Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflections on Luke 12

    Luke 12 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. As thousands of people crowded around Jesus and were stepping on each other, he told his disciples: Be sure to guard against the dishonest teaching of the Pharisees! It is their way of fooling people.
  2. Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known.
  3. Whatever you say in the dark will be heard when it is day. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.
  4. My friends, don't be afraid of people. They can kill you, but after that, there is nothing else they can do.
  5. God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear!
  6. Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn't forget a one of them.
  7. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don't be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.
  8. If you tell others that you belong to me, the Son of Man will tell God's angels that you are my followers.
  9. But if you reject me, you will be rejected in front of them.
  10. If you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven, but if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you cannot be forgiven.
  11. When you are brought to trial in the Jewish meeting places or before rulers or officials, don't worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say.
  12. At that time the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.
  13. A man in a crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died."
  14. Jesus answered, "Who gave me the right to settle arguments between you and your brother?"
  15. Then he said to the crowd, "Don't be greedy! Owning a lot of things won't make your life safe."
  16. So Jesus told them this story: A rich man's farm produced a big crop,
  17. and he said to himself, "What can I do? I don't have a place large enough to store everything."
  18. Later, he said, "Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods.
  19. Then I'll say to myself, 'You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' "
  20. But God said to him, "You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?"
  21. "This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God."
  22. Jesus said to his disciples: I tell you not to worry about your life! Don't worry about having something to eat or wear.
  23. Life is more than food or clothing.
  24. Look at the crows! They don't plant or harvest, and they don't have storehouses or barns. But God takes care of them. You are much more important than any birds.
  25. Can worry make you live longer?
  26. If you don't have power over small things, why worry about everything else?
  27. Look how the wild flowers grow! They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of these flowers.
  28. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. Won't he do even more for you? You have such little faith!
  29. Don't keep worrying about having something to eat or drink.
  30. Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father knows what you need.
  31. But put God's work first, and these things will be yours as well.
  32. My little group of disciples, don't be afraid! Your Father wants to give you the kingdom.
  33. Sell what you have and give the money to the poor. Make yourselves moneybags that never wear out. Make sure your treasure is safe in heaven, where thieves cannot steal it and moths cannot destroy it.
  34. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.
  35. Be ready and keep your lamps burning
  36. just like those servants who wait up for their master to return from a wedding feast. As soon as he comes and knocks, they open the door for him.
  37. Servants are fortunate if their master finds them awake and ready when he comes! I promise you that he will get ready and have his servants sit down so he can serve them.
  38. Those servants are really fortunate if their master finds them ready, even though he comes late at night or early in the morning.
  39. You would surely not let a thief break into your home, if you knew when the thief was coming.
  40. So always be ready! You don't know when the Son of Man will come.
  41. Peter asked Jesus, "Did you say this just for us or for everyone?"
  42. The Lord answered: Who are faithful and wise servants? Who are the ones the master will put in charge of giving the other servants their food supplies at the proper time?
  43. Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job.
  44. A servant who is always faithful will surely be put in charge of everything the master owns.
  45. But suppose one of the servants thinks that the master won't return until late. Suppose that servant starts beating all the other servants and eats and drinks and gets drunk.
  46. If that happens, the master will come on a day and at a time when the servant least expects him. That servant will then be punished and thrown out with the servants who cannot be trusted.
  47. If servants are not ready or willing to do what their master wants them to do, they will be beaten hard.
  48. But servants who don't know what their master wants them to do will not be beaten so hard for doing wrong. If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better.
  49. I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire!
  50. I am going to be put to a hard test. And I will have to suffer a lot of pain until it is over.
  51. Do you think that I came to bring peace to earth? No indeed! I came to make people choose sides.
  52. A family of five will be divided, with two of them against the other three.
  53. Fathers and sons will turn against one another, and mothers and daughters will do the same. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law will also turn against each other.
  54. Jesus said to all the people: As soon as you see a cloud coming up in the west, you say, "It's going to rain," and it does.
  55. When the south wind blows, you say, "It's going to get hot," and it does.
  56. Are you trying to fool someone? You can predict the weather by looking at the earth and sky, but you don't really know what's going on right now.
  57. Why don't you understand the right thing to do?
  58. When someone accuses you of something, try to settle things before you are taken to court. If you don't, you will be dragged before the judge. Then the judge will hand you over to the jailer, and you will be locked up.
  59. You won't get out until you have paid the last cent you owe.

    Jesus turned to teaching His disciples and the multitudes. Although the first verse of this chapter mentions the gathering of a crowd of many thousands, Jesus first directed His teaching to His disciples. The central truth throughout these teachings is the priority of God's kingdom which Jesus highlights in several ways.

    First, seeking the kingdom is more important than observing the teaching of the religious leaders. Those leaders to whom Jesus referred were hypocrites and not the ones to be feared. Though they might even kill those who did not follow their teaching, they were not the ones to be feared for they did not have the authority to "throw people into hell after death." (12:5) That authority belongs only to God. He is the One for whom we should be concerned. If we ignore the prompting of His Spirit to seek His kingdom no forgiveness is available to us. This was Jesus' point in verse 10: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."

    God's kingdom is more important also than the abundance of our possessions. It is particular folly to make our primary concern the accumulation of a great abundance of possessions. Our wealth will not help us in what counts most - God's kingdom. Our life can be taken at any moment and then the wealth will become someone else's and we will be left standing before God empty-handed. But neither is it of any use to worry even for the necessities of life. Worry accomplishes nothing. Just as worry will not add to our height, neither will it provide what we need. Only God can do that. If we will seek His kingdom above all else, He will take care of all we need.  Rather than accumulating wealth, Jesus said to give it away. In so doing we will be investing in "an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." (12:33)

    Diligence toward God's kingdom is of greater importance than all other pursuits. Jesus' parable of the servant who was not anticipating the return of his master and therefore not diligent about his responsibilities was a judgment on the religious leaders and made the point that seeking dominance over others and fulfilling our own pleasures are subordinate to the importance of seeking first God's kingdom. But Jesus went further. Pursuit of God's kingdom is also more important than human relationships, including family relationships. This is a hard pill for many to swallow. The one who chooses to follow Christ in pursuit of God's kingdom may find this choice separates them from even their family members, though this is not their intent. But if this is the outcome of choosing to follow Christ, it is of greater value than rejecting Christ to maintain the relationship of family members. This is a difficult choice but ultimately the best choice. Of greatest importance is God's kingdom.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reflections on Luke 11

    Luke 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his followers to pray."
  2. So Jesus told them, "Pray in this way: 'Father, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom.
  3. Give us each day the food we need.
  4. Forgive our sins, as we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. And keep us from being tempted.' "
  5. Then Jesus went on to say: Suppose one of you goes to a friend in the middle of the night and says, "Let me borrow three loaves of bread.
  6. A friend of mine has dropped in, and I don't have a thing for him to eat."
  7. And suppose your friend answers, "Don't bother me! The door is bolted, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up to give you something."
  8. He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
  9. So I tell you to ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.
  10. Everyone who asks will receive, everyone who searches will find, and the door will be opened for everyone who knocks.
  11. Which one of you fathers would give your hungry child a snake if the child asked for a fish?
  12. Which one of you would give your child a scorpion if the child asked for an egg?
  13. As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks.
  14. Jesus forced a demon out of a man who could not talk. And after the demon had gone out, the man started speaking, and the crowds were amazed.
  15. But some people said, "He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!"
  16. Others wanted to put Jesus to the test. So they asked him to show them a sign from God.
  17. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said: A kingdom where people fight each other will end up in ruin. And a family that fights will break up.
  18. If Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? Yet you say that I force out demons by the power of Beelzebul.
  19. If I use his power to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? They are the ones who will judge you.
  20. But if I use God's power to force out demons, it proves that God's kingdom has already come to you.
  21. When a strong man arms himself and guards his home, everything he owns is safe.
  22. But if a stronger man comes and defeats him, he will carry off the weapons in which the strong man trusted. Then he will divide with others what he has taken.
  23. If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don't gather in the crop with me, you scatter it.
  24. When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when it doesn't find a place, it says, "I will go back to the home I left."
  25. When it gets there and finds the place clean and fixed up,
  26. it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and that person ends up in worse shape than before.
  27. While Jesus was still talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up, "The woman who gave birth to you and nursed you is blessed!"
  28. Jesus replied, "That's true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God's message!"
  29. As crowds were gathering around Jesus, he said: You people of today are evil! You keep looking for a sign from God. But what happened to Jonah is the only sign you will be given.
  30. Just as Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh, the Son of Man will be a sign to the people of today.
  31. When the judgment comes, the Queen of the South will stand there with you and condemn you. She traveled a long way to hear Solomon's wisdom, and yet here is something far greater than Solomon.
  32. The people of Nineveh will also stand there with you and condemn you. They turned to God when Jonah preached, and yet here is something far greater than Jonah.
  33. No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a clay pot. A lamp is put on a lampstand, so that everyone who comes into the house can see the light.
  34. Your eyes are the lamp for your body. When your eyes are good, you have all the light you need. But when your eyes are bad, everything is dark.
  35. So be sure that your light isn't darkness.
  36. If you have light, and nothing is dark, then light will be everywhere, as when a lamp shines brightly on you.
  37. When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him home for a meal. Jesus went and sat down to eat.
  38. The Pharisee was surprised that he did not wash his hands before eating.
  39. So the Lord said to him: You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside you are greedy and evil.
  40. You fools! Didn't God make both the outside and the inside?
  41. If you would only give what you have to the poor, everything you do would please God.
  42. You Pharisees are in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your gardens, such as mint and rue. But you cheat people, and you don't love God. You should be fair and kind to others and still give a tenth to God.
  43. You Pharisees are in for trouble! You love the front seats in the meeting places, and you like to be greeted with honor in the market.
  44. But you are in for trouble! You are like unmarked graves that people walk on without even knowing it.
  45. A teacher of the Law of Moses spoke up, "Teacher, you said cruel things about us."
  46. Jesus replied: You teachers are also in for trouble! You load people down with heavy burdens, but you won't lift a finger to help them carry the loads.
  47. Yes, you are really in for trouble. You build monuments to honor the prophets your own people murdered long ago.
  48. You must think that was the right thing for your people to do, or else you would not have built monuments for the prophets they murdered.
  49. Because of your evil deeds, the Wisdom of God said, "I will send prophets and apostles to you. But you will murder some and mistreat others."
  50. You people living today will be punished for all the prophets who have been murdered since the beginning of the world.
  51. This includes every prophet from the time of Abel to the time of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the temple. You people will certainly be punished for all of this.
  52. You teachers of the Law of Moses are really in for trouble! You carry the keys to the door of knowledge about God. But you never go in, and you keep others from going in.
  53. Jesus was about to leave, but the teachers and the Pharisees wanted to get even with him. They tried to make him say what he thought about other things,
  54. so that they could catch him saying something wrong.

    Jesus addressed the topic of prayer with His disciples in the first part of this chapter, while in the remainder of the chapter He came into increasing conflict with the Jewish leaders.

    The topic of prayer was raised by one of Jesus' disciples. In response, Jesus first highlighted some important elements of prayer and then pointed out the importance of persistence in prayer. Regarding the important elements of prayer, Jesus highlighted five. First, honor God's name, considering it to be holy. Next, consider important what is important to God - establishment of His kingdom on earth. Following these two means of establishing a proper attitude in prayer and identifying oneself with the One to whom we pray, Jesus then highlighted three specific and important requests in prayer: provision of our physical need for food, forgiveness of our sins, and deliverance from the evil one. This same account in Matthew (6:9-15) adds details to Luke's overview.

    These highlights are basic to prayer. Going beyond these, Jesus uses a couple of parables to emphasize the need for persistence in making our requests to God and the fact that God will give only good answers to our prayers. Persistence in prayer is not for the purpose of persuading God but is to keep us focused on God as the source and to demonstrate our sincerity. Then we can trust that God will answer our prayer with only good results. He will not give us what will harm us.

    Jesus' conflict with the Jewish leaders in this passage began when He was casting out demons. When faced with Jesus' miracles, the leaders were challenged either to acknowledge His deity or discredit Him in some way. They chose the latter. In this case they chose to credit His ability to cast out demons to having a demon Himself. In other words, their claim was that Jesus cast out demons by Satan's power rather than by God's. Jesus revealed the ridiculousness of this claim by pointing out that Satan wouldn't seek to defeat himself. "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?" (11:18) Furthermore, He asked, if His power to cast out demons came from Satan, by whose power did their sons cast out demons? They couldn't claim their sons drove out demons by God's power and that Jesus did so by Satan's power. They contradicted themselves. Therefore, if they were forced to admit that Jesus' power came from God, they also had to admit that "the kingdom of God has come to you." (11:20)

    Following this encounter with the Jewish leaders the conflict intensified when Jesus on another occasion brought pointed accusations against the Jews in general. They were an evil generation, He said. They would not accept anything from Him without a sign. In so doing, they would be judged by the people of Nineveh who accepted Jonah's message without a sign and in Jesus they had someone greater than Jonah.

    The conflict further intensified when on another occasion Jesus dined at the home of a Pharisee. The Pharisee was amazed that Jesus did not observe the ritual washing before dinner. Jesus used this criticism to point out the hyprocracy of the Pharisees. While they might wash on the outside, they were filthy on the inside. While they made a show of tithing even of mint and herbs, they were full of greed and evil. When an expert in the law took offense to Jesus' charges, He included the law experts in His charges. They were guilty of loading people with burdens, He said, while they themselves did not touch those burdens themselves. His most serious charge was that "You have taken away the key of knowledge! You didn't go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in." (11:52)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reflections on Luke 10

    Luke 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Later the Lord chose seventy-two other followers and sent them out two by two to every town and village where he was about to go.
  2. He said to them: A large crop is in the fields, but there are only a few workers. Ask the Lord in charge of the harvest to send out workers to bring it in.
  3. Now go, but remember, I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves.
  4. Don't take along a moneybag or a traveling bag or sandals. And don't waste time greeting people on the road.
  5. As soon as you enter a home, say, "God bless this home with peace."
  6. If the people living there are peace-loving, your prayer for peace will bless them. But if they are not peace-loving, your prayer will return to you.
  7. Stay with the same family, eating and drinking whatever they give you, because workers are worth what they earn. Don't move around from house to house.
  8. If the people of a town welcome you, eat whatever they offer.
  9. Heal their sick and say, "God's kingdom will soon be here!"
  10. But if the people of a town refuse to welcome you, go out into the street and say,
  11. "We are shaking the dust from our feet as a warning to you. And you can be sure that God's kingdom will soon be here!"
  12. I tell you that on the day of judgment the people of Sodom will get off easier than the people of that town!
  13. You people of Chorazin are in for trouble! You people of Bethsaida are also in for trouble! If the miracles that took place in your towns had happened in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have turned to God long ago. They would have dressed in sackcloth and put ashes on their heads.
  14. On the day of judgment the people of Tyre and Sidon will get off easier than you will.
  15. People of Capernaum, do you think you will be honored in heaven? Well, you will go down to hell!
  16. My followers, whoever listens to you is listening to me. Anyone who says "No" to you is saying "No" to me. And anyone who says "No" to me is really saying "No" to the one who sent me.
  17. When the seventy-two followers returned, they were excited and said, "Lord, even the demons obeyed when we spoke in your name!"
  18. Jesus told them: I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.
  19. I have given you the power to trample on snakes and scorpions and to defeat the power of your enemy Satan. Nothing can harm you.
  20. But don't be happy because evil spirits obey you. Be happy that your names are written in heaven!
  21. At that same time, Jesus felt the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, and he said: My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you.
  22. My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too.
  23. Jesus then turned to his disciples and said to them in private, "You are really blessed to see what you see!
  24. Many prophets and kings were eager to see what you see and to hear what you hear. But I tell you that they did not see or hear."
  25. An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to have eternal life?"
  26. Jesus answered, "What is written in the Scriptures? How do you understand them?"
  27. The man replied, "The Scriptures say, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.' They also say, 'Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.' "
  28. Jesus said, "You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life."
  29. But the man wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about. So he asked Jesus, "Who are my neighbors?"
  30. Jesus replied: As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead.
  31. A priest happened to be going down the same road. But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side.
  32. Later a temple helper came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.
  33. A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him
  34. and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.
  35. The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, "Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return."
  36. Then Jesus asked, "Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?"
  37. The teacher answered, "The one who showed pity." Jesus said, "Go and do the same!"
  38. The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.
  39. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down in front of the Lord and was listening to what he said.
  40. Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!"
  41. The Lord answered, "Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things,
  42. but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her."

    Luke covers three settings in chapter 10. The sending of 70 followers into towns and places where Jesus intended to go, testing of Jesus by an expert of the law, and a visit by Jesus in the home of Martha and Mary.

    In the first setting, Jesus commissioned 70 followers to go out in pairs in advance to His visits to certain towns and places.  Though they were assigned to "Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near you.'" (10:9), their primary purpose was to discover what places were open to receiving Jesus. Those that were not open were to be condemned. The followers were to be totally dependent on support from those who received their  message, and hospitality was an indication that people had received both them and their message. In going out, those sent were to pray "to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (10:2) They were obviously a partial answer to that prayer, but it was also evidently a prayer for future workers who would carry on the work. 

    This setting can serve as an example for those today who go into a new area to introduce the gospel. Seek empowerment by the Holy Spirit in going and pray that others will join in the work. Be dependent on those who will receive the gospel both for personal support and for furtherance of the gospel. If none are found who will receive you and your gospel message, move on. Great joy can be found in serving Christ and experiencing His power to enable us in the work, but our greatest joy is "that your names are written in heaven." (10:20) 

    We are not told where Jesus was when events in the second setting of this chapter occurred. It followed the sending out of the 70 and their return to Jesus to report the outcome of their assignments. We are only told that "an expert in the law stood up to test Him." (10:25) The question was, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (10:25) Rather than give an answer that might be challenged, Jesus took the man to scripture and the law of which he was supposedly an expert. "What is written in the law?" Jesus asked the man. He answered correctly in saying to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (10:27) Jesus then struck at the real issue in saying, "Do this and you will live." Knowing scripture is not the answer to the question of eternal life. It is obedience that is the issue.

    The man reponded to Jesus in a manner typical of many. He tried to justify his lack of obedience. Though the man may have thought himself smart in questioning Jesus further saying, "And who is my neighbor?" he only condemned himself further. Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan pointed out that he was asking the wrong question. Rather than asking "who is my neighbor?" the question should be, "whose neighbor am I?" And the answer Jesus gave to that question through the parable was that he should be a neighbor to anyone who was in need. Following the parable, Jesus turned the question back on the man by asking who had proved to be a neighbor. He had no choice but to say it was the one who had showed mercy even though he was a Samaritan and despised by this Jewish man and even though he condemned himself with his answer. He obviously was not fulfilling the law.

    The third setting of the chapter placed Jesus in the home of the sisters Mary and Martha in the village of Bethany. While Martha busied herself with the tasks of hospitality, Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening intently to what He said. When Martha, irritated that Mary did not help her, asked Jesus to reprimand Mary for not helping, He told her that while Martha worried about many things, Mary had chosen the one thing that is necessary. Business with hospitality is not bad or wrong but it should not be to the exclusion of sitting at Jesus' feet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reflections on Luke 9

    Luke 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jesus called together his twelve apostles and gave them complete power over all demons and diseases.
  2. Then he sent them to tell about God's kingdom and to heal the sick.
  3. He told them, "Don't take anything with you! Don't take a walking stick or a traveling bag or food or money or even a change of clothes.
  4. When you are welcomed into a home, stay there until you leave that town.
  5. If people won't welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet as a warning to them."
  6. The apostles left and went from village to village, telling the good news and healing people everywhere.
  7. Herod the ruler heard about all that was happening, and he was worried. Some people were saying that John the Baptist had come back to life.
  8. Others were saying that Elijah had come or that one of the prophets from long ago had come back to life.
  9. But Herod said, "I had John's head cut off! Who is this I hear so much about?" Herod was eager to meet Jesus.
  10. The apostles came back and told Jesus everything they had done. He then took them with him to the village of Bethsaida, where they could be alone.
  11. But a lot of people found out about this and followed him. Jesus welcomed them. He spoke to them about God's kingdom and healed everyone who was sick.
  12. Late in the afternoon the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, "Send the crowd to the villages and farms around here. They need to find a place to stay and something to eat. There is nothing in this place. It is like a desert!"
  13. Jesus answered, "You give them something to eat." But they replied, "We have only five small loaves of bread and two fish. If we are going to feed all these people, we will have to go and buy food."
  14. There were about five thousand men in the crowd. Jesus said to his disciples, "Have the people sit in groups of fifty."
  15. They did this, and all the people sat down.
  16. Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. He looked up toward heaven and blessed the food. Then he broke the bread and fish and handed them to his disciples to give to the people.
  17. Everyone ate all they wanted. What was left over filled twelve baskets.
  18. When Jesus was alone praying, his disciples came to him, and he asked them, "What do people say about me?"
  19. They answered, "Some say that you are John the Baptist or Elijah or a prophet from long ago who has come back to life."
  20. Jesus then asked them, "But who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah sent from God."
  21. Jesus strictly warned his disciples not to tell anyone about this.
  22. Jesus told his disciples, "The nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. They will reject him and kill him, but three days later he will rise to life."
  23. Then Jesus said to all the people: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me.
  24. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it.
  25. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life?
  26. If you are ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of his Father and the holy angels.
  27. You can be sure that some of the people standing here will not die before they see God's kingdom.
  28. About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up on a mountain to pray.
  29. While he was praying, his face changed, and his clothes became shining white.
  30. Suddenly Moses and Elijah were there speaking with him.
  31. They appeared in heavenly glory and talked about all that Jesus' death in Jerusalem would mean.
  32. Peter and the other two disciples had been sound asleep. All at once they woke up and saw how glorious Jesus was. They also saw the two men who were with him.
  33. Moses and Elijah were about to leave, when Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But Peter did not know what he was talking about.
  34. While Peter was still speaking, a shadow from a cloud passed over them, and they were frightened as the cloud covered them.
  35. From the cloud a voice spoke, "This is my chosen Son. Listen to what he says!"
  36. After the voice had spoken, Peter, John, and James saw only Jesus. For some time they kept quiet and did not say anything about what they had seen.
  37. The next day Jesus and his three disciples came down from the mountain and were met by a large crowd.
  38. Just then someone in the crowd shouted, "Teacher, please do something for my son! He is my only child!
  39. A demon often attacks him and makes him scream. It shakes him until he foams at the mouth, and it won't leave him until it has completely worn the boy out.
  40. I begged your disciples to force out the demon, but they couldn't do it."
  41. Jesus said to them, "You people are stubborn and don't have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you?" Then Jesus said to the man, "Bring your son to me."
  42. While the boy was being brought, the demon attacked him and made him shake all over. Jesus ordered the demon to stop. Then he healed the boy and gave him back to his father.
  43. Everyone was amazed at God's great power. While everyone was still amazed at what Jesus was doing, he said to his disciples,
  44. "Pay close attention to what I am telling you! The Son of Man will be handed over to his enemies."
  45. But the disciples did not know what he meant. The meaning was hidden from them. They could not understand it, and they were afraid to ask.
  46. Jesus' disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest.
  47. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he had a child stand there beside him.
  48. Then he said to his disciples, "When you welcome even a child because of me, you welcome me. And when you welcome me, you welcome the one who sent me. Whichever one of you is the most humble is the greatest."
  49. John said, "Master, we saw a man using your name to force demons out of people. But we told him to stop, because he isn't one of us."
  50. "Don't stop him!" Jesus said. "Anyone who isn't against you is for you."
  51. Not long before it was time for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem.
  52. He sent some messengers on ahead to a Samaritan village to get things ready for him.
  53. But he was on his way to Jerusalem, so the people there refused to welcome him.
  54. When the disciples James and John saw what was happening, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy these people?"
  55. But Jesus turned and corrected them for what they had said.
  56. Then they all went on to another village.
  57. Along the way someone said to Jesus, "I'll go anywhere with you!"
  58. Jesus said, "Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place to call his own."
  59. Jesus told someone else to come with him. But the man said, "Lord, let me wait until I bury my father."
  60. Jesus answered, "Let the dead take care of the dead, while you go and tell about God's kingdom."
  61. Then someone said to Jesus, "I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home."
  62. Jesus answered, "Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn't worth a thing to God's kingdom!"

    While Jesus' initial ministry was begun in the region of Galilee, He had begun to move out from there. 8:1 tells us that He had begun "traveling from one town and village to another."  Now we are told in 9:1 that Jesus sent out His apostles to "proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick." (9:2) It seems that Jesus was further preparing His apostles to carry on the work in His absence while He also gradually worked His way toward His destiny in Jerusalem as 9:51 tells us. Several events in this chapter seem aimed at this development of His apostles.

    The first of these events was the empowerment of Jesus' apostles to cast out demons and heal diseases to undergird their proclamation of the kingdom of God. Having empowered them He sent them from village to village. As Jesus' followers they were to share in His ministry. This event was followed with the feeding of the 5,000, an event aimed at further developing the faith of the apostles. The limitations of our own minds are so prone to limit our comprehension of God's capabilities. Though we know on one level that He is the creator of all things and nothing is beyond His power, on the level in which we live our faith accepts only what our experience has informed us concerning His power.

    The apostles had seen Jesus perform many miracles to this point, but nothing that gave them a frame of reference for feeding 5,000 people when there was no food available. Though they had seen Him renew life to people who were dead it did not occur to them to look to Jesus to feed a hungry crowd. Instead, they told Jesus to "Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find food and lodging, because we are in a deserted place here."  (9:12) By feeding this crowd and using the apostles to help distribute the food, He expanded their thinking concerning His power.

    With the feeding of the 5,000 as a backdrop, Jesus took a teaching opportunity. "Who do you say that I am?" He asked them. And Peter answered correctly saying, "God's Messiah." But correctly identifying Jesus did not necessary translate to a correct perception of His purpose. That became the other piece of this teaching opportunity. Being the Messiah did not mean that Jesus' role was to be that of a conquering king or that He would receive royal treatment which was their frame of reference. Instead, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day." (9:22) And if this was the plight of the Messiah, what was to be the plight of His followers? Many would be called upon to give up their lives because of Jesus. But Jesus assured them that "whoever loses his life because of Me will save it." (9:24)

    Eight days later the apostles witnessed a mind-boggling validation of Jesus' identity as Messiah and verification of His coming death in Jerusalem through Jesus' transfiguration. Not only did they see Jesus' appearance changed, but they saw Him joined by Moses and Elijah and heard a voice from the cloud saying, "This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!" (9:35)

    Childhood training is powerful and difficult to change. The apostles had been taught that the Messiah would be a great king in the tradition of King David and would restore Israel to her former greatness. Therefore, Jesus' teaching about His suffering and death was not fully penetrating their understanding. Jesus told them, "Let these words sink in: the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men." (9:44) But soon after they got into an argument about who would be greatest among them. No doubt they were anticipating the exalted positions they would have when Jesus became a powerful king. They had no frame of reference for what Jesus was telling them and therefore could not comprehend. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reflections on Luke 8

    Luke 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Soon after this, Jesus was going through towns and villages, telling the good news about God's kingdom. His twelve apostles were with him,
  2. and so were some women who had been healed of evil spirits and all sorts of diseases. One of the women was Mary Magdalene, who once had seven demons in her.
  3. Joanna, Susanna, and many others had also used what they owned to help Jesus and his disciples. Joanna's husband Chuza was one of Herod's officials.
  4. When a large crowd from several towns had gathered around Jesus, he told them this story:
  5. A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. While the farmer was doing it, some of the seeds fell along the road and were stepped on or eaten by birds.
  6. Other seeds fell on rocky ground and started growing. But the plants did not have enough water and soon dried up.
  7. Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants.
  8. The rest of the seeds fell on good ground where they grew and produced a hundred times as many seeds. When Jesus had finished speaking, he said, "If you have ears, pay attention!"
  9. Jesus' disciples asked him what the story meant.
  10. So he answered: I have explained the secrets about God's kingdom to you, but for others I can only use stories. These people look, but they don't see, and they hear, but they don't understand.
  11. This is what the story means: The seed is God's message,
  12. and the seeds that fell along the road are the people who hear the message. But the devil comes and snatches the message out of their hearts, so that they will not believe and be saved.
  13. The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it. But they don't have deep roots, and they believe only for a little while. As soon as life gets hard, they give up.
  14. The seeds that fell among the thornbushes are also people who hear the message. But they are so eager for riches and pleasures that they never produce anything.
  15. Those seeds that fell on good ground are the people who listen to the message and keep it in good and honest hearts. They last and produce a harvest.
  16. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl or under a bed. A lamp is always put on a lampstand, so that people who come into a house will see the light.
  17. There is nothing hidden that will not be found. There is no secret that will not be well known.
  18. Pay attention to how you listen! Everyone who has something will be given more, but people who have nothing will lose what little they think they have.
  19. Jesus' mother and brothers went to see him, but because of the crowd they could not get near him.
  20. Someone told Jesus, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you."
  21. Jesus answered, "My mother and my brothers are those people who hear and obey God's message."
  22. One day, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat, and he said, "Let's cross the lake." They started out,
  23. and while they were sailing across, he went to sleep. Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake, and the boat started sinking. They were in danger.
  24. So they went to Jesus and woke him up, "Master, Master! We are about to drown!" Jesus got up and ordered the wind and waves to stop. They obeyed, and everything was calm.
  25. Then Jesus asked the disciples, "Don't you have any faith?" But they were frightened and amazed. They said to each other, "Who is this? He can give orders to the wind and the waves, and they obey him!"
  26. Jesus and his disciples sailed across Lake Galilee and came to shore near the town of Gerasa.
  27. As Jesus was getting out of the boat, he was met by a man from that town. The man had demons in him. He had gone naked for a long time and no longer lived in a house, but in the graveyard.
  28. The man saw Jesus and screamed. He knelt down in front of him and shouted, "Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me? I beg you not to torture me!"
  29. He said this because Jesus had already told the evil spirit to go out of him. The man had often been attacked by the demon. And even though he had been bound with chains and leg irons and kept under guard, he smashed whatever bound him. Then the demon would force him out into lonely places.
  30. Jesus asked the man, "What is your name?" He answered, "My name is Lots." He said this because there were 'lots' of demons in him.
  31. They begged Jesus not to send them to the deep pit, where they would be punished.
  32. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. So the demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and Jesus let them go.
  33. Then the demons left the man and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
  34. When the men taking care of the pigs saw this, they ran to spread the news in the town and on the farms.
  35. The people went out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they also found the man. The demons had gone out of him, and he was sitting there at the feet of Jesus. He had clothes on and was in his right mind. But the people were terrified.
  36. Then all who had seen the man healed told about it.
  37. Everyone from around Gerasa begged Jesus to leave, because they were so frightened. When Jesus got into the boat to start back,
  38. the man who had been healed begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him off and said,
  39. "Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you." The man then went all over town, telling everything that Jesus had done for him.
  40. Everyone had been waiting for Jesus, and when he came back, a crowd was there to welcome him.
  41. Just then the man in charge of the Jewish meeting place came and knelt down in front of Jesus. His name was Jairus, and he begged Jesus to come to his home
  42. because his twelve-year-old child was dying. She was his only daughter. While Jesus was on his way, people were crowding all around him.
  43. In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent everything she had on doctors, but none of them could make her well.
  44. As soon as she came up behind Jesus and barely touched his clothes, her bleeding stopped.
  45. "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. While everyone was denying it, Peter said, "Master, people are crowding all around and pushing you from every side."
  46. But Jesus answered, "Someone touched me, because I felt power going out from me."
  47. The woman knew that she could not hide, so she came trembling and knelt down in front of Jesus. She told everyone why she had touched him and that she had been healed right away.
  48. Jesus said to the woman, "You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace!"
  49. While Jesus was speaking, someone came from Jairus' home and said, "Your daughter has died! Why bother the teacher anymore?"
  50. When Jesus heard this, he told Jairus, "Don't worry! Have faith, and your daughter will get well."
  51. Jesus went into the house, but he did not let anyone else go with him, except Peter, John, James, and the girl's father and mother.
  52. Everyone was crying and weeping for the girl. But Jesus said, "The child isn't dead. She is just asleep."
  53. The people laughed at him because they knew she was dead.
  54. Jesus took hold of the girl's hand and said, "Child, get up!"
  55. She came back to life and got right up. Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
  56. Her parents were surprised, but Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

    To this point, Jesus' movements and works seem somewhat sporadic as He established His authority as Messiah and layed the groundwork for His ministry. It had produced a following to which Luke refers in the opening verses of this chapter. Luke also announced in these opening verses that Jesus had launched out going "from one town and village to another." As He went He was "preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God." (8:1) 

    Though large crowds gathered to hear Him, He stated through the parable of the sower (verses 4-21) that sheer numbers was not an accurate indicator of His following. Many of those thronging Him would fall into one of three categories which would eventually all fall away. Either they would be like the seed that fell on the wayside and was trampled by men or devoured by birds, rejecting the gospel outright, or they would be like the seed that fell on the rocks and was withered for lack of moisture, receiving the gospel but it doesn't take root in their lives, or they would be like seed that fell among thorns and where choked, receiving the gospel and allowing it to take root but then it is choked out by other concerns and doesn't grow to maturity. Only one group, those who were like the seed that fell on good ground, would take His teaching to heart and produce fruit demonstrating the growth of the gospel in their lives. We are given no percentages or comparitive numbers to know how many might be in each group, but it is safe to assume that those in whom the gospel takes root and grows are in the minority.

    Jesus' apostles were in continual need of grasping more deeply who Jesus was. Whether or not Jesus planned for the outing in the boat to be one of those occasions, it became just that. Jesus had fallen asleep and remained asleep as a sudden and violent storm descended on them. The waves were swamping the boat threatening to sink them. Out of fear, the disciples awoke Jesus to tell Him they were about to die. This was a rather normal response to the conditions, but it was also a revealing response. It revealed that they still did not fully understand who Jesus was. Had they perceived that He was God they would not have been concerned for their safety nor would they have been surprised when He took control of the storm and asked, "Who can this be?" Jesus let events speak for themselves seldom trying to explain them. This was one of those occasions. Rather than going into detail about what had happened, He simply asked, "Where is your faith?"

    Adding to the lesson the apostles learned on the lake with the storm, their next event was an encounter with a man possessed with demons. This was no simple demon possession for the man had legions, that is, thousands, of demons in him and had no control over himselves. When Jesus approached the man, the demons in him acknowledged Him with greater understanding of who He was than any person had done: "What do You have to do with me, Jesus, You Son of the Most High God?" We are not told of the apostle's reaction to this encounter but it must surely have caused them to wonder further about who Jesus was and what they had just encountered with demons acknowledging Jesus in this way. First they saw the forces of nature respond to His command and then the forces of evil. His power was greater than both.

    The chapter concludes with Jesus restoring to life the daughter of a synagogue official. Whether or not this official was of the same mindset toward Jesus as other religious leaders, the life of his daughter was at stake and he was willing to set any issues of Jesus' identity aside. Jesus' reputation for healing and raising the dead was becoming widespread and it was worth the chance of going to Jesus for help. The only thing we are told concerning this official's response to Jesus is that he was astounded when Jesus raised his daughter from the dead. After witnessing this miracle it would be difficult not to believe Jesus was the Messiah, but it would also be difficult for this religious official to openly acknowledge it among other of his colleagues.  

    Later Luke records Jesus saying that He will be the cause of division between even family members: "They will be divided, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (12:53) Jesus is the source of peace. True peace is found in Him. This is peace within. But making the choice to follow Jesus can bring division, even division among family members.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reflections on Luke 7

    Luke 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. After Jesus had finished teaching the people, he went to Capernaum.
  2. In that town an army officer's servant was sick and about to die. The officer liked this servant very much.
  3. And when he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish leaders to ask him to come and heal the servant.
  4. The leaders went to Jesus and begged him to do something. They said, "This man deserves your help!
  5. He loves our nation and even built us a meeting place."
  6. So Jesus went with them. When Jesus wasn't far from the house, the officer sent some friends to tell him, "Lord, don't go to any trouble for me! I am not good enough for you to come into my house.
  7. And I am certainly not worthy to come to you. Just say the word, and my servant will get well.
  8. I have officers who give orders to me, and I have soldiers who take orders from me. I can say to one of them, 'Go!' and he goes. I can say to another, 'Come!' and he comes. I can say to my servant, 'Do this!' and he will do it."
  9. When Jesus heard this, he was so surprised that he turned and said to the crowd following him, "In all of Israel I've never found anyone with this much faith!"
  10. The officer's friends returned and found the servant well.
  11. Soon Jesus and his disciples were on their way to the town of Nain, and a big crowd was going along with them.
  12. As they came near the gate of the town, they saw people carrying out the body of a widow's only son. Many people from the town were walking along with her.
  13. When the Lord saw the woman, he felt sorry for her and said, "Don't cry!"
  14. Jesus went over and touched the stretcher on which the people were carrying the dead boy. They stopped, and Jesus said, "Young man, get up!"
  15. The boy sat up and began to speak. Jesus then gave him back to his mother.
  16. Everyone was frightened and praised God. They said, "A great prophet is here with us! God has come to his people."
  17. News about Jesus spread all over Judea and everywhere else in that part of the country.
  18. John's followers told John everything that was being said about Jesus. So he sent two of them to ask the Lord, "Are you the one we should be looking for? Or must we wait for someone else?"
  19. (SEE 7:18)
  20. When these messengers came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to ask, 'Are you the one we should be looking for? Or are we supposed to wait for someone else?' "
  21. At that time Jesus was healing many people who were sick or in pain or were troubled by evil spirits, and he was giving sight to a lot of blind people.
  22. Jesus said to the messengers sent by John, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard. Blind people are now able to see, and the lame can walk. People who have leprosy are being healed, and the deaf can now hear. The dead are raised to life, and the poor are hearing the good news.
  23. God will bless everyone who doesn't reject me because of what I do."
  24. After John's messengers had gone, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John: What kind of person did you go out to the desert to see? Was he like tall grass blown about by the wind?
  25. What kind of man did you really go out to see? Was he someone dressed in fine clothes? People who wear expensive clothes and live in luxury are in the king's palace.
  26. What then did you go out to see? Was he a prophet? He certainly was! I tell you that he was more than a prophet.
  27. In the Scriptures, God calls John his messenger and says, "I am sending my messenger ahead of you to get things ready for you."
  28. No one ever born on this earth is greater than John. But whoever is least important in God's kingdom is greater than John.
  29. Everyone had been listening to John. Even the tax collectors had obeyed God and had done what was right by letting John baptize them.
  30. But the Pharisees and the experts in the Law of Moses refused to obey God and be baptized by John.
  31. Jesus went on to say: What are you people like? What kind of people are you?
  32. You are like children sitting in the market and shouting to each other, "We played the flute, but you would not dance! We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!"
  33. John the Baptist did not go around eating and drinking, and you said, "John has a demon in him!"
  34. But because the Son of Man goes around eating and drinking, you say, "Jesus eats and drinks too much! He is even a friend of tax collectors and sinners."
  35. Yet Wisdom is shown to be right by what its followers do.
  36. A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So Jesus went to the Pharisee's home and got ready to eat.
  37. When a sinful woman in that town found out that Jesus was there, she bought an expensive bottle of perfume.
  38. Then she came and stood behind Jesus. She cried and started washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The woman kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.
  39. The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and said to himself, "If this man really were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him! He would know that she is a sinner."
  40. Jesus said to the Pharisee, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher, what is it?" Simon replied.
  41. Jesus told him, "Two people were in debt to a moneylender. One of them owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty.
  42. Since neither of them could pay him back, the moneylender said that they didn't have to pay him anything. Which one of them will like him more?"
  43. Simon answered, "I suppose it would be the one who had owed more and didn't have to pay it back." "You are right," Jesus said.
  44. He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Have you noticed this woman? When I came into your home, you didn't give me any water so I could wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
  45. You didn't greet me with a kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.
  46. You didn't even pour olive oil on my head, but she has poured expensive perfume on my feet.
  47. So I tell you that all her sins are forgiven, and that is why she has shown great love. But anyone who has been forgiven for only a little will show only a little love."
  48. Then Jesus said to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven."
  49. Some other guests started saying to one another, "Who is this who dares to forgive sins?"
  50. But Jesus told the woman, "Because of your faith, you are now saved. May God give you peace!"

    Through both word and deed, Jesus continued to establish two things: He was the Messiah, and the appropriate response to Him is repentance and faith. His miraculous works, served as His credentials to verify who He was. And He began to expand on these works in this chapter. He did so first by remotely healing the centurion's servant. The centurion not only believed the Messiah could heal his servant but that He didn't have to be present to do so. In response to this faith Jesus healed the servant without completing His journey to the centurion's house.

    Jesus further expanded His miracles by raising a man from the dead.  This got the attention of the people and "fear came over" them. (7:16) They recognized that "God has visited His people." (7:16) Thus, word of Jesus became even more widespread. Evidently due to these reports of Jesus, John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are You the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?" (7:19) Jesus' response was a reference to Isaiah 61:1-2 which He had read when attending the synogogue in Nazareth: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of our God's vengeance; to comfort all who mourn."  

    This passage was well-known by the Jews as a reference passage regarding the Messiah. Jesus' response to John's disciples was to "Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them." Jesus was saying to John through his disciples, to consider whether or not He was fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy concerning the Messiah. This, too, was the message Jesus was trying to convey to the Jewish community at large through His miracles and His teaching.

    We are told by Luke that those who had been baptized by John the Baptist unto repentance "acknowledged God's way of righteousness." But the religious leaders who had rejected John's baptism also "rejected the plan of God for themselves." (7:29-30) In this, Jesus compared them to whimsical children. They didn't like John because he didn't eat or drink, claiming he had a demon, but neither did they like Jesus because He did eat and drink, claiming Him to be a friend of sinners. Jesus concluded by saying the wisdom of His ministry did not need the validation of the religious leaders. Those who followed Him were validation enough.

    The final account in chapter 7 makes the point that one will not have an appreciation or love for Jesus unless they experience His forgiveness. Those, such as the scribes and Pharisees, who were not repentant, did not have an appreciation or even a respect for Jesus. This final account of the chapter told of Jesus attending a dinner at the home of a Pharisee. The host did not even extend to Jesus the usual courtesys offered guests in one's home. But the woman who crashed the dinner party did for Jesus what the host had failed to do. She did so because she had experienced His forgiveness and loved Him because of it. The host had not been repentant and thus had not received Jesus' forgiveness nor gained even an appreciation for Him.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reflections on Luke 6

    Luke 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields, the disciples picked some wheat. They rubbed the husks off with their hands and started eating the grain.
  2. Some Pharisees said, "Why are you picking grain on the Sabbath? You're not supposed to do that!"
  3. Jesus answered, "You surely have read what David did when he and his followers were hungry.
  4. He went into the house of God and took the sacred loaves of bread that only priests were supposed to eat. He not only ate some himself, but even gave some to his followers."
  5. Jesus finished by saying, "The Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath."
  6. On another Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, and a man with a crippled right hand was there.
  7. Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses kept watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man. They did this because they wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong.
  8. Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. And the man stood up.
  9. Then Jesus asked, "On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone's life or destroy it?"
  10. After he had looked around at everyone, he told the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did, and his bad hand became completely well.
  11. The teachers and the Pharisees were furious and started saying to each other, "What can we do about Jesus?"
  12. About that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night there.
  13. The next morning he called his disciples together and chose twelve of them to be his apostles.
  14. One was Simon, and Jesus named him Peter. Another was Andrew, Peter's brother. There were also James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
  15. Matthew, Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus. The rest of the apostles were Simon, known as the Eager One,
  16. Jude, who was the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus.
  17. Jesus and his apostles went down from the mountain and came to some flat, level ground. Many other disciples were there to meet him. Large crowds of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon were there too.
  18. These people had come to listen to Jesus and to be healed of their diseases. All who were troubled by evil spirits were also healed.
  19. Everyone was trying to touch Jesus, because power was going out from him and healing them all.
  20. Jesus looked at his disciples and said: God will bless you people who are poor. His kingdom belongs to you!
  21. God will bless you hungry people. You will have plenty to eat! God will bless you people who are crying. You will laugh!
  22. God will bless you when others hate you and won't have anything to do with you. God will bless you when people insult you and say cruel things about you, all because you are a follower of the Son of Man.
  23. Long ago your own people did these same things to the prophets. So when this happens to you, be happy and jump for joy! You will have a great reward in heaven.
  24. But you rich people are in for trouble. You have already had an easy life!
  25. You well-fed people are in for trouble. You will go hungry! You people who are laughing now are in for trouble. You are going to cry and weep!
  26. You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you. That is what your own people said about those prophets who told lies.
  27. This is what I say to all who will listen to me: Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you.
  28. Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you.
  29. If someone slaps you on one cheek, don't stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don't try to keep back your shirt.
  30. Give to everyone who asks and don't ask people to return what they have taken from you.
  31. Treat others just as you want to be treated.
  32. If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them.
  33. If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them.
  34. If you lend money only to someone you think will pay you back, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners lend to sinners because they think they will get it all back.
  35. But love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel.
  36. Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.
  37. Jesus said: Don't judge others, and God won't judge you. Don't be hard on others, and God won't be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you.
  38. If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.
  39. Jesus also used some sayings as he spoke to the people. He said: Can one blind person lead another blind person? Won't they both fall into a ditch?
  40. Are students better than their teacher? But when they are fully trained, they will be like their teacher.
  41. You can see the speck in your friend's eye. But you don't notice the log in your own eye.
  42. How can you say, "My friend, let me take the speck out of your eye," when you don't see the log in your own eye? You show-offs! First, get the log out of your own eye. Then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend's eye.
  43. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.
  44. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. You cannot pick figs or grapes from thornbushes.
  45. Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts. Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts. Your words show what is in your heart.
  46. Why do you keep on saying that I am your Lord, when you refuse to do what I say?
  47. Anyone who comes and listens to me and obeys me
  48. is like someone who dug down deep and built a house on solid rock. When the flood came and the river rushed against the house, it was built so well that it didn't even shake.
  49. But anyone who hears what I say and doesn't obey me is like someone whose house wasn't built on solid rock. As soon as the river rushed against that house, it was smashed to pieces!

    Jesus' confrontation with the religious leaders was escalating. We are told in the event of chapter 5 in which Jesus healed the paralytic man who was lowered to him through the roof that Pharisees and scribes were present "from every village of Galilee and Judea, and also from Jerusalem." It would seem that Jesus was becoming a great concern to them. We might assume that these leaders were coming to see if Jesus might truly be the Messiah. But their challenges to Him give the appearance more of an effort to discredit Him. 

    Luke tells of two Sabbath day confrontations with the religious leaders in chapter 6. Both give the impression that these leaders were watching for an occasion to accuse Jesus, even to the point of following Him around. How else would they have observed Him and His disciples plucking and rubbing heads of grain in the grainfields? Though the Pharisees challenged Jesus for doing what was not lawful on the Sabbath by rubbing heads of grain together (something they evidently interpreted as threshing which was unlawful), it was not the Mosaic law He and His disciples were breaking as they inferred. Rather it was the rules of the Jewish leaders Jesus' disciples were breaking. But even this wasn't the point. The law was never intended to override man's need. In this case his need for food. 

    Jesus cited the occasion when King David and his men were famished and entered the house of God and ate the sacred bread which was intended only for the priests. An exception was made on this occasion based on need, and the same applied with Jesus and His disciples on this occasion. Greater than all this, however, was that "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (6:5) It was another occasion of Jesus establishing His authority. 

    The second Sabbath confrontation was even more ludicrous. On this occasion Jesus was in the synagogue teaching when he saw a man with a paralyzed hand. Whether or not it was a setup, the scribes and Pharisees were watching to see what He would do, looking for a charge they could bring against Him. Sure enough, Jesus approached the man, but knowing what was in the minds of the religious leaders, He challenged them first. "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil," He asked them. Through this question He first established that to heal the man would be to do good. But also implied in the question was that not to heal the man would be evil. Was it more important to observe the Sabbath than to avoid evil? Furthermore, what labor was Jesus guilty of? He simply spoke to the man and he was healed. The religious leaders were enraged by this, but I suspect it was more at being shown up than at the supposed breaking of the Sabbath.

    After this incident, Jesus retreated to the mountain to pray, spending all night "in prayer to God." The next morning He summoned His disciples. At this point we have a distinction between disciples and apostles. His disciples were those who followed Him and made up a "large crowd." Out of this crowd of disciples Jesus chose 12 to be His apostles. Disciples are followers of the one of whom they are disciples. Apostles, on the other hand, are those sent out by their leader. So through this appointment they went from simply following to serving Him as they were sent to do. Immediately following Jesus' appointment of His disciples, He used the occasion with the gathered multitude to teach, giving a shortened version of the Sermon on the Mount. This teaching made apparent that Jesus was ushering in a whole new day, turning upside down the thinking of traditional Jewish teaching.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflections on Luke 5

    Luke 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, teaching the people as they crowded around him to hear God's message.
  2. Near the shore he saw two boats left there by some fishermen who had gone to wash their nets.
  3. Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and asked him to row it out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down in the boat to teach the crowd.
  4. When Jesus had finished speaking, he told Simon, "Row the boat out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish."
  5. "Master," Simon answered, "we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down."
  6. They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart.
  7. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.
  8. When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, "Lord, don't come near me! I am a sinner."
  9. Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught.
  10. His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too. Jesus told Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you will bring in people instead of fish."
  11. The men pulled their boats up on the shore. Then they left everything and went with Jesus.
  12. Jesus came to a town where there was a man who had leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he knelt down to the ground in front of Jesus and begged, "Lord, you have the power to make me well, if only you wanted to."
  13. Jesus put his hand on him and said, "I want to! Now you are well." At once the man's leprosy disappeared.
  14. Jesus told him, "Don't tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest. Offer a gift to the priest, just as Moses commanded, and everyone will know that you have been healed."
  15. News about Jesus kept spreading. Large crowds came to listen to him teach and to be healed of their diseases.
  16. But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.
  17. One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick,
  18. and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus.
  19. But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.
  20. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, "My friend, your sins are forgiven."
  21. The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, "Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins."
  22. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, "Why are you thinking that?
  23. Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk?
  24. But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth." Jesus then said to the man, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home."
  25. At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God.
  26. Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, "We have seen a great miracle today!"
  27. Later, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, "Come with me."
  28. Levi left everything and went with Jesus.
  29. In his home Levi gave a big dinner for Jesus. Many tax collectors and other guests were also there.
  30. The Pharisees and some of their teachers of the Law of Moses grumbled to Jesus' disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with those tax collectors and other sinners?"
  31. Jesus answered, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, but sick people do.
  32. I didn't come to invite good people to turn to God. I came to invite sinners."
  33. Some people said to Jesus, "John's followers often pray and go without eating, and so do the followers of the Pharisees. But your disciples never go without eating or drinking."
  34. Jesus told them, "The friends of a bridegroom don't go without eating while he is still with them.
  35. But the time will come when he will be taken from them. Then they will go without eating."
  36. Jesus then told them these sayings: No one uses a new piece of cloth to patch old clothes. The patch would shrink and make the hole even bigger.
  37. No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined.
  38. New wine must be put only into new wineskins.
  39. No one wants new wine after drinking old wine. They say, "The old wine is better."

    Through the accounts of this chapter we see Jesus establishing His authority as well as His identity as God. In particular, His was showing His authority to call disciples to follow Him, to bring spiritual cleansing, and to forgive sin. It was through His teaching and demonstration of the miraculous that He sought to do this.

    Why would men who had only a passing acquaintence with Jesus give up their livelihood to follow Him fulltime? It was because they heard His authoritative teaching and saw His amazing works. In the case of Peter, James, and John, who were present at Lake Gennesaret when Jesus spoke to a large crowd pressing in on Him so much that He commandeered these fishermen's boat to use as a speaking platform. After they had heard His teaching, Jesus told them to cast their nets into the deep water of the lake for a catch of fish. He knew they had already fished this area all night without luck, which they mentioned when He told them to cast their nets. Peter's response is one from which to learn. Jesus' instructions didn't make sense to him when they had already fished the area all night and now that it was daytime fishing would be even harder. But he simply said to Jesus, "at Your word, I'll let down the nets." (5:5) Obedience does not require understanding, nor does faith. 

    Understanding is not requisite to either faith or obedience. Understanding is too often a barrier to both. Much of what we are instructed to do by God will be beyond our understanding or perspective. This is not necessarily because what He asks is too complex for us, but rather that it is outside our paradigm of thinking. We will miss much of what God has for us if we insist on understanding before responding obediently and by faith. On the basis of Jesus' miracle in producing more fish than their nets or boats could handle, these three fishermen were ready to leave "everything, and follow" Jesus when He said to them, "From now on you will be catching people!" (5:10) 

    The next two miracles described in this chapter address two additional aspects of Jesus' authority. The first of these two was the healing of a man with a serious skin disease. It was possibly leprosy. This was a condition for which the Mosaic law required strict segregation of the inflicted person since they were considered ceremonially unclean. When Jesus healed the man he did something the Jews rarely saw done with a skin disease. He not only healed the man, however, but also made him clean, a fact he then told the man to have verified by the priests. So Jesus' authority was then stretched to cleansing, signifying that He could bring cleansing to the nation of Israel.

    In the second of these two miracles Jesus established His authority over sin. The healing of a paralytic man brought to Jesus through the roof of a house in which Jesus was speaking is one of the better known of Jesus' miracles. As miracles go, this one was no more spectacular than any of His others. What was signifcant about the occasion was His forgiveness of the man's sin. It was also the issue that raised the ire of the religious leaders. They mostly ignored the healing but gave great attention to Jesus' statement about forgiveness. The scribes and Pharisees correctly attributed forgiveness of sin to God: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (5:21) This, of course, was Jesus' point. But if Jesus was making unfounded claims about Himself, which would be easier to get by with, a claim to heal a person or a claim to forgive their sin? Obviously, the claim to forgive sin would be easier to get by with since there was no outward evidence (except for a changed life which would take time to verify).  By verifying His claim to heal by healing the man, Jesus also verified His authority to forgive sin.

    Jesus' final act told of in this chapter not only spoke to His authority but also to the focus of His ministry - the spiritual and social outcasts. When the religious leaders criticized Jesus for eating at Levi's house with other tax collectors, Jesus told the religious leaders, "The healthy don't need a doctor, but the sick do." Therefore, He had come not to call "the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The religious leaders were concerned to associate only with those they considered well spiritually. He might have said, "I'll leave the spiritually healthy to you. My concern is for those who are sick spiritually." He would not have said this either, for He accused them later of being blind leaders of the blind. Neither were they spiritually healthy, but they were blind to this fact. If we are truly followers of Jesus, we too will be concerned for those who need spiritual healing.

    Many among those in the crowds following Jesus at that time were curiosity seekers. They were not as concerned about His true identity or authority as about the physical healing He could provide them. This dynamic has changed little over the centuries. Many in the present day crowds who carry the label "Jesus follower" (or Christian) also miss the point of Jesus' agenda. They are more concerned for His physical healing while His greatest concern is spiritual healing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Reflections on Luke 4

    Luke 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When Jesus returned from the Jordan River, the power of the Holy Spirit was with him, and the Spirit led him into the desert.
  2. For forty days Jesus was tested by the devil, and during that time he went without eating. When it was all over, he was hungry.
  3. The devil said to Jesus, "If you are God's Son, tell this stone to turn into bread."
  4. Jesus answered, "The Scriptures say, 'No one can live only on food.' "
  5. Then the devil led Jesus up to a high place and quickly showed him all the nations on earth.
  6. The devil said, "I will give all this power and glory to you. It has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
  7. Just worship me, and you can have it all."
  8. Jesus answered, "The Scriptures say: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!' "
  9. Finally, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on top of the temple. The devil said, "If you are God's Son, jump off.
  10. The Scriptures say: 'God will tell his angels to take care of you. They will catch you in their arms, and you will not hurt your feet on the stones.' "
  11. (SEE 4:10)
  12. Jesus answered, "The Scriptures also say, 'Don't try to test the Lord your God!' "
  13. After the devil had finished testing Jesus in every way possible, he left him for a while.
  14. Jesus returned to Galilee with the power of the Spirit. News about him spread everywhere.
  15. He taught in the Jewish meeting places, and everyone praised him.
  16. Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures,
  17. he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read,
  18. "The Lord's Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers,
  19. and to say, 'This is the year the Lord has chosen.' "
  20. Jesus closed the book, then handed it back to the man in charge and sat down. Everyone in the meeting place looked straight at Jesus.
  21. Then Jesus said to them, "What you have just heard me read has come true today."
  22. All the people started talking about Jesus and were amazed at the wonderful things he said. They kept on asking, "Isn't he Joseph's son?"
  23. Jesus answered: You will certainly want to tell me this saying, "Doctor, first make yourself well." You will tell me to do the same things here in my own hometown that you heard I did in Capernaum.
  24. But you can be sure that no prophets are liked by the people of their own hometown.
  25. Once during the time of Elijah there was no rain for three and a half years, and people everywhere were starving. There were many widows in Israel,
  26. but Elijah was sent only to a widow in the town of Zarephath near the city of Sidon.
  27. During the time of the prophet Elisha, many men in Israel had leprosy. But no one was healed, except Naaman who lived in Syria.
  28. When the people in the meeting place heard Jesus say this, they became so angry
  29. that they got up and threw him out of town. They dragged him to the edge of the cliff on which the town was built, because they wanted to throw him down from there.
  30. But Jesus slipped through the crowd and got away.
  31. Jesus went to the town of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people on the Sabbath.
  32. His teaching amazed them because he spoke with power.
  33. There in the Jewish meeting place was a man with an evil spirit. He yelled out,
  34. "Hey, Jesus of Nazareth, what do you want with us? Are you here to get rid of us? I know who you are! You are God's Holy One."
  35. Jesus ordered the evil spirit to be quiet and come out. The demon threw the man to the ground in front of everyone and left without harming him.
  36. They all were amazed and kept saying to each other, "What kind of teaching is this? He has power to order evil spirits out of people!"
  37. News about Jesus spread all over that part of the country.
  38. Jesus left the meeting place and went to Simon's home. When Jesus got there, he was told that Simon's mother-in-law was sick with a high fever.
  39. So Jesus went over to her and ordered the fever to go away. Right then she was able to get up and serve them a meal.
  40. After the sun had set, people with all kinds of diseases were brought to Jesus. He put his hands on each one of them and healed them.
  41. Demons went out of many people and shouted, "You are the Son of God!" But Jesus ordered the demons not to speak because they knew he was the Messiah.
  42. The next morning Jesus went out to a place where he could be alone, and crowds came looking for him. When they found him, they tried to stop him from leaving.
  43. But Jesus said, "People in other towns must hear the good news about God's kingdom. That's why I was sent."
  44. So he kept on preaching in the Jewish meeting places in Judea.

    Chapter 3 tells of Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist during which the Holy Spirit descended on Him. Immediately following this He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. The temptations were an attempt by the Devil to derail Jesus from His intended purpose. The fact that He was led to this encounter by the Spirit may indicate that God was also testing Him. Satan's attack on Jesus struck at the three strongest drives we humans have: physical appetite, desire for power and possessions, and desire for public recognition. Jesus could have all of these fulfilled by God. He didn't need Satan to fulfill them. It was a test of trusting God for them instead of Satan. 

    We are similarly tempted. Depending on whether we trust Satan to fulfill these desires or trust God, the outcomes are very different. Dependence on Satan to fulfill our desires will only lead to destruction, while dependence on God leads to abundant life. Satan promises immediate gratification and delivers a cheap immitation and destruction. Jesus used scripture to thwart Satan which is also our defense against temptation. We should note, however, that while Satan left Jesus after these unsuccessful attempts to tempt Him, He was not finished with Jesus. Nor is he finished with us after a few attempts to sidetrack us from Jesus. We must always be prepared for his attacks. And the best defense is continually communing with God through scripture and prayer.

    After 40 days in this wilderness experience with Satan, Jesus began His public ministry. While He initially did some ministry in Judea, Luke goes directly to Jesus' ministry in His hometown of Nazareth which followed His time in Judea. We are shown two contrasting receptions to Jesus' ministry. The first was in His hometown and resulted in an attempt on His life in order to get rid of Him, and the second was in Capernaum and resulted in the people not wanting Him to leave.  

    In Capernaum Jesus' encountered a number of demons that had possession of people in area. This gives a clue to the spiritual condition of the area, for demons are able to have such control only when people turn from God's power to other powers. Interestingly, it was the demons who immediately recognized who Jesus was, identifying Him as the "Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked the demons telling them to be quiet. It was not the demons but the people He wanted to recognize who He was, nor did He want the people to learn it from the demons. 

    Although the people of Capernaum wanted to keep Jesus with them, it may not have been for the best of reasons. He was addressing primarily their physical conditions rather than their spiritual condition. It had been the spiritual condition of the people that Jesus touched on in Nazareth that turned them against Him. Under the same circumstances in Capernaum the same result may have occurred. 

    What are the reasons that either draw us to or away from Jesus? Do those concerns actually align with Jesus' true intent for us? Can we refuse what Jesus offers if we truly understand His offer?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reflections on Luke 3

    Luke 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. For fifteen years Emperor Tiberius had ruled that part of the world. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was the ruler of Galilee. Herod's brother, Philip, was the ruler in the countries of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was the ruler of Abilene.
  2. Annas and Caiaphas were the Jewish high priests. At that time God spoke to Zechariah's son John, who was living in the desert.
  3. So John went along the Jordan Valley, telling the people, "Turn back to God and be baptized! Then your sins will be forgiven."
  4. Isaiah the prophet wrote about John when he said, "In the desert someone is shouting, 'Get the road ready for the Lord! Make a straight path for him.
  5. Fill up every valley and level every mountain and hill. Straighten the crooked paths and smooth out the rough roads.
  6. Then everyone will see the saving power of God.' "
  7. Crowds of people came out to be baptized, but John said to them, "You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment?
  8. Do something to show that you really have given up your sins. Don't start saying that you belong to Abraham's family. God can turn these stones into children for Abraham.
  9. An ax is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire."
  10. The crowds asked John, "What should we do?"
  11. John told them, "If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn't have any. If you have food, share it with someone else."
  12. When tax collectors came to be baptized, they asked John, "Teacher, what should we do?"
  13. John told them, "Don't make people pay more than they owe."
  14. Some soldiers asked him, "And what about us? What do we have to do?" John told them, "Don't force people to pay money to make you leave them alone. Be satisfied with your pay."
  15. Everyone became excited and wondered, "Could John be the Messiah?"
  16. John said, "I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
  17. His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in his barn and burn the husks with a fire that never goes out."
  18. In many different ways John preached the good news to the people.
  19. But to Herod the ruler, he said, "It was wrong for you to take Herodias, your brother's wife." John also said that Herod had done many other bad things.
  20. Finally, Herod put John in jail, and this was the worst thing he had done.
  21. While everyone else was being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. Then as he prayed, the sky opened up,
  22. and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven said, "You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you."
  23. When Jesus began to preach, he was about thirty years old. Everyone thought he was the son of Joseph. But his family went back through Heli,
  24. Matthat, Levi, Melchi, Jannai, Joseph,
  25. Mattathias, Amos, Nahum, Esli, Naggai,
  26. Maath, Mattathias, Semein, Josech, Joda;
  27. Joanan, Rhesa, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Neri,
  28. Melchi, Addi, Cosam, Elmadam, Er,
  29. Joshua, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi;
  30. Simeon, Judah, Joseph, Jonam, Eliakim,
  31. Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David,
  32. Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahshon;
  33. Amminadab, Admin, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah,
  34. Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor,
  35. Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah;
  36. Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech,
  37. Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Mahalaleel, Kenan,
  38. Enosh, and Seth. The family of Jesus went all the way back to Adam and then to God.

    Luke gives in quick succession the initiation of John the Baptist's ministry and also of Jesus' ministry. John's ministry began when "God's word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness." (3:2) From that point John "went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (3:3) Luke quotes Isaiah to relate this to John's preparing the way for the Lord.

    John's message to the people in preparation for Jesus was one of repentance. Salvation was coming through Jesus but repentance was the way to receiving that salvation. He also spoke of coming judgment saying, "Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees!" (3:9) If they were to avoid this judgment and be ready for the Lord's salvation, they needed to produce fruit "consistent with repentance." (3:8) When the people asked John what they should do, he gave them examples, not of how to receive the salvation of the Lord, but of fruit consistent with repentance. Man is prone to assume he can earn his salvation through good works. Therefore every man-made religion contains some element of earning salvation. So our first inclination may be to assume these examples of good works point to earning one's salvation. But John was saying that if we are truly repentant it will be evidenced by fruit indicating a change of heart. A change of heart that reflects God's teachings. Repentance, not good works, is the key to receiving the Lord's salvation. The good works are merely the evidence of repentance.

    John's ministry could not be compared to that of anyone of whom these people had ever heard. It was evidently this different nature of his preaching and probably the power behind his preaching that caused the people to begin wondering if he could be the Messiah. As soon as John became aware of their wondering he set them straight: "I baptize you with water, but One is coming who is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (3:16) It was in this raised atmosphere of expectation that Jesus came to John to be baptized as were the multitudes. But His baptism was unlike any other. Following His baptism the heavens opened and God's Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus and God's voice was heard from heaven saying, "You are My beloved Son. I take delight in You!" (3:22) Thus, Jesus' ministry was initiated. So as John's ministry was initiated by God's word coming to him, Jesus' was initiated by God's Spirit coming on Him.