Archive for the ‘ Luke’ Category

Luke 11:37-52

Friday May 26, 2006

This passage splits neatly into two, with three woes on each side. Jesus – never one to miss a teaching opportunity – uses the Pharisee’s comment about washing to talk about true cleanness, which involves what’s inside not outside. This is emphasised when he criticises the Pharisees for not giving to the poor, despite the fact that they tithe everything down to their garden herbs. The problem isn’t rigourously sticking to the letter of the law, they should have been interested in justice and the love of God which would have compelled them to give anyway. They are also condemned for being power- and attention-hungry and for being like “open graves”. The latter may be a reference to the fact that contact with a grave made someone unclean (Numbers 16:19). The fact that the Pharisees’ lives should have been upright meant that people would follow that assuming that they were doing well – so unknowingly they were unacceptable to God.

The first charge against the lawyer (who would have done better to keep his mouth shut!) is that he loads burdens on people – by tracking down and enforcing every detail of the law – but will not help to lift them. Secondly, this generation of lawyers is counted guilty of the blood of all the prophets. The A-Z of prophets in v51 is really chronological. Abel (Genesis 4) was the first and Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24) was the last of God’s people to be murdered in the Hebrew Old Testament (which ended at Chronicles) so these two names symbolically span the course of Jewish history. By “building the tombs” for the prophets their fathers murdered (which means not condemning the murders?) and by persecuting the prophets and apostles who were sent to them this generation is as guilty as the men who killed Abel and Zechariah. The final thing is that they haven’t entered knowledge, and even worse is that they have hindered others from entering. Again, because they are the leaders, their actions affect a lot of followers which is why they need especially harsh words. By pretending that the point of religion and the Law was to make yourself perfect before God, they made it harder for people to see the truth of what Jesus was saying. The church today has been guilty of much the same thing – otherwise why would the average punter on the street think what they do about ‘being a Christian’. We need to dial down the Law and dial up Grace, justice and the love of God.

Heavenly Father, I’m sorry that I often do the things I’m supposed to do for entirely the wrong reasons. Would you keep awake in me a true love for justice and for you. Thankyou for your amazing Grace, and let that be the one consistent message that everyone I meet sees. Amen.


Luke 11:14-36

Thursday May 25, 2006

In this passage, the themes seem to go all over the place. If there is some underlying structure, I can't honestly see it. The main thrust is that Jesus has two attacks made against him which he answers in turn, but there are some other bits scattered in there.

The first attack is that he can only drive out demons by the power of the Devil (v15). Jesus' answer is complicated, and I don't understand all of the logic going through it. He seems to say that evil forces wouldn't work against each other, and that if he drives out demons by the power of the Devil, then Jewish exorcists must be doing the same. But if he's not them it proves he is more powerful that Satan, so being against him (v23) is not a good idea. Verses 24-26 (from looking at various commentaries) seem to be saying that if an unclean spirit "goes out" (of it's own accord, rather than being cast out) the heart may seem to be swept but is not washed clean by the Holy Spirit coming in. The surface is clean but it is no deeper. The former spirit can easily return. This is put up as a contrast – possibly of the Jewish exorcists who had no real power but who the spirits could 'submit' to if it helped their cause – to Jesus who drives out spirits permanently and replaces them with the Holy Spirit (v 13). I'm still confused, though, so any suggestions on a postcard, or put a comment beneath.

The second is a demand for evidence that Jesus is from Heaven. He says that he won't pander to their requests, but that the sign of Jonah (refering to his death and resurection) will be given to them but they still won't believe. The city of Ninevah will condemn this generation for their lack of repentance despite that overwhelming miracle.

In between the two answers is the charge that the truly blessed person is the one who "hears the word of God and keeps it" (v28).

At the end is the part about the eye being a lamp. Again, I'm confused. Is it that the eye controls what comes into the body and so guides it as you use a lamp to guide your way? Or is it that the eyes let you 'see' the body – they are the lamp by which you see what's going on inside – which possibly makes more sense with verse 33?

I get the feeling I'm going to have to ask someone about this whole passage. In the mean time, Jesus is good, Jesus is powerful, Jesus beat Satan, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus is much smarter than me, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Heavenly Father, how far beyond me you are. I thankyou so much for the gift of the Holy Spirit without whom I would not be able to know anything about you at all. I pray he would continue to guide me as I try to study your word and learn more about you. Let me remember that I am totally dependant on him and can't work this out by myself. I thankyou that Jesus did rise from the dead as a dramatic proof of his genuiness and I pray that his protection from unclean spirits would remain with me. Amen.

Luke 11:1-13

Wednesday May 24, 2006

The request of Jesus' disciples that he teaches them how to pray comes as a result of his own praying – they see how good he is and want some of the action. If Jesus wanted to spend time praying, how much more should I? The disciples knew that John had been teaching his disciples, so could have spoken to them and found out what he was saying but they wanted to learn from their own master. In a world saturated with books on how to have a better prayer life, it's important to come here first and learn directly from our master.

There is too much to write about this prayer, but I'll try some brief thoughts. The first priority is God's name – and surely I can't truly say that line without pausing to reflect on why God's name should be hallowed and that, surely, will lead to praise. How hard it is to pray for "daily bread" when I know that there's plenty in Sainsburies across the road. I believe that all things are provided by God, but it's often hard to really believe it. This prayer, though, ought to help. The phrasing "forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive…" is crafty. It means there's no way to pray honestly for my sins to be forgiven while I'm holding something against someone else, it means that I have to forgive before I can pray as Jesus taught. "And lead us not into temptation" – not merely a request that I'm not led into temptation, but also that I am led. Otherwise, I won't know which way to go. While this prayer is a list of five requests which God will honour, it should also search and change my heart – making sure that I praise God, that I seek his kingdom to come, remember that he provides everything, remember and confess my sins, forgive other people everything and want to avoid temptation. Jesus knew what he was doing!

Verses 5-13 give us some attitudes towards prayer. An "impudent" or shameless asking for things is good. I can often shy away from these kind of requests as I don't want to offend God but Jesus says go for it! "Ask, and it will be given to you", but remember that the top priority is God's name – so be careful what you ask. Secondly, the Father is generous as human father's are. (But more so!) "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give" you exactly what you ask for is not what v13 says. While God loves to give us good things, the only promise here is being given the Holy Spirit. Only? Isn't that the best gift that there is, when you consider that with the Holy Spirit comes the promise of a personal relationship with God, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life? And it's as simple as asking.

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.

Luke 10:25-42

Tuesday May 23, 2006

The lawyer in this account shows some perception. While we know that some religious experts of the day were demanding that the point of the Law was to make sure that you ticked all the boxes, he realised that the summaries in determined and Leviticus were the point, and everything else was explanation of how that would look. Still, he tries to "justify" himself – which means to declare himself just, rather than to make himself just. In other words, while he realises that the Law isn't about ticking boxes, he still wants to know 'who do I have to be nice to so that I will have met this?' We see this in modern Christianity all the time. "Flee from sexual immorality" says Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. So can my girlfriend and I cuddle? Kiss? How far can we go before we step over the magic line? "if [someone's gift] is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously" says Romans 12. So do I have to tithe before or after taxes? These are all good questions, and it is good to think through what God's will is for us, but we can forget that his chief will is that we be sanctified (set apart for him) so we should be spending far more time on the question 'does this make me more holy?'

Ok…back on subject. This story is used so often that it's hard to see past the Sunday School answers and learn anything new from it. But the priest and the Levite made Judaism (and God) look bad. How many times could we look at a situation where Christians and non-Christians are interacting with the world and ask 'which of those, do you think, proved to be the one transformed by grace' and get the wrong answer? This story should be told everyone and everyone should be seeking to be 'the good Samaritan', but if Christians don't lead the way, how much ridicule do we open our God to from the world? How can I tell a non-Christian about the costly, time-consuming, unexpected, undeserved love I have been given without me giving it to other people?

And Mary and Martha, another well-used episode. But it's so true that by missing out on the 'best dish' of taking time to sit at the Lord's feet, everything else can fall apart. I really haven't done that this week, and everything has fallen apart. Chances are, I'll do it again. Business for God is not an excuse for skipping time spent personally with him – but far more than that, it's nowhere near as rewarding! I need my priorities in line. I need help.

Heavenly Father, thankyou that you save by grace and through faith, rather than by our feeble efforts to tick boxes. Please help me to follow your guidance more closely, but keep my mind on the resaon and engine for doing that – Jesus Christ. Thankyou for the completely generous love that you have shown, and please help me to reflect that to people around me, and always aim to point people back to its source and not to me. I'm sorry that I haven't spent time at your feet, and haven't cherished that as much as it truly deserves. Help me to seek to make it my first priority that my soul is happy in you. Amen.

Luke 10:13-24

Sunday May 21, 2006

The first section of this passage seems to be more naturally the end of the last one. Jesus emphasises his statement that those who reject his messengers will face serious judgement. Fear of being laughed at shouldn’t stop me from talking to people about Christ – God will make everything fair on the last day.

There were many blessings to being one of the 72, many of which also belong to all Christians in some way. We have the great honour of speaking so that people hear Christ’s message (v16). We can never be hurt by any of “the power of the enemy” (v19). Our “names are written in heaven” (v20). The Son has chosen to reveal his Father to us (v22). We have seen – through the Bible – many things that “prophets and kings desired to see…and to hear” (v24).

But we are not to rejoice in what we can do in this world, or even the blessings that God has given to us. From verse 20 we can learn that we should rejoice in our status in heaven, while in verse 21 we see that Jesus rejoiced that his Father was doing things according to “[the Father’s] gracious will”. It may seem odd to thank God that he’s doing what he wants to, but if my primary will is for God’s will to be done then of course I’ll rejoice when it happens. That means I need to watch for it happening – look out for answered prayers, remember the vast number of Christians I know who it was God’s gracious will to save, be excited when God’s word is being preached faithfully. All these things make my Father joyful, so I want to rejoice in them too.

Heavenly Father, I thankyou for the status that I have in Christ. I thankyou that you are working your will in the earth, and I pray that I will seek to be part of it more. Help me to remember to watch out for you working, and to meditate on the amazing fact that my name is written in Heaven. Let me not take these for granted, and let me rejoice in them. Amen.

Luke 9:57-10:12

Saturday May 20, 2006

Back in Luke, and shortly after Jesus' transifiguration he and his disciples have set out for Jerusalem. As Jesus set off "resolutely" (ESV, "he set his face to go to Jerusalem") he expects those who want to follow him will do the same. The fishermen who dropped their nets and Matthew who left his tent booth unattended probably wouldn't have found these answers of Jesus as hard to swallow as we tend to. Jesus is no longer in just the one physical place so we can follow him wherever we are, but there is a clear challenge: what would I give up if it would serve the Lord? Would I give up material comforts? Would I leave family and friends if that's what I was asked to do? And, as I know is the case, will I take up my cross daily (9:23) and make the small sacrifices that I certainly am being called to make?

Again, when Jesus sends out the 72 the exact details of their evangelism aren't appropriate for us to follow in today's setting. But there are important principles. Firstly, when Jesus sends me (which has already happened at the Great Comission), I need to go (v1). Pray earnestly that God will send workers, and be one of the workers that I'm praying for (v2). Realise that people won't like evangelism and will do all that they can to stop me (v3). Don't trust resources to get the job done (v4). The first assessment of anyone should be that they can accept the good news (v5). Build up relationships that I can use to share the Gospel (v7). Tell people what it's all about (v9). God will deal justly with anyone who persecutes Christians because of the message we bring (v12).

Heavenly Father, I praise you as I see more evidence that you don't call us to anything you wouldn't do, as Jesus left the splendour of Heaven and a perfect relationship with you to be our Saviour. I know that so often I use my possessions and friendships wholly as things for me to enjoy when I could be using them to tell people that your kingdom is very near. Help me to follow Jesus' example in the urgency of evangelism and praying that you will send workers. Please send many more workers who have a real heart for you and for the lost. Let me trust in you for the ability to do it, and that at the last day justice will be done. Amen.

Luke 9:37-56

Tuesday February 21, 2006

After the dramatic revelations about Jesus in the previous passage (though most of the disciples did not know about the transfiguration by the beginning of this passage) we see five ways in which the disciples mess up. That’s one every four verses! But more notable is Jesus, who remains rock solid though it all, loving and patient.

The disciples are unable to drive out a demon – so Jesus rebukes it for them.
The disciples don’t understand that he must be betrayed – Jesus explains patiently.
The disciples argue about who is the greatest – Jesus instructs them clearly.
The disciples want to stop those who aren’t “one of us” – Jesus seeks to build them up.
The disciples try to destroy the town that wouldn’t welcome them – Jesus simply heads for another.

I know that I will get it wrong – both not understanding what is right and not acting on it when I do know – and it’s amazing to think of how patient Jesus was with these men and how every time he corrects them he does it in such a loving way.

And my favourite phrase in here is that “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. He knew what was coming, but he was resolute. I just love it.

Heavenly Father, thankyou so much that you sent your Son as a perfect example for us, and so that in him we could see what you are like. I praise you that despite knowing what was going to happen to him, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Thankyou for his amazing love to do that. And thankyou that when I get everything wrong you are patient and will instruct me, if I listen. Let me listen longer and harder. Amen.

Luke 9:18-36

Monday February 20, 2006

It's so easy to forget that the disciples didn't have the hindsight that we're blessed with. But in this passage, Jesus reveals a lot about himself for the first time. It starts with Peter's recognition that he is the Christ. Then he explains what it means to be the Christ – and I bet it was different to what they were expecting from God's annointed king. Then Jesus is endorsed by Moses and Elijah (the Law and the Prophets) and by God himself. It's a big week for the disciples to find out what he's all about.

But tucked away in the middle of all this is a huge challenge to the disciples and to me. The transfiguration shows that Jesus is great, but he says that he is willing to suffer death. Are they? "If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (v 23, my italics). It's not a case of being willing to perhaps one day die for the Gospel, or quitting a well-paid job. It's not just the big things, it's a daily willingness to surrender yourself. That's what strikes me from all of this. Days when I don't spend time with God I slide. Fact. Day by day I can choose whether to give into sin or not. Day by day I must choose not to. I wonder if it's intentional that in this passage Luke also refers to Jesus praying twice? To choose to live for God, I need God's help – and I need to spend time with him to remember what it is that I am struggling for.

Heavenly Father, thankyou for the revelation you have given me about you and about your Son. Please help me to live in accordance with it – to deny my desires every day. Let me increasingly have your desires in my heart, as I spend time in reading your word and in prayer. Help me to be faithful in spending time with you and I'm so sorry that I haven't been. Amen.

Luke 9:1:17

Sunday February 19, 2006

It's all about trust! Of course this passage is about many things – the Gospel being preached and Jesus demonstrating his divine power – but to me right now God is saying 'trust me'. When Jesus sent his closest friends out without any of the things that they would 'need' for the mission ahead of them they must have learned to trust in God for everything. I've heard so many stories of how people have gone on short term mission and come back so excited about what God provides when you have nothing. But then, in case they've missed the point he makes it very obvious that he can provide for them by doing it big time! And so generously – there is more waste left over than there was food to start with! Jesus didn't miscount, he wasn't foiled by a lot of people watching their figure who didn't eat much – he was making a point. Trust in me. I will provide. Plentifully. How much better than the disciples top plan of going to buy food for everyone!

Heavenly Father, thankyou that you are a great provider who will provide all that I need to serve you. Thankyou that you have the power to do all this, and the patience to remind me again and again that I need to trust in you. Help me to bring my problems to you and see how you want them solved, not using my human wisdom. Equip me to serve you better. Amen.


Sunday February 19, 2006

In verse 40, Jesus returns from across the lake, and “a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.” Do I long to see Jesus? Am I eagerly expecting him? Would I be a part of that crowd, or get on with my nice little life? Do I want to know Jesus? Not enough.

Dear Father, I want to see Jesus. I want to know you better than I did yesterday. I want to want these things more. Please.