visitors. Then again, God’s Spirit was able to reach Herod to an extent, but only as far as Herod would allow. And that didn’t seem to be very much. That’s a lesson for all of us to think about. We all block out God’s Spirit to one degree or another while allowing His Spirit to touch us only in ways and to a degree we allow. We like to feel like we’re in charge of the God of the universe. Letting Him in when we want Him in our lives and holding Him off when we don’t want Him to interfere with our lives, business, family, entertainment, the work we claim we are doing for Him. We treat God’s Spirit like a water faucet, where we control the flow, temperature, and when the flow is on and off.

This is one of the lessons Jesus is trying to convey. See how He met people’s needs? He didn’t lecture them. He didn’t break into a long sermon to tell people what they did wrong, or what they should be doing. Jesus was teaching His disciples how to minister to people the way God needed them to minister. Lesson one, learn to listen to God and follow directions.

John must have thought about Jonah dozens of times. Inside that cell, he must have felt like Jonah inside the belly of that fish. John was housed only a short walk away from Herod’s palace. In total darkness he could hear parties going on into the wee hours of the morning. John could have seen and admitted, Herod was to much for him to go after and take on by himself. But instead, John decided to question Jesus. If He did have the power to cure people, why didn’t Jesus do anything to free him from that cell?

John could have looked at those visits from his disciples as a blessing. But John allowed their reports to depress him. John could have rejoiced in the results of Jesus’ ministry, but he wondered why he wasn’t a larger part of it. But it was hard for John to accept life in a small prison. The smell was unbearable. John longed to see the stars, feel a cool breeze, feel the warmth of the sun on his face, go where he wanted to go when he wanted to go, and return to baptizing people. Anything was better than what John was experiencing at the time. And the question lingered, why wasn’t Jesus doing anything for him?

John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?'” John shared his doubts with his disciples. Somehow John lost a great deal of his connection with God. Luke told us the third mistake John made, sharing his doubts with people who looked to him for leadership. The question is, did John also make the mistake of not listening to God? We can’t be certain. We can’t even guess at such a scenario. That is a personal matter between him and God.

Jesus’ answer seemed simple. “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard–the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” The first part was easy to understand. It is the portion of the answer your going to hear people preach about most because its the easy part to deal with. Everyone likes to look at the way Jesus healed people. But here we see one of Jesus’ first rebukes. John was turning away from God because it didn’t seem Jesus was doing enough for him. Times were rough for John. Life in that prison was harder than we could imagine. But is that any reason to turn away because we don’t feel God or Jesus is doing enough for us? This is also a hard detail to examine because it’s so personal.

Jesus had a deep love for John. We don’t know what Jesus wanted to do for John. We do know He would have done anything, if and when God directed Him. But for some reason, John was left to Herod’s mercy, which was controlled by his wife, daughter-in-law, and all those guests in his palace. Herod was an example of a leader with no control.

Jesus told His disciples and the people around Him what He could about John. Much of what He told them was shrouded in symbolism. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. (26) Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!”

Jesus made it plain, people misunderstood John and his ministry. The same is still true today, no matter how much someone tried to convince you, they had all the answers. Not even John could get all the details straight. Are those people today claiming to be greater than John?

John was definitely a contrast. He was a contrast to this world, the religious leaders in it, and what the world expects to follow. There’s no need to go into details of how the religious world uses tinsel and glitter to attract people. That was not part of John’s message.

Jesus pointed out the contrast between John’s dress and the elaborate dress of the priests for a reason. Soon Jesus was about to send His disciples out and tell them not to take a second coat. Carrying a spare coat was a trade mark of the priests who believed their dress was a direct image of God. This may seem strange to us, but let’s admit it, people expect a preacher to be well dressed. Casual people want a preacher dressing according to their style. Then Jesus quoted scripture. As usual, we will look up the Old Testament texts and examine the chapter.

Another important Bible Study rule is, when you see scripture quoted by an author, always look up the original texts. An inspired writer will only quote a small portion of scripture. Just enough to point you back to the original texts. It’s your job to open up and read the original texts. And remember to check to introduction and summation for the chapter the original scripture is located. This a a major way God uses to communicate with us. An easy way to locate the original texts is to use a chain reference in a Study Bible. Or you can use the TSK (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) you can download and use with E-Sword, and other Bible computer programs.

Malachi 3:1-4 NLTse “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (2) “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. (3) He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. (4) Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.

Malachi 3:14-18 NLTse “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? (15) From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.'” (16) Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. (17) “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. (18) Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

Jesus happened to quote the first line in Malachi chapter 3. Of course the Bible or Old Testament was not divided into chapters or verses when He quoted it, but we have these divisions to use today. Since Jesus quoted the introduction, we have to also compare the summation to check to see if they agree according to rule, as well as see what details Malachi 3 adds to Luke 7.

This is one of the most important Bible Study rules of context you want to learn and use:

The introduction and summation of each chapter establishes the main theme, thought, and lesson on the chapter. Introductions may be relayed by key words, thoughts, or contrasts.

There are a few details we need to keep in mind when comparing one chapter to another whenever we see Old Testament scripture quoted in the New Testament. First compare the Old Testament to the story at hand. Next compare the Old Testament chapter to the New Testament chapter. And of course, introduction to introduction and summation to summation.

Jesus pointed those people back to Malachi 3 to show them what John’s ministry was about as well as introducing details about His own ministry. The first detail to look for is how it related to John’s ministry.

Most of Malachi 3 deals with Jesus’ ministry on the surface, but we can also see some of the details John was given to announce. When the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple, points to Jesus as the Temple. This prophecy shows how God’s Spirit descended in the form of a dove to verify God came to His Temple, Jesus. Later Jesus will explain He is the Temple and John will verify that fact in Revelation. I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22 NLTse).

Malachi shows us John’s main message was to announce Jesus’ ministry as the messenger of the covenant. We can also see where John got the line about Jesus being a refining fire. So we know John was familiar with this section of Malachi. We see an interesting point in Malachi. “He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD.” Jesus didn’t come to tear down the Levitical priesthood, but to purify it. There is a world of difference. Look at your laundry. How much visible dirt is on a load of clothes? Does your laundry machine destroy an article of clothing if it is too dirty? The dirt is removed and the clothing is ready for use. That’s all Jesus wanted to do.

On the other hand, John thought it was okay to go after Herod and tear him down. Look at the entire chapter in Malachi 3 and see if anything in there turned John loose on Herod. Look at the entire book before answering. As a matter of fact, my guess is, you’ll be looking at Malachi 3 in an entirely new way after we examine the introduction and summation.

There are two messages in the summation for Malachi 3. The first part showed the kind of world Jesus found Himself in. People didn’t see a reason to serve God. Why? Maybe it was because of those religious leaders at the time and the example they set. But God saw more than a set of leaders using their position to take advantage of people. In fact God listened to them. God wanted to know how to help them. This is an important part of the lesson. God listened.

When we compare the summation in Malachi 3 to what we’ve learned so far in Luke, we can see how God answered. As a matter of fact, the sequence we’ve covered and reviewed in Luke reinforces the lesson here. God knew the needs of the people Jesus met and God prepared Jesus to meet everyone of their needs. Some needed physical healing. Some needed spiritual healing. A widow needed her son back. And a Roman officer looked for a blessing not for himself, but a slave he loved. That officer showed us how this all works.

God listens to His people. He knows their needs. He sent His Spirit to Jesus, who listened to God. Jesus meets the people, and God’s Spirit meets their needs. It is so simple. But it took us how many chapters to see that simple lesson. Now remember that sequence and learn to teach the most important step. Your role is just as simple. Bring people to Jesus and let them follow the process. Don’t add to it or subtract from it.

But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism. They had their own process to follow and they weren’t about to change their ways. Now the question is, are you following God’s process, the process recorded in scripture? Or are you following some sort of modification from the Pharisees and experts in religious law?

I would still like to compare the introductions for Luke 7 and Malachi 3. Luke 7 began with the story of the Roman officer and his sick servant. The question in Malachi 3 was, “who will be able to endure it when he comes?” We saw in Luke 7 how groups were able to put away their preconceive perceptions about the other groups and come together to request a miracle and save a man. Malachi 3 also told us how Jesus will come to purify. What is the first step? To admit you need cleansing. What was the reaction of that Roman officer? “I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.”

His answer had two parts or two steps. He admitted he was not worthy. He already admitted he needed help. He showed a sign of faith. When he showed he had faith, Jesus was able to fulfill his need and request. Now it’s time to take a brief look at the summations.

Malachi told us about two groups. One has no need to serve God. The other group God listens to, and He called them, “my own special treasure.” We see two groups in the last story in Luke 7. One group is represented by a single woman who washed Jesus’ feet. The other group neglected Jesus’ basic needs and opposed the lone woman. Once again we reach a point of reflection. A designed pause in scripture before we go onto the next story in Luke…

What Can I Compare These People To

Luke 7:31-35 NLTse “To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? (32) They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’ (33) For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ (34) The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ (35) But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.”

So far Jesus had been teaching by using a series of contrasts. Then Jesus said He is providing a comparison. When we look at the key words, playing and played stand out. Jesus showed how many people treat His ministry and their role in God’s plan of salvation like a game. They can play when they choose to and remain a spectator when they so choose.

Jesus also pointed out how those children do something, then complain people aren’t paying attention. Lets look at those examples. The first is a wedding song. Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding. Although one is not mentioned here, we know Jesus used a wedding as a symbol in some of the parables He told. The second is a funeral. Those children are wondering why people didn’t weep when the played a song. This also pointed to Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. When He entered the city, there was a celebration, followed by a funeral.

We also have an example of a funeral in this chapter. People were weeping until Jesus came along and raised the poor widow’s son to life. Were people weeping after He raised that man? No, they were rejoicing. Jesus performed a complete turn around.

Those children played songs and were upset because they didn’t receive the type of reaction they expected. That’s what happens when people take out their own message and expect to see a miraculous result. When nothing happens the way they expect, they get upset. It’s never their fault. They always blame it on the people they were trying to reach.

Jesus went on to explain how people have lousy perception. Some of the people around Him claimed John was possessed by a demon because of the way he dressed and ate. Those people called Jesus a glutton because of the people He associated with and ministered to.

People are quick to make observations and hang labels on people. They seem to think all they need is a few facts to make a snap decision. The quicker the decision, the more confidence they develop in themselves. When they set their concepts in stone, they expect everyone to accept their judgment and follow along. “But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.”

Jesus’ Feet Are Anointed

Luke 7:36-50 NLTse One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. (37) When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. (38) Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. (39) When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” (40) Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. (41) Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people–500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. (42) But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” (43) Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. (44) Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (45) You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. (46) You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. (47) “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (48) Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (49) The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” (50) And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Why would feet be the dominant key word in the last story in Luke 7? It must somehow be linked to the key word forgiven in the last few sentences in this chapter. To see the spiritual meaning, we have no choice but to examine this story in relationship to previous stories in this chapter to understand how they are linked together.

We see the key words eat and eating. Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner. It seems Jesus never turned down an invitation for dinner. Something strange happened there. A woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed His feet with expensive ointment. Some people thought she didn’t belong at that dinner. They didn’t think she was worthy to be in the same room as them. Compare that to the Roman officer to see one of the first lessons.

We see key words weeping and tears repeated. We have to use another rule to understand its significance.

There is another study rule called the rule of first mention. When a word is repeated throughout a chapter, look back at the first verse it is mentioned in. Look how it is used in that verse. This will establish a direction some times based on the emotional side of the spiritual context used in the chapter. Don’t forget to look at similar and related words.

When we look back to the first time weeping or crying was mentioned, we saw Jesus at a funeral. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” What was first viewed as a disaster, Jesus turned into a celebration.

Using the rule of first mention here also sends us ahead to Jesus’ death and funeral. You can also compare those stories to stories in Luke 7 to understand what they were supposed to teach and how they combined to point ahead to Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice.

Luke’s record seems almost out of place. Other Bible writers placed this story at the end of Jesus’ ministry, just a day or two before His arrest. Luke placed it at the beginning of His ministry following a chapter where Jesus appointed and named His apostles. To Luke, this was an important lesson which had a direct bearing on what the disciples were supposed to learn over the next three years with Jesus.

We see a bit of the Bible’s personality in Luke’s placement of this story. When we look close enough, we can see bits and pieces of the author’s personalities come through when we pay attention to which stories they recorded, how they reacted to them, and where they placed them. Of course God’s Spirit had the final decision on the stories and the order they are recorded. We’ve already seen how each story builds upon the other to teach lessons many people miss.

Jesus told a story about two people who owed a man money. Luke’s recorded the shortest version of this story, but we will see what his chapter reveals when we compare it to previous stories. The story was simple. “But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” People with the greatest amount of sins will have the greatest amount of joy when forgiven. How do you think this related to Jesus’ sermon when He told us to love our enemies?

In this story, the woman who was forgiven most was the only one serving Jesus. The Pharisee provided dinner, but neglected Jesus’ basic needs at the moment. Some of those Pharisees questioned Jesus’ ability to forgive sins. We have to give them the benefit of doubt and assume this is the first time they met Jesus. They may not have had the benefit of knowing the sequence of stories we have.

Imagine that. We have the ability to obtain far greater knowledge and learn lessons teachers of the religious law didn’t have access to. And they had the opportunity to follow Jesus around, listen to Him preach, and see Him heal. Some of them even got paid to follow Jesus around. But what good did it do them? Did they really know Jesus? Who in that story would you say knew Jesus? It was the woman of course.

She started at Jesus’ feet. Like the officer, she began showing how much she appreciated Jesus by showing how humble she was. Unlike the officer, the woman didn’t ask for anything. That didn’t stop Jesus from knowing what she needed. Jesus knew because God listened to what was in her heart. That woman showed and reinforced a part of the lesson the officer introduced.

So far we’ve seen how Luke continued to follow God’s study rules and how those rules unlock many of the lessons most people miss. This is nothing new. Those study rules were around long before God had Moses record the first word. They’ve been used and understood by many of God’s followers for generations. I can read a book and tell if someone has written their book based on their own feelings or if they were inspired. It’s a simple process. Do they see the connection between stories and lessons in the Gospels and their relationship with Old Testament scripture?

God’s inspired a number of writers over the years. Some times I am amazed at how they’ve been able to weave those stories together to show details few people have been able to grasp. But many of the books I see these days are so shallow. Maybe they serve the purpose of reaching new Christians taking their first steps. But maybe they do more harm than good by placing new Christians in a position to think, people have answers. None of us really have any answers. And if we happen to have an answer, where did it come from?

Do we plan on being around every time those people have a question? We don’t have power of omnipresence. It would be a sin to pretend we did. The only way we can keep those people safe, satisfied, and secure, is to turn them over to Jesus like we’ve seen in this chapter. We owe that mush to ourselves, God, and the people we meet.

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