Read Luke 7 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen.
Marvel… “a sense of astonishment, whether critical or inquisitive, or admiration with a nuance of awe or fear.”
Marveled is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, generally concerning the crowds’ reaction to what Jesus is teaching and doing.
But Jesus -- God in the flesh -- marvels only on two occasions: Faith and unbelief.
The centurion – not only a Gentile(non-Jew) but a Roman soldier; the enemy of the Jews – is the one with faith. He believed Jesus would heal his servant and friend, even if Jesus just spoke it to be so. And from miles away, with a word from Jesus, his servant & friend is healed. Unexpected and pure belief. Jesus marveled at his faith.
Contrast that to the Jewish community in Jesus’ hometown – His own people who should know Him the best – they were the ones with unbelief. And very few miracles occurred in their midst. Unexpected and debilitating unbelief. Jesus marveled at their unbelief. Familiarity can breed unbelief, but unexpected belief can come from anyone and anywhere.
Jesus is described as having compassion when he sees a weeping mother whose dead son was being carried out. “Do not weep,” Jesus says to the mother as he turns to the dead child, saying, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the dead man stands and speaks. There is nothing too far gone for Jesus to resurrect.
John the Baptist’s disciples report all these things to him, and John sends them back to Jesus with a message, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” You see, John is in prison. The Jewish people are still oppressed. Things aren’t going down the way he thought they would. Jesus tells John’s disciples to report back to him that the blind are received sight, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Jesus knows John will know Him by what He was sent to do.
Meanwhile, a Pharisee invites Jesus to eat at his house. While there, a “woman of the city” walks in, falls at Jesus’s feet weeping, wets His feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, kisses His feet, and then anoints them with ointment. The outraged Pharisee can’t believe Jesus would allow a sinner such intimate access to Him. But this is who Jesus came for. He responds with a parable of a moneylender with two debtors…one with a reasonable debt and one that was nearly impossible to pay. The moneylender cancels the debt of both men. Jesus asks which would love him more. “The one with the larger debt,” they respond. Jesus, looking at the weeping woman, shares that those whose many sins are forgiven in turn love much.
We won’t experience the exuberant, overwhelming joy of forgiveness and restoration offered by Jesus if we don’t’ understand the depth of our sin and external consequences without Him. To be forgiven much is to love much.
Is Jesus marveling at you? For faith or unbelief?
Why do you think Jesus responded the way he did to the question about who Jesus was by John the Baptist’s disciples?
Do you truly believe you are a sinner in need of a Savior?
Read Luke 6 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen.
The religious leaders had established hundreds of rules to define what counted as “work” on the Sabbath, and apparently, Jesus’s disciples plucking grain in a grainfield and rubbing it in their hands broke the rules. Jesus again states His deity when challenged about “working” on the Sabbath, saying, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
On another Sabbath, the religious leaders wait and watch to see if Jesus will heal a man with a withered hand. They were looking for any reason to accuse Him of something and minimize His growing impact. Undeterred, Jesus heals the man.
Time and time again, we see Jesus taking time to get away and pray to His Father. Even Jesus…the Son of God…God in the flesh, took time to be still, quiet, and in prayer. After a night of prayer, Jesus chooses twelve among His disciples to be apostles. A disciple is a student; a learner. An apostle is a disciple as well, but one who is also a messenger. An apostle is sent out on a mission with a message.
Turning to the disciples, Jesus begins to preach what we refer to as the Beatitudes, or series of “Blessed…” statements, followed by a series of “Woes.”
Our idea of blessed is all backward when define it by things going our way or having beautiful things. But this is how we define it most often, isn’t it? We are blessed when we have food for a nice meal, we are blessed when our social media following grows, we are blessed when we win, we are blessed when we make captain of the team, we are blessed when we get that amazing job and new house and child.
Jesus says otherwise. Not that these are bad things but blessed is not what you physically have possession of, it is when you realize you have nothing of any value at all; when you understand God is what you need.
When we have resources, we may ask God to fill in some gaps, but we still try to take care of as much as we can on our own. We don’t tap into the mighty power of God.
When we have food, we may feast on the bread of life, but only a little because we are quite full of what we already have. We miss out on the fullness of God.
When we are satisfied, we may ask God for those new desires, but we aren’t desperate for them. We are pretty okay. We miss out on the truly abundant life God has in store for us.
When people admire us and speak well of us, we think we are on the right track. We crave more from people and truth becomes blurry. We may be leaning too far into things of the world over things of God.
In story after story and teaching after teaching, Jesus tries to get us to see this truth, but we continue to live according to the world’s definition of blessed. We may get a little of God, but only what fits in the holes left behind by our own filling. As a result, we miss the abundance of God.
Jesus continues, telling us to love others…not just the easy to love who love us back, but our enemies as well. The hard people to love. He tells us to be merciful, as God is merciful. He tells us not to judge or condemn or withhold forgiveness or to be stingy in our giving. He tells us to take the log out of our eye before we call out the speck in our brother’s eye. He tells us that what is in our hearts will come out in our words and actions.
If we declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior, do we act like it? Do we build our lives on His foundation? Do we do what He says?
Why do you think the religious leaders are so angry with Jesus and always on the lookout for ways to accuse Him of something?
How do you define blessed? How might this differ from Jesus’ definition? Why do you think that might be the case?
Think about your words and actions. What do they say about what is in your heart? Is your foundation built on Jesus?
Read Luke 5 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Simon Peter hauls his boat in from the lake of Gennesaret. A long night of fishing with no success. He begins to clean his nets, hoping for better luck tomorrow. Before he even finishes washing the nets, Jesus – THE Jesus, the traveling teacher everyone is talking about – climbs into his boat and asks him to put it out a bit from the land. With a front-row seat next to Jesus, Peter listens as Jesus teaches.
As Jesus wraps up His lesson, He tells Peter to put the boat in the deep and let down the nets for a catch. “Um…okay…but, you know we fished all night with no luck. The conditions haven’t changed. And you’re a carpenter, right??...what do you know about fishing?” Peter might have been thinking. But Peter does as instructed, and he is rewarded with more fish than the boat can handle. Peter could have called it a day, made excuses, even argued with Jesus, but he would have missed out on this beautiful invitation. “From now on, you will be catching men.” Jesus meets Peter in his place of work and weaves it into his calling.
Jesus heals and teaches. People are amazed. Masses follow Him, hoping or a word or a miracle. Levi (Matthew) watches it all from a distance. He has learned to keep his head down; to avoid the inevitable stares and rebukes from the religious people. He long ago traded his reputation for riches, knowing full well how his profession would isolate and ostracize him.
From his tax collector booth, he hears the noises of the crowd growing louder and louder, coming closer and closer. When he finally looks up, he is face to face with Jesus. “Here we go…another finger-pointing and annoying lecture on what a terrible sinner and person I am…been there, done that,” he was probably thinking. Instead, Jesus says simply, “Follow me.” His entire life he has felt shunned by God and religion, but now the greatest teacher is seeking him out and inviting him to tag along. Instantly Matthew trades riches for relationship.
Matthew fills his big house with his people – the other outcasts, sinners, tax collectors, unbelievers. There are no rules, rituals, or requirements to come to this party. Matthew wants all of his tribe to experience what he did earlier that day. The religious elite are outraged that Jesus would fit in so comfortably with this gang of misfits. But Jesus is exactly where He is most accepted, with those who know they don’t have it all figured out or neatly together. Tonight, He dines with those who know they need a Savior. Jesus meets Matthew in his place of work and weaves it into his calling.
Jesus meets us where we are too. In the ordinary, busy, messy, and mundane. He says, “follow me.” We can keep our heads down, make excuses, try to tidy things up first, or we can follow Him and be radically changed. “If the Gospel announces anything, it announces a God who meets us where we are, not where we ought to be.” (Robert Capon)
The religious elite are never far behind… lurking, challenging, questioning. They ask why the disciples of John (and of the Pharisees) fast, while the disciples of Jesus eat and drink. Jesus responds that a day is coming when the bridegroom will be taken away…then they will fast. He hints of something new to come with a parable about wineskins. New wine won’t work in old wineskins…it will only burst, spill, and be destroyed. New wine must be put in new wineskins. Jesus has come to usher in something new.
Jesus teaches in boats, along the dusty roads, in homes, on the mountainside, and even in the synagogues. He wants everyone to have the opportunity to hear the good news. He meets His disciples – the ones to carry on His ministry – where they are working, in the ordinary course of doing their jobs. And He radically changes their lives. He meets them where they are, in their mess and monotony, but He doesn’t leave them where they are. New wine doesn’t work in old wineskins. He has good news to share with them, so they, in turn, can share the good news with others.
Why do you think it was so radical for Jesus to hang out with the sick, poor, sinners, and outcasts? What message is He sending to those who are watching?
In one of the healing stories in this chapter, we find a group of men bringing their paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed. The crowds are crazy and they can’t get to Jesus, so they climb the roof and lower him down with his bed through the tiles to get to Jesus. Do you have friends who will go to these lengths to bring you to Jesus? Are you this kind of friend?
Think about the wine and wineskin parable? What do you think this means? Practically, what does it mean in your life?
Read Luke 4 here or click on the speaker icon to listen to it.
Fresh off of His baptism, with the Holy Spirit descending on Him and God speaking from heaven, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Forty days of fasting. The devil appears knowing Jesus must be hungry and tempts Him to command stones to turn to bread. He is tempting Jesus to perform. Jesus responds with Scripture. The Word of God has power. The devil steps it up a notch and takes Jesus up to show Him all of the kingdoms of the world and says he will give Jesus all authority and glory if Jesus will just worship him. Jesus again responds with Scripture. The devil tries again, this time taking Jesus to Jerusalem on the pinnacle of the temple and tells Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple for angles to save Him as is written in Scripture. He wants Jesus to prove who He is, even though they both already know. Again Jesus responds with Scripture. The devil, having exhausted his toolkit, departs from Jesus. Since the first temptation with Eve in the garden, the devil has used the same tricks…tempting us with things pleasing to the eye we desire and covet that aren’t ours to have, things that will give us glory and make much of ourselves over God, and things to make us question God and His goodness.
Overcoming the time in the wilderness and temptation from the devil, Jesus begins His ministry.
One day He walks into a Synagogue. It’s one He has been to countless times, listening to the religious leaders and traveling teachers preach from the Scriptures. This time He is the traveling teacher. The crowds settle in after singing a few hymns, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to Him. He takes it is His calloused hands from years of carpentry work. He slowly and carefully unrolls the scrolls. He knows exactly where He is going – Isaiah 61 – and He begins to read….
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
There is nothing unusual at this point for the gathering families. He rolls the scroll back up and hands it to the attendant. As He sits down, a hush comes over the room, all eyes fixed on him. “How will He explain this?” they wait to hear.
A nine-word sermon: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus declares Himself the Messiah; the long-awaited Anointed One; the Christ. He gives a peek into His earthly ministry, a taste of what the Messiah will ultimately accomplish, reversing and renewing the damage brought about by sin.
The watching crowds speak well of Him and marvel at the words He is speaking. Until…they remember He is the Jesus they know; the Jesus they grew up with; Joseph’s son. They question how He could be anything of any significance. Jesus tells them no prophet is acceptable in His hometown. Familiarity breeds contempt. They just can’t see Jesus for who He is. They miss Him, and rather than experiencing miracles, they drive Him out of town, even attempting to throw Him down a cliff.
Leaving Nazareth, Jesus heads to Capernaum. While He is teaching on the Sabbath, a man with the spirt of an unclean demon cries out to Him, “What have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” Those in Jesus’s hometown couldn’t see who He was, but the demons knew exactly who He is. Jesus casts the demon out of the man, and all who witnessed it were amazed.
Reports about Jesus spread to every place in the surrounding region. As He traveled, He healed all who came to Him and taught, saying, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.”
Think about the temptation of the devil with Jesus. How are these the tactics the devil uses on us today?
Why do you think those closest to Jesus – those in His hometown – had the hardest time accepting who He was?
What do you think about the fact that demons recognized Jesus and knew exactly who He was and what He could do to them?
Read Luke 3 here or click on the speaker icon to listen to it.
Luke shares details about the specific year, along with the political and religious leaders reigning. This isn’t a made-up story; the account is about real people during real times in history. John is in the wilderness and hears from God. Obediently, John goes throughout the region and proclaims a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as written about in Isaiah hundreds of years earlier. And John doesn’t mess around. He calls them out as “brood of vipers” and telling them that every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. Being Jewish - a descendant of Abraham - isn’t enough. They must ALL repent.
The question upon hearing these words from John is the same, “What then shall we do?” From the ordinary crowds, the wealthy tax collectors, the military men…all had the same question.
Repentance puts us all on the same playing field. Three vastly different backgrounds and social statuses, one unifying question upon repentance: what then shall we do? The responses differ for the different groups, but they all relate to possessions. How we covet our possessions and possessions of others; how we use our power; how we use our influence; how we treat those around us and the less fortunate.
To the poor among the crowds: if you have an extra tunic, share it with one who has none. Likewise, if you have food. What little you have, share even that. To the wealthy tax collectors: collect no more than is authorized. Don’t cheat. Deal fairly in business. To the soldiers: don’t extort money by threats and false accusations; be content with what you have. Use your power wisely.
Real repentance – real faith – leads to action. Loving our neighbor where we are with what we have. Treating people fairly. Contentment over coveting. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” John tells the newly baptized.
What then shall we do? The specific answer will differ for all of us, but will also likely relate to how we use our possessions, power, and influence, and how we pursue loving God and loving our neighbor.
The people begin to wonder among themselves who John is, asking if he is the Christ they have been waiting for. Humbly, John replies that he is not. There is another coming who is mightier than he is; one who he is unworthy to even untie the strap of his sandal. One who will baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire. John’s preaching lands him in prison at the hand of Herod. John had called out Herod for having a relationship with Herod’s brother’s wife and other evil things.
Before John’s imprisonment, Jesus is also baptized by him. The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came down and descended on Jesus as a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – together.
Luke continues with the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man. Again demonstrating this isn’t a story; it is an accurate historical account. Luke wants us to know these things he is telling us are trustworthy and true.
What then shall we do? In the places you hang out, your circles of influence, and opportunities that present themselves…how do you think God is asking you to respond?
What do you think bystanders are thinking as they see the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus, and God speak?
What do you think about John’s bold approach to preaching? Do you think he was concerned about turning people off?
Why do you think it is so important for Luke to include genealogies, along with current political and religious leaders in his account?
Read Luke 2 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen.
Mary, very pregnant with her son, is forced to travel a great distance to Bethlehem with her husband, Joseph. A census was called by Caesar Augustus requiring everyone to report in at their hometown. It was bustling with all of the people coming to town to do the same. There was no place to stay and Mary finds herself ready to give birth. A manger was the only available lodging, and here Jesus is born. A humble beginning.
Nearby, an angel appears to shepherds. Hard-working, often shunned and forgotten people in the fields. The angel tells of a baby born in the city of David. A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. A multitude of heavenly hosts suddently join the angel in worshiping the newborn king. The shepherds go finding everything as the angel told them and share with Mary the news they received. We are told Mary treasured these things, pondering them in her heart. What must be swarming through her heart and mind at all that is taking place!
As follows Jewish custom, Jesus is circumcised at eight days old and then presented in Jerusalem at around 40 days old. There in Jerusalem was Simeon who the Holy Spirit revealed would not see death until he had seen Christ the Lord…the promised and long-awaited One. As Jesus enters the temple with His parents, Simeon recognizes Him immediately and prays a blessing over the child. Mary and Joseph marvel at what they are hearing as Simeon says, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” It is incredible news…but it must be so hard to hear at the same time.
Also present is a prophetess, Anna, who upon seeing the child Jesus also recognized who He was and began giving thanks. As parents, Mary and Joseph must be unable to process all they are seeing and hearing related to this tiny child they have been chosen to raise.
Jesus goes from forty days old to twelve years old in this chapter, with us only learning, ”the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”
At age twelve, the family again returns to Jerusalem. A likely annual trek, as all devout Jewish families would take. Traveling home in a large group of family and friends, Mary and Joseph don’t initially notice Jesus isn’t with them. In a panic, they head back to Jerusalem and find Him in the temple three days later. Jesus is sitting under Jewish teachers…listening, asking questions, and amazing even the most knowledgeable among them with His wisdom and understanding at such a young age. When Mary and Joseph finally locate Him, He simply replies, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” Heading back home, Mary doesn’t understand all that she is hearing and seeing but she treasures these things up in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Think about all the messages Mary and Joseph witnessed about their young son, from angels to prophets. What do you think they were thinking about all these things?
Why do you think the angel appeared to shepherds to share the good news?
In these inspired and preserved words of God to us, why do you think we aren’t given more information about Jesus as a child? What do you think He was like?
Read Luke 1 here or click on the speaker icon to listen to it.
Luke is writing this letter to Theophilus – to us – that we may have certainty concerning these things about Jesus we have been taught. He wants us to KNOW that we can know it is true. That Luke has personally walked and talked with people who saw it all firsthand.
Luke begins with Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah is a priest in the temple of the Lord. The job of the priests were to offer sacrifices to the Lord for the Israelite nation. You see, sin requires sacrifice; requires blood. On this special day, his name is selected by lot for a holy assignment. He is to enter the temple to burn incense.
While in the temple, an angel appears and tells him he will have a son with Elizabeth. This is something Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed about for so many years, but have long since given up on because of their old age. This son will be special, filled with the Holy Spirit and make ready for the Lord a prepared people. Naturally, Zechariah questions this news from the angel. He knows how long they have prayed for this…and how old Elizabeth is. His disbelief leaves him temporarily mute, unable to verbally share the remarkable things he has just heard and seen.
True to God’s word, Elizabeth becomes pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God. God’s timing is perfect. He is never late.
Meanwhile, in Nazareth, another angel appears, this time to Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary. Again the angel tells of a child to be born. This son will also be special. His name will be Jesus. He will be a king on the throne of David…a kingdom that will not end. Like Zechariah, Mary questions this news from the angel. She is unmarried. A virgin. But nothing is impossible for God. The Holy Spirit will be upon her. God’s timing is perfect. Though seemingly too early for the young and unwed Mary, God is never too early or too late.
Mary goes to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who she learns is also pregnant. The child in Elizabeth’s womb – John the Baptist – leaps in his mother’s womb at the presence of Mary and the child in her womb, Jesus. He knows.
Blessed is she – IS WE -- who believe there will be fulfillment of what was spoken from the Lord.
Mary sings a beautify song of praise. The work of the Lord; the plans of the Lord are worthy of worship and praise...even when we don't understand at the time and it doesn't seem to be the ideal way it will all go down from the view of our human eyes.
Zechariah begins to speak upon the birth of his son. He declares the name of the child…John. Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks prophecy about Jesus to come and his newborn son. John will be called the prophet of the Most High. He will prepare His way.
The child who the last prophet, Malachi, spoke of before 400 years of silence has been born to prepare the way for the Messiah. The wait is over.
When God’s plan starts unfolding, you’ll understand why it took so long. Be patient and faithful. Your time is coming. Steep yourself in the Word so you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. The future may look different than you envision – it certainly did for both Elizabeth and Mary – but God’s plan is perfect and beautiful, and you are a glorious part of it. Blessed is she who believes that there will be a fulfillment of what has been spoken by the Lord.
Why do you think Luke wants to present this account of the story of Jesus for Theophilus?
What do you think about John leaping in his mother’s womb when Mary (with Jesus) enters?
Why do you think Zechariah was temporarily made mute in his doubt, but not Mary in hers?
What does this first chapter tell you about God’s timing?
Welcome to our study of the Gospel According to Luke leading up to Christmas. There are 24 chapters in Luke, so we will read one chapter a day starting on December 1 and ending on December 24 ...the eve of the celebration of the arrival of our Savior.
The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell the story of the long-awaited Messiah coming to earth to save us. Though they tell the same story, they serve different purposes and together give us a beautiful comprehensive picture of the fulfillment of prophecy and the execution of God’s plan to save us from the beginning.
Luke, who also wrote the book of Acts, emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. His account contains the most stories of healing, showing the compassion of Jesus.
Though Luke didn’t walk with Jesus during His ministry, he joined those who did in the spreading of the Gospel after Jesus ascended to heaven. It is believed his account was written around 63 AD. Luke was the only Gentile (non-Jewish) writer of the Bible and wrote to a Gentile audience. As a physician, Luke provides great detail and helps those not familiar with Jewish tradition understand the significance of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Join us on your own or with family and friends as we read through Luke’s Gospel account this Advent season. Each day we will post a link to read and/or listen to that day’s chapter in Luke, followed by a brief summary of the chapter and some questions to help think through many of the details presented by Luke.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
Below is a great overview of Luke's Gospel account from the Bible Project...
Note: Much of the commentary accompanying each Luke chapter is taken from our Jesus 365 daily devotionals. Consider joining us, starting January 1, 2020...at the beginning, in Genesis, as we journey through the entire Bible in a year.