Tag Archives: Luke

Luke 13 – The Kingdom of Heaven

Luke 13 picks up with Jesus, still in the same location as teaching. As he is teaching, some people in the crowd “reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” (v 1, NASB) Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly was not expecting such a discussion. Who are these people that Luke is talking about? Scripture does not say, but the assumption is that the readers in Luke’s day would have known exactly what he was talking about. Most likely, it is individuals who were killed while sacrificing.

Jesus’ response is not to address these individuals, but rather to address the thoughts behind their statement. We remember that Jesus had just given the people several warnings, including the unpardonable sin. It appears from Jesus’ response that their real question has to do with the sinfulness of these individuals. But Jesus quickly dismisses this when he says, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Vv 2 – 3) Jesus’ point is that we are sinful and separated from God. Those who perished in this terrible way are no worse than anyone else. The way to escape is through repentance.

To make his point, he tells a parable about the parable of a man who planted a fig tree. After a long time, no fruit had been produced, and the man ordered the tree cut down. The keeper of the vineyard asked him to wait and allow him some time to care for the tree and see if it revived. Jesus’ point is that we are no different. If we are to repent, then we need to change how we care for our souls.

Next, we find Jesus in the synagogue on the sabbath teaching.  While teaching, he noticed a woman who was bent over sick. Jesus calls her over and heals her. The healing angered the synagogue official. He argued that there were “six days in which work should be done.” (v 14) He insisted that the sabbath was not one of them, so those seeking healing should come back on a different day.

Jesus calls him on the carpet for his position. “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?: (Vv 15 – 16) His point is that it is always acceptable to do good.

Jesus then explains to them what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The first image is that of a mustard seed. The mustard seed is a tiny thing that can grow into a large tree big enough for birds to sit in. The second image is that the kingdom of God is like leaven placed in a loaf. It allows a tiny amount of dough to grow into a large loaf. So too, the kingdom of God grows as we follow him.

At a later time, “someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?'” (v. 23) He tells them that gate into the kingdom is narrow. He follows this up with a parable of a man who shuts the door for the evening only to have people outside ask to be let in. The man responds that he does not know them and will not let them in. His point is that not everyone will enter.

He follows this, however, by saying that those who enter the kingdom “will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” (v 29) Jesus, having just confirmed that not everyone will enter, now emphasizes that those who do enter will come from every corner of the earth.

The chapter concludes with the Pharisees telling Jesus to leave because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus first dismisses Herod but then acknowledges that he must proceed to Jerusalem. Jesus says that he wants nothing more than to gather Israel to him, but they will not respond. He finishes by looking forward to the day when they will cry out, “will come from east and west and from north and south and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) we are all sinful and separated from God, none any more than others. 2) Doing good is right always, no matter if it is the sabbath or not. And 3) while not everyone will enter the Kingdom of heaven, those who do will come from every corner of the earth.

Albert Bierstadt - The Coming Storm, 1869

Luke 12 – Warnings from Christ

In Luke chapter 12, we jump from Jesus, giving warnings to the Pharisees and scribes, to his warning his disciples of the dangers they face in their spiritual life. He tells them to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (v 1, NASB) What is this leaven? We know that leaven is the substance that makes dough rise, most typically yeast. In other words, it is that thing that causes the dough to change its very character. So too is the leaven of the Pharisees. It is those things that change the very character of the spiritual life. In this case, it carries the implication that these changes are negative. Jesus points out that even those small things that we keep to ourselves, those inner thoughts and opinions, those actions that we believe no one knows about, will become evident known. This is what leaven does. Even the smallest amount will become evident as the dough begins to rise. 

His next warning applies to our motivations. He says, “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Vv 4 – 5) We often feel motivated fear. It is normal, but there are those things we should be afraid of and those things we should not. Now, most people would tell us that someone who can kill you is someone to fear. But Jesus tells us that death is not the worst thing that can happen. I do not think that he is saying that we should invite death, but he is pointing out that anything involving this life is transient. What matters most is the state of our eternal souls. Jesus then reassures them that we need not fear. God cares what happens to the sparrows, which are sold for very little. If he remembers them, how much more will he remember us. As such, we need not fear.

Jesus’ next statement is “I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Vv 8 – 9) I think this is not as confusing a statement as it seems. We can ask, “Is he saying that God’s acceptance of us is conditional upon our profession of him?” This can lead us down a rabbit trail of debate. I think what Jesus is saying is that those who accept him and follow him will have a place in with him in eternity. Those who do not will not. 

Speaking of rabbit trail debates Jesus’ statement, “he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him” (v 10) Certainly can do this. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Are there really things we can not be forgiven for? While these are things to think about, the point is that if we are following Christ and confessing him before others, then we are most likely not guilty of such a sin. What is more, if we are walking in such a manner, then the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say as we profess him before others.

While Jesus is teaching, a man “said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.'” (v 13) Jesus’ reaction is straight forward.  He tells the man, it is not his job to settle such disputes. He says this because he realizes that it is not equity that is driving the man, but greed. So he tells that parable of a farmer who built new barns for his abundant crop. He believed he was set for life but did not realize his life would end that night. I think Jesus’ point is clearly that we need to keep temporal things form occupying our minds when our focus should be on eternity.

Jesus again returns to his disciples and tells them “I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Vv 23 – 24) Jesus emphasizes his point by speaking of the ravens who are fed without planting lilies that are clothed in beauty without spinning or sewing. If God does this, then how much more will he care for his people. 

Jesus sums up by telling his disciples to let go of their earthly possessions to build up treasure in heaven that will not fail. The reasoning Jesus gives is that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v 34) If our treasures are in this world, this is where our heart will be, but if our treasures are in heaven, our hearts will be there.

Here we find Jesus transitioning to a warning of the need to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. To make his point, he uses both the imagery of servants awaiting the return of their master and of a homeowner protecting his home from a thief. In each of these, the importance of being ready is connected with not knowing the exact time of the persons coming. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” (v 41) Jesus’ answer, while not direct, is telling. His parable is for those who will hear and are ready for his coming. Those who make wise decisions will be entrusted with their “master’s possessions,” that is to say, God will bless them.

As we come to the end of the chapter, Jesus’ warning grows darker. He starts with, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth.” (v 49) A fire he wishes had already begun but had to wait until his second “baptism,” that is, His crucifixion and resurrection. Like I said, this sounds very dark, and Jesus does not leave it at that. He goes on to say, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on, five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”” (Vv 51 – 53) Jesus does not specifically expand on this division here, but I see this division as that which occurs so often when people choose to follow Christ. In the west, it is not as evident, though it is growing. But when you look at many other places around the world, the division that is created, even within families, when someone chooses to follow Christ is evident.

Jesus’ final two points are that just as a person can judge the coming weather by looking at the sky, we should be able to see God’s truth through the evidence around us. And second, we should be wise enough to settle our disputes one on one, and avoid the repercussions of letting them grow.

My takeaways from this chapter are 1) We need to be careful of those things, big and small, harm our walk with Christ. 2) We need fear nothing as God cares for us. 3) We need to be wary of greed for things of this world, but rather desire heavenly things. 4) Christ may come at any time. And 5) following Christ can create wedges with those in our lives who do not.

 

 

Luke 10 – Going to Others

As we begin with chapter 10, it appears the sending of the 12 apostles in chapter 9 was so successful that Jesus now sends out 70 of his followers. Jesus gives the same instructions to the 70 that he gave to the 12. But this time, Luke tells us that Jesus sent them to them specifically to the cities he was going to go to himself.  Here Jesus also makes the statement, “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (v 3, NASB) His point is clear. The world is a dangerous place, and it is hostile toward the followers of Christ. He also includes a warning of the fate that will be faced by those who do not receive the message.

All seems to go well, as we get to the next section, we read that “The seventy returned with joy.” (v 17) They were utterly amazed at what had happened. They said, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (v 17) Jesus, while clearly pleased, does give them one caveat, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (v 20) No matter what amazing things we can do through God’s power, they are nothing when compared to the incredible gift of life found in Christ.

Jesus then praises the Father for what has happened. He then reminds the 70 that they should consider themselves blessed because they have seen what those in the past had only dreamed of.

This leads to a lawyer asking Jesus the ultimate question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v 25)  Jesus has a short give and take that result is Jesus affirming that the key is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (v 27) The lawyer is not fully satisfied and asks, “who is my neighbor?” (v 29)

In response, we find the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a man is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. After this, three individuals pass by the first two were religious leaders who not only passed by but moved to the other side of the road to ensure they avoided him. The third, however, not only stopped to help him but also put him on his own “beast,” took him to an inn and paid for his care. The noteworthy part of this, of course, is that this third man is a Samaritan. A mixed-race group, despised by Jewish people. Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor.” (v 36) The lawyer is backed into a corner and must admit that it is the third individual. Jesus tells him, and us that it is the action that we must take.

Luke finishes the chapter by telling of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha. As is often the case, Jesus spends his time teaching in their home. Here Jesus finds himself in the middle of a family argument. Martha, being the domestic minded person she was, spent the whole time in the kitchen and in preparation of food, while Mary simply sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his teaching. When Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus does not do it. Rather, he tells her, “you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Vv 41 – 42)

My take away is 1) We go, as the Lord sends us, into a dangerous world. 2) Jesus will provide us all we need to serve him. 3) The most important thing is to have our names written in heaven. 4) Our name is written in heaven through our love for God and our love for our neighbor. 5) Our neighbors are anyone in need. And 6) spending time learning at the feet of Christ is more important than our other labors. This is not to say that our other labors are not important, but they pale in comparison.

Luke 9 -Following Jesus

As we move chapter nine, we find Jesus beginning to delegate ministry to the apostles, preparing them for the time when he is no longer with them. As the name apostle means, one who is sent to represent, this is exactly what occurs in this situation. We are told that “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (v 2, NASB) What is interesting is that the list of instructions that accompanies the command to go. He tells them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (v 3 – 5) They were to be dependent upon God to provide for all of their needs through those who responded to the gospel. But it is verse 5 that really strikes me, “as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” We always see the positive side of sharing the gospel, but is this a prescription to dismiss those who will not respond? I do not think so. Rather, I think the point is, if people do not respond, we need to move on to those who will. This does not mean they will not later on, but for the time being, they re not ready.

After a long day of teaching, the disciples asked Jesus to send the people into town for lodging and food. Jesus told them to feed the people.  When they said to him that they only had five loaves and two fishes, he said then to set the people in groups of approximately 50. He then broke the items up and passed them around. When they had finished, there were 12 baskets full leftover.

Later, when Jesus was praying, he turned and asked the disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” (v 18) Several answers are given, but then Jesus asks, ““But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The [l]Christ of God.”” (v. 20) Jesus warns them to keep this to themselves and then tells them that he must “be killed and be raised up on the third day.” (v 22)

He follows up, telling them what is going to happen to him by pointing out that those who are going to follow him will also need to face challenges. He tells them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Vv 23 – 24)He goes on to say, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (v 26)

Luke is then oddly specific, though I am not sure that it has any specific meaning when he says “Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray” (v 28) While on this mountain something amazing happens. Jesus is alone, and then he suddenly begins to look different, his clothes begin to shine, and suddenly there are two other people with him. We are not told how Peter and the other recognize them, but the two with Jesus are Moses and Elijah. Peter’s reaction is to want to build three shelters, one for each of them. Amazingly, Jesus has just declared at the beginning of this chapter that Jesus is the Christ, yet here he seems to be placing him on the same level as Moses and Elijah. God makes the mistake clear. As the clouds begin to roll in, a voice is heard saying, ““This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!””. (v 35)

When they came down from the mountain, they were met by a crowd. Amongst the crowd was a man whose son was possessed by a demon. He said, “I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.” (v 40) Jesus, disappointed with them all, has the man bring his son, and he cast the demon out of him.

It is at this point, which seems an odd point, that Jesus tells them that “the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” (v 44) It appears to have confused the people there as much as me because they could not understand what he was talking about, but they were also afraid to ask, so they remained silent.

In the next section, Jesus presents them with three points. First, he explains to them that the least among them is the one who will be the greatest.  Second, he points out that anyone who is not in opposition to you, even if they are not part of your “group” is on the same side as you. Finally, he reminds them that he came to save people, not to destroy them.

Finally, Luke tells us of three situations where Jesus defines lays out the cost of discipleship. In the first, a person offers to follow Jesus anywhere. Jesus points out that following him would mean nowhere to call home. In the second, Jesus tells a man to “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (v 60) The third is related to the second as the man asks to say goodbye to family, to which Jesus replies, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (v 62) In other words, Jesus is saying that those who are called to go may also be called to leave everything.

My takeaways from this chapter are 1) We need to go into ministry unencumbered. That is to say, we need to take only what we need and trust God to supply anything else. 2) Following Christ means taking up your cross daily and laying down your life for him. 3) The greatest among Christ-followers is the least of them. And 4) Following Jesus means leaving everything behind you and moving forward.

Luke 8 – Responding to Jesus

Today is December 8 and is the second Sunday of advent. The second candle, known as the Bethlehem candle, is lit representing faith. In Luke 7, we saw many examples of the power of faith. As we continue in chapter 8, Luke looks at some other items in the ministry of Jesus, but will again conclude the passage with a look at yet another act of faith.

Luke begins by discussing a more practical side of the itinerant ministry of Jesus. To do ministry cost some money, today or two-thousand years ago. Luke points out to us that Several women had been impacted by the ministry of Jesus and in return, had become followers. These women had significant resources available and chose to share what they had to help cover the cost.

We then find Jesus sharing the parable of the sower. He tells the listeners that sharing the gospel message is like a farmer planting seeds. After finishing the parable, there is an interesting response from his disciples. They did not seem to understand the parable and began questioning him about it. Jesus’ response to this is even more interesting. He says, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” (v. 10 NASB) Why is it that Jesus says this.? Why would he intentionally say things in such a way that many could not understand it? Perhaps the intention is not to hide the truth, but it is evidence of those who are open to Christ’s message.

Jesus then explains the meaning of the parable. The point is that there are four kinds of people with whom the gospel is shared. The first are those who hear the gospel, but then it goes away. Sort of an in “in one ear, out the other” idea. The second is those who excitedly accept the message, but it stays shallow and eventually fails. The third are those who receive the message but then find the message choked out by the things around them in life.  The final is those who accept the message and flourish.

Continuing on, Jesus gives a second parable. Here he describes the gospel as a lamp. You do not hide it, but instead, you set it out for all to see.

After this, we are left with a story of Jesus speaking in a house. While he was speaking, he was told that his mother and brothers were standing outside waiting to come in. Jesus’ response here is very telling. He says, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Jesus is re-emphasizing a point made earlier in Luke, that family is not necessarily defined by blood, but by a commitment to following Christ.

After this, Luke presents a story that many of us are familiar with. While traveling across the lake, Jesus falls asleep in the boat. During this time, a storm arose. It was such a great storm that they were sure they were going to die. They work Jesus, asking if he even cared. Jesus got up and order the storm to cease, and it did. He then looks at the disciples and asks, “Where is your faith?” (v. 25)

Luke next tells of Jesus’ encounter with a demon-possessed man. The demon, upon seeing Jesus, cried out, “Where is your faith?” (v. 28) Jesus asked the demon its name, and it said legion, meaning it was actually a great many demons who were in the man. Interestingly, they asked Jesus to allow them to go into a herd of pigs rather than being sent into the abyss. He agreed, and the pigs proceeded into run into the water. The reaction of the people from the region was fear, and they asked Jesus to leave. Before doing so, Jesus instructed the man home, but unlike other times, he told him to tell others.

Finally, Luke finishes this chapter by telling of two concurrent miraculous healings done by Jesus. We start Jesus being approached by a Jewish elder named Jairus. Jairus had an only daughter who was dying. Jesus agreed to go with him but is briefly interrupted by a second healing.  A woman who had a hemorrhage for 12 years. She knew Jesus could heal her and believed that if she could only touch the hem of his robe, she would be healed. She did and was, but Jesus, despite being surrounded by so many people, knew that power had gone out and asked who. The woman came forward and told him, to which he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

He then continued on the way, but they were approached by people from Jairus’s house, Telling him to bother Jesus as the daughter had died. Jesus said, don’t worry; she is just sleeping. While the others in the house scoffed at this, Jairus and his wife, along with Peter, John, and James. He then told the girl to get up, and she did. He then instructed the parents to not tell anyone.

My takeaways from this passage; 1) As followers of Christ, our role is to share the gospel message with those who will listen. 2) People’s response to the gospel is contingent on their receptiveness. 3) Jesus defines family by common purpose and not blood. And 4) Jesus has authority over nature, the supernatural, and life itself.

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.