Jesus Still Defends Us

Two incidents in Luke 5 illustrate not only Satan’s tactics but the way Jesus speaks up for His disciples.

The chapter begins with Jesus calling Peter, James, and John out of their vocations into his mission: to seek and save the lost (Luke 5:1-11; Luke 19:10).

Next, Luke records the healing of a man with leprosy and a paralytic and the calling of Levi the tax collector to follow Him.

This is when the Pharisees come in. And this is when they begin to attack Jesus, not directly, but through His disciples.

When they see Jesus and the disciples eating at a great banquet hosted by Levi, they come not to Jesus but to the disciples, grumbling, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? (v. 30) The Greek word for “grumbling” here means “to murmur, mutter, say anything against in a low tone,” indicating they mean their words for the disciples’ ears only .

Why complain to Jesus’ disciples? Because the Pharisees have seen Jesus’ power and don’t want to confront Him? Because the new disciples have little experience with being challenged?

Whatever the reason, Jesus answers the challenge: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

The Pharisees direct their next criticism directly to Jesus about His disciples: “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” 5:33

Again, Jesus defends their actions. “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

Two observations here: 1) The opponents of Christ attack Him through His disciples; 2) Jesus is aware of what is happening and steps in to defend His followers.

Is it any different today? When opponents of God attack His followers for alleged ignorance, for our unwillingness to follow society’s lead, for our stances on moral issues, we must ask ourselves: Is their problem with us, or with God?

First, we must be sure that we are indeed pursuing God’s cause and not our own political ambitions. If it is for God we live, then Paul in his eloquence gives us confidence.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

…Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?

Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

Satan is still attacking vulnerable disciples through criticism. And when he does, we tend to take it personally.

If we know His Word, Jesus is still in us and will defend us – much like He defended Himself from Satan’s temptations by reciting Old Testament Scripture (Luke 4:1-13).

As long as the Word of Christ is part of us, as long as we have access to Him through prayer, He will continue to answer on our behalf and protect us from evil. (Matthew 6:13).

What God Doesn’t Want – or Need

While you may resent paying taxes, you may also commit another 10 to 15 percent of your income to the church. You answer with generosity when you’re presented with a genuine need. While others sleep in on Sunday morning, you dedicate that time to Him — and not just for the worship hour – but for Bible class, too!

Surely God is grateful when you and I make such sacrifices of our money and time for Him!

Not so fast, writes the poet Asaph. In Psalm 50 he portrays a courtroom to which the Almighty God comes out of the perfectly beautiful Zion in the midst of a devouring fire and a mighty tempest. He summons His covenant people from heaven and earth to a trial where He is both the judge and the witness against His people.

And what does He testify against them? Not that they neglect sacrifices to Him, but that they think that’s all He wants.

His words are pointed and harsh. “I will not accept a bull from your house” because “every wild animal [and] the cattle on a thousand hills” (NRSV) are Mine already. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it are Mine.” You think that because you offer these burnt offerings to Me, you are acceptable to Me. (9-13)

Some of you – and I will call you wicked – are fond of quoting My law, yet you are undisciplined. You don’t hesitate to bend the law when it suits you; you’re not ashamed to openly associate with adulterers. (16-18)

You make Me in your image and suppose that if you’re righteous in your own eyes, you must be righteous in Mine, too. But you are wrong. (21)

I rebuke you for your foolishness. I lay this charge before you: Even as you offer sacrifices, you have forgotten Me. “Mark this, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.” (21-22)

Yet there is still hope – even for those of us who, in our misplaced devotion – have forgotten the object of that devotion.

We can still see the salvation of God, if we remember this: God wants us to honor Him with thanksgiving as our sacrifice. He wants us to recognize our dependence on Him, to call on Him when we’re in trouble. (23, 15)

When we recognize our dependence on Him, we’ll see those perceived “sacrifices” of money and time with a different attitude. For they will not be sacrifices at all, but natural responses born out of gratitude and love.