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.

November 11 - Luke 17:20-37

Monday, November 11, 2013

Luke 17:20-37 – The Coming of the Kingdom of God

When will the kingdom of God come? This is a question that we have attempted to answer since Jesus went up into heaven. The thing is … there is no answer.

Jesus tells them that it does not come with their careful observation. It will not arrive during any of the observable celebrations or other religious observances. They hoped to be able to prepare for it by setting a date and time. Many expected the kingdom of God to arrive on the night of observation – Passover night. Others thought that it might come when they celebrated certain religious rituals. There will be no signs that allow people to predict the moment when it will arrive.

Most likely, there were those, who like Herod’s seers, read into the signs of the stars and the seasons as they attempted to predict the arrival of the kingdom.

Why should they not look? Because Jesus was standing right there in their midst and they didn't know what they were seeing. They had immediate access to the kingdom of God within themselves, all they had to do was acknowledge that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Luke presses forward and since Jesus is speaking with his disciples, he then turns to the future, when they will have a reason to look for his return. They should not listen to those who see signs in everything around them. The Lord will not return here and there. He will return in a flash … in a moment … in the lightning strike. There will be no time for preparation, he will simply arrive.

Be prepared. No one knows when and no one knows where. He will return.

November 10 - Luke 17:11-19

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Luke 17:11-19 – Ten Lepers

As a story teller, Luke reminds his readers of the context of the story. Jesus began the journey to Jerusalem back in Luke 9:51 and though he has had quite a few events happen along the way, he is still traveling with the disciples, moving toward the great city.

According to the Law, lepers had to hold themselves away from the community. Leviticus 13:46 says that “he (the leper) shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

They were respectful of the Law and even though misery often loves company, they wouldn't want anyone else to go through what they did or live with what they had to live with. But they also recognized Jesus. There is no record that he had ever entered this village, yet they knew who he was and called out for him to have pity on them. Their faith was immeasurable. He didn't approach them, he didn't give them any signal that he was doing anything, Jesus simply told them to go to the priests.

These ten men took Jesus at his word and as they made their way to the priests, they were cleansed. They watched their bodies transform before their eyes as they did as Jesus had instructed.

One of them didn’t make it to the priest. He was so overcome with gratitude, he came back and threw himself at Jesus’ feet, praising God.

All of a sudden, though, Luke makes a distinction between this man and the other nine. This man, according to Luke 17:16, was a Samaritan. He was not only scorned because of his disease, but his religious background separated him from everyone else. The only reasons he was with the Jewish lepers was because of their common disease.

The Jews went on to the priest, the Samaritan erupted in gratitude, recognizing that God had touched him … as reviled as he was by the predominant culture.

Luke held this detail back from the story until this point to heighten the drama. His readers would immediately be drawn to a memory of the Good Samaritan and how that group of people were open to the gospel of Jesus while official Judaism rejected the Messiah.

He was the last among the lepers and he was made the first. His adoration of God, his faith made him well.

November 9 - Luke 17:1-10

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Luke 17:1-10 – Sin, Faith, Duty

Jesus teaches that the capacity for forgiveness must be boundless and when his disciples hear his words, they cry out for an increase in faith. Jesus asks more of us than we believe we can handle when it comes to grace and forgiveness and yet, he tells us that we already have more power than we need to meet the challenge.

Jesus begins this passage by addressing the disciples. Luke’s words are carefully chosen. He ensures that his readers know that the Lord is fully aware of what it means to live in the world. There will be things that cause people to sin. Sin happens.

Jesus’ strongest words of condemnation are not for the person who sins, but the one who causes that person to sin. That is the one who would face a better end to their life if a millstone were tied around their neck and they were tossed into the sea. In Luke 17:2, Jesus refers to the ‘little ones.’ These are not children, but those who are young in the faith, whom the disciples will be in charge of mentoring. Anyone who brings sin to these people who follow Jesus is doomed.

In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus says something that we hear, but rarely comprehend. We get stuck on the first part of the command and forget the second. “If your brother sins … rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.” Now, that is a powerful sentence, but the next lends even more power to Jesus command.

Most pastors teach that repentance is ‘turning away’ from sin and never repeating it again. That’s absolutely true, but Jesus is speaking about forgiveness and grace that comes from God. If your brother sins against you seven times a day (this is not meant to be the upper limit of sins one can commit … it is symbolic of an unlimited amount of times), and each time comes back and says “I repent,” you are to forgive him … over and over.

At this point the apostles realize they cannot do this alone and plead with the Lord to increase their faith.

We can’t continue to forgive an unlimited amount of times, even if Jesus tells us that we must. We have our limits and when those limits have passed, we step away and cease to act as Jesus has called us to act. We feel we must protect ourselves from the continued bashing that occurs.

The disciples asked for more faith and Jesus told them something we should all hear. We can continue to offer forgiveness even if we don’t accept the continued assault. All it takes is faith as small as a mustard seed to have the power to forgive.

Forgiveness is imperative.

In the last point that Jesus makes, he reminds the disciples that they not only have the power to forgive, but it is their duty. When all is said and done, the disciples … those who follow Jesus must say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

Sin happens. Faith brings power to forgive. Forgiveness is our duty.

November 8 - Luke 16:19-31

Friday, November 8, 2013

Luke 16:19-42 – Rich Man and Lazarus

To fully understand this story, we have to remember the context in which Jesus is speaking. He has been dealing with the Pharisees and their intentional refusal to follow their own Scriptures – the Law and the Prophets (Luke 16:16, 29). There were in exactly the same straits as the rich man’s brothers. They had Moses and the Prophets to guide them, but rather than live according to the scriptures and in their professed belief in the future and in future judgment, they were much more interested in being extremely comfortable while on earth. It was wealth and good things that they pursued while on earth, just as the rich man did.

Jesus tells his listeners that our attitude to God is confirmed in this life and cannot be changed in the next life. The decisions we make today will affect our eternity.

This rich man is identified by wearing extravagant clothing and living sumptuously every day. His comfort was of utmost importance, to the exclusion of everything else. Every day he saw the poor beggar named Lazarus at the gate of his home. The man was covered with sores and starving … willing to eat whatever fell from the rich man’s table. He was given nothing. The rich man ignored the image of poverty which was right in front of him.

Both men died. Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s side. God cared enough for him that he wasn't even buried. The rich man, however, was buried and then ended up in hell … the place of the dead.

In today’s culture, we often misunderstand the reference to the place of the dead … Hades, Sheol, Hell. We assume that all die and sometimes this wording doesn't make sense. But, the truth of it is, heaven is where those who are Christians go. They may die on earth, but in that split second between life and death while on earth, we are translated to eternal life.

Hades may be the home of the dead, but though we die on earth … as Christians we will never see it because we remain alive.

The most difficult part for those who have died, been buried and then gone on to hell is that they are fully aware of the fact that there is a heaven, where life is good and God continues to care for those who love him. The deep chasm between the two is unpassable.

In the afterlife, those who refused to offer mercy will not receive it. This life is when we make our choices on how we live in eternity and Jesus makes it very clear that caring for those who are in need is a primary indicator of how we will make that choice.

By the time Luke was writing this Gospel, the Resurrection had already occurred. There were still those who disbelieved, even though it had practically happened in front of them. The final verse of this pericope speaks to those people:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31).

Even if someone rises from the dead, they will not be convinced. The Law and the Prophets, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. None of this is enough to convince people.

November 7 - Luke 16:1-18

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Luke 16:1-18 – The Shrewd (Dishonest?) Manager

What are we to do with our earthly goods? How are we to manage them? Jesus has something to say.

Two of the Pharisee’s biggest sins were pride and love of money … from pride came hypocrisy.

Jesus compared the pride of the elder son in the story of the Prodigal Son to that of the Pharisees. They were so caught up in worrying about their own inheritance they had no humility when it came to forgiveness for those who were most in need. Now, he looks at their love of money.

The manager of this rich man’s estates is not a slave … he has a lot of power. He buys and sells, living on the revenue that he earns. He sends the surplus to the rich man … his master.

We are to see ourselves in the role of the manager … God is the master. We have the right to live our lives and deliver to God whatever we see fit, but when he accuses us of being wasteful, we should pay attention.

After we use what it is we need to live, we hoard or squander it rather than offering it back to the Lord.  This may seem unnatural to us, but we often forget that we are simply stewards ... we act as if we are the owners of all that we have.

Now, the master says to the manager … you can no longer act in this role. This is a point of deprivation. We are to be separated from the Lord … our sin is that of avarice.

When the manager attempts to make friends with his debtors by acting shrewdly, the reason that the master affirms this behavior is because there was wisdom in acting to protect the man’s future. Prudence became part of the man’s behavior.  Create relationships that will benefit you in the end, even if it means disposing of earthly goods.

These relationships … friendships … are much more important than wasting the goods we have been given as stewards. This is valued in God’s sight.

November 6 - Luke 15:11-32

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Luke 15:11-32 – Prodigal Son

The story of the Prodigal Son is quite well known and has been preached and taught many times. There isn't much more to learn about it, but it will always be a powerful story of grace and compassion, forgiveness and restoration.

Along with the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the story celebrates the return of a lost son. Great rejoicing occurs when the son who was gone returns.  The second half of the story tells of the sour attitude of the elder brother who never left the home and stayed in order to work alongside his father.

The thing about this story is that the position of the elder son was never threatened. His attitude is what demeans his position in his father’s eyes.

In direct contrast to the elder son’s behavior, the father kept a hopeful, vigilant eye out for the return of the young son. Hoping every day that the boy would come to his senses, the father’s compassion drives him to keep an eye out and when he saw the boy from far off, he knew that there was an opportunity for restoration of the relationship.

Now, the beautiful thing in this story was that when the older son realized what was happening and refused to go in to the party celebrating his brother’s return, the father went out to him, hoping to repair that relationship as well.

With words of love, patience and compassion, the father welcomed both sons.

God’s compassion is boundless.

November 5 - Luke 15:8-10

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Luke 15:8-10 – The Lost Coin

In this story, we read of a woman who lost one of ten silver coins. She does everything to find it and when she does, she tells everyone and rejoices with them.

This is not a story of a pitiful woman who only has a little bit of money, it is more a story of a woman who has saved these coins, maybe for some special occasion. Whatever it was, the coin was important to her. The loss of the coin is a real loss for her.

The story describes God who loves his children. In the story of the lost sheep, God took pity on the poor thing and did everything to retrieve it so that it wouldn't harm itself any further or be alone. In this story, we see yet another side of God’s compassion. We, like the coin is to the woman, are precious to God. There is a part each sinner has to play in God’s plans. If one person is lost, that person’s place in the entirety of God’s plan is empty. There is a hole.

Blaise Pascal said that “there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God …”

This story tells us that there is a place in God’s plan that only we can fill. We are precious and important to him.

Oh, how the angels rejoice when that empty place is filled with the repentant sinner.

November 4 - Luke 15:1-7

Monday, November 4, 2013

Luke 15:1-7 – The Lost Sheep

In the Gospel of Luke, we find four separate events when Jesus associates with sinners and is then called to task for it by the Pharisees. There was an enormous class difference in that culture and the very religious had nothing to do with anyone who might cause them to be considered sinful.

In Luke 5:27-32, Luke 7:39 and in Luke 19:7, these Pharisees do the same thing they do here – they grumbled because Jesus spends time with people who are deemed to be less than perfect.

We find at the beginning of this passage that tax collectors (a particularly despicable sort – they were considered immoral because of the work they did, collecting money from people to turn over to the government and often collecting more than necessary to line their own pockets) and other sinners were drawn to Jesus. In him they found holiness rather than prideful and contemptuous self-righteousness. They found genuine love rather than disdain. They found hope in the midst of their circumstances.

These tax collectors and sinners no longer had rights to a relationship with God by the letter of the Law. With the coming of Jesus, the door which had been slammed shut by their own guilt, was re-opened.

Their miserable state opened the way for God to be compassionate with them. Imagine the story of the lost sheep. If that sheep had not been lost, there would have been no need for the shepherd to search for it. God seeks sinners, because the sinner is in such great need.

Those hundred sheep that were left in the open country to fend for themselves? They've figured it out and don’t need God to show up and hold them. They are already in safety. But, God seeks out the lost, the sinners, the ones who are miserable. He goes far beyond what is necessary. It might not seem worth it to those of us who measure things and create metrics for our lives, but for God … that one lost sheep, the sinner, the tax collector is of utmost importance.

November 3 - Luke 14:25-35

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Luke 14:25-35 – The Cost of Following Jesus

Great crowds … multitudes are following Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus is fully aware that there is a difference in expectation between him and these huge numbers of people. They are expecting a party. He knows that is not what will happen … for them, or for him.

He turns to them and says words that seem to make everything we believe in turn upside down. Jesus is NOT family friendly for those who would follow him. He declares that we must choose following him above everything else. It is not an easy road. We must be prepared to give up our families, everything we love … even our own lives if we truly want to be his disciple.

This is one of those passages that is often overlooked in our happy little worlds. We want the family to be the most important thing in a Christian’s life, but Jesus knows that loving our family more than anything else, means that we leave him behind. Loving ourselves more than anything else … being more concerned about our health and well-being, our future, our fortune, our homes, our lawns, our success, our failures, our workplace, our friends than anything else. All of these things separate us from him.

It doesn't matter how many Bible studies we host or teach or attend - or how often we read scripture, or how much money we give to the poor or how often we go to church or all of the things we do; Jesus asks us to truly count the cost and understand what is required for us to be a disciple.

We do not understand the depth of this in our culture today. Christianity is much too easy and we have created a simplistic attitude toward it. Imagine being given the choice of sacrificing your child or your faith. Which would you choose? Do you even realize that these choices are being made around the world today? In this passage, Jesus is VERY clear regarding what the cost is to be his disciple.

“Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

We can’t pretty this up and make it go away. Jesus is clear about the cost of discipleship and when we feel as if we have done enough or sacrificed enough … he asks us to do more and to sacrifice more.

Tasteless salt is useless … we are useless as Christians unless we are willing to be everything for Jesus Christ.

This is a difficult lesson and one that is nearly impossible for us to understand, much less live. But, we must always be aware that we are not ever doing enough for the cause of Christ. He demands everything from us, we give so little.

November 2 - Luke 14:15-24

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Luke 14:15-24 – The Great Banquet

Luke is again speaking to the Pharisees and those religious leaders who believe that they have a ‘right’ to eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.

The custom in that day was that invitations had long since been sent and accepted. When everything was prepared, a domestic slave was sent to summon the guests on the day of the banquet. In this case, Jesus is the servant … or slave of God, sent to summon the people of Israel to the great banquet.

In a bizarre turn, every single person who had already accepted the invitation, refused to come to the banquet.  In Luke 8:14 we find that these people heard the word of God, but the seed fell among the thorns: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” 

This parable is not about a future event, but was a story with immediacy and with continuing relevance. Jesus was inviting the people of Israel and he continues to invite each of us. Those who have too many other things to occupy their time and make those things more important than a relationship with God, will find that his anger and judgment are swift. What the master discovers is that those who were originally invited, have at the seat of their refusal to attend, a deep hatred for Him. The only thing they care about is their own lives, their own needs and how to adjust their religion to benefit those things.

The household owner sends his slave out to those who are poor, crippled, blind and lame. The understanding is that these people do not have a list of things in their lives that will stop them from coming to the banquet. When the needy from the city do not fill the banquet hall, the master sends the slaves beyond in order to fill the hall. There are more than enough seats and there will not be any left empty.

If we look back at the original covenant God made with Abraham, the Lord promised that Abraham’s seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17). That is the number of seats available at the Great Banquet and that is what the Lord has opened up to those who will fill his house.

November 1 - Luke 14:1-14

Friday, November 1, 2013

Luke 14:1-14 – At a Pharisee’s House

Once more, Jesus is invited to eat with one of the Pharisees. This man is a ruler of the Pharisees, probably a member of the Sanhedrin and this offers an opportunity for more discussion. Rather than a comfortable social setting, Jesus enters the den of lions. Luke reminds us that they watched him carefully, waiting to pounce on any theological flaw in his teaching.

There, in front of Jesus, is a man who suffers from dropsy. Was he planted there by the Pharisees, knowing that Jesus would not be able to resist helping the poor man? Possibly. Once again, this happens on the Sabbath and once again, the question came up as to whether or not it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath.

This question has shown up on three other occasions – Luke 6:1-5, 6:11; 13:10-17. It is a popular point of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees.

Jesus wasn't finished with the dinner guests after he confronted them about their treatment of men versus animals. They had nothing to say and he moved on to another issue which presented itself.

At dinner, guests reclined on couches. The head couch held the host and other important guests, then, extending out from it were places of honor. If a very important guest came late to the dinner, someone would be displaced in order to make room. Jesus addressed these guests and while his instructions might have even made sense in the reality of the moment, he was addressing greater things. Those Pharisees who felt they were religiously very important refused to humble themselves in the kingdom of God. When the day came for them to stand before God they would be humiliated and asked to leave their supposed place of honor. God will humble the mighty.

After addressing the guests, Jesus turns to the host. The translation might be better read as: Stop continually inviting those who are friends or relatives or rich neighbors. Jesus doesn’t expect people to never invite their friends and relatives or even their neighbors to dinner, but for many there is an expectation of being repaid. Caring for the needy, though will not bring material reward on earth, but at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14b), repayment will be made in full.