Author Archives: Brian Olson

About Brian Olson

I am a committed Christian who was blessed to grow up in a strong supportive family in rural Iowa. I have spent the last 23 years in the northwest Chicago suburbs where I live with my wife of 19 years, Kay, and our three children. We are actively involved in our church, scouting and community activities. I am a graduate of Trinity International University in 1992 (B.A. Youth Ministry) and of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1996 (MDiv Christian Education). I have worked in the field of Physical Security for over 20 years. I have been active in my church teaching and music for over 20 years and have been a guest speaker at churches since 2007. In addition, I serve as Chaplain for local Boy Scout troops. My passion is teaching others about God, helping them grow in their faith and encouraging their involvement in the local community. My area of specialty are public speaking, strategic planning, emergency management, community service, family ministry and youth ministry.

Bible Open to Book of Luke

Luke – Thematic Takeaways

So, after reading through the book of Luke for Advent, I decided to summarize what my initial takeaways were from my reading. I have worked to consolidate what I have found and to narrow them down as much as possible. Again, this is not intended to be an in-depth study of the book of Luke, but rather my initial thoughts on the book. The numbers in the parenthesis indicate the chapters from which the preceding takeaways came.

  1. Jesus’ resurrection is an actual physical/bodily resurrection. (24). What is more, it serves as a further confirmation that there is a resurrection of the dead. (20)
  2. The whole of the Old Testament, the law and the prophets, remains and points to Christ. (16 and 24)
  3. Jesus’ death and resurrection open the door of forgiveness to a sinful people separated from God. (13, 22, and 24) What is more, there is nothing so wrong that it cannot be forgiven and is never too late in this life to be forgiven. (23)
  4. The world that Jesus has sent us into is a dangerous place. (10 and 22) Even the most committed followers can succumb to fear, which should not surprise us as even Jesus expressed fear of what was to come. (22) But God can give us the strength to persevere when we ask him in prayer. (21 and 22)
  5. To reach people, we cannot hide but must be involved in people’s lives. (19)
  6. Following Christ means leaving things behind, taking up your cross, laying down your life, and holding him above all others. (9 and 14)
  7. Our actions are to help the neediest, including keeping others from stumbling, and restoring those who do stumble. (14 and 17)
  8. We need to regularly and continually bring things to God in prayer. We do this by letting go of the things of this world and bathing our lives in prayer. ( 6 and 18)
  9. It is always good to what is right, and it is more important than imposed rules. (6, 13, and 14)
  10. We need to come before God in humility and with the innocence of a child. (18) What is more, we need to serve others with this same humility, making ourselves the least important. (9, 21, and 22)
  11. Faith is the key to following Christ. Even in the smallest amount, it can accomplish much. (7 and 17) With faith, we can come before God. (18) With faith, we can trust in God. (11) And with faith in Christ, we can find forgiveness. (5)
  12. Christ will come at any time and without warning. (12 and 17) But there will be signs for which we are told to be watchful. (21)
  13. The mission of Jesus was and still is to reach the lost. (15) Jesus calls people and, in turn, uses those he has called to reach others. (5) Our role, as believers, is to share the gospel with those who will listen. (8) God will give us what we need to reach others. (10, 16 and 19)
  14. Salvation is for the true children of Abraham by faith, and they will come from all corners of the earth. (3 and 13)
  15. We are not to judge people based on their past but rather rejoice with them when they come to Christ. (15)
  16. There is a cost to following Christ, and if we are not willing to make the sacrifices, we are worthless to God. (14)
  17. The only real way to resist temptation is through God’s power, and Jesus demonstrated for us that this could be found in scripture. (4)
  18. God is faithful to his promises and will see them through to fruition. (1 and 2)
  19. Christ has promised that he will never leave us. (24)
  20. We are to be zealous for the righteousness of God. (19)
  21. Jesus is fully God, having power over everything, and fully man, having faced all that we face. (2, 4 and 8)
  22. We are called to treat others the way we want to be treated. To do this, we must recognize that our neighbors are anyone in need and base our actions on the teaching of Jesus. (6 and 10)
  23. We are called to be faithful to God’s calling and, therefore, must be wary of things that harm or walk with him and be prepared for the challenges that may stand in the way of our desire for heavenly things. (4 and 12)
  24. We need to meditate on the truths of Christ that have been revealed to us so that we can embrace them and make them a genuine part of our lives. (2)
John Singleton Copley - The Ascension, 1775

Luke 24 – Christ Fully Revealed

Here we come to the end of the Luke’s account of the life of Jesus. In Chapter 24, we find the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

The last chapter ended with the women resting on the sabbath after having prepared the spices for Jesus’ body. On the morning of the first day of the week, we now find them heading to the grave to anoint the body with spices. To their surprise, when they arrived, they found that the stone that had been placed in front of the tomb was moved. They then stepped inside the tomb to look closer and discovered that it was empty.

Now, it is interesting that one attempt that has been made to explain this is the claim that the women had gone to the wrong tomb. I think that this was apparently a rumor that had been floating around at the time that Luke was writing, and this is why he made a point at the end of chapter 23 of saying that the women had seen the where and how the body was laid. Luke wants to drive home to us that the women had genuinely found the tomb, where Jesus was laid, empty.

Luke continues by telling us that while the women were wondering what had happened to the body, two angels appeared to them. The women were justifiably afraid, but the angels said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen” (Vv 5 – 6, NASB). They then reminded them that Jesus had told them that everything that had occurred had to happen. As they reminded the women of these things, they remembered.
The women immediately headed back to meet with the disciples and tell them what had occurred. John mentions the names of three women; Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. Who are these three women, and why does Luke name them specifically. The first is, of course, Mary Magdalene. She had traveled with the disciples and had been a key member of their circle during Jesus’ ministry. The second is Joanna, who had also traveled with them during Jesus’ ministry. The last one listed is Mary, the mother of James. The James in question is most probably the apostle James the less. I think that Luke records these women by name to support their credibility. These were not some random women, these were disciples themselves.

So they return to tell the 11 apostles, but their “words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” (v11) Yet it is interesting that Peter went to the tomb to see for himself. He found what they had described and returned home, amazed at what he had seen.

Luke now steps away from the 11 apostles and follows 2 other disciples who were traveling to Emmaus about seven miles away. While they were talking to each other about the events of the last few days, they were joined by a third traveler. Luke tells us that this third traveler is Jesus, yet the disciples were prevented from recognizing him.

Jesus asks them what they are talking about. They are quite surprised, and the one named Cleopas asked if he was the only one who was unaware of what had transpired. When Jesus asked what things, they began to recount things for him. They said, “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (v 21) They even recounted the events of the women finding the tomb empty that morning.
Jesus “said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?'” (Vv 25 – 26) He then lays out everything the Old Testament had spoken of him.

As the approach Emmaus, Jesus acted like he was going to continue on his way. The disciples encouraged him to stay with them because it was getting late. As they reclined around the table, Jesus took the bread and broke it. Suddenly they realized who Jesus was, and then he vanished. As they recounted the events of the day, they realized that they should have known it all along.

They immediately returned to Jerusalem, where they met with the apostles and the others who were with them. They told those assembled all that had occurred and how Jesus had appeared to them. Here we find the name of the other disciple, Simon. I think the reason for listing both names is to affirm the truth, as, under the law, it required two witnesses for something to hold up in court.

While they were there with the apostles, Jesus appeared in the midst of all of them saying, “Peace be to you.” (v 36) In spite of all the events of the day, they were still taken aback and thought he was a ghost. Jesus invites them to look at the holes in his hands and feet. He also invites them to touch him and confirm that he is not a ghost. They were still having trouble believing it, so Jesus asks them for something to eat. He then took it and ate it to prove once and for all that he was physically present among them.

Now that he has proven that he is really there, Jesus reminds them of the things he had said before his death concerning what was written about him in the Old Testament. He opened up their eyes to understand, and “He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.” (v 47) He then told them that they would be witnesses of what had happened to the world, proclaiming “repentance for [the] forgiveness of sins . . . in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (v 47)

The last thing that Luke records Jesus saying to the disciples was that he was sending the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to them. Here he is promising to send the Holy Spirit. But he tells them that they need to remain in the city until that time.

Luke concludes his account by telling us that Jesus “led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” (v 50) Luke then tells us that Jesus was carried away into heaven. They worshipped there for a while and then returned to Jerusalem. They were then continually in the temple praising God.

My takeaways from this chapter are 1) Jesus’ resurrection is a fact. The witnesses and the evidence all make this clear. 2) The whole of the Old Testament points to Christ, his coming, suffering death and resurrection. 3) Jesus’ resurrection was an actual, physical, bodily resurrection. 4) Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door to the forgiveness of sins for those who repent. And 5) Christ promised to not leave us alone, but to send the Holy Spirit.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo - The Crucifixion, 1675

Luke 23 – Good Friday: The Cost and Power of Doing the Right Thing

Chapter 23 gives us the all too familiar account of the crucifixion. It picks up exactly where Chapter 22 left off. After being questioned by the religious leaders, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor over Palestine. The leaders lay out their charges against Jesus for Pilate, many of them false and complete contradictions of Jesus’ own words. Interestingly, the only seeming truth they could share was that he was the King of the Jews, and that is not something that Jesus appears to have ever actually said. In fact, Pilate asks him flat out if he is, and all Jesus responds with is, “It is as you say.” (v 3, NASB)

Pilate is satisfied that Jesus has done nothing wrong, but the religious leaders are adamant. Upon learning that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate believes he has his out. He sends him to Herod since he happens to be in town, who is the “appointed king” over that region. Herod’s response is different than Pilate’s. He is excited about the opportunity to meet Jesus because he has heard the stories of the miracles and wanted to see one for himself. Jesus, however, will not play along. He is not going to do a miracle just because Herod wants to see one. No matter what Herod asks, Jesus simply just stands there. Herod has had enough. After mocking Jesus for a while, he dresses him in a fancy robe and sends him back to Pilate.

Pilate finds himself back where he started, He needs a new plan for dealing with Jesus. He summons the religious leaders and tells them, “having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” It looks like he thought this would appease them, and it was keeping with the law because he was allowed to release one prisoner during the Passover feast.

They had nothing to do with it. They instead asked him to release a man named Barabbas, who was a murderer and an insurrectionist. Pilate still wanted to release Jesus, but they began to call for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate finally caved to the pressure by releasing Barabbas and ordering Jesus taken away to be crucified,

I have to stop here for a moment and look at Pilate. Pilate by no means is said to be a righteous man or a good man, but apparently, he is also not a man of convictions. Rather than standing his ground for what he knew was right he gave in to the desires of the crowd for the sake of peace and quiet. I can not help but think of the phrase, “All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.”

So Jesus is taken away to be crucified. Luke tells us that Roman soldiers grabbed a man named Simon to carry Jesus Cross for him. While Luke is not clear on the reason, we know from the other accounts that Jesus is weak from everything he has gone through, including brutal beatings,

As they travel along the way, they are followed by a large crowd, including “women who were mourning and lamenting Him.” (v 27) Jesus spoke to them, telling them to not lament for him but to lament for the days that are going to be coming. He tells them, “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” I think what he is telling them is that as horrible as this is, they need to remember that he has been there with them. God himself has been physically present in Israel and yet look what has happened. Now consider how terrible it will be when Israel is cut off from God’s presence completely.

As they come to the site of the crucifixion, called the place of the skull, they removed Jesus’ outer garments, and the soldiers gambled for them. They lifted him up on the cross and placed a sign above him that read, King of the Jews. Those around, including the religious leaders, mocked him, telling him to save himself. Yet through all of this, Luke tells us that Jesus uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (v 34)

Luke also tells us that Jesus was not crucified alone. Two criminals were crucified at the same time. One on each side of him. One of the criminals joined in with the crowd mocking and scoffing at Jesus, but the other did not. Instead, he called for the other criminal to be quiet. He was saying that they deserved what they were getting, but Jesus had done nothing. He then asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus responded, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (v 43) I think the message is clear. This man was truly repentant for what he had done. And even in his last hours, Jesus forgave him of his sins because he had shown faith.

Luke now recounts the final few hours of Jesus’ life and the miraculous events that occurred then. He tells that darkness fell on the land for three hours, and the veil in the temple was torn in two. At the end, Luke tells us that Jesus cried “out with a loud voice, saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (v 46) and then gave his last breath.

Upon seeing all of this, the centurion who was present declared, “Certainly this man was innocent.” (v 47) I think we are safe in assuming that this centurion was the one overseeing the executions. What is more, this was probably not his first. He had probably seen many men die, but this was like nothing he had ever seen. It was obvious to him that there was something different about Jesus,

After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council who had had not agreed to everything, went to Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. Having received permission, he took the body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and laid him in a brand new grave that was cut into the stone. As it was preparation day for the Sabbath, they did not have time to do everything beforehand. Luke is very sure, however, to tell us that the women who had followed Jesus were there and saw exactly how and where the body was laid. Luke concludes this chapter by telling us that the women when to prepare the spices that would be used on Jesus’ body, as was standard practice when the Sabbath was over.

My takeaways from this chapter are 1) We need to stand firm in the truth, even when it means standing alone against the crowd. 2) There is nothing so wrong done to us that it can not be forgiven with God’s help. And 3) It is never too late to be forgiven.

Orazio Borgianni - Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1610

Luke 22 – Maundy Thursday

In Chapter 22, we come to what the church calls Maundy Thursday or “Commandment” Thursday, the day before the crucifixion.

It is coming up on the time for the Passover when Luke tells us that the religious leaders of Israel were looking for a way to get rid of Jesus. It was at this time that “Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot.” (v 3, NASB)  Judas went to the Chief Priest and discussed how he could betray Jesus. This made them very excited, so they gave Judas money to find a way. Judas then set out to find an opportunity to do it when no one was around.

This stands as our introduction to the chapter. We have heard several times throughout the book how the leaders were out to get rid of Jesus. Here we see that their plan is set into action, as Judas has given them their opportunity. Now while it is not clear what day this takes place, it does seem clear that it was at some point between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the events that follow.

Luke next tells us that on the day of unleavened bread, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare things for them to celebrate the Passover meal. He gives them details on how to find the place and how to go about procuring it.

That evening when it was time for the meal, they reclined around the table. As they did, Jesus said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Vv 15 – 16) Passover was the holiest time in the Jewish year. And Jesus, who lived by and kept the whole law, knew it would be his last opportunity to share it with his friends.

Jesus took the bread and broke it into pieces explaining that the broken bread represented the way his body would be broken. After the meal, he also takes the cup of wine and tells his disciples that it represents the new covenant that was found in this blood. The blood that would be shed for him.

Before finishing the meal, however, Jesus tips his hand that he knows what is to come. He says, “the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” (v 21) Jesus acknowledges that he will go along with the plan but speaks a warning to the person who would betray him. This created some turmoil among the disciples as they did what anyone of us would do, they tried to figure out who would betray him.

This then led to a second dispute among the disciple or who was the greatest among them. Jesus explains to them that they are not to seek after power and glory. These are the types of things that leaders in the world are concerned with. Rather Jesus tells  them, “who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” (v 27) Beyond this, Jesus then tells them, “[he is] among as one who serves.” (v 27) What is more, Jesus points out that they have stood by him and will receive their reward, “eat[ing] and drink[ing] at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (v 30)

Jesus then turns to Peter personally, telling him that he will be tested and, in the end, will deny knowing Jesus three times. Turning back to the disciples as a whole, he tells them that he is sending them out again, but this time they need to take provisions with them. It is interesting that among the provisions he tells them to take along this time is a sword. In fact, he tells them, “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (v 36) People like to portray Jesus as the ultimate pacifist, peaceful, and meek in all of his interactions. Of course, the encounter with those he drove out of the temple shows that this is not always the case. I think that rather, what is being portrayed is the realization the world Jesus is sending them into is dangerous. He is making it clear that there will be times that they will need to defend themselves. He is certainly not telling them to go out looking for a fight but is telling them to be ready to defend themselves when the need arises.

After the meal, they went out to the Mt. of  Olives, as Luke had previously established to be their normal practice. After telling them to “pray that [they would] not fall into temptation.” (v 40) Jesus moved a little further away from them, knelt down, and prayed. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (v 42) We forget that Jesus, while fully God, was fully human and, as such, did not want to go through with it if there was any way out. And who could blame him? None of us would choose to do so either. But Jesus showed strength beyond us by submitting to the Father’s will.

Luke tells us that an angel then appeared who strengthened him. I think this is a clear parallel to the end of the 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus had been tempted then, and in the end, angels came and ministered to him. Here too, Jesus is facing a great temptation, one to walk away from his mission, and an angel comes to strengthen him. If there is any question in our mind to what level Jesus is struggling with this, Luke tells him that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (v 44)

After he finished praying, Jesus returned to find the disciples sleeping. He wakes them and again entreats them to “pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (v 46)

While they were still speaking, Judas arrived at their location with a crowd. He approached Jesus and gave him a kiss, indicating to the authorities who they were to arrest. Jesus, knowing what was happening, looked at Judas and said, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (v 48) A short altercation occurs as the ear of the High Priest servant is cut off. Jesus stops it and heals his ear. He then questions why they come as a crowd at night to this place away from the city to arrest him. He reminds them what Luke has gone out of his way to drive home over and over, that he has not been hiding. He had been in the temple teaching every day and yet they did nothing.

As they take Jesus away, Peter follows at a distance. Peter finds himself with a small group of people outside the high priest house, where they have taken Jesus. This is where it happens. Peter is confronted three times as being a follower of Jesus to which Jesus adamantly denies knowing him. It is then that Peter remembers the words of Jesus, “and he went outside and wept bitterly.” (v 62)

Meanwhile, Jesus is mocked by the guards who are holding him. Finally, at daybreak, Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders, including the Chief Priest. They ask him if he is the Messiah. Jesus first responds by saying, “If I tell you, you will not believe me,  and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” (Vv 67 – 69)

To this, “they all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You say that I am.'” (v 70). This was enough for them. In their minds, he had committed blasphemy. And so, “they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” (v 71)

My takeaways from this passage are, 1) Jesus’ body is broken for us, and in his blood, he establishes a new covenant. 2) The one who is the greatest is the one who serves others. 3) The world is a dangerous place for the followers of Christ, and we are to be ready for the times when we will need to defend ourselves. 4) If Jesus wanted to find a way other than the Father’s plan, we should not be surprised when we want to. 5) God can give us the strength to see us through times of doubt and fear. And 6) even the most committed of followers can succumb to fear.

James Tissot - Jesus Speaks Near the Treasury, 1886 - 94

Luke 21 – Signs of the End

Chapter 21 begins with Jesus again, teaching at the temple. As he is sitting there with the disciples, they are watching people place their gifts into the treasury. One after another, rich people continue to drop in their gifts. While they are watching, they see a poor widow step up and drop in two small copper coins.  Jesus, who is clearly moved by what he has seen, turns to the others and tells them that, “this poor widow put in more than all of them.” (v 3, NASB)

I am sure that those listening were quite confused by this, but Jesus explains what he means. He points out that yes, the rich people had given a greater monetary value than the widow woman, but that monetary value was just a fraction of what they had. The widow woman, on the other, gave all she had to God.  While they were talking, it became evident that many of his followers were distracted looking a the temple. They were talking about how beautiful it was

Jesus knew what they were talking about and seized the opportunity to speak about the end times. He tells them that the day is coming when not even one of the stones will continue standing.

He then talks about the signs to look for that will indicate the end is upon them. There will be wars between nations, earthquakes, and famine, as well as “terrors and great signs from heaven.” (v 11) Jesus tells them that even before then, those who follow him will find themselves persecuted and brought before rulers on charges. But there is a positive way to look at this. He tells them that it will lead to opportunities to share their testimonies.

Now Jesus realizes that it is natural in this situation to be concerned about preparing for this. But Jesus tells them, “I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (v 15) Now I do not think that Jesus is telling them to do nothing, but His point is that they should not obsess over these things. He just wants them to understand what is to come.

Jesus then points out that they will be betrayed by “by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and [some] will put  to death, and [they will] be hated.” (Vv 16 – 17) But then he follows this with an unusual statement. He says, “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your lives.” (Vv 18 – 19) How is it in one breath he says, some of you will die, and in the next breath he says, you will gain your lives? I think we need to understand that the lives gained are eternal and can not be taken away when they have put their faith in Christ. 

Jesus then tells them that “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.” (v 20) He tells them that when they see this, they need to flee to the mountains. He also makes the statement, “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land.” (v 23) I think the point is that those who are in such a condition are not in a place where they can quickly pack up and run.

He continues on with the signs saying they will be “in sun and moon and stars” as well as “dismay among nations.” (v 25) When these things are seen, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (v 27) Once again, Jesus points out that for those who know him, it is not a time for fear, but of hope as their “redemption is drawing near.” (v 28)

Jesus tells them that just as they see the leave appear on a tree tells you that summer is near, so to these signs tell you that the end is near. Jesus then gives them the warning to remain sober and alert. This way, they will not be taken by surprise in the same way others will. But be sure to pray for strength to endure what is to come so that in the end, they will be able to “to stand before the Son of Man.” (v 36)

Finally, once again, Luke reminds us that Jesus was spending his days teaching in the temple. This time he also mentions that he withdrew from the city for the night but would once again return to the temple in the morning where the people would wait to hear him teach.

My takeaways from the chapters are 1) God honors those who give sacrificially. 2) While we may not know the exact time of Christ’s return, we are told to watch for the signs and be prepared. And 3) we need to pray for the strength to persevere.

Peter Paul Rubens - TheTribute Money,1577–1640

Luke 20 – Give to God What He is Owed

Chapter 20 continues with Jesus teaching in the temple. As he was teaching,, He was confronted by the religious leaders. They asked what authority did he have to do the things he was doing. Jesus chooses to respond with a question rather than answering their questions directly. The leaders saw the trap that Jesus had laid before them. “They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” (Vv 5 – 6) So how do they respond? They tell him that they do not know. Jesus responds, then saying that if they can not answer his questions, then he does not need to answer their question. I think Jesus’ point is that if they are not willing to acknowledge the obvious truth, then they will never accept the truth of his answer.

Jesus turns to the people and tells them a parable about a man who planted a vineyard, rented it out, and then went out on a journey. When the harvest came about, he sent a slave to collect the rent, but the slave was beaten and sent back by the renters. This happened two more times. The landlord then thought he had a fool-proof plan. He would send his son. They would surely respect him. The renters, however, had another idea. They said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.” (v 14) And so they did. Jesus then explains to the people that the response of the landowner would be to destroy the renters and give the vineyard to someone else. He then explains that this is what was prophesied in Psalm 118:22, where it was written, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief cornerstone.” (v 17) I know these things are easier to grasp in hindsight, but each clearly is a reference to Jesus. The “stone, the builders, rejected,” and the son of the landlord were bothe Jesus.

The religious leaders became even more intent on getting Jesus after these events. They knew that the parable intended to portray them as renters who killed the son looking only for what they could get. They, however, could not because they feared what the response of the people would be. Instead, they came up with another plan. They sent people to spy on him and catch him in something they could bring before the rulers. They asked him if it was “lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (v 22) Jesus knew what they were doing and asked who’s picture was on the money. When they answered Ceaser, Jesus told them to give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser.

In the final account, the Sadducees attempt to turn the table with a “parable” of their own.  They remind Jesus that under the law, if a married man dies without children, then his brother is to marry his widow and have children. Based on this, the parable presents a man who died, and then his six brothers, each consecutively married the widow but dies. Their question then is, “In the resurrection, therefore, which one’s wife will she be?” (v 33)

Now, first of all, Jesus quickly knew this was all a setup. One of the distinguishing theological positions of the Sadducees was that they did not believe in the resurrection.  Therefore, they were asking about something they did not even believe in.

Jesus instead answers the question by pointing out that marriage is not something that applies to the resurrection. He says that they “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” (v 35) And that they “they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God.” (v 36)

Not leaving it there, Jesus goes on to address the reality of the resurrection. He points out that God “is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (v 38) He uses the words of Moses to make his point. Moses calls “calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (v 37) He uses the present tense to describe them.

This was enough to silence some of the religious leaders once and for all,  They complimented his answer, and had o more questions because they lacked the courage to challenge him anymore. Jesus taps on one final note in this discussion by quoting Psalm 110:1 about the Messiah. He points out that even though the messiah is a descendant of David, David still calls him Lord.

Finally, Jesus gives a warning of the dangers of the scribes. He speaks of the threat of those who seek honor, and attention, and look to put on an appearance of holiness. They will face a more significant judgment. I think this is something that we still need to watch for today.

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) We need to give people what they are owed. The landlord was owed his rent. When he did not get it, the people were destroyed, and the land given to others. Ceaser was owed taxes, so he even Jesus said to give to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s.  And 2) God is a God of the living, and there is a resurrection from the dead.

Benjamin Robert Haydon - Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, 1814 - 20

Luke 19 – Keys to Impacting the World

In chapter 19, we find Jesus earthly ministry coming to a close. The chapter begins with him passing through Jericho. We are told that the Chief Tax Collector, a man named Zaccheus, wanted to see Jesus. Unfortunately, there was a small problem with then plan. We are told that “he was small in stature.” (v 4, NASB) In other words, Zaccheus was to short to see Jesus over the crowd.  Zaccheus, however, had a plan. He climbed a tree so that he could see. To his surprise, however, as Jesus walked by, he looked up in the tree and told Zaccheus to come down because He was going to stay at his house.

We are then told that “When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.'” (v 7) It is not exactly clear who the “they” is, but I am not sure that really matters. This is one of those things that we can get caught up in, and miss the real point. They saw Jesus’ actions of staying with a sinner as unacceptable for a teacher of the law. But they missed the point. Jesus was not going to spend time with them to lower to their level, but to help elevate them to his level. In other words, Jesus knew that the only way to truly impact the lives of others was to be involved in their lives.

We are quickly told that Jesus was right in doing so, and his actions did impact the life of Zaccheus. It tells us that Zaccheus declared, “half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” (v 8) Jesus tells them that this is why he is there. He had “come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (v 10) He was not there to simply tell the truth, but to become involved in people’s lives to show them the way.

As they were drawing nearer to Jerusalem, it seems that those around began to believe “that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” (v 11) Apparently, they had heard enough to understand that the Kingdom of God was at hand and to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. The logical next step was to believe that since Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, he must be about to inaugurate the Kingdom.

He told the parable of a nobleman who was about to set out upon a journey. Before he leaves, he calls 10 servants and issues each of them a set amount of money, telling them to “Do business with this until I come back.” (v 13)  When he returned, he once again called each of them too Himself. Each of the early servants reported how they had been able to use the money and now had, even more, to return to him. The nobleman praised them, telling them that, “because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority.” (v 17)

When he finally came to the last servant, the story was quite different. This man had nothing but the original money he had been entrusted with. He told the nobleman that he knew he was a shrewd man. As a result, he had hidden the money so he would not lose it. The nobleman was so angry he ordered the one taken away from the last servant and given to another. The point is that if we do not use the gifts God has given us, they will be taken away.

Now Luke brings us to the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As he approached Jerusalem, he sent two of his disciples on ahead to find a colt that he could ride into the city. When they returned, Jesus climbed on the colt and proceeded on. As he went, many of the people would laying their cloaks on the ground in front of him.

Suddenly, the crowd began to cry out,” Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (v 38) The Pharisees asked Jesus to rebuke those who were saying this. “Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (v 40) 

We then see a different side of Jesus. Luke tells us that when He saw the city, He wept. He wept because he knew the fate that was to befall Jerusalem.

It is interesting that immediately Luke gives us yet another side of Jesus. As Jesus entered the temple and saw the business that was taking place, he became angry. I think we do have to note that his anger was not personal for him, but for the disrespect that was being shown for the righteousness of God. We are told that he drive them from the temple, saying, “It is written, ‘And My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a robbers’ den.”

Finally, Luke tells us that Jesus was in the temple daily teaching from then on. This will come to be significant later on, that Jesus did not hide, but stayed in the public eye. During this time, the priest and scribes tried to find a way to destroy him, but they could not, “for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.” (v 48)

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) To reach people, we need to do more than share words, we need to be involved in their lives. 2) We need to use what God has given us. 3) We need to declare God to the world. 4) We need to become zealous for the righteousness of God. And 5) if we are going to impact the world, we can not hide but must be out in the world.

 

Abrecht Curer - Praying Hands, 1508

Luke 18 – Coming Before God in Prayer

In chapter 18, Jesus begins with a parable of a Judge. He tells that there “was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” (v 2, NASB)  He also tells that there was a widow in the same city who repeatedly came to him asking for legal protection. The judge was initially resistant, but after several times he chose to give her what she wanted because she kept bothering him.  Jesus explains that the point of the parable is that if even a man like this judge would give a person what they asked for just to get rid of them, how much more with God, who is just and righteous, give people what they need when they ask. I think it is interesting that Jesus chooses to use a negative example to emphasize the goodness of God.

The next parable that Luke recounts, Jesus used to address people who believed that they were righteous. He tells the story of two men who went to the temple to pray. The first was a Pharisee, and the second was a tax collector. Jesus explains that the Pharisee prayed in such a way that seemed to emphasize how much better he was than others, specifically the tax collector. In other words, the image seems to imply that he is thankful that he does not need God to make him better.

The tax collector, on the other hand, prays in an entirely different fashion. He is unwilling to lift his face to God and was saying, “was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (v 13) Jesus explains that it is the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who is justified in his prayer because he came before God with humility.

In one of those abrupt transitions between accounts, Luke begins to tell about people bringing their children to him. He tells us that there were so many that the disciples started to discourage them and turn them away. Jesus promptly corrected this, telling them to allow the children to come. He says to “not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ (v 16) Jesus is telling them that these children are not a bother, but are an example of how we should be when we approach God. We enter the kingdom of God through the innocence of a child.

Continuing with the question of entering the kingdom of God, Luke gives the account of a rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven. Jesus tells the ruler that he knows what the commandments say. When the ruler says that he has kept all of these Jesus ups the ante by saying, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (v 22)

This, however, proves one step too many for the young ruler. He was very, very rich, and loved his possessions. To give things up, was too much of a challenge. Jesus sadly points out that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (v 25)  I think this is something we all see far too often in the world today, and sometimes in our own lives.  Our love for money can be overpowering. As a result, those around him asked who could be saved.  Jesus answers by pointing out that “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (v 27)

Peter’s response to this is to point out that they, the disciples, had given up everything to follow Jesus. His underlying question seems to be, what does this mean for us? Will we receive eternal life? Jesus’ response is that those who have given things up will receive much more “at this time and in the age to come.” (v 30)

Jesus then took them aside and told them that they were going to Jerusalem. He told them that there he would be handed over to the Romans to be beaten and put to death. But he also told them that he would rise again on the third day. But even though it was spelled out to them, they could not understand it. The meaning had been hidden from them.

Finally, Luke closes the chapter by telling of Jesus and his disciples traveling to Jericho. On the way, they were met by a blind man who asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus tells him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” (v 42)

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) We need to regularly and continually bring things to God in prayer. 2) We need to come before God with humility. 3) We need to come before God with the innocence of a child. 4) We need to come to God by letting go of the things of this world. And 5) we need to come before God with faith.

James Tissot - The Healing of Ten Lepers, 1889 - 96

Luke 17 – Preparing for the Kingdom of God

In chapter 17, Jesus continues his teaching by acknowledging that there are going to be stumbling blocks in life. But there is something worse than facing stumbling blocks. It is the one who causes the stumbling blocks. Jesus says, ” It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (v 2, NASB)

He then goes a step further telling his disciples that not only do they need to avoid causing stumbling, the need to watch out for each other. He tells them, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (v 4) What is more, it does not matter how much someone sins. If they ask for forgiveness over and over, we need to forgive them over and over.

The response of the apostle is the response of anyone honest. Living up to what Jesus is asking seems impossible. In light of this, they turn to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. Jesus tells them what we all need to understand. Faith is a powerful thing. Even with the smallest amount of faith, “like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (v 6)

Jesus next discusses doing what he had commanded us to do. He draws the comparison to a person with a servant. He says the master tells the servant what to do. When the servant does it, the master does not say thank you, because the servant has only done what he was commanded. In the same way, Jesus says “when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (v 10) It seems a little harsh, but it is the truth. We do not deserve any thanks for simply doing what we are supposed to do. We are to do it because it is right.

Luke then goes on to tell us about an event as Jesus was traveling between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, he was met by ten men who were suffering from leprosy. The men asked Jesus to heal them. He tells them to show themselves to the priest. As they were traveling, to see the priest, they discovered that they had been healed. One of the ten immediately returned to Jesus, thank him and praise him. Luke also points out that this one man was not even an Israelite; he was a Samaritan. This does not go unnoticed by Jesus, who says, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Vv 17 – 18) Jesus tells him that it is his faith that has made him well.

After this, Luke tells us that the Pharisees had been questioning Jesus about when the Kingdom of God was going to come. Jesus tells them that it is not coming with signs. He tells them that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (v 21)

As we come to the end of the chapter, Jesus now turns to his disciples to talk to them about the coming of the Kingdom. He tells them that the day is coming when you will not need to run after signs. He says, “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” (v 24) Jesus then points out that he must suffer and be rejected.

Jesus also tells them that when it comes, it will come as a surprise. Just as the people in Noah’s day, and the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, were eating and drinking up until the disaster hit, so too will people be surprised by the coming of the Kingdom. When it comes, there will be no time to turn around. He then gives several examples of two people together and one is taken away suddenly.

Luke finishes by telling us the Disciples’ response. “And answering, they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.’” (v 37) I have to admit, this is a little confusing, but I believe that Jesus is telling them of the disaster that will come in that day. The vultures are symbolic of death. That is what it will be like on that day.

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) we need to help others not to stumble and help restore those who do. 2) Faith, even in the smallest amount, can accomplish great things. And 3) The Kingdom of God will come quite unexpectedly.

James Tissot - The Bad Rich Man in Hell, 1886 - 94

Luke 16 – Using The Thing of This World For God’s Glory

As we start chapter 16, we find Jesus speaking with his disciples. He tells a parable of a business manager who has been accused of squandering the rich man’s possessions. As a result, the rich man tells the manager. The manager makes a decision to have each of the rich man’s debtors come in so that he can cut their debts. His reasoning is that if he does this for them, they will be willing to welcome him when he no longer has his job.  It turns out that the rich man is impressed by how shrewd the manager has proven to be. Jesus is using this as an example for his disciples. He says, “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.) (v 9, NASB)

Now honestly, this seems a little too self-serving to be something Christ is recommending for our behavior. But if we look closely at this, we see that Jesus’ point is not to be self-serving, but to be generous.  He is saying to be wise in the ways of the world because Christians often fail in this. This is what Jesus means when he says, “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” (v 8)  We should use the wealth of the world to make friends. It is through these relationships that we can impact people for eternity.

Jesus tells them that if they can be faithful in small things, such as worldly wealth, then they can be faithful in big things, such as heavenly wealth. He makes it clear that money is a necessary part of this world, but it can not be our focus and purpose. Instead, it a tool to be used for God’s purpose. Jesus tells them, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (v 13)

Jesus then speaks directly to the Pharisees, who had been listening and scoffing at his views of money. He tells them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (v 15)

Jesus then seems to take an odd change in direction with a statement that the law does not pass away and a discussion on divorce. How does this fit in with what came before? I think Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees. They are the ones who are supposed to be teaching and supporting the law. But they have instead put their selfish desires ahead of the Law, because as Luke has stated, “were lovers of money.” (v 14) He even gives a clear example of his point in the positions taken on allowing divorce for any reason.

In the second half of this chapter, Jesus presents a parable to explain what worldly wealth is meant to be used for. He tells of a rich man who lived in great splendor and contrasts him with a poor and sick man, named Lazarus, who laid at the gate. Jesus actually gets quite graphic in the description of the Lazarus. He says that he longed, “to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.” (v 21)

He tells that the poor man died and was taken to “Abraham’s Bosom” (v 22), which is a term to describe paradise in the afterlife. Similar to heaven, but not in the presence of God as the redemption Christ had not yet taken place on the cross. The rich man also died and was buried, but found himself in Hades, what we more commonly refer to as hell. The rich man then cried out in agony look for something as little as a drop of water on his tongue. It is to Abraham that he cries out, as Abraham is the father of Israel. Abraham replies, “Child, remember that during your life, you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.” (v 25) Abraham then points out that on top of this, there is a great chasm that separates them.

As we read this, we can begin to see this in the context of his earlier parable about using worldly wealth. The rich man had all the world could give, yet he kept it to himself. He did not use his wealth to help others, and Lazarus stood as a clear example of his selfishness. He did not, “make friends for (himself) by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fail(ed), (he was not received) into the eternal dwellings.” (v 9)

The rich man makes a new attempt to help others, though this time it is his own brothers. “He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’” (Vv 27 – 28) Abraham explains to him that this will not make a difference. “he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (V 31)

This ending stands as a foreshadowing of what is to come. I believe that he seems to be pointing out that even though they have all the information in front of them (the law and the prophets), the religious leaders are still missing the point. What is more, even though Christ himself will rise from the dead, many of them will still not be persuaded.

My takeaways from chapter 16 are: 1) We need to use what we have been given in this world to build relationships with people and to reach for Christ. 2) The word of God stands for eternity. And 3) all the law and the prophets point the way to God (in Christ).