What Kind of Test are You in?

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

What was Satan asking God for and why did he have to ask? The enemy wanted to shake Simon Peter’s faith, but because Peter was a believer, he had to ask for permission from God to sift and shake the apostle’s life. God allowed the test to come to Simon Peter because he would be a stronger disciple after his strong will was broken at his failure to testify for Christ. What kind of test was he given? There in the courtyard of the High Priest, Peter was asked three times if he had been with Christ. Each time Peter responded that he didn’t know Him. His heart was broken with remorse and repentance when the cock crowed, and he remembered Jesus’ words that before the cock crowed, he would deny three times that he even knew Christ. Peter was much too self-confident, and God allowed him to be humbled and broken before the Lord could use him to preach the gospel in power on the Day of Pentecost. After the trial of Peter’s faith, in spiritual terms, he came to a place of abundance. God knew Peter’s heart. He knew that he would deny Jesus, but He also knew that Peter would return and his faith would be restored.

Let’s say that you are a person who has a love for Christ, but when the going gets tough, and the fire gets hot in the midst of the refinery, you default to a lifestyle of denying that you know Christ by the way you live your life. It becomes easier to default to sin and disobedience when one is going through the fire of testing. You cease being an overcomer and go to default mode, allowing life to do to you whatever it will. What kind of test will God allow to come to us? To be prepared to face direct challenges to our faith, we need to overcome the everyday challenges of our lives. It is easy to go through life not thinking about such things, but the truth is that the choices we make daily are what prepares us for the tests in the future. If it ever became illegal to be a follower of Jesus, and you were asked if you knew Him, would you deny Christ? If you think that is a fantastic or ridiculous notion, consider this; such persecution for faith has happened in other parts of the world, and it is happening in many countries today. Whenever a government or regime comes to power that is in extreme opposition to the message of Christ, they will make Christians appear as a subversive group, working against the common good of the people. It is possible that taking a stand for your faith could mean intense persecution, loss of material goods, or loss of life. The early Christians experienced such things. Isn’t that the kind of test that Peter the apostle faced?

Another thought related to the passage above is that whatever trial we are going through, the Lord is praying for us as He was for Peter, that our faith will not fail. The Word of God says that he can save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). This is encouraging because we know that God hears His Son’s intercessory prayers for us.
Keith Thomas

He is Able to Help…

We are finishing off our meditation on Judas—why did he betray Christ? (Scroll down for earlier meditations). Some suggest that Judas was seeking to force Jesus’ hand to revolt against the Romans so that a confrontation would take place and Jesus would use His power to overcome Roman rule. Who knows what was in his mind as he walked to visit with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard? (Luke 22:4). What we do know is that Judas was watching for an opportune time and place to betray his master with a kiss on the cheek (verse 6) and that he had already received the thirty silver coins in payment for betraying Christ before the Last Supper:

14Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:14-16).

Thirty silver coins was the cost of a common slave in the time of Jesus (Exodus 21:32). The supreme Servant of all was valued and sold for the price of a common slave. Clearly this was not a rash decision made by Judas. In the verse from Matthew’s Gospel above, verse 16, Judas took time to think through how he was going to call the temple guards and betray Jesus. He waited for an hour of darkness, not knowing that it was also God’s hour for His Son to be glorified as the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Many of us go through this test of being betrayed by a friend, business partner, or relative. Has someone very close to you ever hurt you with their words and actions? No one can ever say to God, “You don’t know what it’s like.” Jesus took the worst that this world could throw at Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas walked up to Christ, greeting Him and kissing Him on the cheek, Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, do what you came for” (Matthew 26:50). There was no anger, hatred or bitterness in Jesus’ heart toward Judas. It must be so with us too.

Whatever you and I go through in life, Jesus has been there and can be sought for help. As our leader, He has endured every fiery trial that can be thrown at us by our enemy and, yet, harbor no bitterness and resentment. His trust was in His Father every step of the way through the pain of being rejected and betrayed. Whatever you are experiencing in life, He has been there before you and is able to come alongside you in every trial and help you to go through it.

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

Doctor Donald Grey Barnhouse told the story of a certain man who had a beautiful estate upon which were some magnificent trees in which this man took great pride. It was his custom to walk among the trees and gaze upon their beauty. This man had an enemy who hated him sorely; this enemy was always seeking ways of annoying the master of the estate. At last, the enemy conceived a plan, which he thought would greatly wound the heart of the estate owner.

He decided to go to the estate in the dark of night and cut down one of the most beautiful of the trees. He laid his plans well. He took with him a saw and an axe and worked energetically. All night, he toiled until his muscles were sore and his hands were blistered. As morning dawned, he saw the estate owner riding with a companion toward the trees where he had been toiling. He redoubled his efforts and finally the great tree began to creak and to totter. As the tree started to fall, the enemy began to shout in triumph. However, one of the branches fell on him and mortally pinned him to the ground in agony.

His hatred, however, was strong, and in his death throes he jeered at the estate owner approaching him. The owner called his companion to him and said to the enemy, “You thought to do me a great harm, but I want to show you what you have done. This man with me is the architect of a beautiful home that I intend to build here in the midst of these trees. In order to make room for the house, it was necessary to cut down one of these trees. Look at this plan. The tree upon which you have toiled all night and which is now the cause of your death is the tree, which must be cut down to make room for my house. You have worked for me without knowing it, and your toil is for nothing, and bitterness is your food in death.”

In his opposition to God’s kingdom, Satan may be thinking that he is clever, but there will come a time when he will see that he has just been totally out-smartened by God. We know because we have read the end of the book!

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas

The Plan to Kill Jesus

1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present (Luke 22:1-6).

To the Jewish person, Passover is the biggest meal of the year, like the Thanksgiving meal for an American or the Christmas meal for a British person. God had commanded the Israelites to appear before Him at the Temple in Jerusalem three times a year (Exodus 23:13-15), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread called Passover was one of the three times. In the time of Christ, it was difficult to accommodate all the pilgrims that would come to Jerusalem for the annual Feast.

Estimates of the time tell us that Jerusalem swelled to over 2,700,000 people during Passover. With such a huge throng of people, we can understand why the disciples and Jesus would sleep out in the open on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden of Gethsemane was less than half a mile from the temple, an easy short walk to arrive early in the morning for all the people to hear Christ teach in the temple (Luke 21:37-38).

We have the benefit of hindsight in knowing that Jesus had no designs on taking over the religious government of Israel, but the priests and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin did not know that. It is possible that they were afraid of a religious coup against them and that there would be an accounting for their money-making schemes. It is also possible that they were fearful of a riot and losing their positions if the Roman government didn’t think them capable of keeping order. With more people arriving day by day, their fear of the people grew. They felt they had to do something before the Passover, when religious sensitivities would be at their highest. But how were they to arrest Him? It had to be in secret. The religious leaders had sent the temple guards once before to arrest Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, but when the temple guards came back, they had not arrested the Lord. Why not? Because His hour had not yet come. The guards were under direct orders of the High Priest, yet they refused to arrest Jesus. The reason that they gave was even worse; they directly disobeyed the chief priest’s orders because they were overcome with Christ’s words:

45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. 47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted (John 7:45-47).

Such influence and spiritual authority over men was scary for the chief priests and teachers of the law. Thousands were attending His teaching from early morning till dark during the days leading up to Passover. No wonder they sought some way to get rid of Jesus (v. 2). (The Greek word anaireō is translated into English with the words get rid of; it means to kill, put to death.) While they were trying to figure out a way to get Him (apart from the crowd) and to the great relief of the religious leaders, one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, came to them with a plan of how he would betray Jesus. We’ll continue this thought over the next few days…

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas

Whose Son Is the Christ?

We have been meditating on the week before the crucifixion of Christ. After Jesus had confronted the selling of animals in the temple courts, a place dedicated to prayer for all nations, the leaders of the Jewish nation argued with Jesus, trying to undermine the spiritual authority that Christ had with the people. The Lord won each and every argument, before turning to give them a question to answer:

41Then Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? 42David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 44David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” 45While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46″Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely” (Luke 20:41-47).

The Lord finishes the whole debate session with a warning to His followers and a reminder of Who He really is. He reminded the leaders that David called the promised Son of David to be “Lord.” In ancient times, great respect was paid to the eldest head of the family. God told King David that one of his offspring would be established on the throne of David forever (2 Samuel 7:8-16). This Son of David would be the Messiah or Christ, which literally means “the Anointed One.” David speaking prophetically called this descendant of his “Lord” (Psalm 110:1). As to His physical nature, Christ was this Son of David, but He was (is) also the Lord of heaven. Jesus was going back to the very statement that incited the anger of the religious leaders. He wants them and us to understand Who He really is and from where His authority comes.

The warning about the religious elite is very pointed and serious. He is calling out the hypocrisy and the corrupt lifestyle of these leaders, saying that they will receive severe punishment. He was concerned about protecting His followers from false teaching and from those who would try to lead them astray. Soon, He will be taken from them, and at that time, it will be important for them to look beyond the present evil physical world and to see Who He really is, viz. the Son of God, the Christ. The whole concept of the Resurrection is about to take on new meaning for His disciples when Christ Himself will be raised from the dead. This will cause them to replay in their minds all the things He had taught them.

Prayer: Open our eyes to see Who You really are. Grant us grace when we experience opposition to our faith in You. Amen.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 54. Luke 20:20-47. Questions About Eternity. Keith Thomas

Jesus and the Eternal State

We are continuing our meditation on the last week before the crucifixion of Christ from Luke’s Gospel (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). The Jewish elite that had control (Matthew 23:2) were very angry at Jesus when He upset the money-changers tables in the temple courts. They felt they had to undermine Christ’s spiritual authority by attacking His teaching. After using a simple coin to illustrate giving to Caesar what was his, and to God what was God’s (Luke 20:25), the Sadducees could not remain quiet about a future accountability. Jesus’ ideas of the Kingdom of God and an accountability in eternity were unacceptable to them. Now, it was their turn to try to discredit Christ. They prided themselves as being more intellectual and superior in their understanding. The pro-Roman Sadducees were a small aristocratic group that held sway over the Sanhedrin, the Jewish eldership that comprised the seventy elders and law makers of Israel.

It is thought that the name Sadducee comes from the name “Zadok,” the High Priest at the time of David and Solomon. Other scholars believe that the name Sadducee comes from the Hebrew word saddiq, translated into English as “righteous ones” (saddiqim is the plural).[1] They approached Messiah with their carefully prepared question. It was a hypothetical situation that, in their minds, proved that there could be no resurrection. They considered the idea of a bodily resurrection too ridiculous to be true.

27Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30The second 31and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32Finally, the woman died too. 33Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” 34Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40And no one dared to ask him any more questions (Luke 20:27-40).

We may live in a physical world, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience. The Sadducees rejected the idea of eternity and heaven. They also rejected belief in angels, spirits, and the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:8). They only believed in the physical world. They regarded such a question as the kind of thing that made belief in the resurrection of the body a preposterous idea. Furthermore, they could see no evidence of an afterlife in the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They were comfortable in their worldview, and Jesus’ teachings challenged their thinking. The Lord replied to the Sadducees with four different thoughts. We will look at just the first one today.

1) There will be no marriage in the eternal state for the believer. “But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Luke 20:35). There will be no need for a covenant of marriage in the eternal state. Our covenant this side of eternity is “till death do us part,” but there is no death in the eternal state. The Lord gave us a covenant of marriage as a means of procreation and a means of filling the earth, but eternity is not populated in the same way. The only way to get there is for a person to receive the gift of eternal life through the substitutional death of God’s Son in full payment for our debt of sin. Have you received the gift of God—new life in Christ? (Romans 6:23).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 54. Luke 20:20-47. Questions About Eternity. Keith Thomas

[1] https://bible.org/seriespage/3-sadducees