Dr Luke gives the purpose of his Gospel this way, "1 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:3-4, KJV)
As such, Luke did not pull together another set of doings and sayings of the Lord's time with us on Earth. Rather, he researched the acts and sayings of the Savior and delivered to Theophilus a completed research document upon which future generations could trust and teach
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Introduction to the Study (Luke 1-9)
Welcome to the study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as told by the beloved physician, Doctor Luke. The Gospels are certainly the most loved of all the Scriptures because their subject is the Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. The Hebrew writings will promise Him as the Messiah of God, while the Greek writings tell of Him as the Christ. The four Gospels together provide a combined history and correlation of facts concerning the most important life ever lived. The crux of that importance to us is easy to explain through John’s words in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (ESV). Or even more simply, if you say you follow Jesus, you ought to walk like He walked. The Gospels answer the question forced by those comments, i.e., “If I am to walk like Jesus walked; how did Jesus walk?” The Gospels particularly describe how Jesus walked.
The Gospel according to Dr. Luke takes a unique perspective in that the writer in neither an Apostle nor a Jew. Rather, Luke was the physician for Paul and his disciple for Christ. Like Luke. Mark was not a Jew, either and was the disciple of that great fisherman, Simon Peter. For Luke, we find the writings to be directed more to the Hellenistic Greeks than the Hebrew society. Their language and their customs were certainly different from those of the Jews.
Introduction to the Study (Luke 1-9, Cont.)
Luke says the intended recipient of the Gospel was a roman nobleman named Theophilus. Not much is known of this man. The name means “friend of God” and Luke refers to him as honorable. Luke’s Gospel is the first volume of a two-volume set. The second volume is the Acts of the Apostles.
The Acts was completed before the death of Paul in 67 AD which forces an earlier date for the completion of the Gospel. Most scholars assign the year 64 AD to Acts and 62-63 AD to the Gospel. Luke’s preface to his Gospel indicates that he had no intension of merely writing down what he or someone else had heard or seen. He had experience with sound research techniques and planned to use them to develop a trustworthy presentation of the facts. He said, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:3-4). So, Luke was not delivering another version of things people saw or heard, he was delivering a fully researched textbook that might form the basis of teaching others for centuries to come. Luke is indeed a widely respected document showing the life and works of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus as Son of God & Son of Man: Jesus is the second member of the God Head. For Him to fulfill Scripture and accomplish His mission on Earth, He would have to be 100% Divine and 100% human at the same time. The key to understanding which 100% is being discussed in Luke's writing is to look at the words Son of God and Son of Man. If addressed as the former, Jesus is 100% Divine. If described as the latter, He is 100% human. He could never stop being both, yet certain behaviors required He act through one or the other.
Proof of the Messiah: It was necessary for Jesus to do many miracles because the Scriptures prophesied such. He had to heal lepers', make the blind see and the dumb to speak and the lame to walk. Luke tells of many of Jesus' miracles in these nine chapters. Each give testimony of Jesus' identity as God's Messiah.
Preparation for the Future: Jesus demonstrated from the beginning of His ministry that He was very aware of the short duration of His ministry on Earth. He selected those who would follow Him and be capable of conducting the Earthly part of His ministry for Him.
The Kingdom of God: Luke did not include as many Kingdom parable as Matthew, nevertheless, he called attention to many passages where Jesus preached about the Kingdom (4:43 &8:1). Other places, He was careful to send His disciples to teach about the Kingdom of God (9:11). And Luke made reference to how the experience of the Kingdom of God was found simply in His presence (10:9-11).
The availability of the Kingdom for Believers from all Peoples: Luke was serious about detailing Jesus' teaching on the availability of the Kingdom of God of the entire human race; not just the Jewish race. Membership in the Kingdom came through repentance from sin and belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah of God (9:52, 10:33 & 17:16).
The Future Judgment & the Urgency of Commitment: Because God's judgment was both promised and near for each person, the certainty of that judgment was a frequent sermon topic. Knowledge that the same Jesus who walked, talked and served in their presence was required to point to the urgency of make confession of belief, repentance and discipleship. Those not will to make such commitments will not be found in the Kingdom of God (9:62).
Understanding the Context (Luke 1:1-25)
God’s plan for mankind was not a plan that was created as life moved on, rather His plan existed in eternities past, long before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Looking at some of the tome oriented statements of the Bible, we find ourselves with words saying Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth (Rev 13:8). So, when there was a beginning, Jesus had already been selected as the flawless lamb for the perfect sacrifice to end the Old Testament sacrificial system and to provide an imputed righteousness to His people, those choosing to follow Him, forever. An entirely new relationship would be put into place showing “there is now, therefore, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
The writer of Hebrews (likely the Apostle Paul) said of the timing of the revelation of this truth, “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:1-3). So, the plan was written in eternity and the revelation of its truth was delivered at exactly the right time and place to fulfill it.
Understanding the Context (Luke 1:1-25, Cont.)
Luke constructs this orderly narrative in the format of a letter about a real person named Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born into a time when God’s people were persecuted and prosecuted under King Herod. He was appointed as king of Judea in about 40 BC and ruled until about 4 AD. When wise men from the east came seeking the Child who had been born King, Herod immediately asked his Jewish advisors to his court when and where the Child could be found. The Jews knew enough to pinpoint the place and date based on the Law and the Prophets. So, Luke wrote his Gospel in the format of a narrative letter as a historic, personal and dramatic presentation. It was historic as a researched sequence of significant events of the Kingdom of God. It was personal as it begins with the doubts of a priest named Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. And it was dramatic as
Zechariah ministered in the very presence of God but demonstrated shock when he was addressed by an angel of the Lord. The facts of John’s conception was foreshadowed by that of Abraham’s son, Isaac. Recall that Abraham had great difficulty believing God that a man approaching 100 years of age could conceive a child with a wife (Sarah) of 90 years old. Everything thing about it seemed impossible. But just like the conception of Isaac, God worked the miracles in Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s lives to cause John the Baptizer to be conceived and have a planned birth six months ahead of Christ.
Prayer Answered (Luke 1:13-15)
As in the history of the Patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah, Zachariah and Elizabeth were aging but were without a child. Luke notes that Elizabeth had the humiliation of being barren. For a married woman in the Hebrew culture of Jesus’ time to be married yet without a child was assumed to be evidence of God’s curse – a punishment for sin or some wrongdoing. She would be called barren. And for a priest to have served God all his years and have no offspring was also a humiliation. Not documented here is the pain and shame of Zachariah and Elizabeth as faithful servants of the Lord yet, at their ages, it was almost certain they would finish their lives without a child. But the day described in Luke 1:13-17 shows Zachariah receiving the answer to their prayers.
Verse 9 says he was chosen to burn the incense that day. Zachariah would be inside the Holy Place of the Temple, just outside the Holiest of Holies where the only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement (Ex 30). The rest of the priests would be praying in the Courtyard of Israel or the Outer Court of the Temple where the Lever and the Alter of Offering were located. Zachariah would be alone for a few minutes. It was then that he was visited by an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the alter (vs. 11). Verse 13 quotes the angel as saying his prayer has been answered. Zachariah and Elizabeth had been praying for decades to be released from barrenness. The angel said they were to be the parents of a son who would bring joy and gladness to them and cause many to rejoice at his birth. Joy and gladness to them first because of their release from being barren, but throughout their lives as they saw his ministry as John the Baptist. Many would rejoice that he had been born because he would be the one prophesied to be the forerunner of Jehovah’s Messiah.
Prayer Answered (Luke 1:13-15, Cont.)
Verse 15 describes the lifestyle the boy would follow as he grew into manhood. This and later descriptions of John’s life depict the Nazarite vow (Num 6:2). That would make John the Baptist a Nazarite, not to be confused with being a Nazarene. John took the vow of the Nazarite, but Jesus was born in the city of Nazareth, making Him a Nazarene. John would be great in the eyes of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit of God from his birth.
John was born to fulfill the prophecy of a person in the style of Elijah. Jesus said that John was the one prophesied to come and prepare the way of the Lord (Isa 40:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23). Jesus eliminated any confusion on whom this person was when He said of John, “For this is he, of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee’” (Matt 11:10). Those anxiously awaiting the advent of God’s Messiah knew that Elijah must come first. As John began to reveal his ministry, it was clear he was the one and the Messiah would follow shortly.
Prayer Answered (Luke 1:16-17)
Luke 1:16 tells us that the ministry of John the Baptist would turn many Israelis toward Jehovah, their God. John the baptizer would be a great evangelist for Jesus the Christ. Verse 17 says John would be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 as he went forth ahead of the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah. He would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. Fathers would concentrate on telling their children about this man who came in the spirit of Elijah to announce the coming of the promised Messiah shortly after Him.
John would also turn the disobedient or backslid to the wisdom of the just. Israel would once again realize the error of their disobedient ways turn their hearts back to the Lord and the hope of His Messiah’s coming in short order. This would smooth the path for Jesus’ ministry and prepare the people for His message to draw all people back to lives of purpose and worship of their Lord.
Doubt Expressed (Luke 1:18-20)
But like many of us, Zachariah could not believe his prayers of the past decades could be answered at last. Just like Abraham of old, Zachariah believed he was far too old so, he had given up.
Zachariah expressed his doubts in no uncertain terms, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years” (Luke 1:18, NLT). Even as he stood before the Alter of Incense just outside the Holy of Holies in God’s Temple, Zachariah questioned whether the message of deliverance from his years of shame could be happening now. Abraham said to the Lord, “2 … what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir” (Gen 15:2-3). Zachariah knew the teachings about Abraham and he knew that as old as he and Elizabeth were, they were not 100 and 90 as Abraham and Sarah were when God blessed them with Isaac (Gen 17:17).
Gabriel reintroduced himself to Zachariah, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings” (Luke 1:19). Surely, there must be some misunderstanding in Zachariah’s assessment of the situation. Zachariah should have understood that if he was speaking with an angel of the Lord and that angel was one of the very few who stood in the direct presence of the Lord, he must have the power to do all he said. Further, Gabriel said he was sent to him. The only One who can “send” angels is God, Himself. With these two pieces of information, Zachariah must know that this visit was for real.
Unfortunately for Zachariah, there is a verse 20 right after verse 19. His expression of doubt in Gabriel’s message from the Lord would be matched with an inability for Zachariah speak until everything Gabriel promised would come to pass. Since Elizabeth had not yet conceived, Zachariah would be dumb for nine months. And that nine months would not begin until he returned home after his appointed time to serve the Lord in the Temple. And so it was that Zachariah was struck dumb.
Reality Seen (Luke 1:21-25)
The people waiting outside the Holy Place were surprised Zachariah had been inside for such a long time (Luke 121). They were even more surprised when he came out and was unable to speak. They guessed that he had seen a vision while he was in the Temple. Zachariah signaled to them with his hands but was completely speechless.
Zachariah completed his appointed service at the Temple and returned home. Remaining speechless, he had very limited capability to tell anyone the details of what happened. Of course, Elizabeth knew something had changed. In her old age, she became pregnant as soon as Zachariah returned home (vs. 24). Instead of telling the world of her great blessing from the Lord, the Bible says she hid herself away for five months. It is not documented here, but she could have been reacting to some number of previous pregnancies where she may have lost the child after carrying it for some period of time. That would cause her to be afraid of announcing the child only to lose it once again. Verse 25 explains that she communicated with some of her friends to tell them that this was the way the Lord dealt with in the days when He looked on her for blessings. He has taken away her reproach of being barren and replaced it with the glory of bearing a son.
And what a son he would be! He would be the one who looked off in the distance and saw his cousin Jesus coming toward him and say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of all mankind” (John 1:29, 36).
Understanding the Context (Luke 1:26-80)
God led Isaiah to prophecy that John the Baptist would make the paths straight for the Lord (Isa 40:3). That certainly requires that John must precede Jesus. The Lord worked the timing such that Elisabeth’s pregnancy with John would be ahead of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus by about 6 months (Luke 1:26). So, the fact of John’s birth announcement to Zachariah had already taken place meant that Gabriel had better announce a pending pregnancy to Mary very soon. The sequence of the events were fixed because of their dependence on one another. John’s birth was announced to Zachariah, Jesus’ birth was announced to Mary, Mary visited Elizabeth, John was born, and then Jesus was born.
The evidence provided here confirms the life of an infant before birth, but also confirms the child’s complete awareness of their environment inside and outside the womb. John the Baptist was gestated approximately six months while Jesus was gestated only a few weeks when Mary and Elizabeth visited. Yet John “leaped” in his mother’s womb (uterus) at the coming of Jesus still inside His mother. It very well answers the question of when life begins, and it is certainly NOT at birth. Think about this, both Jesus and John could have been legal aborted in the United States and several other countries at their current levels of development. The proclaimer of the coming Messiah and the Messiah, Himself could have been in a medical room waste can, but instead, they made history as the first announcer of the Messiah and the living Messiah here in Luke’s Gospel. Glory to God!
And it was not the last time Jesus would be recognized by John in a special way. The Scriptures describe a meeting when they were both 30 years old (Luke 2:23). The account says, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). Numbers 4 lists thirty years old as the beginning of the appropriate age for those who serve the Lord in the tabernacle, temple and synagogues in the Hebrew culture. “Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry” (Luke 3:23, NLT).
Understanding the Context (Luke 1:26-80, Cont.)
The biblical stories of Mary and Elizabeth have several similarities yet remain unique in other ways. Both involve angelic annunciations before the conception of their children. Neither of them was in a situation where pregnancy was supposed to take place. Elizabeth was far too old to bear a child and Mary was still a virgin. In each case, only divine intervention could allow conception.
In the cases of the angelic visitations, Gabriel appeared to Mary, the mother; to announce Jesus and to Zachariah, the father, to announce John. With Elizabeth, the angel came to a married couple, with Mary, the angel came to a single woman. John had a human father through sex; Jesus had a divine Father through supernatural means. Between the two stories, Mary became the focus of the entire chapter while with Elizabeth, the focus was shared between her and Mary. Both, Nary and Zachariah were totally confused about how the prophesied conceptions could take place; for Zachariah because of age; for Mary because of biological impossibility.
Nevertheless, with God, all things are possible. His mission of bringing both the forerunner and the Messiah into this world were prophesied and they would take place as advertised.
The Greeting (Luke 1:26-29)
In the beginning of Luke’s findings on the birth of Jesus, he emphasizes the direct link in timing between Jesus’ and John’s conceptions. Luke explains his purpose as, “That thou (Theophilus) mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:4). Luke documented the prophetic relationship of the events as well. He specifically identifies that it was in the sixth month of John’s gestation that Gabriel was sent by God to visit Mary in Nazareth of Galilee (Luke 1:26). Luke further nails down prophecy of Jesus’ birth by stating that Mary was a virgin as stated in Isaiah’s prophecy, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Luke was also careful to document that Joseph, the man who would be the husband of Mary, was in the linage of King David to further fulfill all prophecy (Psa 89:34-37, 110:1, 132:11, Acts 2:29-36).. Specifically. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen 49:10). So, both Joseph and Mary had to be of the tribe of Judah and descendent of King David.
With verse 28 we begin to see the humility and holiness of the Virgin Mary. The angel’s announcement to her was “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28). This renowned greeting became a part of a staple prayer known as the “Hail Mary.” It begins, “Hail, Mary, full of the grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women.” Verse 29 contains Mary’s response. Today, a young woman just slightly beyond puberty would probably say, “Whaaaaa?” The verse says as soon as he began to speak, she was troubled at his saying. What he said to her troubled her because of who she was. The living of the holy life had already become routine for her; it was second nature; it was simply who she was. She was not looking for a comparison to others. She, alone, was who she was. And inside that nature, her young mind was tested to understand what on Earth this heavenly being was talking about. What could it mean? Later, we find the words, “and Mary hid these sayings in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51). It suggests a mental list of all these tremendous sights, sayings and events stored as in a mental diary. Beginning with this angel’s words, Mary thought of the lifetime of wonders in being the Mother of God.
The Declaration (Luke 1:30-33)
But the greeting is just the start of the angel’s message to Mary. Next, he says that she has found favor with God. In the King James Version the word used for God is the Greek word Theos. It is used 1343 times, and 1322 of those times it is used with a capitol “G” showing is not only a god but the supreme deity or THE God (vs.30). Mary has found the favor of the God of the universe: Jehovah, Yahweh. Then Gabriel says that she will conceive a child and name Him, Jesus (vs. 31). I wonder if it is possible for us to empathize with the little girl of about 13 years hearing these words? I can imagine that as soon as he said “conceive,” Mary went to a different place in her head. Questions must have been flying through her head at this point. Gabriel continued, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father, David: And He shall reign over the House of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (vss. 32-33). Clear that Gabriel knows the Messiah will be the ruler forever.
By now, Mary must have been totally blown away. She had to be putting together some of these words and feeling the impossibility of it. It must have been evident to her that Gabriel was talking about her becoming the Mother of the Messiah, the Mother of God. She has been raised in a community that was prosecuted and persecuted for years by Roman and evil, self-seeking Jewish leaders – even those claiming to be the most religious ones. The primary discussion between all the adults was when the promised Messiah would come to save them from this bondage and servitude. As they studied the Scriptures and reviewed the promises, they could see the time was at hand.
Surely the interpreters must have figured out that the time was right for the Messiah to be born. Recall when the wise men from the east approach Herod to find the location of the child born to be the King of the Jews (Matt 2). Herold gathered all the Chief Priests and Pharisees together and asked them where and when the new King was to be borne. They were able to tell Herod the child was born in Bethlehem about two years earlier (Matt 2:16). The Prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would come as a child borne among them (Isa 9:1-7). The Prophet Micah said He would be borne in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). The Prophet Daniel said He would present Himself as Messiah in Jerusalem 69 weeks of years after Nehemiah was ordered by Artaxerxes to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Dan 9:25). That order was given on Nisan 1 (March 14), 445 BC in preparation for the return of Judah from exile. Daniel’s 69 weeks of years equates to 69 x 360 (days per prophetic year) x 7 (days per week) or 173,880 days. Therefore, the Messiah would declare Himself on Nisan 10 (April 6), 32 AD. Accounting for Hebrew-to-Julian calendar translations, prophetic-to-scientific days in a year and when King Herod died (allowing the family of Jesus to return from Egypt (Matt 2:14-15), Jesus was crucified when He was 33 ½ years old. That was the Friday after April 6 or April 11, 32 AD. He was raised from the dead on April 13th. (This is a little sidetrack but hopefully appreciated.)
The Question (Luke 1:34-37)
After the angel finished telling Mary about the greatness of her Offspring, Jesus, she finally had a chance to respond with a question, “How can this be, seeing I know not a man?” (vs. 34). Mary may have been young, but she knew if she as going to birth the Christ child, there must be a conception on the horizon and that requires a man. The angel told her that God had a different plan, that is, the Holy Spirit of God would come to visit her, and the power of God will overshadow her. The resulting child would be the Son of God and not a son of man (vs. 35).
Almost like Gabriel knew that Mary would have some doubts about his comments, he added that she should check with her cousin, Elizabeth because she is now pregnant and she was supposed to be barren and too old to have a child. I can imagine that Mary was grateful to have an Earthly reference to help her calibrate the experience she was having. Her relationship to Cousin Elizabeth assured a future discussion was imminent. In the meantime, I am sure that she thought of Joseph in this situation. How will he receive this information? How will he react to her carrying a child that is not his? Will he believe this report that God is the Child’s Father? Would he understand that while she was having this child, she was never unfaithful to him? Would Elizabeth confirm Gabriel’s information that she, as an elderly and barren woman, was having a miracle child as well? What would Mary tell her parents of Gabriel’s visit and how would they react? Would they allow her to visit Elizabeth to confirm Gabriel’s information? Had they already learned of Elizabeth’s new pregnancy?
The Commitment (Luke 1:38)
So, Gabriel remained. He was certainly waiting for a final response from Mary that he could take to God as his “Trip Report.” He must have been able to read her shock and confusion but her enduring dedication to God. The feelings described above combine more in the direction of a mental and emotional impasse than a proposed solution. How was a child this young to cope with all these conflicting feelings?
All these thoughts, questions and issues must have been going through her young mind in the same few seconds Gabriel was standing there, waiting for her response. In times of any uncertainty, the devout among us turn to the certainty and stability of God’s Word. Mary was raised in such an environment and knew her final response to Gabriel would have to be seen through the lenses of what she knew about God. It is humorous that the first several Bible verses I thought of were all from the New Testament. But it had not been written in the context of this situation. Nevertheless, Mary’s strength in the Lord came from her faith regardless of situation. Is that not the truth for all of us in every situation? Mary returns to the basics. Mary turned toward Gabriel and said simply, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (vs. 38). That is the strength of character, the humility, the stability we hoped for her. The prayer, of course, was whether she had enough experience in the Lord to remember this solution. We already know dozens of people in our lives with much more maturity than she had who could not remember how God would want us to respond. Pressed with all the stress and challenge of the visit with Gabriel, all she could do is stick with what she knew would work. She simply surrendered her will to the will of this visitor from the side of God. Surely, she was submitted to the leadership of the Lord. It was certainly the wisest path to take.
The Bible then announces Gabriel’s departure. I think I hear Mary packing her bags for a short trip to see Cousin Elizabeth.
Announced (Luke 2:8-11)
Luke 2:8 begins the story of the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the Shepherds on the nearby hills. The Scripture says the shepherds were “in the same country’ more specifically in the field very near Bethlehem, and they were “keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:9 says “the angel of the Lord” came to them. Notice the singular angel coming for the announcement. We will see the heavenly host of angels joining him shortly.
It should be of no surprise that the shepherds were very afraid (“sore afraid”) when this visitation began. If nothing else, their eyes were adjusted to the darkness of the fields lit only by their campfires. They had never seen anything that lit up the darkness the way an incandescent lightbulb can do. So, whatever the true number of lumens the angel generated, it was certainly brighter than anything they had seen.
It strikes me as humorous when these heavenly visions take place, they always begin by telling the visited person not to be afraid. It is difficult not to feel fear when a being of such grandeur and who serves that close to the Creator of the Universe enters the room and addresses you directly. Some might wonder if the being came to take you back with them. It is certainly not a common event.
The angel told the shepherds exactly where to find the newborn King and how He would be dressed. He would be a baby, an infant, and He would be lying in a manger. I certainly would have been surprised to hear that description. I would not image the Messiah as a person entering the world in such a lowly fashion. It obviously speaks to the idea of humility.
Announced (Luke 2:12-14)
Now that the shepherds have heard the message of whom the Messiah is and where they could find Him, it would be appropriate to offer a scene of verification. How do I know this visitor was the one for which I sought? The word “suddenly” introduces the appearance of multitude of heavenly host. They were praising God and using words like, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). “Glory to God in the highest” speaks of how this event of angelic appearance, the event of the birth of the Messiah and the introduction of fulfilled prophecy bring great glory to God. The thought of God coming to Earth to be a part of mankind was assured by His presence and active role in creating the universe (Gen 1:1 & John 1:3).
The idea of peace on earth brought thoughts of ending all war and living life in complete harmony among mankind. The last two thousand years of endless wars should be the evidence that ending all war is not the interpretation that will stick. Many still bear the physical, emotional and mental consequences of war. The peace that Christ brought on that first Christmas might be better interpreted as the “peace that passes all understanding” talked about by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:7. This peace is the peace with God as offered by the Messiah. His mission was recognized by John the Baptist when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). We have peace with God because we no longer carry the guilt of years of rejecting God through actions and personal sin. Paul also stated, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This is living life in peace with the One who created us.
This ushers in the second part of the “Glory to God” sentence speaking of goodwill toward men (mankind). Having peace within one’s self and having peace (forgiveness) by God gives those who know Him the kind of peace that shows itself as living life in complete harmony with God and mankind. It is impossible to live in harmony with those around us when we are rejecting our Creator and living in the ugliness of our sin life. Only God can bring “Peace on earth and goodwill to mankind.”
Fulfilled (Luke 2:4-7)
The study of the Proclamation of Christ begins with fulfilled prophecy. Mary and Joseph did in fact travel from Nazareth of Galilee to Bethlehem of Judea, the City of David, to register for the tax. Joseph was a descendent of King David, so his taxing place had to Bethlehem. And of course, that would fulfill the Scripture that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Mary was “great with Child” when she arrived in Bethlehem and it was soon thereafter that she delivered. The Scripture reminds us that this was Mary’s firstborn child. His initial gown after His birth would be the strips of cloth (rags) used to restrict the movement of the infant while resting; i.e., swaddling clothes.
Consider how the birth date was set by God’s control of Roman Caesar and a Syrian Governor. It had to coincide with the prophecy that Jesus (the Anointed One) would reveal Himself in Jerusalem 69 weeks of years after Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so the work on rebuilding the city could continue (Dan 9:25, Neh 2:1-6). Sixty-Nine weeks of years is 7 x 69 or 483 years. Multiplying the 483 years by the 360 days in a prophetic year is 173,880 days. Jesus had an appointment with destiny on 6 April 32 AD.
Understand the Context (Luke 2:1-20)
The Scripture for this week’s study is some of the most well know and beautiful anywhere. Of course, when teachers, preachers and theologians look at Scripture as familiar as this, the beauty and simplicity of it might get lost in attempts to get some new or unique teaching from it. Or one might complicate it by too deeply analyzing what is there. Luke simply promised a Roman nobleman named Theophilus a thorough rendering of all that had been seen or heard of Jesus while He was present with them. The telling of the story along with well documented, historic facts like names, places and events included always increase its apparent accuracy and veracity.
The first seven verses of the chapter report on the historic circumstances that resulted in Mary and Joseph fulfilling the prophecy given by Micah 5:2 that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. It was not accomplished by good fortune or chance, but by God using the power of Roman and Syrian political leaders to do what must have been done to fulfill the prophecy. Stated simply, Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world controlled by Rome would be taxed, and that they must register and deliver that tax in the city of their birth. Luke adds that this was accomplished when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And hence, the analyses begin.
Some believed that it might have been error to include these two names. It was difficult for them to find Augustus as Caesar until they saw that he was also known as Octavius. Some also claimed that Cyrenius was not Governor of Syria until almost 10 years after the birth of Christ. Historic records show that while Cyrenius was not the Governor until later, he was appointed to govern (or was governing) Syria as stated with the official title added to him later. Therefore, Luke reported it accurately.
Understand the Context (Luke 2:1-20, Cont.)
As stated in last week’s study, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, so they had to travel about 90 miles to Bethlehem to obey the Caesar’s decree. Nazareth was in the northern province of Israel (Galilee) while Bethlehem was in Judea about 10 miles south of Jerusalem. Mary made the trip while being in the final term of her supernatural pregnancy. Bible says “great with child.”
To make matters worse, the rush of past citizens of the city returning for the tax made accommodations scarce. Joseph and Mary had to stay in a stable where several farm animals would join them, hence our Nativity Scenes. Their soon coming Baby would find His first crib as a feeding stand for the livestock – a simple manger. It seems uncanny that the King would come to such sparce surroundings, but as He frequently said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” But we shall see in future studies that the list of visitors He received there and in His home in Nazareth would include both the most humble and the most wealthy. And let us not forget the host of angels that visited the Shepherds to announce Jesus’ coming. That was hardly a humble introduction.
Found (Luke 2:15-19)
Luke 2:15 begins the description of what happened after the host of angels departed. The shepherds spoke in agreement with one another that they had to go to Bethlehem. The angels reported on the event and made a compelling statement about what was happening there. So, the shepherds had to see for themselves. Note also that they correctly attributed the sending of the angels with what “the Lord hath made known unto us.”) Clearly, they had no doubt something supernatural had happened, and it required follow up. So, they departed for Bethlehem to “see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us” (vs. 15)..
The Scripture says “they came with haste.” In other words, they came quickly to see what had happened in Bethlehem in a stable. Luke reports that the shepherds found exactly what the Lord’s angel advertised. There was Mary and Joseph attending to the Child lying in a manger.
Notice that the biblical report does not spend much time describing the picture except to say the shepherds had found the scene exactly the way the angels described it. They made no delineation of the number of animals in the stable or around it. They made no attempt to provide a size of the stable. They just simply stated that they found Mary and Joseph there and the babe lying in the manger.
The shepherds did not simply return to their fields near Bethlehem to watch over their flocks. Instead, they became the first evangelist of the King. Verse 17 says that when they saw what was there, they made it known abroad. They told everyone they could about the scene and what the angels had said that made them go there. Everyone who heard it was astonished by what they heard. Then verse 19 finishes the study by answering the question asked by the Mark Lowry song, “Mary Did You Know?” The Bible reports that SHE KNEW, and she kept the truth of it all in her heart and meditated even more saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). So, these are the thoughts of the Mother of God.
Understand the Context (Luke 2:21-38)
In some ways the birth of Jesus was a culmination, in other ways it was an initiation. Of the roughly 550 prophecies of the advent of Israel’s Messiah, 350 were fulfilled in the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews repeats Jerimiah 31:31-34 as the prophet talks of a New Covenant with Israel that will replace the Old (Heb 8:8-12). The writer of Hebrews adds, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (8:13, KJV). But remember that the new testament cannot be in effect until the death of the testator (Heb 9:16). Here the Testator is no other than Jesus, Himself. So, for this discussion the life and works of Jesus were considered part of the Old Testament and, therefore, fulfillment of all prophecies during His life was Old Testament. Hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah are still yet to come, dozens in His Second Coming.
So, Jesus was to come out of Nazareth (He is a Nazarene), He would be born in Bethlehem, and He would come out of Egypt. Many said it was impossible for Him to fulfil all three of these things, but now we know how He did it. He was born as a descendent of King David of the tribe of Judah because Mary and Joseph both met that criterion (genealogies in Luke 3 and Matthew 1, respectively). They were forced by the Roman government to go to Bethlehem prior to Jesus’ birth and were forced to leave there at the angel’s direction when Pilot ordered the Slaughter of the Innocents. When King Herod died, they returned to Nazareth. Therefore, He was born in Bethlehem yet came out of Nazareth and Egypt.
Notice that after His birth, others would see Him and know that He was the promised Messiah. We already saw the reaction of the shepherds at seeing Him and how they told everyone about Him. When His parents took Him to Jerusalem to be circumcised on the eight day, as required, He was seen of two aged people who were told they would not die until they saw the Messiah, namely, Simeon and Anna. Details of these visits are discussed in the study below.
Anticipated (Luke 2:25-27)
Doctor Luke begins in verse 2:25 with the story of Simeon’s visit to see Jesus at His circumcision at the Temple in Jerusalem. Simeon led a just (righteous) and devout (dedicated) life. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and was told by Him that he would not perish until he saw God’s Messiah (vss. 25-26). So, he was waiting on the consolation (salvation or rescue) of Israel by the promised Messiah. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Simeon was led to go to Jerusalem’s Temple at the right time, date and place to catch Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus for His lawfully required circumcision.
The anticipation of the coming Messiah was not the miracle here. The studied Jews were able to read the promises of God’s Messiah throughout the Old Testament. The specifics of when and where were available in the promise that the Child would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and that there would be 69 weeks of years between the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and the revelation of the Messiah (Dan 9:25). The commandment was given on Nisan 1, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ reign or March 14, 445 BC (Neh 2:6). The revealing of the Messiah was to take place 483 years later or Nisan 10, 32 AD or April 6th. To eliminate calendar issues, the prophetic year of 360 days must be used instead of the current calendar year of 365 days and adding 1 day for each leap year. Simply multiplying 483 years by 360 provides the number 173,880 days.
Knowing that a Jewish man could not begin his ministry until he was 30 years old would reveal the date of the Messiah’s birth. Note that the Jewish advisors to King’s Herod’s court was able to tell the king where and when the King of the Jews had been born. He sent the wise men to find Him while he also directed his soldiers to murder all the male children of two years old or younger (the Slaughter of the Innocents). So, those familiar with the Scriptures would be anticipating the Messiah to come very near their present time. The miracle of Simeon’s life was that the Holy Spirit led him to the specific place, time and date that would cause him to intersect with Mary, Joseph and Jesus when thousands of people would be in the crowd that day. No reasonable opportunity for simple chance here.
Recognized (Luke 2:28-32)
Being a father to five infants, I have always had a little trouble with Mary allowing a feeble old man to lift her little boy away from her. I would have been far too protective of the fragile little boy to allow that. I wonder what this encounter really looked like. Will I remember to ask Mary when I meet her someday? Nevertheless, verse 2:28 says Simeon took the infant up in his arms. As he looked at little Jesus, he blessed God for allowing this event to take place. In verses 2:29-32, Simeon speaks out loud to the Lord saying, “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of all thy people Israel.”
Yes, the Spirit of God within this old man knew that the prophecy he had received was now fulfilled. He had seen the Savior of Israel and even held Him is his arms. He not only recognized this child was the Savior, but he knew that He was prepared by God and revealed in the Scripture in front of all the people in the world. Simeon also knew the Messiah was prepared as a light to the Gentiles. He remembered the Covenant God made with Abraham saying, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Not just all the Jews of the world, but the blessing of all the families in the earth. This elderly Jew remembered the Abrahamic Covenant was for all the world, not just all the Jews in the world. That alone had to be a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. The Messiah was the Savior of Jerusalem and then the entire universe, but He would always be the glory of Israel!
Recognized (Luke 2:33-35)
As Mary and Joseph watched this scene, they marveled, they were astonished at what they heard and saw. Simeon told them what God had revealed to him as he awaited this day as he grew older and older. He reached out to bless these parents and said specifically to Mary, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:34-35, NLT). Jesus would reveal the evil of the hearts of many. He would cause many to fall into condemnation and others to find salvation in Him forever. He would find exaltation and opposition in those around Him.
But Simeon’s last statement would promise Mary the pain she would experience in the rejection of her Son. As the evil nature of many of the hearts that should have rejoiced at His advent, instead tried to condemn Him. The most learned of all the leaders of Israel would reveal themselves as mere self-motivated politicians. In Simeon’s eyes, I am sure his sight moved from the birth of Christ to the death of Jesus and the terrible pain His mother would feel as she watched Him die. There is no greater pain than for a patent, especially a mother, to lose a child through death. And this would be the death of an innocent Man. Simeon telling her that she would feel the sword pierce her heart was an understatement of the pain Mother Mary would feel as she watched the miraculous Son she was given brutalized and murdered by the hate of a dominating nation.
Shared (Luke 2:36-38)
Now we turn to a second prophetic source of blessing and sorrow for the parents of Jesus. We do not receive as much detail about Anna as we did for Simeon. She was a prophetess who was a daughter of Phanuel and the tribe of Asher. The introduction allows us to calculate her age: she had lived with a husband for seven years before she became a widow of 84 years. So, if she married at 13 (normally, the youngest age for a woman being eligible for marriage), she would have been 104 years old talking with Mary and Joseph. That was about twice the expected life span of those years. The Bible provides the understatement, “She was of great age.” (Luke 2:36).
Her history was that she never left the Temple. She served in her position with prayer and fasting both day and night. Again, like Simeon, Anna was not just lucky in finding the Christ Child amid the crowds around the Temple. She was led to be exactly in the right place at the right time to see Jesus and to talk with His parents. She gave thanks to God just as Simeon did, but she immediately opened the flood gates of evangelism by telling everyone she could that she had seen the Redeemer of Jerusalem Who all of them were waiting to see.
Understand the Context (Luke 2:39-52)
Luke 2:39-52 finishes up the study of Luke Chapter 2. In the previous study, we saw Jesus out of the manger as His parents performed the first acts of obedience for the infant. The law requires that every male child be circumcised when they reach 8 days old (Gen 17:10-12). Leviticus 23 details seven Feasts, at least two of which Israel must celebrate each year in Jerusalem. Passover is the one Joseph; Mary and their family caravan were attending in the selected verses for today’s study. Verse 41 tells us that Mary and Joseph attended this feast in Jerusalem every year. Nazareth to Jerusalem was an 80-mile trip each way. This year is Jesus’ twelfth year, and therefore, is time for His Bar Mitzva in which a Jewish bot (or convert) confirms their faith and is made an official part of their faith community.
Mathew, Mark, Luke and John combine to paint the entire portrait of God’s Word about Jesus. Luke and Matthew have the most to say about young Jesus. Luke talks of the testimony of the angels to the shepherds while Matthew talks of the visit of the wise men of the east and the resulting flight of the Holy family from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape the murderous decree of King Herod to kill all male babies from 2 years old and younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Recall that the wise men inquired as the where they could find the child who would be the King of the Jews (Matt 2:2). Herod tasked the Jewish leaders to give him the answer to that question and they searched the Scriptures and provided the answer. It would be in Bethlehem and it happened roughly two years earlier. Herod’s hope, of course, was to kill the Christ Child before He could become King and threaten his kingdom. Luke picks up the life of Christ returning to Nazareth after he describes His dedication while Matthew covers the flight to Egypt before Nazareth.
Luke covers the subject of this study (Jesus’ trip the Jerusalem at age 12) while Matthew skips to Jesus’ coming to Bethabara at age 30 to be baptized by John. In short, the Gospels combine to give us a purposely vague view of Jesus’ youth. It was not His youth that saved mankind. It was the 3 ½ years of His ministry culminating in the blood spent at the cross. Jesus said it in His own words, “It is finished” signifying the payment for past, present and future sin had been paid forever (Greek tetelestai).
Engaged (Luke 2:41-47)
The Scripture here reveals the devout life of Mary and Joseph while raising the Savior of Mankind. Verse 41 shows a dedication to a 160-mile trip at least once a year to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. On this trip, they also celebrated Jesus’ twelfth birthday which represented the young Boy’s “coming of age” in the Jewish faith. We of the West might better recognize the event as a Confirmation of Faith or practicing Jews might see it as a Bar Mitzvah. While verse 42 acknowledges the “coming of age” o Jesus, they are quick to say the purpose of the trip was to celebrate the Passover.
Verse 43 states that when the reason for the trip was completed, the family caravan departed for their homes in Galilee. Jesus had remained behind as the rest of the families departed. Neither Mary nor Joseph knew He was absent from the band of dozens of families. They were so certain Jesus was with other family members, they traveled a full day’s journey before they knew He was missing. They searched for Him among the kinfolk and acquaintances to make sure they knew where He was.
Verse 45 documents they immediately turned back to Jerusalem to get Him after they failed to find Him in the caravan. As they retraced their steps, they searched in the Temple and found Him sitting with the doctors; the most learned of the Pharisees. He was listening and hearing them but also asking questions.
Questioned (Luke 2:48-50)
Verse 48 says that when Mary and Joseph found Jesus sitting in the midst of the doctors of the law and teachers of theology, she was amazed. Amazed that she found Him where He was; amazed that He was counted with such learned men, leaders of Israel and teachers; and amazed that He was not only listening and hearing but asking them questions. It was almost as if they accepted Him in their company.
But Mary had a different agenda. Sometimes she seemed to forget who He was and acted more like a mother than one who knew her baby was the Son of God. (Almost sounds like the “Mary, Did You Know” song! So, Mary asked Him why He treated them with such lack of respect. She explained that she and His father (supposed) were looking for Him in deep fear and sorrow. They were concerned they might have lost Him.
Jesus took the opportunity to readjust attitudes a little. He responded to Mary’s question with a question, “How is it that you ye sought me?” That is, why did you even try to find me? Why did you worry about me when I was in my Father’s house? “Did you not know that I would have to be about my Father’s business?” If Jesus was talking with anyone except Mary and Joseph, He may have had to explain what He was doing, but Jesus knew that these two people knew everything about Him. They knew where He came from. They knew of His personal righteousness and even His personal divinity.
Then Jesus said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” That question changed the complexion of all else. Joseph was right there when Jesus said He was in His Father’s house doing His Father’s business and they should have known it (according to Jesus). Certainly, they were the only two in the world who lived in the daily conflict of having the responsibility for parenting the Son of God. How does one know when His responses are those of a child who needs correction, or they are God’s Son correcting them? Verse 50 ends with “And they understood not the saying which he spoke to them.”
Obedient (Luke 2:51-52)
So, Jesus ends the paradox. Verse 51 says that Jesus left Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph this time. He returned with them to Nazareth in Galilee. While Jesus remained righteous throughout this issue, He had to reorient His moves toward being the child of these two. As He spoke many times after becoming an adult, “It was not yet His time.” Again, Mary treasures the experience and files it with the hundreds of other that only the Mother of God would be able to deal with.
Verse 52 finishes this part of the study by stating that Jesus continued to grow through these incidents. He already had all the knowledge in the universe, but how to apply that knowledge is called wisdom. The verse says that Jesus increased in wisdom as He grew in stature. He also developed His approaches to the delicate balance of maintaining favor with God and man. Imagine the struggle of submitting to human leadership even when you know it is flawed. If Jesus had that must patience with His earthly Mother and father, He will be gentle with us!!
Understand the Context (Luke 3:1-38)
Each of the four Gospels has a unique way of discussing its Good News of Jesus Christ. Luke’s Gospel starts with documenting the angelic visits experience by the parents of John the Baptist, Zachariah and Elisabeth, and later, the virgin Mary and her espoused husband, Joseph. Each couple had a miraculous conception: John was conceived by parents who were barren for decades and believed to be beyond the age of childbearing. Jesus was conceived of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. The function of Gabriel, the Archangel was to announce God’s plan to all four of the people involved.
The resulting children had a prenatal meeting when Mary went to visit her cousin Elisabeth. John was already passed his sixth month of gestation while Jesus was in the first three months of His. The Bible reports that Elizabeth felt John jump in her womb at the approach Mary with Jesus in her womb. That prenatal response to each other has been used to help prove the life of children prior to birth for centuries.
As Jesus and John grew into adulthood, the political atmosphere changed greatly and impacted their responses to key events in lives of Jesus and John. Tiberius was now the Caesar of Rome instead of Augustus who forced the census and tax which caused Mary and Joseph to be in Bethlehem to fulfill the Scripture for where the Messiah would be born. Pontius Pilot had become the Governor of Judea and Herod Antipas became the Tetrarch of Galilee in the place of Herod the Great. The latter enabled Mary, Joseph and Jesus to return to Israel from Egypt sometime between 1 and 4 AD. Bible Sprout quotes the best chronologists (Matthew Henry and Albert Barnes Commentaries) as saying that Christ was born in the 35th year of Herod’s reign and Herod died in the 37th year. That would have made Jesus between 1 and 2 years old when the family returned from Egypt and took up living in Nazareth. Matthew Henry’s Commentary fixed Christ’s birth at 4 BC.
John would probably have entered his ministry at 30 years old which was the minimum age at which a speaker or leader could be recognized in Israel. Luke 3:23 tells us that Jesus was 30 when he was baptized by John and began His ministry. Isaiah the OT Prophet prophesied that John’s mission would be to make straight the ways of the Messiah (Isa 40:3-5). John baptized people in recognition of their repentance from sin and beginning again (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 13:24, 19:4. A modern translation of the Mark 1:4 shows the correct purpose for John’s baptisms, “This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins” (Mark 1:4, NLT). John did not come up with the idea of baptism; it was practiced as a part of the Mosaic Law for centuries before John was born.
Understand the Context (Luke 3:1-38, Cont.)
In the first century before the birth of Christ, the cleansing pools (or Mikvah, Mikveh or Mikvoth) pools were required to be included in the building of synagogues worldwide. Locally, active Mikvah pools are in Palm Harbor, Citrus Park and Tampa. The design criteria for the pools include a minimum capability to hold sufficient living water (from a spring or river) to immerse the entire body of a grown man in the water along with a Rabbi to perform the cleansing ceremony. The ceremonies were required for cleansing of those serving in the synagogue (i.e., Aaron and all high priests following him, reentry into the congregation after recovery from disease, touching of unclean things (like a dead person or animal), conversion into Judaism from a non-Jewish faith and preparation for orthodox burial. John and every other Jewish person of his time was fully aware of the Mikvah and the entire cleansing ceremony. When John used it to signify the practitioner’s previous repentance from sin, it would not have been considered strange or novel in any way.
John also preached against the obvious hypocrisy and corruption of government and religious leaders. John’s call and ministry are listed in each of the Gospels, and his verbal challenges against many religious leaders who claimed that they held a special place with God because of their heredity from Abraham yet lived in open sin. He attacked secular leaders up to and including Herod. Herod had taken his brother Phillip’s wife as his own in open sin. John charged all these to repent from their sin and be baptized.
Nevertheless, his most notable baptism was that of Jesus of Nazareth who came to John for baptism completely without sin. When John suggested that he should be baptized by Jesus rather than him doing the baptism, Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires” (Matt 3:15). So John agreed to baptize him. God blessed Jesus’ obedience by sending the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove to land on Jesus and spoke audibly from Heaven; hence, God cause the entire Trinity to be present around Jesus after He came up out of the baptismal waters. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Baptism after repentance from sin is the beginning of our ministries, as well. Baptism is our first act of obedience to the Lord.
Warning (Luke 3:7-9)
When John the Baptizer lifted up his eyes and saw the literal multitude of people coming to receive baptism, he was impressed to speak up about the fact that many of them were coming to him unprepared for baptism (Luke 3:7). John was baptizing to illustrate the candidate’s repentance from sin; i.e., they had confessed and received forgiveness of their sin before they could be baptized. John called the a generation of vipers because they were still carrying the sin venom within them. The symbolism of laying the person who had died to sin down in the water for burial was not appropriate for one still alive to sin. Mikvah was a cleansing ceremony to show the reentry into the congregation after the candidate received forgiveness of sin, not to get forgiveness through baptism. That is still a confusion for some Christian faiths today. Those who were coming were coming to escape God’s wrath on them, not to show they had received forgiveness and God’s wrath had already been satisfied. John told them to go away and get the fruits of repentance from sin before coming to show the symbols of it (vs 8). And as far as coming because they were members of the Temple and held a position close to Abraham, John was having none of that claim. He warned them of how relationally cheap that claim was. He said, “That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Luke 3:8). In other words, the products of God’s forgiveness of their sin were nonexistent. The evidence of a changed life or repentant humility was absent. The arrogance of walking in sin and claiming heredity as the automatic forgiveness was still obvious in them.
But John agreed with their fear they had to come because the time was short. That forgiveness might be too distant for them to reach without changing their attitudes about sin and what God required for repentance.
John told them, “The axe is laid unto the root of the trees” (Vs. 9). That is, the time is certainly short before God judges between the good fruit and the bad and separates them into the blessings or curses they deserve. They came to John like many come to church. They heard the message and they know the time is very short before the Lord returns but maybe tomorrow or next Sunday might be better. I am reminded of the old Gospel hymn “He Came Just One Day Too Late.” Salvation is not in the waters of the baptistry. Salvation from sin comes by the grace of God through the faith of the believer, not of ourselves, or we would have room to brag about it. Rather, it is simply a gift from God for those who have changed their minds about how to live (Eph 2:8).
Response (Luke 3:10-14)
The responses during an evangelistic presentation is at the very core of evangelistic effectiveness. Now, I know that there is a large group of people out there who would say that we must share a Gospel tract to every person we meet. Some would even say that we should insist on presenting the entire tract regardless of the responses to the individual segments of the presentation. In my years of research and several books on evangelism, I have discovered a few very key points. First, God has done a lot of work on the prospect than you could possibly image. He began working in the life of every person on the Earth before they could even reason between two thoughts. Therefore, God knows more about what they need to hear and when they need to hear it than we could ever know. So, I maintain that any Gospel presentation needs a few introductory questions in order to discover where the evangelist is starting with this prospect. Note that I said THIS prospect. I purposely pointed out the individuality of the prospect because the evangelist will never see two prospects who are exactly the same or two prospects with the same needs. For those reasons, the first two commandments of effective evangelism are ask short, simple questions, and listen closely.
I always start with general conversation and the simple question, “Didn’t God give us a great day today?” Of course, it could have been a cold day, or a cloudy day, or a snowy day. Just fill in the kind of day it really is. The key is the idea that there is a God, and He is active in everyday life. Space does not permit going through the entire approach for Profiling the Prospect, but page 68 of the Xulon Press Edition contains the rest of the Redemption Plan for this person and page 70 shows that plan in flowchart format emphasizing the key decision points and likely responses (Felsburg, 2015, pp. 68 & 70).
John has more information to deal with. His prospects are coming to him for baptism. The backgrounds of the Jewish responders know the meaning of Mikvah and that it is something one does in response to an earlier action or event in their lives. John’s paradox is that multitudes are coming but few have already repented of their sin and are responding to publicly announce that decision and action through Mikvah (Baptism). The others are coming because they are afraid that God will judge them and send them into everlasting condemnation. For those, the fear is not the same as repenting of sins. When responding to God, one must meet God’s expectations, not one’s own expectations. As I have said in my evangelism classes for decades, “If a person receives baptism without previously accepting Christ as Savior, he has only taken another bath.” John anticipates that is the case for many of those coming.
So, he gives them two additional pieces of information. First, he assures them that their belief that their heritage gives them a special place in God’s Kingdom is wrong (vs. 8). Second, God is preparing to execute the final judgment very soon, so the time for deciding to repent and clearing the slate of unconfessed sin is immediate (vs. 9). Some reading this in 2021 will say, “but that was more than 2,000 years ago and God hasn’t returned to start the final judgment, so what is the hurry?”
Response (Luke 3:10-14, Cont.)
The response is simple: just like those in 33 AD, many people will not live another day in order to make their decision tomorrow. The Gaither song goes, “yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come, but this is the moment, today.” No one guarantees us the next breath nor the next heartbeat. The time to decide is the time we have left, “We have this moment to hold in our hands, as time slips through our fingers like sand.” John told those coming to be baptized for the wrong reason, “The ax is at the root of the tree…”
Division (Luke 3:15-18)
But look at what divided and distracted the people rather than responding to the question at hand. Verse 15 says that as the people were in the mood of expectation they wondered if John was the Messiah or not. Is it not just like Satan to get people to worry about the one delivering the message instead of the content of the message? It makes no difference in your choice between Heaven or Hell who the person was who delivered the message that finally got your attention. Oh, once it happens, you will never forget the one who delivered that message, but your response is much more important than that identity. Pastor Joe Penrod delivered a message on March 24, 1974, I responded to, and a piano tuner named Gene presented the Gospel I accepted. Joe baptized me the same day. I will not forget, but the important part is that it happened; not by whom it happened.
John answered the inquirers that he was sent to baptize with water but there is One coming whose shoes he is not worthy to untie Who will baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire (vs. 16). Now, I have never taken that as “instead of” but rather “in addition to.” That is, water baptism is the first act of obedience to the Lord. It was a requirement to experience water baptism as the picture of my death as a self-oriented individualist, burial after that death and resurrection as a child of the King. Nevertheless, Jesus visited me with the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the point of my decision to follow Jesus Christ. When I obeyed Jesus in accepting water baptism in obedience to His command, the Holy Spirit was empowered and John 14:12 became a reality, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). Without submission to the Lord, i.e., making Him Savior AND Lord, there is no power, no fire in the new believer’s life.
Back to those gathered in expectation of baptism by John, he warns that the Lord is coming with His fan in His hand. The fan is for providing the wind after the harvest in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. God will thoroughly clean the floor of all the grain placed there. As He applies His fan, he will easily separate those who know Him from those who do not. He will gather those who are His into the gathering place of Heaven while He sends the chaff, those who are not His into the unquenchable fire,
Those were the choices for those gathered together when the Master of the Harvest came for His harvest. And those are the choices today. My prayer is that you have already said yes, or you will say yes, now. Questions??
Understand the Context (Luke 6:17-49)
This set of scripture opens in Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain which is similar to His Sermon on the Mount as presented in Matthew 5-7. It not unusual for the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) to contain the same or similar information. Many scholars offer that the three Gospels came from another common document sometimes referred to as the Q Document. The “Q” comes from the German word “Quelle” which means “the source.” The belief is centered on the fact that strings of dozens of words might be common to all three Gospels. They reason that it stretches the imagination that three different men in three separate settings would conceive of the same words, even under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If this were the case, it seems that Luke in his effort to report his findings accurately to the Roman nobleman, Theophilus would have report this as a significant finding. He did not.
Luke’s version spoke of the blessings one receives for living a righteous life just as Matthew’s version (5:3-12) presents in the Beatitudes. Luke also reminds of the woes associated those living in wealth and comfort while many of their friends or associates suffer in need or poverty. Those watching others suffer are living in opposition to the teaching of the Lord to love the Lord, thy God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as thyself. Luke lauds real love as showing mercy and granting forgiveness to all including our enemies (Luke 6:20-23 & Matt 5:43-46).
Understand the Context (Luke 6:17-49 , Cont.)
Beginning with verse 6:37, Luke moves into the idea of acting like a judge toward one another as in Matthew 7:1-2 and Mark 4:24-25. All three Gospels emphasize the concept that God has forgiven us of so much that we should think hard before judging others to condemnation rather than loving unto forgiveness. In all three case, the teaching forces us to consider what we have done and how thoroughly God has forgiven us before we get legalistic toward others. It establishes a virtual mirror for us to see ourselves before we are harsh with others. How does their sin and need for forgiveness compare to our sin and need for forgiveness compare? We all deserve death as the wages of sin (Rom 6:23a), but God has given us the gift of life (Rom 6:23b).
Luke completes this examination of context by presenting the parable of the two men who built new houses: one on the firm foundation of rock and the other on the weak foundation of sand. In telling this parable, Jesus says when the rains came, the man who built on the sand will see the water breaking into his foundation and quickly eroding it away. Alternatively, the man who built on the rock will see the rains and storms come and go but having no impact on his foundation nor on the house he built on it.
Sample of Parallel Study Bible
The chart below is a small segment of a Gospel Parallel available online (http://www.bible-researcher.com/parallels.html/). The Gospel of John has a column on the right which usually remains blank compared to the synoptic Gospels but will contain many references for information not found in the synoptics. Most scholars agree that John received the synoptic Gospels after he was released from prison on the island of Patmos. So, he would be presenting a supplementary or amended Gospel compared to those already penned. The most weighty topics can be found in all four Gospels, like the ministry of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, Peter’s confession of whom Jesus is, the Day of the Son of Man and many more.
For example, the chart shows no mention in the Gospel of John for any of the synoptic Bible topics listed between rows 77 and 83. There are two rows on the chart, “the Occasion of the Sermon” and “On Judging,” that are mentioned in all three synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. When a biblical topic is mentioned more than once, additional information is available for better understanding of topic. More applications and explanations are show below.
Love (Luke 6:27-31)
Luke starts by addressing those who are his intended hearers; they are those who can hear. Throughout Jesus’ teachings, there are repeated references to those who have ears to hear but cannot hear and eyes to see but cannot see (Matt 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mark 4:9, 4:23,7:16; Luke 8:8, 14:35). These are people who will hear the message of Jesus Christ and see the miracles He worked but not receive them for themselves. It might be surprising to some to hear that there are hundreds of people who teach that Jesus was a legend or a parable but not a real person. They dismiss His teachings as the rambling of a madman. Jesus addresses those who have opened their ears, their eyes and their minds to His teachings.
As to the existence of the Man, the evidence from historic teachers or commentators outside the Bible number in the hundreds. Even Caesar Nero (one of the most notably evil Caesars of all time) testified to the existence of Christ and referenced His followers as Christians. History tells us Nero even blamed Christ followers for a major fire in Rome. He further testified that Jesus taught His followers that they should “eat His flesh and drink His blood” as Nero called them cannibals. This establishes Jesus’ teachings about the Lord’s Supper and the saying He voiced at the Last Supper. Further, the Jewish historian, Josephus testified of the historic Jesus Christ in three of his ten-volume set of highly respected and widely taught writings.
Internal to the Bible, Paul’s testimony in his first letter to the church at Corinth alone documents, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor 15:1-9). It is absolute foolishness to reject the life and works of Jesus of Nazareth. The Psalmist writes correctly that, “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psa 14:1 & 53:1).
So, Luke quotes Jesus here as saying He is speaking to those who will hear (receive or personalize) His sayings, that we must love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless them who curse you and pray for those who despitefully use you (Luke 6:27-28 & Matt 5:44-45). Jesus continues that if a man smacks you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek as well; if he takes your outer garment, offer him the inner garment as well (Vs 29). He says, “Give to every man that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away the goods, ask them not again” (Vs 30). Most of us would have a hard time living these words. We like to be generous, but we use judgment in determining to whom we should give. This is simply good stewardship of that with which God has entrusted us.
Notice Jesus introduces the “Golden Rule” in verse 31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them likewise.” Jesus transitions into the next slide with these words, and most of us would agree that living the words God teaches here are nearly impossible to do all the time. The next section speaks of the pure heart.
With a Pure Heart (Luke 6:32-36)
Jesus verbalizes the question that enters into most minds when we hear these ways we ought to think and be, “Why should we do these things for people who treat us badly, use us despitefully, etc? Why not do these things to people who love us and treat us well?” Jesus anticipates that question and says, “32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them? 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” In other words, those with a right heart before God, a heart that has been changed by the impossible grace of God through Jesus Christ do things differently.
Even Dave Ramsey says, “Save like no one else so, you can give like no one else.” How do these changed people act? They “love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35). The natural man (the one who has not been changed by Christ) will distort the Golden Rule to say, “Do good unto those who have been good to you.” Answer this question, what can you do to be worthy of the mercy God has given you? That’s right, there is simply no way you could justify God’s free gift to us. So, why to we require others to do great things for us before we can do great things for them?
Jesus says simply, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” John says if you call yourself a Christian, you ought to walk just like Jesus did (1 John 2:6). Are you there, yet?
And with Mercy (Luke 6:37-38)
I think everyone can quote this next teaching from Matthew 7:1-5. As soon as one thinks of judging others, these verses come to mind. Matthew recalls the words of Jesus like this, “1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” In Luke, verses 6:37 and the last half of 6:38 along with Mark 424-25 sum up the same teaching. And this is the value of the parallel version of the Bible. These three sets of teachings can be compared to make sure we get the correct understanding of what Jesus was passing on to us through these three Gospel writers.
The Greek word used here for “judge” is krino. The synonyms listed with it are to try, condemn, punish, avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence (Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). It should be clear that these words show that judge means to look at a person with distain to convict him or her with heavy criticism. Judging another person with these intensions in your heart is just another display of a critical heart or attitude before God. God says we ought not be like that. In Luke version, Jesus mentions forgiving because we have been forgiven (Verse 37b). The last part of the Lord’s Payer says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us.” Jesus says here and in Matthew’s version “For with whatever measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Briefly, that means that the severity with which I judge others will be used on me. I think I would rather be kind and gentle with others in hope that I will be gently judged. I have said many times, “when I get to Heaven, I don’t want to get what I deserve. I don’t want justice; I want mercy!” I want Jesus to see His own blood upon my head and thereby know that I am one of His; that I wear His righteousness. I want to hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt 25:21).
Understand the Context (Luke 4:1-44)
The key to understanding the context of a study is to hear the introduction. Here, the author talks about believers and their spirituality. I would assign the keyword “discipleship” to a piece that starts that way. So, let us quickly review where discipleship fits into our lives. The three tenses of our walk with the Lord are discussed in Romans 5:1-5 as justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification is the beginning of being a Christian. Paul, the writer of the Bible Book of Romans, says we are justified by having faith in God and through that faith, we have peace with God (Rom 5:1). Justification is not a process but an event that begins when we recognize that the tension in life come from living without the One who created us. We understand we have problems in our lives that need more help than we can provide from our own resources. So, we believe (have faith) that Jesus can help us overcome the tension between us and God. We ask Jesus to come into our lives and He brings forgiveness of past, present and future sin. That is where the “peace with God” comes from as Paul mentioned in Romans 5:1.
Jesus brings the Holy Spirit with Him to live inside us and provide the power we need to transition from a life lived in our own power to a life lived in His power. That event is also the start of the process of sanctification or being made holy. Sanctification is the process Paul talks about in Romans 5:3-5. We start seeing the challenges of life as opportunities to advance deeper into the Christian life. The “hope of the glory of God” Paul mentions in Romans 5:2 is called glorification and establishes the end point of sanctification. It takes place when we leave this life for an eternity with God. While living this life, we experience the peaks and valleys Luke describes on the first slide. It seems inevitable that when we are flying high over beating one challenge, the next one comes. Luke describes it as spiritual testing at the highest spiritual times of our lives.
Understand the Context (Luke 4:1-44, Cont.) Jesus’ surrender to be baptized by John the Baptist at age 30 marked the beginning of His ministry. God made that experience even greater by causing the Holy Spirit to visibly land on Jesus while He (the Father) spoke in an audible voice that He was pleased with His Son. This was a display of all three manifestations of the Trinity at one time. The elation was short-lived, however, as Jesus entered immediately into a 40-day fast and severe testing by Satan. The slide documents how the three temptations Satan forced on Jesus are the same temptations he uses on each of us (1 John 2:16).. When Jesus was terribly hungry, Satan tempted Him to turn rocks into bread (the lust of the flesh). Satan took Jesus to a high place and showed Him all the greatest kingdoms on Earth (the lust of the eyes). He told Jesus it could all be His if He would worship him instead of God. And last, Satan tempted Jesus to demonstrate His personal greatness and invincibility by jumping down off the pinnacle of the Temple proving He could not be hurt (the pride of life). Jesus yielded to none of these but instead, quoted Scriptures to Satan.
Slide 2 shows us that Jesus’ temptations did not end with those offered in the wilderness. While Jesus knew exactly who He was and what His mission was, the leaders and people of the synagogue in Nazareth rejected Him as the Messiah promised in Isaiah 61. He was far too familiar to them to be anything other than the Carpenter’s son.
The people who knew Him and His family from His childhood, yet they wanted to end His life at the synagogue service that day. As they were taking Him to throw off a high hill, the Bible says He simply walked out from among them and left town. No, Jesus’ temptations did not end at the end of His stay in the wilderness.
True Identity (Luke 4:16-21)
Immediately after the temptations of Jesus by Satan, Luke tells of Jesus’ return to Galilee. He briefly mentions Jesus’ teaching and preaching throughout the regions and then takes the reader to Nazareth. This was the childhood town of Jesus as He was raised with His Earthly parents: Mary and Joseph. Luke mentions it was customary for Joseph’s family to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath Day. For men who were at least 30 years old, it was also customary for the Rabbi to offer opportunities to read the Scriptures to be discussed. This opportunity was offered to Jesus on this day and the Rabbi delivered to Him the Scroll of Isaiah.
Just a quick side note here, the Scroll of Isaiah was the one Scroll of which the majority was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This archeological find included 230 partial manuscripts of every Bible book of the Hebrew Scriptures except the Book of Ester. The Scroll of Isaiah was nearly a complete find and dated over 1,000 years older than any text previously known. The find was noteworthy because the differences between the discovered Isaiah and the previously known text were miniscule. They amounted to a few spelling changes or participles, but no substantive difference in the entire Scroll over that 1,000-year period. These facts speak very highly of the preservation of the text across time and the precision of the text delivered to us today.
The chapter and verse distinctions in our Bibles were added to the Old Testament dating back to 200 AD. Agreed upon verse divisions of the Hebrew (OT) and the Greek (NT) Texts were done by the Jewish Rabbi Nathan in 1448 AD and first published in 1524 (Gilmore, A. (2007). A concise dictionary of bible origins and interpretation. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.library.capella.edu, p. 205).
True Identity (Luke 4:16-21, Cont.)
When this Scroll was handed to Jesus, He turned to what would become Chapter 61 and read verses 1 & 2 (captured here as Luke 4:18-19). It was not the reading of these encouraging words promising the advent of the Jewish Messiah, but what Jesus did next that caused the uproar. First, Jesus stopped in the middle of a sentence, closed the scroll, returned it to the Rabbi and sat down. These actions signified the completed reading of the text, but Jesus left out the warnings of the Day of Vengeance of the Lord, His comforting of all who mourn, and other promises through Isaiah 61:3. Jesus stopped at the words, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isa. 61:2). A modern translation of verse 19 would read, “And that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (Luke 4:19, NLT).
Verse 20 continues that the eyes of all those in the synagogue were fixed on Him in that instant of time. Jesus added, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). In other words, Jesus told those in the synagogue in Nazareth that the time of the Lord’s favor had come and that coming was in Him; i.e. “I am the promised One.”
False Understanding (Luke 4:22-27)
The initial reaction was positive. The people listened to Him and heard what He was saying. They were astonished at the grace with which He delivered his words, but then they began to think about whom was speaking. They asked themselves, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Mark adds, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him” (Mark 6:3). As the congregates thought about it, they questioned how such greatness could be possible out of the carpenter from down the street? Jesus made two observations: First, He heard them saying that He should do the miracles they heard about from Capernaum again in Nazareth. They might have been saying that so far, Jesus was only known to them as the carpenter or the carpenter’s son. Help us make the transition to see you otherwise. Second, Jesus was reminded of the proverb, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24). Matthew adds, “and among his own people” (Matt 13:57). The message is clear; the people will suffer because of their own unbelief. Matthew 13:58 says that Jesus was unable to do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
False Understanding (Luke 4:22-27, Cont.)
Jesus moves to a couple short stories from the Old Testament to illustrate what He was to the people of the synagogue (1 Kings 17). The Prophet Elijah was told by God to go get lodging from a widow named Zarephath during a drought. The widow had no meal and no water, but God made the water, oil and meal last for three and a half years or when the drought ended. When her son became ill and died, God enabled Elijah to bring him back from the dead. While the woman did not initially believe Elijah, the restoral of her son’s life made her a full believer. Jesus also mentioned the Syrian, Naaman (2 Kings 5). God had sent Naaman to the Prophet Elisha to be healed of leprosy. Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times to be healed. Naaman was angry and would not believe. Finally, he agreed to do whatever Elisha told him. He went to the Jordan, washed seven times and he was fully recovered. Both stories told of supernatural victories available to those who believed. Matthew 13:58 says Jesus was not able to do many miracles in Nazareth because the people would not believe.
Misguided Response (Luke 4:28-30)
After Jesus shared these stories, the people of the synagogue became even more angry (Luke 14:28). They got up and took Jesus to the end of the city to separate Him from them. They took Him to the edge of high hill and were preparing to throw Him headfirst down the hill, hoping to kill Him. Just a few minutes earlier they sat amazed at the grace with which He delivered a message from the Scriptures, but now they wanted to kill Him. The change was realized because He dared to tell two stories out of the Bible where the words of prophets were rejected by the people to whom God sent them. To the widow who would not believe, He made a small amount of food last for three and a half years and He later raised her dead son. For the Syrian ruler (Naaman) God sent to Elisha, he simply would not believe the instructions given him by the prophet. He changed his mind and washed seven times as told. He came up as clean as a baby. Belief made the difference in what God could do. Now, the mob of the synagogue in Nazareth were going to Kill Jesus.
Jesus simply released Himself from the mob and walked out from the midst of them. Like many stories of the Bible, when the supernaturally empowered person had had enough, He calls an end to the meeting. Jesus walked out from among them.
Understand the Context (Luke 5:1-11, 27-32)
In this study, Understand the Context significantly overlaps with the study material. The key thought is how Jesus went about selecting His Apostles. Of course, Jesus was equipped with the foreknowledge of exactly what the needs would be and what types of people would best meet those needs. So, He was able to construct His inner circle with people who would meet the leadership requirements while He had a full understanding of knowing He would not be physically with them for very long. Further, He selected one of the twelve knowing he would turn against Him by telling the authorities where Jesus could be found. Nevertheless, the pain of seeing that betrayal kiss by Judas must has been heartbreaking for the Lord.
The full picture of how Jesus selected the Twelve would require the reading of all four Gospels. Of course, Jesus could do nothing until after He was baptized by John the Baptist. That was the sign of the beginning of His ministry and His full endorsement by the Father. The first four selections by Christ were fishermen. From Luke account, Jesus delivered a sermon from Simon’s boat. John 1:37 and following states that Andrew was one of two disciples of John the Baptist who heard John say, “Behold the Lamb!” (John 1:36). John says that Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, he renamed him Cephas, which meant a stone. James and John, sons of Zebedee were the next called. One of them was likely the other of the two mentioned as The Baptist’s followers when Andrew was called.
John continues that the next day, Jesus went to Bethsaida where Andrew and Peter lived and asked Phillip to follow Him and Phillip asked Nathanael to come as well (John 1:44-51). Note also that John 149 document that Nathanael was the first to say to Jesus, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Mark 2 show the selection of Levi (or Matthew) was selected as he sat collecting taxes as Jesus returned from healing the paralytic in a house in Capernaum. The final list of selection is documented in Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16.
Peter, James and John (Luke 5:4-11)
As mentioned above, Jesus was speaking to a crowd from Peter’s boat when He asked Peter to move the boat a little farther from the shore. This would allow Jesus’ voice to reflect off the water and be better heard by all those gathered. The focal passage of Luke 5:4-11 begins by saying that Jesus had finished that time of speaking when He told Peter to move even farther offshore and drop his nets. Peter responded negatively saying that he and his men had been fishing all night long and caught nothing, but he adds that just because Jesus requested it, he would do it. Verses 6 and 7 report that as soon as they dropped the nets where Jesus said, they enclosed such a great multitude of fish that they called their partners in a second boat and filled both boats so completely that both began to sink.
Peter, James and John (Luke 5:4-11), Cont.)
When Peter saw the results, he fell down at Jesus’ feet and said, “Depart from me, a sinful man, oh Lord” (Luke 5:8). Peter was astonished that they had pulled in such a massive load of fish after they had fished the same waters all night long with even the smallest results. In the company of fishermen taking part in this catch were partners of Peter and Andrew, James and John who were two sons of their father, Zebedee. Luke records that Jesus spoke to Peter saying for him to, “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10). In Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17, Jesus said, “Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Those three words formed the name of my company Fishers of Men Ministries first founded in Virginia in 1982.
The scripture reference here closes with the words “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” At least four Apostles came out of the miracle of the fishes.
Levi (Luke 5:27-26)
Our next focal passage opens with the words “And after these things he went forth.” Briefly, the things the lesson plan skips are two of the things that increased Jesus’ influence among the people while they further infuriated they Sanhedrin and threatened the Roman rule. First, Jesus healed a leper (Luke 5:12-16). It was ruthless to some because when the diseased man considered religiously unclean, and socially dangerous to even leave the Valley of the Lepers asked Jesus to make him clean, Jesus reached out and healed him through direct touching. Jesus ministered to the cleansed leper by telling him to show himself to the priest to be formally declared cleaned and accepted back into society. But it left Jesus with the problem of having touched a leper which made Him unclean as well. Jesus sidestepped this issue by removing Himself to the wilderness. Nevertheless, Jesus’ fame grew exponentially as word of this obvious miracle was spread.
Verses 17 – 26 Jesus continued to increase in fame. He was teaching in an area where numerous Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees gathered. They had come from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem. Jerusalem was singled out from Judea because Jerusalem was the seat of formal Jewish relgion which were bent on discrediting Jesus’ ministries. A man with palsy was brought to Him with hope that He might heal him. Jesus said simply, “Man, they sins are forgiven thee” (Luke 5;20). The formal religious in the crowd were quick to condemn Jesus for claiming that He could forgive sin. So, Jesus asked if it would have been easier for Him to say, “Rise up and Walk.” The common belief in those days was that any illness or imperfection a person might have, came upon them because of their sin or the sin of their heritage; i.e., sin caused disease. Jesus abolished that belief by telling the religious leaders that He will prove He has the power to forgive sin by telling the man to rise up and walk. So, He tells the man not only to rise up and walk but to collect his couch and other belongings and carry them out as well. Much to the chagrin of the religious crowd but utter joy and astonishment of the common people, Jesus told the man to do just that, and he did it. Working this miracle in the presence of the representatives from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem showed He had no fear of them.
So, now we know the things that Jesus did just prior to His activities reported in verses 28 – 29. As Jesus was returning for healing the leper by touch and forgiving the sins of a man with palsy so that he got up and walked, He noticed Levi sitting at customs by the road. Knowing that everyone believed that a tax collector and publican was full of sin, Jesus said to the man, “Follow me.” So, Levi got up and followed Jesus while leaving everything he had behind. Surely if Jesus can touch a leper and make him whole. If He can confront the religious leaders by healing a person so full of sin his whole body was revolting, He could heal the sin of being a publican.
Sinners (Luke 4:29-32)
Levi was not going to become a follower of Jesus, he was going to gather all his equally severe sinners together to hear from Jesus. The Bible through Luke reports that Levi gathered a great company of fellow “sinners” together with which he and Jesus to meet and discuss Levi’s calling to join Jesus’ cause. The scribes and Pharisees got word and murmured against Jesus and Levi while accusing them of eating and drinking with people who are to be shunned openly. Jesus responded simply that He had not been sent to heal people who were already whole, they do not need a physician, but Jesus said He came to help the sick, those who already know they have need. He continued, “I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.”
When I see the first part of Jesus’ response (I do not come to call the righteous) I think He is saying I did not come to call the righteous, like you claim to be. Jesus had come as hope for those who knew they were broken and needed help that only God could provide. Jesus had come with the great message of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation for a people dominated by an occupying force. All was not lost. God had heard the cries of a people who knew He was coming.
Understand the Context (Luke 5:12-26)
Recall from last time that Jesus was near the Sea of Galilee and taught the large crowd on the shore from one of the two boats docked there. The Lord asked Peter to move his boat farther into the lake so He could use the audio dynamics of the water to amplify His voice (Luke 5:1-3). When He finished speaking, He asked Peter to move even farther into the lake and prepare for a draught of fish. Peter doubted but followed Jesus’ instructions anyway. The catch of fish was so great, it nearly sunk Peter’s boat and his partners’ boat as well (5:4-8).
At this point, we see Peter repenting of his doubt and confessing to Jesus (vss. 5:8-11). Jesus tells the leaders of the two fishing boats, Andrew and Peter, and James and John, not to be amazed at the catch of fishes because He will cause them to be fishers of men (Matt 4:19 & Mark 1:17). They left all they had and followed Jesus.
The story of Jesus’ healing of the leper in 5:12-16 was discussed last week as well. Recall that Jesus was not cautious about touching the leper to heal him. The Law declares the lepers to be unclean and anyone who touches one shall be unclean as well (Lev 13). Lepers were segregated from society and anyone coming near (let alone touching one) shall be unclean as well. Those designated as unclean were not allowed to attend synagogue or associate with the rest of the Hebrew community. Nevertheless, Jesus touched the leper and healed him. Lev 14 documents what Jesus told the leper after his healing. He was to show himself to a priest to regain access to the Hebrew society. There is no documentation that Jesus also cleansed Himself after this incident. Verse 17 begins the report of Jesus’ healing of the man with palsy and signals the beginning of this week’s study.
Hope Demonstrated (Luke 5:17-19)
In transition, the scripture says that Jesus went into the wilderness to pray after the incident with the leper. Next, we find Him in the city of Capernaum in a house other than His own (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26; and John 5:8-9, ASV). The fact of the mass of Pharisees and doctors of the law (lawyers) were in attendance should not be surprising. Jesus’ healing and preaching were becoming well reported. The scripture says, in general, that they are there to trip Him up or catch Him saying something for which He can be punished or imprisoned. They represented the interests of the provinces of Galilee and Judea as well as the Temple of Jerusalem (Sanhedrin).
But in addition to these experts on the Law and the Hebrew Religion, there were a great number of people sincerely listening to Jesus’ teaching. The people had heard of the miracles Jesus performed, and one set of four people had great hope that Jesus might heal their friend who had been taken with the palsy. They brought their friend on his bed to the place where Jesus was preaching but found the crowd so large that they could not get their friend anywhere near Jesus. Instead of taking a chance that Jesus might happen to see their friend, they climbed to the roof and began to open the ceiling to let their friend down into the house where Jesus was teaching. Their hope was so strong that Jesus might heal their friend, they opened the roof to make sure Jesus would see him.
Forgiveness Granted (Luke 5:20-24)
When Jesus saw their great faith that He could help their friend, He responded immediately saying, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Luke 5:20). The context of the man being ill and Jesus forgiving his sins is that, in these times, it was believed that any malady a person might have was because of his or her sin or the sin of his parents. That understanding spilled over into the sacrificial system, in that when the people brought a sacrifice for the Priest as an offering, it had to be without spot or blemish (Ex 12:5, 29:1; Lev 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; et. al.). Anything having an imperfection was considered sinful. So, only the animals that were without spot or blemish were suitable for sacrifice. Jesus said the palsied man’s sins were forgiven because without sin, he would be healed, and his palsy taken away.
That said, Verse 21 shows the predictable reaction of the Scribes and Pharisees asking loudly, “Who is this which speakest blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Jesus perceived their reasoning and asked them why they reasoned in their hearts whether it was easier to say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee” or to say, “Rise up and walk?” (verses 22-23). Verse 24 shows the rest of Jesus’ comment that He did what He did to show them that the Son of Man has the power (authority) on earth to forgive sins. And before they could speak another word to Him, He turned to the sick man and said, “I say unto thee, arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.” Jesus leaves us at this point as the suspense grows to see what will happen now that Jesus told the sick man to get up and carry his couch out of there. It would be enough to see the man get up and carry himself away. This would not only show his worthless legs are now healed, but also show that they had sufficient power to carry the load of the couch as well. This healing would be far beyond simply healing the man.
Praise Offered (Luke 4:25-26)
The suspense is short-lived because verse 25 shows the man “immediately” responded to Jesus’ command and got up, picked up his couch and left for his house while loudly praising and glorifying God for what He had done. Note the man had no problem celebrating the Glory of God instead of Jesus as the One who did the miracle and praising Him for what Jesus had done. Note also that Jesus made no attempt to correct him.
While Jesus never thought it blasphemy to consider Himself equal with God (Phil 2:6), He seldom corrected people when they praised the Father for the work of the Son. I liked the way Jesus finished one discussion with the Pharisees. They were asking Him how He could say He had seen Abraham when He was such a young man. Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The masters of the Torah immediately recognized “I am” as the name God gave to Moses when he asked, “Whom shall I tell the children of Israel sent me?” (Ex 3:14). In the current case, the healed man glorified God.
Understand the Context (Luke 5:33-6:16)
God gave Israel a nation and called it the Promised Land. Along with the freedom He gave Israel to escape the bondage of slavery to Egypt, He provided the Ten Commandments to Moses on top of Mount Sinai (Ex 20). That Law became the foundation for over 512 derivative laws that formed the theocracy of Israel. God provided the leadership for Israel to arrive at the Southern border of the Promised Land in only two weeks. Of course, the naysayers of their day, just like the naysayers of our day, refused to believe that God’s promise was sufficient for their victory. So, based on their lack of faith, God assigned them to 40 years of travel in the wilderness before He led them to the banks of the Jordan River just east of Jericho where the first battle for the Promised Land would take place.
But the Law that separated Israel into special nation soon became a tool of the religious elites to dominate rather than bless God’s people. They left the bondage of slavery in Egypt to become slaves to the Law. God meant it for good, but Israel’s leaders turned into a harsh tool to overshadow and persecute its subjects. The Law originally established their unique country but subsequently turned Israel into an example theocracy gone bad. Other countries can learn a lot about the seasons of nations from Israel’s poor example.
As we open the Bible to Luke 6 for today’s study, we see those two versions of the Law remaining at work. It told the people what they could not do forced it on the people by a religion system out of control. The Law had become an instrument by which the nation could be controlled by foreigners. It was now a set of instructions that showed nothing of the gracious God it represented.
Understand the Context (Luke 5:33-6:16, Cont.)
Jesus became the brunt of this kind of Law as the scribes, pharisees and sadducees attempted to use the Law to control God’s Messiah. They understood the Law to say that all sinners must be segregated and ostracized from the righteous. They had forgotten that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Dan 9:11 & Rom 3:23). So, after Jesus called Levi (Matthew) as an apostle and he called all his fellow tax collectors together to met Jesus, He was charged with eating with sinners. He had not “separated Himself out from those unclean things” (Lev 7:21). The religious leaders said Jesus had exceeded His authority, associated with sinners, fasted inappropriately, ate from fields without washing hands or harvested the food on the sabbath. When they made these charges, they forgot the spiritual significance of the Law. How the Law allowed us to reach out to the Gentiles and include them in God’s blessings. The Law had now become a weapon to use against others rather than for others to be rescued. Jesus taught how the examples of behavior set by the religious leaders was fasting for fasting sake; to be obvious so people would know you were fasting rather than fasting unto the Lord. That practicing outdated rituals of fasting was a sign of unrighteousness rather than righteousness. Jesus corrected them regarding eating wheat on the sabbath and doing good on the sabbath, like healing a useless hand.
So, Jesus introduces Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath and begins to explain how the apostles should behave in these situations. He also instructed on how to behave toward the hypocritical religious leaders when they attacked them wrongfully. And of course, Jesus had to teach them how to behave when they were attacked for associating with Jesus.
The setting for this study will place Jesus’ teaching on these topics relative to the sabbath. That is how do we handle work on the sabbath, who is the Lord of the Sabbath and doing good things on the Sabbath?
Work on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-2)
Jesus was walking with a large company of others as they took a shortcut through a corn field. As they walked some of His disciples (not necessarily apostles) plucked off ears of corn and ate after rubbing the corn in their hands. Verse two states the response of the Pharisees. They saw them picking the ears and it looked like harvesting on the Sabbath. They saw the rubbing of the grain as food preparation on the Sabbath. Moses gave the instruction that one should prepare the food for the Sabbath during the preparation for the day before (Friday). That would provide food for tomorrow making preparation on the Sabbath unnecessary. The Pharisees had prejudged that even eating for survival on the Sabbath was against the Law and that Jesus, as the leader, was guilty of this violation.
Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:3-5)
So, Jesus knowing the application of the entire Law was needed, gave an illustration that King David and his followers went into a synagogue and took the showbread to eat. Now, 12 loaves of this bread called Mitzvah, was placed on the golden table just outside the Holy of Holies as an offering to the Lord but to be eaten by Aaron (High Priest) and his Priests during the service to the Lord (Ex 25:23-30 & Num 4:7). David went into the Holy Place and took the loaves of shewbread for himself and his solders when they were hungry. This was bread that was set aside specifically for the Priests to eat during the service, but David took it and fed his soldiers (Vs. 4). This bread was dedicated for the High Priest and his Priests and unlawful for anyone to take. David took it for himself and his men. How much more was this consecrated than the corn in the field, yet it was taken to serve God’s King and his people.
But that was not the end of Jesus’ speaking. He went one to explain to the Pharisees that he was the Lord of the Sabbath. In other words, Jesus not the King like David was But when it came the Sabbath established by His Father, He was the Lord, the Master, the One in Charge of the Sabbath. The day that God established as His day of rest is Jesus’ day as well and He is Lord over it. The Bible says Jesus never thought it robbery to be equal with the Father (John 5:18, Phil 2:6). We know that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three views (manifestations) of exactly the same being and are the Godhead (Rom 1:20, Col 2:9). So, it is no stretch for us to see Jesus as the master over the Sabbath; He is Master overall.
Do Good on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11)
Recall that this section of Scripture began with the description, “And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first” (Luke 6:1). The current verse begins, “And it came to pass also on another sabbath” (Luke 6:6). Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and noticed there was a man in the congregation with a withered right hand. Note the verse 7 gives fair warning that the scribes and pharisees are already watching Him to see if He would heal someone on the Sabbath day. Their interpretation of the Law says a person can do no work on the Sabbath regardless of whether it is positive or negative, needed or routine. So, if Jesus would try to heal this man, they would be ready with a charge.
Verse 8 tells us that Jesus read their thoughts and knew exactly what He was doing and what the results would be. Nevertheless, Jesus spoke directly to the man and told him to stand in the middle of the gathering. It was clear that Jesus was preparing to take some action regardless of what the Pharisees might do in response. In Jesus' mind, doing good for someone is not limited by what day of the week it might be.
As the man took his position in a prominent place in the synagogue, Jesus began by speaking directly to the scribes and pharisees gathered there to find charges against Him. He said, “I will ask you one thing; is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? To save life, or to destroy it?”
Do Good on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11, Cont.)
The pause must have been deafening as Jesus looked around the room to see if there might be a response to His question. The scribes and the pharisees were certainly not going to venture an answer. That might provide an escape for Jesus. Rather, they would wait to see what Jesus was going to do with the man standing in the midst of the synagogue as Jesus had instructed him. Verse 10 ends the suspense quickly. After looking around, waiting for a response and seeing none, Jesus turned to the man with the withered hand and said, “Stretch forth thy hand!” It was only an instant, but the snap of the heads toward the center of the room was beyond audible. They all watched to see what happened to the man stretching forth his hand as Jesus said. They were not disappointed. The man stretched forth his hand and it was made just as whole as the other hand.
Surely, everyone in the room would rejoice in the good works Jesus did for this man and his withered hand. As he wept tears of great joy, the attenders joined him in rejoicing. Well, most of them did. The scribes and pharisees were celebrating their sinister success in seeing Jesus heal on the Sabbath Day. Verse 11 says they were overflowing with anger and met to discuss what they might do to Jesus for doing labor on the Sabbath. This was a clear violation of open disrespect for the Law of Mosses, “8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Ex 20:8-11). The violation was obvious, the scribes and pharisees would meet together later, and the whole Sanhedrin would meet to determine how this open disregard for the Law would be handled.
Understand the Context (Luke 7:1-8:56)
The larger segment of Scripture covered in this case includes Luke 7:1-39. Verses 1-10 deal with a Roman Centurion whose servant is gravely ill and comes to Jesus to get him healed. On the way to the Centurion’s home, word comes that the servant has died. Jesus is bent on continuing to the home to raise the servant, but the Centurion tells Jesus there is no need to trouble Himself further. He continues that he is a man of authority and as such he can give an order and it will be carried out regardless of whether he is present or not. Jesus is amazed at the level of faith this man has. It is greater than all He has seen in Israel. The Centurion continues to his home and finds the servant risen, healed and back to his labors.
Luke 7:11-18 tells the story of Jesus walking with an entourage through the city of Nain. As He makes this journey, a funeral is passing by. A widow has lost her only son, and they are on the way to his burial. Many of the towns people were in the party, and Jesus had compassion on the dead man for his mother’s sake. He touched his bier, and those carrying it let it down and backed away. Jesus told the dead man to get up and presented him to his mother. All were amazed and Jesus’ fame spread quickly.
One of those who heard of Jesus’ works from his disciples was John the Baptist as he was locked in Herod’s prison. John was fully aware that his mission in life was to serve as the forerunner for the Messiah (Isa 40:3-8). Sitting in the prison must have driven John’s mind into anxiety, wanting to see the Messiah of God take control of the world before he met his death. As he hears of the works of Jesus, he sends two followers to ask Jesus if He is the One or shall he look toward another (Luke 7:19-23). Jesus responds to the question from John by telling his followers to watch what He does and report back to John. The list Jesus tells them to report to John is the living out of the direct prophecy of the works the Messiah would perform (Isa 42). As they make their way back to John, Jesus begins to laude John in the strongest terms to the remaining crowd. The scribes and pharisees make little of what Jesus says about John. Jesus reveals their hypocrisy to them in that they accuse John of living the Nazarite vows, for eating and clothing according to those vows while they judge Jesus for eating and drinking and associating with the wrong people. One of those pharisees was named Simon, and he wanted Jesus to join him for a meal in his home (Luke 7:36-39).
Luke 8:41-56 documents a visit to Jesus by Jairus, a leader in the synagogue. He said his daughter was close to death and asked Jesus to help. Jesus agreed and departed for the man’s house, but event after event require Jesus’ intervention and delay Him until people from Jairus home come to report his daughter was already dead. Jesus told Jairus not to worry about his daughter. Jesus arrived at the home and said the daughter was not dead but only slept. The crowd of mourners laughed Him to scorn, but Jesus raised the little girl simply by calling her forth.
In Chapter 8, Luke documents doubts surfaced by Jesus’ earthly family. He had completed telling the Parable of the Sower and was finishing the additional detail for His apostles when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to speak with Him (Luke 8:19-21). Mark 3:21 documents that His family thought at one point Jesus might be losing His mind. It is another of Satan ploys to have others question every part of our ministries. Jesus was no exception. Organized religion, family and even the closest fellow ministers questioned and/or doubted Jesus at one time or another. Satan used these techniques to cause conflict and questioning of one’s own ministries. It had very little impact on Jesus. Recall His responses to Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. Also consider His response to using His earthly family to bring doubt. Jesus simply stated who His mother, brothers and sisters were but those who do the will of His Father. (Matt 12:46-50).
Love’s Intensity (Luke 7:40-43)
Now at the meal in the home of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus is met there by a woman who is weeping deeply. She begins to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. She kissed his feet and anointed them with expensive oil. Simon watches and is repulsed by her actions. He thinks to himself, if Jesus was really a prophet, He would know about this sinful woman and not allow her to touch Him.
So, Jesus turns to Simon and says, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.” And he says, “Master, say on” (Luke 7:40). In 7:41-43, Jesus sets up a parable with a creditor having two debtors owning him money. One owed the creditor considerably more than the other, but the creditor forgave them both their entire debts. Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two will love the creditor most?” Simon answered Jesus saying, “I suppose it would be he, to whom he forgave the most.” The Pharisee had to have assumed that somehow each of the debtors knew how much the creditor forgave the other. Otherwise, there would have been no comparison to be made and both debtors would have known only that the creditor forgave all the debt he owed. But Jesus allows the assumption by telling the Pharisee he had judged correctly.
Love Demonstrated (Luke 7:44-47)
In verse 44, Jesus turned toward the woman but asks Simon if he had seen this woman. The scripture does not show Simon responding to Jesus’ question, but rather, Jesus continues. The custom for all guests in a home is that the host will have their feet washed and dried at the door. Jesus told Simon he had not given Him any water for His feet, but this woman had washed His feet with her tears and wiped them off with the hairs of her head. Jesus said the host had not given Him a kiss of greeting, yet this woman had not stopped kissing His feet. Simon had not anointed Jesus’ head, but this woman has anointed His head with ointment.
n verse 47, Jesus marries the difference in behaviors of the woman in Simon’s home, Simon himself and Jesus Himself as they were gathered at Simon’s table. Simon was judging the woman severely because she was such a sinner, and he was judging Jesus because He claimed to be a prophet yet did not know what a horrible sinner this woman was. Yet, Simon in his personal piety, believed he had the right to judge the woman and Jesus compared to himself.
Jesus says to Simon, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she demonstrated great love to me in washing my feet and anointing my head. But you, Simon, who watched and judged have demonstrated no love or even basic respect for a visitor in your home. You have loved little and will be forgiven little. Recall that Jesus said in Matthew 7, “1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye” (Matt 7:1-5). Frequently, those who think themselves greater than others are actually least of all. They are blinded by the weaver’s beam which blocks the vision from their own eye. There is a thought for introspection followed by prayer.
Love and Faith (Luke 7:48-50)
So, Jesus said to the woman, “Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). If the woman’s internal feelings and attitudes are demonstrated by the selfless dedication and humiliation, she had recognized the level of her sins and in whose presence she was. Paul said if a person confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus and believes in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he shall be saved (Rom 10:9-10). This woman’s confession was obvious for all to see, and her belief was well demonstrated by what she did. Jesus certainly saw them as He declared her sins were forgiven (vs 48).
But is it not interesting that Simon and his Pharisee friends continued to look at what happened with the woman in disgust, and in condemnation for Jesus? The scripture says that, as they continued to eat, they joined Simon in judging Jesus. They said within themselves, “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” (vs 49). When I looked at the word “also” here, I thought the whole group of them may have been saying to themselves, “The blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the lame walk, and the dead rise again. And He forgives sin as well?” I can imagine those who studied well were saying, “Sounds a lot like the promised Messiah to me!!
And just to make sure the woman had heard Him, He said, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” I remember March 24, 1974 after praying to receive Jesus Christ at an alter in the Temple Baptist Church in Los Cruces, NM, I was clean for the first time in my life. “There is now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). I think I’m shouting on the inside!!!
Understand the Context (Luke 9:1-27)
Chapter 9 contains 62 verses showing how Jesus prepared for the last days of His ministry on earth. It begins with a description of how Jesus prepared His 12 Apostles as missionaries for the Gospel. The gifts He gave them included power over demons and healing of various diseases. Note that the powers were given to all 12 Apostles including Judas the betrayer. Jesus selected the 12 Apostles from His numerous disciples back in Chapters 5 & 6. Here, He gives them specific instructions about what they could take with them on the mission field, what they could not take and how to react to those who received them and those who did not. Some who read these passages say that Jesus left out the specific training for the Apostles on evangelism. That training took place every day as the Apostles lived and travelled with Jesus through the cities and towns of Galilee, Samaria and Judea. There is no better training for evangelism than watching the Master do it.
When Herod got word of what was happening, and that people were suggesting that John the Baptist or even Elijah might have returned from the dead, he was “perplexed” because he was the one who ordered John beheaded (vss. 7-9). The Scripture says Herod wanted to meet Jesus but recall that an earlier Herod wanted the wise men to tell him where the newborn King might be found “so he could worship Him as well.” Then he had hundreds of baby boys murdered at 2 years old or younger. This is historically documented as “The Slaughter of the Innocents.”
Verses 10-17 document the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus had been teaching them for several hours when the Apostles advised Him to send them away because the desert place was void of places to buy food or drink. One boy had brought 2 fish and 5 loaves. It was insignificant in the crowd of 5,000, especially considering that was the number of men and did not include the women and children. Jesus had them divided into groups of 50 to sit in the grass after He taught. Each of them ate their fill and had 12 baskets of leftovers up afterward. That is, there was more leftover than the initial 5 loaves and 2 fish He started with.
Verses 18-27 begin with Jesus’ questions to the Apostles on whom men say that He is. This is the focal passage for today’s study, so much will be said on these passages below this introduction. Verse 27, while it is the last verse of our study passage, is also the transitional verse into the next chapter discussing the Transfiguration of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Verse 27 documents Jesus’ promise that some standing there with Him would not see death until they had seen the Kingdom of God.
Understand the Context (Luke 9:29-62)
Verse 28 serves as another transitional verse in the chapter showing that the Transfiguration took place 8 days after the feeding of the 5,000. Peter, James and John went with Jesus to the mountain to pray. Matthew and Mark say it took place 6 days after the feeding of the 5,000 while Luke says it was about 8 days. Is it okay that “6 days” is “about 8 days?” (Matt 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-10 & Luke 9:28-36). Notice here that those adding chapter and verse markings ended the chapter after Jesus’ promise of seeing the Kingdom and the subsequent vision of the Kingdom. The importance of the vision is that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were there representing each of the body types in the Millennial Kingdom: Jesus, who died and was resurrected, had a glorified body, Moses who died and had a spiritual body and Elijah who never died but was simply taken up. Peter wanted to erect statues to celebrate the vision, but God spoke from Heaven to listen to His Son.
Verses 37-42 returns briefly to Jesus’ healing ministry as a man asks Him to heal his son after His disciples failed to do so. This resulted in one of the times Jesus showed some frustration over the lack of faith of some who followed Him. Jesus had the man’s son brought to Him and He healed him forthwith.
In verses 43-50 Jesus again warns about the arrest, suffering, death and resurrection He must face. The Apostles could not understand the idea that the Messiah would be dying. Recall that there was not yet an understanding that the final fulfillment of the work of the Messiah would be divided into a first and a second coming of Jesus. Jesus would not be putting all authority under His footstool at this coming; rather, it would be after His second coming (1 Cor 15:20-28). Jesus knew that the time was coming when He would present Himself in Jerusalem, and He set His mind on accomplishing it. He came to a town in Samaria, but they rejected Him. James and John asked Jesus if they should call down fire from Heaven on this town. Jesus said no and led them to another town. Jesus rebuked James and John saying He came to save lives rather than take them.
And last, in verses 57-62, Jesus met with those who want to follow Him wherever He went until they found out He had no place to rest His head, that there is no time for burying the dead and once the commitment was made to follow, no person who looked back was worthy of following Him.
Confess Him (Luke 9:18-20)
Jesus was praying with His Apostles, and asked them, “Who say the people that I am?” As the day drew near for Him to start the Passion Week, Jesus must have wondered whether the message God sent Him to deliver was getting out (vs. 18). The answers were probably no surprise to Him. They said the people were saying He might be John the Baptist or Elijah raised from the dead. Recall that Jesus had taught that John was the Elijah returned as the forerunner for Jesus’ ministry (Matt 10:10-13). Some people were suggesting He might be other Old Testament prophets returned. It may have alerted Jesus that they were seeing Him as one of the prophets forerunning the Messiah rather than the Anointed One, Himself.
Whatever the case may have been, Jesus followed up that question with one of more importance. These men were the ones He spent all His time with. He has already told them exactly whom He was. Peter’s response is documented almost verbatim in all 4 Gospels. Peter knows that Jesus is the Anointed One of God; he calls Him the Christ of God (Matt 16:16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20 & John 6:69). But only in Matthew’s account does Jesus’ response contains more information. It may be because Matthew (Levi) was a tax collector and dealt more closely with the heritage of people. Matthew 16:17 reads, “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” So, Jesus attributes Peter’s response directly to the Father, but He adds even more information. Jesus says, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). There is also a necessary distinction here related to upon what rock He will build His church. Peter is the little rock or stone (Greek: Petros) while the big rock or boulder and feminine form (Greek: Petra) is the rock of Peter’s faith. Matthew Henry says it this way, “Peter's confession is this rock as to doctrine” (Matthew Henry Concise on Matthew 16:18). Paul says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9). The Church is the totality of those born-again believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of the worship style they choose. The church is where the Church, those born-again believers in Christ, chose to meet for worship.
Accept His Resurrection (Luke 9:21-22)
At this stage in Jesus’ life, He was living in a paradox between two primary goals. On the one side, Jesus wanted to know that there were people accepting Him for whom He was (is), the Son of the Living God, the Creator of the universe, the One True God. On the other hand, He had to remain cautious that the leaders of the organized religion did not feel threatened too soon. He realized that what was substituting itself as the Jewish religion at this time in history, was held hostage by the Roman Empire and legalistic Jews to keep a very tight and wholly dominant hold on all Jews. In other words, Judaism was being used to control the masses not to worship God. Herod, Pontius Pilot and the Chief Priest (or even the former Chief Priest Caiaphas) were in very tight control over the general population.
esus was not ready to have the general population read in on His identity because He has already experienced at least three similar situations where the population tried to crown Him king before His time was right. In each case, He rejected the coronation by leaving Israel for the area of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24), the area of the Decapolis (Mark 7:31) or the area of Gennesaret (Matt 14:34). Now, as the right time approached, Jesus had to be in closer proximity to the center of where His final efforts must take place - Jerusalem. It was there that the religious leaders have been ready to terminate Him for more than half His ministry. It was there that the likes of Herod and Pontius Pilot could be relied on for a political reaction to the Jewish religious leaders rather than Jewish or even Roman law. So, Jesus told the Apostles that all they just experienced must be kept quiet. They have found the long-awaited Messiah, but again, His time had not yet come. They knew He was in their geographic area. But they also knew of the plots to terminate Him were dangerously close to preventing Him to make it to the cross.
Verse 21 documents the command from Jesus to keep everything they have just learned very quiet. Moderate Jews like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin, were at least secret disciples. So, Jesus refreshes the memories of some of His Apostles concerning His rapidly approaching demise. This would be the way to the cross and the redemption of all mankind. For the time being, that meant they were forbidden to tell anyone what they had learned recently regarding His unquestionably true identity. They learned that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, but for now, they were forbidden to tell others. The primary goal had not changed, Jesus had to make it to the cross to complete His mission.
So, Jesus mentioned the objective He had at the forefront of His mind. He would suffer because Satan was determined to prevent Him from reaching the cross. The cross promised everlasting forgiveness for sin and its associated guilt. Jesus would be rejected because the deceiver was and continues working to minimize the role of God in bringing us back to Himself. The deception of the religious leaders was essential in Satan’s plan because they would lead the people to think condemning the Savior was somehow the right political thing to do to satisfy the authorities. And Jesus must not die on the way to the cross; He must die on the cross to fulfill all Scripture (Isa 53, Psa 22, et al). Once dead, He must fulfill Scripture by being put in a borrowed grave among the rich. Finally, Jesus must be raised without seeing the corruption of the grave as David said, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalms 16:10). He must be gloriously raised from the grave in three days just as Jonas was in the belly of the fish for 3 days and 3 nights (Matt 12:40).
Follow Him Unashamedly (Luke 9:23-27)
Jesus lays out how we follow Him by saying, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. In following Christ, therefore, the emphasis must be on the Lord and not on ourselves. Now, the deceiver will mistake even that command of our Lord to where it will destroy the messenger as he denies the things needful for the body to continue functioning. In other words, Jesus’ command is to KEEP ON denying oneself, but not in a suicidal way. Putting Jesus and His mission ahead of our own is a holy mission, not a harmful one.
Luke writes the words of Jesus just a little differently here than in Matthew and Mark. The idea of taking up one’s cross or doing what it takes to get Jesus’ mission done regardless of the roadblocks is the mission. What Doctor Luke reminds us is that one must decide anew every day to take up his or her personal cross in the image of Christ’s cross (Luke 9:23, Matt 16:24 & Mark 10:21). We all have personal temptations that reduce our dedication to Jesus. Those temptations might be family, friends, jobs, costs, and so forth. Making the decision to grow in our Christian faith everyday despite the other challenges of life is essential to a meaningful life for Christ.
Verses 24 and 25 look like separate discussions to some, but they are perfectly joined and completely germane to Luke’s admonition for our daily recommitment. Verse 24 starts with a discussion of saving versus losing our lives. Here is an example: when I first accepted Christ as Savor and Lord, I was attending college through a full scholarship from the US Air Force. Not only was I legally committed to completing my electronic engineering degree with the highest grades possible, but I was also committed to four years’ active-duty service in the Air Force after graduation. In addition to those commitments, I made a new pledge to read the Bible through in less than a year. After experiencing the frustration of failing to make real progress on Bible reading, I asked my Pastor how I could keep all my competing commitments. To my surprise, he said keep the commitments you made to the Lord first, and He will multiply the time back to you. He said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt 6:33). Full of skepticism, I tried doing my planned Bible reading first, and used the rest of my time for answering secular commitments. After maintaining that commitment for a week, I reported to the Pastor that I was astonished how God gave me much more time than I had before to keep my secular commitments. I did not know how that worked, but it did. I accepted that practice as a lifestyle.
The application to verses 24 and 25 was obvious to me. Whenever I stole my time for Bible study to do secular work, my time for keeping other commitments was extremely limited. That is, whenever I tried to save my own life, I ended up losing it. Whenever I keep my worship commitments first, I always had more time to respond to secular requirements. That is, when I lost my life for Christ’s sake, I actually saved my life (time) for other efforts. Verse 25 could be stated, “What does a person gain if he succeeds in all his secular efforts but fails in his commitments to the Lord?” It is a wasted life because this life will pass away and everything that goes with it, but what we gain in the Lord goes with us. By the way, this way of living also goes back to Verse 23 in a way of denying one’s self.
Follow Him Unashamedly (Luke 9:23-27)
Verse 26 uses the word “for” to connect to verses 23-25 while transitioning from the earthly context to a Heavenly one. “Denying one’s self and taking up his cross daily” are things we can do here while doing something with our heavenly reword in mind is different. In our daily experience at work, in school or even at home, we get involved in discussions that reveal who we really are. Being a Christian is a life-changing experience and shows up in everything we do. When graduate from a college class, get a promotion at work, have a new child or buy a new home, we tell everyone with whom we come into contact. But somehow, if we become a Christian or recommit our stand with Christ, we keep it a secret. Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
Living a normal life means we find ways to get God into those discussions. Besides that, if we take Christ’s commission to share the Gospel seriously, it is essential that we learn where people around us stand with Christ. I like to say things like, “Hasn’t God given us a beautiful day today?” or, when something good happens I say, “God is good” and see how people around me react. Their reactions tell me what part of the Gospel I should share with them next. Of course, the world’s leadership tells us that we can never talk about religion or politics at work, school or even home. The border between the two ways of looking at things is the word obnoxious. If we handle talking about Jesus unwisely, we will be in trouble with leadership. Remember, there are people who will get angry if you talk about your favorite football team unless it is their team as well. Keep in mind that whenever a witness causes an offense, we lose the opportunity for follow on discussion with that person. Be quick to apologize and restore the relationship for the sake of the Gospel at some future time. Remember the primary objective for effective evangelism is to have another meeting. People who refuse to show they are Christians deny the Lord as described in this verse. But being obnoxious about your faith loses opportunities. Let your light shine.
Verse 27 finishes our discussion with the shocking truth that the time for reckoning comes much sooner than we thought it might. Whether we are talking about the end of this life for ourselves or when Jesus returns to take His church home, the end of our time will be sooner than we thought. Here we have an announcement that some of the apostles hearing Jesus speak this message would live long enough to see the Kingdom of God. This statement is made in all three synoptic Gospels. In Matthew and Luke, it is the last verse of the chapter (Matt 16:28 & Luke 9:27). In Mark, it is the first verse of the subsequent chapter (Mark 9:1). Regardless of where this verse is shown, it announces the Transfiguration of Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and hence, a vision of the Kingdom of God just as Jesus promised. The writers show the three different kinds of people in the Millennial Kingdom that are seen together in the same transfigured state in this verse. Jesus represented those who died and were resurrected (He was the first fruits of those), Moses represented those who died and were buried before entering Heaven and Elijah represented those who never died but were taken up to Heaven. So, Peter, James and John were privileged to see “the Kingdom of God” before they died. Jesus’ prophetic statement was fulfilled.
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