The Greatest Miracle

July 9, 2018 at 11:45 am | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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John the Baptist received from his disciples some news about Jesus’s ministry.

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

Luke 7:18

John’s disciples considered themselves REformers (as opposed to the Pharisees who thought of themselves as CONformers, and Jesus’s disciples who were TRANSformers). John was doubting Jesus because he wasn’t seeing any reformation.

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Luke 7:19

Doubting can be a sign of unbelief, but not always. You can still have faith in God but be perplexed over what He is doing. As Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubting is not always a sign of unbelief; sometimes it’s a sign that a man is thinking.”

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Luke 7:22-23

The Greek word translated as “offended” in Luke 7:23 is skandalizo, from which we get the English word “scandalized.” It was originally the word for the bait in a trap – the enticement to fall into peril. The Person and ministry of Jesus should cause us to stop and think – but not to stumble and turn away. Jesus stressed the miracles He was doing so that John’s disciples could see the “transformation” which happens to individuals rather than the “reformation” which happens to governments.

I think sometimes we do a disservice in making converts believe that they are joining a club rather than entering into a personal relationship with the Savior. Healing the centurion’s servant was a great miracle. Raising the widow’s son from the dead was a great miracle. But Jesus was about to do an even greater miracle. He was about to save a sinner. That’s the greatest miracle because it meets the greatest need: forgiveness. It accomplishes the greatest result: eternal life. It cost the greatest price: the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross.

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A Compassionate Centurion and Contradictory Crowds

May 21, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Compassion has been defined as YOUR pain in MY heart. We can learn some lessons about compassion in Luke Chapter 7.

Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

Luke 7:1-3

This centurion had compassion for his servant.

And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

Luke 7:4-5

It was unusual for a Roman soldier to be favorable to the Jews, but this one had even built a synagogue at his own expense.

Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

Luke 7:6-7

Humility was not a characteristically “Roman” attribute, but this centurion did not feel worthy to have Jesus in his house.

For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

Luke 7:8-9

The centurion had both compassion and humility, but Jesus was impressed by his FAITH.

And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

Mark 6:5-6

Jesus MARVELED at the faith of this gentile, and at the unbelief of the Jews in Nazareth. Also, the centurion identified with Jesus’s right and power to command. The centurion commanded soldiers, but Jesus commanded diseases. Alexander the Great had once ruled the world, but had been killed by a virus.

And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

Luke 7:11-12

Two crowds met: Jesus and His followers, and the widow of Nain and the mourners of her son. In which “crowd” would you place yourself? Are you mourning what has been lost? Or are you cheerfully on your way to enjoy what has been gained, and to tell others what can be gained?

Next, two sons met: The widow’s son was dead but was destined to live; the Son of God was alive but was destined to die.

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

Luke 7:13-14

Jesus experienced the widow’s pain in His heart.

Finally, two enemies met: Jesus, the Life, and our “final enemy,” death.

And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.

Luke 7:15-16

The boy sat up (salvation) and spoke (profession). These are symbols of the two signs of new life which true Christians have received in Christ: awakening and speaking.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Romans 10:9-11

Obstacles, Others, and Ourselves

April 12, 2018 at 11:16 am | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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Jesus gave a revelation of the “new” Sabbath, then He went on to reveal the institution of a “new nation.” He fulfilled the real meaning of the Sabbath and the real meaning of what the nation of Israel and the 12 tribes of Israel were supposed to represent.

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12

Jesus prayed all night because He had some tough decisions to make. Are you this committed to prayer and its importance?

And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

Luke 6:13

Jesus had many students (“disciples”) during His earthly ministry, but He chose only 12 “Apostles,” corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel. These Apostles would be His official messengers and missionaries after His Resurrection and Ascension.

Today, as Christians, we need to be both: disciples who are learning and “apostles” who are going, witnessing, and ministering.

The section of Scripture starting in Luke 6:20 may be a truncated version of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7), or a different, but similar, sermon, since Jesus sometimes repeated His teaching for different audiences at different times and locations.

This sermon focuses on having a right attitude toward obstacles, including poverty, physical pain, emotional pain, and three forms of persecution (scornful, secret, and slanderous).

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you,, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Luke 6:20-22

Our attitude toward these circumstances must be not that the circumstances themselves are blessings, but that we are blessed to be counted worthy by God to undergo these circumstances.

Jesus also focused on our attitude and actions toward our enemies, including how to speak TO them and FOR them.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Luke 6:27

Finally, Jesus focused on our attitude toward ourselves, warning of the dangers of pride and perception, and the importance of our production.

And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

Luke 6:39-40

If I am “leading,” then I had better be a follower of the true leader, Jesus Christ.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

Luke 6:41-42

These verses do not say that I should not be helping my brother or sister to see clearly, but they do say that I am to make sure that I am seeing clearly first.

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Luke 6:43

These negative implications of regeneration tend to be more popular sermon topics, but are only half of the truth – which is dangerous. We don’t mind hearing that bad trees bring forth corrupt fruit, because we like to think of ourselves as good trees, but it is just as important to acknowledge that the proof that we ARE in fact good trees would be the production of good fruit.

For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Luke 6:44-46

We tend to use “Lord” as a verbal pause button when we pray, but, by definition, your “Lord” is the one you serve. Are you serving yourself? Are you serving the world? Are you unwittingly serving Satan? Or are you truly serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

Law Keepers or Lawbreakers?

April 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.

Luke 6:1

The act of plucking wheat and separating the chaff from the kernels of grain was viewed by some of the Pharisees as harvesting and preparing food, which they claimed violated the fourth Word of the Decalogue, prohibiting working on the Sabbath day.

And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

Luke 6:2

Assuming that the Pharisees were actually concerned about seeing a violation of God’s law (usually not a valid assumption where Jesus and His disciples were concerned), were they right to take this view?

When thou comest into thy neighbour’s vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure*; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn.

Deuteronomy 23:24-25

It appears that even a strict interpretation the Old Testament law as it applied to the case at hand would have made it permissible for Jesus’s disciples to do what they were doing, as long as they didn’t use a farming implement or a container.

And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;

Luke 6:3

“Have ye not read so much as this” indicated that Jesus was pointing out that His disciples had at least one case-law precedent on their side.

How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?

Luke 6:4

We can read about this in more detail in I Samuel 21:1-6.

And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Luke 6:5

It’s as if Jesus was sayin, “And, besides, the Sabbath is all about Me, anyway, if you really want to get technical. It’s Mine and I’ll do what I want.”

And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

Luke 6:6-7

The more organized Jesus and His followers became, the more systematic and scheming the Pharisees became about shutting Him down.

But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

Luke 6:8-9

The Sabbath was set aside by God as at time of “rest” – meaning rest in reference to God’s cessation of the work of ex nihilo creation – but also as a means of separating the Jewish people from the pagans among whom they lived, and as a way to demonstrate the right kind of difference between the ways of the world and the ways of God’s Kingdom. The Sabbath was made “for man” in that sense, rather than man being made for the Sabbath.

And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Luke 6:10

What was the reaction of the religious leaders to this miraculous act of kindness, generosity, and healing? “Good job on the healing?” Sadly, no, not even close.

And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

Luke 6:11

The Greek word translated as “madness” is anoia. They were so frustrated and confused about Jesus’s teaching, compassion, and power that they became enraged. And not only were they overcome with “madness;” they were FILLED with madness! Behaving crazily was bad enough, getting angry was even worse, but they were crazy and full of rage at the same time! Sure, the Pharisees were supposed to be experts in the Mosaic law, but who was more in violation of God’s law here? Jesus’s disciples, who “might” be seen to have technically violated a tradition attached to the Law? Or the Pharisees themselves who were filled with rage because God miraculously healed a man with a useless hand?

*My wife and I shared a good laugh over this verse, because this was similar to the advice given to us by my grandmother-in-law when we first got married. She told us that, if times were tough in the early years of our marriage, we could always take a little shopping trip to the local grocery store and pluck a few “free” grapes from the produce section as we walked by! Thankfully, by God’s grace, even during our leanest financial periods, we’ve always been able to pay for our grapes.

Conformers, Reformers, or Transformers

February 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 1 Comment
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And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

Luke 5:29

Levi, who was a tax collector, would become Matthew the Gospel writer. The “publicans” were his fellow tax collectors.

But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

Luke 5:30

The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling and complaining to Jesus’s disciples ABOUT Jesus, but not directly TO Jesus.

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

Luke 5:31

If you are tempted to talk negatively about someone behind his back, you need to remember that God can hear you, even if the person can’t. What do you think the Pharisees took from Jesus’s statement about only sick people needing a doctor? They probably thought, “At least He’s admitting that these publican are sin-sick.” What SHOULD they have taken from it, though? They should have understood that He was saying that they themselves were sin-sick too!

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

Luke 5:32-33

The followers of John the Baptist probably fasted frequently in imitation of John’s nazarite vow, but this response showed the attitude of the Pharisees concerning the “outwardness” of the Law. Do you see the two sides to the same dangerous coin here? Some people think that Jesus is only for those who aren’t too bad – hard-working honest folks who seem basically good, so it would be a shame for them to go to hell because they haven’t trusted Jesus. You can even throw in drug addicts and poor people because they’re down on their luck, and He’s their only hope. On the other side, they think Jesus can’t really be the answer for child molesters and especially bad criminals and terrorists, because those types of people really deserve to go to hell.

Neither of those views, nor any variations on them, are the Gospel. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Who falls into the category of “sinners?” In the Pharisees’ view “sinners” were gentiles and Jewish people who didn’t even try to keep the Law. But in Jesus’s view everyone fits into that category. This background sets the stage for two short parables that conclude Luke Chapter 5.

And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.

Luke 5:36

People didn’t put patches on torn clothes in those days because clothes weren’t “pre-shrunk” the way they are now. A new patch on an old garment would tear the garment and shrink the patch. Both would be ruined.

And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.

Luke 5:37

I don’t know much about the fermenting process, but it produces some kind of gas, and old “bottles” made from the skin of an animal would be brittle, causing it to burst with the expanding gas, thereby causing the loss of a nice bottle, as well as the wine.

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

Luke 5:38-39

It’s in our nature to hang on to what we’re familiar with, but Jesus brings radical new life. It was scary for some people back then, and it’s scary for some today, but it’s less scary for “publicans and sinners.” When they are saved by Christ, they leave behind, in most cases, misery and unfulfillment. They find joy and acceptance in Christ, and their rejection by the world seems to them a small price to pay. It’s not always “easy” for them, but it’s not nearly as scary for them as it can be for someone who thought that he “had it all” before he met Jesus.

The Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist faced two different predicaments when confronted with the “newness” of Jesus. The Pharisees were “conformers.” They were comfortable with the old. If something “new” showed up it had better look a lot like the old – or at least be able to be “conformable” to the old (like old wineskins). The disciples of John the Baptist, on the other hand, were not “conformers,” but they saw themselves as “reformers.” They knew the old wasn’t working, but thought it could be “patched up” (like old garments). Jesus, however, wasn’t a “conformer” or a “reformer.” He was a “transformer.”

No, not like the cars that turn into robots! Jesus brought in the “new,” not by “destroying” the old, but by “fulfilling” the old. The “old” was always meant to point to the “new,” and it had a “metamorphosis date.” Are we, as Christians, making the mistake of trying to conform? To fit our “newness” in Christ into our old life? Or are we trying to “reform?” To merely patch up our ways so that we don’t lose our identity? Both are in error. We need to be willing to be “transformed” – to live like new creatures in Christ, putting away the old man and the lusts thereof, and putting on the righteousness of Christ so we look like Him and not like our old selves any more.

What Do You Have to Do with God?

February 8, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,

Luke 4:33

The description “unclean devil” sounds redundant, but Luke the physician was interested in the cause of illness.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

Luke 4:34-35

Jesus sometimes warned others against making a proclamation about Who He truly was during His earthly ministry. Satan, whether or not he knew that Jesus’s great act of salvation would come “in the fullness of time” and that He was on a God-ordained schedule as He headed toward the Cross, did seem to have a desire to see Jesus arrested by the religious authorities sooner rather than later. Therefore, Jesus rebuked the demons to stop them from calling Him “the Holy One of God,” although that’s Who He truly was.

Their question, “What have we to do with thee?” was a plea to postpone their inevitable judgment, but the way it is worded in our English translation makes it sound to our modern ears like a challenge for us to consider how we are to interact with Him. In one sense, it sounds like what we say when we don’t want to be bothered by someone else: “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” But in the other sense it sounds like we have a problem to deal with: “Now, young man, what am I going to do with you?” Let’s take a brief look at three times in Scripture when similar wording is used.

What do you “have to do do” with God?

1. You have to live in His presence and to give an account of your life to Him.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Hebrews 4:13

 

God is omniscient, but His omniscience is not a cold distant omniscience. He is also omnipresent, and His omnipresence is an intense searching omnipresence. One day, everything we’ve done will be “manifested” before Him – brought out into the open. All our deeds will be naked and open.

And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

Luke 5:17-21

The scribes and the Pharisees weren’t interested in the power to heal. They were worried about how this healing prophet could forgive sins – because that would mean He knew what those sins were.

But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

Luke 5:22 (emphasis added)

That He could “perceive their thoughts” is exactly what they feared!

Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

Luke 5:23-25

Not all sickness is in a one-to-one ratio with sin in the life of the sick person, but a person – like this man who was sick with palsy, and his friends – would not be deterred by pride. God forgives the sins of those who humble themselves in repentance and confess their sins. Our sins cannot be hidden from God. He knows about them already. Yet they still need to be confessed to Him.

2. You have to give an account to your loved ones of why you love Him and fear Him.

And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?

Joshua 22:24

The was a dispute between the tribes of Israel over an altar, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh protested their innocence and appealed to their future posterity as proof that they recognized their part of the Covenant with God. The people you go to church with know you (hopefully), and the people you work with know you, and your neighbors and the parents of your kids’ friends know you, but nobody (except God) knows you like your family. If someone asked your kids, “What does your dad ‘have to do with God?’” (and you weren’t there to monitor the answer) what would they say? If someone asked your spouse, “What does your spouse ‘have to do with God?'” (and you weren’t there to monitor the answer) what would he or she say?

In Luke 5 Jesus was teaching and preaching on Peter’s fishing boat, And He commanded Peter to launch out into the deep where it was unlikely they would catch fish during the day. Peter obeyed and let down the net even though he had been fishing all night the night before and hadn’t caught anything. When he did this he caught so many that the net broke.

For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.  And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Luke 5:9-11 (emphasis added)

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 

Luke 5:27-28 (emphasis added)

What do you think they told their families? What do you think their families thought that they “had to do” with Jesus? They forsook all for Him. He said “follow Me,” and there was no doubt in their minds about whether they should “follow,” because they had caught a revelation of the “Me.”

3. You have to tremble before His holiness.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

Mark 1:24

Peter and the Disciples were going to follow Jesus, but they weren’t going to be “partners.” As already noted, they were more motivated by the “Me” than by the “follow.”

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Luke 5:8

The most glaring difference between Peter and Jesus is the same glaring difference between Jesus and me. Jesus never sinned; I sin all the time. Peter recognized that Jesus was God and immediately became horrified over his own sin. Maybe the better question than what do “I” have to do with God, and even better than what do I “HAVE” to do with God, is what do I have to do with GOD? Is He my kind and loving Heavenly Father? Yes! Is He merciful and gracious toward me? Yes! Is He longsuffering and patient with me time and time again? Yes! But He is also the sovereign Lord of Glory, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the Alpha and Omega – beginning and end – and I dare not forget that He holds me in a hand so holy, so righteous, so worthy, so powerful – that I it would dangerous to lapse into a careless familiarity, or to casually presume upon His grace.

Lord, help us to love and to fear you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

The Scandal of Jesus’s Shocking Message and Ministry

January 25, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Jesus began to teach in the synagogues and to get famous. Then He went back to His home town.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

Luke 4:16

It was common at the local synagogues for a visiting rabbi to take on the task of teaching the week’s lesson.

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Luke 4:17-19

The Gospel is for everyone, but Jesus came to preach it – during His earthly ministry – specifically to the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

Luke 4:20

The Jewish scholars in attendance and even the regular congregants familiar with the writings of the prophets would have recognized the passage that we call Isaiah 61:1-2. You can almost sense their anticipation, as they wait for what comes next: “Okay, Jesus of Nazareth, what are you going to do with that text?”

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Luke 4:21

How astonished they must have been! “He’s saying that prophecy is all about him!”

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

Luke 4:22

Perhaps they thought, “That’s absurd! We KNOW him! He can’t be the Messiah!”

People who think they’re okay don’t want to hear about a Savior, but those who are hopeless, helpless, and huntedTHEY want to hear about a Savior.

But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.

Luke 4:25-26

To emphasize Jesus’s ministry to the outcasts of Jewish society, He used the example of God’s ministry through the prophet Elijah to someone who was a: (1) woman; (2) gentile; (3) widow. Then, He pointed to Elisha’s healing of a gentile leper.

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

Luke 4:27

What was the reaction of the synagogue’s leaders to the kindness and compassion and mercy and goodness of God? They wanted to kill Him!

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

Luke 4:28-30

And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

Luke 4:33-35

We start to get a picture very early on in Jesus’s ministry of one of the reasons that the Jewish religious leaders were so offended by Him. He advocated helping gentiles, women, widows, lepers, and demon-possessed people. To whom would He minister next? “Before you know it,” they must have thought, “Jesus will want to save gang members, pedophiles, people with different skin colors, serial killers, maybe even liberal politicians and activists!”

The Temptation of the Last Adam

January 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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The first Adam (Adam from Genesis, the first human being) failed to obey God. When he was tempted by Satan, and tested, he failed the test. The “last Adam” (Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God) was tempted by Satan also, but He passed the test with flying colors. The contrast is even more striking when we list the advantages that the first Adam had alongside the disadvantages that the last Adam had.

The first Adam’s temptation occurred in a garden paradise. He had access to the unmediated presence of God and ultimate security and safety. The last’s Adam’s temptation took place in a stark and daunting wilderness, a land ravaged by 2000 years of the effects of sin, a land of rocky crags, treacherous pits and ravines, venomous serpents and scorpions, and wild untamed beasts.

The first Adam’s temptation occurred in a place of plentiful nourishment, where both food and water were easily accessible. The last Adam’s temptation occurred after 40 days of fasting and desperate thirst.

The first Adam had the benefit of a helper. Admittedly, Eve proved more of a hindrance than a help, but she still provided human companionship. The last Adam was utterly deprived of human friendship and succor when His temptation began.

Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Luke 4:2-4 (emphasis added)

I sincerely hope that you are regularly reading the Word of God – especially if you are a Christian – but here Jesus reminded us that, beyond merely reading it, we are supposed to be LIVING by it.

And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

Luke 4:5-6 (emphasis added)

Here, Satan tempted Jesus with a shortcut to glory. We must soberly ask ourselves: What brings more glory to God – quick blessings or perseverance through suffering?

If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Luke 4:7-8 (emphasis added)

Many celebrity preachers like to make themselves out to be big bad devil-fighters, blustering about how much they hate him and how he won’t intimidate them and how they’ll trounce him in spiritual battle, but Jesus rebuked Satan with a simple command to, “Get thee behind me.” The way to defeat the devil is to stay close to God. Satan isn’t afraid of the sheep. He’s afraid of the Shepherd. Jesus reminded him that God shall not receive a second-rate worship. He demands our complete and total allegiance and service. Satan is prideful, deceitful, and divisive. He is the one who loves impure mixtures.

And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Luke 4:9-12 (emphasis added)

Satan partially quoted Psalm 91:11-12 when tempting Christ, but he left out the phrase “in all thy ways.” Our ways are not to fly through the air – at least not without a plane or a parachute!

The Humanity of Jesus

December 21, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Incarnation, Luke | 2 Comments
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At the most festive time of the year, make sure that you intentionally discuss with your children some of the most wonderful Biblical truths about Jesus’s birth, such as:

1. Incarnation
2. Advent
3. The Condescension
4. The Virgin Birth
and
5. The Humanity of Jesus

“…[L]ittle Lord Jesus, no crying He makes…” go the words to a popular Christmas carol. But is this an accurate representation of the infant Christ? Christmas is a great time to explain to kids that Jesus, in His earthly incarnation, was indeed FULLY human. He experienced human emotions. He felt hunger, fatigue, joy, sadness, and the full range of feelings, although never sinfully.

Popular Christian art has tended to picture baby Jesus as serene, often times surrounded by a halo or corona of light, but the image of a child who stares blissfully and knowingly at all the adults around Him, never crying or giggling, seems more creepy than holy. Your kids might be fascinated to think of baby Jesus learning to walk, needing to wear a bib, and even needing a diaper change from time to time. The idea that the God of the universe would subject Himself to the limits, awkwardness, and temptations of humanity, further demonstrates His great love for us.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52

Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

John 4:6

Jesus wept.

John 11:35

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

John 19:28

Next time we will consider the purpose of Jesus’s birth.

The Virgin Birth

December 19, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Incarnation, Luke | 5 Comments
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In the ongoing series of theological concepts to discuss with our kids during the holidays, we have mentioned:

1. Incarnation
2. Advent
3. The Condescension
Now we come to:
4. The Virgin Birth

This can be a tricky one with kids, and – especially when it comes to really young kids – you may want to leave the subject of virginity alone, or at least use a tremendous amount of tact and delicacy. Use your own judgment. You will know what your own kids can and can’t handle and understand. However, the miracle of Mary’s pregnancy, despite having no husband and having never “known” a man (Luke 1:34), is a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith.

First, it shows the miraculous power of God, because babies just aren’t conceived this way apart from His supernatural action. Second, Jesus Christ, although conceived in the womb of a sinner, was not “conceived in sin” the way every other human being (sons and daughters of Adam) has been. Jesus was not only holy, sinless, and righteous in all His earthly deeds, thoughts, intentions, and words, but was sinless in His essence and “person.”

Perhaps you could explain to your children that the appearance of a newborn baby requires a mommy and daddy, except for this one time – which we celebrate at Christmas – when a baby was born whose Father was God.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:26-37

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

We will continue the series by looking at the humanity of Jesus next time.

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