Back at the beginning of 2020 I decided to change things up a bit.
Rather than follow a “read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year” plan as usual, I plunged into the deep end of the pool, opting to do an in-depth study of the original languages of the Bible.
I continue to be challenged, encouraged, and flat-out awed by the Lord and His Word in taking this approach.
The best analogy I can come up with is a road trip. Rather than speed from place to place, taking in the scenery along the way, I slowed waaaay down–lingering in one location for days, weeks, and even months–exploring things previously unknown and somewhat mysterious and mining the depths of God’s riches.
It’s been a marvelous journey like no other.
I chose to start with the Gospels, so this has truly been a walk with Jesus. What follows is a sneak-peek viewsof one passage that I studied just this morning.
Two Human Responses to Wisdom and Two Eternal Outcomes
Background (Luke 7:11-17)
Jesus had just raised a widow’s dead son to life in Nain.
The people’s response was one of gripping fear and glorifying God. But their words revealed that they didn’t quite get it. “A great prophet has arisen among us!” (Luke 7:16)
Luke then mentions that this report went out all over Judea and the surrounding district.
John the Baptist Hears the Report (Luke 7:18-20)
Let’s first remember a few facts about John that are relevant to this passage:
- He was humanly related to Jesus.
- He was the one chosen by God and foretold by Old Testament prophets as the forerunner of Jesus, called to prepare the way for the Messiah.
- He lived in the wilderness, dressed in camel skins, and ate wild locusts and honey. The religious leaders of the day viewed him as a crazy lunatic.
- He pointed his followers to Jesus and identified Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
- He baptized Jesus and gave testimony that he saw the Spirit like a dove descending and remaining on Jesus from heaven.
- As more and more of John’s disciples started following Jesus, he explained to the rest that he had to decrease and Jesus had to increase.
But now reports were coming in that Jesus was just a prophet???
As I lingered over these verses, I could almost feel John’s angst, confusion, and doubt. The questions that surely rolled in his mind also rolled in mine.
I’ve spent my adult life living like a crazy recluse, preaching repentance, and trying to get things ready for the long-awaited Messiah. I truly thought Jesus was the One. I called Him the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world. I encouraged those who sat under my teaching to follow Him. And He’s just a prophet?
When I stopped to consider the times when my own doubts and disbelief have reared their ugly heads, I noticed two things:
- John took his confusion and doubt to the right place (Jesus), and
- Jesus understands our humanity and is big enough to ease our doubts in a loving and compassionate way.
My biggest word study for this passage was “look for” (verses 19-20). The Greek word is “prosdokao”, and it means to wait for expectantly, anticipate, and watch for.
This reminded me that we need to have that same eager expectation, not just as we await the second coming of Jesus, but also in seeing Him at work around us and in spending time with Him. We can expect great things from our great God!
Jesus Proves Himself in a Big Way (Luke 7:21-23)
Once upon a time, I did a lot of work with church children’s choirs. One musical production we did had a line of dialogue that frequently jumps to the front of my mind.
“Don’t you just love it when God shows off?”
This passage was one of those times.
Luke says that “at that very time” Jesus began healing people of diseases, afflictions, and even demon possession. He returned people’s vision, moving them from physical darkness back into glorious light. He made the lame to walk again. He touched the unclean lepers and made them clean again. He unstopped deaf ears and raised the dead.
And as if that weren’t enough, He one-upped even Himself by preaching His great good news to the poor and outcast of society.
All that He did and said was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1).
Jesus told John’s disciples to return to John with the message of all that was being done according to prophecy that revealed Him as the Expected One. He followed that charge with these words: “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.” (vs. 23)
In other words, the human response to Jesus can either be one of faith, where He is our cornerstone, or one of disbelief, where He is instead a stone of stumbling. Both responses lead to two very different eternal outcomes.
The Greek word for “blessed” is makarios. Deeper study turned up this information about the meaning of the original language:
- to be envied
- properly, when God extends His benefits (the advantages He confers)
- describes a believers’ enviable position from receiving God’s provisions (favor/grace), which literally extend (make long, large) His grace and benefits.
- This blessing happens with receiving and obeying the Lord’s in-birthings of faith, so faith and blessing are closely related (Romans 4:5-7; 14:22-23; Revelation 14:12-13.)
(See what I mean about a slow-paced road trip? What a treasure trove of blessing is ours through Jesus!!!)
Teaching the Multitudes, Including Some Who Already Wanted Jesus Out of the Picture (Luke 7:24-28)
I’ve learned during this slow-paced journey through the life of Jesus, that the multitudes weren’t always those who sincerely wanted to hear (and obey) what Jesus said. Some were skeptics. Some were there for what they could get, such as physical healing. Others were there to trap Jesus so they could find an excuse to do away with Him. This was the case with the religious leaders, because He was a threat to their power and authority.
The first order of Jesus’ teaching was about John, asking them what they went out to the wilderness to see. He gave three options:
- a reed shaken by wind (metaphorically, a weak spineless man who vacillated between new doctrines and current mainstream wisdom). In spite of his faith temporarily failing him, John was no wavering reed.
- a man in soft, luxurious garments, typically worn by aristocracy.
- a prophet.
Jesus then quoted the prophecy from Malachi 3:1 to further reveal not only John’s role, but also His. In addition, Jesus calls John more than a prophet, and the Malachi passage also holds this up.
How? The Greek word for “messenger” is also used in references to angels.
Honestly, verse 28 confused me. So I dug a little deeper. After much study and reading, I finally reached a place of understanding (at least as much as a finite human mind can understand divine truth…). At this particular moment in time, Jesus had not yet become the sacrifice for the sins of the world so people had not yet received their salvation and entrance into God’s kingdom. That included John.
Jesus obviously saw John the Baptist as one of the greatest men of that time. But the contrast he drew was that of the greatest in the earthly realm being less than the smallest in the heavenly realm.
Two Responses to Wisdom (Luke 7:29-30)
Upon hearing the words of Jesus, the people in the multitude were immediately split into two groups.
The first group was made up of tax collectors, who collected Roman taxes for a profit, and common people. Both were considered sinners by the religious leaders because they were not from the religious elite. But in spite of their “sinful” status, they were the ones who acknowledged that God’s way was right and had been baptized with the baptism of John.
The second group was made up of Pharisees and experts in the Mosaic Law (lawyers). They “rejected God’s purpose for themselves…”
What a sad verse!
And it’s made even sadder by the fact that most of us (if not all of us) know people who have done the same thing.
Here’s my word study (BibleHub.com) on “rejected” (Gk. atheteo): to do away with what has been laid down; to set aside; to annul or make of no effect; ignore; slight; break faith with; disregard; make void; nullify; to remove out of appointed and proper place; invalidate; refuse to respect and even despise; to cancel or abrogate because of perceived lack of value; refuse to acknowledge; to thwart the efficacy of.
And here’s my study (BibleHub.com) of “God’s purpose,” which in my book is grounds for celebration! “Purpose” in the Greek is boule and means: counsel; deliberate wisdom; decree; properly, a resolved plan, used particularly of the immutable aspect of God’s plan–purposefully arranging all physical circumstances, which guarantees that every scene of life works to His eternal purpose. This level of God’s plan demonstrates He is the Lord of history (i.e. always in charge!) But boule is more than God’s immutable plan of physical circumstances. It also includes the Lord’s purpose in them–and so arranging all the physical scenes of history before Creation (Psalm 139:16; John 1:31). In this particular context, it was used of the purpose of God respecting the salvation of men through Jesus Christ.
As sad and unfathomable it is when people willingly reject Jesus, I take great comfort in His eternal and perfect purposes, laid in place before the foundation of the world.
Jesus Makes a Comparison, Charge, and States a Simple Truth (Luke 7:31-35)
At this point, Jesus, knowing the hearts of those in the multitude, compares those who reject Him to immature children who want to be in charge of the playground.
He followed His comparison with a charge. The religious leaders operated by a double standard. In addition, they had critical and judgmental attitudes. John the Baptist, who didn’t eat and drink, was characterized by them as a demoniac. Jesus, ate and drank, and they labeled Him as a glutton, drunk, and friend of sinners.
He then closes the scene with this simple truth. As wisdom personified, Jesus told them that His children (those who believed and applied God’s wisdom) would prove Him right.
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Oh, my friends, how I hope that you’ve enjoyed this small part of my joyous journey with Jesus. He’s more wonderful than mere words can describe!
Here are some resources that I’ve used for my lengthy road trip (just in case you’re ready to jump into your own journey!):
- BibleHub.com – I use this resource for word study, various commentaries on difficult-to-understand verses, and to read verses in several translations.
- Scripture4All.org – I have downloaded PDF files from this site for each chapter of the books I’m currently studying, because it has the original Greek words and their meanings.
- I’ve also been watching this documentary series, “Drive Thru History: The Gospels.”
There’s joy in the journey!