Domenico Fetti - Parable of the Lost Drachma

Luke 15 – Rejoice, The Lost is Found

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. The candle for this day represents joy. In Chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables that emphasize the joy experienced by finding the lost. These parables come in response to the Pharisees’ grumblings that Jesus “receives sinners and eats with them.” (v 2, NASB)

In the first parable, Jesus draws on one of His most common themes, that of a shepherd and his sheep. The reason this is such common imagery is that Israel was soundly based in an agricultural society. Furthermore, the role of the shepherd goes beyond that level to religious significance, being used regularly throughout the Old Testament to describe God. Here Jesus asks a question that has an obvious answer for anyone in that culture. He asks, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (v 4) He then emphasizes that this is not just a good thing, but a reason for great celebration. Jesus explains his reason for the story when he says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Two things strike me about this parable. First, I have to question leaving the 99 sheep unattended. But as I think about, it seems the emphasis on it being the “open pasture” is the thing of which we take note. This, with the combination of them being identified with the righteous, would seem to indicate that they were safe in the open pasture. But this then takes us to the second question that strikes me when it describes these individuals as “righteous persons who need no repentance.” If I had no other knowledge of scripture, this would seem odd to me, but in light of Romans 3:10, “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one'” I really have to question this. My conclusion is that Jesus is using hyperbole, an extreme hypothetical situation, to make his point. He is not saying that there are people who do not need repentance but explaining how important it is to him to reach the lost.

He then presents a second parable to make his point, telling of a woman who lost one of her 10 silver coins. He says that she would “light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it.” (v 8) In modern terms, she would “tear the house apart looking for it.” Again, finding it leads to great rejoicing. And again, Jesus explains that his point is that “in the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (v 10) This carries an even great emphasis if we understand that the coin was 1) about a day’s wages, and 2) the ten coins may have been a dowry often worn as an ornamental headdress.

Jesus finally concludes his teaching on the subject of finding the lost with a parable most commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son. Here we find a rich man with two sons. The younger son decides that he has enough and asks his father to give him his share of the inheritance now. Now while most of us may laugh in our son’s face, and some may consider completely disowning him there for his greedy nature, this father does what to me is unexpected. He agrees and divides his belongings down the middle, giving half to the younger son, as he requested. I think that in this Jesus is emphasizing the point God does not force us to live his way. Instead, if we choose to walk away from God, he will let us. What comes next is no surprise, the young man moves away to live the “highlife” with his newfound wealth.

As we expect, the wealth eventually runs out, and of course, that means that his new “friends” disappear, leaving him destitute. To make things worse, a famine strikes the land. So to survive, he takes a job swilling the pigs. We should take note of the fact that pigs were, of course, considered unclean under Old Testament law, therefore emphasizing how far he had fallen. To make the final emphasis clear, he says that the young man was so hungry, he wanted to each what was being fed to the pigs.

After coming to his senses, the young man realizes that his father’s servants have more than he does. As a result, he decides to go back and ask his father to take him on as a servant.

Here is where things again change. As he approaches his father’s home, “his father saw him (at a distance) and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (v 20) The son tries to tell his father that his remorse, but he is ignored. Rather, his father “said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Vv 22 – 24) The point here is also clear. Just as God allows us to walk away, he is always waiting ready to embrace us when we return. 

This parable, however, does not end with the celebration, but rather with a response of the older brother.  Now I think it is important to remember that Jesus is speaking in response to the Scribes and Pharisees grumbling about his hanging out with sinners. Here we find the older son becoming angry as he learns of the celebration being given by his father, in honor of his brother. He goes to his father and says, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never]neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” (Vv 29 – 30) I think that it is very easy to fall into this category. When we feel that we have done everything right and yet we see those who have done everything wrong, “repent” and suddenly all is forgiven. For all the work we have done, we end out in the same boat as those who did everything wrong only to turn around. 

The father recognizes the frustration being faced by the older son and responds by reassuring him that his reward is sure. But he points out that this is still a reason for celebration. “He said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Vv 31 – 32)

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) A key part of the mission of Jesus was, and still is, to reach the lost. 2) God gives us the freedom to choose whether to follow him or not, And 3) we should not judge the past life of those who were lost, but rather, we should rejoice with Heaven when they are found.

Jules-Alexandre Grün - The End of Dinner, 1913

Luke 14 – Do What is Right Without Seeking Returns

In chapter 14 we begin with Jesus dining at the house of one of the Pharisees on the sabbath. While there he observes that one of the people is suffering from some sort of swelling. Jesus takes the opportunity to challenge the religious leaders with a question. He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (v 3, NASB) While the answer would seem obvious to us, we need to remember laws and rules that had been set up surrounding the sabbath, even including how far you could walk on the sabbath. So you know they are torn. Their understanding of the law would have them say know, but to say yes was to say that caring for a sick person was not important. So, they simply remained silent. Jesus seized the opportunity and pointed out that they would help their own sons or their oxen if the fell in a whole and while that would be “work” it would be the right thing to do. And again, they remained silent.

Jesus then tells a parable about a dinner party. He begins by telling people that when they arrive they should not seek the place of honor. It might not be for them and it would be humiliating to be asked to move “down” in front of everyone. Rather he tells them that they should seek the lowest place, then if they are asked to move it will be up and they will be honored. He concludes by saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v 11)

He continues the imagery of the dinner party by speaking of the host and saying not to invite friends, family, and wealthy neighbors. This seems an odd instruction from Jesus. Why should it matter about our relationship with those we invite. Jesus explains his reasoning by saying, “they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.” (v 12) His point is to do things without looking for reward or repayment. He says, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Vv 13 – 14)

Jesus continues his imagery of the dinner party with yet another parable. This time, the host has invited many people but when the time comes for the party, none of them will come. Instead, they all make excuses. The host becomes angry and has his servants “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” (v 21) When this does not fill the seats, he sends the servants even further out to do the same thing along the highways.  I believe the point of the parable is that those who do not respond to Christ call, will be shut out and instead, the call has been opened up to all who will respond.

For the final part of the chapter, we transition away from the dinner party image. Now Jesus says a peculiar thing. He says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (v 26) Is Jesus really saying that hating these people is necessary to follow him? I think what Jesus is using here an extreme to make his point. He is not saying to hate them, rather he is saying that if you truly follow him, then your relationships with others will seem like hate in comparison. This is not a new concept, it is an image that God himself used in the Old Testament when he says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Malachi 1:2 – 3)

He follows this immediately by saying, “ Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (v 27)  From here Jesus expounds upon needed to know the cost before beginning anything. And while we may not know the exact cost of following Christ, Jesus makes it very clear that it will be high, one way or another.

He concludes with the image of salt that has lost its saltiness. Salt is used for flavor and preservation and it represents the followers of Christ in the world. When we fail to count the cost, when we fail to take up our cross, and when we fail to make the needed sacrifices, we lose our saltiness in the world.

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) It is always lawful (right) to do good. 2) We are not to seek our own glory, but to take the humblest of positions. Let any honor we receive comes from God. 3) We do not do things, to be repaid but to serve those who are most needy. 4) God’s invitation is to all who will respond. 5) We are to love God totally and unconditionally, beyond any relationship we have on earth. 6) There will be a cost to following Christ. And 7) we are worthless if we are not willing to make sacrifices to serve God.

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.

 

 

Josef August Untersberger - Christ on the Mount of Olives

Luke 11 – Looking to the Lord

Chapter 11 begins with a different version of one of the most well-known passages of scripture. We start by finding Jesus in a very familiar setting, praying. This time his disciples happen to be with him, and as he finishes, they ask him to teach them how to pray. Jesus complies with their request and tells them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’” (Vv 2 – 4, NASB)

Here we find what appears to be an abbreviated form of the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6. In this case, he goes on to expand on the reason for praying to God. Jesus points out that if you persistently ask a friend for something, you will eventually get it even if your friend first said no. If this happens with fallen people, how much more with our Good Heavenly Father give us what we need. From here, he makes the image even more clear by pointing out that earthly, evil, fathers give their son’s good gifts, how much more our Good Heavenly Father. This is why he says, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (v 9)

Next, we find Jesus casting out a demon. While some were amazed at this, others accused Jesus of being in cahoots with the demons, claiming that it is by the power of Beelzebub that he is doing these things. Jesus quickly points out the flaw in their logic when he says, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a house divided against itself falls.” (v 17) [A lot of people would mistakenly attribute this to Abraham Lincoln, but the fact is that Lincoln knew his scriptures and was quoting Jesus.] In case they missed the point, Jesus explains it to them. He says, “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” (v 18) Jesus then points out to them that if they are wrong, then they are missing that the kingdom of God is upon them.

Jesus then talks about evil spirits leaving a person, and if they are allowed to return, they come back with more, and things are even worse. As he was telling this, a woman yelled out, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” (v 27) Jesus corrects her, again seeming to emphasize that it is not blood relationships that define blessing, but those who obey the Word of God when he says, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (v 28)

Jesus then addresses the need that people of his day seemed to have for a sign. His point is that those who insist on receiving signs are going to be disappointed.  He tells them that “no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” (Vv 29 – 30) We have to ask what is the sign of Jonah. Looking back in retrospect, it seems that the sign the Jesus is referring to is most likely the three days in the belly of the fish. This is the one thing that truly stands out about Jonah’s life. We would most likely correlate this to the life of Christ as Christ is 3 days in the grave (the belly of the earth) before the resurrection. This sign is there for all those who would see.

Finally, we once again find Jesus invited to dinner. This time it is a Pharisee that invites him. The Pharisee finds himself surprised by Jesus’ failure to wash before eating. Jesus points out that the Pharisees worry about the appearance, but fail to concern themselves what is on the inside. He then proceeds to give a series of warnings to the Pharisees, and then to the lawyers who were present.

The woes are: 1) concerning themselves with tithing and other rules rather than love and justice, 2) a love of power and respect, 3) being dead inside like concealed tombs, 4) placing undue burdens on others, yet avoiding the burdens themselves, 5) implicitly and explicitly approving of the sins of others, 6) hindering others from entering, while not entering themselves. In the end, the scribes and Pharisees began to plot how to trap him in what he says.

My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) to bring our request before the Lord, 2) do not look for signs, rather trust in the Lord with faith, and 3) worry about living a Godly life from within and do not worry about outward appearances and what others are doing.

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 6 -Treating Other Like You Want To Be Treated

Moving into Luke 6 we find Jesus walking with his disciples. It is the sabbath and they find themselves hungry so they pick some of the grain from the field. Once again he finds himself confronted by the Pharisees who insist that it is against the law to do “work” on the sabbath. Jesus’ response is not to correct them directly, but instead, he tells a story of David and his men eating the consecrated bread in the temple when they were hungry. This account is found in 1 Samuel 21. Luke tells us that Jesus then quotes David as saying that ““The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” His point is that all the rules that they insist on enforcing were made by man, but He is the source of the sabbath. What this means further is that as the Lord of the Sabbath, how can his actions toward the sabbath be in violation of the law.

To further drive home the point that these man-made rules of the sabbath are misplaced Luke tells a second story of healing a man who had a withered hand. In this situation, the Scribes and Pharises were waiting for him to break the rules of the sabbath by working (healing) on the sabbath. Jesus knew what they were up to so he ask them a question. “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” (v. 9) The answer, of course, is that it is always right (lawful) to do good and so Jesus healed the man. As Jesus’ question had left them speechless, they felt humiliated and angry so began to discuss what they could do to him.

From here Luke tells us that Jesus chose 12 of his many disciples to fulfill the role of apostles. The distinction is that a disciple is a student who sits under a particular teacher, where an apostle is a representative of someone such as an ambassador is the representative of King.  This is a significant step up for these 12 and Jesus knowing the magnitude of this decision first went off alone to spend time in prayer before making his decisions. We often drop this ball and fail to put serious prayer ahead of decisions, but if Jesus himself dit it, how much more should we do so.

After naming his apostles, Jesus returns to the rest of the disciples with them. As they returned they found a very large crowd of people who had also come to hear him and to be healed by him.

We next find Luke presenting his own account of beatitudes or blessings teaching. We are probably most familiar with this message from Matthew 5. What is unique in Luke’s account is that he presents both the positive and the negative sides. An example of this is found in verse 22 which reads, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” and it’s counter in verse 25 which reads, “Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”

I have to ask why Jesus would put these negative positions in the discussion. Is it wrong to be well-fed? Is it wrong to laugh? I think his point is that things being ideal in this life are transient and even false on many occasions. This is his point in verse 26 when he says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”  This why Jesus transitions from these tit for tat statements to telling us how we are to live.

His discussion of how we are to live in relation to others is summed up in two verses. The first is in verse 27 where he says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The second is in Luke’s presentation of the golden rule, “treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (v. 31)

He finishes this discussion with a parable and a few more teaching which can be summarized as saying that we can not expect to help others with their issues when we have our own issues to clear up.  We can only produce “fruit” as good as we are.  Jesus says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (v. 45)

Jesus concluded with a parable about the foundation on which a house is built. If we expect our lives, our behavior, and our examples to stand strong, then they must be built on the foundation of Christ’s teaching.

My takeaways from this chapter: 1) While many of the rules that were put in place were intended to help people live Godly lives, we need to realize that these rules are not more important than doing what is right in God’s eyes. 2) Doing the right thing in God’s eyes, whether making decisions, helping others, or living our lives must be bathed in prayer. 3) If we are to treat others the way we want to be treated, then we need to not be focussed on ourselves, but be founded on the teaching of Jesus.