Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Luke's gospel chapter 5.
The popularity of the ministry of Jesus is growing. Word is being spread around of the miracles that are being wrought by Him, and now wherever He goes people are beginning to jostle and shove in order that they might get close to Him. It made it difficult for Jesus to travel to get around because of the multitudes that, according to Mark's gospel, at this point were thronging Him wherever He went.
And so here in Luke's gospel,
It came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God (5:1),
And that to me is always an exciting situation, when people are pressing to hear the word of God. When this becomes such a priority in the life of people, to just hear the word of God, they pressed to hear it. But,
he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret (5:1),
Also known as the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Whenever you are talking about a sea, somehow in my mind you get a vision of a sort of a salt body of water, but the lake of Gennesaret, or it's to me more of a lake than it is the sea. It's not salty water, but is fresh water, drinkable. So yet, it is known as the Sea of Galilee.
There were two ships that were standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and he prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship (5:2-3).
So in order to escape a little from the crowd that was thronging Him, He commandeered Simon's ship. He got in it, and He said, "Pull on out a little ways,” in order that He might be able to teach the people without them pressing so close that He loses the sight of those that were behind. Now here in the area by Capernaum there is sort of a good slope where the Sea of Galilee comes down, where the banks come down into the Sea of Galilee there, so that just pulling out just a little ways from shore, you're sort of an amphitheater type of a situation, which made it very conducive to teach the multitude of people who were thronging to hear the word of God.
Now when he was finished speaking to them, he then said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught (5:4).
For a load, you're going to be pulling in a large catch.
And so Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net (5:5).
Simon is objecting to the command in a polite sort of a way. "Lord, I am the fisherman, I know how to fish, and I know the time to fish, and I know that the time isn't now.” As the day gets warmer the fish go to the deeper areas of the lake. And these nets were not really deep-water nets, they were sort of surface nets. They had the floats on the top, and they just cast them out as they are rolling around in a circle in the boat. And then as they complete the circle with the boat having cast the nets around in a circle, then they pull the nets on into the boat, and they are not deep-water type nets. They would catch the fish in the shallower areas in the cooler part of the day. Or in the evening which was usually the best time for fishing. So they've been fishing all night, caught nothing, so you assume that this just isn't the time. “Yet, nevertheless at thy word, I will let down the net."
Now this to me is interesting, because here we find men laboring all night with no results. Now suddenly Jesus directs them to labor in the same area, and they have phenomenal results. And to me this marks the contrast that usually exists in those efforts that are on our own, and those efforts that are directed by the Lord. I think of all of the time and energy and money that is wasted by man-inspired efforts. We see a task that needs to be done. We sit down and figure out what would be the best way to accomplish this task. We develop our programs, and then we develop the financing in order that we might fund the programs that we have devised. And then we set up the committees, then we set up the ways by which we might implement that program. And certainly in the church of Jesus Christ we have seen some remarkably phenomenal programs established by man.
We have some friends who were pastoring a church in the same denomination that we served for so many years, where we got packaged programs from the denomination. Quick, convenient, you didn't even have to think of one, they thought of them for you. All you had to do is get your committees and inaugurate them. And, of course, every year you get two of them. You get your spring enlargement program, and that you get the one to beat the summer slump program. And so this church was going to go all out. I mean they had everything all lined out. You take a telephone book, and you go up the pages and each person takes a page of the telephone book, and they call all the people on that page, and invite them to the church. And then, of course, you have a person over that, that calls everybody whose supposed to be calling all the people to make sure they call the people they were supposed to call. And then they filled helium balloons with numbers, and you turn them lose upwind from the city, so that the balloons sort of drop down, and so the numbers are then put in a barrel, and the person that draws the number. And if you bring the number out of your helium, there is a little note telling you there is going to be a drawing, special prize if you there and get the number. So you get the people coming with their numbers so that they might get into the drawing, and perhaps win this special prize that will be given away when the number is drawn out of the barrel. And then, of course, you organize your transportation committees. If a person needs transportation, they'll drive out, and pick them up, and bring them to church. And I mean it goes on, and on, and on. I mean so many gimmicks, you can't believe.
And so this particular church thought, “Well, we're going to really go into this big program, we're going to go full into it.” And so I was talking to the pastors some six months after the program, and I said, "Well, now it's been six months since the program was concluded, as you evaluate the results of the program, how many of you have been able to add permanently to your church?" And they said, "Well, there is an eighty-five year old man that we have to drive twenty-five miles to pick up, and he really can't hear, but he doesn't get to see people very much, so he just loves to sit around where people are, and he is the only one we were able to add to the membership."
You know, after spending thousands of dollars on all of these programs to add to the church. There is man's way of doing it, and then there is the Lord's way. None directed service can be very unfruitful. But directed service can be exciting.
Now Jesus is directing Peter. Just launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draft. And Peter semi-arguing says, "Lord, we've been fishing all night and we've caught nothing, nevertheless, at thy word. (If you insist on it, we'll do it)," not really expecting anything.
How many times I've met people who are discouraged because of bad experiences. How many times when we've suggested a solution to a person's problem, they'll immediately respond, "Oh, I've tried that." But did you try it at the Lord's direction, or did you try it on your own initiative? It makes a difference when the Lord directs you to do a thing. You can be sure when the Lord is directing your service, that your service for the Lord will not be in vain.
So when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fish: and their net began to brake. So they signaled to their partners, [which were James and John] who were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and they filled both of the ships, so that they began to sink (5:6-7).
Success beyond their wildest dreams by simple obedience to the command of Jesus. Now the result of the success to me is significant. When we have devised programs, and we put in all of the human energy, and the human effort, and we begin by the human effort to gain a response. You've got something that is working, you've got something that is attracting people. What do you do with it? You franchise it. You carry it out other places. You develop your success seminars. And you invite others to come and learn how to bait your hook, to make your lure more attractive. So you can gather more fish. But when it is the Lord doing the work, rather than developing your success seminars, and being all puffed up over what's been accomplished, like Peter you just sort of fall at the feet of Jesus and say, "Lord, I am not worthy, depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man."
Suddenly you're aware of God's work. You're aware of God's power. You're aware of the presence of God, and that is always a humbling experience. No man who has stood in the presence of God can be proud. Standing in the presence of the Lord, conscious presence of the Lord, is always a very humbling experience.
Depart from me, Lord, [Peter said,] I am a sinful man. And he was astonished, and all of those that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so also was James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; for from now on you're going to catch men. So when they brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him (5:8-11).
The Lord brought them to the peak, to the ultimate of success in their chosen profession, and then called them to leave it, to follow Him. Their little ships rowing to shore, weighted down in the water by the load of fish. The dream of every Galilean fishermen, and from that point of success the Lord said, "From now on you're going to catch men." And they left all to follow Jesus.
Now in the other gospels they do not give us the background to the call of Peter and John. And it would appear from the other gospels that Jesus was just walking by the Sea of Galilee and He saw some fishermen mending their nets, and He said, "Come, take up your cross and follow me." Or, "Come leave your nets and follow me." And they dropped their nets and followed Jesus without even knowing Him or seeing Him. That is not so. These men had already experienced the Lord, they knew the Lord. Jesus wasn't a stranger to them. They knew Him. Now He is calling them to a complete commitment in following Him.
Now it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man was full of leprosy; who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and begged him, saying, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him (5:12-13).
He is going to give us a list of some of the miracles that Jesus was accomplishing. Sort of a variety of miracles. The one directing them and catching the fish, sort of a miracle in nature. Now the miracle of the curing of an incurable disease. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded and loathed diseases in the aged world. If a person had leprosy he was to be ostracized from the community. Nobody could touch him. If they touched him, you would be unclean. Jesus touched him.
Now in another case when Jesus healed lepers, He did not touch them. Jesus did not confine Himself to a particular pattern in doing His work. And I am glad for that. Because we so often are trying to find the formula as though it existed within a formula. Jesus said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, you hear the sound thereof, but you can't really tell from whence it is coming, or where it is going. And so is he that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).
God does not confine Himself to our patterns, to our methods, to our ways. In seminary we had a class in methodology. As always, men is seeking to develop the methods or to learn the methods by which God works. But the interesting thing is that God doesn't work by any particular method. There are diversities of gifts, and diversities of operations. Yet, it's the same Lord. So there are different gifts, but even with the same gift, there are different ways by which that gift operates within the individual. The Holy Spirit dividing to each man severally as He wills. And so He always maintains the control of method and the work which is to be done. At best I can only be an instrument through which God does work.
So here we find Jesus touching the man. And the interesting question is, "If thou wilt Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean." So often when we pray we say, "Now, Lord, if it is your will," and I am not putting that down. I feel that we should, that whether I say it or not is an underlying fact in every prayer that I ever offer to God. I don't want my will to be done above God's. "Now, God, You set Your will aside, because this is what I want You to do." The purpose of prayer is never the accomplishing of my will. Except as my will has been molded and shaped and conformed to His will. Always the purpose of prayer, the thrust of prayer is the will of God, the accomplishing of the will of God upon the earth. And we need to remember that. Jesus said, "Nevertheless, not what I will, but thy will be done" (Mark 14:36). And that was at the end of the prayer, after He had offered His request, then He made that statement. And that's not a bad statement for us to make. After laying out to God the things that we desire, I think it is always wise to just say, “Lord, not what I will, but Your will be done."
Now quite often the Lord is willing to do those things that we desire. When he said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus said, "I am willing, be thou made clean." And He touched him, and he was cured of his leprosy immediately. Now in the case of the ten lepers that came to Jesus, He didn't touch them, and they were healed as they went. In the case of this fellow, he was healed immediately. Again, diversities of operations. He doesn't always work the same way.
Now the problem that would develop if He worked the same way is that, it didn't happen to me the way it happened to you, then I think, "Oh, God is not doing it for me." So God keeps His ways diverse, so that when I relate to you what God has done in my life, you then don't look for my experience that I've got, but you look for your own personal experience. For God does not pattern Himself in His work in our lives. And He may work in you in a totally different way, and your reaction may be completely different than my reaction to the work of God.
There is a value to testimony meetings, but there is always a problem with testimony meetings. Because through testimony meetings so oftentimes we seek then to have a similar experience to someone else. And the emphasis in the testimony meetings seems always to be experiential, or this is the way I experienced it, this is how God did it for me, this is what God did for me, and then I begin to think, "Oh, God didn't do it for me that way, there must be something wrong with me, because I didn't feel that. I didn't see the lights flashing. I didn't get the tingling down my spine. I guess maybe I don't have it, because I didn't experience it like someone else." So God keeps working in a variety of ways so that we don't try to pattern God after our methods.
So he was healed immediately. Now Jesus said to him,
Don't tell anybody: but just go, and show yourself to the priest (5:14),
A marvelous thing about the law of God, the book of Leviticus, is that God in the law provided the way by which a person of an incurable disease could be returned into society and into fellowship in the worship of God when he was cured of the incurable disease. Now that I really like that, because God left Himself space to work. And this is the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. This is the method by which he is to be restored into the full fellowship of the family. And yet, leprosy is incurable. Even to the present day leprosy is incurable, it can be arrested, and they can be brought to an arrested state now in what the call the Hanson’s disease, but it is still incurable. And it was incurable then, and yet God made provision for Him to work sovereignly, even in incurable situations. God always left Himself that space, to inapt, to put into operation His higher laws that supersede the natural laws as we know them. So Jesus said, "Follow the law, go show yourself to the priest." And, of course, the priest would examine him, and see no white flesh, and see the area where the leprosy was all pink, and new flesh. And so he would set him in the house where he would have to be for seven days, and then he comes back and shows himself to the priest again. He examines him, doesn't find anything, and then the fellow brings two doves. And the one dove is killed, and the blood is poured with water into a basin. And the second dove is taken and immersed in this bloody water, and set free. And the second dove flying off, the bloody water dripping off his wings, as he takes off, is a symbol of the disease being taken from the man, and his full restoration now into the community. Can you imagine the emotions that a leper must have felt when he saw that dove flying away, and suddenly he realized that he could be restored completely and fully into society? Here he was hopelessly ostracized because of this loathsome, incurable disease, and yet, he always knew, God has wrought a work.
So Jesus told him, "Do what the law tells you to do, show yourself to the priest." But Jesus could not hide. More and more people were hearing of the miracles that were being accomplished, and the crowds were coming and thronging. And He healed them, and they came actually to be healed from their infirmities. Verse 16:
And Jesus withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed (5:16).
As we pointed out last week, as we were studying the gospel of Luke, or the week before. The humanity of Jesus is the thing that Luke points out. The Son of man, the human side. And because this is the particular emphasis of Luke's gospel, Luke makes more mention of the prayer life of Christ than any of the other gospels. Luke gives us insight into the prayer life of Christ. So here again, he shows us, he gives us a little insight into that prayer life of Jesus our Lord. Now all I can say is that, if Jesus as the Son of God felt the necessity of prayer, who do you think you are that you can get by without prayer? If He, being the Son of God, felt it such a necessary part of His life, surely it ought to be a very necessary and considered to be a very necessary part of all of our lives.
Again, the mystery of heaven, I am certain, is that men pray so little. I am sure the angels discuss this all the time. When they watch and observe us going through all of our calamities, all of our troubles, and they are just waiting to be dispatched to help us. And they watch, and we get knocked down and bloodied, and we stand up, and get knocked over again. And I am sure the angels say, "When is that nut going to call? How long is he going to go on until he cries out for help? If he only knew what God has made available to him.” The mystery of the prayerlessness of infirmed man.
Now it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees the doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: [and I like this,] and the power of the Lord was present to heal them (5:17).
Now Jesus had began to attract the notice and the attention of a hostile crowd, the Pharisees, the doctors of the law, and they were coming all the way from Jerusalem up to the area of Galilee because they heard of Him. And their purpose of coming was really of being more critical than accepting. Here is a rising movement, a spiritual movement among the people. Now they have pretty well set themselves in a comfortable position as religious leaders. Here is a threat to them. They must come up and listen carefully, and examine Him, so that they can contradict Him, and show where He is at fault, and to dispel any idea that this man might truly be of God, and possibly the Messiah. But while they were there, the power of the Lord was present to heal.
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with palsy: and they sought a means to bring him in, and lay him before Jesus. But when they could not find a way that they might bring him in because of the multitude, they climbed up on the roof, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus (5:18-19).
And so you can get the picture. Jesus is sitting there in the house, and the people are all gathered, the multitude is gathered around, and suddenly there is a noise upon the roof, and the tiles are being pulled back, and then the ropes, and here is this guy being let down right in front of Jesus. These guys are ingenious, I admire them, I really do. They are determined. They've got a friend, they want help for him, and they are determined to get help. Now I tell you, those are the kind of buddies you need. And so they come with him to the house, carrying him in his bed. They can't get in, and so they are not to be stopped. And so they let him down right in front of Jesus.
And when he saw their faith (5:20),
Not the faith of the fellow that was let down, the faith of his friends that brought him. That's great to be surrounded by friends who believe. And He saw their faith,
and he said to them, Man, your sins are forgiven (5:20).
Now I imagine the guys upon on the roof said, "No, no, no, Lord, that's not what we want, we want him to walk home."
So often in their minds, illness was related to sin. You remember when the disciples were with Jesus, and they saw the blind man, they said, "Lord, who did sin that this man was born blind?" Now they even believed in prenatal sins. While you were in the womb you could sin. I don't know how, but they believed that you could. “So was it his parents, or was it him? Did he do some sin in the womb that he was born blind? Or was it his parents?” And Jesus said, "No, no, no, this man…" He didn't really answer why he was born blind, He just said, "That God may be glorified, I must do the works of God while I am with you." And He healed the man. He never told them why the man was born blind.
People misinterpret that saying, "Well, he was born blind for the glory of God to be revealed." No, Jesus just said that He must work to glorify God, and thus, He healed the man. He never answered the question. Except that He affirmed that neither he nor his parents sinned. He affirmed that it wasn't their sin. But they so often related illnesses to sin. Which we haven't really divorced ourselves from that completely yet. And it's tragic, that when we see a person who is suffering, we say, "Oh, you must have really done something wrong."
We were pastoring a church in Tucson years ago, and one of the fellows in the church said, "Would you please pray for my wife tonight that God will help her to confess whatever sin she has been committing? She has been sick for over a month." And so that idea that somehow illness is related to sin is not completely divorced from the minds of people. If illnesses were directly related to sin, none of us would be strong enough to be here tonight. And it is extremely wrong, and extremely cruel to say to a person, "Well, if you just had enough faith, you would be alright."
I was talking with Joni Erickson, and she was saying one of the most difficult things about her condition is that there are so many people who feel that they have a special anointing for her healing. And these evangelists, and whatever, who come up and lay hands on her, and then say, "Now stand up." And then sort of say, "Well, if you only had enough faith, you could get out of that wheelchair." And that's one of the most difficult problems that she faces with her condition. That's cruel. It makes a hardship on her. She is already in a difficult position. But that only increases the hardship. Making a person feel guilty because they are in the condition that they are in. Because surely you must have done something wrong or you don't have enough faith to change your condition.
Some of the greatest saints of God have had great physical maladies, and actually it was the physical malady that created that depth of character, and that depth of their walk, and relationship with the Lord.
Jesus took care of the most important thing first. You know, it's more important that your sins are forgiven than that you be healed. It's better to go into heaven maimed than to go into hell. So Jesus took care of the most important thing first, with the man's sins. "Man, your sins are forgiven." Of course He knew that the Pharisees and all were there watching and listening. He was baiting them. I mean, He was looking for a big blowup, which He got. And He was deliberately just baiting them. He knew what their response would be. He anticipated it. And He was deliberately creating it.
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? (5:21)
Now, they were right in their assumption. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus wanted them to make that assumption. They were falling right into His trap. They were wrong in thinking that Jesus was speaking blasphemous. What Jesus was actually demonstrating to them was that He was God. So in saying, "Man, your sins are forgiven you," He is exercising His divine prerogative of forgiving sins, knowing that only God can forgive sins. David said unto God, "Lord, against thee, and thee only have I sinned, and done this great sin in thy sight" (Psalm 51:4). Thus, if sin is against God, then only God can forgive sin. And Jesus was deliberately seeking to get this response and reaction, which He did get. And then He closed the trap.
He said unto them, What are you reasoning in your hearts? What is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven you; or, Rise up and walk? (5:22-23)
Well, it would be easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you.” If you say, your sins are forgiven, who can look in a guys heart and really see? Well, you can say that, but how do you know it's really happened? How can you prove that the sins were really forgiven? How can you prove that your words really have authority? You can't prove it. There is nothing that you can see that can prove the authority of that. However, if you say to a fellow who is lame, “Rise up and walk,” it's very easy to quickly see how much authority you have in your words.
So Jesus said unto them,
But that you may know that the Son of man has the authority upon earth to forgive sins, (he said to the man who was sick of a palsy,) I say unto you, Arise, take up your couch, and go home. And immediately he rose up before them, he took up that whereon he was laying, and he departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen some weird things today (5:24-26).
Now Jesus was here demonstrating to them His divinity. Doing it in a very clever way, saying first to the man, "Your sins are forgiven," creating that response, "How can you do that, only God can do that?" Only God has that authority. And thus, by showing that His word did have authority by saying, "Rise up and walk," He is demonstrating to them that He is God.
Now after these things he went forth, and he saw a publican (5:27),
Now a publican was a tax collector. The Roman government assessed an area with an certain assessment, and then they auctioned off the job of tax collector. And the tax collector only had to pay to the Roman government that assessment. Anything he could collect above the assessment was his. So they were constantly looking for things to tax. Constantly grabbing people and taxing them for many things. Actually, you had to pay a tax just to be alive under the Roman government. They taxed 10% of the fruit of your crop, and 20% of your oil and wine. They had taxes on just about everything. And you think that our government has been shrewd. All they had to do is read what the Roman government taxed, we'd really be crying even more than we are. The people in those days classified tax collectors with murders and thieves. They probably weren't so far off, thieves to be sure. In fact, it was extremely rare to find an honest tax collector. They were notoriously crooked. In fact, there was a monument that was raised. They've found records of a monument extolling a man because he was an honest tax collector. About the only one I guess in the Roman Empire. So much so, that they made a special monument. This man was an honest tax collector. But that was a rarity indeed. And so the Jews considered tax collectors, quislings, because they were really working for the Roman government. And they made a law that a tax collector could not enter the synagogue. I mean, he was a rank sinner. There was no way he could come into the synagogue. Ranking him with the murders and the thieves, they would not allow him to worship God in the synagogue.
Now here was a tax collector,
named Levi, and he was sitting at his little custom house [where he received his taxes]: and Jesus said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi had a big feast [of course he could afford it] in his own house: and there was a great number (5:27-29)
He invited all of his tax collector friends to come and listen to Jesus. All of the publicans, he invited them to gather together, and Jesus sat down with them.
It's interesting how that when a person comes to a real relationship with Jesus Christ, the first thing they do is they grab their associates to tell them about it. The only associates he had were tax collectors. So in gathering his associates, he had to gather the tax collectors. They only had fellowship with each other, no one else would fellowship with them. And so he gathered together all of these tax collectors, and the scribes and the Pharisees murmured against it. And they came to His disciples and they said, "Why are you eating and drinking with publicans and sinners?"
You see, a Pharisee if he came near a tax collector would grab his robe and hold it tied around him, because he wouldn't want his robe to flip out and touch a tax collector, because they were considered unclean. And if he did that he would have to go home and bathe, and change, and wash his cloak, and he couldn't go to the synagogue for a day, because he was unclean, because his cloak touched the tax collector.
Now here is Jesus eating with them, that's even worse in their mind, because when you're eating with someone, you are touching the same bread. And you're eating bread that that guy touched. "How is it you're eating with this publicans and sinners?" Eating together was identifying with one another in a very intimate way.
They were murmuring to the disciples, [they were bringing their complaints to the disciples,] but Jesus answered them and said, They that are whole need not a physician; but those that are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (5:30-32).
Jesus went out where they were, meet them on their own territory. He ministered to the sick. Those who were sick spiritually. I think that oftentimes in the church we begin to make ourselves sort of sterilized hospitals. And we create almost a sterile environment, where if a sinner would come in he feels so totally uncomfortable, because we are all sitting here in our sterile robes of righteousness.
In England we have a good friend Jim, who pastors a Calvary Chapel affiliate in the area of the northern part near Manchester. And Jim's ministry is in the pubs. He goes down to the pubs three or four nights a week. And has a tremendous ministry there in the pubs witnessing to the people who are getting drunk. And he is an outstanding witness for Christ.
Oh, he gets a lot of flak from the other ministers in town because he spends so much time in the pub. But he is following the example of the Lord, going where they are at to reach them, and to bring them out.
And so they then brought up the question, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and they make their prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but yours eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can you make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days (5:33-35).
In those days when a couple got married, it was a two week party. A week before, and a week after. The week before everybody would gather together and they have this big weeklong party, and then they would have the marriage and the consummation of the marriage. And then they would have open house for a week, where they would party for a week. And the bride and the bridegroom would be the host of a party for a week, and their special friends were invited to party with them for a whole week. Now their lives were extremely difficult in heart, and this was probably the only time in their lives where they just have a week off with doing nothing. Because they had to work so hard. And so it was that one week of their life of real partying, now that they are married, then after that it was to work and to the treachery, as life as it was in those days.
Now those special friends that they invited to celebrate that week and party with them and all were called the children of the bridechambers. And so Jesus called his disciples the children of the bridechamber. The bridegroom is with them, they are here to party. "We are here to enjoy and celebrate the fact that I am with them. Now when I am gone, then it will be time for them to fast, but as long as the bridegroom is with them, they are not going to fast, they are just going to enjoy the presence of the bridegroom."
And then he spake a parable unto them; No man puts a piece of a new garment on an old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a tear, and the piece that was taken out of the new does not agree with the old (5:36).
They didn't have preshrunk in those days. So if you took a new patch and sew it into an old garment, the first time you washed it, the new patch not being preshrunk would shrink. Of course, the garment had already been washed enough that all of the shrinkage was out of it. But if you put a new cloth into an old garment, the new cloth as soon as you wash it would shrink, and it just make the tear worse. So Jesus said, "You just don't put a new patch on an old garment. It's only going to rip it up more."
And also he said, No man puts new wine into old bottles (5:37);
Now when they poured the new wine into the wineskins, there was a chemical reaction that created a gas. So if you would pour the new wine into old wineskins, it would cause it to immediately ferment, and this gas would be formed, and the old wineskins, of course, were stiff, because they were old. And being stiff, no give to them, the gas would develop and they just pop. And so you just didn't put new wine into the old skins, but you put it into new skins that were still soft and pliable. The gas had developed, but they would just expand with the gas, because there was a pliability in the leather. And the wineskins were made of leather. And so Jesus said, "You don't take the new wine and pour it into the old skins, they're going to burst on you.”
You put the new wine into new skins; and both then are preserved. And no man having drunk the old wine immediately desires the new; for he says, The old is better (5:38-39).
Now He is talking about the old religious systems that He was coming up against. He is bringing a new breath of air into the religious scene that had become so stodgy that no one could hardly stand it. Now, rather than coming in to reform that system, putting the new cloth in the old garment, or putting the new wine in the old skins, He is developing a whole new skin for this new work of God.
Now those who are used to the old traditional ways are always upset when something new comes along. They say, "Oh, the old is better." And we see this demonstrated so often. New ideas, new thoughts are so often immediately rejected. People get caught in their old traditional ways, and they get upset if anything should come along. Well, the old wineskins burst.
Chuck 1:1, “Blessed are the flexible, they shall not be broken.”
May God keep us flexible. As I grow older I know the tendency is to get set in your ways. And I pray, "God don't let me grow old in that regards, help me to always be open to what You might want to be doing." I have observed in the history of the church how many times when God wanted to do a fresh work upon the earth, He had to go outside of the organized systems. Because the old skin couldn't handle the new wine. And so we see this glorious fresh work of God, but he had to create a new skin in order to do it. And those who come from the old systems so often are shocked and appalled at what they see. Kids sitting on the floor. And they just can't handle what God is doing, because it doesn't follow our structure. It doesn't fit into our pattern. And yet, God develops the new skins for His new wine.
Now it came to pass on the second Sabbath (6:1)
Now He is going to deal with a couple of instances on the Sabbath day. We've been introduced now to the Pharisees; they're beginning to really get into it and trying to find fault with Jesus and condemn Him for the things He is doing. And they condemned Him for eating with the publicans. He, of course, spoke out against their condemnation, telling them, "Hey, you guys belong in the old skins, and so I am just going not try and give you the new wine. We're just going to create a whole new system here." And now Luke points out a couple of Sabbath day experiences where He crossed the Pharisees.
It came to pass on the second sabbath after the first (6:1),
Now that's an interesting way of dating it. We don't know when the first Sabbath was, but on the second Sabbath after the first,
he was going through the corn fields (6:1);
And, of course, that was the wheat, the little thing on the top where all of the grains of wheat are called a corn, and so they were going through the wheat fields.
and the disciples began to pick these little corns of wheat, and they ate them, rubbing them in their hands (6:1).
Now around the later part of May when the wheat is turned brown and is getting dry, as you are in the area of Galilee it is a tremendous…it's called the bread basket of Israel because they grow wheat there, and it grows so well. The winter wheat does so beautifully up there. And so you can take this wheat, and you rub it in your hands, and then you hold open your hands like this, and you blow it, blowing off the chaff, or the husk, and then you can eat the wheat. And it's extremely healthy. As you chew, it forms a gum, and you can just chew that gum all day, or you can swallow it, but it's just very healthy. You're getting the raw fresh wheat. And when I am in Israel in that time of the year, I love to go through the fields and grab the wheat and do just like the disciples, rub it in my hands, and blow the chaff off and eat it. And it's just so healthy, and so good for you.
Now this was perfectly legal under the law. If you were hungry, you could go into a field, and you could eat all that you needed to eat, you just couldn't carry any out. You cant' take a sickle into the field and start harvesting your neighbor’s field. But you could eat all that you needed in the field.
So it was perfectly legal for the disciples to go head and pick the wheat, and rub it in their hands, however, not on the Sabbath day. Because you weren't to prepare food on the Sabbath day, nor were you to bear a burden. And the weight of the wheat would constitute a bearing a burden. So they began to find fault with the disciples and Jesus.
Why do you do that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath days? And Jesus answering said, Did you not read so much as this, that what David did when he was hungry, and those that were with him; how he went into the house of God, and took the showbread, and ate it, and gave also to those that were with him; which is not lawful to eat but for the priest alone? (6:2-4)
David was fleeing from Saul. He had his company of men with him, he came to the house of God. He asked the priest for something to eat. And he said, "Well, I don't have anything." And David said, "I'll take the showbread here." Now it was not lawful for any men to eat the showbread, but the priest. There were twelve loaves of bread that they sat out on the table before the Lord, represented of the twelve tribes of Israel. And God's presence among the twelve tribes. And they would leave it out there on the table for seven days, and then the priests would eat it. Well, David came along, he was hungry, his men were hungry, and the priest said, "I don't have anything to eat." David said, "Alright, I’ll just take the showbread." And so he took the showbread and he ate it, and he gave it to his men to eat. Not lawful to do. However, human need transcended the law. Human need. Now the disciples had a human need. Hungry, they were hungry going through the field. So they did what David did in essence. The human need transcended the law, and they ate.
And Jesus said, that the Son of man is Lord also [I rule over the Sabbath too, fellows]. So it came to pass on another Sabbath, [He was in Capernaum] and he entered into the synagogue and he was teaching: and there was a man whose right hand was withered (6:5-6).
Now Matthew and Mark both tell us about this incident, only Luke tells us it was the right hand, but remember Luke is a doctor, and so he is interested in details of the person’s problems, physically. And so he is careful to note that it was the right hand that was withered.
And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man that had a withered hand, Rise up, and stand here in the middle. And so the man stood up. And Jesus said unto them, I am going to ask you one thing, is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save a life or to destroy it? (6:7-9)
Now if you were asked that question, how would you answer it? On the Sabbath day is it lawful to do good, or to do evil? When is it ever lawful to do evil? When is it ever lawful to destroy a life? So really they couldn't answer Jesus.
And looking around upon them all, he said to the man, Stretch forth your hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness [not gladness] (6:10-11);
They were insane with their anger,.
And they began to commune with one another what they might be able to do with Jesus (6:11).
He is really beginning to irritate them now.
We see suddenly how ludicrous their position is becoming. And when your position becomes untenable, because it is so ludicrous, then the only thing you can do is revert to violence. You know, you're whipped, you better fight. You don't have any reason, you've been wiped out, so what do you do? You fight because there is no reason to your position any longer.
So it should be noted that when Jesus said, "Stretch forth your hand," He was making of that man an impossible demand. The man could have argued. He could have said, "Lord, I can't stretch forth my hand, it's withered, can't you see? I've never been able to use this hand. You think if I could stretch forth my hand, I would just have it hanging here by my side all the time?" And he could very easily have argued with Jesus, and said," well, I just can't do it Sir, I wish I could, but I just cant' do it. Because Jesus was making an impossible demand on him, when He said, stretch forth your hand. However, rather than arguing with Jesus, he tried to obey Him. When Jesus said, "Stretch forth your hand," he tried to obey Him. Hey, all of a sudden he found out he could obey. But that's impossible, I can't do that, but there it is. Jesus made an impossible demand of him, he chose to obey, and in the very choosing to obey, the Lord immediately gave him all that was necessary to obey.
Now your problem is you're standing and arguing. Jesus is making impossible demands on you. He is saying, "Be perfect, even as my Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). "Lord, there is no way I can be perfect, You know my flesh." And you're arguing, aren't you? Jesus is saying, "Be strong." “Well, Lord, You think if I could be strong I'd be wallowing in this weakness that I have, and going through all of this misery?" Jesus is saying, "Have victory." “Lord, You think…how I want victory." And you are arguing rather than obeying. The moment you will to obey the command of Jesus Christ, as impossible as it may seem, in that very moment He will give to you all that is necessary for you to fulfill that command. He does not command you to do anything, but what He will not empower you and enable you to do it, if you will only will to obey. I love it.
Now it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray (6:12),
Again, Luke is giving us the insight to the prayer life of Jesus.
and he continued all night in prayer (6:12).
You men that spend the all night vigils here in the prayer room, you know who is there with you every night? The Lord. He said, "Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there" (Matthew 18:20). He was used to praying all night. You’re in good company. He spent the night in prayer, why? Because the next day He was going to be making some very important decisions. From those disciples that were following Him, He was going to choose twelve to be called apostles. Jesus prayed before important decisions were to be made. I think that that is a tremendous example for us, and we would be very wise to follow it. When we have important decisions to make to spend some time in prayer, seeking God's guidance in those decisions.
So when the day came, he called unto him his disciples: and from them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles (6:13);
And He gives us the name of the twelve.
Simon, (who he also named Peter,) Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon called the Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, who also was the traitor. And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases (6:14-17);
So now He is drawing people, not only from the south, the area of Judea, and Jerusalem, but they are coming from the coastal northern areas of Tyre and Sidon to hear Him and to be healed.
And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitudes sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and he healed them all (6:18-19).
It is interesting that this declaration, and, of course, here a doctor is talking to you again, the physician Luke, talking about virtue going out of Jesus. But it is interesting to me that this follows His night in prayer, that this power now, this dimension, virtue begins to go out of Him, and people were coming up and touching Him in order to be healed.
And he lifted up his eyes (6:20)
And now, from here to the end of the chapter, we have an abbreviated version of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5, 6, and 7, we have a longer version. There are some differences, enough, that some teachers do not believe that this is actually the Sermon on the Mount, but just another Sermon in which Jesus touched many of the points that He touched in the Sermon on the Mount. There is enough difference that does support that particular theory.
So he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and he said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God (6:20).
You may be poor on this earth, and on this earth’s standards, but hey, you’re blessed because the kingdom of God belongs to you.
Blessed are you that hunger now: you will be filled. Blessed are you that weep now: you shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, when they will separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake [for my sake. Jesus said,] Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy (6:21-23):
Now I haven't seen any of you leaping for joy because someone was speaking against you at your job and got you in trouble, and they only did because you were a Christian. I have counseled a lot of people with long faces. They come in just discouraged, defeated, ready to quit, because of the trails they were going through at their job because they were Christians. "Oh, I can't believe the hassle I've got this week,” or, “My foreman is really upset." But the Lord said, “When that happens leap for joy, rejoice." Why? Because your reward in heaven is great.
for in the same manner did they treat the prophets. But woe unto you who are rich! for you have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! you will be hungry. Woe unto you that laugh now! you're going to mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you! because this is how they treated the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those that curse you, pray for those that despitefully use you (6:23-28).
Now suddenly Jesus is giving us a bunch of impossible commands. I am ready to argue. "Lord, how can I love my enemies? No way I can love my enemies. And I don't want to do good to those that hate me. And I don't want to bless those that curse me."
You see, these are unnatural commands. They irritate me. I find myself arguing with them. I really do. I find myself arguing with this commands. Now as long as I am argue with them, I am always going to have a withered hand. I am never going to change. I'll always be trying to get even. I'll always be after the eye for an eye, and the tooth for a tooth. And seeking revenge, and being eaten up by ulcers. But if I just will to obey, “God I am willing to love, but you're going to have to do it, I can't do it." Well, if I am willing, I will find that He will all for me that is necessary for me to obey that command. My part is to be willing to obey. Not to argue with Him, but just be willing to obey, and in that willingness you'll discover the secret of victory. And the Lord will give to you the capacity and the power to obey the commands that He has given.
Now he that will smite you on the one cheek offer him the other; and if he takes away your cloak, don't forbid him to take your coat also. To every man that ask of thee [give], and to him who takes away your goods don't ask for them again. And as you would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise (6:29-31).
Now so many of the teachers that put this in the negative. "Don't do to anybody what you don't want done to you." That's a very common thing.
Hallal, Confucius, and all of them said something similar to this, but it was always negative. Whatever is distasteful to you, and you don't want that done to you, you just don't do that to some one else, a good rule to follow.
Jesus put it in a positive sense. Hey, not just the negative, not just not hitting him because you don't want him to hit you, but He put it in a positive sense. Whatever you would like people to do you, do that to them. How would you like them to treat you when you've made a mistake? You want them to be kind and understanding and sympathetic. Alright, that's the way you should be to them when they've made a mistake; kind, sympathetic, and understanding. How you would like people to treat you? That's the way you are to treat them, Jesus said. And so, He turns it from a negative to a positive. And so it leads us into actual positive actions rather than just refraining from negative things.
For if you love those which love you, so what? sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those which do good to you, so what? sinners do the same thing. If you lend to those of whom you’re hoping to receive a return, so what? sinners also lend, in order that they might get as much again. But love your enemies, do good, lend, hoping for nothing again; that your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to everyone, the unthankful, the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (6:32-36).
Now again we find ourselves arguing, don't we? But these are commands of the Lord. Rather than argue, let's choose and will to obey.
Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and you will be forgiven: give (6:37-38),
And here the law of giving. Give: it's a principle; it's a spiritual law. We've learned to observe natural laws and live by them and profit from them, but we ought also to learn the spiritual laws, and this is a spiritual law; it works. You say, "I don't know how it can work." I don't either, but I know it does.
Give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete it out it will be measured to you again (6:38).
Paul said if you sow sparingly, you're going to reap sparingly. You sow bountifully, you're going to reap bountifully. Whatever measure you mete, it shall be measured to you. So in the giving, the Lord will give back to you on whatever measure you give. However, He will give back more. Because He will give out, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.
So he spoke a parable; Can the blind lead the blind? will they not both fall in the ditch? And the disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why do you behold the mote [the sliver] that is in your brother’s eye, and you don't perceive the beam [the four by six] that is in your own eye? (6:39-41)
And I am sure Jesus said this with a smile. Because it gives you a good picture. Some guy with a four by six in his eye, trying to pull a sliver out of his neighbor’s eye. And so I am sure this was said with a smile and all. But oh, how typical it is of us. Those who are so critical, ready to find fault with the next person, ready to point out their flaws and their weaknesses, but oh, God help us. There is so much bad in the best of us. And so much good in the worst of us that it ill behooves any of us to speak of the rest of us. The Lord is saying, "Clean up your own act."
Who can you say to your brother, Brother, let me take this sliver out of your eye, when you can't behold the four by six that is in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you'll be able to see clearly to pull the sliver that is in your brother’s eye. For a good tree does not bring forth corrupt fruit; neither does a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. And every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs (6:42-44),
You don't go out and gather figs off a cactus.
nor from a bramble bush [from a tumbling weed] you don't gather grapes (6:44).
Everything brings forth after its kind.
And thus a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bring forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (6:45).
And all you have to do is stand around and listen to a person’s conversation, and it doesn't take long to reveal where their heart is. Out of the abundance of the heart a man speaks. It comes out. And you know, standing around listening to some people, is like standing near an open cesspool. You know what's in their heart; it stinks.
And then Jesus asked a very interesting question. One that we should all be asking ourselves tonight.
Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and you do not the things which I say? (6:46)
You see, the title Lord implies mastery. It implies servant. I am the servant, He is the Lord. In our culture we don't understand what it was to be a slave. To not be able to own anything. To be the total property of another person. To be required to obey implicitly without question anything that was demanded of you. We independent Americans can't even conceive of this. And so we find it easy to say, "Oh, Lord, oh Lord."
And yet, how inconsistent it is if you call Jesus, Lord, and yet you don't obey. Now He is just giving you a lot of things here to consider as far as obedience is concerned. Now James says, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). As we read what Jesus ideally requiring of us, and commanding us to do and to be. And then we say, "Oh, Lord, I don't think I can do that. Oh, Lord, there is no way I can do that." And then His response is, "Why do you call me, Lord, unless you're going to do the things I command you to do? You see, if you're not obeying what I am commanding then I am really not your Lord.” That's exactly what He is saying to you.
And so this really does create a cause for great self-examination. Paul the apostle tells us when we come to the Lord's table, let a man examine himself, for if we'll judge ourselves, we will not be judged of God. And I think that so often we are just prone to slough off some of the commands of Christ that we don't quite agree with, or we don't want to go along with. Then we pick and choose. “Oh, I like this one. Oh, this is my favorite, oh yea. Well, I don't know about that one, I sort of think people interpret things different way, and I have a different interpretation.” But if I am going to use the title of Lord, then I need to take a look at His commands, and at least will to obey them. Not argue with them, but choose to obey them.
Now whosoever comes to me, and hears my sayings, and does them, I’ll show you what he is like: He is like a man which build a house, and he dug deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, and the stream vehemently upon the house, it could not shake it; because it was founded on a rock (6:47-48).
The importance of digging deep and laying a good foundation for your faith in Jesus Christ and the word of God. Too many shallow foundations. Too many people just building a superstructure without a foundation. Building on emotions, building on experiences, building on exciting times, building on the glory, glory, hallelujahs. But when the storm comes, if you haven't laid a good foundation on the rock, the house just isn't going to stand.
He that hears, and does not, is like a man that without a foundation built a house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately fell; and the ruin of that house was great (6:49).
Now both cases were subjected to the test of the storm. The Lord does not promise you immunity from problems, from trials, from hardship. It's going to come to every man alike. Through life there are going to be difficult things that we are going to have to face that we cannot understand, or rationalize, as we try to think of a good, loving, just God, and try to rationalize our current situation on the basis of a loving, kind heavenly Father. The storm is going to come. It will beat vehemently. And if you haven't taken the time to lay a good foundation, you're going to find the whole system collapsing around you. And you'll be swept away. How important, we dig deep, that we obey, that we do the things that Jesus commanded. We practice doing them, rather than just arguing with Him, telling Him why we can't do them, and excusing our plights. He doesn't want you to excuse your condition, He wants you to change from your condition. You say, "I can't do that." That's exactly right. He knows that. But do it anyhow. For when you will to obey, all that you need to obey will be given to you in that moment. God make us willing.
Shall we pray.
Father, we thank You again for the study of Your Word and, Lord, we do want to be doers of Your Word. As we go back and we again use on the commandments, and we find those that do irritate us, those that grate on us, O God, may we truly bow our hearts in submission and say, “Lord, I can’t, and I’m willing.” And may we, Lord, receive that ability and capacity from You to be and to do all that You want us to be and to do. Help us, Lord! We need Your help. In Jesus’ name. Amen. May the Lord bless you, keep you, fill you with His love, His Spirit, His strength, His power. May the Lord enable you to go forth to do His will, obeying His commandments. In Jesus’ name.