Jesus is Offended at You

Luke 18:9-14 says:

“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; and I pay tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

In the first verse of this parable, Luke sets the stage, and tells us that Jesus is talking to some people who thought they were righteous and viewed others as lower than themselves.  Then Jesus talks, says that two men went into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector (a Publican).  Jesus then says something completely crazy and really ridiculous.  But if we’re to understand this parable’s crazy ridiculousness, we must view the parable from Jesus’ culture and context rather than our culture and context.

You see, when we read that there was a Pharisee and a tax collector here, our minds immediately go to one place: the Pharisee is the bad guy and the tax collector is the good guy.  Why?  That’s what our world has been taught.  This was not what Jesus’ world would have felt or believed after reading or hearing this parable.  They would have been shocked out of their shoes, they would have been astonished because Pharisee’s in their day were the spiritual superstars.  If one of them showed up in a church today the people would be so impressed with his “godliness” that within a few weeks that they’d probably make him an elder or a deacon, they might even want him to be the pastor after a few months.  Everything about the Pharisee’s life looked perfect, his faith would be robust, his singing would be loud and confident, his praying would be full of knowledge and eloquent, his family would look neat and in order, his dress would be proper and put-together…from the outside looking in it would look like this guy is the real thing, the Leader among leaders, the Christian among Christians, and the Saint among saints.

We can see this in the text, look in verses 11-12, “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; and I pay tithes of all that I get.”  I think when we see the Pharisee say this we say to ourselves, “Man I can’t believe this guy would say something like that!”  But, I think we are more like this Pharisee than we dare to admit.

Some of you think you’re more righteous than others because of a cause you stand behind – “I can’t believe that family is not being more “green.”  Don’t they know that they should be trying to reduce their carbon footprint like we are?”  Others of you think you’re more righteous than others because when you look in the mirror you think, “God must love me more than other people, I’m an amazing specimen!”  Some of you think you’re more righteous than others because when you go to work you think, “Man, its good thing I’m here in this office, because all my co-workers are stupid!  Who knows what would happen to this company if I weren’t here!”  Some of you more sneaky individuals out there think you’re more righteous than others because of your faith.  “I’m a better Christian than that guy, I mean really, he doesn’t even know where to find the book of Jeremiah in his Bible?  He’s certainly not on my level spiritually.”  Or, “I tithe and give more money than anyone in this room!”  Or, “I’ve been serving with the youth group and children’s ministry longer than some of these people have even been Christians!”  Or, “Look at my ministry, it’s four times bigger than this guy down the road.  I must be a better pastor!”  Or, “Is that really the sin you struggle with?  I beat that a long time ago.  Man, you must really be young in your faith.”

We obviously don’t say these things out loud, but you know that we all think them.

Hear me now, Jesus is offended by this attitude.

My Happy Boast of Being Morally Bankrupt

All this week, I’m going to focus on the passage that has meant so much to me of late, and it just so happens to be the passage that this blog is based on. It’s from Luke 18 and it has had a profound impact on me because it simply turns world-views upside down for the better and provides a ballast of a foundation for all Christian living.

Growing up in this culture as a young sports fan it did not take long to learn what “greatness” really was. I learned that greatness was being the champion, standing over your defeated foe, basking in victory! I learned that greatness was hitting a home run in game seven of the World Series when the bases are loaded to win it all! I learned that greatness was throwing or catching a touchdown in the last seconds of the Super Bowl to defeat that team that no one thought could be beaten! But when I became a Christian God began to show me that His ways are not the ways of this world, and that greatness did not come in worldly pomp and circumstance, but in humility. Luke 18:9-14 presents such a case, and shows us the difference between true greatness and foolish unrighteousness.

Luke 18:9-14 says:

“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; and I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Join me the rest of this week to explore what I think God has for us in this text.

Luke Wrote a Full History

Luke, the author of Luke & Acts said in Luke 1:1-4 (also see Acts 1:1) that he wrote a full history of what happened with Jesus and the early Church. Taking his gospel with the book of Acts together, it seems that the gave us a full history of the events that took place. Full, not in the sense of everything that occured, but in the sense of why these events occured in the way they did. Lost? Hang on…

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, (named after a roman deity), and wrote twenty volumes on Roman history. He really wanted to write GOOD history! Good history does not just record things of the past, it records how the events were influenced, what directed them and what pushed them in the direction they went. He claimed that speeches changed the course of history. The word that Luke uses in chapter 1 verse 3 of Luke to say that he will write a “full” account is the same word that Dionysius used to describe his idea of “good” history. This means, that Luke is going to include the things that tell us how history took the course it did, he is not just going to tell us events. Luke is going to tell us what actually is driving these events! Luke wants to write this kind of gospel, a full gospel. This is also why Luke wrote Acts.

It is worth noting, that 30% of Acts is speeches. 60% of Acts 1-7 is speeches. (Luke’s gospel does this also) This means that Luke thinks these speeches have changed the course of history. Also, the role of the Holy Spirit is crucial in the speeches. The Spirit fell on the disciples so that they could give a speech (or preach the gospel). This means that Luke is telling us that it is the Holy Spirit who is directing history! The Holy Spirit is taking people places, and creating the scenes for these powerful speeches. What has affected history? People’s speeches that are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Therefore Acts is an account of God’s actions that direct history through people; empowered by the Spirit, who proclaim the Word of God, the gospel! This means that in Luke’s mind Christianity is the fulfillment of History. Knowing this, we could call the book of “Acts of Jesus, by His Spirit, through His Apostles” which fits Luke’s idea of the history he wants to write.

Who cares? I DO! Why?

a) We are saved by God (through His Son by the power of the Spirit) individually into a community to take a message to the nations!
b) We can now give people an understanding of Christianity as the fulfillment of history.
c) WOW and Amen!!