Instructive illustrations about Kingdom authority
Mar 14, 2014
Jesus’ return from the Mount with the three chief disciples is a picture of Christ’s second coming with the manifested Sons of God. John tells us in Revelation 20:2 tells us, Satan will be bound for a thousand years. And so Jesus first act upon returning is to cast out the unclean spirit in the demoniac in Luke 9:42.
The disciples’ discussion on the way back to Capernaum is like a commentary to help us understand the authority of the Sons of God and their relationship to the rest of the Church. It is noteworthy that Jesus did not actually dispute the claim of the three disciples of being greater in the Kingdom. He said nothing in any of the gospels that might indicate democratic equality. He only laid down the rules about how to obtain Kingdom authority.
In fact, as we will see later, Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:12-27 shows clearly that those who are faithful in the life will receive authority over others, some ruling ten cities, some five. We see the same in Luke 12:43, 44, where Jesus says,
43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44 Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
But to obtain Kingdom authority, one must not do what the world does—nor even what much of the Church does as they imitate the world. The way up is down. The path to authority is to become a servant to all. This is the great paradox of Kingdom authority.
Jesus’ Teaching in Matthew 18
Matthew 18 is an entire chapter devoted to Jesus’ teaching about the nature of authority and its exercise. Because of his Jewish audience, Matthew gives Jesus’ commentary on the law. Matthew gives voice to Moses; Luke gives voice to Elijah. Even as Elijah was called to “restore all things” (Mark 9:12), so also Luke was a doctor trained in healing the body and restoring the breaches. Matthew 18:6-10 warns of stumbling blocks in one’s own life as well as putting stumbling blocks in front of the “children.” This is His explanation of Leviticus 19:14,
14 You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
In Matthew 18:12-14 Jesus speaks of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to search for the one lost sheep. Because this is in the context of Christ’s return from the Mount, it shows that His second coming is to find the missing sheep so that none are lost. It is also a commentary on the law of lost sheep in Deuteronomy 22:1,
1 You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman.
Matthew 18:15-20 tells people how to judge using proper court procedure. Verse 16 quotes the law of witnesses, which is the foundational law of proper judgment. It is taken from Deuteronomy 19:15,
15 A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:2 that “the saints will judge the world,” so obviously, this is one of the duties of the manifested Sons of God who return to earth after their presentation to the Father on the eighth day of Tabernacles.
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus gives a lesson on forgiveness and the law of Jubilee. How often should we forgive? Seven times? No, “up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). This law is based on the Sabbath laws, where debts were remitted (set aside, held in abeyance) in the seventh year but were fully forgiven in the year of Jubilee. The “seventy times seven” applies it to the cycle of ten Jubilees (490 years), foreshadowing Jesus’ death on the cross. After the “seventy weeks” of Daniel 9:26 had passed, Jesus paid for the debt of sin and obtained forgiveness for the sin of the world (1 John 2:2).
This final parable of the debtor is the climax of Jesus’ instruction in the law for those who aspire to be the Sons of God in the First Resurrection.
The Denominational Spirit
Luke’s focus is not directly on Jesus’ law teaching, but upon the events which illustrate the work of the manifested Sons of God and the proper use of Kingdom authority. While these principles certainly apply to us today, they show also how Jesus will deal with the people of the world at His second coming. Luke 9:49, 50 says,
49 And John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to hinder him because he does not follow along with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.”
The world is full of denominations and religions that divide mankind into groups of “us and them.” It appears that someone in Caesarea Philippi was willing to follow the example of Jesus and the disciples. Jesus’ disciples thought that casting out demons was their own prerogative. Jesus corrected their denominationalist thinking. Their mission was not to have exclusive authority to do these things, but to teach others by example.
The same is true of the revelation of the word. Jewish thinking, as seen in the Talmud, forbids Jews to teach the law to non-Jews, as if only Jews are capable of understanding the law. They see the law as their own private property instead of the revelation that they are to dispense to all nations. The Abrahamic promise was to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). But being raised in that culture, the disciples still had to learn that God was interested in bringing all men into the fullness of His Spirit. The “chosen” ones were called to teach others the laws of the Kingdom, so that all men might do the works of God.
How to Treat the Opposition
Luke’s second illustration is in Luke 9:51-56.
51 And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.
This trip to Jerusalem does not appear to be His final trip to Jerusalem where He was to be crucified. It is an earlier trip, because in Luke 10:1 Jesus appointed the seventy to go out on a mission trip. We do not know how long that mission trip took, but even so, Jesus did a lot more teaching before He went to Jerusalem to be crucified.
Further, it seems strange that Luke would say “the days were approaching for His ascension.” Why not His crucifixion? Why would Luke look beyond His death and resurrection all the way to His ascension? It seems more likely that this is not a reference to Jesus’ ascension to heaven, but rather to an ascension to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was uphill from Jericho, and the biblical terminology always spoke of going up to Jerusalem. (See 1 Kings 12:28; Ezra 1:3; Mark 10:33.) The “Songs of Degrees” found in Psalms 120-134 each are called “A Song of Ascents” (NASB). These are psalms that people sang as they “went up to Jerusalem.”
When we compare Luke’s account with that of Matthew, we may also see that this earlier trip to Jerusalem took Jesus through Samaria (Luke 9:52), which was a more direct route. But in His final journey to the city, He went around Samaria by crossing the Jordan and taking the highway south to Jericho (Matthew 19:1). This was the route that most of the people took, because there was hostility between the Jews and Samaritans.
Luke 9:52-53 continues,
52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. 53 And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem.
The messengers were sent to make arrangements for accommodations. It was normal in that culture to be hospitable to travelers. For Jesus to ask a Samaritan village for hospitality was nearly unprecedented in those days, for no well-known rabbi or teacher would have entered the home of a Samaritan. In their eyes, this would have defiled them and prevented them from keeping a feast for the next week (See John 18:28.)
So this incident is extraordinary. No doubt Luke includes it to show Jesus’ attitude toward Samaritans. The Samaritans themselves were a mixture of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24), along with a remnant of Israelites who had escaped captivity. Their religious temple was on Mount Gerazim, rather than Jerusalem.
The people of the Samaritan village refused to be hospitable to Jesus and His disciples, because they were headed toward Jerusalem. The reaction of the disciples showed the typical Jewish attitude of the day, for we read in Luke 9:54,
54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
This judgment seemed to conform to the incident where Elijah called down fire from heaven upon the soldiers sent by King Ahab to arrest him (2 Kings 1:10-12). Secondly, take note that James and John did not ask Jesus to do this. They asked, “Lord, do you want US to command fire to come down…” Thirdly, it was James and John—two of the three who had just recently accompanied Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration—who suggested this judgment upon the Samaritan village.
Once again, the issue of Kingdom authority remains the underlying theme in this illustration. But it appears that Jesus deliberately went through Samaria in order to have opportunity to correct His disciples idea of the proper use of authority and judgment. Surely Jesus had to know that the Samaritans would refuse to give them hospitality, and yet He sent messengers to ask them for it.
This smells like a setup from the beginning. Jesus wanted to correct their nationalistic ideas which they had been taught since childhood. They needed to understand that the mission of Elijah was not to call down fire from heaven, but to “restore all things” (Mark 9:12). In other words, the literal fire that Elijah called down under the Old Covenant changes under the New Covenant. We now call down the fire of the Holy Spirit so that men may be restored by the baptism of fire, which is the presence of God.
Luke 9:55, 56 gives Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question,
55 But He turned and rebuked them… 56 And they went on to another village.
The KJV adds words to this, which are not in the original Greek manuscripts. The NASB puts those extra words in brackets. Dr. Bullinger’s notes read, “This clause is omitted by all the texts.” Panin’s Numeric New Testament agrees. The inserted text in the KJV may well reflect what Jesus said to the disciples, but we cannot prove this by the text itself.
It is enough that Jesus rebuked His disciples for their hostility toward the Samaritans. It appears that they received hospitality at the next Samaritan village. This receptive village no doubt showed the disciples that not all Samaritans rejected them. If they had destroyed the first village by fire, their reception at the next village would have been quite different, for they probably would have accepted Christ by fear and hatred, rather than by love.
This is part 49 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
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