Posts Tagged With: Pharisees

It’s So Sad-You-See (as in the Sadducess). It really is.

As you are about to hear in this new PODCAST, a new day dawned upon these first committed Christ-followers.

If that metaphor of a new day seemingly overstates the case, then at least we can say that a dark cloud now-shadowed the sun for these first committed Christ-followers. Not quite on the level of our eclipse; but portentous just the same. An ominous bellwether that signaled for these early believers a change in the temperature of Holy City.

For the first eight-12 weeks following Crucifixion and Resurrection, these early believers were able to bask in the glow of their newfound faith unmolested.

Not any more.

Persecution was about to break out for first time in the now-2000 year history of Church. Relatively mild at first. No one died. No one was beaten. It was limited to Peter and John.

But as you will hear, it did involve intimidation, incarceration, and threats of greater reprisals if the apostles refused to cease and desist as far as their preaching in Jesus’ name was concerned.

Refuse they did.

This was a harbinger of things to come. A dark cloud heralding a storm. A storm that continues to rage unabated to our day. Not here in America so much. But certainly in many parts of our troubled world, where committed Christ-followers today attend gatherings at great risk of life-threatening peril to themselves and their families.

As is becoming increasing clear in our ongoing study of Peter in HD, we stand in awe at the strength and resilience of these very first believers—our ancestors in faith, to whom we owe so much, and who have SO MUCH to teach us. As they will do here in this week’s study.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“From That Time On…”

John 11:53 (NLT) is a most remarkable statement. It reads,

“So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.”

As you’ll hear in this PODCAST, I’ll tell you exactly to what John referred with the phrase, “From that time on…” Again, this is most remarkable.

But before we get to that, consider this: It is, in my humble estimation, the Single.Most.Misunderstood parable in the entire New Testament. No exaggeration.

The parable to which I refer is most commonly entitled, “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” and it is found in Luke 16.

Now, you might be wondering, What does this parable in Luke 16 have to do with John 11 wherein the religious leaders “from that time on… began to plot Jesus’ death?”

Honestly, it has everything to do with John 11.

So much so, that if you don’t understand this parable — the meaning of it, and just as importantly, the timing of it — you won’t understand John 11. You won’t understand the motivations of those who began to plot Jesus’ death.

In terms of how hard a person’s heart can become, this is nothing short of breathtaking. Breathtaking.

Now, I’ve got to tell you here at the outset, I am so excited about this discussion for a number of reasons.

  • First, we are going to learn together how properly to interpret a parable, along with what never to do when trying to understand a parable.
  • Second, we are going to see in real time the lengths to which Jesus went to reach out to these murderous religious leaders, all an expression of His love undying love for them.
  • Third, we are going to lay the foundation for all that is to follow, both the why and the how of the coming events that inexorably lead to the crucifixion of Jesus.

To once-more-quote that telling phrase from John 11, “From that time on…” Jesus days are numbered. And that now of days will now rapidly grow smaller.

The curtain is now coming down fast and furious on Jesus’ life.

This here in John 11 truly is a watershed moment.

What I need you to understand is this: In the chronology of Jesus’ life and ministry, the plot to kill Jesus in John 11 is linked directly to the parable Luke 16.

Let me read to you the parable, and then we will talk about.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Fox in the Henhouse

There is No.Clearer.Picture in all of the Bible of the heart of God towards sinners — I’m talking the hardest of hardhearted sinners — than this one right here in Luke 13.

A Scriptural snapshot that will go a long way to defining your biblical view of God and your biblical understanding of Jesus, both as a man and as God.

If you think of the Bible as a picture book, Luke paints for us a portrait of Jesus that is, quite frankly, irresistible, and most refreshing to my soul. It will be to yours as well. Guaranteed.

One that comes to us, ironically enough, thanks to a small cadre of good Pharisees. Yes! Heard me right. Good Pharisees.

The Pharisees as a group, as we have discussed in weeks gone by, and as you therefore understand, were historically among Jesus’ chief tormentors. That being said, there were in the minority some good Pharisees.

  • Nicodemus comes to mind as a good Pharisee, one who lovingly cared for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.
  • In Mark 12, Jesus told a good Pharisee that he was “not far from the Kingdom of God.”
  • In Acts 15, reference is made to a number of good Pharisees who were committed Christ-followers.
  • And here in Luke 13, we find a small group of good Pharisees who traveled likely from Galilee to Perea to warn Jesus about the murderous intentions of Antipas.

This, my dear friends, is quite a gripping story.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Setting the Record Straight

Jesus made quite a splash (pun intended) when He stood up at the Feast of Tabernacles to declare to the crowds that He was the source of “living water.”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, He only added to the drama of this most remarkable moment the very next day when He declared Himself to be the “light of the world.”

I mean, you talk about a guy who never failed to polarize a crowd, meet Jesus. The hundreds of thousands in that crowd on those days either loved Him or hated Him.

Just like today.

One thing for sure: No one in that crowd, that Josephus numbered at three million, could ignore Him.

Just like today.

It is today as it was then.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you as you listen.

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A Scandal in the Making

With this PODCAST, we break the seal on the last year of Jesus’ life here on earth.

And admittedly, His last year begins on a rather ominous note.

Immediately following this story, Jesus will leave the country. That is no exaggeration. For the first time in His storied 3½ year ministry, Jesus now has to get out of Dodge, fast!

As we have seen in past podcasts, Jesus was run out of His adopted hometown of Capernaum. He was then run out of Nazareth, His boyhood hometown. On top of that, Herod Antipas was hunting Jesus in order to kill Him (this in the wake of Herod’s senseless execution of John the Baptizer). 

And NOW we read this in Mark 7:24:

Then Jesus left Galilee and went North to the region of Tyre (in modern-day Lebanon).

Yes, indeed. Jesus was literally run out of Galilee and run out of the country. Something significant happened in this story, here in Mark 7, that forced Jesus to go North and out of the country, rather than South to the familiar environs of His beloved Jerusalem. 

What in the world happened?

What did Jesus do?

Or more accurately, what did Jesus fail to do?

A failure that caused a cataclysmic religious scandal. A scandal so serious that Jesus fled to the North. Which, by the way, is the exact same word that Matthew used in his telling of this story: “scandal.”

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you as you listen.

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When Hopelessness Met Gentleness

She was a footnote in this chapter of the Jesus Story. But she was NEVER a footnote to Jesus.

And neither are you, as you will be reminded in this poignant PODCAST.

If I had to choose one word to describe this woman — and let me assure you, there are many to choose from, such as desperate, fearful, impoverished, unclean, shunned, rejected, lonely, isolated, alone, damaged — If I had to choose one word to describe this woman, the one word I would choose is invisible.

She was indeed invisible. Totally and completely invisible.

She was invisible to her family, her former friends, her neighbors, her faith community… No one gave a thought to, or cared one whit about, this poor precious woman.

Except for Jesus.

If you have ever been tempted to think that Jesus is mean, harsh, angry, impossible to please, time to meet this woman — who will never look at Jesus the same way again.

And neither will you.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it might take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play. And PLEASE, if it is a blessing, consider sharing a link to this podcast with your family and friends.

God bless you as you listen.


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Straight Talk About Spiritual Abuse — What it is, Why it happens, and What we can do to guard ourselves and our loved ones from it

Spiritual Abuse is a much-neglected, but all-too-common condition in our Christian circles. So let the conversation begin!

What Spiritual Abuse is, why it happens, and how we can guard ourselves and our friends from its devastation. I don’t often beg. But I am begging you now: PLEASE Listen, and then PLEASE “Share” this message with your friends.

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The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home

I had an epiphany last week. Though I must admit the circumstances are kind of embarrassing.

Embarrassing only because my brilliant burst of insight came as I was speaking at The Safe Haven. (Kind of like when years ago I asked my senior pastor why he was listening to a tape of one of his own messages. To which he replied, “I’m getting blessed.”)

Well, believe it or not, as I was in the midst of listening to myself even as I was giving the message, I got blessed. I received an epiphany.

We were explaining exactly what Jesus meant when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, 

But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 5:20 NLT)

Strong words that demand an explanation. (In case you’re curious, you can listen to the entire explanation by clicking on this PODCAST LINK.)

Naturally, Jesus presupposed that His listeners knew all too well what He meant by “the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees,” while we might not.

So, as I love to do (as you well-know if you ever listen to the podcast), I let Jesus explain His own reference in His own words. Turns out, He told a trilogy of stories in order to leave absolutely no ambiguity about who and what these “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” were and are. (Cuz truth be told, Pharisees are not limited to the Jewish tradition of Jesus’ day; we have plenty of modern-day Pharisees haunting the hallowed halls of our churches in our day. But I digress.)

The third of this trio of stories that Jesus told — directed squarely at the Pharisees each — is the most familiar of the three. We typically refer to this story — inaccurately so — as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But it’s not a story about the prodigal son at all. Oh sure, the prodigal son (the younger son, the one who represents so many of us in this tale of two sons) is featured quite prominently in the story. But the younger son is not the focus of the portrait that Jesus so eloquently paints. The younger son is the frame of the portrait; the focus of the portrait is the older son — the son who represents the “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees.” I know this because if you read the opening verses of Luke 15, wherein this story appears, you see quite clearly that Jesus told these stories to the Pharisees about the Pharisees.

Long story short, the younger son squanders his still-living father’s estate as he defiantly descends into the netherworld of lascivious living, heaping scorn and sorrow upon his family in the process.

The dad in the story never gives up on his son, even as it seems the son has forsaken his family forever. Dad’s out on the front porch, scanning the horizon in the hopes that one day, maybe, perhaps, his son will come home.

And come home he does.

Broken, repentant, sorrowful — his son just wants to come home.

And dad (the God-like-figure in the story) welcomes him home with open arms, a bear hug, a lavish display of gifts, and nary a word of rebuke. He pulls out all the stops and commences to throw his now-returned son one wingding of a party.

Which is where the rendering of this story usually stops, #MissingTheWholePoint!

Dad’s acceptance of the younger son causes the older son — the Pharisee-like-figure in the story, as in the people to whom Jesus told this story — to blow a gasket. He judges the younger son. He condemns the younger son. He compares his righteousness — his self-righteousness — to the younger son’s sinfulness. 

And that’s the point of the story.

And that’s the same point Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount.

The “righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law” was a self-righteousness, a self-righteousness that Jesus abhors.

You see, fact of the matter is, repentant people just want to come home. God will ALWAYS welcome them home. 

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

But many so-called “Christians” will.

Which goes to the heart of the story, and the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.

While self-righteous, Pharisee-like, judgmental church-goers live to wag an accusing finger at and spout out verses to those of us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, thereby making us feel so worthless, so beaten down, so spiritually exasperated, so religiously-wounded, so unaccepted and unacceptable…

…God constantly scans the horizon ALWAYS at the ready to give us the warm and sustained embrace of His acceptance, and a heartfelt “Welcome home,” to each of us who just want to come home.

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

Which leads me to my epiphany: That’s exactly why we started The Safe Haven. 

The Safe Haven is an older-son, Pharisee-free zone where anyone can come at any time. People just like us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, who are broken and repentant, who just want to come home. Home to God. Home to His loving embrace. Home to His never-condemning, always-welcoming, unconditional acceptance. 

A place where people can come home no matter how distant they have traveled, how far they have fallen, or how epically they think they have failed. A family of the flawed. A place where anybody can come home anytime, from anywhere — NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

People ask me weekly, what is this Safe Haven thing you’ve started. And now, thanks to my mid-sermon epiphany, I finally know how to answer them.

The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home.

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