Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“The collapse in evangelical doctrinal consensus is intimately related to the collapse in the understanding of, and role assigned to, Scripture as God's Word spoken within the church."

― Carl R. Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Sunday, February 19, 2017


A Second Parable - The Lamp

Since many Bible versions put a title for this paragraph, it is easy to think it is a new topic. But it is not. It is still speaking of those who listen to the teaching of Jesus. But it is a second illustration Jesus used to press his point.

Jesus said no one lights a lamp and covers it to hide the light. Rather, they set it up on a table to be seen. In other words, when you have something that is useful, you use it. The gospel, the message of Jesus, was meant to be used. It was not meant to be hidden.

Some people sit in church for decades. They hear the gospel repeatedly. But it has no impact on them. They do not change. They do not practice the Christian life.

Many people have heard the golden rule and the Sermon on the Mount, but they do not practice the principles of either. They are mean, selfish and complacent.

Hearing is not enough. Lip service is not enough. Jesus wants us to hear and obey his word. First we obey by receiving him as Savior and Lord. Second, we obey him by living according to his principles.

I once heard a preacher say, when we get to heaven we will be surprised at who is not there. We are accountable for hearing Jesus’ words. He said nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, everything  that is not known will come to light. (17) This is not a new concept from Jesus. Ecclesiates 12:13-14 says “Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Paul carried the thought along when he wrote “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus”, referring to the final judgment. (Romans 2:16)

Jesus went on to say “take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he things that he has will be taken away”. (8:18) The one who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice receives salvation and sanctification as he grows in maturity in Christ. When you are the good soil, when your hear and apply the Word to yourself, you will understand more and more of God’s truth. You bear fruit with patience. (15)

That is why you can read the Bible over and over and still see new things and understand things for the first time. Proverbs 9:9 says “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.”

The one who hears the words of Jesus but does not do anything with it, will lose what knowledge and understanding they have, and will lose everything in the end. Jesus said “what he things that he has will be taken away”. (18)

Jesus’ Family

The last vignette in this lesson on listening to Jesus’ words occurs as Jesus’ mother and brothers came to him. It serves for Jesus to make his last point on this subject.

We know that Jesus had an earthy family. He had a mother and he had brothers according to this passage. We can surmise that Joseph had died at his point, since he is not mentioned. Mark even gave us names. He said his brothers were James, Joses, Judas and Simon. (Mark 6:3) Mark also mentioned sisters, but not by name.

This tells us that, once Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph lived together as a normal husband and wife. They had sex. They had children.

We also know that families can be complicated. This is especially true if we seek to serve the Lord in ways our families are not comfortable with or do not understand. This very thing happened to Jesus.

We know that Mary believed the words of the angel to her about Jesus. But, she did not understand everything. We see this when she is worried because Jesus stayed in the temple to discuss scripture with the Rabbis and Mary could not find him.

The episode in our current passage seems to indicate this also. Luke did not tell us why Mary and the brothers came on this occasion. However, Mark wrote that they went out to seize Jesus because they thought he was out of his mind. (Mark 3:21) John wrote that his brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:5)

When his family came to get him, they could not get to him because of the crowd. But one of the disciples told him they were there. Jesus’ reply seems harsh at first. He said “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it”. (21)

When we get Jesus’ point, we see it is not that harsh and is certainly true. His main point is that God’s family is composed of those of good soil, of the displayed lamp; those who hear the word of God and do it. He was driving home his message that his disciples must be receptive of his word and obedient to it.

Those of us who receive Christ and his message of salvation are given the blessing of becoming part of God’s family. We become his children. John 1:12-13 says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Galatians 3:26 says “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith”.

Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. 1 John 3:1 says “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are”.

Jesus even taught us to address God in prayer as “Father”. He said “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven…” . (Matthew 6:9)

This concept is “adoption”, or the doctrine of adoption. Because God adopts believers into his family as his children, we have special privileges. First, we get to relate to him as a loving Father, not as a remote taskmaster or even as a judge. We are no longer slaves, but sons. (Galatians 4:7)

As his children, we are also heirs. (Galatians 4:7) We have an inheritance the Father keeps for us in heaven. It is eternal life. (1 Peter 1:4)

We also have the privilege of being made like Christ. We are led by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:14) And we are disciplined in love. (Hebrews 12:5-7)

A note of caution is needed here. Although Jesus is the Son of God and we are adopted as God’s sons, or children, we do not have the same relationship with the Father as Jesus does.

The Father is the first person of the Trinity, the Son the second. God gives us this picture of Father and Son to help us understand them and their relationship. But they are both eternal. They are of the same divine substance. They are different persons of the same Godhead.

We are not and never will be God. But he adopts us as children in the sense of creating a new relationship with us based on his love and our faith.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The Women Disciples

Luke made an effort in his gospel to show us the women involved in Jesus’ story. Elizabeth, the mother of John, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were important at the very beginning. There was Anna, who waited at the temple for the birth of the savior. Luke showed us Jesus healing Peter’s mother in law and raising the son of the widow in Nain.

As Jesus traveled and preached, he kept the 12 with him. But, Luke shows us that the disciples were not all men. There were women who followed him also. They were those who had been healed of diseases or demon possession.

Luke named a few. The first is Mary Magdalene, or Mary from Magdala. Jesus had cast seven demons from her and she became a devoted follower. She was there at the cross and at Jesus’ tomb. Her great deliverance created great devotion.

Luke also named Joanna, who was married to Herod’s household manager. She was likely a woman of some means and stature. Also named is Susanna, although nothing is told about her. Luke said there were many others. They not only followed Jesus, but some of them supported him and the disciples financially. This would have been unheard of in Jesus’ day.

Some of Jesus’ most devoted disciples were women. Luke never records a woman doing anything negative against Jesus. It was the women who bravely came to his grave to prepare  his body. It was to women that Jesus first revealed himself after his resurrection.

Even though Judaism was a male dominated culture, Jesus showed that women were important to him, that he cared for them and that he desired that they follow him as well as men.

Parable of the Soils

This is often called the parable of the sower, but the point of the parable is the nature of the soils.

On this occasion, another great crowed gathered to here Jesus. As they gathered, he told this parable. A parable is a story, with human characters, that makes a point. Our job is to understand what the parable means and put it into practice.

Here the story is about a sower when went out to sow his seed. In those days, a farmer, or sower, would have a bag of seed. He would walk through his field, grabbing handfuls of the seed and scattering them on the ground. Whether or not the seed grew into a plant depended somewhat on where it landed.

Here there are four different landing places, only one of which is good. The first is the path. The birds would eat the exposed seed before it had a chance to grow. The second is a rock, or rocky soil. The seed might grow a little, but then die because rocky soil does not hold water.

The third fell on the ground, but among thorn bushes. As the plant grew, the thorns also grew and choked it out.

The final soil was good soil. The plant grew and yielded a hundred times more wheat or whatever was planted. It reminds me of a garden I once had, where I worked hard for years to create good soil. One year I planted a zucchini plant. It grew very large and produced so many zucchinis my family could not eat them all and neither could my neighbors. My kids would not eat zucchini again for years.

Since Jesus told this story as a great crowd gathered, we can figure out he was talking about the people in the crowd and saying something about how they would receive his message.

The Purpose of Parables

Jesus did not explain the parable at the time. Evidently, no one understood what it meant. So the disciples later asked him what it meant. Before he told them the meaning, he told them the purpose.

Jesus said the disciples had been given the right to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. (10) In other words, God had granted the disciples, in his grace, the ability to understand the teaching of Jesus and respond to it in belief. For example, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said this was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven”. (Matthew 16:17)

The Twelve were certainly the most privileged in this regard. They lived with Jesus all day and all night. They heard him teach and preach every day. Doubtless, when everyone else in the crowds had gone home, the Twelve ate dinner with Jesus and sat around the camp fire at night with him, listening and learning. For them, the parables were graphic stories that helped them understand and remember Jesus’ teaching. This would be true of all of the disciples to an extent, but the Twelve especially. You could say, Jesus gave them the gift of saving knowledge. They heard and they believed.

As for others, Jesus said he told parables “that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand”. (10) These words were first spoken by God to Isaiah when he commissioned him to be a prophet. This is recorded in Isaiah 6:9-10.  A prophet speaks for God.

God told Isaiah to go and tell Israel to keep hearing but not understanding, to keep seeing but not perceiving. It was a judgment on Israel, who would turn from God. Isaiah’s words, although coming directly from God, would not bring joy to the Israelites. Instead it would harden their hearts.

Jesus was saying that God’s word spoken by Jesus would have the same effect on the Jews as had God’s word spoken by Isaiah. Not all would receive Jesus’ message and his preaching would actually harden their hearts. The parables would conceal from them the message of the gospel.

So, Jesus speaking in parables was a further fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, or God’s word given to Isaiah.

It takes the work of the Holy Spirit on a person to understand spiritual things. 1 Corinthians 2:14 say “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Explanation of the Parable

Next, Jesus explained the parable. The seed in the parable is the word of God. We know something about the power of the word of God: 1 Corinthians 1:18 says “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.

In this parable, there are four different ways the word of God is received.

First, the soil on the path represents those who hear the gospel, but the devil comes and takes it from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. This soil represents the person with the hard heart. He or she may hear the gospel, but it does not penetrate. Many have heard the gospel, but not believed. Despite all of the response to Billy Graham’s preaching in stadiums, many walked back to their cars and their lives without believing in Jesus.

When I was in college, I shared the gospel with a guy in his dorm room. He was willing and listened. But when I finished, he immediately went off on talking about his personal philosophy and never considered the message. The devil came and took it from him in a sense.

Sometimes the hard heart comes from bad experiences in life. Often it is an unwillingness to give up their sin. And some people just have no interest in spiritual things. These are all good tools for the devil to use.

The devil has not been able to prevent the preaching of the gospel in America, for example. It is everywhere: on television, radio, internet, and books. There are Bibles in many hotel rooms. The gospel is every where.

But the devil has been successful in attacking it. Atheists write books ridiculing it. Fallen pastors write books explaining it away. Media personalities redefine it.

The devil has also been successful at creating distractions. Many people have sat in churches while the gospel was preached,  but day dreamed about the football game on television, or things they needed to do or almost anything.

Second, the rock or rocky soil represents those who hear and receive it with joy. But they do not fully commit to Christ. When times get hard, they fall away. This represents people of shallow or superficial faith. It makes me think of a couple of popular singers who embraced Christianity, then moved on to other religions. It also reminds me of many people who have “walked the aisle” during a church invitation, but never devoted themselves to Jesus. This is also a picture of the child who made a profession of faith, but left home and Christ for other things.

Third, the soil that full of thorns are those who hear the gospel, but the cares of the world become more important to them than the gospel. So they do not bear fruit. They lose track of following Jesus because they are progressing in careers, raising families and accumulating money.

The fourth is good soil. These people hear and believe, the hold to the faith and the bear fruit. They become more and more like Christ. The fruit of the Spirit becomes more and more evident in their life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)   This person stays in God’s word. He or she strives to live a holy life.

We do not know a person’s heart when we share the gospel with him or her. We do not know what kind of soil the seed will fall onto. The Lord knows, but we do not. And we should not assume. We share the gospel no matter what.

Monday, February 06, 2017

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” - John Calvin

Sunday, February 05, 2017


Loving Jesus

Evidently still in the town of Nain, Jesus was invited to the house of a Pharisee for a meal and he went. (36) There is a nicely ironic transition between this story and the last. Luke recorded Jesus saying that the Son of Man came eating and drinking and the Pharisees called him a glutton and a drunkard. (34) Despite the criticism, this Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to eat and drink.

This meal would have occurred in an open setting, out in front of the house or in an open part of it. People in town would stop by and watch or even visit with the guests. Since Jesus was an intriguing figure, it is likely many people stopped by to see him and see what he would do.

We will see from Simon’s behavior, that he was not a believer. He was a typical Pharisee. Therefore, we may surmise that he invited Jesus to his house to check him out. He actually was quite rude. Jesus later pointed out that he did not give him water to wash his feet. It would have been customary to either have a servant wash the guests’ feet or to at least provide a basin of water for that purpose. Walking around in sandals on dirt streets gets your feet dirty. He also did not kiss Jesus. It is customary in that area and time to kiss the guest on both cheeks. This still happens in some Arab countries today. Lastly, Simon did not put oil on Jesus’ head. This was done in Eastern cultures as a sign of respect to guests. He probably did all these things for his Pharisee guests, so he made it obvious that Jesus was of lower stature in his eyes.

One of the people who stopped by the house was a woman of the city. (37) Luke says she was a sinner. It is said three times, once by Luke, once by Simon the Pharisee and once by Jesus. He does not say what her sin was, but many people assume she was either a prostitute or a promiscuous woman. The people of the time knew her and her reputation, so Simon could label her as a sinner. Nonetheless, she came into the area around the table and stood a Jesus’ feet.

People at that time and place did not sit at tables in chairs as we do today. The table would have been low to the ground. The guests leaned on their left elbow on cushions and took food with their right hands. Their feet would be extended out from the table.

Only Pharisees, and maybe their wives, would have been at the table eating, so the presence of the woman that close would itself have been unusual and even startling. Add the to the fact that she stood there weeping, and you can imagine how uncomfortable the guests were becoming. She wept enough that his feet got wet. (38) Seeing this, she took her hair down, got down on the floor and wiped his feet with her long hair.

This was a shocking incident. Women did not undo their hair in public. The Talmud even said a man could divorce a woman for showing her hair to another man. The Pharisees at the table were likely outraged and shocked. Certainly Simon, the host, was.

But the woman was not finished. After cleaning Jesus’ feet with her hair, she broke open an alabaster flask and anointed his feet with the perfumed ointment. (38) Alabaster was an expensive material and perfumed ointment was also expensive. We see, therefore, that the woman made an extravagant and expensive expression of her love for Jesus.

This act was also an expression of her humility. Such an expensive ointment would normally have been put on someone’s head, but she used it on Jesus’ feet. Normally, only slaves would wash feet. So she took the position of a servant, humbled herself, and gave Jesus tremendous honor in using something on this feet that was normally reserved for a person’s head.

Interestingly, Jesus did not stop the woman at any time. He accepted her expression of love for him, knowing he was entitled to it for one thing, but, I think, also enjoying it. Jesus loves for us to love him. He wants our hearts as well as our minds.

Simon reacted with criticism of Jesus. He said Jesus was not a prophet because, if he were a prophet, he would know the woman was a sinner and would not let her touch him. (39) He assumed that any prophet would adopt the rules of the Pharisees in this matter.

But Jesus was a prophet. He spoke the word of the Lord. And he proved he was a prophet by diagnosing Simon’s heart and explaining the woman’s heart. Simon may not have caught that. It was a little subtle. He answered Simon with a simple parable.

The parable involved two debtors. One owed ten times as much as the other. The money lender forgave both debts. Jesus asked, which one will love him more? (42) Simon answered cautiously, but gave the right answer: the one with the larger debt. Jesus acknowledged that Simon answered correctly. (43)

Then Jesus turned toward the woman. (44) That would cause everyone to look at her. She was standing there with a tear stained face, her hair loose, wet and dirty, and maybe still weeping. And while they looked at her, Jesus compared her to Simon.

Jesus pointed out Simon’ s failure to even show him the minimal courtesy. In contrast, the woman expressed extravagant love him.

Jesus said the reason for the difference in the behavior of the woman and the behavior of Simon was love. The woman had many sins and knew it. Jesus had forgiven them. Because she had been forgiven much, she loved much.

Simon, on the other hand, was a self-righteous Pharisee. He did not want forgiveness and did not think he needed it. Therefore, he had little or no love for Jesus.

Clearly Jesus approved of the woman and disapproved of Simon. That has to make us think, which one of them are we most like?

So, what do we think about loving Jesus? God has always demanded that his people love him. Deuteronomy 6:5 says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” That is pretty clear is it not? God demanded that his people love him with everything they have.

Jesus said this is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37) That means it is the top priority item. Jesus said it even more explicitly in Matthew 10:37. He said “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” That is pretty strong stuff.

Many churches put great emphasis on the family. But the family is not our number one priority. Loving God is priority number one. Loving Jesus is priority number one.

So, how can we love Jesus like he wants us to? He gave us the key in the parable and in his description of the woman. She loved much because she was forgiven much. She knew she was a sinner and was overwhelmed by Jesus forgiving her sin.

I think that is why evangelists often come from terrible backgrounds. They were saved from a life of grievous sin and are overwhelmed by that, so much so that they want to tell everyone about it.

But many of us grew up in church. I did. I was there at six weeks old on the cradle roll. I went to Sunday School and heard stories from the Bible. I sat with my dad in church and listened to sermons while my mom sang in the choir. We went Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. We went every night of Spring and Fall revivals. I went to Vacation Bible School in the summer.

In fact, I was saved in VBS the summer of my 9th year. I had done the normal things a little boy did, but I had never been in jail, or killed anyone or committed adultery or even taken the Lord’s name in vain. But I got convicted that I was a sinner headed to hell and I received Jesus by faith and was saved to eternal life.

As time went by, though, I became somewhat self righteous. I did all the things I was supposed to do. I was a good person. But a couple of passages of scripture set me straight.

The first one was James 2:10. James wrote “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” in other words, if you break even one of God’s laws, you are a law breaker. You are a sinner.

I had lied. I had coveted. I had failed to honor my parents. I was a lawbreaker. When I applied Jesus’ standards from the Sermon on the Mount, I realized I was an even greater sinner, for he judged not just actions, but attitudes.

The second scripture was Isaiah 53:6, which says “…the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. I realized that every sin of mine was put onto Jesus on the cross and added to his suffering. It really pained me when I realized it was not just sins committed before I became a Christian, but those sins I committed afterward. I was personally responsible for Jesus’ suffering.

Realizing fully who I was and what Jesus had done for me was overwhelming. And my love for Jesus increased dramatically. 1 John 4:19 says “we love because he first loved us”. We will love Jesus more when we more fully recognize our sinfulness and his payment for it.

Jesus affirmed the woman directly at the end of the story. He reassured her that her sins were forgiven. He confirmed that she had been saved by faith. (50) And he sent her off in peace. She had peace with God because of Jesus’ work on her behalf.

Jesus and Simon saw this woman two different ways. Simon saw her as she had been, a notorious sinner. Jesus saw as she currently was, forgiven and full of love for him.

Sometimes people will just not get over what someone was. I am always amazed at people who express concern over a young man I have mentored. He was wild in high school. But he is a Godly man now. They need to see him as he is. Jesus does.

One final thought. How can we express love to Jesus today? He is not physically here for us to wash his feet. So, how can we do it?

We can participate in worship whole heartedly. We can sing like we mean it, listen attentively to the sermon and pray fervently. We can spend time with him in private prayer. We can speak of him to others. And we can treat sinners as he did, with compassion and love, seeking their salvation.

William Featherstone wrote a hymn that captures these thoughts:

"My Jesus I Love Thee (I Love You Jesus)"

My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus 'tis now

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus 'tis now.

Pour out your love for Jesus this week.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Prayer Based on Proverbs 9:13-18:

Heavenly Father, the voice of Folly is loud and insistent,

   surrounding us in our culture daily.

Give us the grace to listen to Your wisdom and never to Folly.

   Folly tells us we can steal and cheat and get away with it,

      that no one will ever know if we lie and scheme to get what we want.

But we are always living our lives befOre You.

   The voice of Folly leads only to death. 

Keep us in Your Son and His wisdom, our true life.

   In His name we pray, Amen.

From “What Was God’s Purpose for the Tabernacle and the Temple” by Jason Van Bemmel.


Sunday, January 29, 2017


Jesus & John’s Disciples

After John had been in prison for a while, some his disciples reported to him the things Jesus had done. They told him of his preaching, healing and raising the dead. In response, John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask
“are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?”. In other words, John wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah.

Since John was Jesus’ forerunner and even pointed him out to others in person, it seems strange at first that John would ask such as question. However, remember John is in prison waiting. He expected Jesus to run the Romans off of the land and free Israel, bringing judgment on its enemies. Day after day he suffered in prison, but Jesus did nothing to free Israel from its enemies. John had spoken the word of God about Jesus: he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (3:9) John was not seeing the fire. (Fire represents judgment.)

Jesus did not answer the question immediately. Instead, he made John’s disciples wait while he ministered. While they watched, he healed many people of diseases and plagues, drove out evil spirits, and gave sight to the blind. (21) It was an object lesson.

After doing these things, Jesus told John’ disciples to go and tell John what they had seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news preached to them. (22)

Why did Jesus do and say these things? He did those things to show he was doing what the Messiah was prophesied to do. If he did the things Messiah was prophesied to do, he had to be the Messiah. To make sure they got the point, he listed those things. He continued the work the Father called him to do, preaching the gospel and showing mercy.

The things Jesus did and then described were the things Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah. For example, Isaiah 35:5-6 says “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then shall the lame man leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

In addition, Isaiah 61:1 says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

John knew these passages and would understand that Jesus was telling him and showing him that he was the Messiah the Father said would come, speaking through his prophet, Isaiah.

Jesus ended his message to John with the words “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (23) He was telling John not to be concerned about his methods or his timing, but to rest of the knowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and that he would do what he was supposed to do. In other words, Jesus was saying “John, keep the faith”.

Jesus was also likely referring to other verses in Isaiah. Isaiah 8:14-15 says “and he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah was describing the fate of those who rejected the Messiah. They would not accept him and would be offended by him. We see the Pharisees doing this very thing in the gospels. Jesus was saying to John, do not be like the Pharisees. Believe and rejoice even though your circumstances are difficult.

Jesus did not condemn or criticize John. In fact, he commended him and praised him, while condemning those who rejected his message. After John’s disciples left, Jesus turned to the crowd to deliver a message. (24)

He asked the question “who did you go out to the wilderness to see” three times for emphasis. He answered his own questions in rhetorical fashion. John stood firm for the Lord. He stood up to the Pharisees. He stood up to Herod. He was not a reed shaken by the wind. (24) He had not given up his faith, he just did not understand Jesus’ methods and timing.

He was not nicely dressed, but dressed like Elijah in rough clothes. He denied himself luxuries. He did not get rich off of his preaching. He did not tell people what they wanted to hear. Indeed, Jesus said, John was a prophet. But he was more than a prophet, he was the forerunner of Messiah, the messenger who was prophesied to prepare the way of the Messiah. Jesus referred to the Old Testament prophesy of Malachi 3:1. As that messenger, John was the greatest man in history. (28) He was greater than any of the other Old Testament prophets. They received prophesies about the Messiah, but John was chosen by God to actually see the Messiah in person and direct people to him. Remember how he pointed to Jesus and said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus’ next statement is shocking at first. He said “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he”. (28) How could that possibly be?

It is not because of what we have done. It is because of who Jesus is and what he has done. It is because they, and we, have experienced the finished work of Jesus and know the forgiveness of sins through his death on the cross, the power of his resurrection and the gift of eternal life. John was saved and we will see him in heaven. But he did not get to experience the blessing we have of knowing the whole gospel and having a full experience of Christ.

As usual, the crowd reacted to Jesus’ words about John in different ways. Verse 29 tells us that the people who had been baptized by John declared God just. They had received John’s message of repentance to prepare the way of the Lord and had been baptized to show their repentance. They admitted, or confessed, that God was just in that he was correct about their sin and need for repentance.

But others, notable Pharisees and lawyers (teachers of the law) rejected John’s message and God’s purpose for them. (29) They did not desire a salvation that came from God’s grace through faith. They wanted a salvation based on works. They believed that their own adherence to the law caused God to accept them on the bases of their merit.

They rejected John’s call for repentance because they believed they had nothing of which they should repent. Since they rejected John’s message of the need for repentance, they also rejected Jesus’ message of the need for repentance and faith for salvation.

Jesus addressed that rejection. (31) He criticized “this generation”. By that he meant the leaders of the Jews in that generation, the Pharisees, scribes\lawyers, and other religious leaders.

First, Jesus compared them to children reciting a child’s poem. (32) That poem says they did not dance to the flute or weep to the dirge. A dirge is a sad funeral song. In other words, we cannot please you: you will not dance to happy music or cry when the music is sad.

Jesus used the poem to refer to the Pharisee’s rejection of both John and Jesus, though for different reasons. John abstained from regular food and wine. He ate locusts and wild honey. He denounced sin and called for repentance. He played the dirge, in the words of the poem. The Pharisees claimed he had a demon because he did this. (33)

In contrast, Jesus ate good food and drank wine. (34) He played the happy music, proclaiming salvation by grace. Therefore, they called him a glutton and drunkard, as well as a friend of sinners. You could not please them. They would criticize no matter what the person did. And they would reject the message from God no matter who brought it. As my mother would say “there is no pleasing some people!”.

The same thing happens today, of course. One person will say, I do not like Jesus because he has all these rules. Another will say, I do not like Jesus because he he condemns me and wants me to repent. I want him to accept me as a good person. Another will say, I do not like Jesus because he allows bad people to get saved and ignores the work of good people like me.

Jesus ended his talk by saying “wisdom is justified by all her children”. (35) Jesus’ message of salvation is wisdom. It is justified, or shown to be right, by those who follow him.

We must receive Jesus exactly as he is. We do not have the authority to redefine him or his message. John wrote that “to all who did receive him
(Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God”. (John 1:12)

We must also proclaim Jesus as exactly who he is, not “watering down” the gospel to make it more palatable to non-believers. They cannot be saved by a false savior, only the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us.