Life of Christ - Lesson 8

Journey to Jerusalem (Part 3)

The important thing is not how much faith you have, but that you have faith and act on it. Forgiveness is important. The answer to the rich young ruler’s question is, “you embrace the kingdom of God.”

Darrell Bock
Life of Christ
Lesson 8
Watching Now
Journey to Jerusalem (Part 3)

I. Luke chapter 17

II. Luke chapter 18

            A. Parable about the two men praying

III. Faithfulness in the Face of Opposition (Matt 19.1-Matt 21.9; Mark 10.1-11.10; Luke 18.15-19.44)

            A. Rich young ruler

            B. Healing of the blind man

            C. Divorce

            D. Parable of the laborers

            E. Question from the disciples about seats of preference

            F. Parable of the pounds

IV. The "A" Triumphal Entry

  • The infancy accounts in each Gospel indicate the author's purpose and the audience to whom they were writing. The pictures he was showing to his class are not available to us. 

  • The ministry of John the Baptist and his baptism of Jesus was significant in the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus.

  • The Sermon on the Mount is the first teaching block of Jesus in Matthew. The Beatitudes are an important part of this section. When Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” he is claiming authority to interpret the Law.

  • Jesus teaches that the way to God is narrow and difficult. Knowing Jesus and what he teaches is everything. Jesus represents the beginning of a new era, the arrival of the promise.

  • The parables are designed to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to insiders.

  • When Jesus teaches the disciples that he must suffer, it is the beginning of a major paradigm shift for them.

  • The “odd man out” parables teach that “Christ died for sin” is not the whole gospel. The gospel is not about avoiding something, it’s about receiving something. People ask the question, “Who will the saved be?” and Jesus asks, “Will the saved be you?”

  • The important thing is not how much faith you have, but that you have faith and act on it. Forgiveness is important. The answer to the rich young ruler’s question is, “you embrace the kingdom of God.”

  • The events in the Passion week inform us about the defining events in Jesus’ ministry, and what other people thought about him. Jesus talks about the events and signs of the end of the age.

  • The wicked generation is an ethical reference, not a chronological reference. It means that the righteous will be vindicated and the wicked will be judged. The application is that we should take heed and watch.

  • The account of the resurrection in the synoptic Gospels contains evidence to show that the event of the resurrection really happened and was not just created in someone’s imagination. Eternal life in John is equivalent to the kingdom of God in the synoptics. Jesus is the Word because he reveals what heaven discloses.

  • Jesus’ deeds reinforce what he is teaching. The different titles people use when they address or refer to him describe different aspects of his nature and ministry. Jesus is more concerned about how the Church engages and influences the world than about what goes on within the four walls of a building.

  • Love and mercy are characteristics of followers of Jesus and are to be seen as a reflection of knowing, trusting and imaging God.

The gospel message is primarily about two things: forgiveness that leads into relationship with God and the distribution of the Spirit. Dr. Bock focuses on the four Gospels to show how Jesus taught this message by what he said and by his actions. Dr. Bock compares and contrasts the similarities and differences in the synoptic Gospels as well as highlighting the uniqueness of the Gospel of John. Be ready to be challenged as you come face to face with the God of the universe who became a man and lived among us to show us who God really is. Dr. Darrell Bock is a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

This is the 8th lecture in the online series of lectures on the Life of Christ by Dr. Darrell Bock. Recommended Reading includes: Jesus According to Scripture: restoring the Portrait from the Gospels by Bock, Baker, 2002 and Jesus in Context by Darrel Bock and Greg Herrick, eds., Baker, 2005 and Jesus Under Fire by Mike Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, Zondervan, 1995.

Faith and The Kingdom of God

We are in Luke chapter 17 which shows a list of several passages. We get exhortations of faithfulness and we have a warning not to be stumbling blocks for others. There is the exhortation to be forgiving, seven times a day which is different from other passages. ‘Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’ Think about this, even if unrealistically, a person asks you to forgive them throughout the day, hour after hour. We are to forgive.

‘The apostles said to the Lord, increase our faith! So the Lord replied, if you had faith the size of a mustard see, you could say to this black mulberry tree, ‘be pulled out of the roots and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.’ Okay, obviously trees don’t grow in the sea; interestingly a black mulberry tree has an extensive root system and to extract it would take a lot of work. So Jesus is saying that you can do very unusual things with very little faith. We think we have to have lots of faith to do things but this passage says that we only need a small amount of faith. The importance is not how much faith is present but that faith is simply present. Just use the faith that you have is what Jesus is teaching us. Luke continues, ‘would any one of you say to your slave who comes in from the field after plowing or shepherding sheep, come at once and sit down for a meal? Won’t the master instead say to him, get my dinner ready, and make yourself ready to serve me while I eat and drink. Then you may eat and drink? He will not thank the slave because he did what he was told, will he? So you too, when you have done everything you were commanded to do, should say, we are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’ Note that after this passage of the ten Lepers reveals a faith of foreigners. Jesus heals the ten lepers but only the foreigner comes back. It’s really important to appreciate what God has done for us and for you.

At the end of chapter 17, we get Luke presenting one part of an eschatological discourse, of what is in Mark 13 in the Olivet Discourse and what is in Matthew 24 and 25, which is split up into three passages in Luke. One of the parables shows up at the end of chapter 12, which was our dichotomizing parable and one of the units happens here and another unit happens in chapter 21. We have a text that first talk about the coming of the kingdom, the present form of the kingdom and then talks about the consummate form of the kingdom. The present form of the kingdom is in verses 20 & 21. ‘Now at one point the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, so he answered, the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, look, here it is, or there! For indeed the kingdom God is in your midst.’ The kingdom of God is right in front of you, it is right here and this was said publicly. He then turns to the disciples to teach tem privately. ‘Then he said to the disciples, the days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.’ The coming of the Lord will not come as soon as you think. ‘Then the people will say to you, look, there he is, or look, here he is! Do not go out or chase after them. For just like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.’ The lightning indicates that either it will be very clear when it is happening or it will be quick just like lightning is quick when it flashes, or it could be both. We know that lightning lights up the whole sky even during the light when it happens and it’s very fast. It’s there and it’s gone. It will be obvious, there will be no guessing to it, nor will you need anyone to tell that it has come. ‘But first the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage – right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.’ It’s going to come and with it there will be judgement. It’s going to come in the mitts of life. I don’t think this is sneak preview of the rapture; it is exactly what it says. It’s going to come in the mitts of life and it’s going to mean judgement. ‘Likewise it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building, but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.’ The coming of Jesus will be about Judgement. It will be like the days of Noah and so like the days of Lot. ‘On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.’ This will bring judgement and it will separate. The theme of judgement is carried all the way through by the final imagery. ‘Where, Lord? Jesus replied, where the dead are, there the vultures will gather.’ This isn’t a nice image.

The Persistent Widow, the Self-righteous Pharisee, the Tax Collector and a Little Child

‘Then Jesus told a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart.’ This is in the context of the coming of the Son of Man. ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. There was also a widow in a city that kept coming to him, saying, give me justice against my adversary. Later on he said, I neither fear God nor have regard for people, yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will give her justice, or in the end she will wear me out by her unending pleas. The Lord said, listen to what the unrighteous judge say! Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will it be a long delay before he helps them? I tell you, he will give them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ Let me paraphrase that; judgement will come quickly in reference to God’s time in context to eternity, but it will be delayed long enough that when the Son of Man returns there will be some who may have given up the faith as a result. So this is explaining that it isn’t going to come so soon that people shouldn’t persistently pray for it and plea for judgement. And it is not going to be so soon that when the Son of Man comes back, some people may have given up.

‘Jesus also told them a parable to those who though they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed, God, I thank you that I am not like other people, extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get. The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am! I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself, will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ Let me paraphrase this for you. God, I think you that I’m such a wonderful righteous person. Most such praise praises God for he is done, but not so this one. The theology of the Gospels is that if you understand you are a sinner and in need of the forgiveness of God, God can work with you. And if you think, you are okay and that God owes you something, hell can’t open fast enough. ‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ And then we get the picture of Jesus putting a little child in front of them, calling for humility. Jesus didn’t have time to deal with children, but Jesus made it plain that the kingdom of God belonged to the little children and if we couldn’t humble ourselves like those little children, we would never enter the kingdom of God.

This ends the part of Luke that contains information which was only in Luke. So in Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, we have come to a place where Luke joins with Marks’ Gospel. The information from this part of Luke includes Jesus’ teaching about discipleship, about rejection and patience with the timing of God in terms of the consummation of the kingdom. Jesus has warned us about the danger in regards to our possessions and called them and us to remain faithful and he has openly challenged the opposition and given them numerous opportunities to turn, but they did not respond to what Jesus offered. The unit ends in praise and a call to be humble.

The Theology and History of Jesus

We will start to cover the following topics in Matthew 19:1-21:9, Mark 10:1-11:10 and Luke 18:15-19:44. The citation that I’m alluding to from Ben Myers, a book he did on the historical Jesus called, ‘The Aims of Jesus’; it was one of the original works that represented the 3rd quest for the historical Jesus. He emphasized in the book that Jesus’ ministry was Messianic and involved a fusion of history and theology which had interplay to it. With some historical Jesus scholars, they say history is whatever I can collaborate and so if any other statement is theology, you can’t have a sentence in which God is the subject that involves history. Theology and history is so inextricably linked in the Jesus story, you cannot separate the two. So as we move to this final key phase of Jesus’ life, we will see this very clearly. The Major theme of this last part of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is faithfulness in the face of opposition and the emphasis in Matthew and Mark is on teaching as he heads to Judea. It will be the same as it was in the entire section in Luke.


Matthew 19 - The first scene is the discussion on divorce which is a controversy account because what is going on here is in the context of Judaism is that Jesus was being tested with his faithfulness to Scripture on marriage and divorce. This happens right after Jesus leaves Galilee and travels to Judea beyond the Jordan River. This is east of the Jordan River in the country of Jordan. It was then that some Pharisee tried to test Jesus asking him whether it was lawful or not to divorce a wife for any cause. In the first century there were two schools of Jewish thought, the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel. The School of Shammai believed only worthy students should be admitted to study the Torah while the School of Hillel believed that the Torah may be taught to anyone, in the expectation that they would repent and become worthy. The School of Shammai also held that a man may divorce his wife for a serious transgression, but the House of Hillel allowed divorce for even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal. This is the context and background of what’s going on here. Jesus quoted, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one, ‘therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. They said, why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her? Jesus said, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way. Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries commits adultery.’ So it wasn’t God’s intent and it’s the wrong kind of question to ask, because basically the question was: what was the minimal requirement to get out of a marriage? The intent should be to stay in the marriage, which is the point that Jesus is making. For the exception here, ‘except for immorality’, comes from the Greek term pornia. So God allowed exceptions for the hardness of human hearts.

‘The disciples said to him if this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!’ This is taking place within a context of any reasons for a divorce, we must remember. The idea of not marrying is not a good argument as a man and women were meant for each other. Jesus confirms this by saying, ‘except those to whom it has been given.’ And that includes eunuchs from birth and those who were made that way for the sake of the kingdom of God. The one who is able to accept this should accept it.’ So, yes, it may be possible not to marry, but you should not insist it. The Essenes who lived out in the desert were said to discourage marriage for the reasons of dedication to God. But Note that within Judaism it was an expectation that you would marry as it was part of the command in Genesis to be fruitful and multiple. Even priests were married. And there was an extreme expectation from the family to get married and they were very involved in arranging such things as it was part of the culture. Marriage is something you do for children, there is an obligation and it often came through family choices. There are parts of the world that still do it this way. A person, then and even now did not have very much of a choice whether or not to get married. There were practical pragmatic ramifications for having a big family. Remember also that the Jewish culture was extremely patriarchal. But since there were two schools of thinking on this, it was obviously debated in that time; perhaps because of the pressure on those to get married and be married to people they didn’t want to be married to. One should also note the way in which Jesus engages both women and men in his ministry. This was in a way that was somewhat exceptional in the culture of that time. As an example, think about Jesus engaging the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus tended to treat and respect everyone, male and female equally.

The Rich Man and the Poor Man

We come to this section where Jesus starts to increase his teaching and his challenges. This is where the rich young ruler appears in Luke18:18 that say, ‘good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus seems to challenge him in his reply. ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother. The man replied that he had wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since his youth. When Jesus heard this, he said, one thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.’ A lot of people think that Jesus’ answer ends with his initial reply, but instead, this is an extended answer to this question. In answering the question, Jesus first cites the commandment of God and a call to keep those and when the man says that he has obeyed that and he calls Jesus a good teacher. So Jesus now issues the real challenge, sell all you have, give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come and follow me. So the extended answer includes that of following Jesus. ‘When the man heard this he became very sad, for he was extremely wealthy. When Jesus noticed this, he said, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Those who heard this, said, and then who can be saved? Jesus replied, what is impossible for mere humans, it is possible for God. Peter said, we have left everything we own to follow you!’ I really like this question by Peter and I guarantee that he didn’t ask it this way. Peter didn’t ask it with emotional difference. This is a question that asked to try and get Jesus to reassure the disciples that they have done what the rich man failed to do. Perhaps the question was actually phrased this way, ‘look, we have left everything we owned to follow you, haven’t we?’ Or it was something like that.

‘Then Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, there is not one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of God’s kingdom who will not receive many times more in this age – and in the age to come, eternal life.’ This answer ends with the question that was started in verse 18, ‘good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ How do you get eternal life? You embrace the kingdom of God. You come and follow me and you embrace the kingdom of God. But here, the rich man has no sense of a need to repent by Jesus’ request, even though it is a very demanding request. Would we do the same thing living in a rich western society? So will he follow the God, the good teacher? Sell all and come and follow me and you will have treasure in heaven. We have a promise. The treasure is being associated with the kingdom, which is what Jesus is offering the young man. But he decides that he would rather have earthly good than this treasure. It is impossible for the rich to come, but it is possible with God and only God can do this. The disciples are okay because they have left everything. In the parallels between the synoptic Gospels, the rational for giving up family, etc. is expressed differently in the three versions. One expresses it for Jesus’ name sake and another it’s for the sake of the Gospel and in another it’s for the kingdom. But it is all the same basic concept.

Following on from this in the later part of the chapter, we get a prediction of Jesus’ passion and a healing of a blind Man, a person who then sees. The blind man was sitting on the road to Jericho begging. Once he realized that it was Jesus that was passing he called out, calling him Son of David and asking Jesus for mercy. ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ And so the blind man immediately received his sight and followed Jesus. The man understood who Jesus was and he understood that Jesus had power to heal him. This miracle pictured that Jesus can give sight, not just to the physical blind but to the spiritually blind. This is what his entire ministry is about. ‘And those who were in front scolded him to get him to be quiet, but he shouted even more.’ Jesus ordered the beggar to be brought to him. So we first have a wealthy man who has everything this world has to offer who can see! We have a blind man who has very little, if anything and sits on the road begging and this person sees everything very clearly in Jesus. So Jesus’ reply to the rich man stresses not what is permitted but what should be pursued which is the kingdom of God.

The Vineyard Workers

There are more parables beginning in chapter 20 of Matthew. For the workers in the vineyard, ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard.’ This would be a denarius a day. The parable continues saying that the landowner went out at nine o’clock to hire more workers, and then the same thing at noon time and again at three in the afternoon and yet again at five in the early evening with all receiving the same wage, a full day’s pay. But those who were hired first thought that they would get more and when they didn’t they complained. Interestingly, you had better not ask for fairness from God, this is bad for the person asking. Just enjoy his grace. The landowners told them that he was giving them what he agreed to. ‘Are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first last.’ What gets us in trouble in regards to many of these passages is when we worry about what is happening with someone else. The function of God’s grace is something not to be sneered at.

In Matthew 20:17, we have yet another passion prediction like we had in chapter 19. In Matthew and Mark, this is the third prediction and in Luke it is number six. Mark has the most detailed, Luke emphasizes the Scripture on the Son of Man as being fulfilled and he also notes that they did not understand. Again I tend to take all the sayings as authentic because of the way in which the reactions are coming. Their inability to understand is called, ‘the Criterion of Embarrassment’. The leadership just didn’t get it. You would not create a story like this. The story is like this because that is the way it was. Mark and Matthew deals with the question about the seats of preference showing the disciples continued in lack of understanding. They wanted to know where they ranked in the program of God. They wanted to be able to exercise a certain kind of power in the program of God. Jesus just refuses to go there. Jesus’ response was, ‘are you ready to suffer?’ The disciples truly only understood Jesus after he died and rose again; then they fully understood everything that Jesus had told them. So the role that we have is a matter of the Father’s call and leading, but this is not like the world’s leading as shown by their worry of rank or who their benefactor was. It’s simply a matter of service and being prepared to serve and honor God’s call. The way this passage ends in Matthew 20:28 is, ‘just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ And this is supposed to be the example to the disciples as well. Are you ready to serve? Are you ready to give your life for the ransom for many? No, you may not have to die on a cross on behave of all humanity, but are you ready to serve?

Next in verse 29, we get a symbolic healing of the blind men who sees. We have already covered this in Luke. Faith heals them; as Jesus touched their eyes, they received their sight and followed him. We now switch over to Luke 19:1 where we have the story of Jesus with Zacchaeus. This is the passage where Jesus says that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. The next passage is the parable of the pounds.

The Ten Minas

We get Jesus gathering up disciples and telling another story of the ten minas; ‘while the people were listening to these things, Jesus proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.’ So he says a nobleman went to a distance country to receive a kingdom and return. There is a sense here that the benefits of the kingdom doesn’t come until he has performed the sacrifice and has been raised. Note that the Spirit comes after the crucifixion, after the resurrection. So the man gave ten minas to ten of his slaves to invest and to do business with. Upon his return he asked what they had earned. One earned ten more minas, another earned five more minas but one did not invest it and kept it for the man’s return. The first two received rewards but the man took the mina from the third man and gave it to another. Then Jesus said, ‘I tell you that everyone who has will be given more, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.’ For the people who didn’t want him as a king, the man slaughtered them. This is an ‘Odd Man Out’ parable. The stress is on the last person. Why didn’t you do something with what I gave you? You did nothing! Verse 26 is new math, ‘but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.’

The Triumphal Entry

Usually when a dignitary comes to a city, officials go out from the city and greet the dignitary. So Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king but what do the leaders do? They complain, tell your disciples to stop. What does Jesus say? If they do not cry out, the stones will cry out. Note that whenever creation is said to talk or have the possibility of talking, that’s important. The creation of God which is animated in this passage, seen as living and breathing, accepts the witness of what is represented here and if the disciples had not done it, the creation would have responded. So when creation speaks, people are supposed to listen. The background to this is from Zachariah 9:9 ‘Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is legitimate and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey – on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey. Also there is a passage in 1st Kings where Solomon comes into the city. There’s praise for God’s great work, there is praise for Davidic hope. He enters as the promised King, offering himself to the city. The disciples are praising him as doing the works of God and the other people are those who are pouring into the city during these pilgrim feasts. The leader’s reaction which is only in Luke is to stop. There are other passages from Genesis 4 and Habakkuk 2 that are also examples of creation talk. The blood of Able cries out in one of those passages. And then Jesus weeps and predicts the judgement for covenant unfaithfulness. ‘So Jesus wept over it, saying, if you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Jesus continues, for the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. They will demolish you – you and your children within your walls – and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’ And so the exile judgement declared in Luke 13 is confirmed here by this remark in a prediction that comes in the destruction of Jerusalem. Note now that the judgement that followed in AD 70 was part of the eschatological calendar. It represents a confirmation that the nation has been judged and the nation in effect is now in exile.