The Trumpet call of reconciliation
Nov 29, 2014
Most of Luke 20 told how the religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority or how they tried to cause Him to stumble. He answered their questions perfectly and then posed a question for them which they were unable to answer. If they had recognized Him as the Messiah, they might have been able to answer why David calls his son “Lord.”
They were blind, however, and their blindness was in direct accordance with their rejection of the word. Rejecting any portion of the word will blind one’s eyes, and it is very difficult to overcome such blindness, for it normally requires recalling its point of origin and repenting of that rejection. (I speak from personal experience.)
In the case of cultural blindness, established by the religious leaders over time, it often requires separation from those who brought about the blindness itself. This, I believe, largely explains why the excommunicated sinners and publicans could easily accept Jesus, while the religious leaders could not.
No doubt the blindness also extended to their lack of understanding of Psalm 110:1, wherein David prophesied that Christ’s enemies would become His footstool. We are not told how they interpreted this “footstool,” but because they hated Rome, despised foreigners, and discriminated against them in the courts of the temple itself, it is clear that their idea of subduing enemies was in terms of carnal warfare and enslavement of all people to the Jewish nation.
In actual fact, David’s words were about Christ coming in love to die on behalf of His enemies, as Paul explains to us in Rom. 5:7-10,
7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Motivated by divine love, Christ died to justify sinners and to reconcile His enemies. The Church was then called to act like Christ and to spread this message of reconciliation, for 2 Cor. 5:18-20 says,
18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Jewish leadership had rejected such a calling, for they wanted God to reconcile the world through military subjugation, after which time, as one Talmudic rabbi put it, “every Jew will have 2,500 slaves.” But David tells us that the temple was to be God’s footstool, and Isaiah says that the earth itself was to be God’s footstool. Solomon prayed—and Isaiah affirmed—that the temple was to be a house of prayer for all the people of the earth who would worship at His footstool.
To reconcile is to make peace, and this is the basis of the peace offerings in Leviticus 3. Sinners need justification through sin offerings and trespass offerings, but enemies need peace offerings. Even so, the presence of salt in all the sacrifices (Lev. 2:13) showed that all men, if in need of a sin offering or trespass offering, are also at enmity with God and must make peace with Him.
Hence, Jesus said to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). In the parallel passage in Luke 14:33-35, we see that this teaching came at the end of a parable about stopping a potential war between enemies. The king with the smaller army “sends a delegation and asks terms of peace” (Luke 14:32). This sets up Jesus’ teaching about being “salt.”
As living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), we are to have “salt” in ourselves in order to have the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ. Only in this way can we truly come with a message of peace and love, rather than evangelizing by threats of hell, war, and conquest. We come to repair the breach, not to create new breaches.
The Old Covenant mindset of conquest by the physical sword came about when Israel rejected the Sword of the Spirit on that first Pentecost when the law was given. In refusing to hear the word (Exodus 20:18-21), they were left with a physical sword only. Even so, God used that to conquer Canaan, but under the New Covenant we have been given a better Sword so sharp that it can divide soul and spirit and discern “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). We conquer by the Great Commission, preaching the word by demonstration and with signs following.
This greater Sword was designed to repair breaches by uniting all men under Christ and His banner of love. Hence, the reconciliation of all enemies is a basic tenet of Christian faith, though few truly understand how successful the divine plan will be. Most are unaware that God has sworn many oaths in the presence of many witnesses, including the patriarchs, to reconcile the world unto Himself.
Respecting Religious Oppressors
Jesus then counseled His disciples not to have the same mind as many of the religious leaders in the temple. Luke 20-:45-47 says,
45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.
Lightfoot tells us that Rabbi Jochanan asked Rabbi Banaah,
“What kind of garment is the inner garment of the disciple of the wise man?” It is such a one, that the flesh may not be seen underneath him. The Gloss [explanation] is, It is to reach to the very sole of the foot, that it may not be discerned when he goes barefoot. [Commentary, Vol III, p. 198]
The scribes gave the appearance of righteousness, and men honored them for it. Yet in their business practices, they would “devour widows’ houses.” This appears as one of the “woes” in Matt. 23:14, but the NASB puts brackets around it. The footnote reads, “This verse not found in the earliest mss.” Panin’s Numeric English New Testament agrees, for inserting that verse would destroy many mathematical patterns that are built into the text itself. Apparently, some early scribe thought it would be helpful to add to Matthew’s gospel the information that Luke presented. He was not authorized to do so.
Jesus said that these scribes “will receive greater condemnation,” meaning that they knew what they were doing when they oppressed the widows. Oppressing with knowledge calls for greater condemnation in the law than when done in ignorance (Luke 12:47, 48).
The Poor Widow’s Gift
Jesus was teaching these things in the temple. Luke 21:1, 2 says,
1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasure. 2 And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins [lepta].
Mark 12:41, 42 gives us more detail,
41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins [lepta], which amount to a cent [kodrantes].
A lepta, the smallest coin at the time, was actually one-third of a kodrantes., so Mark was rounding off the value when he said that two lepta amounted to a kodrantes. The kodrantes was a Roman coin valued at three lepta.
So we see that immediately after setting forth the scribes as an example of how NOT to act, Jesus then walked to the easternmost side of the Court of Women where donations to the temple were made. There were 13 donation chests called “trumpets,” on account of their shape. They were narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.
Jesus took notice of the rich men’s large gifts and also the widow’s tiny gift that was all the money she had. Perhaps Jesus had spoken prophetically about that very widow a few minutes earlier, whose house had been devoured by a rich scribe. Perhaps this was one reason for her poverty. Hence, her gift had more value in the sight of God than the gifts of the rich, who had given a tiny percentage of their wealth.
Luke 21:3, 4 gives Jesus’ comment,
3 And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”
The lesson here is about appearances and reality. The scribes sought the appearance of righteousness, while the widow was truly righteous. She had no thought of appearing righteous as she gave her two lepta. Yet in reality God valued her gift more than that of the rich who had given a small portion of their “surplus.”
The Thirteen Trumpets
Each trumpets in the Court of women were designed to receive contributions for specific things.
Trumpet 1, 2: For the half-shekel tax
Trumpet 3, 4: For women being cleansed after childbirth
Trumpet 5: For the wood used in the temple
Trumpet 6: For the incense in the temple
Trumpet 7: For the golden vessels
Trumpet 8: For left-over money set aside for sin offerings
Trumpet 9: For left-over money set aside for trespass offerings
Trumpet 10: For left-over money set aside for offerings of birds
Trumpet 11: For Nazarite offerings
Trumpet 12: For cleansed lepers
Trumpet 13: For voluntary offerings
Both the rich men and the widow had placed their contributions in Trumpet 13 as voluntary offerings. In Matt. 6:2-4 Jesus spoke of these “trumpets” in an ironical manner, saying,
2 When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
The “trumpets” in the temple gave people opportunity to show off their wealth and receive credit from men when they gave donations. Jesus said that if their heart was to gain credit from men, this would be their reward. But if their heart was truly to give to God “in secret,” they will receive credit with God and be repaid accordingly.
Men may trumpet their own righteousness and broadcast their alms, but God has a different message that we are to trumpet. Blowing the trumpet, in the biblical sense, means sending forth the word of truth that all may hear clearly. As ambassadors of Christ, our trumpet is the ministry of reconciliation, “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” When we fulfill this calling as God’s ambassadors—or give to the cause of that ministry—we are blowing the trumpet of the word as God requires.
Which trumpet do you blow?
This is the 115th part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones