Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

Luke 7 – The Power of Faith

As we begin chapter seven, Jesus continues his travels now coming to the city of Capernaum. In Capernaum, there lived a Roman Centurion who was a friend of the city. It even tells us that he was responsible for the building of their synagogue. He becomes the focus of Luke’s first account. His slave, whom he held in high esteem, was extremely sick and dying. As he heard that Jesus was in town and had listened to the stories of what he had done, the Centurions sent some of the Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come help. Jesus was moved by the request and proceeded to with the elders. Notably, the Centurion acted out of respect for Jesus even at the beginning by having the Jewish leaders ask Jesus for help and not merely having him brought by those under his authority.

While Jesus was traveling to him, the Centurion again sent some friends to meet him with a message. He told him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason, I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (Vv 6 – 8, NASB) Jesus himself appears to be amazed at this statement. He tells the crowd, following that, “not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” (v 9) And when the people return to the Centurions home, the slave has been healed. This story serves as a reminder that while Jesus came to Israel, he came for all who would believe.

Jesus then moves on to a city called Nain, where he encountered a funeral procession leaving the city. We are told that the dead man was the only son of a woman who followed along with weeping. Jesus was moved with compassion and raised the young man back to life. The people responded by exclaiming, “God has visited His people!” (v. 16). As a result of this miracle, the stories continued to spread throughout the land of what Jesus was doing.

As the chapter continues, John the Baptist makes a short return appearance.  John’s followers reported to him what Jesus was doing. He, in return, sent two of them to ask Jesus if he was the one promised one, or if they should continue to wait. Jesus’ response is “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sightthe lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Vv 22 – 23)

In short, his answer is yes, I am the promised one. But Jesus realizes how easily people miss what is before them because it is either not what they expected or wanted or they doubt everything that is before them.  He describes the people as children who say, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” (v 32) In other words, you did not do what we wanted you to do. Jesus makes his point by using John and Himself as examples when he says, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Vv 33 – 34) Some people will never be happy unless they get exactly what they want.

Luke ends this chapter with Jesus receiving an invitation to dinner by one of the Pharisees. What would seem to have been a simple meal quickly gets turned on its head when a woman of ill-repute crashes the party.  She had heard that Jesus was there and was so moved by him that she fell at his feet crying. IT tells us that the tears wet his feet, and she was wiping them with her hair, after which she anointed them with the expensive perfume she had brought.

This Pharisee, who we learn is named Simon, is indignant and appalled that Jesus is allowing such a woman to touch him. So Jesus replies with a parable about forgiveness. He asks that if two people are forgiven, one of two months’ debt and one of 17 months debt, which would be more thankful. Simon answers that it would be the one forgiven of 17 months. I imagine Jesus smiling, as he says, “You have judged correctly.” (v 43) He then proceeds to explain to Simon that he had provided none of the standard host roles; washing feet, greeting kiss or anointing with oil. This woman, on the other hand, had done each of these and so much more; washed his feet with tears and dried with her hair, continually kissed his feet, and anointed his feet with perfume. In case Simon missed the point, Jesus draws the clear parallel to the parable when he says, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (v 47) Jesus then turns to the woman telling her that her sins are forgiven and “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (v 50)

The biggest takeaway from this chapter is the power of faith.  The chapter begins by presenting that the Centurion, while not part of Israel, showed more faith and, as such, was rewarded. It concludes with showing that the “immoral woman” had more faith than the Simon the Pharisee and, as such, received great forgiveness.

The accounts in between only re-enforce the gap between those with faith and those without. This is what I see as Jesus’ point when he says, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John. (Vv 28 – 30)

Luke 5 – Following Jesus as an Act of Faith

At the end of chapter four, we read that “He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” (Luke 4:44 NASB) This is where we begin in chapter five with Jesus preaching throughout the land. As the crowds gathered around him, he sought a good place to teach from. As he was on the shores of Lake Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee), he asked the fisherman to row him out a little way so he could teach, being seen by the whole crowd. While we are not sure why, they agreed. If their compliance in this seems a little unusual, the next point is even more so.

They had been out fishing all night with no success, yet when Jesus tells then to go out a little further and drop their nets, they do it. The result is amazing. They catch so many fish, they are unable to pull in the nets. In fact, they have to call out their partners to help them pull in the nets. This serves as a sign to Peter, as well as John and James that Jesus is no ordinary teacher and so they leave their nets and follow him.

It is here that Jesus tells them what he is calling them to do. They were fishermen, so what they knew was fishing. Jesus drew on this image when he told them, “Do not fear, from now on, you will be catching men.” (v. 10) Jesus came to reach people, and he would do this through people. This has not changed. Even today, Jesus’ method of reaching the lost is through those who follow him.

Luke next presents us with two miraculous healings by Jesus. In the first, Jesus is approached by a man suffering from leprosy. The man asks Jesus to heal him, which Jesus does. Yet after this act, Jesus tells the man not to say anything to anyone except what is required in the purification ritual.  I have to ask, why would he not want the man to tell anyone. If, indeed, his purpose was to call people to himself, would not stories of such miracles do the trick? My best take is that he wanted to be sure that people were coming to him not merely for the healing, but because they wanted to know him.

The second miracle involved a paralyzed man. While Jesus was speaking to a group of people, which included Pharisees and teachers of the law, the most unexpected event occurred. A paralyzed man was lowered through the ceiling on his mat so they could get him close to Jesus in hopes that he would heal him. Jesus first words after seeing their faith (interestingly, Luke says “their” faith and not just his faith) were not to heal him, but “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (v. 20) After all, this is why Jesus came. He knew that the greater need of the man, as with all of us, was forgiveness.  After this, Jesus heals the man, but he has another reason for healing other than just the man’s desire to be healed. Jesus knew that the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law were questioning his forgiving sins, after all, only God could forgive sins. So Jesus says, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”” (Vv. 22 – 24)

Luk concludes this passage with the calling of Matthew as a disciple. Matthew (or Levi) was a tax collector. A group of people who were as despised as the Romans. Yet upon seeing him, Jesus “said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.”(Vv. 27 – 28) Just like Peter earlier, it appears that without question, when Jesus called him to follow, he simply got up and followed. It is clear why he would have done this, but we can probably assume that Jesus’ reputation had preceded him and that the authority with Jesus spoke compelled Matthew to follow. 

The first thing that Matthew does is throw a party and invite his friends, many of whom were also tax collectors. Again, it is the Pharisees who question Jesus’ actions. In this case, why would he eat with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus’ response is very poignant. He says, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Vv.31 – 32) It is an interesting image, but the truth is that we are all sick. The Pharisees may have followed the rules, but they were often as far from God as anyone. We are no different. We can get what we call a “holier than thou” attitude and miss that the same Jesus we believe came for us, also cam for those who are living in sin. Jesus came to heal the sick. The whole world is sick. Jesus came to save the world.

We conclude with a final question that Pharisees put forth. They ask why Jesus disciples do not fast like those of John the Baptist. Jesus then lays it on the line for them using the image of a bridegroom at a wedding. When they are with the bridegroom, it is a time for celebrating, not for fasting. This imagery will be picked up later by Paul identifying Jesus as the bridegroom and the Church as his bride. The point is that the presence of Jesus is a thing to celebrate.

My takeaways from this chapter are that: 1) Jesus not only calls people to follow him, but he also uses those he calls to reach others who are in need. 2) Jesus is looking for those who genuinely desire to follow him and not merely those who are trying to “get something out of it.” And ) Forgiveness comes from faith in Christ alone.

 

Luke 4 – His Ministry Begins

Here in chapter four, we find an interesting turn in the launch of Jesus’ ministry. Having just come off the glorious events of His baptism, Jesus finds a complete turn of events. From the height of the Father declaring, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Jesus finds himself alone, hungry, and tempted by the devil.

In the first temptation listed, the devil strikes at both the humanity and the deity of Jesus. He says, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (v. 3 NASB) He challenges the deity of Jesus by questioning his identity as the son of God and feeds on the humanity of Jesus by playing off the hunger that Jesus is feeling after 40 days of not eating.

In the second temptation, the devil again plays off the humanity of Jesus by offering him an easier way to reach his goal. In verses 6 – 7, he says, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” This temptation is reminiscent of the temptation faced by Adam and Eve when the serpent said to Eve, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Genesis 3:4 – 5) Just as told Eve that they could become like God with a simple action, so too, he is telling Jesus that He can reach full earthly glory through a simple action.

 In the third temptation, the devil again challenged Jesus’ deity. In verses 10 – 11 he says, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written,He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ and, On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Here the devil quotes Psalm 91:11 – 12 to re-enforce the power of his challenge to his identity. 

Each of these temptations reflects the temptations that we face in life: physical needs, power and glory, and to manipulate God for our benefit. We know how easy it is for us to succumb to these, but Jesus withstands them. We might be tempted to say that he is fully God, so it was easier for him. But to do so is to forget that he is fully man as well, so the temptations were real.  This is why Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus’ response to each temptation is not to resist or push back in his own power, but to quote scripture from the book of Deuteronomy: 8:3 “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”; 6:13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”; 6:16 “Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.”

This account of the temptations ends with a small phrase that it is easy to overlook. We speak of Jesus being tempted, but we often confine the temptations to this time, but the final phrase shows something different. Verse 13 says that “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” So we to need to realize that just because we resist temptation once, it does not mean that it is over. The temptation can, and probably will return when the timing is right.

From here, Jesus begins his public ministry. Early on in his preaching in Galilee, Jesus finds himself in his hometown of Nazareth in the synagogue for the service. As he reads from the scripture found in Isaiah 61, he finishes by telling the people that it has been fulfilled in their presence. Jesus identifies himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy.  The first reaction of the people is amazement and to speak well of him, but that quickly changed after Jesus’ next statement. He knows that they will want to see him do the miraculous things he did elsewhere, there in Nazareth. But he points out that the “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (v. 24) And proceeds to give several examples of God working outside of Israel through great prophets. Now the response of the people is quite different as they seek to kill him, but Jesus is able to slip away.

From here we come to the first accounts of his miraculous works. He finds himself in Capernaum, where it reports that he performed many miracles. Two are specifically described. The first is casting a demon out of a man. What is striking in this story, apart from Jesus casting out a demon is his insistence on silencing the demon when it identifies him as “the Holy One of God!” (v. 34) The passage goes on to indicate that he does this other times as well, but I have to ask why. It would seem to tie back to the temptations and the opportune time. Jesus once again could have allowed this to get out taken the easy way to out and to claim power, but instead, Jesus resists this temptation and follows the path before him.

The second specific miracle described is the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. In these two miracles, Jesus demonstrates His authority over both the spiritual and the physical realms.

Following these events, Jesus slips away to a secluded place. It does not explicitly tell us why, but it should not be surprising. After all that he had done and the people who had come to him, it is reasonable that he would need to get away so he could recharge. But the people tracked him down and seeking for him to continue there. Jesus tells them that he can not because he “must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” (v. 43) And so he began to travel to other cities.

As I look at this, my takeaways from this chapter are 1) Jesus faced temptation just as we have. 2) The only real way to resist temptation is through God’s power, and this can be found in the scriptures. 3) Jesus had power over everything. And 4) We must be faithful to God’s calling, despite what challenges and opportunities may stand in our way.

Luke 3 – Inaugurating His Ministry

As Luke moves on from his childhood account, he now jumps over an eighteen-year gap. Here Luke begins to lay out the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Yet once again, it is not Jesus he starts with, but John the Baptist.

Just like in chapter 1, where Luke begins with the announcement that John would be born to lay the groundwork for the announcement and birth of Christ, here we find John moving into his ministry that is literally laying the foundation for the ministry of Jesus.

Interestingly, Luke appears to want to make it clear that there is no question of the historicity and accuracy of his account. He spends the first verse and half explaining exactly when these events occurred by referencing various leaders, both political and religious, over the region, including the Emporer.

John is the classic portrayal of a prophet, calling the people of Israel to repent and return to genuinely worshiping and honoring God. He wants us to clearly understand that this is itself a fulfillment of prophecy. Luke reminds us of the very words of Isaiah that had looked forward to this day.  In verses 4 – 6, he quotes directly from Isaiah when he writes that John is “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ready the way of the Lord, Makes His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’” (NASB)

John confronts the idea straight on that merely being part of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God by using a rather unusual image. He says that God can raise up children from the stones if he wants and that trees that do not produce fruit will be cut down. His point is that it does not matter who your ancestors (parents and beyond) are, it is beholden on each of us to turn ourselves to God and follow him.

John then gives us a glimpse of what this true repentance looks like. It is not just something that can be kept inside, but it is demonstrated on the outside. He presents a series of images that those who are genuinely repentant will care for those in need. I am reminded of the word in James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” True repentance is a change of the heart, that can not help but be lived out in caring for the neediest.

To further make his point, John implemented the practice of baptism. This was not a new concept for the people of that time. Baptism served as a physical demonstration of one’s commitment to a particular teacher or teaching. John uses the practice to challenge people to make a public profession that they are genuinely repentant and want to turn back to God.

It is no wonder that many people thought John may well have been the promised messiah. He was shaking up the status quo, forcing people to re-evaluate what it meant to honor God. But John understood that it was not about him. This is a challenge that many of those in ministry find themselves facing. As people look to us for answers, and we find ourselves leading others, it is so easy to begin to think too highly of ourselves. Each of us should seek to maintain the humility of John who tells the people in verse 16 “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This strikes me as a precursor of what we find to be one of the last statements by John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

But everything was not all positive for John. Yes, many were repenting, but we are told that his call to repentance made some enemies. Most notably, Herod, the Tetrarch, or governor of Galilee. John had confronted him of his sin, to which Herod reacted by throwing Joh in prison. This marked the end of John’s ministry, but Luke first takes a step back in verses 21 – 22 to present us with the point of John’s ministry, to inaugurate the ministry of Jesus.

Luke tells us that Jesus himself was baptized by John. Now clearly, Jesus did not need to repent of anything, but rather his baptism identified himself with this new repentance that John had called people to. As such, Jesus now transitions to the lead role in this new teaching, and to solidify this, Luke tells of a unique aspect of Jesus’ baptism. In verse 22  we read, “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” In case we have missed it to this point, Luke wants to make it clear to us by recording this public declaration. Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Luke finishes this chapter by recapping the genealogy of Jesus through his adopted earthly father of Joseph. The point is to lay out how Jesus fulfills the prophecy to be the messiah. Through this line, he is a descendant of David, giving him the legal right to be king. But this genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus meets the original prophecy given after the fall in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman. And between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”.  Beyond this, taking the genealogy to Adam shows that Jesus is not just the savior of Israel, but of all people.

As I look at this passage, my take away is Luke’s emphasis that salvation was not simply for the children of Israel, but of the true Children of Abraham. And that the true children of Abraham are not defined by blood, but by faith. A faith that is not just in the heart, but demonstrated in the actions of life. This is the point of the words of the angel in chapter 2, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”

Luke 2 – Jesus Childhood

Countless volumes have been written on the life of Jesus over the last 2,000 years. Starting with the Gospels to studies of today. There is, perhaps, no person of whom more has been written yet probably 99% of what is written covers only the final three years of his life. We are told very little about the childhood of Jesus. In fact, it is only here in Luke 2 and in Matthew 2 that we find any description of the childhood of Jesus.

Here in Luke 2, we begin with a story that is so familiar we can recite it. Actually, most of us probably do as we listen to Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. This is the account of the birth of Jesus. Yet what is fascinating to me is that many times as we have read and heard this account, how much we get wrong or how much we have unknowingly added to it.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4 – 7(NASB) Look at this and tell me; Where is the donkey that Mary road? The passage makes no mention of a donkey, yet every picture we see shows Joseph leading a donkey while Mary rides. How far along was Mary in her pregnancy? The passage says that “while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” Yet once again, we have an image of them arriving just in time to deliver the child that night. Where is the Innkeeper? It says that there was no room in the inn, but there is no innkeeper who turned them away, but once again, we have vilified this non-existent innkeeper as being uncaring. What is interesting is when we realize that the word for inn is actually better understood to mean guest room. It is the same word used later to describe the room in which the last supper took place.

This is a reminder for us. There is an old expression, “familiarity breeds contempt.” The saying means that the more comfortable we become with something, the less reverence and respect we have for it. In this case, we have become so familiar with the story that we have allowed these misconceptions to creep in without returning to the source. It is crucial that we regularly spend time in the scriptures and do not simply rely on our fallible memories of what they say.

Another thing that strikes me is how we so often end this passage with verse 15 “ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” We remember that the shepherds went to see Jesus, but we forget that after seeing him that they take it a step further. Verse 17 tells us that “When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” The shepherds did not merely keep this information to themselves. Instead, they began to tell everyone what they had been told. It makes me rethink the word of the “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The second line says, “how still we see thee lie.” But imagine being one of the shepherds. Imagine seeing what you have seen. How quite could they have really been as they spread the news? No, it is quite possible there was a lot of energy in the streets that night.

Luke then tells us of Jesus’ dedication at the temple. Here we are introduced to two individuals for the only time. These two elderly individuals, Simeon and Anna, have each independent of one another, faithfully served God awaiting the fulfillment of prophecy through the arrival of the Messiah. Simeon declares in verses 30 – 32, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” Simeon knew that God had been faithful and allowed him to see the Messiah. I make special note that Simeon did not see the Messiah as a gift only for Israel, but for the gentiles a well. Anna, for her part, was a prophetess, and God spoke through her to proclaim Jesus to those who were present.

Luke then skips ahead 12 years to present another visit to the temple by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This time Jesus stays behind at the temple when his parents leave. Since they were traveling as part of a large caravan, it took a while for them to realize they had left Jesus behind. When they return, they do not find a lost and forgotten child, but instead, they find in listening to and questioning the teachers of the law at the temple. For the first time, we hear Jesus speak, and what he says is quite telling. He says, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house (or about my Father’s business)?” Jesus was far from a lost child but rather was seeking to honor his heavenly father in what he was doing.

As I read this passage, a few things stand out to me. First, we find a particular expression repeated twice in this passage in verse 19, following the shepherd visit, we read, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” And then again in verse 51, after they find him with the teacher in the temple, we read, and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” This reminds us of the words found in verse 1:29 “But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.” For all Mary had been told and for all she had seen, it was still so hard for her to comprehend what it all really meant. She knew what the angel and had said, and she had heard the words of Simeon and Anna, yet still there remains that disconnect of comprehending. I think this is where we often fall short as well. But we too often make the mistake of saying, “I am just going to believe it, even if it does not make sense” rather than doing as Mary did and pondering things in our hearts.

The second thing I take from this passage is once again a reminder that God is faithful to his promises. Not only had the promised Messiah come, but we have a clear example of God being faithful to his promises in the person of Simeon. In verse 26, we read that “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” And so we see a clear and tangible example of God’s faithfulness to his promises.

The third, and perhaps most important, is the understanding of the humanity of Jesus. We speak of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh. We can describe Jesus as fully God and fully man, but too often we downplay the humanity of Jesus and focus on his being God. Yes, he is fully God, but thankfully he was fully human as well, facing all that we face. If he were not, then he could not be a sufficient sacrifice for our sins. Luke, a physician by trade, emphasizes the humanity of Jesus not only in the description of his birth, but also in verse 40, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, [r]increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” and again in verse 52 “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke points us to the truth that Jesus grew just as we all do; mentally, physically, and spiritually.  If I were to sum up the most essential point of chapter 2, this would be it. That Jesus truly became human.

“Risen”: A Fresh and Moving Perspective on the Resurrection

I just came back from seeing the new movie, “Risen”.  I recommend it highly.

I have seen a lot of Bible-themed and faith-based movies over the years. Risen is something encouragingly different. You see, the problem with most bible-themed and faith-based movies is they fall short in at least one of the major category. Either the writing is transparent, the acting weak, the directing is misguided or the production is cheap. Risen is a clear difference, hitting on all four cylinders.

Joseph Fiennes solid portrayal in the lead is moving and draws viewers into a well-told story. The story is summed up with one statement. When asked, “What frightens you?” Clavius (Fiennes) responds, “Being wrong. Wagering eternity on it.” Yes, Clavius is a non-biblical/fictional figure, but he becomes the personification of each and every person who has faced the truth of the resurrection and said, it can’t be true. As he proceeds on behalf of the Roman empire in an attempt to prove the false claims, we are reminded of the words of Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This is where Clavius finds himself.

For those who are familiar with the account of Jesus resurrection, “Risen” provides a fresh perspective. For those who are not, they will find a compelling investigation as they see events through the eyes of a skeptic who must reconcile what he believes to be true with all the evidence that is laid before him.