Tag Archives: Luke

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 1 – Hope that God is Faithful

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well …” Luke 1:1 – 3a (NASB)

With these words, Luke begins to tell the story of Christ’s life. Today is December 1 and is the first Sunday of advent. A time of year set aside to prepare for the coming of Christ. The very word “advent” derived from the Latin means coming. So today, we begin our looking forward to the coming of the messiah. Yet we do it with a two-fold purpose. First, we look back to the first coming of Christ when he was born in a simple stable with not worldly fanfare or pomp and circumstance. Just a simple child who entered the world in the most seemingly meaningless way. And second, we look forward to his triumphant return.

This first Sunday of Advent is, known as the Sunday of hope. On this day, in many churches around the world, a purple candle is lit on the advent wreath as a symbol of this hope. Hope for a world in darkness that God’s promises will not fail.

This Advent season, I want to take each day and look at a chapter in the Gospel of Luke. There are 24 chapters in Luke, and there are 24 days that lead up to Christmas. I invite you to join me as I travel through the Gospel of Luke to see Christ in action and to prepare to meet Him in a new way the Advent and Christmas season.

So as I begin I borrow from the words of Luke and say, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well.”

It seems unusual that Luke begins his account of the Life Jesus not with his birth, or even with the announcement of his coming, but rather with the announcement of the coming of another Child.  Luke tells us the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth and the announcement that they would have a baby. We learn from the angel Gabriel that this child will be set aside for a particular purpose and that this purpose was to prepare the people for something significant. Gabriel’s exact words in verse 17 are “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

What is striking, and missed when we look at this in English is the importance of the name John. Two things stand out to me. The first is that the very act of naming the child John, a name that was nowhere in the family history, is a sign to those around that this child is different. Something new is happening. Just look at the reaction of the others when they are told the child’s name in verses 60 – 66 “But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote (We need to remember that Zacharias’s voice had been taken away for the duration of the pregnancy, but I will look at that in a little bit.) as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once, his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.”

The second striking point of the name John is missed in modern English. When we see John, we see a name. But in ancient settings, names carried meaning to them, and John was no exception. The name John, in fact, means the LORD is gracious. That is what John symbolizes, the graciousness of God. Not only had he given a child to Zacharias and Elizabeth in their old age, but he stood as a symbol of the incredible grace God was about to bestow on the world through his son Jesus Christ. This is why Luke starts his account with the announcement that John would be born. As John would prepare the way for Jesus in ancient Israel, so too, the graciousness of God prepares our hearts to receive the promised Messiah into our lives.

I mentioned that I would address Zacharias losing his ability to speak. This served to drive home the importance of the message to Zacharias, who found it hard to believe and to those who were outside witnesses of both the miraculous voice loss and return. I find it interesting that Zacharias’ reaction is quite similar to that of Abraham at receiving similar news. “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Genesis 17:17) Yet in each of these cases, God is faithful to his promise first ushering in a new people he has called as a nation, and then calling in people from all nations to follow him in spite of the apparent doubt expressed by those who received the promise. I am reminded that we can be confident that God will be faithful to his promises, even when we see no way for it to happen.

This is a long chapter, but two other key items need to be observed in this chapter. The first is the proclamation to Mary that she would have a child, and the second is Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.

While I am quite familiar with the announcement to Mary, it is her responses that really makes me stop and think.  The Bible tells us that she had four responses to the message. The first comes immediately following the angels greeting where it says in verse 29, “she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.” This was not an everyday happening, and she was a simple young woman. This comes at her out of nowhere. The idea that she was “perplexed” and was trying to figure it out should not come as a surprise, yet I think we to often get this image of Mary as someone who has it all together and took everything in stride. But if we are honest, her confused response is no different than any of ours would-be if an angel suddenly spoke to us.

The second response is after the angels relays the message that she would have a son. In verse 34, “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Again, does this response surprise me? No, but it does again remind me that Mary was just like any other young girl, and in her mind, what is being told her is impossible.

So the angel explains it to her and even tells her about Elizabeth having a baby to make the point he sums up in verse 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary’s third response is now one of acceptance. Yes, in her mind, this is impossible, and she is nobody special, why should it happen to her, but she now accepts that God can do anything and so declares in verse 38 “may it be done to me according to your word.”

I mentioned that there are four responses to the angel’s message, and while the first three were verbal, that final one is in action. First, she was confused; second, she questions, third she accepted, but it is the fourth response that truly demonstrates her belief. Picking up after the angel leaves, we read in verses 39 and 40 “Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.” Mary did not simply take in what she had been told, she acts on the information. Why did she go visit Elizabeth? One reason may have been to verify what the angel told her, and if this is the reason, then she receives her confirmation immediately. In verses 42 – 45, we read that upon hearing Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth “cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Here we return to John, who is yet unborn, and still, he is already preparing the way of the Lord as he confirms for Mary what she has been told by leaping within Elizabeth’s womb. To this truth, Mary is overcome and prays the prayer we know as the Magnificat in verses 46 – 55.

So what is the biggest take away from this chapter? I would have to say it is that God is faithful and will do all that he says because “nothing will be impossible with God.”(V37) We see an elderly barren couple conceive and have a child. We hear an angel announce to a virgin that she will conceive and have a child. We hear the promise that Mary’s son would be called the son of the Most High and that he would be named Jesus, meaning “God saves.” So on this First Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Hope, we are reminded that God had promised hope to the world in his Son, and today, in a world that often seems so dark, we can still find hope in Jesus Chris.