Archive for the ‘ Luke’ Category


Tuesday June 13, 2006

The author has broken his narrative into scenes by refering to the different places Jesus visits. The “as he drew near to Jericho” scene is very short, but it’s amazing! It’s often hard to remember that this was a real, literal man with real, literal non-functioning eyes which really, literally started to work when Jesus told them to. There was some amazing change which meant that he could see. Jesus had enough power over the ‘laws’ of nature that he could exert complete control just by speaking. In a way, this is to be expected when we read of the power of the word of God (eg. Genesis 1, Ezekiel 37) but it’s astounding that Jesus fixed someone’s eyes. It’s too easy to drift past these miracles.

He was a beggar who had nothing to offer or to commend himself, but Jesus made him well without the beggar having to do anything – “your faith has made you well”. “And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” No kidding!

Heavenly Father, I praise you that you created, sustain and reign over everything we see around us and much more that we don’t. Would you by your Holy Spirit make these stories of Jesus’ life more real to me than anything else, so that I can truly praise you with the crowd who saw them. Thank you for your power and love. Amen.



Monday June 12, 2006

I've messed around slightly with the passages from Search the Scriptures. It seemed sensible to keep the two parables on prayer as one study, and I'm not sure that v15-17 don't tie into things in this study rather than the one before. Let's see…

Jesus welcomes the small children, who are of too little status for the disciples to bother with. He then says that the "kingdom of God" belongs to those who are as children, and that someone must "receive the kingdom of God like a child" to enter it. He doesn't specify what he means by this, which has caused much debate since. I think that what comes after is relevant, so I'll come back to this issue shortly.

Jesus' first response to the question is to challenge it, then he answers it. In saying "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone" Jesus isn't trying to say that he isn't good. Rather, he's saying that he doesn't want to be called a "good teacher". He is either a teacher, or he is God but he will not be a good teacher. Something of this is reflected by CS Lewis in his "mad, bad or God" arguement. In answering the question Jesus first refers to the commandments, and the ruler reaches for his checklist and can tick each one of them off. But Jesus tells him that he lacks one thing and instructs him to sell all he owns and give the proceedes to the poor. But this isn't another hoop to jump through that Jesus has suddenly pulled out of nowhere. Rather, Jesus gives this instruction to show what it is that the ruler lacks – that he does not have high enough value on eternal life. This is emphasised in v28-30 where Jesus explains that giving up temporal blessings is well worth it both now and "in the age to come".

It seems to me a child-like thing to get rid of everything that you have to get something that you really want without really worrying. To have your attention fixed so completely on that object of your desire that the cost seems insignificant. It seems this is why the two stories are together – to receive the kingdom of God you must receive it as a child, to inherit eternal life you must desire it above everything else. There are probably other nuances to the child thing, but I think from the context that it's about having a desire that surpases all things.

Jesus then makes it clear that he will follow through on the instruction to give up all things (even his life) for the kingdom of God. He emphasises God's sovreignty in that all these events were predicted by the prophets, and even more specifically by himself. He speaks only to the twelve, and the meaning of what he was saying was "hidden from them" until after the time when it happened. The disciples were truly blessed to spend so much of their lives learning from Jesus – but it is also a great blessing to be able to look at his life in the light of the cross and so have the truth revealed to us.

Heavenly Father, I praise you that your justice and love are so complete that you gave up your Son to the horror of the cross. I praise you that I praise you that you had planned it ahead of time and that you would not leave him in the grave. Would you fix this truth in my heart and before my eyes, so that I hang onto it with a child-like tenacity and want to think of nothing else. Let me be generous with money, but motivated by the greatness of the reward that you are preparing in Heaven. Amen.

Luke 18:1-14

Saturday June 10, 2006

Two parables of Jesus on our attitude to prayer. The first is to tell us that we "ought always to pray and not lose heart" (v1). Why would the disciples have lost heart during prayer? Surely it's because they weren't seeing immediate results to their prayers, so Jesus tells them to continue in prayer. If the unrighteous judge who cared for the widow less than he cared for his peace answered her persistant plea, how much more will the heavenly Father answer the persistant prayer of his children who he loves? Be confident that God is listening, and keep praying!

The second prayer is to stop people from "trusting in them selves that they are righeous, and treating others with contempt" (v9, tenses changed). The first prayer compares himself to other men and thinks that he comes out fairly well. The second realises that it's comparison with God that matters (he "would not even lift up his eyes to heaven", v13) and realises how badly he comes off in that comparison. But he is the one who is justified (declared righteous by God). To have God declare me righteous, I don't have to be righteous in my own right but I have to recognise that I'm not. It seems odd, but when you realise that everyone – including the Pharisee – is naturally disgusting in God's sight, the strange workings of God's grace are such a beautiful thing. In prayer, I must be humble before the awesome God to whom I pray.

But how does it work that prayer should be both confident and humble? That I continually bang on the door of the one who we can only approach with fear and trembling? (Most of the ideas in this paragraph I stole from Pete Woodcock's excellent exposition (click here to hear it)of Ephesians 2:18: "For through him [Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.") The answer lies in remembering that the only way I can come into the presence of the Father is by the death of his Son. I humbly recognise that I have no right to be here, but that my freedom to come can only be bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. But his blood is so complete that there is no doubt that I can come into God's presence. It won't ever be not enough. It's because I'm unrighteous that I must be humble, but because I am clothed in Christ's own righteousness I may be confident. Without remembering the cross I will either wallow in self-pity (I don't deserve to pray – I'm too sinful) or I will try to barge into the throneroom of Almighty God because I've forgotten that I shouldn't be there. With the cross, the balance falls into place. Humble yet confident.

Heavenly Father, I ask that your Spirit will embed these lessons from your word into my heart. I know that I have no right to ask you, but I know that you have promised that the Spirit of Jesus Christ will make me more like him in everything – including my prayer life. Please let me never think that you owe me anything, and never think that I owe you anything to cancel my sin before I can come before you. The price is far more than I could pay, which is why I love you that Christ paid it for me. Let me love prayer more than ever. Amen.

Luke 15

Tuesday June 6, 2006

This is unprecedented! Search the Scriptures is doing a whole chapter of Luke in one go. I reckon it's because the three parables Jesus tells are all similar – but it's important to remember that they aren't the same, or Luke would only have included one. It begins with the Pharisees grumbling that Jesus spends times with "sinners", though Jesus doesn't specifically address the Pharisees in his response until the end of the third parable. The first two emphasise that it's worth the effort to retrieve something that was lost, rather than just sticking with what stuck with you. The coin in the second story is usually interpreted as being part of a necklace or headband worn like a wedding ring today – otherwise we must hope that the party she threw cost less than one coin! But it's clear that grace is abundant, grace makes huge effort for a seemingly small gain, grace rejoices when it suceeds. Grace takes the initiative, even when it's the sheep's own stupid fault for wondering off.

I think that in the third story – the well known story of the prodigal son (I found out recently that 'prodigal' means 'generous', since the son was generous with the money that he had before it ran out), Jesus may be trying to focus on the Pharisees rather than God. Of course we learn of God from this story – how he is longing for us to return to him and will run to meet us if we show the slightest sign and then will throw a huge party before the angels. That is amazing and well worth spending time thinking about. But I think the focus might be on the older son. The father's response seems portrayed as what you would expect – of course a father's love means that he will forgive a son's stupidity and be overjoyed to have him return. What would you expect? But in contrast with this, the other son – who has never been wronged by his younger brother as the father has – seems unexpectedly sulky. Given that Jesus told these parables in response to grumbling of the Pharisees, I wonder if the point of this story was to point out how silly they were being. If God will unhesitatingly respond to the repentance of his children – we aren't even talking about gentiles here, but Israelites who have been living apart from God's rule and are now returning to it – why wouldn't the leaders be overjoyed by that as well. Why would you sulk and complain that you never had a goat when the whole kingdom of heaven will be yours. Why would I? Am I guilty of not rejoicing when people who God 'shouldn't' save because of whatever stupid reason I've made up are saved? Or just of not rejoicing fullstop, despite the fact that I know what an amazing miracle rebirth is.

I really want to spend more time praising and thanking God that there are Christians, that he has chosen and allowed many many people to become his children – something we would never have chosen to do if it wasn't for his initiating it.

Heavenly Father, I praise you that you have made sure that Jesus will be the first among many many brothers in heaven. I thank you that you worked in my life and in the lives of many people I know and many many more that I won't ever meet this side of heaven. I'm sorry that I am flippant about the miracles you achieve, and that I can be self-righteous when considering the others that you have chosen. I have nothing to commend myself, except the perfect blood of Christ. Will you share that blessing with many more people, and let me only ever be glad. Thank you for your amazing grace. Amen.

Luke 14:25-35

Sunday June 4, 2006

The bulk of this teaching is pretty easy to understand, but hard to apply. Hating your “father and mother…” means to love them less than Jesus. Jesus starts saying this in response to the fact that “great crowds” are accompanying him – he’s not just a passing tourist attraction but wants to make sure that people are really following him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Many people in this country will say that they are Christians but true discipleship isn’t about church and learning about Jesus but is about making him the most important thing ever. A really obvious point that I only realised recently is that Jesus starts talking about the cross before the crucifixion. It’s evidence that he knew the point of his ministry was the cross and, on a simpler level, that he knows the future. Will those who are following walk through jeering crowds to their execution or not? Jesus would.

Before agreeing to do this, those that want to follow Jesus need to make sure they can follow it through all the way. After all, if they start off as salt but then fall away they are good for nothing and will be “thrown away” (v35). The clear challenge for those who are already Christians is to make sure that I know the cost that there will be and am ready to pay it, putting Jesus above all.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the fact that I am not walking alone, but that I am surrounded by Christians for encouragement and have your Holy Spirit within me to keep me going. Please help me to put you above everything and keep going. Amen.

Luke 14:1-24

Saturday June 3, 2006

While Matthew and Mark each record one instance of Jesus getting in trouble with the authorities for healing on the Sabbath and John records two, this is the third such account that Dr Luke has mentioned. The form is similar to the previous example (ch 13) – Jesus’ opponents cannot answer his questions so have to concede that he didn’t do anything wrong. It’s yet another example of the displeasure that God had with the way that the complex legal system had twisted his Law, which was given so that the Jews would realise their need for Jesus – not use it to condemn him.

The three things Jesus says about banquets feasts give three pieces of advice, and teach us about the character of God. Firstly (v7-11), the more humbly you think of yourself, the more you will be honoured. That seems silly, but the parable Jesus uses to back it up is a good one. Secondly (v12-14), be generous to people with no intention of being repaid. Of course, being invited to dinner by someone you invited the previous week doesn’t nullify your good deed, but if you give to those who can’t repay then you know that your motivation is good. Thirdly (v15-24), if you’re invited into the kingdom then accept it! Don’t be too busy with a job or possessions or a family to take God up on his offer. Of course, this was meant to show that Israel had rejected God’s offer so it was being given to others, but today when the free offer of salvation has gone out to all don’t miss out like the Jews did. We also see Luke the gentile emphasising that all people – and especially those of low status – are invited to the great feast.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you invited and compelled me into your kingdom. Please will you help me to remember how humbly I should think of myself compared to your Son, and to be truly generous to everyone. Amen.

Luke 13:18-35

Thursday June 1, 2006

Verses 18-20 teach us that what may seem to be a small and insignificant kingdom with a handful of believers will grow to become a mighty tree, and will spread through the whole world. This should give me hope for the future, that many people I wouldn't expect to be saved will be and should spur on my evangelism so that I will be working with God in this regard.

Having said that many people will be saved, Jesus then explains why many people won't be. There is only one way to enter the kingdom and many ways not to. He warns against thinking that being taught Christianity is enough and that being Jewish isn't enough and that there will come a time when it is too late and "the master of the house has risen and shut the door". So I need to be thankful that God has shown me the narrow gate and evangelise!

In face of opposition, Jesus refuses to change his plans to accomodate people who aren't believers even when it's risky for him. Then he weeps for Jerusalem because of what it has done and will do in killing the prophets, when Jesus would much rather that they could live under his rule as was originally intended. That's an approach I don't often think of – lamenting for those who persecute the Gospel because they aren't living God's way. And, of course, keep telling people the Good News whatever happens.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that under your care and in your plan the church will grow from its humble beginning to become a mighty thing and that has reached the whole earth. I thank you for the countless people like myself who have been shown the way into the kingdom of heaven without having done the tiniest thing to deserve it. Please keep me motivated to spread your word and look forward to the kingdom growing even larger. Amen.

Luke 12:35-59

Tuesday May 30, 2006

The first section of this passage – the parable about the returning master – is sumarised neatly by the verses at either end. “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (v35) and “everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (v48). When Jesus returns, it will be bad for everyone who is not waiting for him, but worse for those who know a lot and are still ignoring his impending return. This doesn’t mean that I should stop telling people the Gospel ‘for their own good’, but preach it more and more, hoping that people will realise Jesus is coming back and will wake up.

Fire means judgement, and Jesus’ baptism is refering to his crucifixion and resurection (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12). Jesus wishes that it were over, as he’s not looking forward to it but it is still why he came. How many people today would be surprised by v51. ‘Jesus came to teach some stuff and show people how to live a nice life.’ No, he came to judge, to split up families and will sometime soon burn up the world. That’s not the Jesus that our culture knows.

And given the prophecies that had been revealed to them (John the baptist, the virgin birth, the places of Jesus’ birth and ministry, his lineage, the coming of a second, greater David had all been prophesied) they should have recognised that Jesus being here meant that judgement was coming soon. He warns them to settle guilt before it’s too late. There will be a time when it is too late, and imprisonment is all that remains. Don’t be fooled by v59, “until you have paid the very last penny” – how can anyone ever pay off the debt of offending an infinite God? It’s a bleak picture.

Heavenly father, your judgement is terrible and awesome. I thank you for the sacrifice you paid so that undeserving sinners might be saved from it. Please help me to be ready for your return and to live in a way that will glorify you especially as I have received so much love from you in your sacrifice, and so much knowledge of you from your Word. Thankyou for that amazing revelation, and let it change me. Amen.

Luke 12:13-34

Monday May 29, 2006

Here we see Jesus follow on from his previous teaching, now with a specific theme in that he is motiviating his disciples to have a godly outlook on money. He quickly dispenses with the ‘interuption’ and uses it to make his next point. This might seem like a stupidly obvious point, but Jesus really is very very smart.

Some very basic points come out of this passage:
While planning for the future is not wrong, working only for myslef and therefore being lazy when I’ve done all that I need to do is.
Work primarily for God’s kingdom, and trust that he will provide for me. This doesn’t mean I have to quit my job and go into full time paid (or unpaid!) Gospel ministry, but it does mean that fear of losing my job shouldn’t make me clam up about Jesus because I trust he will provide. That requires faith!
As well as trusting God for what you need, be generous once you have it for two reasons. Firstly, to earn treasure in heaven. Secondly, to make sure that your heart is fixed on heaven not the world. That will make all the motivation from the last passage much easier.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I would have a godly attitude about ‘my’ time and money which really always has been yours. Let me seek to put your concerns above and before my own. Amen.

Luke 11:53-12:12

Saturday May 27, 2006

After his stunning take-down of the Pharisees and the lawyers, Jesus isn’t too popular (11:53-54). It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that he takes some time now to encourage his disciples before things start to really heat up. He begins, though, by repeating some of what he said previously – that the problem is hypocrisy (v1). As everything we do in private will be made known (v2-3) it’s probably best that we behave in a way that we wouldn’t mind people seeing alongside what we say.

His pep-talk has four parts. Firstly, (v4-5) we should fear Jesus far more than we fear those who can do no more than speed our bodies. This is fear not in the sense of knee-knocking panic, but in the sense of a healthy awe. It’s so easy to forget, though, when the here and now pushes in around that there is a there and then coming soon. That’s why I need to hear these words of Jesus more. Secondly (v6-7), sparrows are worth pennies but God remembers every one. If he’s gone to the effort of counting every single hair, he’s not going to forget me! Again – I need to hear this more often, not to feel good about myself (because I’m not!) but it’s easier to live differently knowing that God won’t forget it. Thirdly (v8-10), denying Christ will mean I am denied by him before the angels. I take it that this means denying Christ as a life-choice, rather than a Christian who has a bad day. (And I’ve yet to meet anyone who has actually had a fully good day as a Christian!) Worse than speaking against Jesus is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The best explanation I have heard of this is that it’s refering to seeing the power of the Holy Spirit and then speaking against it, which would be why Mark’s gospel juxtaposes this teaching with the rebuttal of the attack that Jesus can only cast out demons by the power of Satan. They see that it’s amazing power being used for good and still decide it is evil. I don’t know, though, so again put any ideas below; it does seem fairly important, given the consequences! The final thing (v11-12) is a promise that the Holy Spirit will teach the disciples what to say when they need to defend themselves. This comes true again and again in Acts (see Acts 4:8), so I guess that I should trust it. Interestingly, though, the promise is that he will teach “in that very hour” rather than beforehand. I can’t wait until I’m ‘ready’ to evangelise or stand up for Jesus. This passage suggests that the teaching comes as and when necessary – I won’t be ready until I’m in the thick of it.

Heavenly Father, there’s a lot of amazing truth in there and I praise you that you are so caring and loving. But I don’t want to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Let me come back to this passage and these truths often and so capture every moment as a service to Christ rather than myself or the world’s patterns. Amen.