After the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus continues ministering in Judea and Perea. This episode looks at the chronological context for the Lord's prayer as well as Jesus' often misunderstood words "the kingdom of God has come upon you" from Luke 11.
Hi I’m Josh Hawkins, this is Episode 92 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 90 and 91 we looked at Jesus’ words at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. There, He had clearly identified Himself as the one true God of Israel, causing rage among the religious Jews in the Temple. He had come to personally reckon with them, seeking the fruits of repentance and a heart that was torn. Tabernacles was the Jewish feast that took place in October, and Jesus was only about six months away from His crucifixion the following April. The people of Jerusalem had the indescribable privilege of God in their midst, and they were failing to recognize what was really going on. Their hearts were hard and their hatred for God would continue to grow until it expressed itself in the unjust murder of Jesus the following year. Well, after the Feast of Tabernacles that we’ve been looking at in John 7 and 8, the next point on the timeline of Jesus’ public ministry we can be certain about is Jesus at the Feast of Dedication. That feast takes place in December and we see it recorded in John chapter 10. Now as I emphasized back in Episode 85, Luke’s Gospel contains a large amount of unique material in this period. While John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is actually in Jerusalem three separate times from John 7 onward, Luke records Jesus journeying towards Jerusalem three times in this particular section of his Gospel. So we can look to him to provide the details of Jesus’ ministry between the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7 and 8 in October and the Feast of Dedication in John 10 in December. We see this in Luke 11:1 through Luke 14:24. Very precise geographical markers are not given in these chapters, but through the events and the teachings we see, it’s possible to get a general idea of where Jesus is. So let’s read today from Luke 11: "Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”" (Luke 11:1–4 ESV) Luke records Jesus praying in a “certain place”. Now we can’t be exactly sure where this was, but some have speculated that because the disciples mention how John the Baptist taught his followers how to pray, that Jesus might be in the same general area as where John primarily ministered. Some see this as even more likely by the fact that the Gospels record Jesus going to this particular area after the Feast of Dedication in December. Nonetheless, Jesus teaches His disciples what we know of as “The Lord’s Prayer”. Now Matthew records this prayer as part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 through 7, but Luke is the one who records it chronologically, when Jesus actually spoke it in His ministry. Go back and watch Episode 7 for more on how Matthew arranged His Gospel. Now we looked at the specific content of this prayer back in Episodes 64 and 65, so I won’t develop it all again here. But I do want to remind you of the larger context that this prayer is set in, because I don’t think this prayer is as individually focused as we often presume. Remember, Jesus had just left the Feast of Tabernacles, the very feast that looked back at the events of the Exodus and Israel’s sojourning in the wilderness and looked forward to Israel’s permanent possession of the land as promised to Abraham. In this prayer, Jesus is encouraging His disciples to trust God to fulfill His promises and covenantal loyalty and to ask for daily bread, a clear reference to what the Lord gave Israel in the wilderness. In other words, the disciples are still in exile. As they are waiting for God to fulfill His promises to bring righteous Israel back to the land, plant them there forever never to be uprooted again, and fulfill all of His promises to them, they will need daily bread to sustain them in their sojourn. And just as Israel had a hard heart and was full of unforgiveness as they tested God in the wilderness, Jesus was instructing the disciples that they should pray to not be like their ancestors. For they too would be tested and tried as they awaited God to fulfill His promises. Now, drop down a few verses in Luke 11 to verse 9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9–13 ESV) Notice the phrase right at the end of verse 13: “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him”. Now I don’t think that this was individually focused either, and I don’t think Jesus is making a generic statement and telling the individual believer that if they just pray they will have an encounter and get more of the Holy Spirit. While other passages in the New Testament talk about being filled with the Spirit more generally, I think the context that this verse in Luke 11 refers back to is Luke chapter 3 and the division of Israel. The Jewish people are in context here. Remember back to Luke 3 where John the Baptist said that Jesus would divide between the wheat and the chaff, and the wheat would get the Spirit and the chaff would get the unquenchable fire? I think that’s totally in view here, especially considering the fact that Luke has not mentioned the giving of the Holy Spirit since then. Go back and watch Episodes 36, 37, and 38 for more on John the Baptist’s message. So what is Jesus saying here? That God would be faithful to give the Holy Spirit to the small remnant of Israel who sought God and repented of their self-righteousness and boasting and had faith in God to bring about His promises. What we see throughout the rest of the New Testament is that, instead of circumcision, the Spirit becomes the “seal” or the sign of the covenant. So those Israelites who have the Spirit would be the ones who inherit the promises to Abraham, and those who don’t have it would be destined to eternal destruction. I hope you see how context is just so important with the Bible. Let’s look at what happens next in Luke 11: "Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Luke 11:14–20 ESV) At some point after He teaches on prayer, Jesus is seen casting out a demon from a person who was mute. The people begin to marvel, but some among the crowd are in disbelief. Some say that He cast out the demon using demonic power, specifically by Beelzebul, who is the prince of demons or Satan. My goodness, what a charge! These people are saying that Jesus was possessed by Satan himself! Still others in the crowd are seeking more signs from Jesus. Luke says that they were seeking to test Him, and because of that I don’t think these guys were sincere either. Jesus responds by saying how totally illogical and completely ridiculous it would be for Satan to be driving out his own demons. How bitter and unbelieving is the crowd for them to even consider this as an option? Satan can’t be “divided against himself” and actually expect to win a battle. Now Jesus makes a very strong statement in verse 20: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” This is often misunderstood and used to support a system of thought called “inaugurated eschatology" where Jesus redefined and reinterpreted what the “kingdom of God” was through His ministry. But that’s not at all what’s happening here. The passage sits squarely within the frame of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology, and Jesus is not redefining or reworking anything here. First of all, without even saying what “the kingdom of God” is, who is the kingdom of God coming upon in this passage? Not the guy who had the demon cast out of him, but the ones who accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Just that simple observation from the text should cause us to reevaluate if this verse is using the idea of “the kingdom of God” in a positive sense as if it is some spiritual reality, because clearly the ones who have this “come upon” them in the crowd are accusing Jesus of being demonized and aren’t bearing the fruits of repentance and putting their faith in Him. Secondly, several scholars have recognized that the particular Greek word here that is translated “has come upon you” is in what they call the “proleptic aorist” tense, meaning it is simply using the past tense to communicate the certainty of the future reality. It’s a little harder for us to understand this particular Greek tense in English. So for someone to carelessly say that Jesus is possessed by Satan is essentially to say that their condemnation is certain. That’s what Jesus is saying here - that these accusers will most certainly be condemned at the judgment when Jesus reigns righteously from Jerusalem. Thirdly, this phrase “come upon you” is not at all a good thing for the unrepentant. Look at these other verses that support the idea using the same phrase. First, Deuteronomy 28: "“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you." (Deuteronomy 28:15 ESV) Also Jeremiah 40: "The Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you." (Jeremiah 40:3 ESV) And Zephaniah: "Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect —before the day passes away like chaff— before there comes upon you the burning anger of the Lord, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the Lord." (Zephaniah 2:1–2 ESV) And in the New Testament: "“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth." (Luke 21:34–35 ESV) Also in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:6 ESV) And the same usage as Jesus’ words from Luke 11 in 1 Thessalonians: "by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!" (1 Thessalonians 2:16 ESV) Both Jesus and Paul are using this specific Greek word meaning “come upon you” in this sense, speaking just like the Jewish prophets did to affirm the future certainty of destruction for God’s enemies. This is a sobering truth and a completely opposite way that this verse in Luke 11 and its parallel in Matthew 12 is often interpreted in many modern contexts. It would have provoked a negative emotional response in the hearers, and I believe Jesus is doing so in hopes that those making careless accusations about His power might turn in repentance. Well that’s it for today’s episode, come back next time as we continue to look at this Late Perean and Judean ministry. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, see you next time.