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.
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?
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 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 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 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 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 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 8 here or click on the speaker icon to listen.
In this chapter, Luke makes a point – God makes a point – to document women who traveled with and served with Jesus and His disciples. This was radical at the time when women were seen as inferior. Rabbis generally refused to teach women. But among Jesus’ closest group, women were serving with Him and serving Him. They were active contributors in sharing the good news. Jesus didn’t NEED them there; Jesus WANTED them there. It was unparalleled in ancient history, breaking all of the cultural molds. It is a reminder that we are all deeply loved and valued by God. We all – women and men – were created in His image and likeness. All of us. You matter. Jesus wants YOU on His team, serving with Him and serving Him.
With a great crowd gathered around, Jesus tells another parable. This one about a sower sowing his seed. Some of these particular seeds fell along the path, were trampled on and then devoured by birds. Some fell on rock and grew for a while, but eventually died from lack of water. Some fell among thorns, eventually chocking the plant. And some fell on good soil, growing and yielding an impressive harvest.
So many parables…His disciples ask why and what the parable means. Jesus describes the importance of where we plant our seeds…in this case, the word of God. Is it not even planted in our hearts and minds, and quickly snatched by the devil? Is it initially received with joy, but without root in relationship with God, and destroyed at the first hint of testing? Is it planted but co-existing with the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, making the fruit unable to mature? Or is planted in good soil, watered, tended to, and bearing much fruit in patience?
The Bible talks a lot about seasonal rhythms…planting, watering, waiting, reaping. Where we plant our seed matters; we reap what we sow and invest time in. Are we rooted in God’s truth and growing in our knowledge of His word and our relationship with Him?
Jesus says that a lamp is to be shown, not covered or hidden. And speaking of hidden, He says nothing remains hidden…even secrets come to light.
Jesus performs more miracles…calming storms and healing people. From the wealthy esteemed ruler with the dying twelve-year-old to the poor shunned outcast who had been bleeding twelve years. One with a word and the other from a simple touch of His garment…both fully healed.
Two wildly different people,
their stories interwoven.
By cultural standards,
they would never have spoken.
One has it all:
wealth, resources, power.
The other has nothing,
barely hanging on hour to hour.
One approaches boldly,
in confidence, he comes.
The other comes discreetly,
hoping to attract the attention of none.
But more in common
than any on the outside know;
they are desperate for Jesus
and not ashamed to let it show.
No other options,
a last-ditch resort,
this Jesus, the healer,
to Him, they report.
A child, 12, dying,
a father’s nightmare,
A woman bleeding,
for that many years.
If only a word
or even a touch,
We need you, Jesus.
WE NEED YOU SO MUCH!
The crowds are so thick,
so noisy and pressing.
We have to get through,
we have faith in a blessing.
The woman lunges forward
before the crowds close in.
She makes contact,
though only the hem.
She feels it instantly,
fully healed and whole.
By His sudden reaction,
She knows that He knows.
“Who touched me,” He asks.
The air becomes thick.
To her knees, she collapses.
Please, let this stick.
“You’ve been made well
on account of your belief.”
She has never known
such indescribable relief.
But the joy interrupted
with troubling news:
Jairus’ daughter is dead;
it’s just no use.
Do not fear,
you need only believe.
Come with me,
a miracle you will see.
“Little girl, Arise.”
Today is for living,
no one will die.
I wonder who else
needs to hear these words?
Arise, dear believer.
Your faith is a cure.
It makes no difference
your family name.
In the eyes of Jesus,
we are all the same.
Read Luke 9 here or click on the speaker icon to listen to it.
Jesus sends out the newly appointed and anointed apostles with all power and authority over demons and diseases to heal and proclaim the kingdom of God. They are to take nothing with them…no staff, or bag, or bread, or money, or extra clothes. For this assignment, they are to rely on God and His provision alone.
Fast forward to Herod, who beheaded John the Baptist, wondering who this Jesus is he hears so much about. Meanwhile, Jesus is doing His thing…healing, teaching, feeding thousands out of practically nothing. His disciples have a front-row seat for it all. Jesus asks them, “who do the crowds say that I am?” They respond with the rumblings they have heard…John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets of old. Jesus then asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “The Christ of God.” What about you, who do you say Jesus is? It’s the most important question you can answer.
At one point, Jesus takes Peter, John, and James up to a mountain to pray. His face changes, His clothes dazzle, and Moses and Elijah appear talking to Him. The Law (Moses), the Prophets (Elijah) and the fulfillment of it all (Jesus) together. Peter, being Peter, interrupts and suggests they pitch a few tents and stay awhile, but He is interrupted by the voice of God from the clouds saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Listen. To. Him.
Jesus continues with some hard words…telling His disciples He will be rejected and killed, but also that He will be raised on the third day. He tells them if they want to follow Him, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. He says if we want to save our life, we have to lose it for His sake. He says the least among us is the one who is great.
[insert your name],
Beloved, [insert your name], I give you power and authority. I am calling you; sending you out to proclaim the kingdom of God. But, [insert name], take nothing with you. Don’t rely on your own power. Don’t count on your experience, personality, strengths. They will always fall short and let you down. They will trick you into thinking you can do this on your own. Instead, I will provide all that you need.
And if you are not well received – which will happen -- shake the dust off your feet. I too was often misunderstood and rejected. I know it stings at the time, but it is nothing compared to the beauty that lies ahead. I give you permission to move on.
Preach the Gospel. Speak my healing and redeeming words. This is your charge.
Be fully aware, [insert your name], if you choose to follow me, it won’t be easy. You will have to deny yourself and take up your cross. Are you ready for this? Have you counted the cost? Can your ego take it?
It will be tempting to listen to the lies around you about what you need, and what success looks like. I’m not about shiny and smooth; I’m about surrender and saving souls. I’m not going to sugar coat it. There is nothing more important than the truth. But know this: in losing your life, you will save it. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. It will be glorious. After all, what are accolades, power, followers, honor in this temporary world if your soul is lost?
Along the way, I will show you amazing things, [insert your name]. You will see my glory and experience my power. But never forget, the least is the greatest in my kingdom. Be aware of what you are striving for. Service, humility, trust, faith, self-sacrifice is the skill set I’m looking for.
Don’t waste your time and energy fighting with others around you. Consider anyone not against you for you. Don’t be distracted by nuisances. Stay on task. Don’t look to the side or behind you. No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
Count the cost…but consider the reward.
[insert your name], are you in? Will you come and follow me? Will you carry the baton passed by those before you and share the good news? Will you consider holiness better than earthy honor?
[insert your name], I so desire to have you on the team. I see what you are capable of accomplishing in my name. Oh, I wish you could see it too. I see the souls saved by the seeds, watering, and sowing you have the ability to do in my name if you say, ‘yes.’ I love you no matter what you decide, but I don’t want you to miss out on all that I see in you. I won’t force, and I won’t beg. I will only extend the invitation and promise to be with you through it ALL.
What do you say, [insert your name]?
With eternal & unconditional love,
Read this letter from Jesus based on Luke 9 several times inserting your name. Write a letter back to Jesus with your response.
Read Luke 10 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Luke reminds us that it wasn’t just the 12 apostles that Jesus sent out. Here He sends out seventy-two others, saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
We too have been sent out. The harvest is indeed plentiful. Woe to those who reject Jesus.
When a lawyer approaches Jesus asking how to inherit eternal life, Jesus turns the question back on him. The man replies, “You shall 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.” Jesus affirms His response. But the man keeps pressing, asking who his neighbor is. We are told that the man is seeking to justify himself. He wants to know that minimum he needs to reach to be “okay.” But that isn’t how it works in God’s kingdom.
Jesus responds with a parable about what it looks like to love our neighbor. A priest and a Levite – both religious leaders – each pass by and ignore a man attacked by robbers and left on the side of the road half dead. But a Samaritan – someone shunned and despised by the religious elite – has compassion on the man. He stops, binds up his wounds, puts him on his animal, and takes him to an inn to care for him, leaving money behind for any additional costs incurred to help this Samaritan man fully recover. THIS is what loving our neighbor looks like. The Samaritan man got it, while the religious leaders missed it.
Jesus then enters a village and the home of two women. Again we see an example of one getting it and one missing it.
If I’m honest, the Martha and Mary story always makes me a bit defensive. And I know it is because a handful of my weaknesses are exposed. “Martha is the one who invited Jesus over,” I say. “Martha is cleaning the house and preparing food...making the guests feel welcome and comfortable,” I say.
Yes, Martha recognized how important Jesus is...enough to invite Him over. And yes, Martha is doing good work that needs to be done. But it is not the BEST work. Sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting other things go — a messy house, things not as Pinteresty as they could be, a meal not quite perfect — is the most important thing at this moment.
I need this story as much as I hate to see myself in Martha. Scott Sauls says, “While Martha is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.”
God, help me always put you in the proper position in my life. Help me let everything else go when it competes with sitting at your feet.
Where do you see yourself in each these stories:
Read Luke 11 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Watching Jesus pray, one of His disciples asks Jesus to teach them to pray. Father God, Holy is YOUR name. May YOUR kingdom come. Give us what we need to sustain us today...our daily bread. Forgive us our sins…as we forgive those who are indebted to us. Lead us not into temptation.
Ask. Seek. Knock. God is a good good Father who wants to give good gifts to His children.
Observers continue to be stumped by Jesus, wondering how He does the miraculous healing and where He is from. Is He from God or the demons? There is no divided kingdom when it comes to Jesus. He is not just on God’s team…He is God. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters,” He says. There is no fence-straddling in God’s Kingdom. We are in, or we are out. We are with Him, or we are against Him.
Jesus tells a story about an unclean spirit that leaves a person. Good news, right?
Unable to find rest, the spirit returns to find it empty, swept, and put in order. Still good, right?
It brings with it seven other spirits even more evil than itself to dwell there, leaving the state of the person even worse than the first. Wait, what?
Isn’t it a good thing to get rid of evil? Isn’t it good to have a clean “house”…empty, swept, and put in order? We spent a lot of time breaking these habits and cleaning up our mistakes, after all. Shouldn’t that count for something? Or at least NOT be an invitation for more evil?
The truth is, when we leave something empty, it becomes ripe territory to be filled. And if we don’t fill it with Jesus, the devil is happily waiting to find some temporary things to take His place.
Do we do as much filling as emptying? Deep abiding in God. Prayer. Meditation on His Word.
Jesus spent His days emptying Himself, always teaching, healing, mentoring. But He also constantly fills Himself. Jesus -- God in the flesh -- regularly gets quiet time alone to pray and talk to His Father. No mission could be more important than His, and He always found time to get filled.
Lord, empty me of me…both in the worldly things I cling to and in lovingly serving others…but don’t leave me empty. Fill me with Your power, Your peace, Your wisdom, Your discernment, Your love. Fill me with YOU.
Jesus says blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. The crowds increase…looking for more miracles…more signs about who He is. He says the sign of the Son of Man to this generation is as the sign of Jonah to the people of Nineveh. “Behold, something greater than Jonah is here,” Jesus says.
The Pharisees, watching and waiting to catch Jesus at something to stop His growing influence, have perfected the cleansing on the outside…the polished outward appearances of rule and ritual following for show. They load people with burdens that are hard to bear and do nothing to help them. But you can’t hide from Jesus. He calls them out. Indignant, the religious leaders press Him, provoke Him, and wait to catch Him in something He might say….
What needs to be emptied in your life? How can you make sure it is filled with the goodness of God?
Why do you think the religious leaders are so hostile to Jesus and dead set on catching Him in something they can accuse Him of?
Read Luke 12 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Jesus says that nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. NOTHING is covered up. NOTHING is hidden. NOTHING stays in the dark. NOTHING remains whispered only in private rooms. ALL things will be revealed, made known, heard, and even proclaimed on the housetops.
If we are honest, we all have secrets. Some may even be pressed so deep within us that we think they are forever concealed. There are some things we only do in the “dark.” Whispers, untruths, unkind thoughts, hidden desires, impure motives, rebellious attitudes toward someone or something. Some things we do in the dark because we want to do them, and some things we don’t even want to do…they have a hold on us. Even Paul declared, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Romans 7:19-20
But God knows and sees everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Not our actions in the dark, or even our thoughts. And you know what else? That thing that was done to you that no one knows about…God knows. It isn’t hidden. That person that seems to have gotten away with it…God knows. It isn’t in the dark.
These two verses follow Jesus telling His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Trying to conceal sin really is the essence of hypocrisy. So not only are we rotting in a sin we are trying to dismiss or keep in the dark, but we are piling hypocrisy on top of it…the thing Jesus condemns more than anything else. It is the leaven; the thing that seems small and insignificant, but spreads and radically changes the entire composition.
As hard as it may be, we need to bring some things to the light and then send them on their way. We need to acknowledge what God already knows with a truly repentant heart, asking for His power to turn and never look back. We don’t have to feel condemned or hopeless as we step out of the dark places. He is patiently waiting for us. He already knows, and He has already paid for it with the blood of His Son. He already knows, and He loves us so much.
Jesus tells us not to be anxious and fearful; He tells us we are fearing the wrong things. God is the One who provides…and the One who determines where we spend eternity. He tells us not to store up earthly things that have no long term value, but instead, we should be rich toward God. For everyone who has been given much, much will be required. Store up things that matter.
We must be ready…our lights burning…dressed and ready for action. Jesus will return at an hour we do not expect. Division will come…even among families as the day draws near for the return of Jesus. Settle accounts. Be ready.
Are you ready? Where and how will Jesus find you when He returns?
Are there things you are hiding in the dark that need to come to the light? Pray for God to reveal these things to you and to give you the courage to bring them to Him.
Read Luke 13 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
"Lord, will those who are saved be few?" a question from the religious crowds. Always concerning themselves with the salvation of others, but rarely looking within.
Jesus flips it back on them. You wonder if there will be few? What about you?
He doesn't answer the question but instead gives some advice on how to be saved: "Strive to enter through the narrow door."
Strive to enter. Strive implies a great deal of agonizing effort. But it is a striving effort toward the narrow door. A door where good works won't fit; our accomplishments won't fit; our good looks on the outside won't fit; our ancestry won't fit; our possessions won't fit.
Sin and society put many obstacles and detour signs in front of the narrow gate.
"For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able," Jesus continues.
If we are following the crowd, we might be running with the "many." They may be blinding us to the reality of the narrow door. It takes a striving effort to go against the many. Half-hearted isn't striving.
"Lord, open to us," they cry, knocking from the outside.
"I do not know where you come from," Jesus answers.
"We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets," they plead.
"I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!" Jesus responds.
Oh, they knew who Jesus was. They even ate with Him, listened to Him teach, and likely saw Him heal many. But they didn't KNOW Jesus. They were part of the "many." The onlookers. The half-in. The ones who thought they could wait to repent; wait to follow wholeheartedly until it was a bit more convenient.
And while the door is open wide as God eagerly waits for everyone to strive for the narrow door, a time will come when the door is shut. Forever. Many will seek to enter and will not be able.
We strive and strive for all the wrong things. The narrow gate – Jesus alone – is what our striving should be about.
Pastor Joby Martin puts it this way: Jesus doesn't want to just be first on our list; He wants to be the paper we write the list on. He wants to be our foundation on which everything else is written. Then we do these good works in His power and out of gratitude for Him, not as the basis for our misguided striving. He doesn't want us to prioritize going to church on Sunday (check) and then move to the next thing on the list without another thought about Him. He doesn't want us to tithe (check) and then not consider His kingdom in how we spend the other 90%. He doesn't want us to wake up early for quiet time (check) and then go about our day without Him. He wants to be a part of it all; the thread of life woven through every word, action, thought, decision.
At judgment day, everyone will know the truth. But it will too late once the door is locked. J.C. Ryle says, "Hell is truth known too late."
Strive for the narrow door. Strive for the FREE (to you) gift of entrance through the blood of Jesus; for saying, "Yes, Jesus. You are my Savior. You are the Lord of my life. You are the ONLY way, truth, and life. I don't want to just know about You. I want to know You. I surrender."
A day will come when the choice will no longer be available. Drop everything that is keeping you from squeezing through the narrow gate, and with a light load of only the work of Jesus, enter.
Are you waiting for true repentance and whole-hearted surrender to be a tad more convenient? Are you striving to enter through the narrow door?
Read Luke 14 here or click on the speaker icon to listen to it.
Self-Promotion for Dummies.
Self-Promotion for Introverts.
Self-Promotion for Women.
Self-Promotion for the Creative Person.
Why Self-Promotion is the Key to Success.
How to Master the Delicate Art of Self-Promotion.
The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion.
How to Self-Promote without being a Jerk.
Some of my favorite titles from a quick ”self-promotion” Amazon search. The world screams at us to promote ourselves. “If you don’t do it, no one else will.” Or, “Success is 1% perspiration and 99% self-promotion.” And, “You need to build a brand; build a following.”
Writer Leslie Ludy reflects, “It’s easy to justify self-promotion, because it often seems so wise and logical. After all, the more noticed and popular we become, the better Christian witnesses we will be, right? But surprisingly, that’s not God’s pattern at all.” Be wary of convincing yourself that in order to make Jesus more famous you’ll have to do likewise.
Jesus has a few things to say about self-promotion in this chapter. Dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus unassumingly observes the interaction buzzing around him. The vying, the posturing, the subtle and not so subtle strategies. “You see, a great seat can not only reflect social standing but can also create it,” is the unspoken motto they subscribe to.
While the room is still humming with whispers, Jesus begins to speak. Almost immediately the room is silent, all eyes on Him.
Jesus tells some parables related to His observations. One about being a guest and one about being a host.
To the guests, He tells them not to sit down at a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited, and you will be left in shame to take the only remaining seat – the lowest place. Instead, go and sit in the lowest place. Then the host may say, “Friend, move up higher,” and you will be honored. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The host makes the seating arrangements.
Ouch. Silence. The host, likely smirking, thinking to himself, ”Whew, not about me at least.”
Jesus turns to the host. And to you, don’t just invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. Don’t only associate with people who can advance your personal agenda or give you something in return. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…those who can’t repay you. In this, you will be blessed. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
Humility isn’t a new concept to the Jewish leaders. It is often repeated in their memorized Scriptures. But, “in a world that honors adulation and self-promotion, humility is easy to admire but hard to master.”
Why do we so easily jump on board the worldly train when we know better? Just because “everyone else” is doing something doesn’t make it right or necessary. In fact, we are flat out told that we are going to live lives contrary to the culture around us. But yet, we follow. It’s like we just don’t quite believe that God is enough and that our hands and feet doing the work He calls us to do is enough. We just have to boost it a bit; give God a little hand here and there. Make that connection. Sit in that seat. Elevate our name (all for the sake of Jesus, of course, we tell ourselves).
Bill Johnson says, “Whatever you gain through self-promotion, you’ll have to sustain through self-promotion. When our promotion comes from God, He sustains it.”
What are your thoughts on culture’s push for self-promotion?
Where do you feel pressure to promote yourself? How do you think self-promotion can get you in trouble? What are some of the potential pitfalls?
How can you keep a check on promotion of Jesus vs. promotion of self?
Read Luke 15 here or click on the icon below to listen to it.
The Pharisees and scribes -- doing everything they can to avoid the unclean, sick, sinners -- are up to their usual grumbling about Jesus spending time with just these people. Time for another parable, boys…
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
My first thought? ME! That’s who! Why would you leave 99 all alone in the open field to search for the one who stubbornly wandered off? It’s a numbers game. Stick with the 99, right?
But Jesus continues, “REJOICE with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Similarly, Jesus tells of a woman that REJOICED after finding her one lost coin.
Sheep. Coins. Blank stares. “Still not with me?” Jesus may be thinking. Ok, let’s bring it a bit closer to home. He continues with another parable…
A man’s younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, leaves home, and ultimately squanders it all on sinful living, finding himself starving in a pigpen. He hits rock bottom. He knows he has traded what was best for what only brought sorrow and suffering. The enticing world let him down, and he knows it is all his doing. He longs to go home to his father.
As he begins the long, shameful walk back home, he rehearses his speech in his head. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Over and over he practices what he will say. He knows it is a long shot. He has brought disgrace upon his family and he imagines his father’s anger when he learns how badly he screwed up his life and wasted all his father had given him.
But instead, His father is waiting. In fact, he has been watching and waiting for this day for a long time. His father recognizes him from afar and runs to him. He wraps him in the best robe, places a family ring on his finger and shoes on his weary feet. The best calf is prepared for a feast. His son was dead and is now alive; he was lost and now is found. Pure joy…time for a party!
THIS is who God is. He pursues us. He searches for us. He wants us to come back to Him when we have wandered. And when we do, He doesn’t scold us and condemn us for our wandering lost selves, He rejoices! THIS is God’s grace. He loves us when we are most unlovable. He waits for us to come home. When we deserve punishment and a lowly position at best, He lavishes His love and riches on us. He celebrates. He makes sure everyone knows WE. ARE. HIS.
Once we know we are utterly lost without Him, we have everything we need.
The lost son is home, but unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the story. Back home, the older son is the one seething with anger, refusing to go to the celebration for his brother. After all, he stayed home, worked, obeyed, did all the things he was “supposed” to do. He is livid that his wayward brother is getting a party.
We don’t know the joy of being found unless we first know we are lost. The older brother didn’t know how spiritually sick he was. The religious leaders surrounding Jesus thought they were quite healthy as well.
This is a recurring theme from Jesus. He says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Are the Pharisees righteous because they practically live at the synagogue? Is the older brother righteous because he stayed home and worked for his dad? They certainly think so.
If we think we can earn righteousness, Jesus isn’t for us. Jesus can only save a sinner who knows he is a sinner. This is a big deal.
The older brother at home was just as far from God all along. Staying out of trouble and going through religious motions don’t necessarily draw one to God. Instead, he grew more bitter and further from God as he relied on his own works.
We can’t be saved if we don’t recognize we need saving. Often it is those of us who grow up in a Christian home that has the hardest time seeing it. We have a tendency to be the older brother at home going through the motions, but never realizing the riches and love of our Father.
Do you know you are a sinner in need of a Savior? If we don’t know we need Him, we won’t earnestly seek Him. And if you feel lost or burdened for someone who is lost, keep praying. Know that God loves you; loves them. God is still pursuing. And God stands waiting to rejoice and celebrate in the reunion.
Do you feel lost? Is someone you love lost? How can you find peace and assurance in God’s pursuit?
Have you ever experienced grace in your life like the lost son in the story? If so, how did it change you?
Have you truly recognized your need for a Savior? Ask God to open your eyes to how lost you are without Him.
Read Luke 16 here or click on the icon below to listen to it.
Jesus begins with a hard to understand parable of a dishonest manager. He summarizes His point telling the disciples that one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much; likewise, the one who is dishonest in very little is dishonest in much. If we can’t be faithful with what little we have, how can we expect to be faithful with more? Jesus says no one can serve two masters. We can only be devoted to one. We can’t serve God and money. And it isn’t always money that competes for our devotion and attention, but He knows it is a BIG one. The Pharisees, who should have been the picture of righteous and holy living, are lovers of money and this message digs deep. He explains further with a story about a rich man and a poor man that camped outside his gate.
What if there is something right in front of you that you may be missing? Something that if you miss will leave you not only with sadness and regret, but eternal and excruciating suffering. Would you change course? Would you encourage your loved ones to do the same?
While it is a gift to be given a grace period – time to reflect and change course -- and not always inflicted with immediate consequences for our mistakes (or outright and intentional wrongdoings), it can leave us complacent; with a sense that they aren’t really that big of a deal. It can make us falsely believe those consequences will never come; that we will always have more time.
In the single parable where a character is named, Jesus essentially pleads with us to not get complacent. This is personal.
We are introduced to an unnamed rich man. He lives comfortably. He dresses stylishly. He is never without a good meal. This man isn’t named, but if we are honest, we could be this man. We may not feel rich, but in the view of the world’s population, if we have clothes, meals and a place to live, we are rich. This is personal.
Next, we meet Lazarus. He has nothing. He is ill, covered in sores left unattended over many years of suffering. He is poor, hungry, hoping for mere scraps as he sits at the gates of the rich man’s home. We know this person too. We see him all around us, even when we try to avoid him.
Both men die.
From the torment of hell, the rich man looks up and sees someone standing with Abraham. He looks familiar but different. He looks like the man that was always outside his home. But it couldn’t be. He looks healthy, clean, happy, peaceful. But it’s him; it is Lazarus, the man that constantly begged at the gates of his home.
“Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame,” the rich man desperately cries out.
“Child, remember that you in your lifetime received good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish,” Abraham replies compassionately, but directly.
Perhaps the rich man thinks back to words he heard but never took to heart. Words like…
“Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” (Proverbs 28:27)… “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42) …“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11) …“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)…“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)… "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
The rich man’s thoughts are interrupted as Abraham continues, “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
The rich man is flooded with emotions, his life flashing before his eyes. He missed it. He heard the warnings, but he didn’t HEAR the warnings. “What if…,” he thinks as he trembles with fear and anxiety over the reality of an eternal future in this hell hole.
“Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment,” the rich man pleads. If I can’t save myself, maybe I can save my family, he thinks.
“They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them,” Abraham responds.
“No, father Abraham…,” the rich man cries. He knows he had the same and did nothing to change.
“…but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent,” the rich man continues.
“If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead,” Abraham says. Jesus came from the dead, and still many refuse to believe.
This is a HARD story to read. The reality of an eternity of damnation. The reality of a time when our actions can no longer be reversed.
And we all know that we can’t save ourselves…it is only faith in the work of the blood and resurrection of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. Our faith, our gratitude for the salvation paid for us, should produce good works. There are things we are compelled to do when we recognize what was done freely for us. We can never say we were never told these things.
It isn’t money, riches, resources that save us, but it is these things that are the most likely to trip us up. Let’s not learn our lesson too late. Let’s not try to reach our loved ones too late.
God, I pray that we take Your words to heart and never become complacent in Your grace and mercy. In your power alone, we cry out for help.
Where do you see yourself in the story of Lazarus? Where do you see Jesus?
Read Luke 17 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” The first human question recorded in the Bible (Genesis 4:9)
Sin is solely a personal and individual decision.
Or is it?
Eve took the bite of the fruit with Adam standing right next to her. Her partner. Her husband. Why didn’t he stop her? And not only did he not stop her, he grabbed the fruit from Eve’s extended hand and also took a bite.
While we don’t make another persons’ decision for them to sin, our influence is more significant than we may think. And Jesus takes this very seriously. On the heels of the story of the rich man and Lazarus – the finality of judgment and eternity – Jesus is stern about causing another to stumble.
We live in a fallen world. Yes, temptations to sin will surely come, Jesus acknowledges this. But woe to the one through whom they come.
“Pay attention to yourselves!” Jesus says.
Temptations are everywhere; don’t add to it. Don’t make it even harder on others.
Do we encourage those lies? Do we cause another to gossip? Do we drag friends into our sinful endeavors? Do we jump on the comparison and criticizing bandwagon when a friend confides about a disagreement with another? Do we promote books, movies, music that inspire sinful behavior, all tacitly condoning it? Are we a stumbling block to those weaker in certain areas?
Jesus says don’t do it! In fact, He says it would be better to have a huge weight hung around your neck and be cast in the sea (ummm…not fun!) than to be the cause of temptation that leads to a brother or sister in Christ sinning.
“Pay attention to yourselves!” Jesus says.
And this spills into our reaction to fellow Christians sinning. The Pharisees took sin very seriously. They sought it out. And then they shunned, disowned, and even stoned the offender.
Jesus has another plan…to seek repentance and restoration; wholeness. If a brother sins against us and repents, we are to forgive them. Not ask questions, retaliate, seek proof of repentance, or any other condition. We are to forgive. And if they do it again and again and again – even on the same day – Jesus says to forgive them if they repent.
Hard words. So hard the apostles next say to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”
“If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you,” Jesus answers.
Even little faith in a big God is what we need. We don’t need to muster up more faith. We need to have our faith fully planted in the right place. Mustard seed faith and the power of a BIG God can help us resist temptation, encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to resist as well, and to forgive when everything in us is fighting it. A day is coming when Jesus will return. We must be ready, and we must desire that others be ready as well.
What kinds of things might we do that would be a temptation for others to sin?
Are you typically a source of encouragement for your friends or a cause for their stumbling? Are you aware of your impact on others?
Read Luke 18 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Luke 18 begins with a parable of a persistent widow who is relentless in her pursuit of justice. She won’t give up, and the judge reluctantly concedes. Will a just God not do even more for those of us who cry out to Him day and night? Jesus continues with, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Once again pointing out the danger in trusting in ourselves and our actions to make us right with God, Jesus tells another parable. This time about two men praying at the temple…a religious Pharisee and despised tax collector. The Pharisee’s prayer is about his “righteousness” and gratitude that he is not like other men – other “sinners” – as he lists his good deeds of fasting and tithing. Meanwhile, the tax collector stands far off in a posture of humility, acknowledging his sin and asking God for mercy. Jesus summarizes, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” As children approach, He tells us we should receive the kingdom of God like a child. Full of faith, trust, belief.
“What do I still lack?” a rich young ruler continues his questions to Jesus after asserting that he has kept all the commandments from his youth. Although he thinks he has kept all the Jewish laws and commandments, in his soul he knows something is lacking. It hasn’t brought him the satisfaction he thought it would.
Jesus cuts to the heart of the man’s problem -- the thing in his life that is keeping him from being fully devoted to God and putting Him first in all things. For this man, it is his wealth and possessions.
“Sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” Jesus responds.
Jesus knows many things can take first place over God, but money is a big one, tricking us into thinking we can control things, tricking us into thinking we are fulfilled, tricking us with just enough temporary satisfaction to keep us from seeking God.
So, how does this young rich man respond? He sorrowfully walks away from Jesus. He walks away from the ONE thing he truly needed. In response, Jesus says, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
This young man knew something was missing; something was keeping him from life and peace. But when confronted with how to fill that hole, still he clings to that which he thinks he needs even more.
While it was money and possessions for this man, it may be something else for you and me. It is anything we value over God; anything we are unwilling to give up to have more of Him. What God calls one person to give up, He allows another to keep. He alone knows what our heart is so tightly attached to over Him.
Those standing by observing the interaction wonder who can be saved. Jesus says, “what is impossible for man is possible with God.” It is His power, not ours.
Jesus takes the twelve appointed disciples aside and tells them for a third time what is to come…He will be delivered over to the Gentiles, mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged, and killed…but on the third day, He would rise. This is all familiar to us today, but at the time, Luke tells us they did not understand or grasp what He was saying.
Continuing on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus is met by a blind man crying out to Him. Jesus approaches the man with a question: “What do you want me to do for you?” There is no hesitation. The man knows what he wants…to be healed; to be able to see. Immediately his sight is restored and he follows Jesus, glorifying God and causing those around him to give praise to God.
The contrast between the blind men and the rich young ruler is striking. The blind man comes in desperation. He knows he is utterly unable to help himself. The rich man comes pretty comfortable with his situation, but looking for that one missing thing…assuming it isn’t too costly to get. The blind man, poor in spirit. The young man, rich in worldly possessions.
“Teacher,” the young man calls out as he addresses Jesus. “Lord, Son of David,” the blind man cries out. The young man looking for a little more knowledge, the blind man looking for a Savior.
Sorrowful, the young man walks away from Jesus. Restored, the blind man follows Jesus. Oh, how it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The perceived sacrifice is just too much. The perceived need is not quite as deep. But in walking away, the restoration never comes. Because the sacrifice is nothing compared to the reward, and the need is so much deeper than realized.
What is that thing for you? What are you clinging to that keeps you from entering into the closest relationship with Jesus? Your family, health, possessions, reputation, security, ambition, control…?
Though Jesus already knows, He asks, “dear child, ______ [insert name], what do you want me to do for you?” He wants to hear it from your own mouth. He already knows what you need. Do you? In faith and humility, with a right view of who He is, with the persistence of the widow seeking justice, ask Him today.
Read Luke 19 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
One thing that is so clear as I read through the Gospels is the steady refrain that things aren’t always what they seem.
The first are last, and the last are first. The King of kings comes wrapped in humility, not political might. Blessed are the poor, mourning, meek, hungry, persecuted.
The ones who appear righteous, moral, and most devout – the ones armed with the most Scriptural knowledge – are the ones who consistently miss Jesus. And the ones looked down on, uneducated, the outcasts, the sinners are the ones who experience radical life changes through their encounters with Jesus.
Those who should be the most overjoyed coming face to face with the long-awaited Messiah are the ones digging in their heels protecting who they are, what they have built for themselves, and their social status…all in the name of God. Conversely, the ones thought most unclean, unrighteous, unworthy by society are the ones unashamedly running to Jesus, and as a result, rejoicing in healing and wholeness.
On this day in Jericho, while the religious leaders were seeking to trap Jesus, the extremely wealthy, despised chief tax collector scurries ahead of the crowd and climbs a tree for a mere chance to see Jesus as He passes by. But Jesus doesn’t simply pass by. Jesus stops. He stops under the branches of the tree, looks up, and calls him by name.
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today,” Jesus says.
The crowd grumbles. How dare this teacher associate with such a disgraceful human being, they mutter among themselves and aloud.
But Zacchaeus is overjoyed. Yes, come to my house! Dinner it is!
We don’t know what was said over that dinner, but we know that Zacchaeus’ life was radically changed as a result of this encounter.
His entire adult life Zacchaeus likely heard from the Jewish religious crowd that he was a sinner, that he needed to repent, that he needed to stop extorting the Jewish people, that he needed to give to the poor. While all of this is true, it had no impact on his life.
But Jesus looking up at him from the bottom of that tree, noticing him, loving him at that moment, insisting He dine at his house, engaging with him…THIS forever changed his life.
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Zacchaeus is a transformed man with renewed priorities.
Love for Jesus is the greatest motivation for change. Far more than legalism, guilt, lectures, or manipulation.
May we not be fooled by what we see. Things aren’t always what they seem indeed. No one is too far gone for Jesus to stop, look up at, engage with, and radically change. In fact, they are the most likely to get His attention. May love be a mighty force for change in our lives and the lives of those we love. And may we be a good steward of the gifts, resources, and opportunities God has given us. As Jesus taught in the parable of the Ten Minas, our faithfulness with the little will open doors for even more.
After saying these things, Jesus continues on His journey to Jerusalem. Drawing near, He weeps over the city that will reject Him. He weeps over what He knows they will miss. What they have been waiting on for all these years is here, and instead of worshiping Him, they will crucify Him. Upon arriving in the city, His heart breaks even more as the people have turned the holy house of God into a place of commerce. As Jesus teaches, the religions leaders seek to destroy Him.
Questions: What compels people to follow Jesus? How is Jesus different than the misguided religious leaders of His day?
Why do you think the religious leaders continue to seek to destroy Jesus?
Read Luke 20 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
The Jewish elites are dying to catch Jesus in something – anything – but He continues to leave them baffled and speechless instead. They question His authority, and He leaves them baffled with His presence, pure living, and uncanny ability to tell parables that cut right into their sin areas. They are desperate to catch Him in something and lessen His growing influence. Public opinion keeps them from going after Him directly, so they scheme some more.
At last…the perfect plan, they think. Let’s drag politics into it, they devise. Ooohhhh, and taxes…that’ll surely not end well, they plot.
“Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” they ask Jesus, following some manipulative & mocking complimentary words.
If He says to pay the taxes, they reason they can twist it to show He is denying God’s authority. Or, if He says not to pay, Rome will lose it and see Jesus as a troublesome rebel. They are sure it is a plan that can’t go wrong.
“Whose image and inscription does it have?” Jesus asks as He holds a denarius in His hands…the hands that will soon be pierced by the same government pictured on the coin. “Caesar’s,” they reply.
“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” Jesus responds. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. “…and to God the things that are God’s,” He concludes.
What are they to even do with this? Everything is God’s. Everything. Caesar may have his picture on a man-made coin along with a rule and right to taxes and submission for a time, but his power is limited. Jesus essentially says pay the tax but know there is a higher ruling authority under which everything and everyone submits. David Guzik paraphrases, “Give the coin to Caesar, but give your life to God.” It isn’t about two realms – secular vs. sacred; church vs. state; Caesar vs. God. God is over ALL things in ALL places at ALL times.
Marveling at His response, they became silent. But not for long. The probing, questioning, tactics to catch Him at all costs continue. “Beware of the scribes,” Jesus says. They love their status, best seats, social standing, places of honor…but they devour widows’ houses and make long prayers for show. They will receive the greater condemnation. God sees inside the heart. God sees motives. “Beware,” Jesus says.
Whose image is imprinted on you? Are you giving Him all that is His?
How do you think these religious leaders – who probably started off with good intentions and pure motives seeking God – have become so far from Him and so enthralled with worldly status, all while missing the Savior they had been waiting for? How can this be a warning to us?
Read Luke 21 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
The wealthy are piling into the temple, dropping large coins – lots of them – into the treasury. Each donation a loud clanging sound as it drops into the trumpet-shaped metal receptacle designed to literally hear the size of the offering. Impressive nods abound as the clanging is louder and more prolonged. A poor widow comes and drops in two small coins, the value of a penny. They make barely as sound as they hit the collection vessel. Small; unimpressive to the watching religious leaders. But not so to Jesus. Jesus says her offering is more than all the others because she contributed out of her poverty where the others contributed out of abundance. She gave everything. All she had to live on. A.W. Tozer says, “Not by size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it.”
The King James Widow’s Offering recount is translated as the Widow’s Mite. Mite is a very small coin, worth practically nothing. I love this translation because it turns out the widow’s mite was awfully mighty in God’s eyes.
I believe it applies to our non-financial gifts given to us by God as well. Maybe it’s writing, creating, music, teaching, mentoring, leading, encouraging, tutoring, speaking, or any number of gifts. We are quick to be hard on ourselves; we are critical and insecure about what we have to offer. We think our gifts are merely a mite. Small, unimpressive, insignificant, of no use in the bigger scheme of things. But it’s a lie. A lie that keeps us from putting ourselves in the game.
The woman has a heart focused on God and wanted to be part of the worship. She didn’t make excuses…” I need it more than they do. It’s all I have. It is so small. It won’t make a difference. I’ll give a little and hold back just in case.”
We may be holding out because we don’t think we have enough, or aren’t ready yet, or don’t feel qualified enough, or are afraid we will fail. We tightly cling to our gifts and passions, instead of giving them all away. We think they are mite, but God can use them mightily.
The truth is, God doesn’t NEED us. He can make miracles happen with His words alone. He WANTS us. He wants us to step out in faith. He wants us to take what little we have, place it in the receptacle of our God-ordained spaces, and watch Him multiply it.
Still in the temple, people are speaking of the grandeur of the temple, with its noble stones and offerings. Jesus tells them a time will come when each and every stone will be thrown down. Naturally, those listening want to know when such a thing will happen. Jesus tells them many will come claiming to be the savior with the time at hand, but first, many hard things will take place…wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, great earthquakes, famine, pestilence…terrors and great signs from heaven, great distress and wrath. There will be signs in sun, moon, stars, and on earth. The powers of heaven will be shaken before the Son of Man comes in a could with power and great glory.
Jesus continues, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Straighten up. Raise your heads. Redemption is near. Watch yourselves and do not be overtaken by the cares of life. Stay awake and pray for strength to escape these things taking place and to stand before the Son of Man.
Among these warnings of what is to come and the importance of being awake and aware, Jesus says that opportunities will come to bear witness. He tells them, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer.”
Because words don’t easily come out of my mouth, I am an over-preparer if I do have to speak. These words of Jesus, while comforting, on the one hand, are frightening on the other. Why? It requires giving up control (as if I even had any!), giving up worry and anxiety about how I will sound and be received…basically it rubs against my ego and pride.
It isn’t a call to be unprepared or uneducated in the Word – quite the contrary. It is a call to be armed with truth and faith, but not with fear or anxiety over how the truths will come out of our mouth. To let the Holy Spirit bring to mind what needs to be said. John Piper says, “The words of Christ are the raw materials that the Holy Spirit works with as he teaches us what to say.” It isn’t fearful rehearsing, but rather lifelong preparation. Perfectly scripted human preparation is greatly inferior to divine inspiration.
Think about the faithful people who allowed the Spirit to speak through them. Acts is full of examples, and the powerful words of the Spirit continue today. A common theme is that allowing the Spirit to give us words doesn’t mean we won’t fumble those words, wish we had said something better after the fact, or not put our foot in our mouth. It also doesn’t guarantee human success or the outcome we desire. Because it isn’t about us and how we look, it is about God working in us for the recipient and His glory.
What mite are you clinging to, despite that ongoing nudge to give it to God? What is holding you back? What can you do today to position yourself to share it?
How can you be awake and aware…and willing to let the Spirit work through you?
Read Luke 22 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
One of the holiest days – Passover – is drawing near, and instead of engaging in prayerful preparation, the chief priests and scribes are wracking their brains over how they can put Jesus to death. Their obsession.
But they were afraid. Not a fear of God and His judgment, but a fear of people. They couldn’t risk the public uproar if they arrested Him among the crowds that were always surrounding Him. God knows they have tried and tried and tried unsuccessfully to deceitfully trap Him. But to no avail. He is too smart for that.
They needed another plan. They needed to know where He retreated, where He went in private. They needed to do it then and there. But how?
To their pleasant surprise, in walks Judas. One of the twelve who Jesus hand-selected after prayer and fasting to be His disciple. One of the twelve who camped with Him, ate with Him, listened to Him teach, watched Him heal…for three years!
“High offices in the church do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin,” says J.C. Ryle. This is crystal clear in observing the religious leaders in Jesus’ time.
And to these religious leaders, Judas looked like a committed follower of Jesus from the outside. But here he is. Offering to betray Jesus for only thirty pieces of silver. They couldn’t have orchestrated a better plan.
Why Judas? We are told Satan enters Judas. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Judas was an innocent bystander. We know from John’s gospel that this same Judas was a lover of money and helped himself regularly to the moneybag. Perhaps Judas rationalized that he had been betrayed by Jesus. He signed up to be part of a political superpower, not a humility and service gig. He loved money and power and prestige more than he loved Jesus.
John Piper notes, “Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway.”
Deception and greed opened a door in the heart of Judas, and Satan capitalized on it. “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
George Morrison says, “not only did Judas sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but he also sold himself.”
Sin will destroy us, but God’s plan will never be destroyed. The cross meant to kill is our victory.
It is a powerful reminder not to be deceived by how something appears on the outside. But even more importantly, a reminder to check our hearts and motives frequently. To do whatever it takes to keep that door of our heart slammed shut from Satan slithering his way through.
“Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” (2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG)
Meanwhile, Jesus hosts Passover with the disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper. Where the Passover celebration was a remembrance of God’s faithfulness to their ancestors, this will be a new remembrance of a new sacrifice and covenant.
Among this news, Jesus also tells them that one sitting at the table will betray Him. He knows what Judas has done and will do. The disciples question one another about who it could be… and they also dispute about which of them is the greatest. They are missing the point of what Jesus came for and who He is. He tells them the greatest is the one who serves. He also warns Peter that he will deny Him three times. The temptation to fall away is strong. Let us be warned and on guard in prayer.
Time and again, Luke tells us of miraculous and complete healings by Jesus. Fast forward to Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. In agony, He prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
We all know how this story ends. Jesus dies a brutal death. God could have removed the cup. Jesus could have saved Himself. But Jesus was the one willing… willing to die for us on his own accord. It had a purpose. It was a bigger and better plan…the only one that could save us.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul recalls… “ So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Three times Paul pleads for healing. But the suffering continues. It had a purpose. To keep Paul humble and to demonstrate God’s power. God wants us to love Him and follow Him, not because we will always get what we want, but because He is worthy. Healing or not, God loves us and has good plans for us. He sees the bigger picture, and it is so very good.
Rising from deep prayer, Jesus finds His disciples sleeping despite His insistence they stay awake and pray to not fall into temptation. While still speaking to them, the crowds come with Judas, the betrayer. Peter instinctively reacts, striking the ear of the servant of the high priest. But Jesus isn’t going by force or defeat; He is going willingly to take the punishment meant for us. Jesus heals even the one who came to arrest Him. As Jesus foretold, Peter denies Him three times and sorrowfully remembers the words of Jesus. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Oswald Chambers says, “Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it… Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant… Jesus had a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself or his own capabilities well enough. Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him…beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God.”
Jesus is mocked and taken to the religious leaders, where He is questioned and accused of a crime he didn’t commit. But Jesus isn’t here to defend Himself. This is what He came for.
Can you trust God even when the healing doesn’t come? Do you still believe in His goodness and love for you and sovereignty?
Why is it so hard to follow and obey Jesus in our own power?
Read Luke 23 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Jesus is taken before both Pilate and Herod, facing false accusations and charges based on pride, envy, and self-preservation of the Jewish elite. Jesus offers up no defense.
How do you react when you are falsely accused or misunderstood? For most of us, the natural inclination is to fight back. We want to clear up the misunderstanding; clear our “good” name. We likely call or shoot off a text to a friend. We may craft a vent post on social media. Anything to make sure someone (everyone) knows we were wronged, and things aren’t as they are being portrayed.
But Jesus shows us another way. He never fought back. He never spent His precious time or energy clearing up the many misunderstandings or false accusations hurled His way. And if anyone had a right to do so, it would be Him.
Jesus didn’t strive for human acceptance, attention or adoration. He just kept faithfully, obediently, and humbly living out His calling. He never argues or pleads with anyone to follow Him. He doesn’t water down the message to make it more palatable. He speaks the truth, and then He steps back. We either believe it or we don’t. As a result, He was accused of all sorts of “religious” offenses and was consistently misunderstood and misrepresented. But He was never deterred.
Leading up to the most severe accusation facing Jesus — betrayal and fabricated charges that would lead to a brutal death — Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane and prays. He steeped Himself in prayer and conversation with God, His Father. God Himself in human flesh refueled with a fresh dose of truth and intimacy. A necessary equipping to endure His calling.
Only in being rooted in who we are in God can we resist the temptation to fight back the distractions of the devil to get us off track. And it requires ongoing refilling through prayer and abiding in God. Then, fully equipped, like Jesus, we won’t be tempted to defend or debate; instead, we will have the assurance necessary to keep our eyes up and our feet moving to the rhythm of our calling for His glory.
Herod and Pilate, upon examining the charges, find nothing on which to convict Jesus or sentence Him to death as the crowd is demanding.
“Barabbas. Barabbas!” From his small dark prison cell, Barabbas surely heard the shouts of his name from the crowds, followed shortly after by even louder cries of, “Crucify, crucify him!” I wonder if he was trembling or stoic with the realization that his life was surely about to come to an excruciating end – just punishment for his many crimes.
Instead, the notorious murder goes free, while the innocent Jesus is condemned. The cross meant for Barabbas hailed on the raw, bloody, exposed shoulders of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t resist or fight back. In fact, He joins the chorus saying, “ [your name]. [your name]!” You see, He isn’t just taking the place of Barabbas on the cross, He is also taking it for you and me. He humbly, powerfully, and willingly accepts the punishment we deserve.
Everything happens as the prophets foretold…as Jesus told his disciples it would. He is mocked, scourged, spit on, lots cast for his clothes, taken to the hill to die on a cross. An intended humiliating public display for all to see.
On the cross, Jesus is flanked by two criminals. One on either side. Both broken, bloody, beaten, breathing their last breath.
Though excruciating to even speak, one spends the last moments of his life hurling insults at Jesus. Sarcastic. Demeaning. Cruel.
Jesus is silent.
Peter has denied Him. Three times. Most of His followers have fled. As He assumes our sin, He is temporarily separated from God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he cries out.
God had to look away from sin. But He didn’t leave His Son alone. I believe God has given Jesus a precious gift during the last moments of His life in the flesh. Something so treasured by Jesus. A man of true faith. A sinner confessing and asking for mercy.
“There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
The criminal on His right has a holy, righteous fear of God, despite his unlawful behavior. With his last breaths, he admits he is a sinner deserving of the punishment he was getting, unlike Jesus, who had done nothing wrong. Perhaps he caught a glimpse of Jesus speaking or healing one day on the mountainside. In this devastating and final moment on the cross with nails in his hands and feet, he knew there was hope to be found in Jesus. He asks for mercy and remembrance.
This time Jesus isn’t silent.
“Truly I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus answers.
Today. When his last breath escapes him. Immediately. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord for a believer. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
He will be with Jesus. WITH HIM. This criminal likely lived a life of rejection, but he is about to be with Jesus.
In paradise. The temptation, the sin, the rough circles he ran with, the rejection, the fear, the constant looking over his shoulder…will be no more. He is about to be in paradise.
This man had a radically different heart condition, responding with a radically different cry to Jesus, resulting in a radically different new home. This is the loudest battle cry of salvation by grace alone, through faith. Grace upon grace.
Three hours of unusual darkness covers the land during the middle of the day. The heavens declaring the weight of this moment.
Jesus cries out with a loud voice and yields up His spirit. No one could take it from Him. He willingly, purposefully, and obediently gives it up. Jesus takes the punishment for our sins, securing them forever between the splintered wood and His bloody hands. But it doesn’t end there…He also gives us His righteousness. A holy, spiritual transaction.
The curtain of the temple is torn in two, from top to bottom. Access to God now open to all, not just the high priest. The death of Jesus permanently removed the veil; removed the separation between God and man.
As hard as it is to read or comprehend, may we never lose the significance or awe of the details surrounding the death of Jesus. The fulfillment and culmination of God’s sovereign plan from the beginning of time.
Jesus is taken from the cross, wrapped in a linen shroud, and laid in a tomb cut in stone. The women followed and saw where His body was laid, then returned to prepare spices and ointments for proper burial. But burial preparations would have to wait. Today, they must rest according to the Sabbath command.
How do you react when misunderstood or falsely accused? How can you be more like Jesus next time this happens?
Picture the scene of Barabbas in his prison cell, hearing his name wondering if it was his time to die on a cross…and then hearing that he has been released and Jesus would be crucified instead. Imagine what he is thinking and feeling. Do you have this kind of emotion when you think of what Jesus did to take your place?
Read Luke 24 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
At last, the women are able to go back to the tomb with the spices they prepared. However, when they arrive, the stone is rolled away, and the body no longer there. Perplexed, they look around and wonder what has happened to their Lord. Two men in dazzling apparel appear, saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” They suddenly remembered the words of Jesus and go quickly to tell these things to the others. The others struggle with what they are hearing, thinking it merely a hopeful, idle tale. But Peter rises and runs to the tomb, finding the linen cloths by themselves. He goes home and marvels at what has happened.
One thing that constantly shocks me is the overwhelming number of times in these Biblical accounts that people are with Jesus, but don’t see Jesus; hear Jesus, but don’t understand Jesus; spend time with Jesus, but don’t know Jesus.
Two of Jesus’s followers are walking along the road. Sad, confused, lost. They are talking together – mourning, processing, rehashing. All. The. Things.
A man joins them. It is Jesus, but they don’t recognize Him. It’s the person they previously followed and are now in deep discussion about. Why don’t they see Him? Why don’t they know Him? We are told their eyes are kept from recognizing Him. How does this happen?
Jesus asks about their conversation, noting their sad countenance. He must have fought hard the urge to laugh as they asked Him if He was the only one in Jerusalem who did not know what had happened these last few days.
Oh, He knew.
Jesus probes further…pulling their hearts and thoughts into words. He knows what we are feeling and thinking. He wants us to speak it to Him.
Here is what they know: this person was named Jesus, He was a prophet, He was mighty in deed and word, He promised to redeem Israel, He was delivered by the chief priests, He was brutally crucified, and He has been gone going on three days now.
Here is what they heard: some women among their group of followers said the tomb was empty and an angel said Jesus was alive.
Here is what they hope: Jesus is who He promised, and He is alive as the angel has said.
It is a doubtful hope. They are sad and disappointed. Jesus diagnoses their core problem: they believed in their heads, but not in their hearts.
Jesus starts to continue further, but the men insist He stay and eat with them. They don’t know who He is, but there is something about Him they can’t quite put their finger on. They want to remain in His presence; they want Him to stay.
Jesus never pushes Himself on anyone but is always willing to come when invited.
Settled in to eat, their guest – the stranger that met them on the road – breaks bread. I wonder if their eyes grow wide as they see His nail scarred hands in full view. He says a familiar blessing. Their eyes are opened! In the simple breaking of bread and thanksgiving.
They see! It is Jesus. And He vanishes…
Their hearts are likely pounding out of their chest as they check under every surface and behind every door. Where has He gone? I imagine them talking over each other, sharing how their hearts burned as He spoke Scriptures to them. Jinx.
Onward to tell the others. This good news must be shared!
While still breathlessly talking one hundred miles an hour with the other followers they ultimately reunite with, Jesus Himself appears among them.
“Peace to you!” He says. The room could use a little peace to break through the fear, anxiety, anger, and uncertainty heavily looming over the room. They are startled and frightened, troubled and full of doubt.
He wants them to be certain of His presence. To examine His body. His hands and feet. He eats with them. He reminds them of the promises and prophesies in Scripture fulfilled in Him. Nothing they haven’t heard before, but suddenly rich with life and light.
“You are witnesses of these things,” He tells them. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high,” He continues.
He walks with them…
…leading them to the outskirts of Jerusalem, as far as Bethany.
The hands that three days earlier were raised, secured by nails to a cross, are now raised high in praise. The raised hands of suffering now raised hands of blessing and victory. There was a price paid for this blessing. The most expensive free gift we will receive.
With their own eyes, they see Him carried up to heaven. And it is transformational...
No longer hiding in fear and self-pity, they worship and return to Jerusalem with great joy. They continually go to the temple – the headquarters of the persecutors of Jesus – and bless God.
God, open our hearts and minds. We don’t want to believe in our heads while doubting in our hearts. We want to SEE You; to KNOW You. Move us from what we know and what we have heard and what we hope to a CONVICTION and ASSURANCE that makes us bold and brave to worship You and make You known.
Challenge: Spend time in prayer today, asking God to help your belief; to make you bold; to open your eyes to see HIM; to recognize His power and great love. And then to go and share the GOOD NEWS.