September 15, 2018

Highlights in Hebrews 6

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 6 - Hebrews 2:10

Jesus our pioneer

1 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

Our main emphasis here is going to be on that word ‘pioneer’ but before we go there here is another thought from this verse.

Have you fully realised that you are a brother or a sister of the Lord of Creation? He is your elder brother. WOW and triple WOW!

The word translated ‘pioneer’ in the latest NIV or ‘author’ in the older one is quite tricky to get the full meaning of. Authors write down something that has not been written before; pioneers hack a new way through the jungle where no one has been before. I like to think of the word ‘pathfinder’ as a possible translation although I can’t find it in any version. A ‘pathfinder’ is a member of a unit of the British army whose dangerous job it is to go ahead of the main force; to identify where helicopters can land; to locate the enemy and where he can be best attacked. And those are just the things that Jesus did for us - with a bit of imagination.
What Jesus did was exceedingly dangerous - he actually had to die doing it. When the Lord God created our world he deliberately made it a chaotic place. It may seem strange to us but earthquakes, tsunamis, thunderstorms and so on are part of the very interesting place in which we live. Otherwise it would be a very boring place! He also ensured that we would not all be perfect, living to a ripe old age without any aches and pains or diseases on the way. But neither of those sets of chaotic problems are the worst part of life on this earth. No, the worst part is what men and women do to other men and women. The sinfulness of humans is the source of all the worst things that can happen to us. As a result suffering is a normal and almost essential part of our life experiences. Only in a comparatively few peaceful and quiet parts of the world can fortunate folk expect to live lives without suffering caused by humans.

It was the great and amazing intention of the Triune God that Jesus, the earthly embodiment of that Trinity, should be the pathfinder to force a way through the jungle of sinful humanity, to search out the enemy, Satan, and to die in doing so. In that victory his true people became his brothers and sisters. So, as the next verses say, “ Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”(2:11) and “ Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil”.(2:14)

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February 3, 2013

Luke Looks Back 30


Study 30 - Luke 24: 13-End

The Appearances and Ascension of Jesus.

We need to take an overview of all the major events that appear in this passage: the life and ministry of Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension; and consider their inter-relations.

Question 1: Why is it absolutely essential that the crucifixion and the resurrection did not happen until after the earthly ministry of Jesus was completed?

Who Jesus was – the representative and completely faithful Israelite who was also identified as God by the nature of the works he did, Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God – all this had to be firmly established before he could enter into his work of redemption. This is what the difficult phrase at the end of Rom 4: 25 means. Jesus was resurrected, therefore he was the Messiah, therefore he justifies us – brings us in Him into the Abrahamic family of God’s true people. Furthermore the Kingdom of God had to be announced, inaugurated and its establishment commence – a work that would not be completed until after the end of this age.

Question 2: What did the resurrection add to the crucifixion?

Two things. First proof. Dying on a Cross was easy! All you had to do was upset the Romans. So the resurrection looked back validating the crucifixion showing that it was not just another death but THE death, fundamentally important for everybody on this earth. Secondly it looked forward indicating that Jesus had inaugurated the days of the New Life possibility Rom 6: 4 – 11. Now we can be truly alive: slaves to righteousness and to God, no longer slaves to sin.

Luke may well have been getting near the end of his scroll by now so he tells us about just two carefully chosen accounts of appearances. The first of these (v 13 – 35 which we now read) is particularly full of theological and practical significance.

Question 3: Why did Jesus apparently threaten to move on? What does that say to us?

Not all the movement towards faith had to come from Jesus. The two disciples had to do something however slight to show that they were moving in heart and mind towards him. Exactly the same is true of us. We need to do something to show that faith is beginning to grow in our lives.

It was only when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, presumably using the same words and gestures he had used in the upper room, that they recognized him. But even as they saw who it was - were their mouths still wide open with shock - He disappeared.

Question 4: Why? Not why did they recognize him, that is pretty obvious, but why did he disappear at just that moment? Again, how does that translate into our experience, our lives?

John reported that Jesus said to Thomas “because you have seen me you have believed.; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus was following the principle behind that statement: faith is a matter of the will and conviction, without the simplicity of certain knowledge. Jesus constructed a situation that speaks directly to us many centuries later. We are to say “my Lord and my God” as Thomas did and will be even more blessed than he was.

Now we read Luke 24: 36 – 49.

Question 5: What is the main thing Jesus stresses in both these appearances, and that Luke is careful to stress in his accounts? He is obviously giving us the strongest possible hint as to how the church is to act through the ages? How well do we apply this to our context?

Jesus explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself on the road to Emmaus and he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures as they sat and ate in the upper room. This website is full of teaching about the scriptures. That is totally deliberate – this is what we were instructed to do in these verses. The old book of Common Prayer says of the scriptures we are: to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

I can’t say it better than that!

Finally we read Luke 24: 50 – 53.

Question 6: Why was the ascension important – couldn’t Jesus have just stopped appearing any more?

Jesus had to be seen to ascend to heaven where he would take his rightful place at the right hand of God, begin his rule as the Lord of all, and start his work of interceding for us as we struggle on here on earth. The Holy Spirit will come as Jesus said when he told them to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” He will have the power to enable us, you and me, to live the true life of the ages. Also this is the end of one great episode in the story of Redemption, the mission of Jesus, and the beginning of another, the mission of the Church.

Question 7: Why did Jesus leave them in the middle of blessing them? Can you see any long-term significance in that?

There is unfinished business to be done which they had to do from Jerusalem to the ends of their world and we have to do in our world!

And so we come to the end of our long journey through this fascinating Gospel. May you have received as much joy and blessing in hearing and reading and thinking about these things as we have had in the preparation of these notes. We hope to do the same thing with the second volume of Luke’s – the Acts of the Apostles – we hope you will join us on our journey through that fascinating book.

But before we sign off at the end of these notes here is a final question for you: we finished the last study with a challenge to you, particularly if you are not already a follower of Jesus, to think deeply about what you have heard. What conclusion did you come to?

If, perhaps, you have decided to start following Jesus from this time on we would like to encourage you to tell someone else, probably another follower of Jesus, about your decision. Doing that will help to fix the decision firmly in its place – in your mind, the mind of others and above all in the mind of the Lord God. Another way of doing that would be through this website, but that is a weaker way because we are not close to you seeing you living day by day.

Whatever you have decided and whatever happens from now on – may Jesus, the Lord, be with you and bless you. Amen.

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January 27, 2013

Luke Looks Back 29


Study 29-Luke 23:26–24:12

The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

All history pivots on the events described in these verses. The story is told with striking simplicity and absence of comment.

We read Luke 23:26 – 43.

Many people play a part in the judicial murder of Jesus. In order from Luke 22:47 on we read about:Judas, the arresting squad, Peter, the men guarding Jesus, the council of the elders, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, the crowd in front of Pilate’s house, the soldiers leading Jesus to his death, the watchers and rulers at the place called a Skull and the criminals on their crosses. For each of these we might:

  • Consider what their motives, if any, were for what they did.
  • Think of a present day situation where the same motives might be apparent.
  • Wonder which of these motives we might sometimes have ourselves.

Question 1: Select 3 people or groups of people from that list and consider:motive, present day equivalent and personal reflection for each of them.

The arresting squad, the men guarding Jesus and the soldiers were all obeying orders so motive doesn’t really come into it except for those who mocked Jesus rather more vigorously than they might have done. The problem of when to disobey orders is still with us. No one has ever been able to explain why Judas did what he did completely satisfactorily. Peter acted from a desire for self preservation, something we have probably all been guilty of in some small or large way at some time in our lives. The elders, Pilate, Herod and the rulers watching the crucifixion allowed political aims to dominate their thinking. They thought their ideas more important then the life of the most important man who ever lived. Some people still allow purely political aims to lead them to dreadful acts of wickedness. Only the friends watching beside the Cross, of whom the most important, according to John, were women and just one disciple, come out of the story with any credit at all. They had seen something in this man that transcended the danger of being associated with him. May we have the strength and courage to do the same.

Question 2: Paul talks about sharing Jesus’ sufferings (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10). For some of us those statements may be reflected in our own lives. What would we achieve by such suffering? Would any such sufferings be in any way redemptive?

Of course sufferings, by definition, are not pleasant. Such things give us a great sense of solidarity – these would give us a much enhanced sense of solidarity with Christ, of fellowship with him. And apart from our feelings there would be the practical experience of His glory that Paul also mentions.

We read Luke 23:44–56.

The tearing of the temple curtain symbolises the opening of the way to God to everybody – you and me included. Each and every attempt by men to re-erect a barrier to God by saying that only they have full access, or only in their way is it possible to approach God, is sadly mistaken. After the death of Jesus the action moves to the apparent outsiders:Joseph of Arimathea was not one of the leading disciples and the women were second rate citizens in the thinking of those days.

Question 3: Which one sentence of the story of the crucifixion will you take away as the most memorable for you?

Different people would give different answers to this. For me, I think it is that brief comment “the centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God” because that mirrors my thoughts as I read about what happened. And so we come to the resurrection.

We read Luke 24:1 – 12.

This is one of the four accounts of what happened that we have. They do not exactly agree about what happened, differing in the way that eye-witness accounts of any surprising, unexpected, event will do. The women set out to do the obvious, necessary things, for a dead person. They did not agonize in prayer about what they should do (did they leave that to the male apostles?). They were hugely blessed as a result of undertaking the obvious tasks. Is this a lesson for us?

Question 4: Why was it women (in those days considered unreliable witnesses to anything!) who were there first? What are we expected to learn from the fact that they were first to meet the risen Lord (according to Matthew and John)?

The NT challenges the way women were thought of and treated in those days. It does this obliquely, rather than directly in gospel stories like this, in the way Paul refers to women particularly in the last chapter of Romans where Priscilla has a dominant role in what she does with her husband, in what is said of Phoebe, in that Junias, a woman, is called an apostle, and many other women are mentioned and commended, all in this same chapter. The church, like the societies in which it has existed for most of its history has been male dominated. We need to be careful to think about the balance we see in scripture.

The most important event in the history of the world was the death of Jesus on the Cross, for that act alone atoned for the rebellion of all men and women, including you and me, against God. That we know this is the correct understanding of what happened is because of what followed – the resurrection of Jesus to the new life of the ages. Had he not risen he would have been just one more of the many failed would-be Messiahs of those days. There would have been no church, no Christian movement. Many people have tried to argue that it did not happen. None of them have given a satisfactory explanation of what did happen. We know without the slightest doubt that there was a Jewish nation there when Jesus was born and that a remarkable movement of people known as Christians started very soon after his death.

Something happened in between to cause the move from one to the other. What was it? Only the Biblical account recorded in the four gospels makes any sense of the gap. We – you – have to come to terms with what happened and decide how we – you – are going to respond to it. The next, and last, study in this series considers the two episodes describing what happened when disciples met the risen Christ. These are clearly written to challenge any and every reader or hearer to faith. So, if you are not already a follower of Jesus, you are going to be challenged to think deeply about what you have heard. Will you be prepared to follow Him, whatever the cost may be?

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January 20, 2013

Luke Looks Back 28


Study 28-Luke 22: 47 – 23: 25

The arrest and trials of Jesus.

The story now moves steadily towards the death of Jesus. It is told with remarkable economy and simplicity in all four gospels. Not even the failure of the leading apostle and founder of the early church is left out.

Read Luke 22: 47 – 53.

Question 1: Would you be thinking more or less of the eleven now if they had NOT tried to defend Jesus with their two swords (22: 38, 49 ) probably against an overwhelming force? Why?

Their reaction to the approach of the crowd, which Mark describes as ‘armed with swords and clubs’, is an entirely natural one. It shows that they were not cowards. It also shows that they had not taken all of Jesus’ message really into their hearts and minds. Few of us have. Presumably the clash of one or two swords could easily have led to a more general skirmish in which Jesus could have been killed. But in the purposes of God his Son had to be tried, falsely accused, condemned and judicially killed. Without the legal decision of “guilty” Jesus would not have been dying for our sins. The universal responsibility of everybody for his death, symbolised by those directly involved, would not have been incurred. A great many prophecies, such as hanging on a tree (Deut 21: 23), would not have been fulfilled.

Read Luke 22:54–62.

Question 2: Peter lied - and lived to do much good work for his Lord. Was he justified in doing so? Should we do the same under certain circumstances? What circumstances? Is a life more important than the truth? When, and when not? In a way it is impossible to answer this question. We do not know, and neither did Peter, what would have happened if he had not lied. A life is more important in many ways than telling the truth yet the truth or the lie will define the life for ever. In the history of the church many, many people have refused to deny Christ and died. Let’s hope we never have to answer this question for real. Hebrews 6: 4 – 6 could be taken as a comment on what Judas did. Question 3: In the light of those verses what was the essential difference between the actions of Judas and Peter? What warning should we take from this? And what encouragement?

The action of Judas was taken completely deliberately; Peter stumbled unwillingly into his denials. So many of our sins occur when we too stumble unwillingly into error. It is a great relief for us that Peter was not cast away from his position but lived to do so much good and die for his Lord in due course, about 30 years later, in Rome.

Read Luke 22:63–23:25.

There seem to have been many meetings that night in the effort to find grounds to condemn Jesus. Luke only records a ‘trial’ at daybreak (22: 66); Mark records one in the early part of the night; Matthew and John add further details. Luke was writing to Theophilus, a senior Roman citizen, and that probably affected which episodes he was most interested in.

Question 4: In that case what things in the trials is he most likely to have wanted to concentrate on? It was important to him to try and show the Romans in as good a light as possible. Pilate had a very bad reputation in the Roman world anyway so he was not concerned with putting him in a good light. But he did want to show that there was a fair trial and that Jesus was condemned partly as a result of Jewish agitation and partly for Roman political reasons. His main concern was to establish who Jesus really was. So we have 3 titles in these verses: Messiah (or Christ, or Expected and Anointed One) (22: 67; 23: 2), Son of Man (22: 68) and Son of God (22: 70)

Question 5: When Peter looked back at these events he was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 2: 22 – 36). What made him so sure? If the council had accepted that Jesus was the Messiah what would that have meant for them? What actions would it have committed them to take?

Peter remembered the resurrection above all. That was the ultimate proof that Jesus was who he said he was. If the council had recognised Jesus as the sort of Messiah they expected they would have been in immediate revolt against Rome. They thought they would have had to take up arms and tackle the Roman army, which no one could do successfully.

Read Daniel 7:7, 13, 14, 17 – 28 again. How would the council have understood what Jesus said in 22: 69? How would the Roman authorities have understood his claim if they had known the background? A previous Caesar, Augustus, was the (adopted) son of Julius Caesar. After Julius was killed he was venerated as a god, which made Augustus a “son of god”! What would the idea that Jesus was the Son of God have meant to the council? What implications would it have had for the Roman authorities?

The crowd of 23: 13 must, in part at least, have been the same one we read about in 19: 37, 39. How can you account for such a major turn around? What should this caution us against? Who was most responsible for the condemnation of Jesus: the crowd, the Jewish leaders, the Roman authorities, or Jesus (Jn 10: 17, 18!)? Were we also responsible as those needing redemption?

Another obvious question we can ask ourselves, but never really answer until it happens, is: the trial exposed the forces, commitments and loyalties of all those involved: the council members, Pilate, the crowd and Jesus. Faced with similarly difficult choices how will we react? Will we cling to our securities and dreams and avoid moving out of our comfort zones, or will we ‘take up our cross’ and follow him?

It would have mattered a great deal as without the legal decision of “guilty” Jesus would not have been dying for our sins. The universal responsibility of everybody for his death, symbolised by those directly involved, would not have been incurred. A great many prophecies, such as hanging on a tree (Deut 21: 23), would not have been fulfilled. Of course, it could never have happened that way anyway (Jn 7: 30).

5) The action of Judas was taken completely deliberately; Peter stumbled unwillingly into his denials. 7) The Resurrection. 9) Angels, Israel as a people, and the king of Israel (Ps 89: 26, 27) are called sons of God in the OT. The last of these is the meaning implied here. The council would have understood him to be saying that he was the King of Israel (see 23: 2). The Romans would have thought him to be claiming to be one of the many gods of those days and probably would not have been too concerned by that.

10) As Messiah he was the representative Israelite and is now the representative Christian (Rom 5: 15 – 17). We are in Christ (the Messiah). As Son of Man he is a human being standing in our place (Heb 2: 17 – 18). As Son of God he is the Saviour who, being God, is able to die for us all (Heb 1: 3; 2: 9). 12) This has been much argued about through the centuries. The best answer is probably all of them, and us.

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January 13, 2013

Luke Looks Back 27


Study 27-Luke 22:1-46

Joys and Sorrows

In this chapter Jesus is a source of great strength and joy to his disciples as they gather to eat the Passover together. At the same time betrayal, misunderstanding and desertion surround him.

Read Luke 22:1–6.

Question 1: If ‘Satan entered Judas’ how responsible was Judas for what he did? When is it permissible for us to say ‘Satan entered somebody?

To answer the second part of the question first:it is very doubtful whether we should ever say this. Judas was fully responsible as he eventually recognised; Matt 27:3, 4 says ‘When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. I have sinned, he said, for I have betrayed innocent blood. What is that to us? They replied. That's your responsibility.

There is an interesting and important parallel in Isaiah 10 where we read:“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my (the Lord’s) anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation (that is Israel), I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.” But this is not what he (Assyria) intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations. When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, I will punish the king of Assyria for the wilful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says:'By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.’ So we see in that passage it is true both that the Lord in his sovereign power used Assyria to punish Israel and the Assyrians were completely responsible for what they did.

Here Judas was completely responsible for what he did even if in so doing he fulfilled the greater purposes of the Lord. That may not agree with our logic but that kind of both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility at the same time is the common teaching of the word of God.

As with the arrangements for the triumphal entry it seems likely that Jesus had pre-arranged the hire or loan of the room.

We read Luke 22:7–23.

Question 2: Luke is not interested in the detailed arrangements for the meal, which must have included things like the sacrifice of a lamb in the temple. What is he interested in? Can you think of any reason for that?

He is only interested in the human aspects of the story, the depth of fellowship it showed and the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper. He draws attention to the way this celebration was repeated in the very early church in his account in Acts. He expected the church to follow the main points of what Jesus did down through the centuries.

Question 3: What is the intended symbolism of the bread and the cup? What are the intended symbolisms in the way the elements must have been handled? How many of these symbolisms are lost the way your fellowship do it?

Bread was the common essential of life in those days. It was nothing special that Jesus used. The loaf had to be forcibly broken, as was the body of Jesus to be. The cup was poured out but none was spilt as the blood of Jesus was. It represented blood and therefore (life-giving) death. In addition this was a Passover meal so it also carried the symbolisms of Exodus 12, particularly perhaps the redemption under the covering blood and the sense of a meal to be eaten in haste, prepared to go on a great journey of faith.

It is up to you to think through how that relates to what your fellowship do when they celebrate this meal.

Question 4: Sadly the communion service/breaking of bread/eucharist/ mass has become the chief symbol of division in Christendom when it should have been the great symbol of unity. Why do you think this has happened?

Unfortunately men have sort power by claiming they, by reason of some office they hold, and they alone, have the right to dispense the elements and control the procedure. Very sad. There is surely no justification for any church or group of churches preventing Christians who are not of their fellowship from participating at the Lord’s Table.

Jesus called it the feast of the ‘new covenant’. Gen 17:3–8 is the original covenant with Abraham. Deut 5:1–4 records the covenant with Moses and the Israelites at Siana. Jer 31:31–34 promises a new covenant which this is. Many churches never really talk about covenants, new or old. They lose by not doing so.

Read Luke 22:24–38.

The dispute of v24 must have filled Jesus with dismay as it contradicted all that he had tried so hard to teach his disciples.

Question 5: In what ways are we most likely to contradict all that the communion service is meant to achieve in us even before we leave it? What should we learn from the words of Jesus responding to that dispute (v25–30)?

The tendency of men and women to want to feel superior to other people is always present where people gather together. Jesus reiterates his teaching that we are not to seek that superiority for ourselves remembering that such things will be reversed in the Kingdom anyway.

Question 6: The instruction to buy a sword (v 36) is very strange. There is no evidence that the early church ever did this. Should they have? How can we understand these verses?

Read Luke 22:39–46.

Luke’s account of Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives (v 39–46) is considerably shorter than Matthew’s (26:36–46) and Mark’s (14:32–42) accounts. What does Doctor Luke tell us to emphasise the importance of the event? What can we learn about prayer from this account?

And so the scene is set for the final hours of Jesus and the beginning of new possibilities in human life. That will be in our next study.

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