December 31 - Acts 2:37-47

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Acts 2:37-47 – The Effects of the Sermon

The Jews in the crowd reacted and responded to Peter’s sermon immediately. Their hearts were struck as they recognized the guilt in their lives that came from rejecting the Messiah. To their query as to what they should do, Peter set forth the four points of conversion.

First they had to repent, then be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Next there would be forgiveness for their sins and finally they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. These four components become central to the message of Acts, but not in any particular order since the Spirit will not be tied to mankind’s patterns. He will work as he will work, in his own time and by his own will. In Acts 10:44-48, the Spirit is poured out on the people and that is then followed by water baptism.

With the action completed, Luke summarizes what happened and shows the reader what life was like in the early days of the church (Acts 2:42-27). Even with three thousand new believers (Acts 2:41), the community held together, incorporating each person into the fellowship.

There were four practices that the larger community devoted themselves to. The teaching of the apostles: Just as Jesus had instructed the twelve, they, in turn, passed that teaching on. Secondly, their fellowship was so important that Luke adds a strong article – ‘the fellowship.’ This held many meanings, from association with each other to close relationships that were built, to communion and sharing of their goods with each other. They cared for each other without thought for themselves. Thirdly, the breaking of bread was more than likely the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. It was more than eating a meal together, but was an opportunity on a regular basis to remember why they even existed as a community. Finally, Luke again employs the formal article in telling his readers that the community devoted themselves to ‘the prayers.’ There were hours devoted to prayer throughout the day and those would have been observed, as well as regular worship and private worship and prayer.

Miracles continued to be performed by the apostles, filling the community with awe, drawing them together as a unified group. They were ready to meet each other’s needs. Their hearts were filled with gladness and from that poured generosity. They praised God and each day more were added to their number.

The work that began with the birth of a baby boy has been transformed into the birth of the church and its rapid growth, soon to fill the whole world.

December 30 - Acts 2:22-36

Monday, December 30, 2013

Acts 2:22-36 – Peter’s Sermon

This is the heart of what Peter has to say. Beginning with a summary of God’s work in Jesus, he leads into the proof from Scripture – Psalm 16:8-11. Jesus Christ is the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for and the resurrection that many of them were witness to is further proof of that. Finally, Peter points to Psalm 110:1 as proof that Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God. He is Messiah and he is Lord.

Peter is also quite clear regarding Jesus’ humanity. In Acts 2:22, he begins by identifying Jesus with his hometown – Nazareth. Jesus is a man who performed wonders and signs from God. He was a man who was crucified and killed.

Jesus was man and he is Messiah and Lord.

It is an interesting conundrum that though the death of Jesus was part of God’s plan, the guilt laid on those who crucified and killed him is not lessened. Jesus spent his ministry trying to tell them that their hearts were hardened against God’s message and that this would bring them to their final doom, but they refused to listen. It led to the moment where they would prove their hatred for God by murdering his Son in the cruelest way possible. It wasn't the work of a few men, but the process of years and years of turning their backs on their Creator.

Christians find in Peter’s words the beginning of their belief. Here (Luke 2:32-33) we see the development of the Christian creed – the belief structure: Jesus was raised from the dead, he was exalted (ascended) into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. Jesus sent the gift of the Holy Spirit.

December 29 - Acts 2:14-21

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Acts 2:14-21 – Peter’s First Missionary Address

Peter stands with the other eleven disciples to address the crowd. He negates accusations that an earthly vice is responsible for the outpouring of gifts, but uses scripture as proof of not only the power of the Holy Spirit descending on Jerusalem, but in the following verses, proof from Scripture that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

The eleven stand with Peter as witnesses to all that occurred in Jesus’ life, including the resurrection, which will be the central portion of his speech. The Greek verb used to express the word translated as “He addressed them” in Acts 2:14 means ‘to speak seriously, with gravity’ and is often used for prophetic utterances. Luke wants his readers to understand the impact this sermon had on its listeners.

Nine o’clock in the morning is the third hour of the day, which is generally time given to prayer, followed by the fourth hour when food would be served. Drunkenness at a party, particularly a festival such as Pentecost might occur later, but it was much too early.

Then, Peter recites a passage from the prophet Joel. Joel wrote those words after locusts had destroyed the land and a famine had occurred. His words call for repentance and then restoration. He prophesies the coming Day of the Lord, the beginning of the reign of the Messiah and the time when the Holy Spirit would fill all of Israel.

Peter agreed with the rabbis of the time that the Holy Spirit no longer rested on Israel, but the promise of Jesus that it would return had occurred. While Joel believed that the Holy Spirit would come only upon Israel in the end, the words in this context show that it will come upon all who call upon the name of the Lord. The rest of the book of Acts clearly shows that Gentiles as well as Jews will receive the outpouring … it comes to all people.

December 28 - Acts 2:1-13

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Acts 2:1-13 – The Miracle at Pentecost

Following the Resurrection, the disciples spent forty days listening to further teaching of Jesus (Acts 1:3), then they received his commission to take the Good News into the world and finally, he promised that they would be given the Holy Spirit which would empower them to do the work required to tell the world. With that, all they could do was wait and pray.

They waited. They prayed. Rather than try to make something happen, they waited and they prayed.

When that prayer was answered, it was extraordinary.

Luke introduced his Gospel with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit.

“He (John) will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15).

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).

“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied …” (Luke 1:67)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit …” (Luke 2:25-35).

But most of all, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit: “And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

When Jesus came into the world the Holy Spirit was very present … filling those who would be witnesses to his birth and life.

Because of their faithfulness in waiting and in praying, the Holy Spirit flowed like fire into the hearts of everyone who gathered. This is the birth of the church.

Jesus announced the beginning of his ministry by quoting words from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18), now the Spirit has come upon the crowd listening to Peter’s speech. All that the small band of believers had been praying for and waiting for was about to burst upon the world and things would never be the same.

December 27 - Acts 1:21-26

Friday, December 27, 2013

Acts 1:21-26 – Choosing Matthias

It could be argued that Jesus had chosen the original twelve disciples and the group which would be the foundation for Christianity should stand as is, but there was much more to this than a select group of witnesses to the ministry of the Messiah.

The Twelve represent the eschatological Israel. This is the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, the representation of Israel to the entire world.  The mission that Israel had failed to achieve was taking the message of God’s love and power beyond themselves. With Jesus’ arrival on earth, that mission was now set in place and it finally had been given definition. Jesus brought about the kingdom of God on earth as a precursor to the time when the New Heaven and the New Earth in which God would be able to walk among his people would replace the existing earth. No longer would sin have any power over God’s creation.

The twelve disciples, as the foundation for that mission needed to be complete. For that to happen, the one to replace Judas was chosen from those who had followed Jesus and witnessed everything that had occurred during his ministry from the time he was baptized by John the Baptist until the Ascension.

The choice came down to two men and before they did anything else, they entire group prayed together, acknowledging God’s power in the choice. Leaving it up to God, they cast lots, thereby eliminating any human involvement in the choice.

The twelfth witness to the life of the Lord was chosen. It was the last thing that needed to be done … except for prayer.

December 26 - Acts 1:12-20

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Acts 1:12-17 – Matthias Chosen

Luke tells us that the disciples to Jerusalem returned from the Mount of Olives, which was about a Sabbath day’s walk. This was the longest distance a person could walk without breaking the rules of the Sabbath. It doesn't necessarily mean that this occurred on the Sabbath, it was simply a measure of distance.

Then, in response to Jesus’ command to remain in Jerusalem, they did just that, gathering and praying fervently together. They devoted themselves to prayer. Luke names the Eleven and then ensures that we recognize there were others who were also part of this intimate group – the women (at the very least, those who were named as part of the group who had gone to prepare Jesus’ body for burial), Jesus’ mother, Mary as well as his brothers.

We don’t know how much time passed between Jesus’ ascension and the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, but while they were waiting and praying, it was important that some business be dealt with. They needed to replace a member of the Apostolic Circle.

Luke tells us in Acts 1:15 that the believers who were gathered numbered about 120 persons. This number is different than many in the Gospels because of the way it was worded. This number represented both men and women. In the re-telling of the feeding of the five thousand, the number was that of only the men.

As spokesman for the Apostles, Peter stands in tells them that in accordance with the Scripture and fulfillment of prophecy, the work of Judas had to have been done, as did his death. He quoted from Psalm 69:25 to show that Judas’ place among them had been made empty and then to Psalm 109:8 to emphasize the need to bring another into the group as a replacement.

December 25 - Acts 1:6-11

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Acts 1:6-11 – Jesus Ascends to Heaven

This is the last time the disciples will meet with Jesus. In their curiosity, they attempted to pin Jesus down regarding the timing on restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Jesus rejects that. You will notice that never in all of his teaching on the end of the world or the coming kingdom of God, does he teach his listeners to attempt to plan a schedule.

God’s timing is God’s timing and something that we are not to know. It is by his authority that the times and seasons are fixed. In fact, Jesus tells them that “concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). Even he is not given the information regarding those events.

Rather than be concerned with the timing of these events, Jesus returns to that which he has continually taught: what is the Christian to do while they wait?

The Christian will receive power and with this power they are to be witnesses. Not just witnesses to the things that have happened in their own lives, as many seem to think, but Jesus’ witnesses. He says to the eleven, “you will be my witnesses” (Luke 1:8).  For God’s kingdom to be restored, the entire earth needs to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and this is where the role of the Holy Spirit enters. He will bring the power to the church … beginning with the disciples to bring this about.

Luke paints a vivid picture of the event surrounding Jesus’ ascension, bringing two men to give further instruction to the disciples. The cloud which enveloped Jesus as he went into heaven will be there when he returns. He will return.

December 24 - Acts 1:1-5

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Acts 1:1-5 – The Promise of the Holy Spirit

Luke opens this book by summarizing all that he had written in his Gospel. It was actually quite a brief summary “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Luke 1:1). The wonderful thing about this summary, though, is that there is no conclusion.

Jesus began to do and teach … leads into and through the book of Acts. It is unfinished because the work that Jesus began continues today. After Luke summarizes Jesus’ work, he reminds Theophilus of the commands that Jesus gave to his disciples prior to his Ascension. He spent forty days with the disciples after the Resurrection and in that time gave them a great deal of teaching. He opened their minds to the scriptures and commissioned them to the mission of spreading the Good News. He promised them the Gift of the Holy Spirit. This was a transition period for them. They knew without hesitation the power of God and who the Messiah truly was. There was no longer any question in their minds.

The number forty fills the Scriptures. From the flood in Genesis 7:17, to Moses’ time on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28), Israel’s wanderings in Exodus 16:35 and Elijah’s time in 1 Kings 19:8, Ezra’s dictation in 4 Ezra 14:23, 36, 42-45 took forty days and Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness before he began his ministry (Luke 4:2).

Throughout Luke’s gospel, the work of the Spirit is found and now, in Acts we read that Jesus gave “commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Luke 1:2). He tells them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for God’s promise, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Luke 1:5).

Jesus’ teaching which they were very familiar with, would continue through the presence of the Spirit.

December 23 - Luke 24:50-53

Monday, December 23, 2013

Luke 24:50-53 – The Ascension

Not only had Jesus told his disciples about his crucifixion and resurrection before it occurred, but he also told them of his ascension. Moses and Elijah spoke of it at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:31) and in Luke 9:51, Luke writes “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

When he spoke at his trial, Jesus said, “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and when he spoke to the two on the way to Emmaus, he asked “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Though Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers to tell of the ascension, he has made sure that his readers are fully prepared for it.

Notice that Luke fully fleshes out the person of Jesus Christ in these last verses. He acts as priest in giving them a final blessing. The priestly blessing that Zechariah was unable to speak in the beginning of this Gospel is pronounced by Jesus Christ. As Elijah the prophet was taken up into heaven, God’s action in taking Jesus this way reminds Luke’s readers that Jesus is greater than all the prophets. He is priest. He is prophet. He is the Messiah.

Luke, as the consummate story teller, takes his reader back to the story of the shepherds at the birth of the child. The disciples worshiped Jesus and returned with great joy, praising God.

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

Jesus came to earth, conceived by the Holy Spirit. A glorious miracle gave the world a Savior. Jesus blessed his disciples and was taken up into heaven. The miracle gave the world a Resurrected Messiah, come to redeem humanity.

December 22 - Luke 24:44-49

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Luke 24:44-49 – Opened Minds

In Luke 24:31, Jesus opened the minds of the two who had walked the road to Emmaus. This was after he had taught them about himself in Scripture. Their hearts burned within them because he opened the Scriptures to them.

In Acts 16:14, we meet Lydia from Thyatira, who sold purple goods. Luke tells us that “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by God.”

And in this passage, just after Jesus ate the broiled fish, he opened the minds of those who were in the room so they could understand the Scriptures. He revealed to the group how it was Jesus, the Christ, he himself, who fulfilled what had been written in the words they were so familiar with.

These are the final instructions Jesus has for his disciples. They are to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, beginning in Jerusalem. They are to stay there until they “have been clothed with power from on high.”

Luke is setting up the story for his next letter to Theophilus. The church has yet to begin, its leader, though has promised them power with which to do so and they are to await its coming.

December 21 - Luke 24:36-43

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Luke 24:36-44 – Jesus Appears to the Disciples

While it was still the Day of Resurrection and the Eleven were discussing the events of the day with Cleopas and his fellow traveler, all of a sudden Jesus was there. Though he said, “Peace be with you,” they were terrified. They believed they were seeing a ghost. The truth of the resurrection was still not something they could grasp. Even though they had just heard the words of the two who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they still had intense doubts.

Jesus sought to show them that they had no reason to fear … he was not a ghost and they had no reason to doubt … it truly was him who stood before them.

The one proof that is unavailable to us today was the one proof he offered to his disciples … he was physically there in his presence. He was more than just a ghost. He had flesh and bones. He showed them his hands and feet where the marks of the crucifixion remained.

The disciples still had difficulty believing. It was too good to be true.

Then, he showed them again that not only was he flesh and bones, he was more than just an apparition, by eating a piece of broiled fish. He was fully there.

December 20 - Luke 24:25-35

Friday, December 20, 2013

Luke 24:25-35 – The Emmaus Story

The third part of this story begins as Jesus takes over the conversation. The two men are confused. They have lost hope and do not know where their faith will take them. We are reminded of the Transfiguration, when he says, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26)  Jesus, who was with Moses and Elijah on the Transfiguration mount, then explains the entirety of the journey he had taken as it was told in Scripture through Moses and the Prophets (Elijah was representative of them at the Transfiguration). His glory was revealed in the Old Testament and made real in his life on earth.  His suffering was part of the plan that began with Moses, moved through the Prophets and finalized at his death and resurrection.

The ancient gift of hospitality prompted these two men to invite the stranger to stay with them. The day had passed and darkness was coming. He joined them and at dinner, when he blessed the bread and broke it, giving it to them, he revealed himself to these men. As soon as they recognized him for who he truly was, he vanished.  They immediately recognized that their hearts recognized him while he spoke, even if their eyes did not.

The fourth part of the story comes as the men change their travel plans and return to Jerusalem. It was still the Day of Resurrection when they found the Eleven. The two witnesses confirmed the resurrection of Jesus and explained what had happened on the road and how God had opened their eyes when they broke bread together.

December 19 - Luke 24:13-24

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Luke 24:13-24 – The Road to Emmaus

This is the first of three post-resurrection appearances by Jesus in Luke’s gospel and Luke is the only one who fully tells this story. It occurs in four parts. The first beginning with the story of two travelers. Remember, according to Jewish law, a valid witness requires two people. Luke ensures that his readers understand this testimony is true. These men aren't two of the Eleven, they are more likely two Christ-followers who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover and were returning home.

Luke identifies the first man as Cleopas … a Greek name. This man may have been a converted Greek. There are some who think that the other man was Luke himself because of the details revealed, such as “And they stood still, looking sad” (Luke 24:17) and later in the passage, “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32).

A man who was walking along with them and overheard them talking, seemed confused by their conversation regarding the events of the past days. This was astonishing. Not only did he seem unaware, but it was the topic of conversation for many. Jesus set them up to tell them about themselves and where their hearts lay. Their testimony begins the second part of this story.

Cleopas tells the stranger who was walking with them about how the leadership of the Jewish faith turned Jesus over to be death and then crucified him. He describes the concern that the hope of redemption for Israel was gone.

He told the stranger of the women who had reported the empty tomb to all of the believers, but they didn't know whether or not to believe that report. Hope had been stripped from them and they were desolate.

December 18 - Luke 24:9-12

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Luke 24:9-12 – The Women Tell the Others

Luke often emphasized the fact that there were women who were active participants in Jesus’ ministry. In Luke 8:1-3, we meet some of the women who not only supported Jesus in his ministry, but also accompanied the disciples as they traveled. In Acts 1:14, we find that the women were there when the disciples were in prayer. They were quite active.

Within Judaism at the time, women were not acceptable witnesses, but Luke tells us that they took the story of their experience to the other disciples.

Notice that in Luke 24:9, the women told the eleven and the rest. Luke has removed Judas from the story. A replacement had not yet been assigned. The ‘others’ mentioned in this verse is probably the one hundred and twenty that Luke describes in Acts 1:15: “In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) …”

The apostles didn't believe the women. This is more than understandable. In their hearts, they were beginning to deal with their grief. For Jesus’ resurrection to be true meant that they had to open themselves to the possibility of joy again, only to have it dashed if it were to be untrue.

The women had gone to the tomb, not expecting Jesus to be resurrected, but planning to ensure that the body was properly prepared for burial. There wasn't a single disciple who expected Jesus to have conquered death, no matter how many might try to state that they had surreptitiously stolen the body. Their unbelief, in fact, ensures that our belief is made real. By making their disbelief so great, Luke ensured that the miracle was understood to be even greater.

Peter took this unbelief a step further and rather than accepting the words of the women or the disbelief filling the group, ran to the tomb. He bent over to look in and when he saw for himself that it was empty, that the linen cloths were lying by themselves, he went home in wonder at what had happened.

December 17 - Luke 24:1-8

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Luke 24:1-8 – The Resurrection

The women returned to the tomb as soon as they could. It was dawn on the first day of the new week. They had prepared the burial spices and even though it would be difficult, came to deal with the body of the man they knew to be God’s Son.

The stone had been rolled away, but this was not a sign of the resurrection. They would have had to ask the guards to do so in order to preserve the body, but when they entered the tomb … a cave cut into the rocky hillside, they were not prepared to find it empty.

While Luke doesn't name all of the women, we find their names scattered throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 28:1 we find Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (an aunt of Jesus, mother of James, according to Luke 24:10). Mark 16:1 names these two as well as Salome, the mother of James and John. In Luke 24:10, he adds Joanna, who is the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3).

It is interesting to note that we know absolutely nothing of the Resurrection itself. No one was there to observe it or remember it. All we know is what happened after the fact.  Matthew’s gospel gives us the earliest account of that morning. An earthquake occurs because of the action of an angel and the stone is dislodged. The angel is seated on it and the guards around the tomb take off.

When the women arrive, the stone has been moved, the tomb is empty and suddenly two angels stand before them. From Deuteronomy 17:6, we know that for something to be considered true, it requires two witnesses. Luke has set before the women two angels who will testify to the resurrection of Jesus.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? Tombs are for dead people. “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (Luke 20:38). Jesus had prophesied he would rise from the dead. God is not God of the dead.

He is not here. He is risen. The angels remind the women of the teaching that Jesus had given to his disciples, and which, presumably they had heard as well regarding his death and resurrection. They remembered.

December 16 - Luke 23:50-56

Monday, December 16, 2013

Luke 23:50-56 – Jesus is Buried

Luke’s re-telling of the burial of Jesus is fairly short and thankfully we have the other gospels to give us more information. He is very clear, though, on the goodness of the man, Joseph. Even though Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, Luke points out that he did not agree to the decision of the council and was one of the few who searched for the kingdom of God.

John writes more of the Jewish leadership’s concerns over having the bodies hang throughout the Sabbath, especially the Sabbath during the Passover. Even if Jesus and the two criminals weren't yet dead, they might die before the end of the day and that would pollute the holy day since they couldn't be removed until dusk the next evening.

Mark 15:44 tells us that Joseph of Arimathea told Pilate Jesus was already dead. This was surprising since crucifixion was not meant to happen quickly, but to last an excruciatingly long period of time.

When there is great persecution of Christians, there are always those who will stand up and be counted in support of Jesus Christ. Joseph was one of those who lived in secret until it was time for him to step forward. We are reminded over and over that God’s will and plan has been put into place. Had Joseph stepped forward much earlier to attempt to save Jesus’ life, the story might have played out much differently. Now was his time and these moments have gone down in history, reminding us that there is great goodness even in the midst of evil.

Because the Sabbath was nearly upon them, the women followed him to the tomb to make sure they knew where they would find the body once they could travel again. Then they returned to their homes to prepare the spices and ointment which would be needed to complete the body’s burial.

Luke ends this pericope by saying that they rested on the Sabbath, according to the commandment. After all they had been through the previous week, ending with the death of a close friend and one they knew to be the Messiah, exhaustion had to have taken everyone. They took the time necessary to rest.

December 15 - Luke 23:44-49

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Luke 23:44-49 – The Death of Jesus

Darkness filled the land and the temple’s curtain tore in half. Jesus called out in a loud voice, committing his spirit to God and then he took his last breath.

Luke described these events as tersely as possible. There is little to no extraneous information, there is no detailed description of the suffering of Jesus or people’s reactions to the darkness. We don’t hear about the priests and scribes at the Temple, witnessing the great curtain opening up to the Holy Place. He tells us what is and quickly moves on.

The pain and agony of the crucifixion has no place in Luke’s account. His Gospel was written to encourage those who were Christians, many of whom were Gentiles and he emphasized over and over that Jesus went to his death willingly, that this was part of God’s plan. To fill his reader’s minds with highly descriptive imagery around the crucifixion would distract them from the things Luke felt to be important.

A quick note on the darkness that covered the land. This could not have been a solar eclipse. Passover begins on a full moon and those two occurrences never happen together. This was a divine event. Luke ties this together with the tearing of the temple’s curtain in order to emphasize the eschatological truth of the moment. God declared judgment on humanity for their sins and Jesus Christ took all of that onto himself. At his death, sin no longer separated mankind from the presence of God. The battle was over, the Messiah prevailed.

Victims of crucifixion were weakened to the point of death. Luke, as well as Matthew and Mark, both affirm that Jesus spoke in a loud voice. He used words from Psalm 31:5 – “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” These words were often used by Jews as an evening prayer.

The high point of Luke’s narrative has yet to occur, though. That happens next when a Roman centurion is so moved by what he had just witnessed, that he praised God, declaring the innocence of the man who had died in front of him. The first person to be transformed by the crucifixion was a Gentile. He was the first in a long line of people whose lives would be changed.

December 14 - Luke 23:32-43

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Luke 23:32-43 – The End Begins

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he had identified with sinners. He chose to eat with them and spend time with them. These were the people he had come to save. In the final hours of his life, it was two criminals who were next to him while hanging on the cross. They walked with him along the path to the place of The Skull and their physical pain matched his as they hung on those great wooden beams. These two criminals, though, had no assurance of eternal life.

Luke used the word “Kranion” to describe the location of the execution … this Greek word is translated to Skull. The Aramaic translation is “Golgotha,” and in Latin, it is translated as “Calvariae” – Calvary. It was probably called this because of the landscape that looked like a skull and is most likely where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located today. In 33 AD it was outside of the city.

Jesus’ first words while hanging on the cross were to his executors … words of grace and forgiveness. Even at the point of extreme pain and impending death, separation from His father and the desolation of humanity’s sin, he offers forgiveness.

Notice that Luke continues to point out that it was not the Jewish people who were responsible for Jesus’ death. In Luke 23:35, we read “And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him (Jesus), saying ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’”  It was the hierarchy of Israel who pursued Jesus’ death and refused to bring about an atmosphere of repentance and obedience to God.

The Roman soldiers also mocked Jesus and offered him wine that had been soured by vinegar, calling for him to save himself. The different gospels interpret the gift of wine as either a positive or negative offering. Luke definitely perceives it as negative, since it accompanies the mocking. However, wine vinegar was a common drink among the soldiers.

Luke is the only gospel to tell the story of the two criminals. Mark and Matthew refer to their insults, but Luke is the one who tells of the rebuke by the other criminal. Jesus’ work is not yet finished. He offers Paradise to the one who believes, just before he dies on the cross.

December 13 - Luke 23:26-32

Friday, December 13, 2013

Luke 23:26-31 – The Path to the Cross

The Roman soldiers led Jesus away. While he was required to carry his own cross, one more part of the process of humiliating and destroying a criminal, his earlier beating had made it nearly impossible.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus defines a disciple as who takes up his own cross. When they heard the teaching, the disciples knew that criminals were required to bear their own crosses. They didn't understand that Jesus was expressing the state of their own lives.

Cyrene is what we know of as modern Libya. Simon was a Jew who had arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. He had been outside the city walls and was coming in for the day. The Roman guard had every right to press him into service. They could do anything to the citizenry of Jerusalem that they so desired. They placed the crossbeam of the cross on Simon’s shoulders and demanded that he follow Jesus through the streets to the place where he would be crucified.

The many people who were not at Herod’s residence or at Pilate’s location were in the streets, crying and weeping for the coming death of Jesus. These people were not just curious bystanders, but were sincerely distressed at what was about to happen.

His words to them, calling on them to weep for themselves and for their children due to the coming disaster bring to mind Jesus’ words in 19:41-44 when he wept over Jerusalem. Luke is nothing if not a master story teller, bringing to mind all of the events of Jesus’ life over and over again in the mind of his reader.

The quotation from Hosea 10:8 crying out for the mountains to fall on us and the hills to cover us, begs for them to put us out of our misery. This prophetic statement is followed by a warning of the fire of judgment. Fire burns quickly when the wood is dry, but much more slowly when it is green and fresh. If God has not spared his own Son from such a terrible death, how much worse will it be for a sinful nation when God’s wrath is let loose upon it.

December 12 - Luke 23:13-25

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Luke 23:13-25 – Jesus with Pilate … Again

Neither Pilate nor Herod could find grounds for capital punishment against Jesus. There simply was not enough evidence. The political games had been played and it was time to move on. Pilate had attempted to pass off the problem to Herod, but since he couldn't find a reason to punish Jesus, it came back into his hands. He made a decision. He would punish him … which was a scourging … and then release him.

Pilate hoped that scourging would appease the more moderate of the Jews and they would not press for crucifixion. In fact, Pilate hoped that all of those who had been vocal supporters of Jesus would cry out for his release, thereby releasing Pilate from pressing forward with the demands of the Jewish leaders, but there was silence.

One thing we must understand about Pilate was that in essence, he was a terrible leader. He was quite weak and this weakness gave the Jewish leaders an advantage. Once he had declared Jesus innocent, he should never have sent him on to Herod. The decision stripped away the power given to him by Rome. With that, the Jewish leaders knew they could easily manipulate him and so they did.

When Pilate chose to release Jesus as part of the Passover celebration, which was done each year, the Jewish leaders knew they had him in a corner. All they had to do was call for the release of another prisoner … Barabbas … and Pilate would be forced to release that man. He could no longer use that excuse to avoid punishing Jesus. He was trapped.

Pilate continued to attempt to talk to the leaders of the Jews, but their shouts overwhelmed him and he gave in to their demands. He released Barabbas and turned Jesus over to be crucified.

December 11 - Luke 23:8-12

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Luke 23:8-12 – Jesus with Herod

Herod is an interesting character in this drama that is happening behind the scenes of Passover in Jerusalem. He had come into the city for the feast. This isn't his home. He lived in the castle built by his family in Tiberius on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. He didn't have any particular affinity to Jesus. He didn't care one way or the other. To Herod, Jesus was a curiosity, something to wonder about and laugh at. He wasn't particularly threatened by the man, which seems odd since it was his father, Herod the Great, who brought in wise men from the east to help him understand the threat of a new king on the horizon.

Herod was so far from the every day life of his nation that he had never seen this man who traversed his land, preaching, teaching, healing and performing miracles. Herod wanted to be entertained by Jesus. When the Lord refused to play games with him, Herod incited the other members of his court to join him in ridicule and mocking. When it had no effect and he grew bored, Herod was finished. He had no desire to kill Jesus, and concluded that Jesus was innocent. He put him in a white robe, much like that of the high priest, mocking Jesus’ claim that he was from God and returned him to Pilate.

Herod had been appointed by Caesar to rule this region. There had been something occur between Pilate and Herod to separate them as enemies. Perhaps it was the event recorded in Luke 13:1, when Pilate was rumored to have mixed blood of Galileans in with sacrifices. Pilate reached out to Herod by sending Jesus to him and Herod’s response was to return the prisoner.

December 10 - Luke 23:1-7

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Luke 23:1-7 – Jesus with Pilate

The Sanhedrin had denounced Jesus and now for their plan to come to fruition, they needed the Roman government to pass sentence. Pilate was the only one who could sentence Jesus to die. He had come to Jerusalem because it was Passover and there had been many threats of nationalism from some of the Jewish zealots. During the Passover, with so many Jews in the city and memories of their Exodus at the forefront, if there would be trouble, it would happen now. Having Pilate on hand during this time was important so that trouble could be dealt with swiftly.

The charges against Jesus when he was before the Sanhedrin were religious. His claim to be the Son of God and the Messiah were blasphemy. They twisted everything before they took him to Pilate so that his crimes would be portrayed as political crimes. Rather than blasphemy, Jesus was accused (in front of Pilate) of subverting the nation of Israel, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar and claiming to be a King … all of which could be interpreted as a crime against the Emperor.

Pilate asked one question – “Are you the king of the Jews?”

He already knew that Herod was in place as the king. Having another man claim to be king of this pitiable Jewish nation wasn't really going to be a problem for Pilate.

Jesus responded in the affirmative and Pilate decided he wasn't going to be bothered by the infighting among the Jewish leaders. He set it aside.

They pressed forward and then revealed that Jesus had come from Galilee. This was the perfect way for Pilate to rid himself of the entire problem. Send him on back to Herod and let the man deal with his own people. That’s why Rome left him in office. He was there to keep the peace so they didn't have to deal with the Jews.

December 9 - Luke 22:63-71

Monday, December 9, 2013

Luke 22:63-71 – Jesus and the Sanhedrin

When you read the passage about the guards who blindfolded Jesus, then mocked him telling him to prophesy about which of them hit him, playground bullies come to mind. They thought they had the power to humiliate and terrify Jesus.  These were not members of the Sanhedrin who were putting Jesus to some type of test to see if he really was the prophet or the Messiah, these were simply guards and servants of the members of the Sanhedrin. They held no power themselves. What they didn't realize was that they were there to fulfill prophecy as told by Isaiah: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6).

By daybreak, the Sanhedrin was together in full force.

The problem they had was that even though Jesus admitted to being the Christ – the Messiah, that was not necessarily a crime. There had been others who called themselves the Messiah. The Sanhedrin didn’t believe it of them, why would Jesus expect them to believe it of him, even though he had been proving over and over again to the world that was who he truly was.

But this morning, he finally set forth the claim that he was the Messiah, God’s son.

This was the affirmation they needed. His claims through his ministry that he was the Son of God were now made public in their hearing.

Notice that Jesus is the one who offered the Sanhedrin that which they needed. He gives them the words they were looking for. When they ask if he is the Son of God, he affirms the assertion. He stops the trial. There is no need for this to drag on. Jesus gave them permission to accuse him and to convict him.

December 8 - Luke 22:54-62

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Luke 22:54-62 – Peter Disowns Jesus

They arrested Jesus. Though many translations tell us they ‘seized’ Jesus, it is actually a technical term for arresting him. They took him to the high priest’s home. Matthew is the one who identifies Caiaphas, John identifies Annas first. This was probably the proper order, giving the Sanhedrin time to gather at the home of Caiaphas.

For point of reference, there is only one high priest at a time. Annas held the office before Caiaphas and since this was for life, he would have maintained the title, even though he did not perform as such. History tells us that Annas was high priest from 6-15 A.D., but continued to exert a great deal of influence after he relinquished the role.

Of all the disciples, it was only Peter who followed Jesus, but as soon as someone recognized him, he fell apart.

There are three instances of people whom Peter encounters. Jerusalem may have had a million people within its walls for Passover, but the news of Jesus’ arrest would have traveled very quickly. People knew who he was and they knew of his close friends.

Three times, Peter was accosted by those who recognized him as being part of Jesus’ band of travelers. Three times, Peter denied his association with Jesus.

When the rooster crowed, the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Luke uses the same word that John used in John 1:42, when he told how Jesus looked at Peter at their first meeting. Jesus looked at Peter with interest … with love … with concern. It was not an accusatory look, it was a look of love. Jesus knew Simon’s heart better than Simon knew himself.

Peter remembered Jesus’ words, left the courtyard, went away from the people who had gathered and wept. Alone, he was not strong enough to handle the intrusive nature of the world. Peter had one more lesson to learn. He could not do this on his own.

December 7 - Luke 22:47-53

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Luke 22:47-53 – The Arrest

There are three parts to this arrest. Judas’s kiss, the disciples’ attempt to defend Jesus and finally, Jesus’ rebuke of those who had come for him.

A brotherly kiss was a common enough form of salutation, in this case, though, it was the signal by which Jesus would be identified. It was especially used between a teacher and his students ... a master and his students. Judas had made the choice to leave the twelve and set out on his own, making choices that were driven by a connection to Satan … he was no longer a disciple and thus, Jesus questioned his motive. The kiss, though, would identify Jesus, just in case one of his disciples attempted to step in so that Jesus could escape. But Jesus, just as he always had, was out in front of the group. He had no fear. He accepted what was happening.

For many years, the early church refused to greet each other with a kiss on Good Friday in memory of this moment.

It is in John’s gospel that we learn the names of the soldier and the disciple who strikes him. None of the synoptic gospels do so. There is every possibility that these earlier gospels would not have wanted to identify Peter as the one who did this, in order to protect him from arrest by the Romans or the Sanhedrin.

Jesus immediately stopped the violence. While the disciples were now allowed to carry a sword to protect themselves while they were traveling, this was not the moment to use one. Peter could easily have been arrested and the rock on which Jesus’ church was to be built would no longer be in place. At the same time, Jesus was adamantly against violence of any sort. In John 18:36, in speaking to Pilate, Jesus said: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  This had to be immediately put to rights and it required a complete healing of the soldier.

The chief priests, the officers of the temple guard and the elders were part of the crowd that had come for Jesus. He calls them out as cowards. He had been in the temple day after day, teaching among the people, but they waited until night to arrest him, when they could do so with no one around to question their motives.

December 6 - Luke 22:39-46

Friday, December 6, 2013

Luke 22:39-46 – Jesus Praying on Mount of Olives

Jesus arrives at the place where he usually went to pray. As they did every time, the disciples followed him. Luke tells us that Jesus exhorts these men to pray. The exhortation begins and ends this passage … something that is called ‘inclusio.’ These words book-end the passage, thereby emphasizing the importance of what came between them. The fact that the words are repeated also emphasize their own importance to the story.

Every evening, Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives and spent the night there. This information is what Judas gave to the chief priests so that Jesus could be arrested and even though the Lord knew what Judas was about to do, he went ahead and kept to his pattern.

The normal posture for prayer was to be standing. Luke tells us that Jesus’ knelt. Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:35 say that Jesus fell to the ground in prayer. He was under a great deal of emotional strain.

The first words Jesus prayed were about God’s will. Luke has continually portrayed Jesus as fulfilling the plan set forth by God. It is still God’s will that is foremost in Jesus’ mind … even when he is facing imminent death.

The cup that Jesus was about to bear was not necessarily fear of the physical pain of death, though. Jesus was facing all of God’s wrath for our sins. He was going to be alone on that cross. Because of the sin he bore, God could be nowhere near him. He bore that alone. That was the greatest gift Jesus gave to humanity. That was what caused him to sweat blood as he prayed. These quiet moments with God would be his last until his task was complete. The compassion that God showed by sending the angel to give him strength is heart-wrenching. God knew what was coming and that it was his son who would face this. There was nothing he could do except let it play out, because what was at stake was greater than a single man’s momentary sense of desolation and pain. The entire salvation of humanity was balanced on this moment in time.

When the time had come to leave the safety of his moment with God, Jesus returned to his disciples. They were exhausted and had fallen asleep. He woke them and asked them once again to pray so they would not fall into temptation.

December 5 - Luke 22:31-38

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Luke 22:31-38 – Sifting by Satan

One thing I have always known is that when it seems as if attacks on ministry increase, there is something on the horizon that is going to be extraordinarily wondrous. This is what we see happening in these stories regarding the disciples. Satan has already taken one of the twelve out and he has begun the process of sifting, attempting to separate the others from each other. They argue more among themselves and now Jesus warns Simon Peter that the man will do something unimaginable before the night has ended. Satan’s attacks are increasing. He threatens the group of disciples and is preparing his greatest attack … on the Messiah.

Jesus calls Peter by his original name as he begins the warning, referring to the weak character the man showed before Jesus changed his life and made him a rock and foundation of the faith. This is a reminder of who Simon was. Three verses later, Jesus uses the name by which he is identified among the faithful … “Peter, you will fail me.”

Satan believes that he has the right to test the faith of everyone, just as he did with Job. Satan believes that at the core of each person’s faith, they are a Judas. This is the sifting he asks for. But while Satan is looking at the disciples’ weakness, Jesus is watching out for them and praying that whatever they do it will not result in an ultimate failure. We are again reminded that there is always an opportunity to come back from failure when we have faith in Jesus.

Jesus has yet another set of instructions for his disciples. From here on out, they will no longer be under the protection of the man who is quite popular among the people. Whereas before he instructed them to go out without a purse a bag or sandals, now they must carry everything they need as well as carry protection. It will no longer be easy for them to move in the world. His popularity will wane and they will be persecuted. They are going to be responsible only for themselves, no one else will take care of them.

December 4 - Luke 22:24-30

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Luke 22:24-30 – The Greatest are Servants

The disciples have just found out who the worst of them is … the one who will betray Jesus. Consequently, the discussion turned to who the greatest of them was. Never one to allow a teaching moment to pass by, Jesus took the opportunity to talk about what true greatness meant in the kingdom of God.

Jesus was disappointed in his disciples. They had traveled with him for nearly three years, listening to his teaching on humility versus greatness and still, at the very end, they argue, positioning themselves for power.

This isn’t a new teaching by any means. In Luke 9:46-48, the disciples were again arguing about who was the greatest and Jesus used a small child to illustrate that the one who is least among them is the greatest. In Luke 20:45-47, Jesus condemned the scribes who walked around in long robes and loved being recognized in the marketplace and who took the best seats in the synagogues and sat in the places of honor at feasts. These were the same people who reduced widows to nothing and made a big deal out of their long prayers.

In this world, there are those who live as kings and lords, expecting others to serve them. They are the first and their servants are the last and the least. But Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He shows the difference between living in this world as a celebrity and living in God’s kingdom. Those who serve in this world will find themselves among the greatest in the kingdom of God.

No matter his disappointment, Jesus ends this teaching by telling his disciples that because they have stood by him and have cared for him and learned from him, they will receive the kingdom. They will eat and drink at his table … at the table of the King and they will sit on thrones over those who seek to destroy them.

December 3 - Luke 22:14-23

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Luke 22:14-23 – The Passover Meal

Because the number seven figures so predominantly in scripture, it is interesting to note that this is the seventh meal scene in Luke’s gospel.

During the Passover meal, there is a great deal of ritual. The story of the Exodus is retold with an emphasis on the Covenant people and their redemption out of Egypt. As leader of this group, it would have been the responsibility of Jesus to tell the story.

The question was asked … and is still asked, “Why is the night different from other nights?” Each of the elements of the meal are now transformed in Jesus.

In the Exodus story, God remembered his covenant. Jesus is the new covenant (Luke 22:20). They remember that the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt. Matthew 26:28 says that “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” following the idea of the blood of the Passover Lamb. Luke 22:20 also tells us that this new covenant is made in his blood. This is no longer the blood of a lamb sacrificed on the altar in the temple of the Israelites, but one made for all mankind.

In commanding that these things be done in remembrance of him, Jesus transfers the Passover festival ritual to one which has become the Eucharist: a remembrance of the sacrifice he made on behalf of humanity.

Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 22:15 that he is eager to eat this Passover with them. These are the moments that will define the church until he returns. These are the memories that draw his followers together. Just as the Israelites came together as one when they offered sacrifices in the temple in order to atone for their sins, Christians come together in Communion, ritual that Jesus was eager to set forth. He is the atonement for our sin and we are to remember it forever.

December 2 - Luke 22:7-13

Monday, December 2, 2013

Luke 22:7-13 – Last Supper Preparations

Mary and Joseph ended up in a stable because there were so many people traveling through the region at the time of Jesus’ birth. The governor’s census caused the world to turn upside down. He came into the world with no preparations made for his arrival. It was a simple moment for two young people and a moment that changed the world.

Before the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples had spent time outside the city walls, but this moment was going to be another to change the world. Thousands and thousands of people were traveling into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Every room in the city would be occupied.

But God always provides. Preparations were made so that the small group of disciples would have not only a place to share the meal together, but they also needed to prepare the meal itself. The lamb had to be sacrificed, the unleavened bread consecrated and the rest of the food for the feast also had to be prepared. They did not just walk into the upper room and sit down to something that magically showed up in front of them.

It was Peter and John to whom Jesus gave this responsibility.

There is another interesting point to be taken from the charge he gave to his two trusted disciples. He told them to find a man carrying a jar of water and then follow him to the location of the large upper room. Rather than simply describe the house where they would meet or give an address, Jesus gave them cryptic instructions.

Because we are so unaware of the rituals and customs surrounding the Passover during Jesus’ time, we miss that Jesus’ cryptic instructions actually made sense to Peter and John. According to Godet, “On the evening of the 13th (Passover), before the stars appeared in the heavens, every father, according to Jewish custom, had to repair to the fountain to draw pure water with which to knead the unleavened bread. It was, in fact, a rite which was carried through to the words: “This is the water of unleavened bread.” Then a torch was lighted, and during some following part of the night the house was visited, and searched in every corner, to put away the smallest vestige of leaven.”

These instructions, though, ensured that this last evening together would still be protected. He knew of Judas’ plan to turn him over to the authorities and he still had things that needed to be done and things that needed to be said. He sent Peter and John. They prepared for Passover.

Godet, F. L. (1881). A commentary on the gospel of St. Luke (E. W. Shalders & M. D. Cusin, Trans.) (Lk 22:7–13). New York: I. K. Funk & Co.

December 1 - Luke 22:1-6

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Luke 22:1-6 – Judas’ Betrayal

The opening words of this passage point out Luke’s lack of intimate knowledge regarding the Jewish faith. He uses the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” and “Passover” interchangeably. These are two distinct festivals. The preparation for Passover began with the slaughter of a lamb on 14 Nisan (Jewish month). The celebration occurs as a meal centered around the lamb and includes liturgy as family and friends gather together. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a week-long feast. All leaven is removed from bread and during this week, that is what is to be eaten.

Luke’s combining of these two feasts shows once again, how he is unaware of the intricacies of Judaism and how he has relied on others to tell him how things happened so that he can relate the story to Theophilus and other Gentiles.

The leadership in Jerusalem has not been able to break the stalemate surrounding Jesus. The crowds still love him and Jesus refuses to give them any motive for arresting him. They are stuck. They needed something … anything to move forward. Passover was quickly approaching and if they didn't deal with him soon, more than likely he would leave Jerusalem and they couldn't afford to have him among the people any longer. His following was growing every day. They had to finish this.

Fortunately for their plans, there was one among those who were closest to Jesus whose weakness was greater than his love for the Lord. Luke tells us that Satan entered Judas Iscariot. The Gospel is clear on this point. There is no way to rescue Judas’ motives. He didn't do it out of some sense of bringing Jesus power and glory on earth. He responded to Satan’s urging. His heart no longer belonged to God. Luke is also clear that Judas accepted money for his betrayal. He knew what he was doing. He wasn't trying to build the treasury of the disciples. He was now on his own, making his own decisions, separate from those who had been called to follow Jesus.

December Blogposts

This month I will finish the Gospel of Luke and because he doesn't completely end the story with the last verse, but continues telling his friend Theophilus about the beginning of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles, I will end the month by looking at the first two chapters of that letter.

It seems a bit strange for me to not do something with regards to Christmas or Advent, but rather to focus on the end of Christ's life on earth and the beginning of the church. My timing wasn't necessarily perfect this time around. However, I have learned so much while digging into Luke's gospel and don't want to stop until I'm finished.

Because he was a Gentile and because he didn't grow up with all of the religious trappings that Matthew, Mark and John did, his understanding of festivals and Jewish politics is different than theirs. Luke wanted his readers to see how Jesus' pointed to the beginning of the Church and how he embraced the idea that all men on earth were children of God. The leadership of the Jews at the time of Christ were quite corrupt and rather than leading the people into a closer relationship with God, lined their own pockets and made it quite difficult for those who didn't have quite as much to even live. Jesus spoke out against that corruption and Luke wanted his readers to understand that living in relationship with God was more than superficial trappings and shows of religiosity.

He took that lesson into the book of Acts and because of his close relationship with Paul, you see the same type of teaching showing up in Paul's letters. Our actions must be lived out day after day ... they must be part of our heart and lifestyle. We must live as children of God ... in freedom, in love and in grace.

November 30 - Luke 21:29-38

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Luke 21:29-38 – Parable of the Fig Tree

This is one of those passages that confuses people. Jesus tells his listeners that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Luke 21:32).

What are ‘these things’? What is ‘this generation’?

There are no easy answers because of the way language is interpreted. If ‘these things’ refers only to the destruction of the temple, it is acceptable to assume that ‘this generation’ then refers to those who are listening to him speak. However, if Jesus is speaking of the end of the world, the return of the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:27) and the fact that ‘redemption is drawing near’ (Luke 21:28), we find ourselves wondering what he meant by ‘this generation.’

The thing is ‘generation’ could refer to a short span of time … or a longer span of time … maybe decades after Jesus’ lifetime. But, it can also refer to a race of people … maybe the Jews. Is Jesus telling his listeners that the Jews will continue to live until all these things have happened?

We have no way of knowing for sure. We weren’t there and were unable to ask deeper questions. He might not have answered them anyway.

The more important words of Jesus come in Luke 21:34, though. It is not up to us to try to discern exactly what he meant with regards to a time frame, but it is up to us to be prepared. Jesus tells his listeners to be careful and not allow themselves to be caught up in the concerns of life because the day will come when they least expect it. It will come upon everyone on the face of the earth, he says.

Be always on the watch and pray for that day so that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:26). Wasting time worrying about the details and the time certainly take our eyes off the prize.

November 29 - Luke 21:10-28

Friday, November 29, 2013

Luke 21:10-28 – Signs. Be Prepared.

In this passage, Jesus speaks of the coming of the end. But we must understand that the process is slow. The beginning occurs from the time of his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. From that point forward, we are looking to his return and we are to be prepared for it.

He tells his disciples that the temple will be destroyed. He tells them that there will be persecution. He tells them that there will be leaders who attempt to lead them astray. But, most of all, Jesus tells them to not be afraid.

In Luke 21:17-19, he tells them to persevere and take a firm stand and when the end comes, he tells them to take heart.

One of the greatest fallacies that has been purported on Christianity has been that we are to be terrified at the coming signs. Jesus explicitly says that we are to look forward to these signs because they mean that he is returning. We are not to be fearful, we are not to cower. We are to stand firm in our faith because Jesus Christ is coming to reign.

Fanaticism will  push at us, expecting Christians to take one side or another, rather than following in the footsteps of the man who died to save us from our sins. His ministry was never about fear or worry, but love and peace. He died to give us freedom from those things and he rose again to give us hope.

“Stand and lift up your head, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28)

November 28 - Luke 21:5-9

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Luke 21:5-9 – Signs of the End of the Age

They were in the temple and had just observed a widow dropping two copper coins into the treasury, as a gift of love born from faith. It isn't surprising that the disciples might look around at the beauty of the structure and the amazing gifts that were part of it as people offered things to God.

But Jesus needed them to understand that the grandeur of the building and the beauty of the structure did not necessarily mean that all was well between God and his people. Israel was proud of its temple. It had become a source of security for them. If they made it beautiful enough, surely God was present, even when they refused to honor him.

Jesus had taught over and over that wealth and possessions were not the path to God. Ostentatious behavior on the part of the rich who donated great sums of money to the temple treasury would not get a man into heaven. The rich young ruler discovered that he had to give up everything in order to attain the kingdom of God. The Pharisees had to release their stranglehold on the Law and quit using it as a weapon.

These things, even something as awe-inspiring and beautiful as the Temple in Jerusalem were only temporal. They would soon see the destruction of this seemingly eternal structure.

The disciples pressed the issue. When would this happen? What will be the sign?

Even yet, they did not understand that Jesus was the sign. He warned them to be careful of false signs and false Messiahs. The end will not come right away … the destruction of the temple doesn't necessarily mean that the end is here.

November 27 - Luke 21:1-4

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Luke 21:1-4 – The Widow’s Offering

Jesus, in speaking to his disciples, points out the difference of the widow’s offering and that of the rich. While we might be more apt to appreciate the quantity of a gift, the quality is so much more important.

Jesus had just referred to widows in Luke 20:46. The leaders of the Israelites took advantage of them in many ways, when it was expressly commanded that they should care for widows and orphans.

In this instance, the widow gave out of her love and gratitude toward God, trusting that He would then provide for her. It wasn’t just her gift, but it was the faith surrounding this gift which was most important to Jesus. When the widow placed her gift in the treasury box, it was more than just money, it was her heart, her life. It was everything that she had.

This woman epitomized the life that Jesus spoke of in Luke 12. Her treasure was in heaven, she was not anxious about things and she sought the kingdom of God above all else.  All of the teaching that Jesus had done on the power of wealth and possessions and the hold they have on us is condensed into this story.

The woman with very little in earthly goods held a great deal of heaven in her heart.

November 26 - Luke 20:41-47

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Luke 20:41-47 – Whose Son is the Christ?

Jesus turned on his questioners with a question of his own. If the Christ (the Messiah) is the Son of David … a descendant, how is it that David calls him Lord? How could this possibly be?

He was asking the chief priests, the Sadducees and the teachers of the Law to explain the character of the Messiah.

The answer simply is that the Messiah had to be something more than just David’s Son. He was descended from David, he was David’s son, but he was something more.

In Luke 11:31-32, Jesus explains that “something greater than Solomon is here.” The Messiah was more than just a human descendant of the greatest king of Israel.

In the Psalm that Jesus quotes from, there are two uses of the word Lord in that first sentence. (Psalm 110:1). The first – “The Lord” is ‘ho kyrios’ which often represents Yahweh or God’s sacred name. The second – ‘to my Lord’ is ‘adonai.’ While this was used as a substitute for God, it was a term of dignity and respect, much as later cultures had lords and ladies in the upper echelons of society. It was never used by rabbis to refer to the Messiah, but Jesus is transforming it as he refers to himself. He has declared that the Messiah is not only human, but divine.

Jesus has taken on the scribes, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law and won. He exerted authority over them, and their attempts to denounce him have failed.  Their pride, their need to be seen and to be important is as bad as the fact that they take advantage of widows. They have misused their power and it is apparent to all who have witnessed the battle of wits, that they have no remorse.

While they may live in wealth and prosperity on earth, their judgment is coming and it will be severe.

November 25 - Luke 20:27-40

Monday, November 25, 2013

Luke 20:27-40 – Resurrection and Marriage

This is the only place in Luke that the Sadducees are mentioned by name, though they are part of the Sanhedrin, the group that has been harassing Jesus throughout his ministry. They claimed descent from the Zadok, the high priest under David (1 Kings 1:26). By this point, they were wealthy priests and aristocrats, who were quite worldly. They despised the Pharisees, who were made up of the laity of the Jews. They disappeared after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

The Sadducees’ doctrine was different than that of the Pharisees – they flatly denied resurrection or the possibility of life after death. The refused to accept the existence of angels or demons and any connection with the spiritual dimension.

They were quite learned in the text of the Old Testament and were deeply committed to the Torah – the first five books of Scripture – the words of Moses, but had failed to dig into the truths behind the words that were there.

They thought to present Jesus with a conundrum based on his teaching eternal life with God. According to the Law, a widow might remarry the brother of her husband if there were no children to carry for her. The point was that there be children to carry on the dead husband’s name (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

The mistake that the Sadducees made was that they applied earthly conditions to heavenly resurrection. They assumed that resurrection would involve sex in heaven.

Jesus corrected their thinking regarding resurrection. Earthly believers are beginning to participate in the life to come … ‘in that age’ (Luke 20:35), but when it finally happens that they die and are resurrected into heaven, they are God’s children. They are not angels (as many have interpreted his words in Luke 20:36 to mean), but take on characteristics of angels. There is no need for individual pairings, each person belongs to God, not to himself.

Jesus’ reference to Moses’ words regarding resurrection, point out that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will rise. They not only lived in the past, but live again. God is their God. He was clearly pointing out that the Sadducees’ attempt to use Moses as the basis for not believing in the resurrection was false. Resurrection has been taught since the beginning of Scripture.

November 24 - Luke 20:20-26

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Luke 20:20-26 – Paying Taxes to Caesar

The chief priests and teachers of the law are continuing to digress into lawlessness. Now they have sent spies who have deceit written into their very lives. They pretend to be honest men, standing before Jesus, but they are only there to catch him in something that will allow them to turn him over to the governor. This group of people doesn't even have the courage it takes to confront Jesus, they desire to pass of their dirty work to others … to spies, to the Roman governor.

If Jesus affirms that paying taxes is the right thing to do, he betrays the Jewish people and will no longer be seen as their Messiah. The Jews were hoping for a savior to rescue them from the overlords who heavily taxed them, while demanding that they worship Caesar. The image of Caesar on the front of the coin represented their submission to a power other than God, something the Messiah would never allow.

On the other hand, there were plenty of Roman soldiers within hearing distance of this conversation. Any attempt Jesus might make to incite rebellion among his followers would ensure that his arrest and punishment were swift.

Jesus’ answer reminds us that though we depend on God, we still have duties and responsibilities in the world. For the Jews of that time, the way to gain spiritual independence was not by fighting off Roman power, but by focusing on their relationship with God. We give to God what is God’s and from there we find freedom.

November 23 - Luke 20:9-19

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Luke 20:9-19 – Parable of the Tenants

It isn't difficult to see that Jesus is accusing the chief priests and the teachers of the law of being the wicked tenants in this parable. They have beaten and tossed out the servants of the owner and when the son arrives to check on the vineyard, they kill him in order to keep the inheritance for themselves.  Their naivete regarding the actions of the owner of the vineyard is startling.

Jesus no longer hid in the shadows, waiting for people to understand who he was. He was in Jerusalem now. He knew how his life and ministry on earth would end and he was confident of where it would lead. Everything that he did and said was as obvious as necessary to bring the people of Israel back to a relationship with God.

With this parable, Jesus once again declares his authority as the Son of God. He takes imagery from Isaiah 5:1-7 – Israel is the vineyard and God is its caretaker.

In Luke 20:17-18, Jesus also quotes Psalm 118:22. He is the foundation stone for God’s kingdom. He is the focal point by which judgment will come and it is by him and through him that all might be saved.

The teachers of the law and the chief priests were beginning to focus their anger. They were setting plans into motion. To deal with him, they would have to find a way to arrest him first. Their fear of the people was still great, but their fear of Jesus’ teaching was greater. Time was on their side and they could wait.

November 22 - Luke 20:1-8

Friday, November 22, 2013

Luke 20:1-8 – Jesus’ Authority Questioned

Following on the heels of the temple cleansing, Jesus spent time in the temple courts teaching and preaching. This was not an uncommon sight. Many teachers would do just that. Whether they were local or in Jerusalem for a festival, well-known teachers spent time in the courtyards of the temple, with people gathered around listening to their words.

None of the gospel writers tell us what Jesus was teaching, but it would be easy to assume that the message he had been delivering since Luke 4 would be repeated again. The Sanhedrin was made up of the leadership of Israel. The Chief Priests, the teachers of the law, the elders of the faith all came together to act as a legislative body. They approached Jesus this day to question his authority. This isn't surprising since they would have been the same people who were trying to devise a plan to kill him. If he would simply betray himself to the people, their task would be made much simpler.

What should Jesus’ response have been to them? He had already established his authority. In Luke 1:32, 35 we read that he is the Son of the Most High. In Luke 2:11, 26 he is the Christ – the Messiah. In Luke 4:34, he is the Holy One of God; the Son of Man (Luke 5:24), the Son of David (Luke 18:38-39) and Israel’s king (Luke 19:12, 15, 38). His authority has been clearly stated throughout his ministry.

At some point, you have to feel badly for these men. They had yet to learn that an outright attack on Jesus was a foolish thing to do. They’d been doing so since early in his ministry and each time, their words tripped them up and made them look the fools, yet once again, they confronted him in front of people who loved and trusted him. Their intent was to make him look bad, but their disbelief in who he truly was made them blind to the potential for failure.

He responded to their query regarding his authority with a question of his own: “Was John’s baptism from heaven, or from men.”

In other words, if John’s baptism was from heaven, why did you not receive it and repent of your sins? If it was from men, what will you tell this immense group of people standing here, who believe in God’s work through John the Baptist?

They recognized the conundrum and even though they were part of Israel’s leadership, to publicly denounce a man who was beloved … and had been killed by Herod, making him a martyr … would bring an angry end to the conversation. They said nothing.

Jesus ignored them. They were useless at this point.

November 21 - Luke 19:45-48

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Luke 19:45-48 – Jesus in the Temple

The temple was an integral part of every Jewish person’s life. The story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple is found in Luke 2:21-40. It is here that Simeon and Anna find the child and recognize him as the Messiah. Luke emphasizes the continuity of the Law and the Holy Spirit. Things are done according to the Law and they occur through the action of the Holy Spirit. In Christ is found unification for the Jewish people. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus because of obligation to the Law. The encounters with Simeon and Anna occurred because of the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

The next story in Luke’s gospel happens years later. Mary and Joseph have gone to Jerusalem once again and Jesus stays behind … in the Temple, his father’s house. We find that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). When his parents asked why he was there, he confronted them with the fact that he is about his father’s business.

Those words are never more true than they are when he enters the Gentiles’ court on the Temple grounds in the current passage.

Israel continues its refusal in acknowledging God’s ultimate rule in their lives. In Luke 19:45-46, they have distorted the purpose of the temple. In the previous passage, they squelched spontaneous praise of God, we see here that they allow theft and corruption in the temple courts and in the next two verses, we find that they are creating a plan to kill Jesus. This flagrant abuse of the Law is one of the many reasons we saw Jesus weeping over the city in Luke 19:41.

Luke expressly divides the people ‘who hung on his (Jesus’) words’ from the ‘chief priests, teachers of the law and leaders among the people, who were trying to kill him (Jesus).’ Throughout his gospel and into his second letter to Theophilus – (Acts of the Apostles), Luke continues to show that Christianity is a continuation of true Judaism. The corruption that was at the top echelons of Jewish society did not represent the heart of the people.

November 20 - Luke 19:28-44

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Luke 19:28-44 – Triumphal Entry

Jesus is so close to Jerusalem. In John’s Gospel, we see that he stopped in Bethany. Luke mentions Bethphage, which, more than likely, was a district of Jerusalem extending beyond the walls of the city. The Talmud is really the only historical document that tells much of Bethphage. It was there that sacred bread was prepared and it was there that much of the overflow from Jerusalem, during times of celebrations and feasts resided. It was on the side of the Mount of Olives and the name itself means ‘place of figs.’

Jesus sent two of his disciples on while he stayed in Bethany. They were to retrieve a colt which had never been ridden … had never been broken. Jesus knew that his death awaited him and it was now time to publicly claim the title of the Kingly Messiah.

Because of who he was, the colt was made available to him and the disciples placed Jesus on the colt … as servants of the King. He comes in, though, not on a warrior’s steed, but a young colt … in humility as was prophesied by Zechariah: “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

In 2 Kings 9:13, the custom of setting cloaks out to honor the way of the king is written: “Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, ‘Jehu is king.’”

As Jesus came down the Mount of Olives, the disciples and his followers were singing praises and shouting to God, but the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke them. Jerusalem still refuses to receive its king.

Before Jesus enters the city, he began to weep. From the moment of Jesus’ birth, when peace was declared for all mankind, the world has come to know that peace will not happen as we assume. Even Jerusalem … whose name means ‘peace,’ does not recognize it when peace stands in its midst.

November 19 - Luke 19:11-27

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Luke 19:11-27 – Ten Minas

This is the end of the travel narrative that began in Luke 9:51. Everyone is getting excited to some degree or another to be close to Jerusalem. Their long journey is at an end and the disciples still do not understand what their Lord will face and how their lives will change.

This story is more than just a parable … it has its foundation in history. Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great had gone to Rome. The purpose of his visit was to gain permission to reign as  a ‘client-king’ over a territory that was part of Rome’s empire. His own subjects opposed his reign and many had followed him to Rome to ensure that his petition would fail.

In the spiritual realm, Jesus was also telling his own story. He was returning to heaven until the time came for him to reign on earth, but those who would be his subjects … the Jews … rejected him, even though his qualifications were perfect.

Jesus continues to reiterate several themes that have been prevalent throughout his journey. First of all, he speaks to his rejection by the prominent Jews of the day. He preaches about the return of the master – the return of the Son of Man. It might be delayed, but it will happen. Finally, he preaches one more time on the proper use of wealth and possessions.

The tale of the ten talents – or minas – has been told over and over. We know that we must invest wisely the things of the Spirit. When we share the gospel … we increase the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ final words in this parable tell us that in the last days, those with faith will find it ever increased and those who continue to reject him will have less than they ever did.

November 18 - Luke 19:1-10

Monday, November 18, 2013

Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus

Jesus entered Jericho and the crowds swarmed around him. Zacchaeus, a short, wealthy man, had to climb a tree in order to see him. Now, the interesting thing here is that Jesus stopped under the tree and looked up. He called the man by name – Zacchaeus.

This name is interesting. It is found in 2 Maccabees and means “clean” or “innocent,” two things that this chief tax collector was not. The name is Hebrew and identifies the man as a Jew, which again implies that he was reviled by most and unable to redeem himself in the eyes of the Pharisees. His sins were too great. He had become wealthy off the backs of those with whom he shared a lineage.

We already know that Jesus sought out sinners and tax collectors, but there is another bit of information we have gained by this point.

In Luke 18:24, Jesus told the rich young ruler that it was more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. The story specifically points out that not only was Zacchaeus wealthy, but as a chief tax collector, he would have wealth beyond all others who were in his position.

Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man, chief among the sinners in the eyes of Jewish society and Jesus invited himself to eat with the man, thereby encouraging more muttering among the people.

This moment changed Zacchaeus’ life and from there, because of his commitment to return what he had stolen from others, probably changed a large number of people as well. One of the things that Luke has consistently taught throughout his gospel is that possessions are an indicator of a person’s spiritual condition. When Zacchaeus offered to give away half of those beloved possessions to the poor and to go far and above the Old Testament’s rules (Leviticus 5:16, Numbers 5:7) for restitution, his repentance was honest and his salvation was at hand.

Jesus announced that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus, but it wasn't simply because of the man’s good deeds. His salvation came about because as a son of Abraham, he finally believed. This man’s faith in Jesus Christ transformed his household.

Jesus was already willing to seek for the one lost sheep and in bringing Zacchaeus to faith, he had done just that. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

November 17 - Luke 18:35-43

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Luke 18:35-43 – Blind Beggar

Passover was approaching and Jesus had spent enough time traveling. He was getting closer and closer to Jerusalem. Now he went down the valley of the Jordan river and came close to Jericho. There would have been caravans of people traveling this road so as to arrive in Jerusalem in time for the holy celebrations, but the crowds traveling with Jesus would have been much larger than other groups, so a blind man would have recognized the difference.

In Mark’s account (Mark 10:46), we learn that the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. He was a beggar since this was the only way he would be able to get money so as to live. When Bartimaeus asked those around him what was happening, they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

Even a blind man in Jericho had heard of the fame of this man. Tales of healing and release from demon possession were carried throughout the region. This was an opportunity and one Bartimaeus would seize.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” he called out. His faith was great. He knew this was the Messiah and had absolute faith that Jesus could heal him. Those who rebuked Bartimaeus didn't do so because he had called Jesus by his messianic title, but more likely it was because this poor, blind, beggar had deigned to stop someone so famous.

Bartimaeus was not to be stopped. He shouted again, calling for the Son of David to have mercy on him.

What amazing faith this man showed. If Jesus were passing by, he would take time to offer healing to someone, even someone as lowly as a blind beggar.

That is exactly what Jesus did.  The compassion of God flowed from him to a man whose faith compelled him to respond with, “Lord, I want to see.”

November 16 - Luke 18:31-34

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Luke 18:31-34 – The Third Day

This is the third time in the gospel of Luke that Jesus predicts his death. The first in Luke 9:22 and then again in Luke 9:43-45. We also received many reminders along Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem – Luke 12:50; 13:32-33; 17:25). Luke intentionally made his readers aware that the trip to Jerusalem was the path of the cross. However, as many times as Jesus tells them what is to happen, they still do not fully understand. They will not see the power of his words until after it was finished.

Jesus needed his twelve closest friends to understand what was about to happen. As they got closer and closer to the city, he felt the time with them growing shorter and shorter. He knew what was coming and in saying these words to the Twelve, he attempted to make their memory of it easier. He knew they wouldn’t understand his words when they were spoken, but he also knew that they would remember these moments.

In John 13:19, Jesus says to them, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

Everything that was written by the prophets will be fulfilled. All of the Old Testament prophecies are wrapped up in one statement by Jesus. For the first time, Jesus acknowledges that the work will be done by the Gentiles. Everything in the Old Testament was pointing to the climactic moment.

This conversation with Jesus’ disciples began in 9:21-22 with Jesus prediction of the end and now it is finished. Everything that we have read between then and now, should be understood as Jesus’ teaching those who would hear him, about the kingdom of God in light of his coming passion.

The end is rapidly approaching and the disciples don’t fully understand, but a day will come when they remember his words, write them down and when they will be grateful for his words of love, compassion and grace.

November 15 - Luke 18:18-30

Friday, November 15, 2013

Luke 18:18-30 – Rich Young Ruler

This story is told in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). In Matthew we are told that he is young and in Luke we discover that he is a ruler. In all three, we learn that he is rich.

Jesus has been talking about how to enter the kingdom of God … or how to gain salvation. He has told his listeners to be prepared, to be persistent in prayer, to be humble and to approach the kingdom with a childlike faith.

In this story, he is confronted by a wealthy young ruler who wants to know what he must do to qualify for eternal life. Apparently, the young man had not been paying attention to Jesus’ teaching up to this point.

The title ‘ruler’ probably signifies that he is president of the local synagogue. His desire for salvation was sincere, he had lived a life that seemingly should gain God’s attention. What generous gift could he give or sacrifice could he make to ensure eternal life. He was a good man and he acknowledged that Jesus was a good man as well.

Jesus needed to make a point. Being a good man was not enough. Goodness that came from within did not create a relationship with God. All creation has the potential for goodness, yet all creation will not stand in the presence of God. Goodness that flows from God through each of us is what that relationship is all about.

Jesus asks the young man to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. He recognized the limitations this man had placed on his relationship to God. We know that Jesus considered the greatest commandments to be “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.”  This young man loved his wealth and himself over all other things. How could he love his neighbor if he was unable to give generously without limitation to them?

The young man still did not understand what he was being asked to do. It seemed impossible – as impossible as Jesus’ comparison to a camel traversing the eye of a needle. What man could be saved?

No man can be saved on his own. But, all men can be saved with God’s help.

Peter acknowledged that he and the other disciples had left all they had in order to follow Jesus and the Lord’s affirmation is that they will receive so much more than they left.

Preparation, persistence in prayer, humility, childlike faith and love … this is how we find our way to the eternal kingdom of God.

November 14 - Luke 18:15-17

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Luke 18:15-17 – Little Children

Jesus’ teaching on appropriate behavior in us as we look to the coming of the kingdom of God has been preparation, persistence in prayer, and humility. Now he calls children to him and reminds us that we should have the demeanor of a child in order to enter the kingdom.

What childlike qualities is he looking for in us? Trust, openness, excitement, willingness, love without limitations, acceptance. Children have a simple faith that does not include doubt. They don’t claim to know anything about God or make any demands of Him, they don’t brag or boast about their own goodness, they aren't attached to things, so can love freely.

Though we sometimes see Jesus healing people from afar, such as the time he healed the ten lepers, most of the time he uses touch to offer restoration. In this passage we find that parents are bringing their babies to Jesus for his touch.

The disciples felt it was their duty to protect Jesus from random people approaching him, especially as they got closer to Jerusalem. Through these last few days, they would have felt the impending change that was about to happen. Though they wouldn't necessarily know what was coming, they knew that the intensity of Jesus’ teaching was growing. At the same time, more and more people were following them, the crowds were growing and Jesus wasn't often given time to be alone.

These babies weren't sick or in need of healing, the parents just wanted to have a blessing for them and the disciples probably thought Jesus didn't have time for this.

They were wrong. There was a lesson to be learned that day. Jesus gathered children of all ages to him and reminded the disciples and all who heard him that with the spirit of a child, we should all approach the kingdom.

In the last verse of this short pericope, Jesus made an interesting statement. “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).  The kingdom of God is both here in the present and there in the future. We receive it now … we will enter it then.

November 13 - Luke 18:9-14

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Luke 18:9-14 – Pharisee and the Tax Collector

This parable is directed at the Pharisees in the crowd, and oh how Jesus offended them when he said these words out loud, but today it might be directed toward anyone who is confident of their own righteousness.

I have often been surprised at those who state that they are good people and really don’t sin. Such arrogance is always startling, because it signifies a misunderstanding of what sin truly is. Not only that, but the pride that comes from that single statement is sin unto itself.

Once again, Jesus makes the distinction between the terribly self-righteous Pharisee and the tax collector, who in that day and age, was reviled because of his normal behavior.

The Pharisee wasn't thankful to God for protecting him from sin or circumstances that might lead to sin. He believed that his avoidance of sin was purely of his own doing. Once he professed his avoidance of sins … robbery, adultery, evildoing … or collecting taxes, he decided to list out loud the things he did do – fasting and tithing.  He didn't see himself as a servant doing his duty, but believed he was an overachiever, doing more than the Law required of him. His adherence to the Law far outweighed any need for forgiveness. It was a good thing for God that this person existed on earth.

In stark contrast, the tax collector stood far off from the temple. His humility and shame caused him to stand apart from those who were holy. He didn't deserve to come close. He couldn't look toward heaven because he was so overwhelmed by his own sin. Before he said a word out loud, he proved his contrition.

This man, who was a sinner in everyone’s eyes, left the temple that day justified before God (Luke 18:14).

As Jesus teaches about how to enter the kingdom of God, what we soon discover is that we are unable to do it on our own. Our own humanity is what stops us. It is when we stand before God in true humility and need and ask Him for help, that we take our first step.

November 12 - Luke 18:1-8

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Luke 18:1-8 – The Persistent Widow

Rather than simply being a commentary on persistent prayer, this parable is closely linked to the preceding conversation Jesus was having with his disciples. It is always important to focus on the entirety of the text. He is attempting to teach his disciples that though his return might be delayed, they should always pray and never give up (Luke 18:1). This is emphasized by his words at the end of this pericope when he asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b)

The two characters of this parable – the unjust judge and a persistent widow – paint a picture of continued waiting. If the judge, who is less than noble and has no honor, is willing to grant the widow’s request due to her persistence, how much more so will God bring forth justice for those who continually pray.

The Son’s return will occur one day, the kingdom will be fully realized on earth. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Your kingdom come” in Luke 11:2, this is what they … this is what we are praying for. We must remain persistent in prayer because God will honor that on the day when Jesus does return. Our faith will bring justice against the adversary. We must never give up.

The theme of this discussion regarding Jesus’ return revolves around two things – always be prepared and be persistent in prayer. He will return, his kingdom will fully be known on the earth as it is in heaven.