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20180128 Ask Psalm 86:1-4 (Opening) 1  Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2  Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. 3  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. 4  Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Introduction Well, Christmas was a month ago. I guess it’s safe to talk a little bit about it. Have you ever gone to any of the department stores right after Christmas? Not only is that when all the good Christmas sales start, but there is also always a long line at the service desk; a line of people returning gifts they received that they didn’t think were a good fit for what they wanted or needed. How many gifts did you return this year? How many gifts that you bought for someone do you think were returned, or maybe you know? In the past 10 years or so, the easy way out, to make sure that your gift that you get someone isn’t returned, is to get them a gift card, or give them cash. No one has every returned cash, as far as I know, and I don’t think anyone has every returned a gift card. But honestly, that can be considered a lazy man’s gift. There’s no real thought or planning required to get someone a Wal Mart gift card. How many gift cards did you get last Christmas? The Context We’ve been studying Jesus’ parables over the past few months. All of the ones we’ve looked at so far have only been in one of the gospels, and today is no exception. Today, we’re in Luke chapter 11. Before we dig into the parable that Jesus teaches, we need to understand what’s going on, so we know what Jesus is trying to say, because the parables Jesus tells are all connected to the context that He tells them in. Luke 11:1 1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Jesus had a habit of isolating Himself from other people when He prayed. He often sought out lonely places where other people wouldn’t find Him and interrupt Him. This event seems to be early on in His ministry, and He has many disciples, including the twelve, and some who probably where not always around when He was teaching. Back in Matthew 6, during the Sermon on the Mount, which seems to be earlier in His ministry than this event, Jesus teaches the crowd that is gathered how to pray. It was a common practice for rabbis to teach their disciples a distinctive way of praying, and this disciple asked Jesus to teach him just like John taught his disciples. Jesus was always willing to teach, so He obliges His disciples, and gives them an example of how to pray. Luke 11:2-4 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3  Give us each day our daily bread, 4  and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” If you compare this with the prayer Jesus teaches in Matthew 6, there are some differences. This is similar, but abbreviated. It’s like Jesus is saying “Ok, here’s a framework for what you should be focusing on when you pray.” But if you read it in the King James version, it reads differently. Much different, really. Luke 11:2-4 (KJV) 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. We’ll run into this again, later, but I wanted to point out that this is probably because of scribes, copying and translating the Greek scrolls into Latin, and when they saw the similarities with Matthew 6, they tried to find ways to make the two sound as close to each other as possible. The majority of the Greek manuscripts read like the ESV does, very abbreviated. But the Latin manuscripts read similar to the King James version. But what I found during my studies is that there are nearly 15 different versions of these verses in different manuscripts. But the oldest are the Greek manuscripts, which have the abbreviated rendition of the example prayer, like we read it in the ESV. The first two sentences, the last part of verse 2, are similar in content to the beginning of the Jewish Qaddish, one of the central prayers of Jewish worship that would be recited at the close of synagogue worship. It was based on the text of Ezekiel 38:23 Ezekiel 38:23 23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord. The text of the beginning of the Qaddish that is commonly used today translates to something like this: Qaddish Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world He created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily and in the near future. What Jesus teaches is shorter, but similar. If we look at this as a formula for how to pray, rather than a script, which is what I think Jesus is saying here, Jesus is telling His disciples, and us, that we should praise God for His holiness and power, and that one day every knee will bow to Him, like it says in Isaiah 45:23 Isaiah 45:23 23  By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Jesus then turns to individual needs in His example. He says we should also be praying for our daily provisions, giving us just what we need, like God’s provision of manna when Israel was wandering in the wilderness. Every day God would provide them with enough food to eat for that day, and on Friday, He would provide them with enough food for that day, and the sabbath to follow, so there would be no need to work collecting manna on the sabbath. The second need Jesus includes is forgiveness. We all sin, there’s no question about that. Jesus says we should ask God for forgiveness, given that we are forgiving people who wrong us. He’s not saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional on us forgiving others, but not forgiving others would be another sin that we would need to ask forgiveness for. The last need Jesus includes in His example prayer is that God not allow us to be tempted, or to protect us from the temptation traps that Satan lays out for us. Like Paul wrote in his first letter to the congregation in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 10:13 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The Story After telling them the basic framework to use when praying, Jesus tells a story to help them understand what He was talking about, and why they should be praying. Luke 11:5-6 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; Jesus starts His story by explaining the circumstances. A man has a friend show up at his house unexpected, in the middle of the night. His friend has been traveling for a long time and is evidently hungry. I can’t imagine this would be a rare occurrence. Traveling at night would be cooler than traveling during the heat of the day. After traveling for a long time, it’s not surprising that the man’s friend would be hungry. That’s when the man realizes he has no food prepared in his house. The quick solution is to run next door and ask his neighbor if he has any bread that he could borrow so his friend could eat. Luke 11:7 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? His neighbor’s answer is anything but neighborly. “Are you kidding me? It’s midnight! I’ve already locked the door, and we’re all in bed! I’m not getting up to bring you three loafs of bread. Not gonna happen!” Let me explain that the neighbor isn’t really being lazy here. All of these are real concerns. When he says the door is shut, that means that it is also locked and barred so no one can open it from the outside. On top of that, opening it from the inside wasn’t an easy task, especially in the dark, or by the dim light of an oil lamp. Better to wait until the morning. The neighbor seems to live in a one-room house that would have been the usual residence for someone living in a small village or in the country. The family would sleep together on a woven mat in the middle of that one room, with the furniture moved off to the side for the evening. With everyone sleeping in one bed, it would be likely the man would wake up some or all of his children when getting the bread for his neighbor, and we know how difficult it can be to get kids to go back to sleep in the middle of the night when they are woken up. I have to agree with him. No was the common-sense answer to the person asking to borrow bread at midnight. I am not getting up to give you bread; the risk far outweighs the benefit. Make some yourself. But Jesus’ parables always have a twist, and it comes here, in verse 8. Luke 11:8 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. Jesus says the neighbor actually will get out of bed and chance waking his kids and face the difficulties of unlocking the door. Why? Not because they’re friends, but because of the sheer impudence of his friend’s request. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use the word “impudent” in everyday conversation. So, I looked it up. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, Impudent is Impudent marked by contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others. In the Modern Literal Version, those 8 ½ x 11 size New Testaments that are scattered around the auditorium, they translate the Greek word there as irreverence instead of impudence. The New English Bible, another of the more modern translations, translates it as shamelessness. Jesus says the neighbor will give in to his friend’s request simply because he had the unmitigated gall to come knock on his door in the middle of the night and ask. The Application So, what is Jesus trying to say by all this? What is He telling us by this parable? Let’s keep reading. Luke 11:9-10 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. These three verbs that Jesus uses here in this section, ask, seek, and knock, are all used as a metaphor for prayer. And we see the main character in Jesus’ parable doing all three of these. He shamelessly asks for bread, he seeks out his neighbor to get help, and knocks on his door in the middle of the night when he realizes his need. Now that Jesus has reinforced the rationale for praying, He explains to us through a human example, why we should trust that God will answer our prayers. Luke 11:11-12 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? This is another of those places where the Latin manuscripts read differently than the Greek manuscripts do. The ESV is translated from the older Greek manuscripts, but the King James was translated from the Latin manuscripts. The King James reads differently here in verses 11 and 12. Luke 11:11-12 (KJV) 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? The King James seems to be a blending of the older Greek manuscripts and a similar teaching from Matthew again, this time in chapter 7. Matthew 7:9-10 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? It seems that over the years, during the transcription and translation from the Greek to the Latin manuscripts, Jesus’ comments about the bread and stone creeped into the text. I don’t think that it hurts the scripture here; in fact, I think it reads better, and ties all the parts of this together: the daily bread in the example prayer that Jesus gives, to the asking for bread in the parable, to the son asking his father for bread. All three good things Jesus talks about here, bread, fish, and eggs, were dietary staples in the Middle East during this time. It wouldn’t be an uncommon event for a child to ask his father or mother for any of these things. Jesus goes from the child asking for good things to the parent not giving bad things. The stone would resemble the small baked lumps of dough to make personal loaves of bread that was common in the first century, but a stone is far from edible. The snake would resemble a fish because they both have scales, but the fish is a clean animal, and the snake, of course, is not. The one that always confused me was the egg and scorpion, until I learned that dead scorpions curl up into a ball, which could resemble an egg at a quick glance. Again, eggs are kosher, but scorpions are not. Jesus sums up His explanation with this. Luke 11:13 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” We don’t always do what’s right, but we, generally speaking, take care of our kids and make sure they get good things, not bad things. If we’re careful to do that, why wouldn’t you ask God for good things, because we know that He will give them to us. James tells us the same thing about God’s gifts. James 1:17 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. I found that the Modern Literal Translation makes this verse sound a little bit different, and made more of an impact with me. Instead of good gift and perfect gift, it reads like this: James 1:17 (MLV) Every good act of giving, and every complete gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor a shadow of turning. God’s giving is complete, and also the very act of His giving is good. The gift He gives is the right gift, and it is at the right time, the time when God says it is appropriate for you to receive that gift. Conclusion So, let me ask you a question. Would God give gift cards? No. God has a plan for us, and He knows each one of us intimately. Jesus says that God knows how many hairs each of us has on our heads. I guess It’s easier for God to know some of us than others. But my point, and Jesus’ point, is that when we pray, we’re telling God our desires, but we also need to admit our failings. He already knows, but He wants to hear it from us. He wants us to admit our failings, and to ask for forgiveness and for the other perfect gifts given at the perfect time, based on His will for us. What more perfect gift is there for Him to give His children than the Holy Spirit, as Jesus says He will give in verse 13. And as Luke wrote about the occurrences on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 Acts 2:38 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (Closing) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 13
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