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Jul 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 20, 2014 – Luke 13:10-17

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like . . .

And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up a all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by him.
 Luke 13:10-17

What we can learn about Jesus depends on the questions we ask and our goal in asking

If we ask, How was Jesus perceived in his time and culture?
- we find answers such as Rabbi, prophet, miracle-worker, and Messiah
If we ask, How is Jesus perceived today in reference to his own time and culture
- answers include sage (wisdom teacher), mystic, apocalyptic messenger, and revolutionary
• taking these paths, we collect interesting answers
○ but when we reach to the end of them, we do not know Jesus
• the historical approach and the scientific approach do not help us come to know Jesus
○ instead, the objectivity of our inquiry keeps the person of Christ at a distance

If we ask, How can I know this person?
- the answer is, You have to meet him
• that has been the experience of millions of people, both today and in past centuries
• martyrs did not die for an idea or a doctrine
○ and they did not go to sword, lions or flames alone
○ having met and lived with Jesus, they knew he held their hands in death
If we ask, How do I meet Jesus?
• the answer is, you must begin by dropping your objectivity – close the distance
• come to his story with your heart rather than just your head and you will meet him

Luke begins today’s episode with the setting

He doesn’t give us a detailed description, but the general picture
- the synagogue was designed to serve as sacred space
• the Sabbath was structured to be sacred time
• Jesus entered this setting, this sacred environment, and taught
○ later on we’ll get an idea of what he taught

read more…

Jul 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 13, 2014 – Luke 10:38-42

Learning to Listen

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:38-42

Intro: Over the last four months we have spent time with people who met Jesus

We have observed both the kind of persons they were and the kind of problems they brought to him
- in this way, we have been able to see Jesus through their eyes
• discovering how he treated them informs us as to what we can expect when we bring our issues to him
- but our primary intention from the start has been to know Jesus
• St. Paul met Jesus in a blinding vision and continued to encounter him throughout his life (Acts 9:3-7; 22:17-22; 23:11)
○ nevertheless, his enduring passion was, in his own words,  “that I may know Him” (Php. 3:10)
• this was the goal for which he was willing to sacrifice everything (Php 3:7-9)
○ this is the passion that drives our spiritual lives, the heart of Christianity: to know God in Jesus Christ
○ there is always more

The insight contained in today’s story may be the most import we’ve discovered so far
- this has been recognized from the earliest centuries of church history

John Cassian (360-436) interviewed monks who lived alone in the Egyptian desert. One interview was with an old hermit, Abba Moses who explained to him the difference between the contemplative Christian life and the active Christian life in this way:
“Martha was performing a service that was certainly a sacred one, since she was ministering to the Lord and His disciples . . . You see then that the Lord makes the chief good consist in meditation, i.e., in divine contemplation: whence we see that all other virtues should be put in the second place, even though we admit they are necessary, and useful, and excellent, because they are all performed for the sake of this one thing.”

• it was typical of monks and devout scholars to rate the contemplative life over the active life
- we hear the same thing from St. Augustine and, nine centuries later, Thomas Aquinas

The character traits of these two sisters are instantly highlighted

They practically personify frenetic activity, on the one hand, and leisurely contemplation, on the other
- later on, we again find “Martha was serving,” true to form (Jn. 12:3)
• Martha could be direct with Jesus — her directness came out of who she was as a person
○ the Lord could be just as direct with Martha (cf. Jn. 11:21-26)
○ I would imagine that they appreciated this freedom they enjoyed in their interactions

read more…

Jul 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 6, 2014 – Mark 9:1-27

Faith That Does Not Fail

And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.
Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out fo the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, Listen to Him!” All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone. 
Mark 9:1-8

Intro: The first few times I read story of Moses, I felt like God treated him unfairly
- that the punishment was overly harsh

Moses had not wanted the job God gave him in the first place
• regardless of his wishes, he found himself stuck in desert forty years
○ everyone in the mass of people he had to lead was in a miserable mood the whole time
○ uncooperative, they complained, rebelled and even threatened mutiny
• then one slip-up (and not unreasonable given the circumstances) and Moses got the axe
• he was denied entry into the land
○ this was the goal, the dream for which he had struggled forty years, now taken from him
- Moses even begged,

“O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand . . . . Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.” But the LORD was angry with me . . . and said to me, “Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.” (Deut. 3:23-27)

• I could not help but sympathize with Moses

Later on, when I used to have long conversations with Steve Mays, he said,
“Moses made it into the promised land”
- he reminded me of the passage we just read and pointed out that “Moses got to see the land and Jesus!”
- finally Moses stood on a mountain west of Jordan in the land of milk and honey

Let’s try to see the big picture before we look at the intriguing details

This episode is unique in the story of Jesus
- during his lifetime, his divine glory was never before and never again revealed so visibly
• how did Jesus explain this event?
○ in the prologue in verse 1, he said it was about seeing the kingdom of God in power and glory
• this was the trajectory of the entire Old Testament
○ that God’s rule would break into human history, displacing all human kingdoms
○ but then came the “mystery of the kingdom”
○ that is, the kingdom entered the world in Jesus (Mk. 1:14-15; 4:11; Mt. 13:31-33)
○ not in its spectacular fullness, but invisibly and in seed form
- this episode teaches us that God’s kingdom can break into our lives anywhere, at any time
• but also that it comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ
○ God’s commendation of Jesus: “My beloved Son”
○ God’s command regarding Jesus: “listen to Him!”
(simply reading is not listening — listening requires silence, attention, and responsiveness)

Now we can ask the “fun” questions (the rabbit trails that generally distract Bible students)

read more…

Jul 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 29, 2014 – John 8:1-11

Guilty As Charged But Not Condemned

Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women, what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. John 8:2-6a

We begin our study of this passage by looking at some of the faces John locates in the scene

We recognize the face of Jesus, of course
- also his disciples, who are no doubt nearby
- then, “all” the people coming to him
• many of them had not yet drawn a firm conclusion about Jesus

So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him; (Jn. 7:41-43)
And there was a division among them (Jn. 9:16)
A division occurred again because of these words (10:19-21)

• nevertheless, they felt the irresistible attraction of Jesus
- the woman (who perhaps hid her face, so we do not actually see it)
- the vigilantes — the scribes and Pharisees

Now we leave history for a moment and return to today
- perhaps we hear in news that the District Attorney has charged a suspect for a burglary
• what do we immediately assume?
○ the good guys caught the bad guy
• later we hear the suspect has been released — that he could not have committed this particular crime
○ it had been a case of over-zealous investigators following a false lead
- eventually the actual perpetrator is apprehended
• do we now know enough to make a judgment regarding this person?
○ most people think they do even though it is based solely on information they’ve picked up from news sources
• the reality is that sometimes people on the legal side don’t have:
1.) all the information
2.) correct information
3.) or the training, experience, or wisdom to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies
• still, they assume they have enough correct information to proceed
○ nor are the people who are responsible to arrest and charge others totally free from prejudice or distorted thinking
○ their judgment is not always perfect–or sound

read more…

Jun 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 22, 2014 – Matthew 15:21-28

She Danced With Jesus

Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” Matthew 15:21-28

The brief encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite woman is both disturbing and encouraging

Disturbing the the way he first treated her and encouraging in how the story resolves
- first we need to work our way through the disturbing part
• a woman came to Jesus for help and she was turned down
• not by the disciples (his would-be body guards), but by Jesus himself

It began when Jesus tried to take a break from the crowds and their constant demands
- notice his two-stage escape: he not only “went away” but also “withdrew”
• this is not redundant, but he went away so that he could withdraw from ministry for awhile
• Jesus assumed he’d be left alone if he crossed border into Gentile territory
- Mark tells us, “He wanted no one to know” (Mk. 7:24)
• he hoped to hide out for awhile
○ Jesus had to tend to his needs — although he had divine resources, they operated through his human body
○ he went away to get rest, restore his physical energy, and refresh his spirit
• Mark adds, “yet He could not escape notice”
○ there is little rest for people who enter the thick of human suffering
(ask anyone who’s been part of a medical relief team in a destitute part of the world)
○ the need is too great and it never takes a holiday

One of the local women came looking for him
- the same Greek verb recurs that was used of Jesus: he “went out” and she “came out”
• he left his territory to get away from people
• she left her neighborhood to get to him
- “Canaanite woman”
• she belonged to the world beyond Israel’s border
○ in a way, it was a dark space characterized by demon possession (cf. Mt. 8:28)
○ but she left her culture and its religion and exorcists for Jesus

read more…

Jun 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 15, 2014 – John 5:1-16

The Question Within the Question

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] A an was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. John 5:2-5

In 1952, French author Francois Mauriac was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. According to the Nobel Foundation, he was chosen, “for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life.”
Mauriac once wrote about what he wanted to hear from priests and preachers. He said, “Oh how avidly I would listen to them, if they spoke to me of the Son of man, not as theologians, not as sociologists, but as those who see, who touch the resurrected Christ!”

- that is exactly how John talks to us about Jesus–as one who had seen and touched the Lord Jesus

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life . . . we proclaim to you also . . . (1 Jn. 1:1-3)

• he wanted us to meet and experience Jesus
○ and when we do, we discover that, in Jesus, God comes close to us

We can ignore the part about the angel
- it is not found in the oldest or the most reliable manuscripts
• it’s an example of someone trying to help the Bible make sense
○ it drives me crazy when people do this — it’s like Uzzah taking hold of the ark to steady it
• not everything in the Bible is intended to satisfy our intellect or make us feel good
• regardless of how we feel about it, we need to be with what it says until it performs God’s work in us

Regarding Bethesda, we know people flock to sites of miracle (e.g., Lourdes in France)
- I imagine the “regulars,” the men and women who showed up every day
• a community forged by a common bond of brokenness and suffering
• uncomfortable with how they were treated by “norma”l people they huddled around the pool
○ no one gave them strange looks – everyone was accepted
○ it was a social life of sorts that made their disabilities tolerable
- John zeroes in on one particular person
• this will be the man who meets Jesus

read more…

Jun 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 8, 2014 – Mark 5:21-43

“Sandwiched” Stories — Two Daughters

One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and on seeing Him, fell at His feet and implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him. A woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped, but rather had grown worse–after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Mark 5:22-29

Once again we encounter contrasting characters. On one side, we meet a man described as a “synagogue official.” Opposite him is a woman who was banned from the synagogue. In fact, it may have been one of the man’s responsibilities to make certain people in her (unclean) condition never entered the synagogue.

- the man named was respected
• the unnamed woman was no doubt pitied and avoided
- the man came up to Jesus, fell at his feet and begged for his help
• the woman had to sneak up behind Jesus

Surrounding them and Jesus was a large crowd
- although made up of anonymous players, the crowd plays a definite role
• a sea of people from whom a man and woman emerge, then melt into again
• the man and woman are representatives of everyone else in the crowd

“Synagogue official” does not define Jairus

He was a father when he came to Jesus
- he was desperately trying to hold onto the life of his daughter
• as he put it, “My little daughter”
• I don’t think he planned on dropping to his knees
○ but it was “on seeing Him” that he collapsed at Jesus’ feet
• he arrived at eleventh hour, when his daughter was “at the point of death”
- Jairus had pictured in his mind what Jesus would do
• “come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live”

read more…

Jun 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 1, 2014 – Luke 7:36-50

Through His Eyes

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner, and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”  Luke 7:36-39

As we begin this story it will be helpful if we first look at a snapshot of Jesus

So let’s step back to the previous episode
- in prison, John the Baptist was having second thoughts about his endorsement of Jesus
• Jesus reassured John’s disciples everything was going along as it should
• he then talked to crowd about John and some of the differences between them
- Jesus explained that their target audience proved to be frustrating
• John was a stern ascetic, but they didn’t like that — “He has a demon” (v. 33)
• Jesus was sociable and engaging, but they didn’t like that either (v. 34)
“Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”
○ now this is how Jesus characterized himself in their eyes
- these descriptions weren’t accurate representations of either John or Jesus
• but if a sinner ever needed a friend, Jesus was there

Luke introduces two new characters

He likes working with contrasts and especially when it entailed a male and a female
- at first, the Pharisee and sinner appear as stereotypes
• stock characters – predictable (representative of a mind-set or class of people)
- but both are given the opportunity to change
• and thereby becoming more interesting characters — more like real people
○ Jesus will give them the chance to see themselves as something else
○ to become something else

read more…

May 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 25, 2014 – Luke 7:11-17

From Death Into Life

Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. Luke 7:11-12

In conversation with my oldest daughter yesterday, we realized that we both have faced some interesting challenges recently. At one point she asked me, “Has everyone suddenly gone crazy?” I suggested that it could be an experimental toxin the government  released in the atmosphere over Orange County, but then more seriously answered, “We’re just seeing a different side of people that we thought we knew.”

I also explained how my dad’s death created a vacuum and since then a number of people have jumped in to try to fill it. Now this new, brighter light in which my dad lived has exposed characteristics that were not visible before. Some of these new discoveries have been disillusioning and heartbreaking.

Think of the variety of ways we know different people

Strangers – we only need to know the most basic facts
• is this person safe or unsafe?
• do I want or need to know these people better or not?
Acquaintances (neighbor, mail carrier, clerk)
• we know their names and a few of their traits and characteristics
Friends – we are familiar with a large range of their traits and characteristics
• also, we know something about how all these things fit together
• we refer to the composite of these qualities as “character” and “personality”
Family – we know all of the above, plus their background and “life-story”
• we also have some knowledge of the story they tell about themselves
• but we may not know their “inner life” as well as we assume
Lover, Spouse – (ideally) we know all of the above, but more intimately
• and we are known in the same way and to the same degree

The Lover is someone that was at first a Stranger
- we have come to know person better and our knowledge has been modified along the way
• we have discovered that some of our first impressions were wrong
- we discovered also their complexity and contradictions
• for example, “He is outgoing, but not all time or not with certain people”

The closest knowing of another requires years of experience
- it also requires interest, caring, and listening
- this is why we’re traveling with Jesus each Sunday
• and why this morning we arrive with him at this small village

Nain was not far from Nazareth (Jesus’ home town)

read more…

May 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 18, 2014 – Luke 5:27-39

Clinging To the Old — Forfeiting the New

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. Luke 5:27-28

Intro: If writing a commentary on Luke, we might title the second half of this chapter:

“The Beginning of Jesus’ Conflict With the Pharisees”
- did Luke intentionally design the structure with this in mind?
• I don’t know – doubt it – I think it’s possible that what he had in mind at this point was:
“The Kind of Things Jesus Did that Got Him Into Trouble”
- Luke is showing us the kind of person Jesus was during his life and ministry
• being who he was, conflict was inevitable
• Luke told this story to introduce others to Jesus–people who never met the Lord
○ for him, everything about our life in God depends on Jesus and knowing him

So Luke has us following Jesus when he leaves the house
(where he had healed a paralyzed man)

“He went out and noticed . . .” – what do we notice when we go out?
- in Jesus’ world, tax collectors lived on society’s margin
• if possible, people would ignore and avoid them
○ they were the sort of people who would blend into the background and disappear
• if tax collectors had tried to enter religion, they would come up against strong barriers
- but where others saw nothing or merely a tax collector,
• Jesus saw the qualities of a disciple

“Follow Me” – only two words, but we want to slow down when we come to them
- what did Jesus ask Matthew to join? what was he inviting Matthew into?
• a philosophy? a movement? a set of religious beliefs?
- read the word ME as if it appeared in bold print
• Matthew was being called to a person

read more…

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