Journey Through Luke's Gospel
Dec 4, 2020
“in the power of the [Holy] Spirit” (Luke 4:14)
The ancient world was inhabited, or at least most believed, by all sorts of spirits – good and evil. These ‘spirits’ could be worshiped, feared, obeyed, and at times they showed themselves as in possession of individuals (see Luke 4:33). Both John the Baptist and Jesus were declared to have been filled with the Spirit of God from the moment of conception (see Luke 1:15, 35, 41).
Luke tells us that Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit’ into a wilderness area. At the end of forty days a spiritual battle occurred (see Luke 4:2-12). The ‘devil’ pounced on Jesus, who after this ordeal was hungry, thirsty, and weary. Jesus, however, filled by the Spirit of God overcame each of the three challenges the devil threw at Him.
Arriving back at home, ‘in the power of the Spirit’ (Luke 4:14) Jesus taught in the synagogues. One Sabbath, in Capernaum, an evil spirit (related to the devil) cried out, ‘Leave us alone’ (Luke 4:34). The evil spirit who had overwhelmed and possessed this man knew exactly who Jesus was, where He was from, and what His intention was – to defeat the powers of evil and darkness. Later on that same evening while staying with Peter and his family Luke records that a crowd had gathered. Among this crowd “demons were coming out of many, shouting and saying, ‘You are the Son of God’ (Luke 4:41).
Luke 4 ends with Jesus in a ‘deserted’ place. Perhaps it was in these type of places Jesus could renew His sense of God’s presence and power. Perhaps Jesus just needed time away from followers and the crowds that gathered in His presence.
As we prepare to acknowledge and celebrate the birth of Jesus let’s not forget: we still live in a world inhabited by spirits. But as one of Jesus’ followers would remind his readers decades after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension: “…the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, HCSB)
“And the Lord’s power to heal was in him” (Luke 5:17)
Most of Luke 5 shows Jesus hemmed in by huge crowds. Jesus’ words were refreshing. He spoke of a kingdom that would last forever, a kingdom that even the Romans could not conquer. Not only did He speak of such a kingdom, He demonstrated the power of this kingdom over nature, over disease, and over the worst disorder of all: sin. Jews knew that sin separated them from God. Their entire calendar was oriented around worship services aimed at reminding God’s people that forgiveness was accessible, that God would forgive sin.
When four friends, unable to reach Jesus through the crowds, tore open the roof to lower their friend in front of Jesus, He paused. He didn’t rebuke them or the man lying on the pallet. Rather, Jesus looked at the religious officials who were perplexed by Him. He saw that the most challenging issue in the heart of a human being was not physical paralysis. The issue for everyone: sin. Luke 5:24 is one of the most startling sentences in the gospel. “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” so, Jesus told the paralyzed man: “Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.”
I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t experience some ache or pain. It may not be life-threatening or life-altering, but physical pain is simply part of life. We have a multitude of remedies in our homes – pain relievers, heating pads, icing pads, and so on.
What we really need, though, is forgiveness. And there is the promise of Christmas. One has come who has the authority to forgive sin. By His death, resurrection, and ascension Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, advocating and interceding for us: sin is forgiven! We can heal most of our aches and pains with remedies we have on hand or those our physician can prescribe.
Only Jesus can forgive sin. Trust Him today. Confess your sin. Receive His forgiveness.
Jesus spent hours in prayer, in conversation with God. After one all-night prayer session, Jesus called twelve men from among the crowd that followed Him. These He named ‘apostles,’ or ‘sent ones.’ These twelve, and their example of faith, were called to be the foundation upon which Jesus builds His ‘church.’
What strikes me, though, is the night before He announces His choice. Jesus spent the night in prayer. When life is hard, which these days descrbes all of our lives, it helps me to remember several things:
- Jesus knows my name - (Matthew 6:8, 25-33);
- Jesus prays for me by name - “Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25, HCSB);
- Jesus has an assignment for me – (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 12; etc…).
Jesus usually drew a crowd wherever He went. Yet in that crowd were individuals. Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, who holds the universe together, cares enough to know me, call me by name, and find a place for me in His kingdom advance.
Are you following close enough to hear Him call you by name? Do you have confidence that He “always lives to intercede” for you? You can choose to follow Him. You can be assured He always lives to intercede, to pray, to speak to God, on your behalf.
Are You the one? John the Baptist’s disciples were tasked with asking Jesus this important question. John was in prison because of his confrontation with Herod over Herod’s marriage practices. While in prison, John must have wondered: has my life’s work of proclaiming the coming Messiah been in vain? Is this One whom I had declared to be the Lmb of God which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)?
Jesus’ answer was simple. Look around and see what is happening. In Luke 7 Jesus heals the son of a centurion (interesting: this Roman solider had quite the reputation among the local Jewish community – see vs. 4-5). Jesus interrupts a funeral procession and raises a widows son from the dead. Earlier Luke tells us that a great multitude had come from all over the area to “be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured” (Luke 6:17-18).
There is a difference between seeing and observing. We can see with our eyes the circumstances unfolding around us. We can see the horrific impact of the pandemic. Take a moment today and look beyond what you see. Where is God at work? What is God doing in and around your life?
Who then is this?
His closest friends and followers, many of whom were experienced fishermen, were frightened by a storm that threatened to capsize their boat. Jesus, however, calmly rebuked the wind and the Sea of Galilee became calm.
Jesus confronts a demon possessed man, a man who so frightened his own family that he was forced to live among a graveyard. Many had sought to shackle the man for the protection of others and to keep him from self-harm and been unsuccessful. With a simple conversation Jesus set this man free.
Still followed by crowds, Jairus, a synagogue official begs Jesus to prevent his daughter from dying. On the way, a woman suffering from an incurable disorder simply reaches out to touch the end of Jesus’ robe and is healed.
Who then is this? He stills a storm with a word. He heals just by being present. He has the power to set one free from a horde of demons. He exercises power over death. We have the benefit of 2,000 years of historical distance. Those early men and women, who were often overwhelmed by life, knew only that Jesus, is One who entertains crowds with parables, One through whom healing power flows, and One who is able to speak words that calm the sea, overpower the adversary, and restore life. Who then is Jesus to you?
He determined to journey to Jerusalem
Deploying His disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick, Jesus prepares for the final confrontation. All that has happened in His life is but a prelude to the climactic events that unfold in Jerusalem. Peter’s confession that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, means that political and religious leader have to act. Jesus’ claim of a kingdom is a direct threat to Roman authority and Jewish accommodation.
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus challenges His closest followers that sticking with Him will be costly, even to the point of costing them their lives. Peter, James and John are given a glimpse of Jesus’ glorious identity, and are overwhelmed into silence. While Jesus, Peter, James, and John are enveloped in the glory of God, the other disciples are stymied by a child experiencing demon possession. Jesus, knowing what is ahead wonders, will these followers be able to stay committed?
And so the question remains. Knowing where God is headed (see Revelation 5-18), are we able to stay the course? Like the disciples we jockey for position, we avoid His presence, we make promises we are unable to fulfill. Can we stay the course?
An Abundant Harvest
Nothing is more exciting than harvest time. Plowing, planting, weeding, watering, and waiting are over. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of labor. As Jesus sends out teams of followers to every town He is about to visit He suggests a prayer: Pray for MORE laborers. The harvest is ready. There are NOT ENOUGH LABORERS. During our annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions one resource points out that some 1.5 million people are born every week into our world. On average believers share the gospel (across the world) less than 300,000 times. Do the math. The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are very few.
As these teams went throughout the region Jesus observed God on the move and Satan on retreat. In the midst of victory that which is worth celebrating is that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Is your name there? Have you committed your life to Jesus Christ?
One teacher of the law challenged Jesus. What does it mean to be a fully committed Jesus follower? Jesus illustrates with a well-known parable – The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus contrasts how religious professionals are often preoccupied with and miss the obvious needs around them. The Samaritan, part of a hated and despised group of people, saw what professional religious Jews missed. To fully follow Jesus is to learn to see the obvious AND to do whatever is necessary to meet the needs. What needs are obvious around you? What can you do?
Teach us to pray…
Of all the disciplines prayer seems to me to be the hardest. I read my Bible daily. I worship with God’s people regularly. I study my Bible. I give financially to support the ministry of the church as well as several other organizations. I don’t share my faith as often as I could. Fortunately those first disciples shared the same frustration.
In answer to their request Jesus offered a model, a pattern for prayer. I doubt that He meant for us to memorize this prayer and only use these words. The rest of Luke 11 helps us think through the pattern that Jesus shares.
The nature of the One to whom we pray is described in Luke 11:5-13. Jesus wraps up this brief overview with a question: ‘How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?’ God is indeed generous and even eager to answer our requests.
Praying requires a singleness of focus and heart (Luke 11:14-26). Divided minds and hearts make anything difficult.
The last section of Luke 11 clarifies the theme of the prayer: the kingdom of God. God is up to something, the same thing God has been up to since, well, the beginning: revealing Himself and His design for how life can be lived. In many ways the ‘Pharisees’, the religious conservatives of first century Judaism are more a hindrance than a help to the unfolding of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ has some harsh words for any heart and mind that distorts the kingdom of God.
To pray, then, is a privilege because God wants to hear us, God wants to answer, God wants to unveil His kingdom in our lives, families, churches, and communities. Nonetheless, prayer is hard work. May Jesus’ words encourage us and empower us to keep at the hard work.
Don’t be afraid…Don’t worry
The biggest joy-stealers are fear and anxiety. Yet over and over God’s Word commands us to NOT be afraid and to NOT worry. This Christmas season we are confronted each day with reasons to fear and reasons to be anxious. The words Jesus spoke to His followers 2,000 years ago still apply.
Don’t be afraid.
Our worth is determined by God’s valuation. In His eyes each life is precious. Each life is valuable. Though we often value life by the clothing we wear and the foods we consume all we need to do is look out the window. The birds of the air, the grass in the yard are daily evidences of God’s compassionate concern.
Don’t be anxious/Don’t worry
“Your Father knows” (vs 30). God knows our need before we ask. He loves to hear us ask, much as we love it when our children (still young at home or grown and away from home) ask. There is nothing we need God cannot provide.
God’s provision enable us to live with our eyes focused not on the past. Our sin is forgiven and gone. We no longer need to focus exclusively on the present. God will provide our needs. God’s provision allows us to live with joy as we eagerly wait for Him to bring His-story to conclusion by wrapping all things up with the return of Jesus Christ.
God’s got this!
The glorious things He was doing
Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (see Luke 9:51-ff) illustrates what He teaches in His parables. In Luke 13 three parables offer hope. Jesus’ healing of a woman afflicted for 18 years calls us to persistence in spite of obstacles. Jesus reminds His listeners along the journey that everyone is accountable to God for their own sin, even king Herod. The last paragraph in the chapter shows us the depth of Jesus’ compassion for His own people.
On our journey there are seasons when all news is bad news. There are phases when the best we can do is wait. There are days, weeks, months, and sometimes years when nothing appears to be happening but beneath the surface God’s truth is slowly creating transformation.
Make sure that on your journey you look for the ways that God is working.