In this our 10th chapter of the life of Jesus we will review the events that took place in the final phase between the third Passover and His final week. We've seen Jesus' pattern of movement as He comes into Jerusalem for the major feasts to teach and proclaim His identity with miracles and pronouncements on His deity, then retreat back to the safety of the northern region when things became too dangerous for Him in Jerusalem.
In this chapter we will look at the events that took place as Jesus was passing through the northern region one last time before entering Jerusalem to suffer His arrest and crucifixion.
Previously, the Jewish leadership had officially sanctioned His death with Caiaphas the High Priest leading the charge and so Jesus returned to the northern country for one last tour of ministry with His Apostles.
107. Jesus heals ten lepers
Luke specifies that Jesus was on the frontier of Samaria and on His way to Jerusalem. Ten lepers cry out to Him for mercy. They did not come near because they were not allowed to. Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests (healed lepers had to do this to be permitted back into normal society). They all believed Him as they turned and ran towards the officials to receive their confirmation of healing. Only one (a Samaritan) turned and came to Jesus to give thanks and receives an extra, and more important blessing, forgiveness for his sins. The other 9 were like those who ate the bread and fish made by a miracle. Their bodies were nourished but their souls were untouched. The leper who returned to give thanks and pay homage to the Lord showed that the healing produced faith in Him and that faith saved his soul.
108. Prophecy concerning the end
The Pharisees believed that the coming of the kingdom of God would be a good thing for them. They thought that the kingdom would usher in a golden era of Jewish supremacy and they would benefit greatly as religious leaders.
With this in mind, they ask Him about the coming of the kingdom and Jesus answers them using language that was hard to discern (apocalyptic) and a message they were not prepared for:
- The kingdom was already here among them and because they missed it they were going to suffer crisis (judgment of the Son of Man).
- This crisis would come upon them suddenly and without warning.
- The crisis would bring devastation.
Of course, He is referring to the fact that He is ushering in the kingdom of God, He embodies it but they refuse to accept Him. The result of their refusal to acknowledge Him is that they will be judged for this when He will bring judgment upon them. His warning is that they will be destroyed suddenly and only a few will escape. This prophecy was fulfilled when the Roman army came and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and only a few (Christians) managed to escape the city.
109. Parables on perseverance and pride
In this last ministry tour Jesus teaches in parables that deal with one's personal relationship with God:
- The parable of the widow who pesters a city official to give her justice until he gives in shows that perseverance is a powerful force even in the hands of the weak. This He taught to encourage the people to persevere in prayer to Almighty God even though they were weak and sinful. Their persevering prayers were powerful tools in appealing to God who, unlike the uncaring official, was truly interested in His peoples' concerns.
- The parable of the Publican and Pharisee shows two men praying. The Pharisee judging himself in comparison to the sinful Publican and finding himself righteous by contrast. The Publican judging himself by God's Law and finding himself guilty and unworthy. Jesus shows that God's mercy is on those who humbly acknowledge their sins, and His judgment on those who try to justify or excuse themselves.
These parables were thinly veiled rebukes of the official ruling class of religious leaders who had failed in exercising justice and mercy towards others and who had been too proud to ask for mercy from God for themselves.
110. Pharisees questions on divorce
Matthew 19:1-15; Mark 10:1-16; Luke 18:15-17
Jesus leaves the far northern part of the country around Galilee and heads south. He is confronted in the region of Peraea by Pharisees who wish to trap Him on the issue of divorce.
At the time there were two main schools of thought on the teaching of the Law concerning divorce found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The Rabbi Shammai said that "indecency" was some kind of shameful sexual behavior. The Rabbi Hillel said that "indecency" was any behavior that the husband didn't like.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, "Can a man divorce for any reason?," provoking Him to side with one or the other (N.B. at the time only men were permitted to initiate divorce). If He agreed with Shammai, they would accuse Him of being a hypocrite because He had associated with sinners and forgiven the woman caught in adultery. If He agreed with Hillel, they would accuse Him of being soft on divorce, a liberal. If He rejected both, they would accuse Him of violating the Law since the Law permitted divorce.
Jesus responds by teaching them several basic lessons about marriage that they had either overlooked or had misunderstood:
- Marriage is a creation of God, not man. It was instituted in Genesis at the beginning and the rules that govern it are still these: one man, one woman for life (Genesis 2:18-25).
- The instructions in the Law permitting divorce did not change the original design of marriage. They were put there because with the arrival of sin there needed to be direction as to what to do when sin destroyed a marriage (legal divorce, no taking back original wife, protection of children, etc.). In their hard-heartedness, men were putting away their wives without any legal standing for the woman. Because of this she couldn't remarry which was her only option to support herself in that culture. Unfortunately, many women turned to prostitution or co-habitation without marriage in order to survive. Both of these situations were shameful in that society. By requiring a bill of divorce, the woman was legally free to remarry and have proper status (Deuteronomy 24:1-2).
- What breaks the bond of marriage is a violation against the very thing that sustains that bond – sex. When there is fornication (sex sin that includes adultery, homosexuality and other forms of sexual impurity), a marriage bond is broken. Legal divorce is permissible in these cases without bringing guilt upon the innocent partner. Jesus didn't say you couldn't break the marriage bond, He said you shouldn't.
- The ones who divorced their partners for reasons other than sex sins were guilty of several sins themselves in those days:
- They unlawfully divorced (did what God said not to).
- They committed adultery by breaking their marriage vows. The word adultery doesn't only refer to a sexual sin, it also means the breaking of a vow or the practice of idolatry (Jeremiah 3:9; Ezekiel 23:37; Matthew 12:39; James 4:4). Note that Jesus doesn't say, "except for fornication and marries another commits fornication" (which specifically refers to sexual sin); He says, "commits adultery."
- They caused their innocent partners to be stigmatized as adulterers in the eyes of society (because all would assume that this was the true reason they were put away). Or even caused them to sexual sin (prostitution).
- They caused even the future mates to be stigmatized as adulterers by society for the same reason.
Pharisees were notorious for their many divorces and Jesus doesn't permit them to justify themselves by claiming they had "legal" divorces. He shows them that the Law that governs marriage is in Genesis and demonstrates the extent of the damage they did when they divorced. There is further teaching on marriage and divorce in I Corinthians that we will not cover here.
It is after this confrontation that Jesus stops to bless the little children brought to Him, and warns the Apostles and everyone not to hinder children to come to Him for blessings.
Innocence and trusting faith was important to succeed in marriage as well as entering into the kingdom.
111. The rich young ruler
Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30
The rich young ruler represents what was best about the Jewish nation. He was young, wealthy, knowledgeable of the Law and pious in that he tried to carefully obey it. The result of this, however, simply brought him to the point where he realized that something was missing. He wanted eternal life and confessed that with all his trying, he had not yet grasped it. Jesus tells him that to get "eternal" life, he must leave his "temporal" life (money and position) and follow Him. At his meeting with the Lord, the young man found out that his great love of wealth was standing in the way of his eternal life. Jesus takes the opportunity here to warn about the danger of wealth and how its pursuit can blind and block a person's ability to see or enter into the spiritual kingdom.
Peter at this point complains that the Apostles have already given up their wealth to follow Jesus and the Lord reassures Peter that their reward will far outweigh what they've given up for Him. In the kingdom, the first (rich and powerful) are last, and the last (humble and weak) first in the kingdom.
112. Parable of the laborers in the vineyard
In line with His warning about riches and services, Jesus also teaches about attitude by telling the parable of the workers hired at different times of day for the same pay.
In this parable He shows that whatever we receive from the Lord: it is always fair, it is always generous and it is not based on our deserving work but on His kindness.
This is one of the three occasions where Jesus uses the saying: The first shall be last and the last first. Other passages: response to Peter and Apostles about their reward for following Him (Matthew 19:30), response to a question regarding who will be saved (Luke 13:30).
113. Jesus predicts His death/resurrection a third time
Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34
Jesus once again predicts His death and resurrection, but this time gives more details in the manner of His suffering and death as well as a clear indication of His resurrection three days later.
Luke says that even at this late date, the Apostles still did not understand what He was talking about.
114. James and John's request
Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45
Sensing that the time of an important event is near (the coming of an earthly kingdom with the Apostles at the head), James and John make a bid for choice positions in the new order. This would be to sit at the right and left of the throne. This upsets the others who resent their grab for power.
Jesus answers that they have not and will not suffer in a way to deserve this (He will), that they will however suffer because of the kingdom and gain their request (sit with church at right hand of God in Christ), the high position they seek is obtained through service and humility in the kingdom and not by jockeying for power.
115. Jesus heals two blind men
Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-19:1
In the review of the three accounts, we see that one of the two blind men was named Bartimaeus, and he was the one who called out to Jesus by proclaiming Him as Messiah (Son of David). Both were encouraged to not bother Jesus, but the Lord answered their call and healed their blindness.
The name of one of the blind men, Bartimaeus, suggests that he became a well known member of the Jerusalem church.
116. Jesus goes to Zaccheus' house
The miracle of healing the blind men occurred as Jesus was entering Jericho (northeast of Jerusalem). After this miracle the crowds followed Him as He went through the city. One person in the crowd was the chief tax collector for that place. His name was Zaccheus. Being short, he climbed a tree to see Him go by. Jesus spotted him and said He would eat with him. Zaccheus was probably the most despised man in the city and least worthy to receive Jesus, but when the opportunity came he gladly received Jesus into His home.
While eating, Zaccheus is so overwhelmed with gratitude that he publically repents of his sins and commits himself to doing right and Jesus forgives and blesses him then and there.
117. The parable of the minas (pounds)
During this same dinner the question of when the kingdom would arrive comes up again. The Jews continually asked this question because they were anxious for their version of the kingdom to arrive since they felt ready for it and it would benefit them.
Jesus responds with the parable of the minas/pounds (a measure of money, equals roughly $25 today). The parable is similar to the one in Matthew about talents but is a different parable told to a different audience.
In the story the rebellious subjects refuse to submit to a nobleman while he is away. When he returns, he punishes them. While he is away he leaves his 10 slaves with money to invest and, like the parable of the talents, the ones who succeed are rewarded and the ones who were lazy or afraid lose the little they had to begin with.
The point for the Jews was that they had been both rebellious and unprofitable and were about to be punished by losing what they had.
118. Mary anoints Jesus with perfume
Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 11:55-12:11
Jesus leaves Jericho and moves closer to Jerusalem by going to Bethany for a dinner in His honor at the home of Simon the Leper (probably the one healed by Jesus). Simon was connected to Lazarus, Mary and Martha somehow (perhaps the father) since they were at his house also and the women were serving food. There were crowds around the house looking to see Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead. It was a final meal with friends and supporters, and while eating Mary uses expensive perfume to anoint Jesus' head as a way of honoring Him.
When the others complain (Judas) about the cost and waste, Jesus tells them that this is a preparation for His death and Mary will always be remembered for it.
Meanwhile, dark clouds are forming around the Lord as the chief priests were plotting to seize Him and Lazarus (according to John 12:9-10) and put them to death since too many people were now beginning to follow Jesus.
In the next chapter we will begin to review the events occurring during Jesus' last week before His death.
1. God deals with man based on need, not merit.
Note that the Jews were continually rebuked by Jesus because they came to God with their culture, achievements, self-righteousness. However, the ones received and blessed by the Lord were those who were aware of their weaknesses and came to God with a need for righteousness, forgiveness, mercy; and they were satisfied.
2. Don't waste an opportunity to be with Jesus.
The blind men, Zaccheus, Simon the Leper – all took advantage of the time to be with the Lord, even the crowds. We should count it a privilege, not a problem for those times we can be with our Lord at worship or Bible study, prayer, service, etc. Don't pass up the opportunity when it comes by. Those who spend time with Him now will be with Him later.
READING ASSIGNMENT FOR CHAPTER 11
- Matthew 21:1-11;17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19
- Matthew 21:12-19; Mark 11:12-19; Luke 19:45-46
- Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 11:20-26
- Matthew 21:23-22:14; Mark 11:27-12:12
- Matthew 22:15-23:39; Mark 12:13-40; Luke 20:20-47
- Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4
- John 12:20-36
- Matthew 24:1-42; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36
- Matthew 24:43-25:46
- Matthew 26:1-5;14-16; Mark 14:1-2; Mark 14:10-11
- Luke 22:1-6; John 12:36-50