Luke Chapter 24

Jesus joined two disciples traveling to Emmaus as they walked along preoccupied with their troubles. They were concerned more that with Jesus’s disappearance, now Israel could not be redeemed.  So much so that they did not recognize Jesus.  Far from their mind was what they had been told before about the resurrection and why it would take place.  Jesus had words with the disciples, asking them about being so self absorbed.  As Jesus broke bread with them, it was then that it dawned on them that this was Jesus.  Jesus knew they needed a sign. Jesus was annoyed yet he never gave up on the disciples. He gave them what they needed to move forward in their faith.  If we recall our past, I am sure that we can see ourselves in this passage.  May we pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and strength to decipher the Lords prompts and Devine words so we too can grow our faith every day.

Luke Chapter 23

Luke 23:1-25  -  Jesus Before Pilate and Herod

In reading this passage,  I can't help but wonder why Pilate was so unwilling to not pass the judgement of death on Jesus and why he worked so hard to put that responsibility on others,  as this man clearly had the power to do so.

Was he so afraid of Jesus and wondered if he truly was who he said he was, "The Son of God"  and did that fear lead him to try to have others condemn him for fear of the potential consequence of his actions?   He tried.....

Luke 23:7  "When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time."

But sending him to Herod didn't work as Herod sent him back to Pilate after he didn't get the answers himself to make a decision.  Then Pilate gathered all the chief priests and told them he had no evidence of the charges they cited against him and therefore, he couldn't put him to death, but instead, was just going to  punish him. Then the crowd spoke and Barrabbas came into play and Pilate was losing his ability to quiet them, so he finally relented and turned Jesus over to them.  All this took time and It was as if Pilate was stalling, or trying to drag things out.....but why?  PURE  FEAR.

It seems to me he was looking more for ways to NOT be responsible for condemning Jesus to death as it would have been easy to convict him being that he had the reputation and ruthlessness , power and authority to easily do so.

Pilate saw Jesus as a threat and that is why he feared him.  He saw that Jesus was not afraid of him and for a man with so much power over such a large area, this worried him.  It also left him not feeling comfortable because it questioned his dominating power and authority over the land.  But Jesus knew better and this is what got to Pilate.....that Jesus dismissed Pilot's belief that his power over the people and the state is what mattered.  Jesus let him know that he didn't hold his fate in his hands......only GOD did. 

I believe that there were many dynamics happening at once during this period and that GOD's hand in the ultimate plan of sacrificing Jesus for all of humanity in the great plan for salvation was perfectly played. 

Luke Chapter 22

Luke 22—Never Give up on Prayer

In Luke 22, God continued to move forward with His plan of redemption through Jesus for all who believe.  Specifically, in this chapter, we live with Jesus through Jesus’s last hours before His horrific crucifixion.  Jesus will suffer agonizing mockery and beatings yet He continued to prepare His disciples for what lay ahead.  Jesus teaches them, loves them, and gives them hope, strength, and encouragement to pray and stay away from temptations especially during the dark hours that lay ahead.

As the chapter unfolds, Judas had decided to betray Jesus but nevertheless joined Jesus and his fellow disciples at a last meal.  Here Jesus called him out as a betrayer and gave Judas a last chance to change his heart.   The disciples still argued about who among them was the greatest so that Jesus had to correct their thinking.  He focused them on servanthood in His kingdom and the hope they would have at His kingdom’s table.  Jesus reminded Peter of his leadership as the Rock that would strengthen his brothers after Peter’s repentance.  

Shortly thereafter at the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed an agonizing prayer, and then Jesus reminded His disciples to pray so they would not give in to temptation. 

To the sorrow of both Judas and Peter, both men gave into temptation:  one to betraying Jesus and the other to denying Jesus.  The other ten disciples also gave into the temptation and feelings of defeat after Jesus was crucified when they went into hiding—that is until Jesus restored them when they saw His victory over death and trusted Him for forgiveness and grace.

What struck me in this chapter was Jesus’s love and continual call on all of us to pray and avoid temptations.  At the most difficult hour for Him, He prayed and He reminded His disciples and us to pray that we do not give in to temptations and then give up in those dark times over those long periods.  Too often, when I have prayed the same kind of prayer over years for God’s help and healing for myself and for others, I have been tempted to give up.  In this chapter, God encouraged me to continue to pray and ask Him what He wants to reveal to me during this waiting period and to give me understanding when He answers.

Luke Chapter 21

There will be signs……

There is some pretty alarming stuff in Luke chapter 21.  He texts about how the temple will be destroyed.  He warns of signs of war, earthquakes, famines, plagues and betrayals.  In Luke 21: 4-6 MSG reads, “It will seem like all hell has broken lose---sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be-quaking.”

This is scary stuff!!  We look at our world today and the unknown of the future and wonder…. What are the signs that Jesus refers to in Luke 21?? Are they happening right now??

---Could it be a sign when there was the horrific shooting of 17 high school students in Florida who simple got up and went to school on February 14th---and there are far too many incidents like this…..“There will be signs”.  Jesus said.

---Could it be what we read in the headlines and feeling like our prayers are unable to keep up with the pain and the needs of the world.  “There will be signs,”  Jesus said.

---Could the sign be waking up in a world each morning and wondering, “What’s next?  Where will it happen?  When will it take place?”  “There will be signs”. Jesus said.

 It might be any one of these….or thousands of stories like these.  Every one of us could tell stories of the day our world came crashing down around us.

Could it be that “there will be signs” are words of hope and assurance not words of warning and doom?  Jesus does not ask us to predict the future.  He is saying that we should always be ready!  Ready to stand up, raise our heads and know that help is on the way, our redemption, our healing, our savior has drawn near.

Luke 21 verses 24-26 says that the Lord will be a drop-in visitor. He promises to drop in unexpectedly.  He will not call ahead.  So here is the question and my challenge to us all,  “Is my house in order?”  He will not accept excuses.  He has warned us in advance that we should be prepared.  My takeaway is this, that I must focus on obedience to God and faithfulness, and let God handle the end of the world.

I believe that these signs are not a reason to hang our heads in despair or shrink from life.  The signs in our lives and the world mean that the circumstances we face contain and reveal the promise of Christ’s coming.  The signs are our hope and reassurance that God has not abandoned us, that God notices us, that God cares, comes to, and participates in life’s circumstances.

Yes, our lives can be difficult and painful.  But we never face those seasons without the signs of hope and reassurance, signs that point to the one who is coming. The question remains….is my house in order?

Luke Chapter 20

Death and taxes – the only two certainties, if you subscribe to the old adage commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

Today, I will submit to you an alternative, much more powerful adage. But let’s come to that later. First, let’s take a closer look at Luke 20. Here, the religious leaders continue their efforts to discredit Jesus:

21 “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully. 22 Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Let’s pause here. Their desire was to confront Jesus with a taxing dilemma of governmental proportions. Any response that was completely detached from the earthly realm (e.g., “Don’t worry about Roman taxes”) could be grounds for arrest and imprisonment. The response Jesus gave stupefied these antagonists:

24 “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”  “Caesar’s,” they replied.  25 “Well then,” He said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

In very few words, Jesus affirmed that while on this planet, we are subject to both our earthly structure AND our loving and merciful Father in Heaven. God’s perspective is clear: paying our taxes is a baseline requirement. Fine. So, how about we replace that tired old fear- and dread-inducing death-and-taxes saying, with a new motto which I think is more powerful and purposeful:

“Eternal life and taxes!”

Let us shed fear of death and live boldly today with the blessed assurance of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ’s statement in Luke 20:25, it strikes me that as sons and daughters of the One, True, Living God, we are to be physically “grounded” on His created terra firma here in Silicon Valley. Yet, at the same time, we are meant to be spiritually “flying” for Kingdom purpose.

As you are simultaneously grounded and flying today, consider:  Are you delivering to God what belongs to God? What are you holding or hoarding that does not belong to you?

Luke Chapter 19

Today’s reading reminded me of what I read in Mark 11 as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.  This chapter speaks to me about how Jesus was received then.  Some people accepted Him honorably, some were angry and wanted to kill Him, and some were just curious.  I wonder if Jesus were to come to San Jose, how would we receive Him?  Would He go to church?  Would He go to a bar?  Would He go to a homeless encampment?   Would the media be there?  How would He see our church CotC?  Would He be overturning our tables (our programs, activities, services?)  I think of what Jesus said as He drove out the money changers, vendors…”my house is a house of prayer” and try to understand…”you have made it a den of thieves…”  Have we taken away what the “real” purpose for being a church is?  We have great programs, activities, and fellowship but are we bearing fruit? I think in some ways yes we are, but in Mark 11 Jesus cursed the fig tree for just showing its leaves and not bearing figs.  Are our programs, activities, and fellowship just showing nice leaves?  I appreciate my participation in the New Testament Challenge as it forces me to think and involve others in the reading of Scriptures.  I just pray that this will bear fruit in leading others to become serious about being followers of Christ by reading and hearing about what it is to being a follower of Christ means from the Scriptures.  It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will open my eyes, ears, and heart to be more conscious of who God puts in my path each day, and be sensitive and bold enough to share my faith with them.

Luke Chapter 18

Luke 18:18-30 feels like a roller coaster ride.  Here’s the rich man who is doing a whole lot of things right.  He leans into Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus replies to the man on three levels:

1.    By saying that “God alone is good”, Jesus enlarges the man’s vision and imparts the truth that asking how a man can get into heaven is less important than being in relationship with the One who made heaven.

2.     Deeper still, Jesus knows the man’s heart and affection for his wealth.  Jesus instructs him on the “one thing” that is still needed.  “Sell everything, give it to the poor, then follow me.”  Jesus was calling the man into a deeper life, a more wonderful existence, reliant upon the Living God. 

3.    The man leaves Jesus in tears knowing he was not going to choose this.  Now the disciples are asking Jesus, “How can anyone who has it all enter into the kingdom of God?”  Like a loving parent, Jesus replies, “No chance at all, if you think you can pull it off by yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” (The Message Bible)

This is what blows me away.  Jesus even gives me the choice to choose badly.  If I want to, I can major in the minors.  I can be “careful for everything” instead of being “careful for nothing”. (Philippians 4:6-8)  I can choose to be selfish and to use my life poorly.  Do you think the rich man in this parable ever stopped having a cry in his heart?  It’s a tragedy of gigantic proportions, to be called by the Living God into a deeper life, and to say “No, thank you”. 

What are the consequences of choosing badly?  I am haunted by Psalm 106:15 where the Israelites begged God for meat, I believe, instead of the daily manna.  God’s response?  “And he gave them their request: but sent leanness into their soul.”   

I know what it is to live large in God.  I know what it is to trust Him and to see miracles happen.  I also know what it is to live for self, being careful for everything and counting the costs.  For the rich man, I don’t believe salvation was denied him.  Instead, I believe the man was destined to live out his days in that oh-so-miserable spot on the fence.  Knowing the vibrant life that’s just over the fence, but never choosing to make the leap. 

Lord, give us courage to make the better choice, in Your strength when we cannot. 

Luke Chapter 17

If I have learned anything so far in this new testament challenge it is that Jesus responds to “faith”, that “faith” is of utmost importance, that “faith” is one of the most important things I need to grasp.  How many times has Jesus said “your faith has healed you”, or when frustrated with his apostles said “oh, you of little faith”.  I remember when reading In Matthew 17, when Jesus healed a demon possessed boy who had seizures and suffered terribly, the boy’s father said he had taken him to the disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.  Jesus referring to his disciples said “you faithless people”.  The disciples went straight to Jesus and asked “Why couldn’t we cast out the demon?”.  And the answer was “You don’t have enough faith”.  The importance of “faith” has been all over the new testament so far.  So in today’s reading when in verse 5 it says that the apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith?” my interest was piqued. 

Jesus answered this question in verses 6-10.  As in the past, in His answer he used a parable, this time about servanthood.  When I boil it down, it sounds to me that Jesus is telling me that increasing my faith requires me to go beyond saying “I believe in you Lord, I trust you Lord, I acknowledge that you are God with skin on”.  It sounds to me like He is saying, David, to increase your faith you need to also alter your view of yourself, you must view yourself as my servant, and an unworthy servant at that.  You must obey me and simply view that as your duty as my servant.

Oh…did I interpret Jesus’s response right?  Because if I did, and I have to alter my view of my life like that in order to increase my faith, that would require a big change.  No wonder the apostles (and I) need to work on this for a while.

I think I kind of get the idea of serving being connected to faith.  My wife has a lot of faith in me, and I have a lot of faith in her.  Without even reflecting on today’s scripture, she willingly and generously serves me in so many ways.  I never thought of that as evidence of her faith in me.

Luke Chapter 16

Money.  Power.  Greed.  Jesus has a lot to say about these topics in chapter 16.  I think his main point is that we don’t handle these things very well.  As a matter of fact, money, power and greed tend to master us.  We don’t control or manage them; rather they dominate us, and more importantly we put our trust in them.   This was a particular problem for the Pharisees who loved money, and I think it is a problem for followers of Christ today.  Many sins are obvious to the world, but a love of money and power can be hidden where others can’t see, in our hearts, and this is an intolerable situation for Jesus – you cannot serve God and money.

The parable of the Shrewd Manager is an unusual story.  A dishonest manager manage is at least commended for understanding that you can use money and resources to make friends.  Jesus says that children of the light aren’t very shrewd in these ways, but he makes it clear that we should use our resources to benefit others and make friends.  In other words, a follower of Christ should be a generous person.

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a frightening story.  Lazarus sits at the gate of the rich man day after day, but the rich man does nothing for him.  It seems like the rich man is unable to see Lazarus, his awful condition, as if his wealth has blinded him and hardened his heart.  After his death the rich man is sent to the place of the dead, and he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers.  Abraham says it won’t work.  If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe someone sent from the dead.  Their love of money has made them unable to hear and respond to God’s word.  Their hearts are hard.  A follower of Christ can’t love money and God.  It just won’t work.

So what should we do?  How do we make sure money doesn’t master us?  Jesus tells us to be faithful in the little things.  Be honest in little things.  Be faithful with other people’s things.  If we do this, we will be faithful with bigger things, and prepared to handle worldly wealth.  We will be able to be generous followers of Christ who don’t love money.

Jesus makes another interesting comment in this chapter.  “What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.”  Our culture reveres and trusts money and power.  They are markers of success and the good life.  However, they are not markers of a Christian life.  Am I being shaped by my culture?  Do I trust money more than God?  Or am I being a generous follower of Christ?  And faithful in the little things?   You can’t serve God and money – it won’t work.  God demands first place in our hearts, and there is no room for love of money, power and greed.

Luke Chapter 15

Oh how I wish I could have been there watching and hearing Jesus as he shared these parables. To see the expressions on his face and in his eyes as he told these stories. Watching the faces of those that sat around listening intently. We discover that its about the lost and found and the importance of searching for our lost things and the joy we feel when we find those lost things.

This chapter is a good reminder of how much Jesus loves me and you. So much so that he will search high and low, and far and wide to find me and you. As I reflected and prayed over this I discovered there is more to these stories. We have all lost something we treasure, prize, or value. When we find the lost thing it feels like a victory. We do the victory dance, whether it is an inward or outward expression.  Sometimes this victory is worthy of a celebration that we share with others to express our thanksgiving for this lost possession. Digging deeper I discovered that it’s a matter of the heart. We learned that the Pharisees and religious teachers, the ones who knew the laws complained and passed judgment on those who sat sharing a meal and listening to Jesus because they considered them sinful people. We see the older brother is angry that a celebration is given because his squandering brother has returned home. I also learned (v.7) Heaven rejoices over the one the lost sinner who repents and returns than 99 others that haven’t strayed away. (v.10) There is joy in the presence of God's angels over one lost sinner who repents. (v.32b) We should celebrate a brother who was lost and now is found.

Sometimes knowing what is right is a hindrance because we create boxes that we believe people should fit into. We want people to fit into our mold, to be like us to be accepted. Rather then being like Jesus and going to them and meeting them where they are at. Or perhaps like the older brother, who may have felt cheated for not being celebrated for staying. We feel entitled and need to be validated for doing what is right.   I’ve been there. I’ve passed judgement on someone because they were different from me. I have been in the older brother’s shoes within my own family. Thankfully through God’s grace we see that it isn’t that he doesn’t notice us for staying close. I believe he celebrates the lost coming home because now he has the assurance that we can all be together. Being a parent and a spouse, allows me to see this so clearly. Perhaps even imagine and relate how Jesus values his lost. If my children or spouse were lost I would search high and low for them and I wouldn’t rest. I would jump with joy and scream from the mountain tops when my child returns home to me. It wouldn’t be that my family that stayed didn’t matter, the celebration would be because we are now whole.   Complete. The Lord has all ready celebrated our home coming when we said yes to him. Jesus guides us with these parables so that we can learn and have a change of heart. So that we can give grace when needed, be joyful and celebrate when someone who was lost, is found.