Stumbling Block (2 of 2)

stumbling blocks 9

(Continued from yesterday)

But the greater problem the Jews had, in addition to stumbling over Christ, is that they set up their own stumbling block of iniquity:
Ezk 7:19 … for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling.
• Ezk 14:3-4 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, …
• Ezk 14:7 For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, …
• Ezk 18:30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you.
• Ezk 44:12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn against them,” declares the Lord GOD, “that they shall bear the punishment for their iniquity.

Synonymous terms include lawlessness, and immorality:
Mt 13:41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,
• Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

So the Jews stumbled over their own idolatry and iniquity, which separated them from God:
Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.

Beware of stumbling blocks, and make sure you are not a stumbling block to others.

Stumbling Block (1 of 2)

stumbling blocks 10

Q. Why is Jesus a stumbling block to Jews in 1 Co 1:23 “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness”? Didn’t God want His chosen people saved?

A. God wants His chosen people saved, but on His terms, not theirs. In Jesus’ days the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (the Christ, the anointed one) was that He will be a mighty conqueror, overthrowing the Romans and restoring the kingdom to Israel:
Mk 1:7 And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. (Also Lk 3:16; Acts 13:25)
• Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

They were looking for a military deliverer, similar to the judges in OT times, only greater. Jesus, however, was gentle and humble in heart (Mt 11:29) and did not fit their expectation, so they stumbled over Him.

Secondly, the Jews were pursuing a law of righteousness (Rom 9:31) i.e. they were trying to establish their own righteousness by works. They did not pursue righteousness by faith, so they stumbled over the stone of stumbling and rock of offense i.e. Christ:
Rom 9:32-33 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
• 1 Pet 2:8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

They stumbled because they were disobedient to the word, which says “the righteous will live by his faith” (Hab 2:4).

In summary, Jesus is a stumbling block to Jews because their preconceived notions about the Messiah prejudiced them, and their pride led them to perform to save themselves instead of trusting in the cross.

(To be continued)

Are You the Expected One?

Lk 7 19 a

Q. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus he already knew He was the Savior. If that is the case why then did he have to send his own disciples out to ask if He is the One again?

A. Yes, John already knew Jesus is the Lamb of God and Son of God:
Jn 1:29, 34 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! … I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

However, in Lk 7 he sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the Expected One:
Lk 7:19-20 Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”
Why?

The first clue is in the parallel account in Mt 11:
Mt 11:2-3 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”

John had been put in prison by Herod since Mt 4:12 (see also Mk 1:14; Lk 3:20), so he had been languishing in jail for months. The Jewish expectation of the Messiah at that time was that He would be a political deliverer, rescuing Israel from Roman oppression. Being in prison, John was discouraged and confused. If Jesus were the Messiah, why hasn’t He destroyed the forces of evil, delivered Israel, and judged all unrighteousness? As a minimum, why has He left His forerunner (Lk 1:17) in prison? It is the same with us, when we are going through difficulties and discouraged, we often forget and doubt what we knew to be true. So John sent his disciples to seek reassurance.

Jesus reminded John of the works of the Messiah predicted in the OT:
Isa 29:18 On that day the deaf will hear words of a book,
And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
• Isa 35:5-6 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
• Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

Even someone as great as John was influenced by expectation of the masses. The remedy is always to go back to Scripture – What does the Bible say, not what everyone thinks. Furthermore, when studying the Bible, look at the total picture, not just what some passage say, or you might misinterpret by leaving out key elements. When you are in the dark, don’t doubt what you knew as truth in the light.

The Four Gospels (6 of 6)

prophet priest king 6

(Continued from yesterday)

iv) His whole ministry starting as a self-proclaimed Prophet (Lk 4:24), reaching a climax by people’s acceptance as the King riding the donkey into Jerusalem, and ending as a High Priest offering Himself.

• Lk 4:24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

I agree that in general Jesus commenced His ministry with the prophetic role, culminating in people recognizing Him as king in His triumphal entry, and ending with His high priestly role offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice. However, it is important to realize that He held these offices not consecutively but all the time. He did not become king and priest later on. He was king, prophet and priest throughout, even though people may not recognize Him as such.

v) The need for 4 gospels: Matthew (Kingship); Mark (Priesthood, the suffering Messiah who gave up His life as a ransom for many); Luke (Prophethood, the constant emphasis on the gospel by the Son of Man, in particular the massive records of His work outside Galilee in comparison with the other gospels); John (Son of God).

Scholars agree that Matthew’s emphasis is Jesus as King. Of the 14 direct reference to Jesus as son of David, and therefore heir to the throne,

• 9 appear in Matthew (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42),
• 3 are in Mark (10:47, 48; 12:35), and
• 2 are in Luke (18:38, 39).

Mark’s key verse indeed say He gave His life as a ransom for many. But Mark’s target audience is Gentiles. That’s why he did not include genealogies, Jewish customs and controversies, and fulfillment of OT prophecies. For this reason the consensus is that Mark’s focus is on Jesus coming to serve, His Servanthood, rather than His Priesthood.

• Mk 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

I fail to see the connection between Luke and Prophethood. Of the 80 times “son of Man” appear in the gospels (please refer to your concordance):

• 29 times are in Matthew,
• 13 times are in Mark,
• 26 times in Luke, and
• 12 times in John.

Matthew called Jesus “son of Man” the most, but we’ve already seen that he wrote for the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and King. The second evangelist to highlight this is Luke, so Jesus as the perfect Man is definitely his focus. He included a lot of details on His humanity not mentioned elsewhere e.g. tracing Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam, his infancy and childhood etc. While Ezekiel the prophet was called “son of man” in the OT, Luke’s emphasis is more on Jesus’ concern for the welfare of all people i.e. His priestly role, than His proclaiming God’s word or prophet role. I therefore do not see Luke as presenting Jesus the Prophet, and the Synoptic Gospels as presenting the threefold offices of Christ.

I have two concluding remarks to make. I commend your efforts in studying the Bible in detail, but the correct method of interpretation is exegesis – drawing the conclusions from the text – and not eisegesis – putting ideas into the text based on presuppositions. The latter reads meaning into the passage which were never intended by the author, and is dangerous.

The second is application. Analyzing the Bible for insights and is intellectually very challenging, but our goal should be how we can apply what we learn to further God’s kingdom, not to satisfy our theological curiosity. To borrow from Paul, “however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Co 14:19). I too would rather speak 5 words to evangelize and disciple, than 10,000 words which do not edify. I hope you don’t mind my speaking the truth in love.