The Main Thing

41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41–42 (NAS)

Read Luke 10:38-42

The important women in my life have been like Martha. Highly responsible in everything. Skilled and organized in the science of hospitality. Disciplined. Attentive. Planners days ahead, but capable on a moment’s notice to deliver on the fly. Whirling dervishes.

But the Lord favors our attentiveness over acts of service. Our sense of responsibility should not override opportunities to sit at his feet. I’m sure he appreciated a good home cooked meal, but perhaps Mary understood he could whip one up himself if he had to. After all he is the bread of life.

At the Lord’s feet was a familiar place for Mary, who wiped them clean with her hair after anointing him with oil.

1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. John 11:1–2

To be honest, I’d have to stand with Martha’s ilk, burdened down by worry that I must deliver at the highest level lest I be found wanting by others. It’s a heavy burden to bear which can only be lifted by putting the spoon down, stepping away from the stove, and repositioning at Jesus’ feet. Unproductive as it might seem, nothing gets done that really matters without a quiet time at the Lord’s feet just listening.

One last thought. All our lives we yearn to be where he is. We sing about it all the time. When we get that chance, we should take it. Mary chose the “good part.” The food would be digested and expended. Her time with the Lord would remain forever.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. Psalm 27:4

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Who is My Neighbor?

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life.” Luke 10:25

Read Luke 10:25-37

This is one of those occasions when, knowing what you know, you cringe in your mind and perhaps under your breath groan “you don’t want to go there!” It’s not a good idea to go toe to toe with the Master.

We all hear what the lawyer says and fully expect Jesus to soon own him. How could it go any other way?

It is noteworthy, at least to me, that the the lawyer calls him “teacher.” It’s the same Greek word didaskalos that is translated on occasions “master.” But here most translations opt for “teacher,” likely because of the context, since the lawyer was testing him.

You never want your professor to ask a question of you when you ask one with such an intent. Jesus says, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” In law school it’d be, can you cite relevant case law on the subject?

Well, the lawyer does so perfectly by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself,” eliciting this response from Jesus, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

If the lawyer had stopped there he would have “won,” since he had just received “the words of life,” but he pushed it too far by attempting to declare himself righteous with the diversionary question, “Who is my neighbor?” The parable known as “The Good Samaritan” is the teacher’s response.

That Jesus switched over to the use of a parable at this point was indication that the lawyer didn’t understand what it meant to be his follower, according to the guidelines set forth in Luke 8:10, “To you [his followers] it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

I did not realize this simple story has been allegorized by scholars to see the Samaritan as Christ and the inn as the church. But it has also been oversimplified on “flannel boards” in children’s ministries down through time. It must be understood as it would be by those who heard it told. As an aside, it’s interesting that the one who’s been beaten is not the Samaritan!

The question on the table then is “Who is my neighbor?” Perhaps the question should be, who in this story is loving someone “as yourself?” The priest? The Levite? To them, there was no reason not to help the man (presumed to be a Jew) except perhaps some pious excuse to avoid contamination. The Samaritan had every reason to slide to the other side.

Jesus uses the Samaritan to set the bar very high. “My neighbor” is any one, of any stripe, other than myself. In order to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength requires me to love others as God loves me, and as I love myself; actively, compassionately, unconditionally, sacrificially, liberally. The Samaritan spends his time, provisions, and two days wages to help the man. As I said, the bar is high.

I remember the story my dad told me about him picking up a hitchhiker back in the day. Not only did he provide him transportation, he bought him a sandwich, took him to the bus station, and bought him a ticket. This story obviously stuck with me, and it’s a good illustration of what this parable teaches.

One question haunts. When the wounded man came to and began to recover because of the care and concern of his “enemy,” did he understand the concept of loving his neighbor and what it means to love God in every dimension of life? Odds are he did. Certainly he understood what it meant to be saved.

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Perspective

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Luke 10:17 (NAS)

This scene reminds me of a victorious locker room where the players are high-fiving and exuberant after a big win. In walks the coach who stands in the middle of the team to share his postgame speech amid boisterous yelling in the background. Typically, he’ll deliver a big dose of reality

And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:18–20

Here Jesus recalls witnessing the fall of Satan from heaven by the exertion of same power available to break the bonds of sin. In doing so his follower’s names were etched into the book of life. It was their position rather than their production that mattered most.

21 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 22 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Luke 10:21–22

His public rejoicing in the Spirit was remotely similar to my past experiences when the most spiritually sensitive in a group (sadly not me) says let’s pray and thank the Lord for this! But here it’s the Son himself rejoicing in the work of his Father on behalf of his children as they spread the good news.

23 Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, 24 for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” Luke 10:23–24

Then privately he shares with his disciples how privileged they are to be witnessing all this. The prophets of old would have given their eye teeth for the chance.

Takeaways: 1. Never stop rejoicing in the Lord’s work in your life. 2. The Holy Spirit is available to all whose name is written in the Book of Life. 3. There’s “power in the blood.” 4. Satan’s power over believers has been vanquished.

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Make the Cut

1 Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. Luke 10:1 (NAS)

Read Luke 10:1-16

As his advance team, Jesus appointed 70 others to go into surrounding towns in pairs to declare “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” The instructions were similar to those given the 12 disciples when he sent them out into the nearby cities. To authenticate their ministry they’d be healing the sick. The assumption is that they’d also be exorcising demons.

That there were 70 responsible “followers” available says something about Jesus’ entourage, that the ranks had been thinned to those willing to pay the price of discipleship. These people were appointed by Jesus and must have been scrutinized and found worthy.

The cities were also designated by him, as we read these were those to which “he himself was going to come.” He already knew what the response would be in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, as he predicted judgement would befall them, but they’d have their chance anyway.

This is the way the gospel would be put forth in the future, by emissaries of the King. Failing to be hospitable to them (the laborers) and to it (the gospel) would spell doom individually and collectively.

The first and last thing they’d hear from these workers is “the kingdom of God is near.” They’d get the message coming and going, in peace or in judgement.

May we aspire to make the cut, to be found worthy, to obediently carry out the task, to be able to report back joyously to the King of what great things he did through us!

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The Ties that Bind

61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61–62 (NAS)

Read Luke 9:57-62

Perhaps the Lord was not against saying goodbye to family, but to being doubleminded, with one eye always on the way things used to be. If a farmer were to look back while plowing, his furrow will not be straight. If I do the same thing while mowing the lawn I won’t have the perfect lines of an Oakland Athletics outfield. John Mark appears to have suffered from this to the point he abandoned his post to return home. Acts 13:13

Elisha asked Elijah to say goodbye when he passed his mantle to him and the firebrand permitted him the time. Elisha showed his resolve and commitment by burning his plow and implements, sacrificing his many oxen—his family was well off—to prove he was all in. 1 Kings 19

Discipleship, while exacting, does not feel that way in reality with the Lord at the helm. All the responsibilities shift to him. Yes, you may sleep under the stars, but it’s comforting to know he put them there.

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This is a Child

46An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” Luke 9:46-48

Read Luke 9:46-56

Just when the disciples were starting to feel it, that is, like all of us might be prone to do, becoming conscious of ourselves as key players in the Jesus movement. His advance team. His handlers. His closest advisors. His right hand men. Jesus set them straight. This was their “Men, this is a football” moment. Only in the Master’s case, the object lesson was a child.

Nothing gets done in the kingdom of God on power and authority accrued politically, but through abject humiliation. If you wish to be great you must be small. Better yet, don’t aspire to be great, but yearn to understand the mind of Christ. Seek out his spirit within you and prepare for his direction to be potentially counterintuitive. See someone not on your team casting out demons? That’s good not bad. Get snubbed? No, don’t call fire down from heaven. Love them. Pray for them.

But it’s never a matter of guessing what would Jesus do (WWJD) in a given situation, but standing by and doing what he wants to do through you as an obedient child.

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Listen Up!

“Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9:44 (NAS)

It’s striking to hear the Lord say, “Let these words sink into your ears.” Luke had also previously quoted Jesus as saying:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” Luke 9:22

I ask, is this not the most important fulfilled prophecy of them all?

You can’t say Jesus orchestrated it all without admitting he’s God. All along it was a trap for Satan, and he even let him know upfront he’d be raised up on the third day. It was a fool’s run.

It’s also interesting that the word for “delivered” means betrayed. In his band of men was the very one who would carry out the deed. He must not have been listening!

You might say Luke the writer wasn’t there. Matthew who was there had Jesus making the same predictions (Matthew 16:21-28). Tell someone Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, and it came to pass exactly as he said. Let this sink into their ears. Be ready for “how do we know he rose again?”

Besides the hundreds of eye witnesses by far complying with the rules if evidence, respond as the once blind man did, “I was blind and now I see.” (John 9:25)

Has all this sunk in yet?

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Low Hanging Fruit

29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:29–31 (NAS)

I’m sure there’s an in-depth study to conduct here, but the low hanging fruit should be enough for now.

In glory, expect the form of your face to change, but to still be recognizable. I would surely hope so! I certainly expect to be issued a glorified body in glory. Now I would expect Jesus to stand out above the rest, but Moses and Elijah are reported here to appear in splendor.

You will have conversations with fellow glorified inhabitants of heaven, and dare say with Jesus. What would be the point of just being there with him if we can never converse with him. We’ve got all of eternity to get an appointment for heaven’s sake! There will also be able bodied backups for question and answer sessions in the meantime. We don’t have Jesus today but we do have Paul, and Daniel tomorrow.

As an important observation, if Moses and Elijah are available for this meeting, there is a resurrection. I can understand there might be an exception with Elijah, but Moses definitely died since a famous archangel had to argue with the devil over his body (Jude 9).

There is awareness in heaven of earthy activities below as well as an understanding of events yet future. This should be the case until there is a new heaven and earth. Perhaps we’ll have reception up there.

Lastly, there is a by and by with all this to look forward to, but I do recall Jesus, James, John and Peter having very important work to do before they got there.

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Thinning the Herd

Warning! This passage and what follows includes hard sayings from the Christ.

“He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23–25

It appears that Jesus delivered these words to “the crowd” (New Living Translation) who were following him, not huddled with his disciples.

And “He was saying to them all.”

A political advisor would certainly say to Jesus that telling the people that if they wish to come after him they must deny themselves and carry a cross, was not particularly good messaging.

Knowing anything about crucifixion, they’d understand that the guilty would carry their own cross bar, likely after scourging, walking in shame down a dusty street to where they’d die a gruesome death. On that road they’d know they weren’t coming back.

Paul elaborated on the “crucifixion” process looking back down this road less traveled.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

Jesus also warned that the process of gaining the whole world involves losing one’s life.

Indeed such a sales pitch would not win many takers. Bottom line, following Jesus requires dying to one’s self and leaving everything this world has to offer. This was the stumbling block for the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-25). Jesus told him what he needed to do but he was unwilling to forfeit the world.

Those like Peter (and hopefully all of us) know there is no viable alternative to following the Lord regardless the cost or sacrifice.

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69

In reality, the words “we have believed and have come to know” are the essence of salvation and following Christ. Then the response to his true disciples is this:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Ah, yes! That’s more like it.

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Final Jeopardy

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” Luke 9:18 (NAS)

Today ask a person on the street who Jesus is and be prepared to hear some vague recollection of some mythological character. And since the primary historical references to his life for most are now found in Wikipedia, anything he ever did or said has been fact-checked into irrelevance. Even among those in the crowd witnessing his works and hearing his words first hand had a difficult time truly grasping who he was.

It was almost like a very real Final Jeopardy question with Peter the host.

“Who is John the Baptist?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Who is Elijah?”
“No, again, I’m sorry.”
“Who is a prophet of old?”

And Peter said, “Incorrect as well.”

“Jesus is the Messiah from God.”

If after witnessing his power first hand they still didn’t know who he was, how are we to know him well enough to trust him to save us?

Outside of reading and studying the Bible, this line in the old praise song “open the eyes of my heart Lord that i can see you” appears to be the answer. This he did for Peter.

On this Easter Day 2022, would it be that he open the eyes of your heart too.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6

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