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LIFE OF CHRIST
A Harmony of the Gospels

LESSON  NINETEEN

   

THE  RAISING  OF  LAZARUS

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John 11:1-17 The Death of Lazarus
John 11:18-37 I Am the Resurrection and the Life
John 11:38-46 Lazarus Raised from the Dead

The Death of Lazarus

John 11:1-17
(1)   Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.  (2)  It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.  (3)  Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."
(4)   When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
(5)   Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  (6)  So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.  (7)  Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again."
(8)   The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?"
(9)   Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  (10)  But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."  (11)  These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."
(12)  Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well."  (13)  However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
(14)  Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.  (15)  And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him."
(16)  Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him."
(17)  So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.
NKJV

Lazarus

The name is a shortened form of Eleazar,  meaning,  "God helps."
He was undoubtedly the youngest of the family,  and overshadowed by his older sisters,  bustling Martha and contemplative Mary .

Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil

This does not take place in the narrative until  John 12:3-8.
John,  writing years later,  uses this in the way of identification,  even as Matthew identified Judas Iscariot as the one who betrayed Jesus in Matthew 10:4,  some time before the actual betrayal took place.

Not unto death

The actual occurrence of death was in no way against this statement. Although death was allowed temporarily,  it was not to be the ultimate end of this illness.

The Glory of God was the object - and that not in order for God to be "made glorious,"

but that man might see and experience the Glory that is in God already.

That He that is already Glorious might be recognized as such,  and not only that man might recognize that Glory,

but that man might also partake of that Glory.

This would point to a three-fold application:

1. In the Present, Literal Sense
A. Lazarus and those who loved him saw and experienced the glory of God at his resurrection
B. Those who did not care about Lazarus, and hated Jesus, saw the glory of God, but did not experience it
2. In the Future, Literal and Spiritual Sense
A. The glory of God was exhibited at the resurrection of Jesus, whose suffering also was not "unto death"
B. Because of  His resurrection, we can experience the glory of  God both:
a. Spiritually In this present life As we are resurrected from spiritual death
     
in "trespasses and sins"
to "walk in newness of life."
b. Physically In the next life As we are resurrected from physical death
     
in "trespasses and sins"
to "walk in newness of life."
3. In the still Future, Ultimate Sense
A. Those who were obedient unto the resurrection of  "eternal life"
B. Those who were not obedient unto the resurrection of  "eternal death"

Are there not 12 hours in the day?

Here Jesus alludes to the case of a traveler,  who has to walk the whole day:

The DAY points out the time of  LIFE
The NIGHT points out the time of  DEATH

He has already used the same mode of speech in chapter 9:4;
"I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work."

He had not traveled these 12 hours yet - His last hour is not yet come;  and the Jews,  with all their malice and hatred,  shall not be able to bring it a moment sooner than God has purposed.  He was physically immortal on this earth until His work was done.

Thomas ... the twin

Many translations have: Thomas, also called Didymus

Thomas Aramaic both mean "twin"
Didymus Greek

It is said to have been customary for the Jews when traveling into foreign countries,  or familiarly conversing with the Greeks or Romans,  to assume a Greek or Latin name of  similar meaning to their own. 

He also had a Hebrew name that was Thaom, also meaning "twin."

In the tomb four days

The three days after death were called "days of weeping"
Which were followed by 4 days called "days of lamentation"
Thus making up the 7 days called "days of mourning"

According to the rabbinical notion the Spirit wanders about the sepulcher for 3 days seeking an opportunity to return into the body;  but when the aspect of the body changes it hovers no more,  but leaves the body to itself.
The friends of the deceased were in the habit of visiting the sepulcher for 3 days after the death and burial,  probably because they supposed they could thus be nearer to the departed soul.  When the 4th day came and decomposition took place,  the soul,  they supposed,  went away from the sepulcher,  and they beat their breast and made loud lamentations.

To say that one had been in the grave four days was equivalent to saying that bodily corruption had begun.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

John 11:18-37
(18)  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.  (19)  And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
(20)  Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.  (21)  Now Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  (22)  But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You."
(23)  Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
(24)  Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
(25)  Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  (26)  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
(27)  She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
(28)  And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, "The Teacher has come and is calling for you."  (29)  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.  (30)  Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.  (31)  Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to weep there."
(32)  Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."
(33)  Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  (34)  And He said, "Where have you laid him?"
They said to Him, "Lord, come and see."
(35)  Jesus wept.  (36)  Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!"
(37)  And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"
NKJV


About 2 miles

Many translations have: "fifteen furlongs," which is about 2 miles.

Many ... joined ... to comfort them

The formal visitation of condolence from friends took place immediately after burial,  and lasted several days.
As soon as they returned from the grave the mourners stood in a row,  and their friends passed by,  each speaking a word of comfort while passing.

Mourning,  among the Jews,  lasted about 30 days:

The first 3 days
The mourner did no servile work; and, if anyone saluted him, he did not return the salutation.
During the remainder of the first 7 days
The mourner did no servile work, except in private -
lay with his bed on the floor -
did not put on his sandals -
did not wash nor anoint himself -
had his head covered -
and neither read the Law,  the Mishnah,  nor the Talmud.
All the 30 days
The mourner continued unshaven -
wore no white or new clothes -
and did not sew up the rents that he had made in his garments.

I AM The Resurrection and The Life

The words  "I AM"  are very significant.

The Greek is emphatic: "ego eimi" "I, even I am..."

Martha had stated the resurrection rather as a doctrine;
Jesus states it as a  PRESENT  FACT.
Even as light dispels darkness, so does Life dispel death -
and Jesus never came into contact with death without radiating that  LIFE  which  He  is.

Once again we see the recurring pattern:

1. verse 3 The Request "His sisters sent to him"
2. verse 6 The Apparent Denial "He stayed 2 more days in  the place where He was"
3. verse 44 The Persistence of Trust "He who had died came out"

Some might question  "the persistence of trust"  being applied to Martha,  who seemed to continually question.
But what we see here is marvelous and wondrous on two counts:

1. Notice how Jesus gently fans the flames of  faith as He talks with her.
2. Although Martha did not understand  (as is evidenced by Vs. 39 & 40),  still,  in the very face of
death itself,  she believed Jesus.
He had told her that her brother would rise again, but He did not tell her explicitly that it would be NOW
In this we see that FAITH does not necessarily involve UNDERSTANDING,
but it does involve TRUSTING!

He groaned in the spirit ... Jesus wept

There have been several ideas put forth as to why Jesus showed these emotions.
Listed here are four of the possibilities suggested:

1. In His Humanity - out of a sense of sharing the feelings of those who were mourning for Lazarus
2. In His Humanity - out of a sense of  personal grief human because of the death of Lazarus
3. In His Deity - because of the universal ravages of sin that is the cause of all sickness and death
4. In His Deity - because of the unbelief of  those whom He came to save,
and to the final rejection of Him to which their unbelief would lead them

Lazarus Raised from the Dead

John 11:37-46
(37)  And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"
(38)  Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  (39)  Jesus said, "Take away the stone."
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days."
(40)  Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?"  (41)  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  (42)  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."  (43)  Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"  (44)  And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go."
(45)  Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.  (46)  But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did.
NKJV

Take away the stone ... loose him

Lazarus was  SEPARATED from Jesus by the STONE
Lazarus was  BOUND by the GRAVE CLOTHES
(He wrapped mummy style from head to foot.)

We see his situation:

Lazarus was SEPARATED
Lazarus was DEAD
Lazarus was BOUND

We see his deliverance:

The stone was rolled away by a conscious effort on the part of  man
Life was restored by a conscious effort on the part of  God
He was loosed by a conscious effort on the part of  man

No one can give life except God.  All human efforts must fail where God is not the instigator.
However,  since we know that it is not His will that any should perish (II Peter 3 :9),  we know that it is His will that all should live,  therefore,  it remains that any failure to accomplish the life-giving plan of  God would fall wholly on the part of man.

From this we can learn two great lessons:

There is no Blessing without preparation (rolling away the stone)
There is no Enjoyment or Liberty of that blessing without obedience (loosing the grave clothes)

Excerpts from Farrar

     The sight of all that love and misery,  the pitiable spectacle of  human bereavement,  the utter futility at such a moment of human consolation,  the shrill commingling of a hired and simulated lamentation with all this genuine anguish.  All these influences touched the tender compassion of  Jesus with deep emotion.
A strong effort of self-repression was needed - an effort that shook His whole frame with a powerful shudder - before He could find words to speak,  and then He could merely ask,  "Where have you laid him?"   They said,  "Lord, come and see."   As He followed them His eyes were streaming with silent tears.
The grave,  like most of the graves belonging to the wealthier Jews,  was a recess carved horizontally in the rock,  with a slab or mass of stone to close the entrance.  Jesus bade them remove this  "golal,"  as it was called.  Then Martha interposed - partly from a conviction that the soul had now utterly departed from the vicinity of the decomposing body,  partly afraid in her natural delicacy of the shocking spectacle that the removal of that stone would reveal.
     For in that hot climate it is necessary that burial should follow immediately upon death,  and as it was the evening of the fourth day since Lazarus had died,  there was too much reason to fear that by this time decomposition had set in.
     Solemnly Jesus reminded her of  His promise,  and the stone was moved from the place where the dead was laid.  He stood at the entrance,  and all others shrank a little backward,  with their eyes still fixed on that dark and silent cave.  A hush fell upon them all as Jesus raised His eyes and thanked God for the coming confirmation of His prayer.
     And then,  rising to its clearest tones that voice of  awful and sonorous authority,  and uttering,  as was usual with Him on such occasions,  the briefest words,  He cried,  "LAZARUS,  COME FORTH!"   Those words thrilled once more through that region of  impenetrable darkness that separates us from the world to come;  and scarcely were they spoken when,  like a specter,  from the rocky tomb issued a figure,  swathed indeed in its white and ghastly cerements - with the napkin round the head that had upheld the jaw that four days previously had dropped in death,  bound hand and foot and face,  but not livid,  nor horrible - the figure of a youth with the healthy blood of  a restored life flowing through his veins;  of a life restored - so tradition tells us - for thirty more long years to life,  and light,  and love.
     "If they believe not Moses and the Prophets" - so ran the answer of Abraham to the rich man in hell -"neither will they be converted though one (and this,  too,  A Lazarus!)  Rose from the dead."   It was even so.  There were many witnesses of this miracle who believed when they saw it,  but there were others who could only carry an angry and alarmed account of it to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem.
(Life of Christ by Dr. Frederic W. Farrar Copyright: 1949)

WITHDRAWAL  TO  EPHRAIM

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John 11:47-57
(47)  Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.  (48)  If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation."
(49)  And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all,  (50)  nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish."  (51)  Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,  (52)  and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
(53)  Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.  (54)  Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.
(55)  And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.  (56)  Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, "What do you think -- that He will not come to the feast?"  (57)  Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.
NKJV

The Sanhedrin met in a spirit of hatred and perplexity.

They could not deny the miracle
They would not believe on Him who had performed it
They could only dread His growing influence, and conjecture that it would be used to make Himself a King,  and so end in Roman intervention and the annihilation of  their political existence.

Caiaphas, being high priest

As they vainly raged in important counsels,  Joseph Caiaphas arose to address them.  He was the civil High
Priest,  and held the office eleven years,  from A.D. 25,  when Valerius Gratus placed him in it,  till A.D. 36,  when Vitellius turned him out.

That one  man should die for the people

In saying these remarkable words,  Caiaphas had no other intention than merely to state that it was better to put Jesus to death than to expose the whole nation to ruin on His account.  His maxim was,  it is better to sacrifice
one man than a whole nation.  He meant nothing more than that the way to prevent the apprehended ruin of their nation was to make a sacrifice of the Disturber of their peace.
But in giving utterance to this suggestion of  political expediency,  he was so guided as to give forth a Divine prediction of deep significance.

"And,"  John adds,  under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,  "not for that nation only..."
Then the great Apostle Paul takes up the wondrous theme and expounds it in the glory and brightness of its true light throughout Romans 5.

Rom 5:15
"... the grace of  God and the gift by the grace of  the one Man,  Jesus Christ,  abounded to many."

A city called Ephraim

A city about 20 miles north of  Jerusalem,  also mentioned in 2 Samuel 13:23.
It was a little village situated in the neighborhood of Bethel.

The chief priests ... had given a commandment

On or about February 22,  A.D. 33,  the Great Sanhedrin published the following notice for arrest and
punishment.  A court crier had to announce publicly or post such an official handbill in the major towns of  Judea some 40 days prior to a trial:

WANTED  FOR  ARREST:

Yeshu Hannosri

He shall be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel.  Anyone who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf.  Anyone who knows where he is, let Him declare it to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.

Yeshu Hannosri - this is Aramaic for Jesus the Nazarene, or Jesus of Nazareth.
But for the caption and the last sentence,  this proclamation is verbatim from the rabbinical tradition on  "Yeshu Hannosri"  in  "Sanhedrin"  43 a,  the Babylonian Talmud.

THE  TEN  LEPERS

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Luke 17:11-19
(11)  Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  (12)  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.  (13)  And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
(14)  So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
(15)  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,  (16)  and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
(17)  So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  (18)  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?"  (19)  And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."
NKJV

As both Galilee and Samaria were now closed to Him,  He could only journey on His way to Peraea,  down the valley of  Bethshean,  between the borders of both provinces.  There a very touching incident occurred.  On the outskirts of one of the villages a dull,  harsh,  plaintive cry smote His ears,  and looking up He saw "ten men who were lepers," united in a community of deadly misery.

They were afar off,  for they dared not approach,  since their approach was pollution,  and they were obliged to warn away all who would have come near them by the heart-rending cry,  "Tame! Tame!" -"Unclean! Unclean!"   There was something in that living death of  leprosy recalling as it did the most frightful images of suffering and degradation,  corrupting as it did the very fountains of the life-blood of man,  distorting his countenance,  rendering loathsome his touch,  slowly encrusting and infecting him with a plague-spot of  disease far more horrible than death itself - which always seems to have thrilled the Lord's heart with a keen and instantaneous compassion.

And never more so than at this moment.  Scarcely had Jesus heard their piteous cry of   "Jesus,  Master,  have mercy on us!"  than instantly,  without sufficient pause even to approach them more nearly,  He called to them aloud,  "Go, show yourselves unto the priests."  They knew the significance of that command  (See Life of Christ  Lesson 6).

Already,  at the sound of that potent Voice,  they felt a stream of wholesome life,  of recovered energy, of  purer blood,  pulsing through their veins;  and as they went they were cleansed.
He,  who has not seen the hideous,  degraded spectacle of the lepers clamorously revealing their mutilations,  and almost demanding alms,  by the roadside of some Eastern city,  can hardly conceive how transcendent and immeasurable was the boon that they had thus received at the hands of Jesus.

One would have thought that they would have suffered no obstacle to hinder the passionate gratitude that should have prompted them to hasten back at once - to struggle,  if need be,  even through fire and water,  if thereby they could fling themselves with tears of  heartfelt acknowledgment at their Savior's feet,  to thank Him for a gift of something more precious than life itself.

What absorbing selfishness,  what Jewish infatuation,  what sacerdotal interference,  what new and worse leprosy of shameful thanklessness and superstitious ignorance,  prevented it?
We only know that of  ten who were healed,  but ONE returned,  and he was a Samaritan.

The heart of Jesus,  familiar as He was with all ingratitude,  was yet moved by an instance of it so flagrant,  so all but unanimous,  and so abnormal.  "... but the nine - where are they?"  The voice of their misery had awakened the instant echo of  His mercy;  but the miraculous utterance of  His mercy,  though it thrilled through their whole physical being,  woke no echo of  gratitude in their earthy and still leprous hearts.
But this alien shall not have returned in vain,  nor shall the rare virtue of  his gratitude go unrewarded.

The nine received their physical healing only,
but the Samaritan received healing for  BOTH  BODY  AND  SOUL.

PARABLE  OF  THE  PERSEVERING  WIDOW

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Luke 18:1-8
(1)  Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,  (2)  saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  (3)  Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'  (4)  And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,  (5)  yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'"
(6)  Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.  (7)  And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  (8)  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
NKJV

Men always ought to pray

The plain meaning and moral of  the parable is evident -

That afflictions and desolations were coming on the land,
and they should have need of much patience and continual fortitude,
and the constant influence and protection of the Almighty,
therefore they should be instant in prayer .

The contrast intended here is like that in Matthew 7:11  "If you then, being evil,  know how to give good gifts to your children,  how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"

So here - if the judge,  who is unjust,  agreed to avenge the widow because of her continual coming,
SHALL NOT GOD
, who is just,  avenge those who suffer for the cause of  His Kingdom?
He answers this question,  not with a mere yes!
But with the promise that He will avenge SPEEDILY, or SUDDENLY!

The lesson for us is:  The Necessity and Benefits of  CONTINUAL  COMMUNION with Christ.

PARABLE  OF  THE  PHARISEE  AND  THE  PUBLICAN

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Luke 18:9-14
(9)  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  (10)  "two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  (11)  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,' God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  (12)  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'  (13)  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'  (14)  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
NKJV

Stood and prayed thus with himself

Or,  "stood by himself and prayed,"  as some translate the words.
He probably supposed it disgraceful to appear to have any connection with this penitent publican.
However,  he seems not only to have

STOOD BY HIMSELF in a PHYSICAL sense
but also to have
PRAYED BY HIMSELF in a SPIRITUAL sense

He was not thanking God for His Divine Mercies,  but he
was congratulating himself  for his own human accomplishments -
and that in a voice to be heard by those who were standing around.

God, I  thank You

Jesus had said that unless your righteousness abounds more than that of the scribes and Pharisees,  you shall not enter into the kingdom of God  (Matthew 5 :20). 

A Pharisee himself describes the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees here.
We find it to be two-fold:

1. Negative he did no harm to others
2. Positive he observed the ordinances of religious ceremony

In His woes to the Pharisees Jesus says  "...you tithe mint and rue and every herb,  and pass over judgment and the  love of God:  but these ought you to have done,  and not to leave the other undone."  (Luke 11:42)

I fast twice a week

The Jewish days of fasting,  in each week,  were the 2nd and 5th days.
These were instituted in remembrance of  Moses' going up to the mount to give the law,  which they suppose to have been on the 5th day;  and of  his descent,  after he had received the two tables,  which they suppose was on the 2nd day of the week.

That the Pharisees had a strong opinion of their own righteousness,  the following account from the rabbinical writings will prove:

"Rabbi Simeon,  the son of Jochai, said:
The whole world is not worth thirty righteous Persons,  such as our father Abraham.
If there were only thirty righteous persons in the World,
I and my son should make two of them;
but if there were but twenty,  I and my Son would be of the number;
and if there were but ten,  I and my son would be of the number;
and if there were but five,  I and my son would be of the five;
and if there were but two,  I and my son would be those two;
and if there were but one,  myself should be that one."

Jesus said that if  we would be great,  we must  HUMBLE  OURSELVES!
No wonder  OUR  righteousness is likened to filthy,  putrid rags!

The tax collector, standing afar off

Not because he was a  "heathen"  (or Gentile),  for he was likely a Jew,  but because he was a true penitent,  and felt himself utterly unworthy to appear before God.  Nor did he feel himself to be more than any other man.

Would not ... raise his eyes

Holding down the head,  with the eyes fixed upon the earth was:

1. A sign of deep distress
2. A sign of consciousness and confession of guilt
3. It was the very posture that the Jewish rabbins required in those who prayed to God
(so the Pharisee appears to have forgotten one of his own precepts - he was truly praying  "with himself')

But beat upon his breast

Beating the breast was a token of excessive grief,  commonly practiced in all nations.
It seemed to intimate a desire,  in the penitent;  to punish the heart through the evil propensities of which the sin deplored had been committed.
Note: That the holding down of his head,  and the beating of his breast,  were done publicly - he was not trying to hide his guilt.

This man went ... justified rather than the other

II Corinthians 10:12
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.      (NKJV)

Job 9:20
Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me;
Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.      (NKJV)

Philippians 1:11
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.      (NKJV)

Jeremiah 23:6
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:  THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.      (NKJV)

CONCERNING  DIVORCE

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Matthew 19:3-12
(3)   The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?"
(4)   And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,'   (5)  and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?   (6)  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
(7)   They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"
(8)   He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  (9)  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
(10)  His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry."
(11)  But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given:  (12)  For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."
NKJV

Mark 10:2-12
(2)   The Pharisees came and asked Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" testing Him.
(3)   And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?"
(4)   They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her."
(5)   And Jesus answered and said to them, "Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.  (6)  But from the beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female.'   (7) 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,  (8)  and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.  (9)  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
(10) In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.  (11)  So He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  (12)  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
NKJV

Testing Him

The word  "testing"  here means,  "to put to the test for the purpose of discovering what good or evil,  of  power or weakness is in a person or thing."
Since the result of this test usually disclosed evil in the person,  the verb acquired a secondary meaning,  namely,  "to tempt,"  in the sense of soliciting a person to do or say evil.

Is it lawful

The Aramaic has "Is it lawful. ...for any cause?"
The Amplified has "Is it lawful. ...for any and every cause?"

What made the Lord's situation at present so critical in respect to this question was:
At this time there were two famous divinity and philosophical schools among the Jews -

1. That of Shammai Which maintained that a man could not legally put away his wife for any cause except prostitution.
2. That of Hillel Which taught that a man might put away his wife for a multitude of other causes, 
and when she did not find grace in his sight;  i.e. when he saw any other woman that pleased him better.

Thus, when they asked  "Is it lawful..."  they did not necessarily confine their meaning to Scripture.
By answering the question,  not from Shammai or Hillel,  but from Moses,  Jesus defeated their malice,  and confounded their devices.

In this discourse,  Jesus shows that marriage  (except in the case of  sexual immorality  [The word here is from "pornos,"  which meant,  quite literally,  prostitution.] only)  is indissoluble:

1. (Matthew 19:4) By Divine Institution
2. (Matthew 19:5) By Express Commandment
3. (Matthew 19:6) Because the married couple becomes One and the Same Person in God's sight
4. (Matthew 19:8) By the Example of the First Couple
5. (Matthew 19:9) Because of the Evil consequent on Separation

If such is the case

This portion (Matthew 19:10-12) is made much clear in the translation of the Syriac Peshitta:

"His disciples said to him, if there is so much difficulty between man and woman, it is not worthwhile to marry."
In other words,  "If we have to put up with everything from a woman,  why marry in the first place?"   He said to them, this saying does not apply to every man, but to whom it is given"
For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother's womb;  and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men,"  and there are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven"  To him who can comprehend,  this is enough."

In other words,  Marriage is the Divine plan of God, and only those who are physically or spiritually (or both) prepared for a life of abstinence should not marry (as is borne out in I Corinthians chapter 7).

1 Corinthians 7:1-7
Now for the matters you wrote about:  It is good for a man not to marry.  But since there is so much immorality,  each man should have his own wife,  and each woman her own husband.  The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife,  and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband.  In the same way,  the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.  Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time,  so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  I say this as a concession,  not as a command.  I wish that all men were as I am.  But each man has his own gift from God;  one has this gift,  another has that.     (NIV)

LITTLE  CHILDREN  BLESSED

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Matthew 19:13-15
(13)  Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.  (14) 
But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
(15)  And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.
NKJV
Mark 10:13-16
(13)  Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 
(14)  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased
and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.  (15)  Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.
(16)  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
NKJV
Luke 18:15-17
(15)  Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 
(16)  But Jesus called them to Him
and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.  (17)  Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
NKJV

Swete says of this delightful and touching incident:
"This follows with singular fitness after the Lord's assertion of the sanctity of married life.  Matthew regards the sequence as strictly chronological, and Mark appears to locate the arrival of the children at the house where the Lord delivered to the 12 His judgment on marriages and divorce.  ... It was a sign of the growing reverence for the great Rabbi  (among the common people,  at least)  when even infants were brought to Him for His blessing. 
Those who were brought to Jesus were doubtless of various ages,  from the infant in arms to the elder children
still under the mother's care.  The Lord Himself had passed through all the stages of human immaturity,  and this group of children with their friends recall His own experience at Nazareth."

That He might touch them

The custom of laying on of hands with prayer upon children for the purpose of benediction,  finds its archetype in Genesis 48:14,15  (when Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh).  Parents for their children,  it seems, 
commonly obtained such benedictions from the ruler of the synagogue;  and here was One greater than any local synagogue-ruler.  But perhaps the purpose of  the friends was simply to secure a blessing by contact with the wonder-working Prophet.

Excerpts from Farrar

     Even the unconscious little ones were to be admitted into His Church.  He returned the rebuke of the disciples on themselves;  He was as much displeased with them,  as they had been with the parents and children.  "Suffer the little children,"  He said,  in words which each of the Synoptists has preserved for us in all their immortal tenderness,  "to come unto me,  and forbid them not,  for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  And when He had folded them in His arms,  He laid His hands upon them,  and blessed them,  He added once more His constantly needed,  and therefore constantly repeated,  warning,  "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of  heaven as a little child;  shall not enter therein."
     Women were not honored,  nor children loved in antiquity as now they are;  no halo of  romance and tenderness encircled them;  too often they were subjected to shameful cruelties and hard neglect.  But He who came to be the friend of all sinners,  and the helper of all the suffering and the sick,  came also to elevate woman to her due honor,  centuries before the Teutonic element of modern society was dreamt of,  and to be the protector and friend of helpless infancy and innocent childhood.
(Life of Christ by Dr. Frederic W. Farrar Copyright: 1949)

The same basic attitude of  self-righteousness crops in these three places here:

1. The Pharisee thought himself more righteous than the Publican
But God Said The Publican was justified and not the Pharisee!
2. Men thought themselves more righteous ( or worth more to God) than women
But God Said The Man and the Woman are ONE in God's sight!
3. Men thought themselves more righteous ( or worth more to God) than children
But God Said We must receive the kingdom of Heaven like a little child or we cannot enter it!

Romans 12:3
For I say ... to everyone who is among you,  not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think    (NKJV)

THE  RICH  YOUNG  RULER

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Matthew 19:16-30
(16)  Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
(17)  So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
(18)  He said to Him, "Which ones?"
Jesus said, "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,'  (19) 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
(20)  The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"
(21)  Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
(22)  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
(23)  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  (24)  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
(25)  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"
(26)  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
(27)  Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?"
(28)  So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  (29)  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.  (30)  But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
NKJV
Mark 10:17-31
(17)  Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
(18)  So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. 
(19)  You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'"
(20)  And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."
(21)  Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
(22)  But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
(23)  Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!
(24)  And the disciples were astonished at His words.   But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!  (25)  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
(26)  And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"
(27)  But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."
(28)  Then Peter began to say to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You."
(29)  So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's,  (30)  who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions -- and in the age to come, eternal life.  (31)  But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
NKJV
Luke 18:18-30
(18)  Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
(19)  So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but one, that is, God.
(20)  You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'"
(21)  And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."
(22)  So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
(23)  But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
(24)  And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!  (25)  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
(26)  And those who heard it said, "Who then can be saved?"
(27)  But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
(28)  Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You."
(29)  So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,  (30)  who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."
NKJV

A certain ruler

Luke archon Literally,   "a first one" - It speaks of  preeminence
In Matthew 9:18 it is used for the chief of a synagogue,  where it is joined to the word "synagogue."
In Luke 14:1 it is used for a chief  Pharisee.
Matthew neaniskos A relative tern that may be used of any age between boyhood and middle life.
Swete says that the homage paid Jesus by this person is  "remarkable because he is not a supplicant for material help.  In his eagerness to obtain spiritual advice he shows no less zeal than if he had sought the greatest of temporal benefits."
Josephus Josephus apparently understands it to be any member of the Sanhedrin.
It passed into Rabbinic usage as a general term for a great man or a prince.

Much instruction may be had from seriously attending to the conduct,  spirit,  and question of their person:

1. He came Urgently He ran to Jesus.  For he was deeply convinced of the importance of his business, and seriously determined to seek so as to find.
2. He Humbly He knelt.  Thus evidencing his humility,  and addressing himself only to mercy.
3. He came Hungry He came in the spirit of a disciple, or scholar, desiring to be taught a matter of the utmost importance to him.
4. He came Obediently He came in the spirit of obedience;  he had worked hard to no purpose,  and he is still willing to work,  provided he can have a prospect of succeeding.

What shall I do?

There are those who would condemn this young man  (and all others who would dare)  for trying to find a way to  "work"  his way into salvation.  However,  we must consider that he came to the right Source,  and in,  apparently,  the right attitude.

We know that our own works cannot buy salvation.  It is only through the work of Christ on Calvary,  and yet,  for all those who would enter in,  there is always  "something to do":

Matthew 9:6 The sick must  "take up their bed"
John 5:8 The impotent must  "rise up"
John 9:7 The blind must  "go wash"
Luke 5:14 The leper must  "show himself to the priest"
Acts 2:38 The people at Pentecost must  "repent and be baptized"
Acts 16:31 The Philippian jailer must  "believe"
Luke 18:22 The Rich Young Ruler must "keep the commandments and GIVE ALL THAT HE HAS."

So in answer to the question,  "What shall I do?"
The answer is always the same - "that thing which is,  in ourselves,  impossible - in short -TOTAL COMMITMENT!"

Through the eye of a needle

There is supposed to be here a reference to a proverbial form of expression common in the Jewish schools, 
when one desired to express the idea of great difficulty or of impossibility.  Lightfoot gives several quotations from the rabbis,  where the difficulty is represented by the image of an elephant going through the eye of a needle.

Some writers,  however,  think that there is allusion in the text,  not only to a proverbial form of speech,  but also to a fact.  They refer to the low,  narrow entrances to Oriental houses,  and to the difficulty a camel would experience in entering,  though even a camel might enter if he would take off  his load and kneel down;  which may be considered a hint to rich men who would enter the kingdom of heaven.

One ancient writer says:  "In Oriental cities there are in the large gates small and very low apertures,  called,  metaphorically,  "needles-eyes,"  just as we talk of certain windows as  "bulls-eyes."
These entrances are too narrow for a camel to pass through them in the ordinary manner,  or even if loaded.  When a laden camel has to pass through one of these entrances it kneels down,  its load is removed,  and then shuffles through on its knees.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves,  therefore,  under God's mighty hand,  that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.     (NIV)

THE  LABORERS  IN  THE  VINEYARD

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Matthew 20:1-16
(1)  "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  (2)  Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  (3)  And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,  (4)  and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went.  (5)  Again he went out about the sixth and the Ninth hour, and did likewise.  (6)  And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?'  (7)  They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.'
(8)  "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.'  (9)  And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.  (10)  But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.  (11)  And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,  (12)  saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.'  (13)  But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  (14)  Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.  (15)  Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?'  (16)  So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
"
NKJV

For a denarius

Some translations call it  "a penny."
A  "denarius,"  the chief silver coin of the Romans at this time,  and of the value of about 17 cents.
We must remember to reckon according to the rate of wages in that time.  A denarius was regarded as good pay for a day's work.  It was the pay of a Roman soldier.

The third hour

Third Hour About 9:00 AM
Sixth Hour About 12:00 Noon
Ninth Hour About 3:00 PM
Eleventh Hour About 5:00 PM
When there was only one hour before the end of the Jewish
Day- all labor ceased at 6:00 P.M.
1. (Acts 2:15) 3rd Hour Represents the Gospel offered to the Jews
2. (John 6:6) 6th Hour Represents the Gospel offered to the Samaritans
3. (Acts 10:30) 9th Hour Represents the Gospel offered to the Gentiles
4. (John 9:4)
(Matt 24:14)
11th Hour The last efforts to offer the Gospel to the World in the End Time

It has also been suggested that the different hours mentioned represent the time in a person's life when he surrenders to God,  and begins labor in His field.  (Child, Teenager, Adult, Old Age)

Beginning from the last to the first

This is a continuation of  the previous section.

The Jews who have been the first and most distinguished people of God,  will in general reject the Gospel of  grace.
The Gentiles who have had no name among the living,  shall be brought to the knowledge of the truth
To illustrate this fully,  and to demonstrate that the Jews and Gentiles were now put on an equal footing by the Gospel, our Lord speaks this parable.

Notice the pattern throughout the Old Testament the Scriptures:

Cain and Abel Genesis 4:4 Cain was Adam's firstborn
But it was the younger brother,  Abel,  who offered the accepted sacrifice.
Ishmael and Isaac Genesis 21:12 Ishmael was Abraham's firstborn
But it was the younger brother,  Isaac,  who was the son of  promise.
Esau and Jacob Genesis 25:33 Esau was Isaac's firstborn
But it was the younger brother,  Jacob,  who received the birthright.
Eliab and David I Samuel 16:6 Eliab was Jesse's firstborn
But it was the younger brother,  David, 
who  was chosen to rule Israel.
Israel and Gentile Romans 1:16 Israel was the Chosen People
But it was the Gentiles that would accept the Grace offered by the sacrifice of Christ.

Galatians 3:18
For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.    (NKJV)

Galatians 4:28
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.    (NKJV)

Ephesians 2:11-13
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.    (NKJV)

Ephesians 1:13-14
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.    (NKJV)

THE  AMBITION  OF  JAMES  AND  JOHN

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Matthew 20:17-28
(17)  Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem,
took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them,  (18)  "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death,  (19)  and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again."
(20)  Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.
(21)  And He said to her, "What do you wish?"
She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom."
(22)  But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"
They said to Him, "We are able."
(23)  So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."
(24)  And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers.  (25)  But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  (26)  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  (27)  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave --  (28)  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
NKJV
Mark 10:32-45
(32)  Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid.
Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him:  (33)  "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles;  (34)  and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again."
(35)  Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask."
(36)  And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
(37)  They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory."
(38)  But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"
(39)  They said to Him, "We are able."
So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;  (40)  but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared."
(41)  And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.  (42)  But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  (43)  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  (44)  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  (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."
NKJV
Luke 18:31-34
 
(31)  Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.  (32)  For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon.  (33)  They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again."
(34)  But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.
NKJV

The Mother

Matthew (Matt 20:20) says their  "...mother came to Him with her sons, worshipping Him and desiring..." Salome was her name (Mark 16:1).  We cannot be sure with which of the parties the movement originated;  but as our Lord,  even in Matthew's account,  addresses Himself  to James and John,  making no account of the mother,  it is likely the mother was merely set on by them.  The thought was doubtless suggested to her sons by the recent promise to the Twelve of  "thrones to sit on, when the Son of man should sit on the throne of His glory"  (Matt 19:28);  but after the reproof so lately given them  (Mark 9:33, etc.),  they get their mother to speak for them.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Excerpts from Farrar:

"As Jesus began the journey that was to end at Jerusalem,  a prophetic solemnity and elevation of soul struggling with the natural anguish of the flesh,  and which shrank from the great sacrifice,  pervaded His whole being,  and gave anew and strange grandeur to every gesture and every look.  There are few pictures in the Gospel more striking than this of Jesus going forth to His death,  and walking alone along the path into the deep valley,  while behind Him,  in awful reverence,  and mingled anticipations the disciples walked behind and dared not disturb His meditations.
"But at last He paused and beckoned them to Him, and then, once more - for the third time - with fuller, 
clearer,  more startling,  more terrible particulars than ever before,  He told them that he would be betrayed to the Priests and Scribes;  by them condemned,  "then handed over to the Gentiles,"  by the Gentiles mocked,  scourged,  and - He now for the first time revealed to them,  without any ambiguity,  the crowning horror - CRUCIFIED;  and that,  on the third day,  He should rise again.
"But their minds were full of  Messianic hopes;  they were so pre-occupied with the conviction that now the kingdom of  God was to come in all its splendor,  that the prophecy passed by them like the idle wind;  they could not,  and would not,  understand.
"There can be no more striking comment on their inability to realize the meaning of  what Jesus had just said to them,  than the fact that very shortly after,  and during the same journey,  occurred the ill-timed and strangely unspiritual request which the Evangelists proceed to record.  With an air of privacy and mystery,  Salome,  one of the constant attendants of Jesus,  with her two sons,  James and John,  who were among the most eminent of His Apostles,  came to Him with adorations,  and begged that in His kingdom they might sit,  the one at His right hand,  and the other at His left.
"Jesus bore gently with their selfishness and error.  They had asked in their blindness for that position which,  but a few days afterwards,  they were to see occupied in shame and anguish by the two crucified robbers.
"They dreamed of earthly crowns;  He told them of a cup of bitterness and a baptism of blood.  Could they indeed drink with Him of that cup,  and be baptized with that baptism?
"The ten,  when they heard the incident,  were naturally indignant at this secret attempt of the two brothers to secure for themselves a pre-eminence of honor;  little knowing that,  so far as earth was concerned,  that premium of honor should only be,  for the one a precedence in martyrdom,  for the other a prolongation of  suffering.
"Jesus called them all together,  and taught them,  as He had so often taught them,  that the highest honor is won by the deepest humility.  The shadowy principalities of earth were characterized by the semblance of a little brief authority over their fellow men.  But in the kingdom of  heaven the lord of all would be the servant of all,  even as the highest Lord had spent His very life in the lowest ministrations,  and was about to give it a ransom for many."
(Life of Christ by Dr. Frederic W. Farrar Copyright: 1949)

TWO  BLIND  MEN  NEAR  JERICHO

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Matthew 20:29-34
(29)  Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.  (30) 
And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by,
cried out, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!"
(31)  Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!"
(32)  So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
(33)  They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened."  (34)  So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.
NKJV
Mark 10:46-52
(46)  Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude,
blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging.  (47)  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
 he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
(48)  Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
(49)  So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.
Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you."
(50)  And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.
(51)  So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight."
(52)  Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
NKJV
Luke 18:35-43
(35)  Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho,
that a certain blind man sat by the road begging.  (36)  And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant.  (37)  So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.
(38)  And he cried out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
(39)  Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
(40)  So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near,
He asked him,  (41)  saying, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
He said, "Lord, that I may receive my sight."
(42)  Then Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."  (43)  And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
NKJV

Jericho

This was a large town about eight miles west of the Jordan,  and about 19 miles northeast from Jerusalem.

(Josh 3:16) Near to this city the Israelites crossed the Jordan when they entered into the land of Canaan.
(Josh 6:20-21,26) It was the first city taken by Joshua, who destroyed it to the foundation, and pronounced a curse on him who should rebuild it.
(1 Kings 16:34) This curse was literally fulfilled in the days of Ahab, nearly 500 years later.
(2 Kings 2:5) It afterward became the place of the school of the prophets.
(2 Kings 2:21) In this place Elisha worked a signal miracle, greatly to the advantage of the inhabitants, by rendering the waters near it, that were before bitter, sweet and wholesome.
In point of size it was second only to Jerusalem. It was sometimes called the city of palm-trees, from the fact that there were many palms in the vicinity.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

There are those who would be troubled by the seeming discrepancies between the three narratives of this occurrence.

Not only does Matthew mention 2 blind men, while the others only mention 1
  BUT
Matthew says that the miracle was performed ''as they departed from Jericho," while Luke most distinctly implies that it took place before He entered Jericho.
1. Bartimaeus was probably the outstanding one of the two, even as the case of the two Gadarene demoniacs in lesson 12. He would thus not only be better known, but he would be the spokesman for the other also.
2. Farrar says, "Of the 14 or 15 proposed ways of harmonizing the discrepancies,  most involve a remedy far worse than the supposed defect;  but Macknight's suggestion that the miracle may
have been performed between the two Jericho's - the ancient site of the Canaanite city, and the new semi-Herodian city - is at least possible."
  HOWEVER

As Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary points out  "Many ways of accounting for these slight
divergences of detail have been proposed. Perhaps,  IF WE KNEW ALL THE FACTS,  we should see no difficulty;  but that we have been left so far in the dark shows that the thing is of no moment any way."

We might also point out that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that there might have been 3 healed,  and that the two accounts represent two separate miracles. (John 21 :25).

Vincent says that diseases of the eye were very common in the East.  He quotes Thomson:  "The ash-heaps are extremely mischievous;  on the occurrence of the slightest wind,  the air is filled with a fine pungent dust which is very injurious to the eyes.  I once walked the streets counting all that were either blind or had defective eyes, and it amounted to about one-half of the male population.  The women I could not count,  for they are rigidly veiled."

Son of  David

Jesus was now once again on Judean soil,  and as we have already seen,  there was a particular meaning attached to this phrase,  "son of David."  At Jerusalem all the Jews thought of  David as their father,  and of Messiah as the Son of David in a special sense.

The Greek construction indicates that Bartimaeus kept on crying out to Jesus,  and repeatedly calling Him the
son of David.  In view of the attitude of the Sanhedrin,  we can well understand why the disciples wished to quiet the man - especially when we consider that Jericho was not too far from Jerusalem,  and that many of the priests made their daily trip to and from Jerusalem while they kept their homes in Jericho.

The progression from Spiritual Blindness to Spiritual Sight

This narrative illustrates,  in the natural & physical realm, the progression in the Spiritual realm of going from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight, from spiritual death to spiritual life:

They heard Jesus was passing by Someone had to tell him that Jesus was there
(Romans 10:14)
Jesus, Son of David He recognized and acknowledged who Jesus was
(Romans 10:9)
Have mercy on me Admitted his need of the Savior
(Proverbs 28:13;  1 John 1:9)
Cried out all the more Did not listen to those who tried to quiet him
(Psalm 1:1)
He  is calling you The Spirit of  the Lord calls to all to come to Him
( 1 Timothy 2:4;  2 Peter 3:9;  Revelation 3:20)
Throwing aside his garment Forsake fleshly works and desires
(1 John 2:16, 17)
What do you want? Jesus asked him to specifically state his desire
(Luke 11:90
Your faith has made you well Triumph of  faith
(Ephesians 2:8;  Hebrews 11:6)
Followed Jesus Initial spiritual birth leads to a lifetime of following in His steps
(1 Peter 2:21)
VISIT  TO  ZACCHAEUS

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Luke 19:1-10
(1)  Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.  (2)  Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.  (3)  And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  (4)  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  (5)  And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."  (6)  So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.  (7)  But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner."
(8)  Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold."
(9)  And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;  (10)  for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
NKJV

Zaccheus
The name Zaccheus is Hebrew,  and shows that this man was a  "Jew."
The Hebrew name properly means "pure," and is the same as Zacchai in Ezra 2:9; Nehemiah 7:14.

Because he had engaged in a business so infamous,  in the eyes of the Jews,  he was considered as a mere pagan.

A  chief tax collector

Either a  "farmer-general"  of the taxes,  who had subordinate collectors under him,  and as such,  would be in charge of the entire district - or else the most respectable and honorable man among that particular class at Jericho (for further information on Publicans, or tax collectors,  and the possible position of Zaccheus, see Lesson 6).

According to Barnes, a chief tax collector presided over other tax-gatherers,  or who "received"  their collections and transmitted them to the Roman government.

Sought to see who Jesus was

Not only what kind of person He was, but which one of the crowd.

Excerpts from Farrar

     The two most distinctive classes of  Jericho were priests and publicans;  and,  as it was a priestly city,  it might naturally have been expected that the king,  the son of David,  the successor of Moses,  would be received in the house of some descendant of Aaron.  But the place where Jesus chose to rest was determined by other circumstances.
     A colony of publicans was established in the city to secure the revenues accruing from the large traffic in a kind of balsam,  which grew more luxuriantly there than in any other place,  and to regulate the exports and imports between the Roman province and the dominion of Herod Antipas.
     One of the chiefs of these publicans was a man named Zaccheus,  doubly odious to the people,  as being a Jew and as exercising his functions so near to the Holy City.  His official rank would increase his unpopularity because the Jews would regard it as due to exceptional activity in the service of  their Roman oppressors,  and they would look upon his wealth as a probable indication of numerous extortions.
     This man had a deep desire to see with his own eyes what kind of person Jesus was;  the one who,  alone of  His nation,  not only showed no concentrated and fanatical hatred for the class to which he belonged,  but had found among publicans some of  His most eager listeners,  and had elevated one of  them unto the rank of an Apostle (Matthew).

(Life of Christ by Dr. Frederic W. Farrar Copyright: 1949)

I must stay at your house

Adopting the royal style which was familiar to him, and which commends the loyalty of a vassal in the most delicate manner by freely exacting his services  ("Ecce Homo").
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Revelations 3:20-21
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,  I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.    (NKJV)

I restore fourfold

1. By God's Law Restitution was required in Exodus 22:1
2. By Roman Law This is the restitution the Roman laws obliged the tax-gatherers to make, when it was proved they had abused their power by oppressing the people.

Salvation has come to this house

They have this day received the blessings of the gospel. Salvation  "commences"  when people truly receive Christ and their sins are pardoned;  it is  "completed"  when the soul is sanctified and received up into heaven.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

For he has given "evidence" that he is a new man, and is disposed to forsake his sins and receive the gospel.

James 2:18
Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.    (NKJV)

Because he  also is a son of Abraham

Not only was he a descendant of Abraham in the natural, but his now he was a true son of Abraham

Galatians 3:6, 7
... just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.      (NKJV)

ANOINTING  OF  JESUS  BY  MARY  OF  BETHANY

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Six Days Before Passover

Matthew 26:6-13
(6)   And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of  Simon the leper,  (7)  a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 
(8)  But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste?  (9)  For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor."
(10)  But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.  (11)  For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.  (12)  For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.  (13)  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."
NKJV
Mark 14:3-9
(3)  And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 
(4)  But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted?  (5)  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they criticized her sharply.
(6)  But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.  (7)  For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.  (8)  She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  (9)  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."
NKJV
John 12:2-8
(1)  Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.  (2)  There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.  (3)  Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
(4)  But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said,  (5)  "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"  (6)  This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
(7)   But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.  (8)  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always."
NKJV

At the house

Jesus did not mean to make the city of  Jerusalem His actual resting-place,  but preferred as usual to stay in the
loved home at Bethany.  There He arrived on the evening of Friday,

Nisan 8 According to the Jewish calendar
A.U.C. 780 According to the Romans,  from the founding of the city of Rome
March 31 A.D. 30 According to our calendar
6 days before the Passover,  and before the sunset had commenced the Sabbath hours.

Here He would part from His train of pilgrims,  some of whom would go to enjoy the hospitality of their friends in the city,  and others would run up for themselves rude tents and booths in the valley of the Kedron,  and about the western slopes of the Mount of Olives.

The Sabbath day was spent in quiet,  and on the evening they made Him a supper.  This Sabbath preceding the Passover was called by the Jews "Shabbath Haddadol," or the  "Great Sabbath."

Simon the leper

Matthew and Mark say,  a little mysteriously,  that this feast was given in the house of  Simon the leper.
John makes no mention whatever of  Simon the leper,  a name that does not occur elsewhere;  and it is clear from his narrative that the family of  Bethany were in all respects the central figures at this entertainment.

Who then was this Simon the leper?  That he was no longer a leper is of course certain, for otherwise he could not have been living in his own house,  or mingling in general society.  Had he then been cleansed by Jesus?
And,  if so,  was this one cause of the profound belief in Him,  which prevailed,  in that little household;  or was Simon now dead?

We cannot answer these questions,  nor are there sufficient data to enable us to decide whether he was the father of Martha and Mary and Lazarus,  or as some have conjectured,  whether Martha was his widow,  and the inheritress of his house.

Lazarus...who had been dead

Martha seems to have had the entire supervision of the feast,  and the risen Lazarus was almost as much an object of curiosity as Jesus Himself.

So many thronged to see Lazarus when he had been raised,  that the notorious and indisputable miracle had caused many to believe on Jesus.  This had so exasperated the ruling party at Jerusalem that,  in their wicked desperation,  they actually had held a consultation how they might get rid of this living witness (Lazarus) to the supernatural powers of the Messiah whom they rejected.

A Pound

The  "pound,"  varied in weight in different countries. The Roman "litra" which is supposed to be the weight mentioned in the text was equal to nearly 12 ounces.

Spikenard

The rose-red,  fragrant ointment made from the dried roots and woolly stems of the spikenard plant was a
favorite perfume of the ancients.  A precious ointment,  it was transported in an alabaster box to preserve its fragrance.  Because it had to be imported from northern India,  it was extremely yet understandably costly.

Three hundred denarii

The denarii was the "pence", "penny," the "pennyworth" - known as the Roman "denarius," or the Greek "denarion"  - it was the familiar  "day's wages"  of about 17 cents.  Thus, 300 denarii would be about $50.00 - equal to almost a year's work.

He...took what was put in it

Some translations have: bare what was put therein.
Some have:  "And stole what was put in it."  This seems the proper meaning, and it is used in this sense in John 20:15 ("If thou hast STOLEN him away").  In the same sense the word is used by Josephus where,  speaking of the pillage of the temple by Antiochus,  he says  "He carried off, or STOLE, also the vessels of the Lord."
It also agrees with the context,  and John has already (in verse 6),  classified him as a thief.

For my burial

The parts of  Mary and Judas in respect to the death of  Christ are brought into sharp contrast:

1. Mary In her devotion provides for the honor of the dead
2. Judas In his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself
For barely a third of such a sum, this son of perdition was ready to sell his Lord.

 

(End of Lesson Nineteen)

 

 


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