Preaching God's Word: Luke's Gospel
We begin with the first four verses of Luke’s Gospel.
In our first look at Luke’s Book, we ask four questions:
(1) What is Luke’s story about?
(2) Where did Luke get his story from?
(3) How are we to read Luke’s story?
(4) What can we learn from Luke’s story?
(1) What is Luke’s story about?
We might ask this question differently: Who is Luke’s story about?
The answer is Jesus.
Luke is the writer of this Gospel.
Jesus is the Theme of the Gospel. Jesus is the Gospel. He is the Good News.
Luke tells us many things about Jesus.
The first thing he tells us is this: Luke’s Gospel is “an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us” (Luke 1:1).
“Fulfilled” – This is not the beginning of the story. It’s the fulfilment of a story which has been many centuries in preparation. Long before the birth of Jesus, the prophets were speaking of the Messiah or Christ who was to come.
The story told by Luke is part of a much larger story – the Story which begins at the start of Genesis and continues on to the end of Revelation.
The Gospel of Luke tells us about “the things that have been fulfilled among us”. The Christ has come. Jesus is the Messiah. God has fulfilled His promises. God has sent His Son. He is Jesus our Saviour. This is the Good News. This is God’s Good News.
(2 ) Where did Luke get his story from? Luke’s Gospel is not a work of fiction. He didn’t make his story up. It’s not a figment of his imagination. He’s telling us about things that happened. His Gospel is based on eyewitness testimony. Luke tells us that these “eyewitnesses” were also ministers (or servants) of the Word.
- When we read of the Word, our thoughts turn to God. He is the One who has given us . It is His Word.
- When we think of the Word of God, we think also of Jesus Christ. He is the living Word of God.
- We think also of the Scriptures. The Bible is the written Word of God.
- Our thoughts also turn to the preaching of God’s Word. We study the Bible, learning what it says to us concerning our Saviour.
(3) How are we to read Luke’s story? Here, we can learn from the name of Luke’s first reader – Theophilus.
In Bible times, names had their own meaning. The meaning of each name was very important.
There are two shades of meaning in the name, Theophilus. These two shades of meaning are closely related to each other. They are both concerned with love. They are both concerned with God.
Theophilus means “loved by God.” It also means “lover of God.”
“Loved by God”, “Lover of God” – these two phrases indicate to us the way in which God wants us to read the Gospel of Luke.
- We are to read the Gospel of Luke with a view to learning about God’s love. The Gospel of Luke will show us how much we are loved by God.
- We are to read the Gospel of Luke with a view to increasing our love for God. The Gospel of Luke will help us to love God more.
As we read this Gospel together, let us pray, “Lord, show me how much You love me. Lord, help me to love You more.”
(4) What can we learn from Luke’s story? We will learn many lessons as we take a close look at Luke’s Book.
In his introduction, Luke highlights one very important lesson. It is the lesson of “certainty” (Luke 1:4). We read the Gospel of Luke so that we might “know the certainty of the things we have been taught.”
Our God is trustworthy. We can put our trust in Him with confidence. God’s Word is truth. We can trust His Word. It is His Word of truth.
Reading the Gospel of Luke will strengthen our faith.
Let us pray that the Gospel of Luke will change us, making us more like Jesus.
In the Gospel of Luke, the central character is Jesus Christ.
Before the Name of Jesus appears in Luke 1:31, we read of John the Baptist who paved the way for Jesus.
In the opening chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we remember a man whose name was given to him by God. The man’s name was John. His name means “The Lord is gracious.” His name speaks of the grace of God, reaching out to many people through His ministry.
When John the Baptist preached, he called on the people of his own day to learn from the faithful of past generations. John was sent by God “to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous” (Luke 1:17).
In the story of John the Baptist, we see the greatness of a man who was “great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15).
As we think of human greatness, let’s look beyond all of it to the greatness of God.
Learning from John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17; John 1:19-34)
The birth of John the Baptist was foretold in an angelic message (Luke 1:13-17) which speaks of prayer - “your prayer is heard” (v. 13), preparation – looking forward to a time of “joy and gladness” (v. 14), power - “filled with the Holy Spirit” ( v. 15) and purpose - “he will turn many of the people to the Lord their God … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (vs. 16-17). John’s ministry is described in John 1:19-34. In his ministry, there is prayer -pointing to Christ, the One who is worthy to receive our prayers (v. 27), preparation- preparing people for Christ (v. 23), power - pointing people to the power of Christ which comes to us in the gift of the Holy Spirit, purpose -pointing people to the purpose of Christ’s coming (v. 29). Prepare for Christmas prayerfully, remembering that the power of the Christian message lies in the purpose of Christ’s coming.
Luke 1:26-38* At the beginning, we see God’s initiative (Luke 1:26).
- At the end, we see Mary’s response (Luke 1:38).
- In the centre, we see Jesus (Luke 1:31).
We see here a picture of the Christian faith and the Christian life.
- “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1).
- We say our “Amen” (Revelation 22:20).
- Jesus at the centre (the Gospels).
- Jesus is the result of God’s initiative: “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).
- Jesus is the cause of our response: “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for Me” (Galatians 2:20); “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
- Jesus is at the centre – the centre of history, the centre of the Bible, the centre of our faith, the centre of our life.
Who is this Jesus who stands at the centre of all things?
God’s angel, Gabriel, was sent to Mary. He tells us who Jesus is.
(a) He is our Saviour. The name, “Jesus”, means “Saviour.” When we call Him Saviour, we call Him by His Name.
(b) He is the Lord our God. When the angel says, “He will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), He speaks to us of the uniqueness of Jesus. He is none other than “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). He is no ordinary man. He is no mere mortal. He is nothing less than God the Son, sent down from heaven above to be our Saviour.
(c) He is our King. He is the King of kings – “His Kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:33).
As we take a close look at Luke’s Book, we will learn much about Jesus. May we learn to love, worship, follow and serve Him.
While at Elizabeth’s house, Mary praised the Lord. Her song of praise comes from the Lord and rises to the Lord.
At the heart of this song of praise, there is the “Saviour” – “my soul rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47).
Mary’s song of praise is both a joyful testimony and a call to worship.
- Mary’s song could be summed up in the words of Psalm 35:9 – “My soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in His salvation.” This is Mary’s joyful testimony. She rejoices in the Lord. She takes delight in His salvation.
At the heart of her joyful testimony, there is the “Saviour” – “my soul rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47).
- Mary’s song of praise comes to us as a call to worship, an invitation to join with her in praising the Lord. In her words of praise, we hear an echo of the call to worship, found in Psalm 34:3 – “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together.”
Mary praised the Lord. She rejoiced in the Saviour. What about us? Will we praise the Lord? Will we rejoice in the Saviour?
- When we read the Word of God, we must not read it only as an account of things that happened a long time ago. We must also ask, “What is the Lord saying to me here-and-now? This is what we must do as we read Mary’s song of praise to her Lord and Saviour.
- In Mary’s song of praise, there are many echoes of the Psalms. By looking at one of the Psalms, Psalm 138, in connection with Mary’s song of praise, we can learn to worship God like Mary did – worshipping Him with our whole heart, with faith in Him, with deep appreciation of His love.
- Taking the first and last verses of Psalm 138, we can look at Mary’s song of praise and learn (a) how she worshipped God and how we are to worship God; (b) why she worshipped God and why we must worship God; (c) about the great theme of Mary’s worship and the great theme of our worship.
(a) How Mary worshipped God and how we are to worship God
Psalm 138:1 – “I will praise You, o Lord, with all my heart.”
“With all my heart” – This is how Mary worshipped God. This is how we are to worship God.
Let us worship God with our whole heart.
(b) Why Mary worshipped God and why we are to worship GodPsalm 138:8a – “The Lord will fulfil His purpose for me.”
This was Mary’s joyful testimony. Her song of praise came immediately after Elizabeth’s words: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (Luke 1:45).
Mary rejoices in the God of perfect faithfulness. This is what we must do. We must sing from the heart: “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me” (Lamentations 3:23).
(c) The great theme of Mary’s worship and the great theme of our worship
Like the Psalmist before her, Mary rejoices in “God’s steadfast love which endures for ever” (Psalm 138:8). Before the Psalmist and after us, the great theme of all true worshippers will be, “God has loved us and we are glad.” Mary looked back to God’s promise to Abraham (Luke 1:54-55). She looked ahead to us and beyond us – all generations” – “His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”
Here, we see love at every point, love for all time, love for all of eternity.
- “The hand of the Lord was with him” (Luke 1:66).
The words of Hebrews 11:4 – “he died, but through his faith he is still speaking” provide us with an apt description of John the Baptist. He belongs to the distant past, yet his words continue to speak to us today.
- “The hand of the Lord was with him.”
As we read of the ministry of John the Baptist, we read of a man who was fully devoted to the Lord, a man who was mightily used by the Lord.
- “The hand of the Lord was with him.”
Let us pray that the hand of the Lord will be upon us. With thanksgiving, we remember those whom the Lord who has so graciously and powerfully used for His glory in past generations. We are not, however, locked in the past. We learn from the past so that we can be greatly used, in this generation, to bring men, women and children to the Saviour.
- “The hand of the Lord was with him.”
John the Baptist was a bridge between the old and the new. He followed on from the Old Testament prophets. He pointed forward to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are to be like John the Baptist. We are to be a bridge across which people travel as they make their way to Jesus Christ, the living Saviour, We build on the past, basing our teaching on the Scriptures. We learn of the Saviour as we read the Scriptures. As we seek to point sinners to the Saviour, let us pray that the Spirit will work mightily in the hearts of many and that God will be glorified as many are brought to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
- “The hand of the Lord was with him.”
The ministry of John the Baptist had a great impact on a large number of people – a “multitude came to be baptized by him” (Luke 3:7). Let us pray that God will raise up many preachers who will call many people to return to the Lord. May God grant that His faithful servants will see much fruit for their labours.
- “The hand of the Lord was with him.”This is not only about John the Baptist. It’s about us. It’s about the purpose of God for our lives. He calls us to be His witness. He calls us to be faithful and fruitful in His service. We learn from John the Baptist – “a voice crying in the wilderness” (Luke 3:4). We look at the “wilderness” of today’s world. It is a world of “ungodliness and unrighteousness.” It is a world that has fallen under the judgment of God (Romans 1:18). Is there a way back to God? John the Baptist gives us God’s answer to this all-important question. He points us to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He calls us to look away from ourselves. He calls us to look to Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). May our words, in this sinful generation, be a living echo of the voice of John the Baptist in his generation. May our words point to the Saviour. May our words call men and women to come to Christ and receive, through faith in Him, the forgiveness of all their sins.
Prior to the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, there was the birth of John the Baptist. At the time of John’s birth, his father, Zechariah, sang a song of praise to God. It is a song of praise which (a) gives thanks to God for His blessings in the past; (b) rejoices in the blessings God gives in the present; (c) looks forward to God’s blessings in the future.
- Zechariah looks back to “the holy prophets of long ago” (Luke 1:70).
- Zechariah rejoices in the birth of John – “a man sent from God” (John 1:6).
- Zechariah looks forward to the coming of Christ. John’s ministry was to “go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him” (Luke 1:76 b).
Past, present and future – This is the framework within which we live our life. We live in the present, looking back to the past and looking on to the future.
- What can we learn from Zechariah’s song of praise, as we make our journey from the past, through the future and on into the future?
- “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us” (Luke 1:70).
- “to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77).
- “the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
- How does all of this become real in our lives? – It is through “the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1;77). From beginning to end – in the past, in the present, in the future, our salvation is the work of God, the work of His tender mercy, His amazing grace, His wonderful love.
- Where do we find God’s tender mercy, His amazing grace and His wonderful love? – In the Man who was born the Babe of Bethlehem, the Man to whom John the Baptist pointed his hearers, the Man who is none other than the Son of the living God – Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. He has come. He is with us now. He will come again.
(1) He is “the horn of salvation”, raised up by God. At the heart of the Gospel, at the heart of our faith, there is Jesus Christ – “the horn of our salvation”, Jesus Christ – raised from the dead by God. We look back and we remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. In Him, we find our true strength. He is our strong Saviour.
(2) Here-and-now, Christ is with us. He is the risen Saviour. He is the living Lord. He is Emmanuel – God with us. He is with us as the One who gives to us the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins. The knowledge of salvation, the forgiveness of sins – These are the blessings we know here-and-now. Christ is not only a figure from the past and a hope for the future. He is our Saviour here-and-now.
(3) Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God, will come from heaven. he will bring His redeemed people into everlasting light and everlasting life. All of this will become a reality – an everlasting reality, through His everlasting love. let us keep our eyes fixed on our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let Him lead you in the way everlasting, the way that leads to His heavenly and eternal glory.
The story of the shepherds at Bethlehem is just one part of a much larger story – the Story of the Divine Shepherd.
“The Lord is my Shepherd.” This is the great testimony of the Psalmist in the most well-known of the Psalms – Psalm 23. The Lord is the Shepherd of love. He is the loving Shepherd. The Lord loves us. He shows His love for us in the coming of Christ to our world.
The Christmas carols announce, for us, the love of Christ, our Saviour.
- “Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine.”
- “Son of God, o how bright, Love is smiling from Thy face.”
- “Sacred Infant, all Divine, what a tender Love was Thine, thus to come from highest bliss down to such a world as this!”
The love of the Shepherd, the love of the Saviour – This is what we read of in the story of Christ. Jesus is our Saviour, our loving Saviour. Jesus is our Shepherd, our loving Shepherd.
We see His love in his birth. We see His love in His whole story – His life, His death, His resurrection, His coming again in power and glory.
As we look together at the story of the shepherds coming to Bethlehem, let us see it in the broader context of the complete Story of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who died for our sins, the Great Shepherd who, in His mighty resurrection, triumphed over death, the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to establish God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom.
(1) The shepherds came to Bethlehem to worship the Baby who was to become the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us that we might receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
The story of the shepherds and their journey to Bethlehem begins with Good News – The Saviour has been born (Luke 2:10-11). What a wonderful day it was! – the day our Saviour was born. It was a wonderful day, but it was only the beginning of a wonderful life. It was the beginning of a journey which took Jesus from the cradle of Bethlehem to the cross of Calvary. It was the beginning of a journey which would bring God’s wonderful salvation to undeserving sinners.
At the Cross of Calvary – the place where Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for us, we learn of our sin and God’s salvation. It was our sin which sent Jesus to the Cross. It is God’s salvation which Jesus brings to us through His death on the Cross. This is Good News of great joy – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
(2) The shepherds came to Bethlehem to worship the Baby who was to become the Great Shepherd who, in His resurrection, triumphed over death.
On the night that Christ was born, the shepherds were given an almost overwhelmingly awesome demonstration of the heavenly glory of God: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests’” (Luke 2:13-14).
At the beginning of Christ’s life on earth, there was a mighty revelation of God’s glory.
At the end of His life on earth, there was another mighty demonstration of God’s heavenly glory – God raised Jesus from the dead.
One of the Christmas songs – “Mary’s Boy Child” – contains the words, “Man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day.” We could also sing, “Man will live forevermore because of Easter Day.” The Child who was born at Bethlehem became the mighty risen Lord – Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
As we celebrate Christ’s birth – the beginning of His life on earth, we must allow our thoughts to move on to the end of His earthly life – His mighty resurrection from the dead. When we do this, we will understand the true and full meaning of the final verse of the Christmas carol, “Hark! the herald angels sing”: “Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and Life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings. Mild he lays His glory by, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”
(3) The shepherds came to Bethlehem to worship the Baby who was to become the Chief Shepherd who will come again to establish God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom, the only Kingdom which shall endure forever.
Immediately after Christmas, our thoughts begin to turn towards the New Yea. the future is beckoning us. The future is calling on us. We must move forward. We must step into the future. God’s future. God is calling us to move into the future with Him.
In the story of the shepherds who went to Bethlehem to worship the Baby jesus, we have a striking contrast between the past and the future – what the shepherd were, what the shepherds became.
At the beginning of the story, we find the shepherds keeping watch over their sheep. At the end of the story, we find the shepherds glorifying and praising God. they were changed by what happened to them that night. They would never be the same again. They were new men. they had seen the lord and it had changed them.
“Glorifying and praising God” – This was the response of the shepherds to the revelation given to them on the night of Christ’s birth. They caught a glimpse of the heavenly worship and they began to worship God with hearts full of praise to Him.
In the story of the first Christmas, we catch a glimpse of something more – the Christ who came to Bethlehem is the Christ who will come again in the fullness of His divine glory: “Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by, we shall see Him but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high, when, like stars, His children crowned, all in white shall wait around.”
Here, we have the naming of the Baby (Luke 2:21). His Name was given to Him by God. His Name is Jesus – “Jesus! Name of wondrous love.” His Name is the Name of our salvation. His Story is the Story of our salvation.
Following on from the story of His birth, we have the first step towards the Future, His future, our future in Him. We are pointed in the direction of this future by two people who had waited for the coming of the Saviour – Simeon and Anna. For both Simeon and Anna, the past (the time of waiting) had come to an end and the future (the time of salvation) had begun. The end of the old, the beginning of the new – This is particularly relevant at the beginning of a New Year. The New Year is not only a change in the number of the year. It’s a time when the Lord is inviting us to put the past behind us and move into the future with Him.
As we move forward with God, we can learn from Simeon and Anna. In the welcome given to Christ by Simeon and Anna, we learn that the Story of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, is a Story of revelation, resurrection and redemption.
- In Christ, there is revelation.
- In Christ, there is resurrection.
- In Christ, there is redemption.
- In Christ, there is revelation.
God has revealed Himself to us.He has spoken His Word to us. Jesus Christ is His living Word. God has made Himself known to us. He has shown to us the way of salvation. Jesus Christ is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). He is the Way without which there is no going. He is the Truth without which there is no knowing. He is the Life without which there is no living. This is revelation. This is God making Himself known to us. We are not left groping around in the darkness, trying to find our own way back to God. Jesus is the Way to God. We are not left in a state of confusion – the confusion of uncertainty. we have received a revelation of God’s truth – Jesus Christ is the Truth. we are not left without hope. God has given us hope for the future. Jesus is our Hope. In Him, we have life – eternal life.
- In Christ, there is resurrection.
None of us knows what each year will bring into our lives. There may be hard times ahead of us. we have no guarantee that our life will be easy. In Jesus Christ, we have a Saviour who enables us to look beyond our present circumstances to our glorious, heavenly destiny. Jesus Christ is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). By ourselves, left to our own devices, we fall into sin, we fall away from God. With Christ as our Saviour, we are raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4). Through faith in Him, we receive God’s gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Christ is our life – not only for this life here on earth. He is our life – for all eternity in heaven.
- In Christ, there is redemption.
The future towards which we look forward, through faith in Jesus Christ, is not only a future which is summed up in the greeting, “Happy New Year.” It is a future which is summed up in the word, “redemption.” This is a word which teaches us that true happiness is not found in ourselves. True happiness is found in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. In Him, we have “eternal redemption.” This redemption has been secured for us by the shedding of the precious blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). We have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). Through Jesus Christ our Saviour, crucified and risen for us, God is calling us on to heavenly and eternal glory.
At the time of Christ’s presentation at the Temple, the Story of revelation, resurrection and redemption was still in its infancy. The Story of revelation, resurrection and redemption was just beginning to unfold. The next step in the Story of revelation, resurrection and redemption is summed up in Luke 2:40 – “the Child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” In the growth of the Child, there is an invitation to us: Will we grow with Him? Will we go from strength to strength? Will we grow in grace? Will we increase in wisdom? May God help us to make real progress in spiritual growth. May God help us to grow in Christ.
When Jesus was found in the Temple, He said something which Joseph and Mary didn’t understand. It’s something we must think about, something we must seek to understand of we are to understand Jesus – who He is and what is important to Him.
In the words of Jesus found in Luke 2:49, we come to the very heart of Jesus – who He is and what is important to Him. Jesus’ words are in the form of a question. It’s a question which reveals to us who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. It’s a question which reveals to us what was important to Jesus. He loved to be in His Father’s House. He loved to be about His Father’s business.
There are two different but closely related versions of Jesus’ question. Modern translations of the Bible put it like this: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s House?” The Authorized Version puts it like this: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
From this question, we learn three lessons about Jesus – (1) He is the Son of God; (2) He loved to be in His Father’s House; (3) He loved to be about His Father’s business.
(1) Jesus is the Son of God.Each of the four Gospels tell us that Jesus is the Son of God.
- In Luke’s Gospel, we have the angelic declaration: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the Name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). Jesus is “the Son of the Most High.” He is the Son of God.
- Mark’s Gospel begins with a clear statement that Jesus is the Son of God. the very first verse says this: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Jesus is the Son of God. This is the first thing that Mark wants us to know about Jesus.
- John tells us why he wrote his Gospel: “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 20:31). Jesus is the Christ. he is the Son of the living God.
- In Matthew’s Gospel, we have Peter’s great confession of faith in Christ: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). This was Peter’s response of faith. This is to be our response of faith. It is by faith in Jesus Christ that we become God’s children. Through faith in Jesus, the unique Son of God, the eternal Son of God, we are able to call God, “our Father.”
(2) Jesus loved to be in His Father’s House.Worship was important to Jesus. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He affirmed His commitment to worshipping God. He said to Satan, “You shall worship the Lord your God.” He still says to us, “You shall worship the Lord your God.” Worship – This is the reason we come to our Father’s House. This is why we begin our service with the words, “Let us worship God.” Jesus worshipped God. We are to worship God. Jesus takes His place in God’s House. He invites us to join Him. He says to us, “Let us go to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1).
(3) Jesus loved to be about His Father’s business.As well as worshipping God, Jesus also witnessed for Him and worked for Him. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He affirmed His commitment to working for God and witnessing for Him. When Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God”, He did not stop there. He continued, “and Him only shall you serve.” Jesus spoke these words to Satan. he still says to us, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8).
When our service of worship, in the House of the Lord, comes to an end, our service of work and witness, in the world, begins. as we go out from the House of the Lord, God’s Word still says to us, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The third chapter of Luke’s Gospel begins with John. It ends with Jesus. The whole chapter may be summed up in the words of John 3:30 – “Christ must increase, but I must decrease.” Here, we have the vital principle of true Christian living and faithful Christian witness.
In our Christian living, we must pray that there will be less of self and more of Christ. In our Christian witness, we must seek always to point away from ourselves to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ baptism is described in Luke 3:21-22. In His baptism, we catch a glimpse of much more than Jesus, the Man. In Jesus’ baptism, we see God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the deep, eternal background to the Story of Jesus, the Man. When we look behind the scenes, we see God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Baptism is carried out in the Name of God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is done in obedience to Jesus’ Final Commission to His disciples – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
In baptism, we pray for the blessing of God. we pray that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will rest upon those who are baptized. In baptism, we commit ourselves to the God-given task of teaching those who have been baptized to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
How are we to know the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit? How will this blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – equip us for living in obedience to Jesus Christ? What can we learn about the blessing of God? How can this blessing become a reality in our life?
At Jesus’ baptism, there was a mighty revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This revelation of God was given while Jesus “was praying” (Luke 3:21). Jesus was praying. While He was being baptized, Jesus was praying. This tells us something very important about baptism. In baptism, we are praying. We are thanking God for His love. We are looking to Him for His blessing. Prayer is vital if we are to enjoy God’s blessing. God will not send His blessing to those who refuse to pray. God’s blessing comes when His people pray. We must learn to pray if we want to see God’s blessing coming upon us with power.
What happened when Jesus prayed at the time of His baptism?
Three things happened – three things which, together, formed a wonderful revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
(1) Heaven was opened and the voice of God the Father was heard.
(2) Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God. This was the testimony of God Himself: “a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My Son, whom I love. With You, I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22).
(3) “Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:21).
All of these things – this revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – can be summed up in the words, “heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). The opening of heaven for the voice of God the Father and the descent of God the Holy Spirit marked the divine confirmation of the earlier opening of heaven when Jesus was born. This opening of heaven at the time of Jesus’ birth has been well expressed in the words of hymns of worship; “Who came down from heaven to earth? – Jesus Christ our Saviour”; “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all.”
Jesus Christ is our Saviour. He is our Lord. He is our God. This is the testimony of God the Father. this is the testimony of God the Holy Spirit. Both the Father and the Holy Spirit direct our attention to Jesus Christ, our Saviour,m our Lord and our God.
- Why do we believe in Jesus? Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, simply because Luke, together with Matthew, Mark and John, tells us that He is the Son of God? No! Our faith is not based merely on human testimony. we believe in Jesus because God has told us, “This is my beloved Son.” We think back to the birth of Jesus. We remember the testimony of the angel: “Today, in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Here, at Jesus’ baptism, we have the divine confirmation of this revelation concerning Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.
As well as the testimony of God the Father, we also have the testimony of God the Holy Spirit. we do not believe in Jesus, simply because we have heard about Him in the Bible or heard preaching about Him. it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith in Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who brings the words of the Bible to life for us. it is the Holy Spirit who takes the words of the preacher and brings them home to the hearts of the hearers with divine power. the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. the Holy Spirit still descends upon us as we read and hear God’s Word. The Holy Spirit leads us to put our faith in Jesus.
- What do God the Father and God the Holy Spirit tell us about Jesus? How does God, speaking to us in the power of the Holy Spirit, show us what Jesus means for us? God tells us that Jesus is His “beloved Son.” God tells us that He is well pleased with His Son – our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. God tells us that we, “in Christ”, we become God’s children – His sons and His daughters. God tells us that, when we are “in Christ”, having put our faith in Him, God is well pleased with us. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, God spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven. This is part of the Story of our Lord Jesus Christ.Through faith in Jesus Christ, the speaking of God and the descent of the Holy Spirit become a part of the story of our life.
We must not think of our own story of coming to faith in Christ purely in terms of human influences. True faith is always more than something merely human. Faith is God-given. It’s the gift of God. Real faith in Christ is more than the work of a persuasive preacher or an eloquent evangelist. It’s always the work of God. The heavens are opened, God speaks, the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus is exalted among us and we put our faith in Him.
Jesus is like us. Jesus is different from us. How is Jesus like us? How is Jesus different from us? Jesus was tempted. That's how He's like us. Jesus didn't sin. That's how He's different from us. Jesus was in the wilderness. The people of God were in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:1-10). There's the similarity. Jesus found Himself in the same place of danger as the people of Israel. How is Jesus different from the people of Israel? They sinned. He didn't sin.In Luke 3:23-38, we travel from Jesus back to Adam. As we compare Jesus and Adam, we find the same combination of similarity and difference. Like Adam, Jesus was tempted. Unlike Adam, Jesus didn't sin. Adam fell into sin. Jesus stood firm, victorious over Satan.The story of our life is the same as the story of Israel and the story of Adam. It is the story of sin. The Story of Jesus is very different. His Story is the story of temptation, but it's not the story of sin. His Story is the story of victory over temptation.Jesus won the victory over Satan. How did He win the victory? How can we be victorious in our battle with Satan? We read about Jesus in His wilderness of temptation and we ask, "How can He help us in our wilderness of temptation?" The wilderness is a terrible place. It's a place of great danger. When we are in the wilderness of testing, our faith is put to the test. We wonder, "Is God really there? Is God really with us? Will God really help us when we are in the wilderness of temptation?"Jesus shows us God's answers to our questions. God is with us in the wilderness. God is there to help us. How does God help us? He helps us in the same way that He helped Jesus. The Spirit of God and the Word of God - These are the divine resources given to Jesus in the time of His testing. The Spirit of God and the Word of God - These are the divine resources which have been given to us.Strengthened by the Spirit of God and armed with the Word of God, Jesus was triumphant over Satan. Strengthened by the Spirit of God and armed with the Word of God: This was the way of victory for Jesus. This is the way of victory for us. Why has God given us His Spirit and His Word? God gives us His Spirit and His Word so that we might do His will - living in obedience to His Word, as we obey the promptings of His Spirit. The Word of God shows us the will of God. The Spirit of God gives us the strength to do the will of God.Must our story always be "Temptation leads to sin"? Jesus shows us another way. Jesus shows us a better way. Jesus shows us that we can be tempted without sinning. He says to us, "Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). Temptation comes knocking on our door. Do we open the door to temptation? Or, do we keep the door of our heart firmly closed? We enter into temptation when we open the door of our heart to the temptations brought to us by Satan. We overcome Satan when we close the door of our heart to his temptations.Temptation leads to sin. This is not an inevitable sequence of our life. Temptation leads to sin. This sequence can be broken. It can be broken by obedience, obedience to the Word of God, obedience to the promptings of the Spirit of God. We will be tempted. There is no question about that. There is, however, an important question we must ask ourselves: "When we are tempted, will we sin or will we win the victory?There is a way of victory over temptation. God had given us His promise - His promise of victory over temptation. God tells us that when we are tempted, he will provide for us a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus is God's way of escape. Jesus is God's way of victory. The way of escape is the way of victory. The way of escape is the way of following Jesus. This is the way of victory - the way of following Jesus.When we are tempted, we must believe that Jesus is with us in our temptations. He is our Saviour. He is there beside us to deliver us from evil. He is there to break the chain of evil. He is there to lead us from temptation to victory. Satan's chain of evil tells us, "Temptation leads to sin." Jesus tells us, "Satan's chain of evil can be broken."How can we be "more than conquerors" in our battle with Satan? God's answer to our question is Jesus Christ. God points us to His Son, Jesus. He speaks to us of Jesus, our Saviour. He tells us that Jesus died for our sins. Through faith in Him, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. Through faith in Him, we are led in the way of victory over sin. God calls us to put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He calls us to come to Christ and receive and enjoy His wonderful salvation: "He breaks the power of cancelled sin. He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me. He speaks and, listening to His voice, new life the dead receive."
Behind the Story of Jesus as a Man, living on earth, there is another Story - the heavenly Story, the divine Story, the eternal Story, the Story of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We have seen this divine dimension in the stories of Christ's birth, baptism and temptations. Now, we see it again at the beginning of His ministry.
In the story of His birth, we have this description of Christ - "He will be called the Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:32). We are told that His birth was a direct result of the work of the Holy Spirit. To Mary, these words were spoken, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" (Luke 1:35).
In the story of His baptism, we hear the voice of God the Father - "You are My Son whom I love, with You I am well pleased" - and we see the descent of the Holy Spirit - "the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove" (Luke 3:22).
In the story of His temptations, we learn about the power of the Spirit of God and the Word of God in Jesus' life. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus defeats Satan by taking His stand on the written Word of God (Luke 4:1; Luke 4:4).
In His description of His ministry, Jesus says that He has come to preach the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. He has come to "proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (Luke 4:19). He has come to say, "Now is the day of God's favour, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). He brings this message of Good News in the power of "the Spirit of the Lord" (Luke 4:18).
In this introduction to Jesus' ministry, we learn about (1) Jesus' message; (2) Jesus' hearers; (3) Jesus' power.
(1) Jesus' Message
What is the message that Jesus has brought to the world? Jesus brings "Good News" to the world. It is the Good News of God's love. This is the Good News that was announced by the angel at the time of Christ's birth - "I bring you Good News of great joy" (Luke 2:10). This is the Good News of which we read in John 3:16 - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." This is the Good News proclaimed by Paul in his Letter to the Romans: "God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
(2) Jesus' Hearers
To whom does Jesus bring this message of Good News? The Good News is for everyone. When the angel brought the Good News of Christ's birth, He said, This is Good News "for all the people"(Luke 2:10).' When Jesus spoke of God's love, He spoke of God's love for the world. When Jesus spoke of His ministry to "the poor", "the prisoners", "the blind" and "the oppressed" (Luke 4:18-19), He is not limiting His ministry to certain types of people. He is describing the spiritual condition of every one of us. He calls upon each of us to recognize our need of Him as Saviour.
We are spiritually poor. We are like beggars who can only come to God, pleading for His mercy - "Nothing in my hand, I bring. Simply to Thy Cross, I cling." Our spiritual poverty is described in terms of Satan's power over us. We are His prisoners. We are spiritually blind. we are oppressed by Satan. Christ has come to set us free - "If the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). He has come to open our eyes. He has come to show us Himself as Saviour. He has come to give us this testimony: "Once I was blind, but now I see" (John 9:25). He has come to give us a song to sing: "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see." Satan will oppress us - just like he oppressed our Saviour. Oppressed by Satan, we must look to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we look to our Saviour and see Him victorious over Satan, we must learn to see ourselves in Christ. In Him, we are strong. We stand in His strength. We are "more than conquerors in Him" (Romans 8:37).
(3) Jesus' Power
Jesus' ministry is described in Luke 4:22 as a ministry of God's grace - "the gracious words that came from His lips." The power of Jesus' ministry comes from the message given to Him by God the Father and the submission of His life to the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' ministry was a ministry of the Word of grace. It was a demonstration of the power of the Spirit of grace. If we are to be like Jesus, speaking gracious words, words which come from God, our loving, heavenly Father, words which are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we must give careful attention to the Good News of Jesus Christ and we must pray for the powerful presence of the Spirit of God: "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me." This is what we must pray for - the shaping of our lives by Jesus Christ through the Gospel he brings to us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Saviour, know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word, and make me pure within.
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine.Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;I now surrender, Lord - in me abide.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;Send a revival- start the work in me:Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
There is a great difference between the love of power and the power of love. We see this difference in the Story of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we see the power of love. In those who opposed Christ, we see the love of power. This contrast between the power of love (Jesus) and the love of power (the enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ) can be seen from the very beginning of His Story.
In Jesus' birth, we see the love of God and the power of God. Jesus' birth was a mighty demonstration of God's power. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was born of the Virgin Mary. The birth of Jesus - This was God at work in mighty power. Jesus' birth was the supreme demonstration of God's love. Jesus brings God's love to us. He is God with us. In Jesus, we see the power of love, the love of God.
The birth of Christ brought a terrible reaction from the evil king, Herod. His terrible reaction was motivated by the love of power. Herod was the king. He didn't want his power to be threatened by this Baby who had been born at Bethlehem. In love with his own power, Herod tried to do away with Jesus. He failed - but what a cost there was for other babies and families in Bethlehem. The love of power is a terrible thing. Thank God that the power of love has not been defeated by the love of power. Thank God that the power of love will not be defeated by the love of power.
In Jesus' baptism and temptations, we see the same thing again. In Jesus, we see the power of love. He is God's beloved Son. He is filled with the power of God's Spirit. Jesus' baptism was followed by His temptations. The temptation to do evil comes from Satan, a fallen angel who was so fascinated by the love of power that he tried to put himself in the place of God. He failed - but what a cost there has been in human lives, brought to ruin by Satan. When we think of Satan's love of power, we are filled with fear. When, however, we think of the power of Christ's love, we are filled with joy. Satan has failed to defeat our Lord. Jesus Christ, our Saviour, has triumphed. He has won the victory over Satan. The conflict between Christ and Satan continues - but it is not a battle between equals and there is no doubt about the final outcome. Christ is Lord. The victory belongs to Christ.
The contrast between the love of power and the power of love - This is what we have in the conflict between Jesus and the evil spirit which had taken control of the poor man in the synagogue.
Jesus was teaching God's Word with "authority" (Luke 4:32). The power of love was at work among the people when Jesus brought the Word of God to them. The power of Jesus was not, however, the only power at work in the synagogue that day. There was also the power of Satan. In Satan, we see something very different from the power of Christ's love. In Satan, we see the love of power. He will try to take control of our hearts and lives just like he took control of the man who shouted out in the synagogue.
This miracle in the synagogue - the victory of Christ over Satan in the life of the demon-possessed man - highlights the whole purpose of Christ's coming to our world: "The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). In this miracle in the synagogue, we catch a glimpse of Christ's final victory over Satan. Satan will be utterly and completely defeated. Christ's triumph will be an absolute and total triumph.
While we are here on earth, there will always be conflict. We cannot get away from this. Satan is very busy. He is doing all that he can to keep men and women from coming to Jesus Christ, putting their faith in Him, following Him, dedicating their lives to Him.
The Bible speaks to us of Christ's victory over Satan by pointing us back to the past. Christ won the victory over Satan when he died and rose again for us. It speaks also of Christ's victory over Satan by pointing us forward to the future. When Christ returns in great power and glory, His victory will be seen in all its completeness. Between the past - Christ's death and resurrection - and the future - Christ's coming again in great power and glory, there is the present - here and now. It is in the present, in the here and now, that we are to win the victory over Satan in the strength of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
By faith, we are to claim the victory, won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ when He died on the Cross for us, when he rose victorious from the grave. By faith, we are to begin to enter into Christ's victory over Satan, which will be seen, in all its fullness, when He comes again, at the end of time, to establish God's eternal Kingdom.
How are we to claim the victory Christ won for us? How are we to enter into the victory into which He is calling us? We are to put our faith in Him. Trusting in Christ means trusting in His Word and trusting in His power. We learn about trusting in Christ, as we look at the reaction of the people to Christ's great miracle in the synagogue - "All the people were amazed and said to each other, 'What is this teaching? With authority and power He gives orders to evil spirits and they come out" (Luke 4:36). Here, we have Jesus' teaching, Jesus' authority and Jesus' power. We trust in His teaching. We receive His Word. It is the Word of love, which brings salvation to us. We trust in His power. We believe that he is able to do great things in and through us. We trust in His authority. This is our confession of faith. Jesus is Victor. This is the faith upon which we must take our stand. Let's live by faith and walk in victory, and may news of Christ's love spread throughout the surrounding area (Luke 4:37).
“I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43). “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed … (a Kingdom that) will endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).“Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Take both phrases together. The second explains the first. As well as thinking of God’s Kingdom as the one and only Kingdom which will stand forever, we should think also in terms of the Lord ruling over our hearts and lives here-and-now. When Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God, He was not simply preaching a Kingdom which would come in the distant future. He was also calling upon His hearers to submit their hearts and lives to the rule of God. This is still the Word of God to us today. This is the challenge of God’s Kingdom for us today. Here-and-now, God is calling us to submit to His rule by doing His will. When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come”, we must also pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”The Story of Jesus is not only a story. It’s a story with a meaning. When we read the Story of Jesus, we do not only ask the question, “What is the story?” We also ask the next question, “What does the story mean?” We do not only ask, “What happened?” We also ask, “What is the meaning of the things that happened while Jesus was on earth?”“I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God … that is why I was sent.” Here, we have Jesus’ answer to the question: “What is the meaning of Jesus’ life?” God is speaking to us when we read the Story of Jesus. God is speaking to us about His Kingdom. He is calling us to crown Him as the King of our life.Let’s think about the Story of Jesus. What does it teach us about the Kingdom of God? In Luke 3, we read about John the Baptist, the man who prepared the way for our Lord Jesus Christ. John did not draw attention to himself. He pointed away from himself to Jesus. John was the servant of God. Jesus is the Son of God. The baptism of Jesus shows us how special Jesus was - “You are My Son whom I love; with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This is the first thing we must say about the Story of Jesus. It’s not only the story of what Jesus said and what Jesus did. It’s the story of who Jesus is. Jesus is much more than a mere man - even a great man. He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16).Following on from the baptism of Jesus, we read about His temptations in the wilderness. Satan refuses to submit to God’s rule. He refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King. He tries to draw Jesus from His pathway of obedience to the Father’s will. Satan fails in his evil purpose. In the wilderness, we see Jesus as Lord and King. He was Lord and King then. He is Lord and King now.Jesus is our Lord and King. He comes from the wilderness to begin His ministry. It is a ministry of love and power. In His ministry, we see the power of love. We see Jesus as the King of love. In His words, we hear the voice of love. In His actions, we see His hand of love, touching people’s lives and changing them, making them better. He changed peoples’ lives then. He still changes them now.When we read about Jesus, we are reading about events which happened a long time ago. We are also asking about our life here-and-now, “How can the love and power of Jesus Christ our Lord and King become real in our lives in today’s world?” When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are not only thinking of a future Kingdom which is still to come. We are praying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to pray, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” Jesus did the will of God. we are to do the will of God. Jesus lived in obedience to God. We are to live in obedience to God. The life of joyful obedience is, for us, a foretaste of the heavenly and eternal glory of God’s Kingdom. Our life on earth is to be like life in heaven. This is what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” “As it is in heaven” - These are very important words. They remind us that living the life of God’s Kingdom involves looking beyond or life here-and-now, as we catch a glimpse of the glory of God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom.Here on earth, we see kingdoms rising and falling. We see them in their power and glory. We see them going into decline, becoming a mere shadow of what they once were. While all of this is happening, God is building His Kingdom, His eternal Kingdom, the only Kingdom which will stand forever. In all the confusing events of international politics, we must never forget this - God has not abandoned His purpose of salvation. He is still building His eternal Kingdom which shall never be destroyed.Jesus preached the Good News of God’s Kingdom. His Kingdom will come - but we must wait for it. We must wait patiently. We must keep on believing that God’s Kingdom will stand for ever. When all earth’s kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents have come and gone, there will be one King who remains - our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. The message of Jesus still comes to us as the message of God’s Kingdom. Jesus made the Kingdom of God His highest priority and He calls us to make the Kingdom of God our highest priority: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).How are we to seek first God’s Kingdom? How are we to seek His righteousness? We must pray for more of the fear of the Lord. We must pray for more of the love of the Lord. The fear of God does not mean being afraid of God. It means loving God so much that we are afraid of hurting Him by sinning against Him. We pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” This is to be more than our hope for the future. It’s to be the dedication of our lives here-and-now. May God help us to crown Him as the King of our lives here-and-now.
Luke 5:1-11Jesus calls us to follow Him. He says to each of us, "Follow Me." His words come to us as a Word of challenge. Before the Word of challenge, there is the Word of love. "Follow Me" - These words come to us from the Saviour whose heart is full of love for us. He speaks to us with amazing grace. He speaks to us with boundless mercy. He speaks to us with the wonderful love. His love is the greatest love of all. When we hear the words, "Follow Me", we must remember that it is our Saviour who speaks these words to us. His words speak to us of His love, His grace and His mercy. Once we hear the Word of Christ as a Word of love, grace and mercy, we see the real meaning of the challenge contained in the words, "Follow Me." God is calling us to live in the power of His love. We are to let His love change us. This is what it means to follow Jesus. It means that we are to be changed by His love.In the story of the calling of the first disciples, we see the importance of building our lives on the Word of God. The story begins with Jesus preaching the Word of God. In Luke 5:1, we see Jesus standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. The people are crowding round Him. They are listening to the Word of God. In Luke 5:3, Jesus sits down and teaches the people from the boat.The preaching of the Gospel and the teaching of God's Word - Here, we have the God-given foundation for our life of faith and obedience, our life of following our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.The Word of God is the Word that comes from God. It is the Word that tells us of God. The Word of God comes to us as a Word of love, a Word of grace and a Word of mercy. The Word, which God speaks to us, is also a Word of challenge. It is a Word which calls us to follow Christ. God has spoken His Word to us. It is His Word of love, grace and mercy.Now, we must speak His Word for Him. We gather together to worship Him. When we go out from the place of worship, we are sent out to the place of witness. Our service of worship comes to an end. It is the beginning of our service of witness. Once we have heard God's Word in God's House, we must go out and make His Word known to others. We must invite them to join with us in worshipping the Lord.We see Jesus preaching and teaching God's Word. We see the people listening to God's Word. They are learning from God's Word. Like them, we must listen and learn. May God give us grace to be faithful - faithful in preaching and teaching, faithful in listening and learning.What do we learn as we listen to the Word of the Lord? One thing we learn from Jesus is this - He didn't only preach in the synagogue. He was also an open air preacher. By the lakeside, Jesus preached. From the boat, Jesus preached. His message is to be kept locked up in our places of worship. We are to take His message to others. We are to pass on the message of His love to the people we meet.Jesus challenged Simon Peter to "launch out into the deep." This is what we must do if we are to become "fishers of men." "Launching out into the deep" - This is the challenge of witness. It is also the challenge of worship. It is the challenge of reaching out to others. It is also the challenge of allowing the Lord to reach deeply into our hearts and change us. The Lord is looking at us and He is saying to us, "There needs to be more depth. Your love for Me is too superficial. It is too shallow. I want you to "launch out into the deep" with Me."In Psalm 42:7, we read the words, "Deep calls to deep." The Bible speaks to us of "the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10). It speaks to us of "the deep truths of the faith" (1 Timothy 3:9). God is looking for a real depth of response from us. May God help us to listen to His Word. May God help us to learn from His Word. May God help us to really appreciate His wonderful love. May God help us to say with the Psalmist, "How precious is Your unfailing love!" (Psalm 36:7). As we rejoice in the love of the Lord, we will enjoy the abundance of His blessing - "They feast in the abundance of Your House; You give them drink from Your river of delights" (Psalm 36:8).
Jesus' healing miracles speak to us of His power to heal. They also speak of His power to save. When we read about Jesus, the Healer, we learn also about Jesus, the Saviour. Here, we read about a leper being healed by Jesus. Leprosy is a horrible disease. It ruins the lives of those who suffer from it. There is, however, another disease which affects every one of us. Sin is a horrible disease. There is only one cure from this deadly disease - Jesus, our Saviour. Jesus' healing miracles point us to another healing, which every one of us needs. It is the healing of His salvation. Jesus heals broken hearts. Jesus puts broken lives back together again.
There is a spiritual sickness which comes into our lives when we refuse to pay attention to what God is saying to us concerning the way He wants us to live. When we have turned our backs on God, He does not abandon us. He continues to call upon us. He calls us to turn around, to turn back to Him. Turning back to the Lord will involve listening attentively to what He says to us in His Word. It will involve taking time to pray to the Lord. This turning to the Lord will involve both public worship and private prayer.
In Luke 5:16, we see the importance of private prayer in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ - "He withdrew to the desert and prayed" (RSV), "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (NIV). "Often" - Over and over again, Jesus spent time, praying to God. This was not an occasional thing in Jesus' life. This was the regular pattern of His life. As we see Jesus praying, we are challenged to make prayer a central feature of our own lives: "Awake, my soul, and with the sun, thy daily stage of duty run. Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise, to pay thy morning sacrifice." Jesus lived a busy life yet He still found time to pray. This is a challenge to us. Are we too busy to pray? If we are too busy to pray, then we are too busy. If Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray! Jesus prayed, and the power of God flowed through Him. May God help us to make prayer thr great priority of our lives. May God help us to be the kind of praying people through whom God can work in mighty power as He brings the healing power of His salvation into our congregation and community.
Here, we see Jesus engaging in private prayer. On other occasions, we see Jesus gathering with other worshippers in the synagogue. Jesus knew that, in promising to bless the gathering together of His praying people, God had placed special emphasis on "the prayers offered in this place" (2 Chronicles 7:14-16). We also see Jesus gathering His disciples around Him. They receive instruction from Him. He teaches them to pray. When we Jesus in the synagogue and Jesus with His disciples, we understand that His withdrawal to lonely places was very different from the loneliness of those who keep themselves to themselves, refusing to commit themselves to worshipping and praying with others. That kind of loneliness is very different from His "being alone with God" we see here in Jesus. there is nothing spiritual about the attitude which says, "I don't need other people." There is a great deal of pride in those who refuse to give themselves to one another within the fellowship of God's people, gathered together for worship and prayer. As well as learning about the need for regular private prayer, we also learn, from Jesus, about the importance of worshipping and praying with God's people.
For Jesus, being alone with God was a vital part of His life. It is to be a vital part of our life. We must find time for being alone with God. Jesus had a busy public ministry. He needed to take time to receive strength from His Heavenly Father. We need the strength which comes from being alone with God. Jesus said, "Come apart and rest awhile." We might add the comment, "If you don't rest awhile, you'll come apart." We can learn a great deal about prayer as we follow Jesus, learning from Him in the school of prayer. We learn from the times that Jesus prayed. We learn from the way in which Jesus prayed.
(1) Praying to God the Father
Jesus didn't pray to a faraway God, a God who didn't care. Jesus prayed to His loving, Heavenly Father. When Jesus prayed, He was speaking to the God of perfect love. This is the God to whom we pray, the God who loves us. He is our Father, the Father who loves us with the greatest love of all. When we come into God's presence, we must remember this - He is our loving Father.
(2) Praying at all times
Many people only pray when they're in trouble. Jesus was not like this. He prayed in the hard times. He prayed in the good times. He prayed at all times. Let's follow Jesus, remembering to give thanks for God's goodness when things are going well as well as asking for His help when things are not going so well. If we are to learn to follow Jesus, we must learn to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Let's pray at all times with joyful thanksgiving. In our prayer, let there be thinking and thanking. Think about what God has done for you and thank Him for it. Let this be our "everyday" prayer.
(3) Worshipping the Lord in our prayers
Some people think of prayer in terms of asking for things. They bring a "shopping list" with them - This is what I want. For Jesus, prayer was much more than that. He worshipped God - "Hallowed be Thy Name." He entered into God's presence, enjoying fellowship with God. He was more aware of God, learning what God wanted - "Thy will be done" - rather than being preoccupied with Himself - "This is what I want." How can we learn to worship God in our prayers? How can we bring our lives into line with His will? We must learn to spend time listening to God as well as speaking to Him. He speaks to us through His Word. We speak to Him in prayer.
The forgiveness of our sins - What a wonderful blessing this is! God invites us to come to Him and be forgiven by Him - "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). As we think together about the forgiveness of our sins, may we join with the Psalmist in praying, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7).
The forgiveness of our sins - This is the great theme which stands at the heart of this marvellous story of divine healing. We read about a miracle of healing. We also read the precious and treasured words of Luke 5:20 - "Friend, your sins are forgiven." The forgiveness of sins lies at the very heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful blessing it is to hear the Word of the Lord, which says to us, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." The story of the healing of the paralyzed man teaches us about the forgiveness of our sins. It also speaks to us about bringing others to Jesus so that they also may hear His Word of forgiveness. We don't need to remove the tiles from the roof! We can bring our friends through the front door of God's House, praying that they will come to the Lord Jesus Christ and receive His great blessing - the forgiveness of their sins.
"Friend, your sins are forgiven." Jesus wants to speak these gracious words to every one of us. "Friend, your sins are forgiven." Jesus wants us to bring others to Him so that they also may hear these wonderful words of love. The Good News of God's forgiveness is for all. The love of God is reaching out to all people. Each and every one of us is invited by the God of love to come to him and enjoy the wonderful blessing described for us by the Psalmist in Psalm 103:12 - "as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us."
"As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our sins from us" - What a wonderful way to describe God's forgiving love. Jesus spoke about the coming together of the east and the west, as well as the coming together of the north and the south, the coming together of God's people, the gathering together of all who love the Lord and worship Him. Jesus gives us a vision of hope for the future. He says that "many will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the Kingdom of God" (Luke 13:29). Let us pray that this place of worship, at the centre of our community, will be a place of welcome for people, coming from east and west, and people, coming from north and south. The Church is to hold out the Lord's welcoming hand to all people. The Church is not to be like a private property with the poster which says, "No entry. Trespassers will be prosecuted." The Church's message must be very different from that. We are to say to the people of our community, "Come right in. Trespassers will be forgiven." What a wonderful message we have to bring to the people of our community. As the Church at the centre of our community, we have the great privilege of letting the people of our area hear the wonderful words of Jesus: "Friend, your sins are forgiven." This is not only a great privilege. It is also a great responsibility. We must pray for the people of our community. we must ask God to give us opportunities to share the love of Christ with our neighbours. We must pray for opportunities to bring our neighbours with us to the House of the Lord, the place where they will hear of the Saviour's love, the place where they will come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
How does God's forgiveness come to us? How will the people of our community come to know God's forgiveness? In Jesus' words about many coming, from east and west and north and south, to sit at table in the Kingdom of God, we are reminded of the way in which God's forgiveness reaches us. Sitting at the Lord's Table, we think of the wonderful thing that Jesus has done for us so that we might be forgiven by God: "He died that we might be forgiven." It is because Jesus died for us that we can now receive the forgiveness of sins from God. He died for you. He died for me. he died for all of us.
What does God's Word teach us about forgiveness? Here are four lessons - (1) The fact of forgiveness; (2) Our response to God's forgiveness; (3) Forgiveness changes us; (4) The warning which comes from God to those who refuse to come to Him for forgiveness.
(1) The fact of forgiveness
The sixteenth-century Reformer, Martin Luther, tells of a dream he had. He dreamt of a book in which all of his sins were recorded. He dreamt of the devil, pointing to the book and saying to him, "Martin, here is one of your sins. Here is another of your sins." In his dream, Luther replied to the devil, "Take a pen and write, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin'."
(2) Our response to God's forgiveness
This is summed up well by another voice from the distant past. St Augustine (354-430) prayed, "I will love You, O Lord and thank You ... You have forgiven me my evil deeds." Love for God - This is to be our response to God's forgiveness.
(3) Forgiveness changes us.
The opening verse of the hymn, "Dear Lord and Father of mankind", sums up the way in which forgiveness changes us: "Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways. Reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives Thy service find, in deeper reverence, praise." Praising the Lord and serving the Lord - This is the way of life words which God calls those who have received from Him the forgiveness of their sins. We must always remember the words spoken by Jesus when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness; "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Luke 4:8).
(4) God's Word of warning for those who refuse His gift of forgiveness
God's Word tells us that the only person who will not receive forgiveness is the person who refuses to confess his/her sins to the Lord, the person who refuses to pray to God, asking for His forgiveness.
May God help us to hear Christ's words, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." May God help us to live as those whom He has forgiven. May God help us to love Him, to worship Him and to serve Him.
Our new life is life in Christ (Luke 5:20,32,37-38).
Christ’s Word of forgiveness – “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20) and His call to repentance – “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32) – are followed by another great theme of Christ’s Gospel – conversion. This is emphasized in Luke 5:37-38: “no one pours new wine into old wineskins … new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” The contrast between the old and the new – This is what Jesus is speaking about here. Our old life is our life without Christ. Our new life is our life with Christ. Our old life is life in ourselves, life in our sin. Our new life is life in Christ, life in our Saviour.
New Life in Christ
The dramatic transformation of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road was marked by a change of name. He was no longer Saul of Tarsus. He became Paul the Apostle. Here, we read of another man whose life was transformed. this great change was marked by a change of name. He was levi. He became Matthew. In the letters of the name, "Levi", we have the story of the great change. Levi was evil. He followed Jesus, and he really began to live.
Our New Life is Life in Christ.
Christ's Word of forgiveness - "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (Luke 5:20) - and His call to repentance - "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32) is followed here by another great theme of Christ's Gospel - conversion. This is emphasized in Luke 5:37-38: "no one pours new wine into old wineskins ... new wine must be poured into new wineskins." The contrast between the old and the new - This is what Jesus is speaking about here. Our old life is our life without Christ. Our new life is our life with Christ. Our old life is life in ourselves, life in our sin. Our new life is life in Christ, life in our Saviour.
Old Wine and New Wine (Luke 5:39)
In “The Believer’s Bible Commentary”, William MacDonald suggests that, in Luke 5:36-39, we have three parables – (i) verse 36 (ii) verses 37-38; (iii) verse 39.
He draws attention to the common theme – there’s a great difference between law and grace. What we must remember is this – “we are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
By speaking of “three parables”, MacDonald helps us to look at verse 39 on its own rather than wondering “How does verse 39 relate to verses 37-38?”
Commenting on verse 39, He writes, “This pictures the natural reluctance of men to abandon the old for the new … law for grace …”
In his book, “Paintings by the Master: Understanding the Gospels through Christ’s Word Pictures”, Donald P. Orthner points out that those who are “addicted to the Old Way” do not “leave it immediately or easily.” They “prefer the Old Way of working for salvation.” They say, “The old is better” (p. 145).
What we must remember is this: When we come to faith in Christ, it’s not because we have a natural inclination to come to Him. Our natural inclination is to go our own way rather than His way.
It’s the Holy Spirit who draws us to the Saviour. Through His working in our hearts, we come to see that the way of “salvation by our own good works” is a spiritual dead-end street. The Holy Spirit leads us to see the truth of Paul’s words: “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
The Pharisees, in Jesus’ day, were faced with a challenge. Jesus challenged them to be changed by Him. They didn’t think that they needed to be changed. They said, “The old is better.” They were so preoccupied with their own attempts to keep the Law that they failed to see that He was offering to them God’s great gift – the forgiveness of sins. They thought that being accepted by God was something they had to earn by their own good works. Jesus was saying to them, “It can’t be done.” These men were extremely religious. Jesus said to them, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
This is not just ancient history. It’s a warning to every one of us. We must not come to God with our morality in one hand and our religion in the other hand, saying, “Look at me. Look at how good I am. You have to accept me.”
What does this have to do with salvation? – Nothing at all. God’s Word says this: “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21).
May God help us, by His grace alone, to say “No” to every attempt to ‘save’ ourselves – “I have done, I have done that, I have done the next thing.”
Such talk doesn’t come from the Lord. It comes from Satan. He is full of pride. He sets himself up as God’s enemy. Whenever we exalt ourselves, our voice becomes an echo of the arrogant voice of Satan.
He tells us that “the old is better.” Jesus says to us, “Don’t believe him.”
May God, through His grace, lead us to Jesus. He is our Saviour. Through the shedding of His precious “blood”, He has opened up for us the “new and living way” to God our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 10:19-20).
Called to a Life of Obedience
We've been thinking about forgiveness, repentance and conversion. We now turn our attention to obedience. Those who have received the forgiveness of their sins, turning to the Lord and receiving new life from Him, are called to live in obedience to Him. Jesus obeyed God perfectly. His obedience to God was very different from the religion of the Pharisees. In our obedience to God, we are not to be modern-day Pharisees. We are to follow Jesus.
What Is The Lord Saying To Us From The Call Of His First Disciples?
Jesus says, "Follow Me." These were the words spoken by Jesus to His first disciples. They are still the words He speaks to us. Christ calls us to follow Him. He invites us to be changed by Him. He calls us to move forward with Him. Moving forward with Christ and being changed by Him will involve listening to Him. Listening to Him - This is the point which is emphasized by the prophet Isaiah - "The Sovereign Lord wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears" (Isaiah 50:4-5). As we read the Story of Jesus Christ, we are to listen to His voice. What are we to do when we hear the voice of Christ speaking to us through God's written Word? The prophet Isaiah speaks to us about listening to the voice of the Lord - "The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back" (Isaiah 50:5). We are to listen and learn. We are to let Jesus change our life.
When we read the words of Jesus Christ, we are reading the words of a Preacher who spoke the truth without fear of man. Again and again, as we read Jesus' words, we find that there is a striking difference between what the world says and what the Lord says. the way of the world and the way of the Lord are two very different ways. When Jesus preached His challenging messages, there were those who closed their minds to the Word of God. They closed their hearts to the love of God. They closed their lives to the power of God. As we read Jesus' words, we are challenged. Jesus challenges us: Are you open to the Word of God, the love of God and the power of God? Is your mind open - to receive the challenging teaching of God's Word? Is your heart open - to enjoy the heart-warming influence of God's love? Is your life open - to experience the life-changing effects of God's power?
When I am conducting a wedding service, I speak to the couple about two kinds of love - human love and divine love. I emphasize that our love for one another grows stronger when it is grounded in God's love for us. Jesus speaks about human love and divine love. He tells us that we are to "love our enemies" (Luke 6:27). He tells us that our love for our enemies is to be grounded in God's love for sinners: "The Most High is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:35-36). God has shown His love for us. We are to show His love to others. While we were His enemies - sinners who had rebelled against Him, He loved us and gave His Son to die on the cross for us as our Saviour.
Jesus teaches us to live in the light of the Kingdom of God. He turns the values of this world upside-down - "Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the Kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). He calls us to make the Kingdom of God our highest priority. Living our life in the light of God's Kingdom, we will come to see that the things which we have are not ours at all. They have been given to us by God. They are to be used in His service. Living as God's servants will mean living a life of love - "Love your enemies" (Luke 6:27). Jesus teaches us that loving leads to giving: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38).Jesus' words, "Give, and it will be given to you", are followed by a precious promise and a strong warning. To those who choose to live a less self-centred life, choosing to live a life which is more God-centred and other-centred, God gives this precious promise - 'You will not be the loser. You will be blessed by the Lord. His blessing will be poured into your life.' "Give, and it will be given to you." This is God's promise. Will we take Him at His Word? Will we live in obedience to His Word, convinced that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35)?
God has given great promises to those who will "trust and obey": "Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey." Sadly, however, we are often much more self-centred than God-centred and other-centred. Very often, when we are called to give ourselves in the service of God and others, we react in a self-centred way. We don't ask, "Will I please the Lord, if I do this?" We ask, "How's this going to affect me?" We don't ask "Are other people going to be blessed, if I do this?" We ask, "How's this going to fit in with my plans for myself?""Give, and it will be given to you." Along with Jesus' precious promise, we have His strong warning. If we give little of ourselves in the service of God and others, we will know little of the blessing of God in our own lives. "Give, and it will be given to you." Whenever the word, "giving", is used in the Church, people think about money. It is right that we should think about the giving of money, since it is a part of of our giving to the Lord. It should, however, be emphasized that it is only a part of our giving to the Lord. It is sadly possible to give money to the Lord without really giving ourselves to the Lord. When we think about giving, we are to think about the giving of money to God, but we must not stop there. God is calling us to give ourselves to Him.
- How are we to give to God? How are we to give ourselves to Him?(1) We must begin by trusting God.
When Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given to you", He means it. If we are to learn to live a more God-centred life, a more other-centred life, we must learn to believe God's promise to those who are living by the values of His heavenly and eternal Kingdom. To those who are getting too attached to the things of this world, God's Word comes as a Word of challenge: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have." To those who are hesitant about committing themselves to the Lord, God comes with His Word of promise, "I will never leave you. I will never forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).You won't be the loser if you give yourself to the Lord. He will bless you abundantly, as you give yourself to Him. If, however, you hold back from giving yourself to the Lord, you will miss out on so much of the blessing He wants to give to you. Trust in the Lord, believing that He will bless you greatly as you give yourself, more truly and more fully, to Him - "Give, and it will be given to you."
(2) We learn to trust in the Lord as we take time to remember how much the Lord has done for us.It's easy to forget. Some of us have known much of God's blessing in the past. We have been hungry for God's blessing. God has poured out His blessing upon us. Somewhere along the line, we have become complacent. We have begun to settle for less of God's blessing. We have walked more closely with God in past years. With the passing of the years, we have allowed things to slip. Our desire to know and love God is a lot weaker than it once was. God is calling us back to himself. Remember how much God blessed you when you walked more closely with Him. Come close to the Lord again. He will bless you more than ever before. To each of us, Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given to you."
(3) Our giving is to be whole-hearted, generous and consistent. It is to be the giving of ourselves to the Lord.
Once, we were whole-hearted in our commitment to the Lord. We have allowed ourselves to become half-hearted. Is this the sad story of your life? How sad it is when our zeal for the Lord grows weak. This is the sadness of a joy which has been lost. Once, there was joy in our hearts. Once, there was joy in our lives. Now, the joy has gone. Is this the sad story of your life? How sad it is when we lose the joy of the Lord. Can the times of joy come again? Yes! Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given to you." When we give him His rightful place - the first place - in our hearts and lives, the blessing will return. God gives His blessing to those who are whole-hearted. Those, who are content to remain half-hearted, will miss out on God's blessing.
The importance of choosing the way of whole-heartedness rather than lapsing into the way of half-heartedness is emphasized very powerfully in James 1:5-8 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." These words of James are concerned with asking God for wisdom and receiving wisdom from God. Wisdom is not the same as intellectualism. There are many people who have learned a great deal about many different subjects. Sadly, they have still to learn that truly God-given wisdom can be expressed in a few simple words, which can transform our way of thinking and our way of living.
Jesus' words - "Give, and it will be given to you" - are full of wisdom. He calls us to be generous and consistent in giving ourselves to Him and to others. he shows us the way of generous and consistent giving. Throughout his whole life, he gave Himself for us. In His death, He gave Himself for us. In His self-giving, in His life and His death, we see the God-given pattern for our giving. We are to learn from Him. We are to become like Him. In the Story of Jesus, we read of His death. We also read of His resurrection. God raised Him from the dead. In Jesus' own life, there is the perfect fulfilment of His promise: "Give, and it will be given to you." Jesus gave His life for us. God gave Him His life again. God can give life to you and me - the life of His Spirit of life; the life of Christ, risen from the dead, but we must give ourselves to Him. if we are to receive His blessing, we must open our hearts and let Him pour His blessing into us.
Jesus is the Rock of our salvation. He's the solid Rock upon which our faith is built. He's "the Church's one Foundation." He's the Sure Foundation upon which the Church is built. Jesus tells a story about two builders. The wise builder builds his house on the rock. The foolish builder builds his house on the sand. Jesus is teaching us to build our life on Him. How are we to build our life on Him. In Ephesians 2:20, we learn that we build our life on Jesus when we build on the teaching of the apostles and prophets. This point is emphasized in the hymn, "Jesus loves me": "Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so." How do we know that Jesus loves us? - "The Bible tells me so." The prophets looked forward to His coming. They said, "He will come." The apostles looked back to His coming among them. They said, "He has come." We need the Old Testament Scriptures. We need the New Testament Scriptures. From both Testaments, we learn of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Why do we read the Scriptures? We read the Scriptures so that we can learn to build our life on the Saviour. as we read the Bible, we learn of Jesus Christ, the Rock of our salvation. we learn that He is the Rock upon which our faith is built. We learn that He is the Rock upon which the Church is built. Why do we remember the Saviour? So many years have passed since He lived here on earth. So many centuries have passed since He died on the cross. Today's world is very different from the world at the time when Jesus came to this earth. So much has changed since the time when Jesus died for us. Jesus hasn't changed. He doesn't change. He will never change. Unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable, Jesus Christ is the Rock of our salvation.* How does Jesus Christ become real for us today? This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of the living God who makes Jesus real to us. When we read the Bible, God's written Word, we pray for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit - "Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him, and say that we love Him. Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen. O, open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus." Through the living power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus draws near to us. He makes Himself known to us. He assures us that our faith is built on a Sure Foundation. He is the Sure Foundation. He is our Rock. As we remember Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for us, we give thanks that He is "the Church's one Foundation." We remember what Jesus Christ has done for us. We remember His death on the cross for us. In the cross, we see Jesus. He is the solid Rock upon which the upon which our worship is based. We hear the preaching of the Gospel. We rejoice in Jesus Christ, the Rock of our salvation. We celebrate the Lord's Supper. We rejoice in Jesus Christ, the Rock of our salvation. In the past, present and future, Jesus Christ is the Rock of our salvation. The hymn, "The Church's one Foundation" takes us to the cross of Christ where we learn of the past, present and future dimensions of our salvation.(a) the past - We remember what the crucified Christ has done for us: "From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride. With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died."(b) the present - We are sustained by the living presence of Christ, the risen Lord. We are reminded of the importance and value of the Lord's Supper in the Christian's journey of faith: "One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued."(c) the future - We anticipate the return of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Him, we have the glorious hope of eternal salvation: "The consummation of peace forevermore", "The vision glorious", "The great Church victorious", "The Church at rest." Following these great descriptions of the great future God has in store for His people, there is this final prayer: "O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee."In the Lord's Supper, we look backward, and we remember Jesus as the Rock of our salvation. We look to Christ now, and we thank Him that, every day, He is still the Rock of our salvation. We look forward, on to eternity, and we rejoice that Jesus has been, is and always will be the Rock of our salvation.
As we read about Jesus, the centurion and the centurion’s servant, we learn about love, faith and hope - the love of Jesus, the faith of the centurion and hope for the centurion’s servant.
(1) The love of Jesus
In Jesus’ miracles of healing, we see love. It is the greatest love of all. It is the love of God. Jesus loved the centurion. Jesus loved the centurion’s servant. He loves you. He loves me. He loves us with a perfect love. He loves us with an everlasting love. His love changes us. We see this in the story the centurion and his servant. This is a story which invites us to be changed by the love of Jesus.
(2) The faith of the centurion
There is no suggestion, in this story, that the centurion actually met Jesus. We are told, at the beginning of the story, that he had “heard of Jesus” (Luke 7:3). He then “sent some elders of the Jews to Jesus, asking Him to come and heal his servant” (Luke 7:3). As Jesus was approaching the house, He received another message from the centurion. It was a confession of faith in Jesus - “Say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:7). Jesus then commended the centurion for his faith - “I tell you, I have not found such great faith in Israel” (Luke 7:9). At this point, we are told that when the men, who had been sent to Jesus, returned to the centurion, they found that the centurion’s servant was well (Luke 7:10). As we seek to learn from the centurion’s faith, there are three things we must note.
(a) He was a Gentile.
(b) He heard of Jesus.
(c) He didn’t meet Jesus face-to-face.
From each of these parts of the centurion’s story, we learn important lessons concerning faith.
(a) He was not a Jew. He didn’t belong to the nation described in the Old Testament Scriptures as God’s chosen people. The story of the centurion teaches us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all nations. Christ is not only for the Jews. He is for every person in every nation. This vital point - Christ is for all nations - is underlined in the story of another centurion, Cornelius, in Acts 10. Christ is for all nations. This is also highlighted, in Romans 1:16, by the Apostle Paul: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jews, then for the Gentiles.” Christ is for all of us. He is for every one of us. He is for you. He is for me. He is the Saviour of the world.
(b) The centurion heard of Jesus. He believed in Jesus. In the centurion’s story, we learn the lesson taught by Paul in Romans 10:17 - “faith comes from hearing the message.” Paul emphasizes the connection between hearing and believing. Following his statement of the Gospel principle - “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), he asks a number of questions, “How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:14-15). God sends us out into the world to share His message of love with the people we meet. This is the way in which our neighbours will hear of Jesus and come to faith in Him.
(c) The centurion didn’t come face-to-face with Jesus. In noting this point, we highlight an important lesson, taught by the risen Christ. Speaking to Thomas who needed to see before he believed, Jesus said this: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
(3) Hope for the centurion’s servant
At the beginning of the story, his situation seemed to be hopeless - he “was sick and about to die” (Luke 7:2). Jesus changed everything. Jesus brought new, life-giving, wonderful hope into this man’s life. The hope which Jesus brings is heavenly, eternal and glorious: “Where, o death, is your victory … Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57).
The widow's son is raised from death by Jesus. What a wonderful miracle this is! In this great miracle, we see the love of God, the power of God and the glory of God.
(1) Love - "When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said,'Don't cry'" (Luke 7:13).
(2) Power - "He said, 'Young man, I say to you, get up!' The dead man sat up and began to talk" (Luke 7:14-15).
(3) Glory - "They were all filled with awe and praised God" (Luke 7:16).
In this story, we hear the Word of the Lord. It is the Word of His love. It is the Word of His power. It is the Word of His glory. This is the Gospel. It's the Good News. There's a place in God's heart for us. His heart is full of love for us. This is the Good News that comes to us with power. It's the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. It's the Good News that leads us on to glory. It leads us on to God's heavenly and eternal glory.
We met with John the Baptist in Luke 3. We meet with him again, here, in Luke 7. In chapter 3, we saw that John the Baptist was a man of faith. He was proclaiming the Word of God to the people. His message was clear. He was speaking with great boldness. His message is summed up in Luke 3:4 - "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him." Here, in chapter 7, everything is very different. John is uncertain. He doesn't know what to think about Jesus. He asks the question, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7:19). Here, we see John's changing emotions. Sometimes, he is full of faith. At other times, he is full of uncertainty and confusion. We see ourselves in John. Our emotions are in turmoil. Our thoughts are confused. Everything seems so confusing. Sometimes, our faith is strong. At other times, we are very unsure of the things that matter most to us. It seems that our faith has almost gone.
The forgiveness of sins - What a wonderful blessing this is! This is the great message which comes to us from the story of Jesus being anointed by "a woman who had lived a sinful life" (Luke 7:37). This woman had been touched by the love of Jesus. She had received forgiveness from the Lord Jesus. Here, we see her expressing her love for Jesus. Here, she shows her gratitude to Jesus. We recall the description of Jesus given to us in Luke 7:34 - Jesus is the Friend of sinners. What a wonderful statement this is - Jesus is the Friend of sinners. What a marvellous declaration of the Gospel this is - Jesus is the Friend of sinners. This is the amazing grace of Christ's Gospel. It was amazing grace for the sinful world. It is still amazing grace for us - Jesus is the Friend of sinners. What a blessing it is to know that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! What a blessing it is to know that Jesus Christ receives sinners!
“The seed is the Word of God.” The sowing of the seed of God’s Word into our hearts requires patience. We do not reap the harvest right away, We must work patiently for the harvest, which God will bring to us in His time. May God help us to be faithful in sowing. May He grant us the privilege of being fruitful in reaping. What we will reap arises directly from what we sow - “Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Jesus is the Light of the world. He wants us to shine as lights for Him.
How does Jesus’ light shine into our lives?
- Through the Word of God: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
- Through the Spirit of God: “For God who said, ‘ Let light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
In our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the light of Jesus Christ reaches us in a special way. It is the light which shines from the Cross of Christ, the light of His love.
- How is the light of Jesus to shine out to us from others?
Again, the answer is “through God’s Word and God’s Spirit”.
We are to speak the Word of God. We are to do the will of God.
From God’s Word, we are to learn how God wants us to live. By His grace, the grace that comes to us through the Cross of Jesus Christ, we are to walk in the Spirit. Day-by-day, we are to work for God as His faithful servants. May God give us a increased desire to please Him and to be fruitful in His service.
As we come to the Lord’s Table, let us open our hearts to Him. Let us lay aside the darkness of our lives. Let us invite Him to send His light into our hearts. May His light shine out from us to others.
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21).
God has called us to be His obedient children. God is our loving Father. He loves us with a perfect love. His love is seen most clearly in the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this Communion, we think together of the twofold communion, which we find within the family of God.
- There is communion with God, our heavenly Father.. He is our Father. We are His sons and daughters.
- There is communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our fellowship with God and His people grows strong when we come to the Lord’s Table and renew our commitment to hearing God’s Word and putting it into practice.
May God help us to commit ourselves afresh to Him, as we come to Christ’s Table, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
This is not only a story about a change in weather conditions. It's a story about a change in Jesus' disciples. Jesus calmed the storm. He stilled the winds and the waves. He also calmed the storm in the hearts and minds of His disciples. As we read about the storm and the calm, our thoughts turn to conflict that is going on in our own lives. It's the conflict between our enemy, Satan, and our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. The storm comes from Satan. The calm comes from our Saviour.
- Satan sends his evil storm into our lives.
- Satan is seeking to distract us. He wants us to take our eyes off Jesus.
- Satan is seeking to disturb us. He wants to throw us into a state of chaos and confusion.
- Satan is seeking to demoralize us. He wants to send us into a state of deep depression.
- Satan is seeking to destroy us. He wants to defeat us. he wants to triumph over us. He wants to be victorious over us.
In the face of such a powerful enemy, we're in big trouble. The storm, sent by Satan, is a ferocious onslaught. It is, however, only part of the story of our life. As well as the storm, sent by Satan, there is also the calm, which comes to us from our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is greater than Satan. He has won the victory over Satan. he has won the victory for us. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can say, with confidence in Him, "With Christ in the boat, we can smile at the storm."
At the end of this story of the calming of the storm, we have two questions
(a) a question about Jesus: "Who is this?"
(b) a question for us: "Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25).
(a) Who is this?
Jesus is no ordinary man. We look at Jesus. We see God.
"O Lord God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty, O Lord ... You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mound up, You still them" (Psalm 89:8-9).
"The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty" (Psalm 93:3-4).
We look beyond the man, Jesus. We catch a glimpse of God. We see Him as the "Trinity of love and power."
- "Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave, who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep."
- O Christ, whose voice the waters heard, and hushed their raging at Thy Word, who walkedst on the foaming deep, and calm amid the storm didst sleep."
- "O Holy Spirit, who didst brood upon the waters dark and rude, and bid their angry tumult cease, and give, for wild confusion, peace."
(b) Where is your faith? This is Christ's question to us. He is calling us to put our faith in Him.
- He calls us out of confusion and into peace.
- He calls us out of depression and into hope.
He says to us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me ... Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:1, 27).
Christ is calling us to put our faith in Him. He is calling us to enter into this great blessing: "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Along with the call to trust in the Lord, we have God's promise of "perfect peace."
- Isaiah 26:3: The Promise - "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you."
- Isaiah 26:4: The Call to Faith - "Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal."
- "Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within ... Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round? In Jesus' presence, nought but calm is found ... It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease, and Jesus call us to heaven's perfect peace."
- "Like a river glorious is God's perfect, over all victorious, in its bright increase: perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day; perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way. Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest, finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest."
God's promise of peace comes to us with a call to prayer: "Do not be anxious about anything,but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
"The peace of God" - This is summed up for us in the words, "Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side."
- Where is your faith? This is the question our Saviour's puts to each and every one of us. We must give our answer to His question - "Lord Jesus Christ, my faith is in You. You are my Saviour. I put my trust in You."
The question is asked of us - "Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?" We must give the answer of faith: "We have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love."
In Luke 8:39, we take note of two important points - Jesus' instruction to the man: "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."- The man's obedience to Jesus' Word: "So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him."What is God saying to us from this verse? There are three lessons for us here. (1) God has given us Good News. (2) We are to share God's Good News. (3) God's Good News is for the people of our town.
(1) God has given us Good News."How much God has done for us" - "I'm so happy and here's the reason why, Jesus took my burden all away; Now I'm singing as the days go by." What is it that gives us a reason to rejoice and a song to sing? It's the Good News of God's love. It's the Good News of God's peace. It's the Good News of God's joy.(2) We are to share God's Good News."Tell how much God has done for you." Here, we have (a) God's call to us - "Go and tell the story of what the Lord has done for you"; and (b) our obedience to Him - "Stop and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me."(3) God's Good News is for the people of our town."Theres' a work of Jesus none but you can do." "There's a work for Jesus, ready at your hand." "There's a work for Jesus, humble though it be." "There's a work for Jesus, precious souls to bring." "There's a work for Jesus ... Faint not, grow not weary, He will strength renew." "There's a work for Jesus ... Work for Jesus, day by day."
May God help us to hear Jesus' Word to us, in Luke 8:39a - "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."May God help us to do what He tells us to do, in Luke 8:39b - Let us go and tell all over the town what the Lord has done for us.
Jesus is Lord of all.
- He’s Lord over nature - the calming of the storm (Luke 8:22-25).
- He’s Lord over demons (Luke 8:26-39).
- He’s Lord over sickness and death (Luke 8:40-56).
- “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Luke 4:18.
- “The power of the Lord was with Him” (Luke 5:17).
- “Power came forth from Him” (Luke 6:19).
All of this is moving towards the great miracle of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
As we read of Christ’s miracles, we are gaining a clearer picture of who He is. “Who is this?” The answer is given at the time of His resurrection from the dead. He is our Lord and our God.
In both the healing of the woman and the raising of the girl, we see the importance of faith.
- In Jesus’ words to Jairus, we hear the call to faith and the promise of salvation: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (Luke 8:50).
- In Jesus’ words to the woman who was healed, we hear of the assurance of salvation, which becomes ours through faith in Christ: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).
“Who ... is this ... “ (Luke 9:9).
“Jesus ... Gave them power and authority” (Luke 9:1).
Jesus’ whole life is life in the Spirit.
- His birth (Luke 1:35)
- His baptism (Luke 3:22)
- His temptations (Luke 4:1)
- His ministry (Luke 4:14)
- His gift to us - the Holy Spirit
- The new birth (John 3): This comes from God.
- “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16): This changes us.
- “Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-4): This is Christian living.
- “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall be My witnesses ... “ (Acts 1:8): This is Christian witness.
Thinking of Jesus - “Who is this?”, leads us to think of ourselves in Him - What are we to be in Him?
- We are to be believers in Christ. The question, “Who is this?”, calls for a response of faith. We receive the Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:14).
- We are to be followers of Christ. The question, “Who is this?”, calls for a response, which shows that our faith is real. We are to live the life of a disciple. We must never forget that “Faith without works is dead”. How are we to show that our faith is real: “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:17-18).
- We are to be witnesses for Christ. We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We are to share it with others.
Dare to care.
The strength that we need to be caring people comes from the commitment of our lives to Jesus Christ.
Daring to care arises from faith, worship and prayer.
In Jesus, we see this combination of caring about spiritual priorities and caring about social concerns.
When “the crowds followed Him”, “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing” (Luke 9:11).
This combination of the spiritual and the social is much needed today. We need to care about God - doing His will, pleasing Him. We need to care about people - loving them with the love of God, showing them that they are loved by us, showing them that they are loved by God.
As well as healing those who needed to be healed, Jesus spoke to them about te Kingdom of God. Before feeding the five thousand, He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. This ministry of speaking about the Kingdom of God undergirded Jesus’ ministry of miracles. Our daring to care must be based on the ministry of God’s Word, which provides us with instruction in faith, a call to worship and a challenge to pray. Growing in faith, participating in worship, persevering in prayer, we commit ourselves to the kind of action, which will make a real difference.
In Him, the spiritual and the social come together. We are not forced to choose between social action and spiritual priorities. We choose Jesus Christ. WE commit ourselves to Him. When our commitment to Him is real, and He is growing stronger, He will lead us in the pathways of faith, worship, prayer and action.
Who is Jesus? What does He do for us? Will we confess Him or be ashamed of Him?
- Who is Jesus?
“Who do you say that I am? Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God’” (Luke 9:20); “Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ’” (Mark 8:29); “Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16); “You do not want to leave Me too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:68-69).
Where does this faith come from? - “This was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).
- What does Jesus do for us? He gives us eternal life. How does He bring eternal life to us. Jesus speaks to us about His death and resurrection (Luke 9:22). He speaks to us about His return in power and glory (Luke 9:26).
The importance of these events is underlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 -His death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), His glorious return (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
- Will we confess Him or be ashamed of Him (Luke 9:26)?
Confessing Christ is more than saying the right words. There is to be self-denial, taking up the cross and following Christ (Luke 9:23). In Luke 9:24-25, Jesus challenges us to think about what is most important to us. Is it Jesus or ourselves? Are we living to please ourselves - or to please Jesus? May our response be the response of faith, real life-changing faith.
The seven crisis-points in the life of Christ - birth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension.
In the transfiguration, we see the glory of the Lord. His glory is revealed at each of the seven crisis-points in His life - His birth (Luke 2:8-9), His baptism (Luke 3:21-22), His temptations (Luke 4:1-12), His transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), His crucifixion (Luke 23:39-43), His resurrection (Luke 24:1-8), His ascension (Luke 24:50-53).
Here, I will comment on His temptations, His transfiguration and His ascension.
- His temptations - The glory of the Lord is seen in the outcome of His temptations. It is the glory of His victory over Satan. Satan was defeated. Christ was victorious.This is the glory of the Lord, the glory of His triumph over temptations, the glory of His perfect holiness.
- His transfiguration - “The appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning” (Luke 9:29). Peter, James ans John “saw His glory” (Luke 9:32) - the glory of the Son of God (Luke 9:35). His transfiguration points forward to His crucifixion: “They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). It also points beyond His crucifixion to the glory of His resurrection and ascension - the glory of Christ, risen from the dead; the glory of Christ, seated at the Father’s right hand.m
- His ascension - How are we to respond to the revelation of Christ’s glory? Let us praise Him. Let us worship Him. Let us give glory to Him.
“O faithless (or unbelieving) and perverse generation ... Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you” (Luke 9:41,44).
Jesus spoke these words to the people of His generation. He still speaks them to the people of His generation.
- What are the benefits of listening carefully to the words of the Lord Jesus?
As we listen to the story of Jesus, paying close attention to what He said and did, we become aware of the greatness of God (Luke 9:43).
- How does God reveal His greatness? He reveals His greatness in Christ’s triumph over evil, which is accomplished in His crucifixion (Luke 9:42,44).
In the crucifixion, we see more than “the hands of me”. We see the hand of the Lord at work. God is accomplishing His purpose. Evil men only appeared to have the upper hand. Victory belongs to the Lord. He triumphs over evil.
- What was Jesus talking about? What did He mean? - These were the thoughts of His disciples. How can His meaning become clear to us? It is “by faith” that “we understand” (Hebrews 11:3). The truth of the Gospel is “hidden” from “the wise and learned”. It is “revealed” to “little children2, We must become like little children - “Come to Me ... And learn from Me” (Matthew 11:25,28-29).
Jesus was a Man with a purpose. He was opposed by evil men. He faced their opposition with the confidence that God was leading Him on to a glorious future. this glorious future is described for us in the words of Revelation 21:2-4. This is the glorious future towards which God is calling His people. It is this glorious hope which enables us to look at the most terrible events without being overwhelmed with sadness. "The Kingdom of God" - This is our glorious hope for the future. As we think of world leaders, battling for supremacy, let's not forget that there's a divine purpose in human history (Daniel 2:44). The final fulfilment of God's eternal purpose is summed up in Revelation 11:15. God's Word assures us that the time of conflict - the conflict between God and the devil - will come to an end with the mighty triumph of the Lord our God (Revelation 12:10-12). the Lord is "King of kings and Lord of lords" "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. let us rejoice and exult and give Him glory" (Revelation19:16, 6-7).
Here, we see God's servants, doing the work of the Lord. As we look at them, we should also look at ourselves. We should ask ourselves, "Am I living as a servant of the Lord?" We should ask ourselves, "Do I pay Him lip-service or give Him life-service?" We look at their service. we learn about our service. Serving the Lord is much more than "only an hour on a Sunday." As we think about serving the Lord, it is important that we focus our attention on Him rather than ourselves.
From the beginning of the mission, we learn that the Lord's servants were sent by the Lord (Luke 10:1-3). From the end of the mission, we learn that they were saved by the Lord (Luke 10:17-20). God's true servants have been saved by Him and sent by Him.
(1) We have been saved by the Lord.
"Rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). We must never forget Jesus Christ, He is our Saviour. Remembering Him will keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. We are only servants. Jesus is the Saviour.
(2) We have been sent by the Lord.
- "Sent on ahead of Him" (Luke 10:1). We are to prepare the way of the Lord. We are to be like John the Baptist. we are to point away from ourselves to Jesus.
- "The harvest is plentiful, the labourers are few" (Luke 10:2). Will you be a labourer or a spectator?
- Go, I send you" (Luke 10:3). Will we go for Him? Go in peace. Go in joy. Go in love.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, there are several characters. Behind the parable, there is Jesus. He is the Storyteller. We look at the story Jesus told. We look at the characters in the story. consider the characters in the parable. We also focus our attention on Jesus. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord.
The parable begins with the words, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho" (Luke 10:30). There were others who were also travelling on the road to Jericho - (a) the robbers; (b) the priest and the Levite; (c) the good Samaritan. In these characters, we see three very different attitudes to life. As we look at these characters, we are challenged concerning our own attitude to other people.
(a) "What's yours is mine. I'll take it" - This is the attitude of the robbers.
(b) "What's mine is mine. I'll keep it" - This is the attitude of the priest and the Levite.
(c) "What's mine is yours. I'll share it" - This is the attitude of the good Samaritan.
Behind these characters, there is Jesus, the Storyteller. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. Here, we must imagine ourselves in the position of the man who was robbed and beaten up. We are helpless. Our situation is hopeless. We need Someone who will help us. We need Someone who will give us hope. We need Someone who will have compassion on us. We need Someone who will come to us with the love which will lift us up and give us a new beginning. We need Jesus. He is our Saviour. He is the One who "shows mercy on us" (Luke 10:37). Jesus is our Saviour. He is also our Lord. He ends His story of the good Samaritan with these words, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). we are not to be like those who "passed by on the other side" (Luke 10:31-32). We are to be like "the one who showed mercy on him" (Luke 10:37). We are to be like Jesus. Through faith in Him, we have this great testimony: "I received mercy ... The grace of our Lord overflowed for me ... " (1 Timothy 1:13:14). "Love the Lord your God ... and your neighbour" (Luke 10:27).
Jesus had a meal at the home of Martha and Mary. We can compare this meal to the Lord's Supper. Martha concentrated on meal. Mary concentrated on the Lord. In the Lord's Supper, we have bread and wine. That's not all that we have. There's more than bread and wine. There's Jesus. Jesus came to the home of Martha and Mary. In Mary, we see what it means to come to the Lord. We are to come to Him with a deep desire to be near to Him. The Lord has come to us. Let us come to Him.
- Let us come to Him with humility, confessing that we have sinned against Him.
- Let us come to Him with thanksgiving, rejoicing that that our Lord Jesus Christ has borne our sins so that we might receive His salvation.
- Let us come to Him with a hungry heart, longing that we may be fed by Him.
- Let us come with dedication, committing our lives to the Lord that we might live as His disciples.
- Let us come to Him with praise, giving glory to the Lord for all that he has done for us.
- Let us do "the one thing needful": Come to Jesus Come to Him with humility, with thanksgiving, with a hungry heart, with dedication, with praise.
"Ask ... seek ... knock ... " (Luke 11:9) - Jesus is calling us to pray.
" ... how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him" (Luke 11:13) God answers prayer. The Holy Spirit is God's answer.
- God is good. God is love. This is Jesus' teaching. This is the teaching which encourages us to ask, seek and knock.
- God is good. God is love. This is the teaching which gives us the assurance that God is waiting for us to come to Him.
- God is good. God is love. This is the teaching that assures us that God wants to bless us.
- God is good. God is love. This is the teaching that calls us to prayer.
- We ask the Lord to reveal Himself to us. He is the God who loves us.
- We seek the Lord's presence. We pray that He will come to us with His blessing.
- We knock on the door of God's heart. We pray that He will open His heart to us. We pray the He will pour upon us a superabundant blessing.
The Lord loves to hear and answer the prayers of those who long to know Him and serve Him. He answers our prayers by pointing us to Jesus, His Son, our Saviour.
“Ask … seek … knock … ” (Luke 11:9).
Jesus is calling us to pray.
“how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13) God answers prayer. The Holy Spirit is God’s answer.
- God is good. God is love. This is Jesus’ teaching. This is the teaching which encourages us to ask, seek and knock.
- God is good. God is love. This is the teaching which gives us the assurance that God is waiting for us to come to Him.
- God is good. God is love. This is the teaching that assures us that God wants to bless us.
- God is good. God is love. This is the teaching that calls us to prayer.
- We ask the Lord to reveal Himself to us. He is the God who loves us.
- We seek the Lord’s presence. We pray that He will come to us with His blessing.
- We knock on the door of God’s heart. We pray that He will open His heart to us. We pray the He will pour upon us a superabundant blessing.
The Lord loves to hear and answer the prayers of those who long to know Him and serve Him. He answers our prayers by pointing us to Jesus, His Son, our Saviour.
Here, we see the Lord's demonstration of power. Where did His power come from? Jesus makes it perfectly clear that His power comes from God. This is the power of God at work. When we understand who Jesus is, we will understand that the power we see in Jesus is the power of God. Jesus is "Emmanuel." He is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Recognizing who Jesus is - God with us, we see the power of God at the ministry of Jesus. It is by the finger of God that Jesus drives out demons (Luke 11:20). In Jesus, we see the Kingdom of God. In Him, the Kingdom of God has come to us (Luke 11:20). Jesus is God with us. He is with us in mighty power. This is the power which overcomes evil. This is the power which brings the Kingdom of God into our lives.
As we see the presence of God in Jesus and the power of God in the ministry of Jesus, we may ask, "How can the presence of God and the power of God become a living reality of blessing in us?" God's blessing - the blessing of His presence and His power - comes to us through the Spirit, the Scriptures and the Saviour.
(1) God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13).
(2) God's blessing comes to those who hear and obey the Word of God (Luke 11:28). It is through the Holy Scriptures that God leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. It is through the Holy Scriptures that He leads us in the pathway of blessing.
(3) The Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures point us to the Holy Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is greater than Solomon and Jonah (Luke 11:31-32). In Him, there is fullness of blessing (John 1:16).
Where did Jesus’ power come from? (Luke 11:20)
Jesus makes it perfectly clear that His power comes from God. This is the power of God at work. When we understand who Jesus is, we will understand that the power we see in Jesus is the power of God. Jesus is “Emmanuel.” He is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Recognizing who Jesus is – God with us, we see the power of God at the ministry of Jesus. It is by the finger of God that Jesus drives out demons (Luke 11:20). In Jesus, we see the Kingdom of God. In Him, the Kingdom of God has come to us (Luke 11:20). Jesus is God with us. He is with us in mighty power. This is the power which overcomes evil. This is the power which brings the Kingdom of God into our lives.
As we see the presence of God in Jesus and the power of God in the ministry of Jesus, we may ask, “How can the presence of God and the power of God become a living reality of blessing in us?” God’s blessing – the blessing of His presence and His power – comes to us through the Spirit, the Scriptures and the Saviour.
(1) God gives the Holy Spirit to ask Him (Luke 11:13).
(2) God’s blessing comes to those who hear and obey the Word of God (Luke 11:28). It is through the Holy Scriptures that God leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It is through the Holy Scriptures that He leads us in the pathway of blessing.
(3) The Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures point us to the Holy Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is greater than Solomon and Jonah (Luke 11:31-32). In Him, there is fullness of blessing (John 1:16).
Each of us must choose – light or darkness? (Luke 11:33-36).
When we read Jesus’ words – in Luke 11:33-36 – , we have a powerful reminder that choosing light rather than darkness means more than outward religious observance. Jesus wants to change us on the inside. This is where real change comes from. The right attitude leads to right living. We walk in the light when we follow Jesus. Those who walk in darkness show their true nature by their reaction to Jesus (Luke 11:53-54).When we, like Jesus, face opposition from those who choose darkness rather than light, we must not be afraid (Luke 12:4, 7). We are not to fear men. We are to fear the Lord (Luke 12:5). The fear of the Lord is to be a very positive thing in our life. It is the deep appreciation of God’s love as a holy love. When we know that we are loved by God, we know that we are remembered by Him (Luke 12:6) and valued by Him (Luke 12:7). When, in the fear of the Lord, we remember that the God of perfect love is also the God of perfect holiness, we do not take God’s love for granted. We rejoice, with great joy, in the wonder of His love.
Each of us must choose - light or darkness? (Luke 11:33-36). When we read Jesus' words, we have a powerful reminder that choosing light rather than darkness means more than outward religious observance. Jesus wants to change us on the inside. This is where real change comes from. The right attitude leads to right living. We walk in the light when we follow Jesus. Those who walk in darkness show their true nature by their reaction to Jesus (Luke 11:53-54).
When we, like Jesus, face opposition from those who choose darkness rather than light, we must not be afraid (Luke 12:4, 7). We are not to fear men. We are to fear the Lord (Luke 12:5). The fear of the Lord is to be a very positive thing in our life. It is the deep appreciation of God's love as a holy love. When we know that we are loved by God, we know that we are remembered by Him (Luke 12:6) and valued by Him (Luke 12:7). When, in the fear of the Lord, we remember that the God of perfect love is also the God of perfect holiness, we do not take God's love for granted. We rejoice, with great joy, in the wonder of His love.
(1) The call to make a commitment of ourselves to Christ: "Whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8). This means more than paying lip-service to Christ. Choosing Him means choosing to live a life which shares His priorities. It is to be a whole-hearted commitment. Jesus teaches us what we are to avoid and what we are to seek.
(2) What we are to avoid - "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed" (Luke 12:15).
(3) What we are to seek - "Seek His Kingdom" (Luke 12:31).
(4) The choice we make reveals what is really important to us: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34). A real confession of faith in Christ as your Saviour and Lord leads to a life lived in the light of eternity, a life which is shaped by the values of eternity, a life which the Bible calls "eternal life." This "eternal life" is not only far away in the in the future, far away in heaven. It is life here-and-now. It is life which is being transformed by the eternal perspective which Christ brings into our life.
Christ challenges us: Will you treasure the things that are above? Or Will you place value only on the things that are below?
Get ready for the Lord's return (Luke 12:40). We pray "Thy Kingdom come." We also pray, "Thy will be done on earth." (Matthew 6:10). "Seek first His Kingdom" (Matthew 6:33) - This is to be our greatest priority while we are here on earth. We are to wait on the Lord and renew our strength. This has to do with here-and-now. The teaching of the Lord concerning His return is to be the inspiration for our Christian living. "I will come again" (John 14:3). "This Jesus will come" (Acts 1:11). Our life is to be a prayer: "Come, O Lord" (1 Corinthians 16:22). He says, "I am coming soon." We say, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20). This is to be more than words. This is life , the whole of life, lived in the light of His coming. The return of the Lord is not to be put to the back of our mind. It is to be at the forefront of our attention: "You also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour" (Luke 12:40).
Jesus stresses the need for both repentance (1-5) and the fruits of repentance (6-9). God’s Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit. This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5). Don’t put it off till tomorrow! Today is ‘the day of salvation’. Don’t ‘neglect’ God’s ‘great salvation’ (15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (18-21). Jesus was ‘journeying toward Jerusalem’ - to ‘finish His course’ at the Cross (22, 32-33). He came from the Lord (35). Through Him, we come to the Lord (24; John 10:9). There is no salvation in ourselves (25-27). Apart from Him, there is ‘no peace’ (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Jesus loves you (34). Make ‘sure’ that your trust is in Him. He will never fail you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Christ’s Love – Reaching Us, Changing Us And Growing In Us (Luke 13:1-21)
In Luke 13:1-21, we see Jesus preaching, teaching and healing. At the heart of His ministry, there is love. The story of Jesus’ life on earth is an “old, old story.” It tells us about events which happened about 2,000 years ago. This story is still relevant to our life today. That is because it is the story of love. This love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. “The old, old story” is the story of Jesus and His love.
We see the love of Jesus in the healing of the crippled woman. In Jesus’ parables of growth (Luke 9:18-21), we are called to grow in our love for Jesus.
- His love reaches us.
- His love changes us.
- His love grows in us.
When the love of Christ reaches us, we cannot remain the same. We are changed by His love. We are to receive His love into our hearts. We are to let our lives be changed by His love. How do we grow in our love for Jesus? We must pray for spiritual growth. It’s not something we can achieve in our own strength. We must look to the Lord to reach us with His love, to change us by His love and to give us more love for Him.
Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem (Luke 13:22) - the place where He was to be crucified.
In the Cross of Christ, we see both the hatred of men and the love of God (Luke 13:34-35).
- In Jerusalem, there is human hatred towards Christ: “You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you”. “You were not willing” to come to Christ for salvation.
- To Jerusalem, divine love is shown.
God’s love is seen in the sending of the prophets to the people of Israel: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have loved you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3); “When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son ... I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:1,4).
God’s love is seen, even more clearly, in the sending of His Son: “”How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Luke 13:34). Jesus still longs to gather us in His loving arms: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
God loves us. Christ loves us. The Holy Spirit comes to us as the Spirit of love. He says to us, “Do you love Me?” Will we say, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love You”?
The call for humility - "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
The call to go out to the people and bring them into the Lord's House - "Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full" (Luke 14:23).
The call for humility and the call to go out to the people and bring them into the Lord's House - How are they to be related to each other?
- First, humility doesn't mean that we rest content with saying, "I couldn't do this" or "I couldn't do that." With humility, we must rise to the challenge of doing what God wants us to do.
- Second, going out to the people doesn't mean that we go in our own strength. We don't go, feeling full of our own importance. We go with our faith in the Lord. We go in His strength.
We need both - the humble attitude and the active commitment to serving the Lord.
"Follow Me." This is Jesus' message to all of us. To each and every one of us, He says, "Follow Me." He calls us to be His disciples. He calls us to follow him. What will it mean to follow Jesus?
- "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27)
- He is calling us to take up our cross. He is calling us to deny ourselves. He is calling us to follow Him. As we think about Christ's cross, we think also of His resurrection. the way of the cross is not an easy way. We do, however, have the help of the risen Lord. He comes to us. He lives in us. He gives us His joy. We are to live a Christ-like life. We are to follow Christ.
- "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 14:35).
We have heard the Word of the Lord. How will we respond to His Word? Don't let it go in one ear and out the other ear. let His Word reach your heart. let His Word change your life. The Lord is speaking His Word to us. Are we listening to Him? Listen to the Lord. Learn from the Lord. Live for the Lord.
Following Jesus (Luke 14:27)
“Follow Me.” This is Jesus’ message to all of us. To each and every one of us, He says, “Follow Me.” He calls us to be His disciples. He calls us to follow him. What will it mean to follow Jesus?
- “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).
- He is calling us to take up our cross. He is calling us to deny ourselves. He is calling us to follow Him. As we think about Christ’s cross, we think also of His resurrection. the way of the cross is not an easy way. We do, however, have the help of the risen Lord. He comes to us. He lives in us. He gives us His joy. We are to live a Christ-like life. We are to follow Christ.
- “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:35).
We have heard the Word of the Lord. How will we respond to His Word? Don’t let it go in one ear and out the other ear. let His Word reach your heart. let His Word change your life. The Lord is speaking His Word to us. Are we listening to Him? Listen to the Lord. Learn from the Lord. Live for the Lord.
"This man receives sinners" (Luke 15:2). This man is our Saviour. He receives sinners. Will we, sinners, receive Him?
Prior to the parable of the prodigal son, we have two short parables - the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep / coin" (Luke 15:6, 9). "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7). "There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).
In the parable of the lost son, we see ourselves.
- In his weakness, we see our weakness.
- In his guilt, we see our guilt.
- In his loneliness, we see our loneliness.
- In his sin, we see our sin.
In the story of his return to the loving father, we catch a glimpse of another Son - the perfect Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who provides a way for us to return to our heavenly Father - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
- We come in our weakness. We receive His strength.
- We come in our guilt. We receive His forgiveness.
- We come in our loneliness. we receive His friendship.
- We come in our sin. we receive His salvation.
Like the prodigal son, we come to an end of ourselves. we find all that we need in Christ. This is the Good News which comes from the heart of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father loves. The Son died for us. The Holy Spirit comes to us.
The Story of God’s Perfect Love – The Story of God’s Perfect Son (Luke 15:11-32)
- Jesus told a story of God’s love – “the story of the prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32).
- Jesus is the Story of God’s love – His Story is the Story of God’s perfect Son.
In Luke 15:13, we read of the prodigal son going into the “far country”. In Luke 15:20-22, we read of the joy of his homecoming -”20So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.”
In Philippians 2:8, we read of Jesus going into “the far country” (Luke 15:13) – “He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” – so that we might have an even greatest Homecoming of all – Christ has been “exalted … to the highest place.” He has been given “the Name that is above every name.” What a day it will be when “at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
The prodigal son becomes the returning son (Luke 15:11-24).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’(Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us. The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’. As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’.
We have confidence in the God of glory. He is the God who has given us a glimpse of His heavenly and eternal glory. In the "parable of the shrewd manager", Jesus speaks to us of "eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9). His words are an echo of the 23rd Psalm: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" (Psalm 23:6). "Eternal dwellings" - This is our goal. "Eternal dwellings" - This is our destination. We look beyond the goal of a better and safer world. We look forward to a new world. We look forward to a world in which "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Revelation 21:4). We look forward to a world which will shine with the brightness of God's glory (Revelation 22:5). With our confidence in the God of glory, we commit ourselves to serving Him. We are to let the life of His eternal Kingdom shape our life here on earth. We are to live as people of hope. We are to live as people who who have caught a glimpse of the God of hope. We are to live as people who will work for a better world because we are gripped by the vision of God's glorious Kingdom.
God is calling us to be wise (Luke 16:8). God is calling us to be trustworthy (Luke 16:10). God is calling us to serve Him (Luke 16:13) .
(1) God is calling us to be wise (Luke 16:8).
God is calling us to pray to Him. We are to ask Him for the special kind of wisdom which He alone can give to us: "Lord of all wisdom, I give Thee my mind, rich truth that surpasseth man's knowledge to find. What eye hath not seen and what ear hath not heard is taught by thy Spirit and shines from Thy Word."
(2) God is calling us to be trustworthy (Luke 16:10).
God is calling us to pray to Him. We are to ask Him for His strength which will enable us to keep on going when we feel like giving up: "Lord of all power, I give Thee my will, in joyful obedience Thy tasks to fulfil. Thy bondage is freedom, Thy service is song; and, held in Thy keeping, my weakness is strong."
(3) God is calling us to serve Him (Luke 16:13). God is calling us to make up our mind. He is calling us to be decisive. He is calling us to take action. He comes to us with the promise of victory. He gives us a glimpse of the glorious destiny towards which He is leading us - "you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:10). This is our high and heavenly calling. Jesus says to us, "No servant can serve two masters" (Luke 16:13). He challenges us to make up our mind - "Which world will you live for? - This world or the world that is to come?" Let us commit our lives to Him: "Lord of all being, I give Thee my all. If e'er I disown thee, I stumble and fall, but sworn, in glad service, Thy Word to obey, I walk in Thy freedom to the end of the way."
May God help us to keep our eyes on Him. He is the source of true wisdom. He is the source of true strength. He is the source of true victory.
“No servant can serve two masters … ” (Luke 16:13) - Let us serve the Lord.
God is calling us to make up our mind. He is calling us to be decisive. He is calling us to take action. He comes to us with the promise of victory. He gives us a glimpse of the glorious destiny towards which He is leading us – “you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:10). This is our high and heavenly calling. Jesus says to us, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13). He challenges us to make up our mind – “Which world will you live for? – This world or the world that is to come?”
This is the story of two men - "a rich man" and "a poor man" (Luke 16:19-20). As we read about these two men, we must think also of a third Man, the Storyteller, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1) The "rich man"
The rich man had more than enough, but it wasn't enough! In terms of this world, he had more than enough: "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day" (Luke 16:19). In terms of the world to come, he had nothing. The man who had everything turned out to be the man who had nothing. Spiritually speaking, his life was empty. here is a man who refused to listen to the Word of God - "Moses and the prophets" (Luke 16:31). He lived a self-centred life, the kind of life which is called in question by Jesus with His searching question: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). Rather than living for the eternal God and His eternal Kingdom, this man lived for himself. The lesson of this man's life is summed up in the Biblical warning: "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). God is saying to us, "Listen and learn." Let's learn from the rich man. We learn how we are not to live. Let there be less of self and more love for God and others. Let's be "lovers of God" rather than "lovers of pleasure" (2 Timothy 3:4). Let's love others with the love which we ourselves have received from Christ: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:16-18). How are we to live the life which pleases God? - "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
(2) The "poor man" - Lazarus
The poor man had less than enough, but it was enough! On earth, he was "a beggar" (Luke 16:20). In heaven, everything was so different - "the angels carried him to Abraham's side" (Luke 16:22). The name, "Lazarus" , means "God has helped", "God is my Helper." In the meaning of the name, "Lazarus", we have God's Word to us. He is saying to us, "See yourself as spiritually poor. Look to Me for help." Jesus warns us against going our own way without Him. He calls us to put our trust in Him, walking with Him on the pathway of holiness (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Jesus - This is the one thing that matters more than anything else.
(3) The Storyteller - Jesus
Jesus is enough! He is all that we need!
(a) The story of the "rich man" and the "poor man" comes from the One who lived in earthly poverty - "no room at the inn" (Luke 2:7); "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Luke 9:58). The way of earthly poverty, living in obedience to God, doing the Father's will - This was His pathway to heavenly glory.
"5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).
(b) The name of "Lazarus" appears in Jesus' ministry in John 11. In John 11:25, the way to eternal life is made clear: "I am the Resurrection and the Life ... ". Jesus is the One who has come back to tell us that there is life beyond the grave. He has "risen from the dead" (Luke 16:31). We have more than "Moses and the prophets." We have more than the Word which was spoken and written in Old Testament times. We have Jesus. He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14). Jeus is the risen Lord. He is our Saviour. He is enough!
Here, Jesus speaks about temptation, forgiveness, faith and service.
(a) Temptation - ‘watch yourselves’, always remembering that we can only win victory through the strength of the Lord (3; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
(b) Forgiveness - This is practical teaching. We not only receive forgiveness for ourselves. We are to forgive others (3-4; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 4:32).
(c) Faith - There will never come a time when we no longer need to pray, ‘Increase our faith’. What great things can be achieved for God, when our faith in Him is strong (5-6; 1 John 5:4-5, 14-15).
(d) Service - We are always ‘unworthy servants’. We never outgrow our need of ‘God’s mercy’(10; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1). We need ‘the attitude of gratitude’(17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Our life is made up of past, present and future. We have come from the past - the things that have happened to us. we are moving towards the future - the things that are still to happen to us. We live in the present - the things that are happening to us here-and-now.
(1) We are to learn from the past.
(2) We are to look toward the future.
(3) We are to live in the present.
(1) Learning from the past
Jesus says to us, "Remember" (Luke 17:32). We are to "remember Lot's wife." We are to learn from the past. This means more than remembering the past of our own life. It also means learning from the past that takes us right back to the book of Genesis. That's where the story of Lot's wife comes from. Learning from the past, we go back beyond Lot's wife. we go back to the first words of the Bible - "In the beginning, God." Before the world was created, there was God the Creator. He is the God who loves us with an everlasting love. we remember the God of love. We also remember Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. we remember that he died for our sins. We remember that He rose again from the dead. When we remember Jesus Christ, we must think of all that He has done for us. We are to remember Him with a deep appreciation of His love. As we look back, remembering what the lord has done for us, let's lift up our hearts and voices, with praise and thanksgiving, to God.
(2) Looking toward the future
Jesus says to us, "The days are coming" (Luke 17:22). He says to us, "I will come again" (John 14:3). we do not only look ahead to the days that lie ahead for ourselves. We look forward to the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is coming - This is our great hope for the future. we must never lose sight of this glorious future. We must never lose sight of Jesus. He is our great and glorious Saviour. we must look forward, with great expectation, to the Lord's return. we must look forward, with great anticipation, to the coming of God's heavenly and eternal Kingdom.
(3) Living in the present
Our life is always more than a backward look to the past and a forward look to the future. We learn from the past, but we don't live in the past. We must live in the present. We look forward to the future, but we don't escape into daydreaming about the future. We must live in the present. Jesus says to us, "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). He emphasizes the importance of the Spirit of God living in our hearts. the presence of God is not simply something to be remembered from 'the good old days.' The presence of God is not merely something to which we look forward, as we think about 'the golden age' that lies ahead of us. The presence of God is to be enjoyed here-and -now.
Jesus' disciples said to Him, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). This is what we must pray for - an increase of our faith. An increase of our faith will involve an increase of our appreciation of all that God has done for us in the past and an increase of our expectation of all that God is going to do for us in the future. "Increase our faith" - Let's pray for a living faith. Let's pray for a real faith. Let's pray for a faith that makes a difference - today.
Jesus says, "Let the little children come to Me" (Luke 18:16). God is calling us to teach the children. He is also calling us to learn from the children. We are to "receive the Kingdom of God like a little child" (Luke 18:17). in the simplicity of children, we have a model for our faith in the Lord. As we grow in Christ, we are to become more childlike in our attitude towards our heavenly Father.
This simple, childlike faith is seen in the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) and the humble tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).
In Luke 18:1-8, we learn that (a) God wants to bless us; (b) God waits to bless us. His blessing comes in His time. We must wait upon Him patiently; (c) God calls us to put our faith in Him - "Will He find faith in us? (Luke 18:8). During our time of waiting patiently on the Lord, our faith will be put to the test. We may often wonder, "Does God want to bless us?" As we learn to wait, with patience, on the Lord, He will increase our faith. He will give us strength to hold on to our faith that He wants to bless us. As we learn to wait for God's time of blessing, we become more ready to receive His blessing in a spirit of thanksgiving, " This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). When everything comes too easily to us, we are inclined to glory in ourselves rather than giving all the glory to the Lord. Let's the time of waiting for God's blessing to come to us. The time of His blessing becomes so much more precious to us when we have learned the truth of His promise: "Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). May God help us to grow in faith and to enter into the blessing which is promised to those who put their trust in Him.
In Luke 18:9-14, we learn from the tax collector. We see his attitude of faith - simple, sincere, humble, childlike faith. This is so different from the attitude of the Pharisee. He was full of arrogant pride. he took God's blessing for granted, but he didn't receive God's blessing! We must choose. Which attitude will we bring into the presence of God? What attitude do we bring with us into God's House? What attitude will we take with us as we go out from the House of the Lord? Let it be childlike faith.
Here, we read about a man who had an eye- problem. He was "a blind man" (Luke 18:35). We read also about a man who had a different kind of "I" problem. Self! This was the problem for the "rich, young ruler." He loved himself more than he loved the Lord. All of us have this "I" problem: "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). We learn also, in Isaiah 53:6, what God has done about our "I" problem: "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." These words point forward, prophetically, to the teaching of Jesus: "Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again" (Luke 18:31-33). Jesus died for us. Jesus rose from the dead for us. This is the Gospel. This is the Good News. "Christ died for our sins ... He was raised on the third day" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
- The story of the rich young ruler is a story of sadness. This man had a choice to make: Turn away from sin or turn away from the Saviour. He made his choice. He turned away from the Saviour.
- The story of the blind man is a story of gladness. He was "praising God." Those who witnessed this great miracle of healing also "praised God" (Luke 18:43).
- How can our sadness become gladness? It is through the cross of Christ. Our "I" problem is crossed out. Our "eyes" are opened as we look to Jesus. The eye problem is not only a problem for those who are physically blind. It is a problem for every one of us. It is our "I" problem. Our sadness becomes gladness when we turn our eyes upon Jesus. As we think of our "I" problem, we realize that we cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by the Lord. We are not to be sad because of our "I" problem (SIN). we are to rejoice in the Lord's saving power. This is what Jesus is teaching us in Luke 18:27 - "What is impossible with men is possible with God" Through the grace of God, we can have this testimony: "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold." God gives us this testimony as He answers the prayer: "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord." This prayer to God comes as we respond to God's Word to us. As we think about our "I" problem, we hear God speaking to us: "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to My ways" (Proverbs 23:26). Give your heart to the Lord. Let Him give you His gladness. This is so well-expressed in the fine, Christ-centred hymn: "Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come ... Sound His praises, tell the story of Him who was slain; sound His praises, tell with gladness He now lives again." We end with the words of Luke 18:43 - "When all the people saw it, they also praised God." The Word of God has come to us in Christ, May all of us praise God.
- The conversion of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10): We are saved by the Lord. The great lesson of the story of Zacchaeus is stated clearly in Luke 19:10 - "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
- The parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27): We are to serve the Lord. The great lesson of the parable of the pounds is summed up in the phrase, This Man is to "reign over us" (Luke 19:14).
Taking the two stories together - an event from Jesus' life and a story told by Jesus, we learn that Jesus is both our Saviour and our Lord.
Jesus is our Saviour. He is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He saves us.
Jesus is our Lord. As those who have been saved by the Lord, we are to serve Him, He gives His salvation to us. We are to give our allegiance to Him. He gave His life for us. We are to give our life to Him.
Zacchaeus was small. He was insignificant. Jesus says, "You are important to Me. You are loved by Me." Loneliness is transformed by love. "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). What a day this was for Zacchaeus! It was the greatest day of his life. It was the beginning of a new life. It was the day of decision. It was the beginning of the way of discipleship. From this day forward, he was learning, the lesson of the parable of the pounds. He was learning, day-by-day, to live under the rule of Christ, through the power of God's Spirit and the teaching of God's Word.
Jesus was “going up to Jerusalem” (Luke 19:28). It was His love which kept Him going. He looked forward to the fulfilment of God’s purpose of love. Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Here, we see His love for sinners, His love for us. How are we to respond to His great love for us? We are to say, “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38).
As we turn our attention to Jesus’ triumphal entry, we need to see the bigger picture.
We need to look back into the Old Testament prophecy, which was fulfilled when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.
We need to look forward to the coming Kingdom of God, towards which the words, “Blessed is the King ... “ direct our attention.
- “See, your King comes to you, righteous an d having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). See Him, and “rejoice greatly”. He’s righteous and gentle. He’s our Saviour.
- “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
- What God is doing: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will endure forever” (Daniel 2:44). Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).
- What we must do (Psalm 24:7-10; Revelation 3:20): The holy Son of God, our loving Saviour, waits for us to invite Him to come into our heart and life. Do not close the door to Him (Luke 19:41-46). Open the door to Him (Luke 19:37).
Jesus was "teaching the people." He was "preaching the Gospel" (Luke 20:1).
What is it that we bring to the people? - The Gospel.
- What is the Gospel?
- It's the Gospel of God's "beloved Son" (Luke 20:13).
- It's the Gospel of the resurrection (Luke 20:17).
- Who is Jesus Christ? What has Jesus Christ done for us? - These are the key questions which the Gospel answers for us - "Christ is the answer"; "Jesus is the answer for the world today."
- Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. From all eternity, He is the Son of God. He is God's only begotten Son. He is the Son of God's eternal love. He has been sent to us by the God of eternal love. God is well pleased with Jesus Christ, His beloved Son. We must listen to Jejesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
- Jesus Christ is the risen Lord. He is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebredws 13:8). For all eternity, He is the Son of God. In Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, there is eternal life for all who put their faith in Him.
- What will be our response to Him? "And astonished by His answer, they became silent" (Luke 20:26). This was a guilty silence. There is, however, another silence. It is the silence which expresses our worship in the face of the greatness of God and His , our Saviour, Jesus Christ - "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).
- Let us worship God. When we come to worship God, we are to pray that we will worship Him "in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). We worship God as "the God of the living" (Luke 20:38). We worship Jesus Christ our "Lord" (Luke 20:44). We are to pray that Jesus Christ will be glorified in our praise. We bring our worship to God in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We seek the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our worship. We come to the Lord's Table, rejoicing in the love of God, giving thanks for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, receuiving strength from the Holy Spirit.
- Let us worship God. Jesus invites us to think about our worship. Are we like "the teachers of the law" - outwardly impressive but inwardly impoverished (Luke 20:45-47)? Do we long to be like the widow - deep in our worship of God, complete in our consecration to God (Luke 21:1-4).
- Let us worship God. Jesus looked around Him. He saw empty religion. He saw real worship. He invites us to look at the widow and her gift. He invites us to look at our own worship. He calls us to pray that our hearts and lives will be touched deeply by the love of God. We look at the widow and her gift. May we learn from her. May God help us to love Him more deeply, more truly and more fully. What was most significant about her gift? It wasn't the amount she gave. It was the giving of her heart. She gave her all to the Lord. The giving of our heart and our life to the Lord - This is true "spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).
- True spiritual worship is a response to God's love for us. We come to the cross of Christ. We grow in our appreciation of His great love for us. At the cross, we learn that "the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us" (Galatians 2:20). At the cross, we give ourselves to the Lord. It is His love for us which inspires our love for Him - "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
- True spiritual worship is an expression of our love for God. Our love for Him comes from His love for us - "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19) - "Love so amazing, so divine, shall have my soul, my life, my all."
- True spiritual worship: It's God's love for us leading to our love for Him. We may sum it up thus: "Love changes everything." Love - This is what makes the difference. We see this in the widow and he gift. Love - it's God's love for us. Love - it's our love for God. This is what leads to a changed life (Romans 12:1-2).
As those who have been loved with the greatest love of all, the love of God, let's give our love to Him. Let's show our love for Him by living lives that are being changed by His love.
There is much to cause us to be fearful. There is much that makes us feel uncertain. Jesus casts out our fear. He gives us hope. He says to us, "your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28). Think of this great redemption (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 21:1-4). Let fear be banished from your heart. Let your heart be filled with hope.
- "The Lord Himself will come down from heaven" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). This is the great future towards which we look forward. It is an event of great encouragement.
- We will meet the Lord in the air.
- We will be with the Lord for ever.
- Encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
- In Revelation 21:1-4, we read about our glorioius, heavenly and eternal hope - "the Holy City, new Jerusalem" (Revelation 21:2). What a wonderful message there is here! "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God" (Revelation 21:3). This is redemption! We are redeemed. We are delivered from the things that blight our life here on earth. No more death or mourning, no more crying or opain (Revelation 21:4 - What a wonderful redemption this is!
- Why live in fear? Why live in uncertainty? Let's look up, beyond the things that happen here on earth, to the things that are above, in heaven.
Within the story of the first Communion service, we have the story of two men - men with similar names, men with very different characters. Both names have five letters. Both names begin with 'J.' Both names end with 'S.' That, however, is where the similarity between Judas and Jesus ends. Judas and Jesus could hardly have been more different. Judas was the betrayer. Jesus is the Saviour. Judas, the betrayer, and Jesus, the Saviour - both men were soon to die: in very different circumstances! The story of Judas was a story of tragedy. The Story of Jesus is a Story of triumph.
The story of these two men - the tragedy of Judas and the triumph of Jesus - begins with the chief priests and the scribes: "the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Jesus to death" (Luke 22:2). These men, proud of their own religious traditions, had no time for Jesus. He had challenged them to be God's men. They were to be more than religious men. they were to be God's men. They would have none of this. No young preacher was going to tell them how they were to live their lives. This young preacher, who had appeared from nowhere, had to be silenced. What right had this young upstart to tell them what to do. there was no other alternative. He had to be silenced - fully and finally! He had to die. Little did they know that the cross was to be Jesus' greatest triumph!
As the chief priests and the scribes plotted Jesus' death, they discovered , much to their surprise and amazement, that they had a very unexpected accomplice - one "of the twelve": Judas (Luke 22:3). Making sure that no-one was around, making sure that no-one was looking, making sure that no-one could see him, Judas went about his ungodly business. With great stealth and almost unbelievable deception, this evil man, one of Jesus' twelve disciples, laid his plans to betray the Lord to His enemies. Judas, one of the twelve, a man whose life should have been marked by loyalty to his Lord, could think of one thing only - "What's in it for me?" As he left the chief priests and the scribes with the money bag in his hands, with the bagful of coins safely in his pocket, Judas must have thought to himself, "What a cinch! What an easy way to make money!" He could hardly have been more wrong. This was no shortcut to a fortune. This was a quickstep to self-destruction. within a matter of days, Judas, in total despair, had taken his own life. Jesus, on the other hand, was to be raised from the dead and declared, triumphantly, to be the Son of the living God.
Why did Judas do such an awful thing? Was it a "spur of the moment" thing? Was it something which just crossed his mind there and then? The Bible makes it clear that the betrayal of the Lord by Judas "was a thief", a man who "used to take what was put into the money box" (John 12:6). The scene was already set for the betrayal. Prior to the ultimate act of betrayal, there was a whole string of acts of dishonesty and disloyalty. Long before the last week of Jesus' earthly life, the Lord said to His disciples: "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). Jesus was under no illusions about the godless character of Judas. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that the story of Judas was not the story of a good man who went wrong in a sudden moment of weakness. Rather, it is the story of a man who was wrong, from the beginning.Judas was a man who had been crooked for some considerable time. It was the easiest thing in the world for the devil to put the thought of betrayal into Judas' mind (John 13:2). Judas was already prepared for Satan to enter him (Luke 22:3). The seeds of betrayal went back much further than the act of betrayal. we need, however, to go back further beyond the act of betrayal, beyond the plan of betrayal, beyond the seeds of betrayal. it is only when we go back, right back, that we discover God's plan of salvation.
God wasn't "caught on the hop" by this plan of betrayal and this act of betrayal. Long before Judas ever heard of Jesus, God, in love, had sent His Son to be the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. Judas may have thought he was 'one up' on Jesus. He may have thought he had 'put one over' on Jesus. He was sadly and tragically mistaken. The truth could not be hidden from the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew all along what Judas had been up to. Jesus was one step ahead of Judas. While Judas was plotting to betray Him, Jesus calmly announced, "the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table" (Luke 22:21). Jesus was in complete control of the situation. Here, at the Lord's Table, we see how foolish Satan really is. On the surface, Satan appears to have the upper hand. He is plotting Jesus' downfall. The real situation is, however, quite different. Jesus is simply allowing Satan to carry out the plot which will lead to his own downfall, through the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus speaks to His disciples. He speaks of himself as the Bringer of salvation. He also declares Himself to be Lord over Satan.
At the first Communion service, Judas, the betrayer, and Jesus, the Saviour, sit at the same table. Judas doesn't reveal his real attitude toward Jesus. He tries to hide what he really is. He pretends to be faithful to Jesus. This is all an act. what he is really doing is something very different. He is planning the ultimate act of disloyalty. The Lord knows exactly what is going on in Judas' mind. The Lord knows that there is, sitting with the twelve, one who despises all that Jesus is. Seated with the twelve, there is one who despises all that Jesus stands for. Among His closest friends, there is one who despises all that Jesus came to do. How does Jesus react to this situation? Does He respond to hatred with hatred? No! He responds with love. In love, He yearns for Judas to turn from his sin. In love, He longs for Judas to become a true disciple - not in name only but in reality. If there was ever a moment when Judas could have renounced his evil conspiracy, it was the moment when Jesus dipped the morsel of bread in the wine and gave it to Judas (John 13:26). That was a moment of love, a moment in which the Saviour declared His love for the sinner. In that moment of love, there was also a moment of opportunity. In the offering of bread and wine to Judas, there was an opportunity for him to avert the tragedy of his life. The opportunity was lost and that moment became a moment of truth, a moment in which the truth concerning Judas was clearly revealed. In that moment, Judas declined the love,missed the opportunity and went out into the night and betrayed his Saviour and Lord. Things could have been so different for Judas. Seated at the Lord's Table, he could have chosen Christ and His salvation. Jesus offered the bread and wine to Judas. Jesus was making a special appeal to Judas. It was the special appeal of His love. Jesus appealed to Judas. He called him to turn back from the way he had chosen. Judas ate the bread. Judas drank the wine. Sadly, he refused the reality of which they speak. He refused to open his heart to Jesus Christ, his Saviour and Lord.
From that moment of truth, when the love was resisted and the opportunity was refused, the stories of these two men, Judas and Jesus, went relentlessly on. The tragic story of Judas went quickly on to its disastrous end. Judas was lost. He was lost because he had lost himself in the presence of "the Son of God who loved him and gave himself for him" (Galatians 2:20). the Story of Jesus went on, not to a disastrous end but to a glorious triumph, His victorious death on the cross, His mighty resurrection and His exaltation as Saviour and Lord.
Gathered around the Lord's Table, we remember the Story of the Lord Jesus Christ. Can we be callous like the black-hearted traitor, Judas? While the other disciples wondered about all that Jesus had said to them, Judas sat there and listened, knowing all along that he was the betrayer. Dare we follow the course which Judas took? - "Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action. Reap a habit. Sow a habit. Reap a character. Sow a character. Reap a destiny." What will your response be? Will you receive the love that Christ offers to you? Will you grasp the opportunity that He presents to you? This can be your moment of salvation - if you will come to the Saviour. This can be the highlight of your story. This can be the turning-point. This can be the moment of destiny. This can be the moment when everything changes - for time and eternity. Everything depends on your answer to the all-important question: Will you come, in faith, to Jesus Christ? Will you come to Him right now?
The first celebration of the Lord's Supper took place at the time of the Passover. It was a time of rejoicing. It was a time of thanksgiving. We can also relate the celebration of the Lord's Supper to our time of Harvest Thanksgiving.
We note the connections between the the Lord's Supper and Harvest Thanksgiving.
- In the Harvest Thanksgiving service, we think of the work of both God and man. Both are necessary. In our celebration of the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of what Christ has done for us and we are called to make our response to His love.
- At both services, the Lord's Supper and Harvest Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the importance of both receiving and sharing. We receive God's blessing. We are to share His blessing with others.
- When we celebrate the Lord's Supper and give thanks for the Harvest, we are reminded of our hope for the future and we are encouraged to play our part in paving the way for a better future.
(1) The Lord's Supper, the Harvest, the land and the work
In our celebration of the Lord's Supper, our chief focus is on our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We should not, however, forget to thank God for the harvest. We should thank Him for the land. We should thank Him for the workers. They have worked to produce food and bring it to our tables. we should not forget them when we gather at the Lord's Table.
(2) The Lord's Supper, the Harvest, receiving and sharing
In our celebration of the Lord's Supper, we have the privilege of receiving and the responsibility of sharing. We receive the blessing of God's forgiveness into our hearts. We are reminded that Christ died " for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). We have received Christ's love. We are to share His love with others. We've received an ample supply of food. We mustn't forget those who aren't so fortunate as we are. They have very little food. They're very hungry. When we remember the suffering of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, we must remember those for are suffering greatly. When we remember Jesus Christ, crucified for us, we must not forget those who are dying because they don't have enough food to eat. When we give thanks for our harvest, we must not forget those who don't have much to eat. This is a global issue which should by addressed by all of us. Each of us should play our part in providing food for those who are very hungry.
(3) The Lord's Supper, the Harvest, hope for the future, working towards a better future
In Luke 22, at the Lord's Supper, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God.
- "And He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God" (Luke 22:15-16). The Kingdom of God - this is the great fulfilment towards which we look forward.
- "After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:17-18). The coming of the Kingdom - this is the great future which fills our hearts with hope.
- "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials. And I confer on you a Kingdom, just as My Father conferred one on Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom ... " (Luke 22:28-30). Eating and drinking at the Lord's Table in His Kingdom - what a glorious future this is! As we contemplate this future, let's play our part in sharing Christ's love. As we celebrate the Harvest, we are to pray for, long for and work for a better world, a world free of hunger. In seeking to play our part in paving the way for a better world, we look beyond this earthly world to the ultimate fulfilment of God's purpose - "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:1-4).
Jesus was ‘greatly distressed… troubled… very sorrowful… ’(Mark 14:33-34). ‘Nevertheless, in obedience to His Father’s will, He chose the way of the Cross (42; John 10:17-18). Satan – ‘the power of darkness’- would have his ‘hour’, but Jesus was to be ‘seated at the right hand of the power of God’(53,69). Jesus suffered much persecution (63-71). He endured it ‘for the joy that was set before Him’, the joy of ‘bringing many sons to glory’(Hebrews 12:2; 2:10). The way of the Cross is never easy. It involves death to self (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). Do not ‘sleep’. Pray (45-46). Don’t ‘follow at a distance’ and deny your Lord (54, 57-58, 60). Keep close to Jesus. Let the ‘rivers of living water flow’(John 7:37-39; Acts 1:8). When you sin, let His ‘Word’ lead you to repentance (61-62; Psalm 119:11).
Barabbas is released. Jesus is crucified. The Saviour takes the sinner's place.
- Here, we see the wonder of God's love - "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son" (John 3:16). We hear the cry of the crowd, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" (Luke 23:21). Behind their hostility, we see something else - the love of God. We look at Christ's crucifixion. We ask, "Why did God allow it?" The answer is given - God did it! Human explanations are not enough. We need the divine explanation - "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son" (John 3:16).
- Out of the great love of God comes the great exchange: "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that, in Him, we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21); "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18); "He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).
- His love for us calls out, from our hearts, our love for Him. We look at Barabbas. We wonder, "What became of Barabbas after the day that Jesus was crucified and Barabbas was set free?" We look at ourselves. How will we live now that we see that the Saviour has taken our place, bearing our sins so that we might receive His salvation?
- "See from His head, His hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
- O dearly, dearly has He loved, and we must love him too, and trust in His redeeming blood, and try His works to do."
- "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
- "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).
We rejoice in His love. We are changed by His love. To Him alone be all the glory!
In Jesus’ trial, we see unity in evil (Luke 23:12). Politically, Pilate and Herod were at odds with each other. Spiritually, they were united in their opposition to Christ. Jesus was found guilty by neither Pilate nor Herod (Luke 23:13-16). They were Very Important People. Jesus was a threat to them. They held positions of great power. They could not allow Jesus to ‘upset the apple cart’. Three times, Pilate declared Jesus’innocence (Luke 23:4, 14, 22). ‘Public opinion’said, ‘Crucify Him!’(Luke 23:21). Pilate had a problem. He would be ‘crucifying’ himself - politically - if he ignored public opinion. Pilate made his choice. Jesus had to go. Jesus went - but He came back again! There is real human drama here, but there is much more than that: There is God! Crucified by men, Raised by God (Acts 2:23-24): This is divine drama, the drama of redemption!
Loving Jesus and Following Jesus: Here, we focus on two verses where there is special mention of women – Luke 23:27; Luke 23:49.
(1) Loving Jesus
Among those who followed Jesus, there were “women who mourned and wailed for Him” (Luke 23:27). They “mourned and wailed for Him” because they loved Him. Our love for Jesus is a response to His love for us – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34); “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Let His love reach you. Let His love change you. Let His love for you draw out your love for Him.
(2) Following Jesus
The women are described, in Luke 23:49, as “the women who had followed Him from Galilee.” We hear more about “the twelve”, especially Peter, James and John. We don’t hear much about “the women”, but we do hear something about them in Luke 23:27 and Luke 23:49. What we hear is an example, inspiration and challenge to us. Like them, we are to love Jesus and we are to follow Jesus. Their example will inspire us to love Jesus and to follow Him. Will you love Him more? Will you follow Him more closely?
‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’(1 Corinthians 1:27). In his weakness, the thief on the cross trusted Christ for salvation (42-43). Pilate, a man of power, rejected Christ, sending Him off to be crucified (23:23-25). Jesus was ‘delivered into the hands of sinful men’. Jesus was ‘crucified’. This was not, for Him, the end. He rose from the dead (7). At the Cross, ‘the centurion’ described Jesus as ‘a righteous man’(47). In the resurrection, God declared Him to be much more than a righteous man – He is ‘the Son of God’(Romans 1:4). Don’t be like those who do ‘not believe’, those who consider Christ’s resurrection to be ‘an idle tale’(11). Something has ‘happened’, something very wonderful – Jesus has risen from the dead:… ‘believe… be saved’(12; Romans 10:9).
The story of Jesus doesn’t end, at the end of chapter 23, with Jesus’ burial. It continues on, into chapter 24, with His resurrection. The mighty resurrection of Christ is proclaimed in Luke 24:6 – “He is not here. He has risen.”
Before turning directly, let’s notice something significant about His burial. The man who attended to Jesus’ burial was Joseph of Arimathea – “he was waiting for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 23:51). He didn’t have long to wait for a mighty demonstration of the life-giving power of God’s Kingdom. In His resurrection from the dead, Christ shows to us the life of the ultimate future, the life of the coming Kingdom of God, the life that takes us beyond the grave.
The great event of Christ’s resurrection stands at the very heart of the New Testament.
What does the New Testament teach us concerning Christ’s resurrection?
- (1) The resurrection was predicted in the ministry of Christ.
- (2) The resurrection was presented as a miracle of God.
- (3) The resurrection was proclaimed in the message of the Church.
(1) The resurrection was predicted in the ministry of Christ.
The important passages are Luke 9:18-22; Luke 11:29-30 and Luke 18:31-33. We must note that it is the event of the resurrection which makes the meaning of these verses clear.
(2) The resurrection was presented as a miracle of God.
There is only one explanation of Christ’s resurrection – God did it!
(i) Who moved the stone? – God.
(ii) Who met with the disciples? – Christ.
(iii) Who empowered the disciples for witness? – The Holy Spirit.
God’s work in us is His miracle, from beginning to end.
- He takes away the stony heart of unbelief.
- He comes to us, in Christ, and gives us new life.
- He comes to us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to equip us for witness.
(3) The resurrection was proclaimed in the message of the Church.
(i) “witnesses of the resurrection” (Acts 1:22).
(ii) Preaching the resurrection (Acts 2:24; Acts 4:33).
(iii) Paul preaching the resurrection (Acts 17:18).
Today, the resurrection of Christ must still be the heart of the Church’s message: “He is not here. He has risen!”
Jesus was dead and buried. The Pharisees were jubilant. They were celebrating. That was the end of the troublemaker. Jesus was dead and buried. The disciples were despondent. They were mourning. They had lost their great Friend.
Joy and sadness: the joy of the Pharisees and the sadness of the disciples - Soon, it was all going to change. The joy of the Pharisees would be short-lived. The sadness of the disciples would soon turn to gladness. Soon, everything was about to change. Soon, Jesus’ enemies would know that their evil plot had backfired on them. Soon, the disciples would know that this was not a hopeless end. Soon, they would know that this was the beginning of an endless hope.
Think of the endless hope which the resurrection of Christ opened up for His disciples: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). This is our glorious hope: “Death is swallowed up in victory … Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 57).
- How does a hopeless end become an endless hope? The answer is found in these wonderful words, which announced Christ’s resurrection - “He is not here. He has risen!” (Luke 24:6).
- Jesus had spoken, prophetically, concerning His crucifixion and resurrection – “Remember how He spoke to you … “(Luke 24:6-7). The Lord’s promise had been fulfilled. Jesus had kept His Word. He had returned from the grave. He had triumphed over the grave. Remembering Jesus Christ, “risen from the dead”, we rejoice that He did not raise false hopes and then leave them dashed. We rejoice that He did what He said He would do. He rose from the dead. As we think about of the words of prophecy, spoken by Jesus and fulfilled by Him in His resurrection from the dead, let us think also of His words of prophecy concerning His Second Coming. Jesus said that He would come again to gather His believing people into His Father’s house: “Do not let your hearts be troubled …” (John 14:1-3). Jesus has fulfilled His prophecy concerning His resurrection. He will fulfil His prophecy concerning our resurrection to eternal life. We look back to His resurrection. We look forward to our resurrection in Him. This is the joy of the resurrection – Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection in Him. It is the joy of fulfilment. It is the joy of the resurrection which has already taken place – Christ’s resurrection. It is the joy of anticipation, the joy of the resurrection which has yet to take place – our resurrection in Christ.
Here, we look at Jesus’ ministry of God’s Word. He speaks as the risen Christ. We see His pattern for us today. It is through His presence among us that there is a true and growing understanding of God’s Word. When we gather to hear God’s Word, we must come into the Lord’s House, believing that Jesus will fulfil to us His precious promise: “where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
We focus particular attention on Luke 24:25-27, Luke 24:30-32, Luke 24:44-49 and Luke 24:52-53.
- “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27) – This is a reference to the Old Testament. Many people dismiss the Old Testament. They tell us that we don’t need to pay attention to it. Jesus tells us that this attitude is “foolish” (Luke 24:25). We have much to learn from the Old Testament. It directs us to the New Testament. The promises, given in the Old Testament, have been fulfilled in the New Testament. A notable example of this is found in Isaiah 53, which speaks, prophetically, of Christ’s death on the cross for the salvation of sinners. In the New Testament, Christ is at the centre of everything. The Gospels tell His Story. Acts tells of the advance of His Gospel. The Letters apply the message of His Gospel. Revelation shows us the glory of Christ.
- In Luke 24:30-32, we see that, through the ministry of God’s Word, our hearts are warmed and our eyes are opened.
- In Luke 24:44-49, we move on from receiving God’s Word from the Lord (Luke 24:44-46) to sharing God’s Word with others (Luke 24:47-49). As we receive and share God’s Word, we are to pray that His Word will be spoken to us and spoken by us with “power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
- In Luke 24:52-53, we are reminded that the preaching of God’s Word flourishes when God’s people bring to Him their joyful praise and worship.
With great joy, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Christ’s resurrection is (i) a fact of history - something that happened; (ii) a fact of faith - something that we believe; (iii) a fact of experience – something that changes us.
We focus our attention on Luke 24:30-35. We will learn about the Person of Christ – who He is; the Purpose of Christ – what He has done for us; the Presence of Christ – how He continues to bless us today.
(1) The Person of Christ – who He is.
Note the contrast between the description of Jesus, given in Luke 24:19, and the declaration of Jesus resurrection in Luke 24:34 – “the Lord has risen.” He is more than “a prophet.” He is “the Lord.” What convinced these disciples that Jesus is more than “a prophet”? What convinced them that He is “the Lord”? – His resurrection (Romans 1:1-4).
(2) The Purpose of Christ – why He came.
Luke 24:30-31, 35 – This was not a Communion service. It was an ordinary sharing of bread. There is no mention of wine. The two people weren’t present at the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the upper room. Perhaps, They had heard about the Last Supper. Perhaps, they had been present at the feeding of the five thousand. Perhaps, as the risen Christ broke bread with them, they noticed the nail marks on His hands. All we are told is this – “Jesus was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. They recognized Him when He broke the bread” (Luke 24:35). The simple action of breaking the bread turns our thoughts to the symbolic action – the broken bread speaks to us of our Saviour’s body, broken for us.
Here, we see the purpose of Christ. Here, we see the purpose of His love. The cross of Christ stands at the heart of the Gospel. This is the Good News – “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). When we think of the power of Christ’s resurrection, we must also remember the love of His crucifixion.
(3) The Presence of Christ – how He continues to bless us today.
In the time between His resurrection and his ascension, Christ was preparing His disciples for the time when He would no longer be with them as a bodily presence. He was preparing them for a new stage in the knowledge of Him. The risen Lord is unseen, but He is never absent. He is with them always. He is with us always. Christ ministers to us. He does this through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who brings Christ to us. He does this by way of the Holy Scriptures. Christ’s pattern of revelation is still the same for us.
(i) Instruction in the Scriptures;
(ii) The warming of the heart;
(iii) The opening of the eyes;
(iv) Unseen but never absent, the Saviour sends us out to walk by faith – “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’(27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us… while He opens to us the Scriptures?’(32). He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’(47-48). Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’(39) – even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’(John 20:25). Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’(48-53)!
The Gospel is Good News. The preaching of the Gospel is the telling of the story of Christ’s birth, His baptism, His victory over temptation, His transfiguration, His crucifixion, His resurrection and His ascension.
This is the story of our Saviour.
- It is the story of all that He came to do for us – the purpose of His coming to earth.
- It is the story of all that He has done for us – He has provided us with the perfect sacrifice for our sin (His death for us) and the perfect example for our living (His perfect life).
- It is the story of all that He will do for us – In His resurrection and ascension, there is the forward look.
Resurrection and ascension
- Luke 24:36 – Jesus is a wonderful Saviour. He speaks to us His wonderful words of peace.
- Luke 24:37-39 – The disciples were “terrified.” They were “troubled.” Jesus shows them that this is real. They are not imagining things. Jesus really has risen from the dead.
- Luke 24:44-46 – A backward look: The Scriptures have been fulfilled.
- Luke 24:47-48 – A forward look: There is work to be done and you are the people who must do it.
How are we to do the work of the Lord? – “with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Notice that the disciples were to “stay in the city.” Here, we see the vital connection between worship and witness. When we worship, we come to God in our weakness. We come, confessing our sin. We come, seeking His forgiveness. We wait upon the Lord for the renewal of our strength. As our strength is renewed, we begin to worship and we are equipped for witness.
Weakness, Waiting, Worship, Witness – God is speaking to us concerning these things.
- In our weakness, we come, needing God’s blessing. We need the blessing, spoken of in Luke 24:50 – “Lifting up His hands, He blessed them.”
- In our waiting, we believe that God is going to fulfil His promise: “I send the promise of My Father upon you, but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
- As we wait upon the Lord, our waiting becomes worship – We worship “with great joy … continually in the temple, blessing God” (Luke 24:52-53).
- Worship “in the temple” leads to witness in the world – “repentance and forgiveness of sins” is to “be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things” (Luke 24:47-48).