Teachings Beyond the Jordan

Jesus Journeys Beyond the Jordan (John 10:40-42)

            Jesus leaves the Judea area and moves to the other side of the Jordan into the region the Romans called Perea. He returns to the area where John had once baptized (John 1:28), which is call Bethany beyond the Jordan, or Bethabara. Since John uses the word “again,” this is at least the second time that Jesus was in the area, the first being the occasion of his baptism (John 1:29-34; Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:3). Other times can’t be ruled out since the gospels do not record every moment (John 21:25).

            It is interesting to note that even though John performed no miracles, the people recognized him as a prophet of God. And that is because the things John stated about the Messiah was all coming true in Jesus. As a result people believed on Jesus.

How Many will be Saved? (Luke 13:23-30)

            At some point, a man asked Jesus if few are being saved. The Jews were noted for their belief of being exclusively God’s chosen people, so in contrast to the world’s population we can see how they would arrive at the thought that only few men would be saved. However, the source of this question likely comes from statements in the Old Testament regarding the saving of a remnant (II Kings 19:31; Ezra 9:8; Isaiah 1:9; 10:20-22; 28:5; Jeremiah 23:3).

            Jesus first points out that the way to salvation is narrow. It is restrictive and doesn’t allow many variations. Many will desire to enter, but will not seek the one way in (Matthew 7:13-14). To enter heaven requires effort on the part of the person wanting in to go through the gate God has established. You cannot coast into heaven or arrive there accidently. The word “strive” in the Greek literally means to agonize (I Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1).

            Secondly, Jesus points out that there is a limited window of opportunity to enter (Isaiah 55:6; II Corinthians 6:2). He states that some will want to claim salvation through loose association. Just because they were Jews and had seen Jesus, it doesn’t mean they will be saved. Nor can a person remain in his sins, being disobedient to God, and expect to be saved (Matthew 7:21-23).

            How terrible it will be to see all those who do enter, but you yourself are excluded, knowing you could have been among that number if you had just put in the effort. The number, though relatively few, will still be vast. Nor will those entering only come from one nation. People will be able to enter from all walks of life and from all points of the globe.

            The results will be the opposite of what those standing there expect. The Jews thought they had salvation because of their birth, but Jesus is pointing out that the Gentiles would enter before many of them (Romans 9:30-31; Matthew 11:20-24; 21:31).

Herod Seeks Jesus’ Life (Luke 13:31-35)

            Jesus receives a warning from some Pharisees that Herod is seeking to kill him. This tells us that the events in Luke 13:23ff are taking place in Perea where Herod Antipas is ruling and not in Judea where the Roman governor Pilate holds jurisdiction. It was Herod who had killed John the Baptists and it is likely that the Pharisees hoped to scare Jesus out of their region. And it is likely from Jesus’ response that Herod had sent these men with the warning.

            In Jesus’ reply he calls Herod a fox; that is, a sly and crafty fellow. Jesus saw through the warning and perceived its actual motive. Jesus uses an illustration of three days – not three literal days, but as an expression of a short period of time (Hosea 6:2). His reply is that he is going to spend a short amount of time healing the people and then will be on his way when his obligations are finished (“perfected” – Philippians 3:12). In other words, Jesus is telling Herod he would be going shortly, but on his own terms and not because of Herod’s threats.

            Besides, it is “traditional” for prophets to be killed in Jerusalem. Thus Jesus again indicates that he knows he will shortly die and where that death will take place. Even knowing the terrible fate awaiting him, Jesus’ sorrow is for the people of Jerusalem. Like a hen shelter’s her chicks under her wing when danger threatens, Jesus desires to shelter the people of Jerusalem, but they willfully refuse to accept his care. (Notice this again shows free-will on the part of people.) As a result, the presence of God is being withdrawn as it was in the day of Ezekiel. Jesus himself would not be seen in Jerusalem until his triumphal entry (Matthew 21:9). The later remark serves as proof that the former remark (the removal of God’s presence) is true.

Healing of a Man with Dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)

            Once again Jesus is invited into the home of a leading Pharisee on a Sabbath day. Again we see that the reason is not good will but as an opportunity for the Pharisees to watch Jesus closely for something to bring against him.

            Seeing a man with dropsy, Jesus asks the lawyers and Pharisees present if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. The man might not have been one of the guests, but simply a man who came seeking aid from Jesus. Dropsy is a disease that causes water to be retained and the body to become bloated. The modern term for this disease is edema. After all the accusations the lawyers and Pharisees had made in the past, it seems strange that they chose not to answer Jesus’ direct question. Perhaps they feared to take Jesus on and be humiliated as they had in the past. Or, perhaps they knew that there was no law against it, only their traditions. Either way, since they made no objection in advance, they could not object after the fact either.

            Jesus took the man, healed him, and sent him on his way. He then reminds those present that Moses’ law required giving aid to a distressed animal (Deuteronomy 22:4). They would give aid, even on the Sabbath day because that is what God required. The implication is that in their desire to trap Jesus they would deny a fellow man aid, thus treated him with less kindness than an animal. They understood Jesus point, but could not defend themselves.

Advice to Guests and Hosts (Luke 14:7-14)

            Noticing how the guests at the dinner were vying for the best seats, Jesus begins teaching them proper etiquette.

            Instead of trying for the best seats, a guest should take the least desirable seat. In this way, if the host wants to honor someone else, the guest won’t suffer the humiliation of being removed from the honored spot. If the host is bothered by your choice of seating, he will move you to a better location, thus honoring you by his attention. When you exalt yourself, you have no where to go but down. When you humble yourself, you have no where to go but up.

            To hosts, Jesus advised them to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind to their dinners instead of friends, family, and others who would likely repay their generosity. If a person truly desires to do good, they should do deeds where they cannot benefit from them themselves. Then they will be numbered among the just at the resurrection and their reward will be from God.

Parable of the Diner (Luke 14:15-24)

            Hearing Jesus speak of reward, one guest, likely thinking he would be among the rewarded, said, “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” The Jews looked forward to the Messiah establishing a kingdom on earth which would bring the Jews back into glory. To the Jew, it would be a time of great joy and celebration.

            In response, Jesus tells a story of a man who prepares a feast, but none of his invited guests came, each excusing himself for different reasons, but all of them lame. One said he bought some land and needed to look at it. But who in their right mind would buy land sight unseen? And even if someone did, nothing would change if he delayed a bit for a dinner. Another claimed to have bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to see if he made a good purchase or not. Again, to buy something without first testing it is foolish, but even so attending the dinner would not change matters. Yet another said he just got married, but if he attended the feast, he would still be married. He knew this feast was coming up before his wedding. Besides, he could have asked if he might bring his wife along.

            Each excuse illustrates the excuses people give for not joining the church. People allow the world, business, and family to distract them from serving God, yet each excuse is pretty lame when it is examined. Each excuses centers on it being newer than the original invitation. Thus the novelty of the world seems more important than the old invitation. These are the excuses the Jews have been giving to God for not following Jesus. Each gets more impolite as they progress from a “need” to a “desire” to a blunt statement.

            The host, determined to have a feast anyway, had his servant bring in people off the streets. These people were glad to accept the invitation, and yet there was room for more, so the homeless were sought out and encouraged to come so that home of the master could be filled. But he vowed that he would not have at his dinner those who refused him.

            What Jesus is implying is that the common people, the poor, and the spiritually ill are all eagerly entering the kingdom while those who were originally invited – the Jews – were finding excuses not to become a part of Christ’s kingdom.