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Jesus Insults Religious People (On Purpose!)

We continue our series LOVE PRAY EAT, with this week’s message on Luke 11:37-54…

Jesus once again eats with the religious elite (see also 14:1-12), when one Pharisee is surprised by Jesus’ failure to wash before eating—something Jews did before meals, Bible study and prayer. Jesus is not long reclined at table when he issues four strident rebukes regarding the hypocrisy and abject failure of the Pharisees in their attempted devotion to God (11:39-44). 

We need to keep in context that the fact that Jesus is eating with the Pharisees indicates acceptance of them and fellowship with them. And as such, the early church, and us too, are being counselled on managing relationships with other hostile groups—perhaps even members of their own families. Jesus’ example is to continue table-fellowship with anyone. Being on the receiving end of a rebuke from Jesus does not necessarily mean exclusion and judgement (cf. 9:51), and Jesus will teach later “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (17:3). To Jesus, the Pharisees are brothers.

In this meal scene, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and lawyers because of their exclusion of the poor from their tables. Though these Jewish leaders are fastidious and disciplined in outward observances of purity such as ritual washings, and tithing their mint and rue, they are withholding alms for the poor (v. 41), neglecting justice and the love of God (v. 42), coveting places and positions of public honour (v. 43), burdening people and failing to help them (v. 46), persecuting the prophets sent by God (vv. 47-51), and withholding knowledge from the people and obstructing them in devotion to God (v. 52).

Jesus’ mission of salvation to bring good news to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed is implicit in his rebuke. Jesus does not shy away from challenging those who obstruct this good news, even when he is the meal guest in someone else’s home. As C.S. Lewis once said, “If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse. Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.” Jesus seeks to save them by his rebuke.

Jesus is passionate for the Word of God, passionate for holiness and utter obedience for God, moves in the power of the Holy Spirit and calls sinful people to stop sinning. On the other hand, he is scathing towards injustice, greed, empty religion and rituals, and is devoted to helping the poor and oppressed. How does he so beautifully integrate holiness and devotion to God with actions of justice, mercy and compassion? How can we integrate both faithfulness to God and His Word, and live lives of love, justice and service?

Nicholas Tuohy

The Lost and Lonely Find Love

As we continue our series LOVE PRAY EAT, here is the excerpt from the study guide for this week’s message on Luke 7:36-50…

That Jesus regularly dines with Pharisees in Luke’s Gospel may come as somewhat of a surprise. They were powerful, wealthy, respected and certainly not marginalised or considered outcasts. At one such dinner party he is reclining with the religious and cultural elite men of the town at Simon the Pharisee’s house, when suddenly a “sinful woman” gatecrashes the party. She would not have been welcome to dine in such a setting on at least two fronts: being a sinner and a woman. In a culture where women were veiled, she shocks everyone by letting down her hair, weeping, anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair.

Jesus tells a story about having debts forgiven which shows the woman is aware of her great debts but Simon is oblivious to his. Both need forgiveness from God to whom they are in debt—forgiveness that Jesus offers them. And Simon provided no water for Jesus’ feet; the woman wet them with her tears and wiped them with her hair; Simon did not give Jesus a greeting kiss; but the woman has repeatedly kissed Jesus’ feet; Simon did not provide oil for Jesus’ head; the woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.

Simon’s religion is one of pretence and façade and Jesus sharply criticises this upstanding and religiously devoted man. In Luke, how you share a meal with Jesus is a sign that either you accept him, or are judged by him.

The unnamed sinful woman finds peace at Simon’s dinner; we can only imagine peace was something that eluded Simon at the dinner table. What starts with a simple invitation to Jesus for a meal ends with Simon’s theological foundations and understandings strewn across the dinner table.

Luke shows in this story that anyone, regardless of reputation, is welcome at Jesus’ table and can offer service to Jesus’ mission. Even a “sinful” woman.

Biblical scholar, Reta Halteman Finger, says “food, meals, and eating together continue to convey strong symbolism”, and asks “if theology is communicated through meals, what kind of theology is the church communicating today?”

Who could you invite to your table this week to live this out?    

Nicholas Tuohy

When Jesus Gatecrashes Your Party

As we continue our series LOVE PRAY EAT, here is the excerpt from the study guide for this week’s message on Luke 5:27-39…

Tax or toll collectors in Jesus’ day were money-hungry traitors who had sold out their own people to get rich by serving the occupying power of Rome. This was who Levi was. In a shocking move, Jesus not only calls Levi to be his disciple, but accepts an invitation to go to his house for a party. The religious heavies press Jesus and ask, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 30). Jesus’ response in vv. 31-32 does not rebut the accusation that they are sinners, but Jesus states he has come calling sinners to repentance, which is a major theme in Luke-Acts. However, the call to repent does not deter sinners from feeling comfortable being around Jesus. (cf. 7:36-50; 15:1). And Jesus later relates the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin and exclaims that “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (cf Lk 15:1-8).

In their defence the Pharisees were only acting in accord with widespread beliefs and practice, not only within Judaism, but within the wider ancient world where sharing your table equalled spiritual oneness between parties. And as such, by eating with “sinners” Jesus is offering his kingdom to them.

Clearly then, Levi’s hospitality toward Jesus and the guests provide a location for Jesus’ mission to extend and proceed. The fact that Levi invites his friends and associates alludes to his own mission activity as he brings others to hear the good news, that the Messiah has welcomed him. He uses his networks and his home to allow the mission of Jesus to reach more people. In this sense, Levi, through his home and his party, becomes a missionary through whom the mission of Jesus is extended. And as such, Levi becomes a model to other believers—especially the rich—to do likewise. He had not gone to Bible college, didn’t do an internship, but was just very excited about meeting Jesus and wanted to share this good news with his mates.

A few thoughts to ponder: The devout religious folks were very upset over Jesus attending Levi’s party. Why do you think Jesus was willing to “eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners”? And how do you decide who you eat with? How might knowing Jesus influence whom you eat with?

Sociologist Rodney Stark notes that the primary transmission of religious conversion is social networking and friendships. That is, people come to faith mostly through friendship and social contact with other people of faith. Perhaps that’s one reason why Christianity grew so rapidly when churches were in people’s homes. What do you think was the impact on Levi’s social network after he became a passionate follower of Jesus? How might your own social network be impacted by your faith in Jesus? Do you look for opportunities to bring Christian and non-Christian friends together?  

Nicholas Tuohy

Reflection: The Lord’s Prayer

As we continue to ask the Lord Jesus, “Teach us to Pray,” here is a reflection on the Lord’s Prayer as a framework with which to pray daily.

 

Our Father in heaven…

  1. Understand your small place in the scheme of things: God is Mighty, Eternal and Powerful – we are tiny earth-dwellers! Stand in AWE of God.
  2. Jesus died for you to bring you to God. How much God must love you! You are a child of God. Take hold of this and thank God.
  3. ‘Our Father’ implies you belong to a family and community of believers. Are there any others in the church that need your prayers right now?

 

Hallowed be Your name…

  1. ‘Hallowed’ means sacred, holy, blessed, and sanctified. Get a picture and sense of how great God is and spend time praising and blessing His Name and Person.
  2. The Psalms are full of such language – start there and over time that praise language will become your native tongue.

 

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

  1. God’s kingdom and will is His reign and dominion. There are places in our world, and even in our own hearts, where this is not yet reality.
  2. Offer your whole life for God’s will and service. Pray to be a vessel for God’s purposes in the world, lovingly interceding for people and events.
  3. Desire and pray for the Reign and Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things.

 

Give us this day our daily bread…

  1. Petitions and requests form an aspect of prayer. The term ‘daily bread’ suggests God will give us what we need – not what we want. Ask God humbly and persistently for what you need, and do so in faith.
  2. Jesus said we don’t live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. Feed on the Scriptures, meditating and inwardly dwelling on God’s truth.

 

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…

  1. Our sins are what separate us from God. How wonderful that Jesus has taken our sins in his own body on the cross. He pays, we go free, he dies, we live.
  2. God wants to gradually transform us from the inside out. Be honest, confess your sins to God. Thank God that you are forgiven because of Jesus.
  3. Ask God to help you forgive those who have wronged and hurt you.

 

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

  1. As followers of Jesus we are still tempted and still sin. And we have very real spiritual enemies – satanic powers. Prayer is a humble act on our part where we acknowledge the reality that we need God’s help and protection constantly.
  2. Praise is a powerful weapon over evil. Praise God for Jesus’ victory over death and hell. Take hold of Biblical promises and pray them over your life and for others.
  3. Pray for protection. Ask God to teach you wisdom how to fight this battle.

 

For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen…

  1. All prayer anticipates the great and glorious future. The best is yet to come, God wins. Love, Justice, and Mercy triumph in the end.
  2. This hope is like the music that plays under our prayers – and that’s where faith is vital. Sometimes things don’t seem like they will end well – but God promises they will. Keep the end in mind – it is bright and beautiful!
  3. Ask God to help your life become a beacon of hope and light in dark places.

 

Let’s keep building a culture and practice of devoted prayer as a church.

Nicholas Tuohy

The God I Don’t Believe In

Unbelief is kind of the cultural vibe at the moment in the Western world. Doubt is the new black. Sociologists and demographers have coined a term for those with no religious affiliation: “the nones”. Written 45 years ago, John Lennon’s dreamy song, Imagine, has become a reality for “the nones” with its phrase “imagine no religion,” as has the classic R.E.M. anthem, Losing my Religion.  We see atheist writers and speakers taking on celebrity status and even churches for people who don’t believe in God.

And yet, globally speaking, religious faith and devotion is on the up and shows no signs of slowing down. Most people in the world believe in God or gods and the vast overwhelming majority of people in the world believe in the reality of spiritual, non-material life. So really, the question globally is not so much “do you believe in God,” but rather, “What sort of God/gods do you believe in?”

It’s within this context that we are exploring over the next little while what sort of God Jesus reveals to us.  We will ask questions of faith by starting with a negative: The God I don’t believe in. We want to thoughtfully and respectfully engage the erroneous caricatures of God that have become common in our culture. We want to ask: “what sort of God does Jesus reveal to humanity?” Maybe you do or don’t believe in God; either way, this series is for you.

Whoever you are and whatever you do or don’t believe about God, you are most welcome to come along to NightChurch at Kew Baptist, 5:30pm on Sundays. Perhaps you resonate with one of the images of God below? We would love you to hear what followers of Jesus really believe about God.

April 17 – The Arrogant God

How can Christians claim Jesus is the only way to God?

The Arrogant God – Sermon Notes

The Arrogant God – Discussion Questions

April 24 – The Intolerant God

Is faith just a repressive moral straitjacket?

The Intolerant God – Sermon Notes

The Intolerant God – Discussion Questions

May 1 – The Violent God

Doesn’t religion cause wars?

The Violent God – Sermon Notes

The Violent God – Discussion Questions

May 8 – The Uncaring God

How can God be good with so much suffering in the world?

The Uncaring God – Sermon Transcript

The Uncaring God – Questions

May 15 – The Homophobic God

Does God really hate gay people?

The Homophobic God – Summary and Discussion Guide

May 22 – The Ignorant God

Hasn’t science disproved the existence of God?

The Ignorant God – Questions

John Lennox – 7 Days of Genesis

June 19 – The Angry God

How can a loving God send people to hell?

The Angry God – Questions

June 26 – The Gender-Stereotyping God

The Gender-Stereotyping God – Questions

July 3 – Q&A Panel Night