Following Jesus: Luke 5.1-11

What’s your mission in life? Have one? Ever thought about it even? I don’t mean your job. I mean the biggest possible window through which you view your purpose in life.

In Luke 5 we meet a major theme in Luke’s gospel. Discipleship is about following Jesus and taking somebody else with us. This is the passage about the miraculous catch of fish. And while we might have heard the story taught with great emphasis on the fish, it’s not actually about the fish. In Luke 5.1-11 we get three words from Jesus and a response from Simon Peter.

A (general) word from Jesus (:1-3). Jesus is preaching next to the Sea of Galilee and gets pressed by the crowd. He’s probably preaching about the Kingdom of God that is present where he is. Now is the time to embrace the reign and rule of God!

A (particular) word from Jesus (:4). Jesus is up to something special here. Turning from his general preaching to everybody, Jesus focuses on one man. Jesus chooses the boat of Simon Peter and puts out a bit from the shore to preach, his voice carrying on the water, Simon apparently at the oars.

After finishing his teaching, Jesus and Simon (and those with him) have a moment together. Maybe, Simon wanders what to ask the rabbi. But then, Jesus surprises him: Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch (:4).

A (complex) response from Simon Peter (:5-10a). Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! … Verse 5, especially the second half, is the sleeper key verse to the passage. These guys are tired. “Toiled” means “faint from weariness, spent from labor”. More than that, they’ve brought in no fish. Their outing has been a failure. I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired and feeling like a failure I don’t feel like being instructed, do you? And it’s right then when Jesus decides to give Simon fishing advice: let down your nets. 

There’s technical tradesman stuff going on here. According to Darrell Bock, my old teacher and favorite commentator on Luke, there’s two kinds of nets fishermen used on the Sea of Galilee. There’s Diktua, deep-water trolling nets used for night fishing. And there’s Amphiballovtas, shallow-water casting nets used for casting and morning fishing. It’s morning, but Jesus says, Lower your diktua, Simon. Basically, Jesus is telling Simon to ice fish with a fly rod. Jesus’ lesson doesn’t have anything to do with fishing.

Simon’s response is wonderful:  … but at your word I will let down the nets. Notice the shift in pronouns. We toiled, but I will do what you say. Simon is responding to Jesus, putting himself in the place to be taught by Jesus. And boy does he catch fish! The other guys have to come and help, and the boats start to sink. And right there in the midst of all these fish, Simon falls down and, undistracted by all going on around him, exclaims Depart from me, for I am a sinful man …

See what’s going on here? Simon recognizes Jesus. Simon understands that he is in the presence of the holy God. And he understands that he is a sinner and can’t be in God’s presence.

A (simple) word from Jesus (:10b-11). Do not be afraid, Jesus says. I’m not going to judge you. I’ve got what you need. And here it is … your MISSION. From now on you will be catching men (:10b). While catching fish meant death to the fish, catching men means life for men and women. And then, everybody leaves the catch of a lifetime and follows Jesus (:11). This only goes to show that the wildest success in our old lives pales in comparison to following Jesus.

I don’t believe Simon Peter is necessarily saved here. Luke 9.20 records Peter’s profession of who Jesus is: You are the Christ of God. And I believe that somewhere in Luke 5-9 Peter trusts Jesus and is saved. I do believe that in this passage Simon Peter learns what he’s to be all about in this life.

And, as we await Jesus’ second coming, that is still what his followers are all about. Following Jesus involves a response to Jesus that includes bringing others along. 

Have you trusted in Jesus? If so, who are you bringing along to get to know Jesus?

We bring others along when we include them in our lives in order to tell them about Jesus. At first, this might look like picking a neighbor up for church … inviting a friend to small group … introducing a new lady to a mom’s group where she will learn about Christ … going fishing with some other believers, but then including a new guy … making a point of sitting down with our own sons or daughters to read the Bible together, memorize Scripture together, pray together.

Luke 5.1-11 doesn’t include the gospel. In a manner of speaking, the gospel hasn’t happened yet because Jesus hasn’t been to the cross. What we do see in this passage is the promise of the mission of every believer, starting with Simon Peter. We’re to follow Jesus, trusting in him for the forgiveness of sins …

… And, we’re to take somebody else along!


Talk about it:

  1. Who took you along when you were a young believer?
  2. Who are you taking along now?
  3. What ought this relationship to look like? What should we do when we are discipling one another?

Have a great week, in the Lord!


Praise for God and His Kingdom: Psalm 145

This week, with a great many of our Woodland women off on retreat, we’ll be jumping out of Luke. In that gospel we have been traveling through a section (chapters 4-9) that emphasizes Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus’ central message, we’ve seen, involves the Kingdom of God—the reign and rule of God that is most immediately present in the person of Jesus. So, when Jesus is on the scene, there’s ” … good news to the poor … liberty preached to the captive … sight to the blind … freedom to those oppressed (4.18).

But, Jesus didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, testimony of God’s reign and rule have been available since the creation of the world. And, Psalm 145, attributed to King David, is one of those places that describes God’s kingdom by telling us about the great, mighty, awesome ruler Himself. This, we are learning in Luke, is the ruler who sent Jesus!

But, what is to be our response to God’s kingdom? This response is the subject matter of Psalm 145.

First, we’re to praise God from one generation to the next (:1-13a). We do this because … God’s greatness is unsearchable (:1-3) … God is worth being excited about (:4-7) … God is gentle to us in our sin (:8-9) … God’s work will bless Him in the end (:10) … and God’s reign and rule will not end (:11-13a).

And here’s the message we’re to pass along to others: Your [God’s] kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations (:13a, ESV). God’s reign and rule have always existed and will always exist. We get to be a part of praising Him for His glory … might … and glorious splendor. 

Second, we’re to praise God for His care (:13b-21). We do this because … God shows His might by His compassion (:13b-16) … God responds to those who call on Him (:17-20) … and God has made us to praise Him (:21).

The real test of a leader is what he or she does with his or her power. Real leaders bless and don’t dominate. Real leaders build  up others from their resources. They don’t leverage their power for their own gain. This is true of earthly leaders, because this is true of God. God’s character is seen most clearly in how He treats the weak. There’s a twist here, however: only those who know they need God see this aspect of His character. And then, God responds to them!

Psalm 145 doesn’t mention Jesus, does it? And yet, in God’s unfolding story of redemption (that we’re learning about in the Gospel of Luke), we see that the sending of Jesus is the crucial act of God that reveals God’s reign and rule. At the cross, and at the tomb, God’s reign and rule became actual for those who would depend on Jesus by faith.

And, for us …?

Our proper response to God’s reign and rule is praise to God for His work in Jesus. 

How about you? Why don’t you consider the following questions, in light of Psalm 145 and God’s story of redemption:

  1. What has God done that we need to tell the next generation about?
  2. How has God shown kindness to you?

Take some time to discuss these questions with others this week. And have a great week, in the LORD!

Jesus’ Authority … Proclaim it!

We’ve made it! In our weekly run up to Sunday, on a week that didn’t include our Sunday meeting, we’re preparing to meet again at Woodland!

Sunday, we’ll finally consider Luke 4.31-44, on the authority of Jesus. (Have a look at the blog post released two installments ago.) If you’re in a small group (and might have already looked at the passage), do consider the thought-provoking questions below.

The authority if Jesus is demonstrated in and proclaimed by those who belong to him. 

Here’s the questions:

  1. If you know Jesus in a saving way, where has God shown His power in your life?
  2. What strongholds has He broken down in Jesus’ name?
  3. Where does your heart, together with its habits, need a word from Jesus?
  4. If you don’t know Jesus in a saving way, could it be that today is your day to recognize Jesus’ authority in the Gospel and begin depending on Him?


See you Sunday, at Woodland …


Authority of Jesus: Luke 4.31-44

With a winter storm moving in and decisions being made about gathering everybody together tomorrow morning, we’re thinking about the authority of Jesus.

Have you ever worked with a real authority? If you’re a teacher, maybe you’ve been trained by or worked with somebody who knew how to manage students, content, time and the teaching environment. Students would finish the course and then go on to succeed in other venues. If you’re a home builder, you’ve hopefully worked with somebody who not only knew how to draw up the house, but then build it, and have others move in and make the structure a home.

In authority, there’s a connection between what is said and what is done and what is believed and who is followed.

Luke 4.31-44 describes Jesus’ move north to Capernaum. The passage contrasts with his ministry in Nazareth where he wasn’t received and did no miracles … Is not this Joseph’s son?

This passage is a ministry sampler documenting demonstrations of power that accompany Jesus’ speaking ministry. The passage ends with a summary message about Jesus’ purpose.

Jesus will demonstrate power over the supernatural world (:31-37). Unlike the synagogue service in Nazareth that appeared dead and formal, the service in Capernaum is attended by a man with a demon! (How interesting that Jesus responds in the latter setting, but not the former). The demon speaks in the plural (using “us”) and appears to believe that he cannot be exorcised without the man being destroyed. Jesus, however, separates the two—the demon (not an image-bearer and unredeemable) is sent away, the man is “unharmed”. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits …?”

Jesus demonstrates power over the natural world (:38-39) and demonstrates power for those in bondage (:40-41). Two other demonstrations of power follow. We meet Simon (Peter), and his mother-in-law is healed of a disease with a high fever. Once again, Jesus “rebukes” the disease, but this appears to be a natural ailment and not the direct result of demonic activity. A further healing scene shows Jesus touching “every one” brought to him. Demons cry out and flee at his very presence. No discussion.

Jesus will show that his Kingdom message is in keeping with his mission and God’s purpose (:42-44). Then, after a long night of ministry, Jesus departs. People come to him and beg him not to leave (how different than those at Nazareth and the demons). And, Jesus claims his teaching mission: I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose (:43).

Jesus has displayed power to demonstrate the authority of his kingdom message.

Zoom out for a second. Jesus isn’t physically with us. That’s the reason people aren’t coming up from the dead. That’s the reason diseases are still with us. But, what about us? How does God show His mighty power where we are between Jesus’ two comings?

Right now, God doesn’t normally raise people from the dead and heal all our diseases. That is part of the future or “not yet” fulness of the kingdom involving the restoration of all things that includes the resurrection of our bodies to sinlessness (1 Cor 15) and glorification (Rm 8.31). At the same time, there is a “now” aspect of the Kingdom of God where God shows His power in our lives.

Look for God’s present power in these verses: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1.13).

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses … He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Col 2.13, 15).

This release from sin’s stronghold on our lives in no less miraculous than Jesus’ display over demonic power in his earthly ministry. In fact, it’s more miraculous, because Jesus has now been to the cross. We see his power each time a life is changed, and one of us image-bearers turns to him in dependance! And then, we give praise to God and talk it, because Jesus has done his work in our lives!

The authority of Jesus is demonstrated in and proclaimed by those who belong to him!

How about you?

  1. If you know Him, where has God shown His power in your life? What did it look like when you trusted Jesus the first time?
  2. What strongholds has God broken down in Jesus’ name?
  3. Where do the habits of your heart need a word from Jesus?

And, if you’re in the Midwest, with our record-breaking snows this weekend, do stay safe and warm. If you’re elsewhere, envy us for all our exciting weather! And give thanks that we each have our special places to live …

Responding to Jesus: Luke 4.14-30

Have you ever felt coolness toward God and His things? Sure, you have. Me too.

Having given his account of Jesus’ baptism and temptation, Luke now records the actual beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And, well, Jesus is turning the place upside down. He’s going about Galilee in the power of the Spirit, teaching in the synagogues, being “glorified by all” (:15, ESV).

Things go well when he arrives in his hometown of Nazareth, at first at least. Luke gives us the interesting account of a 1st century synagogue service in which Jesus is chosen to speak, and then reads and expounds passages from Isaiah 58 and 61.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor … to proclaim liberty for the captives … recovering of sight to the blind … liberty to those who are oppressed … to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

Everyone must have sat up when Jesus concludes the reading by saying, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (:21).This must have been exciting! Jesus’ kinsmen and neighbors had heard of Jesus’ teaching in the surrounding region. Now, Jesus has come here. Imagine the expectations.

Even with as much momentum as Jesus appears to have in this first part of the account, there’s a little hitch. Do you see it? Like a chair that gets tripped over in the dark, there’s a stray comment that hangs out in the passage: Is not this Joseph’s son? 

This is revealing of their expectations. They’re saying, Since this is our local boy, certainly God is going to bless us over-and-above those other places where Jesus has been teaching. Maybe, if he does something really good, we’ll respond … maybe?

It’s also revealing of their heart condition. They’re saying that they are good enough the way they are; they’re content in their own righteousness. And that’s where Jesus goes with a little parable: Physician, heal yourself. He’s reading their minds, and they’re saying, Because you’re one of us, give us a double shot of that good medicine you’ve given others in those Gentile regions, like Capernaum. Bring it on!

In response, Jesus tells two stories from Israel’s past. And, believe me, they’re momentum changers, because his meaning is unmistakable. The first is from 1 Kings 17-18, during the time of Elijah, when evil king Ahab ruled. God’s people didn’t get any goodies in those days, but an outside in Zarepheth did, a widow unrelated to God’s people. The second and better known story comes from 2 Kings 5.1-14. Many lepers in Israel were left untreated, but God chose to work in the life of one Namaan, a Syrian.

The response of those who but minutes before had lauded Jesus is swift and terrible. They drive him to the edge of a cliff and attempt to cast him off.

Why did they get so angry? Well, Jesus had exposed and touched a nerve. And, it’s the same nerve the Spirit of God touches in me and you, sometimes, when we’ve grown cool toward God.

The stories Jesus told recounted why God chose not to act. The Israelites in the 1-2 Kings accounts were content in their own self-righteousness. They wanted God’s wonders, but on their terms, not God’s. The Nazarenes in Jesus’ day were the same: they wanted a double-shot of God’s kingdom blessings, because they thought they knew who Jesus was, but they didn’t want to change.

All this gets a little close to home! Many times I want to see God do extraordinary things in my life. And, I might even get a little jealous at God’s work in those who seem a bit more undeserving than I am. This usually takes place when I’m weary of my routine. Get up … load the stove … dishes … drive places … take people places … emails and phone calls … work like crazy on my message, just like last week … Oh, where did the day go? Oh, why doesn’t God make my life bigger and better?

How would it be if, more often, I recognized God’s extraordinary work in the ordinary? Yes, this is “Joseph’s son,” but he’s the one bringing the kingdom. How do I change to know your blessing, God, through Jesus? Forgive me my spiritual pride that makes me want your blessing on my terms, not yours!

The reason people often refuse to respond to Jesus (or grow cool when they already have) is spiritual pride that expects God to work on their terms, not on His terms.

And, you know what, when I bring those bits and pieces of my day to God and ask the Lord to change me and redeem the ordinary business of my life, God is going to do extraordinary work, because that common business becomes the entry-point for His kingdom work.

Really! It’s not the fullness of the kingdom. The healing of all sickness and the release of all those in poverty await Jesus’ second coming. But, God’s kingdom work takes place, extraordinarily, when my conversation with a teenager now leads to Jesus’ work and an opportunity for redemption and spiritual release. God’s work takes place, extraordinarily, when I join those stacking chairs so his people can meet again and hear God’s word.

None of God’s extraordinary work happens when I’m proud, or on my terms. Like in Jesus’ own day, Luke 4.14-30 helps us understand what God is doing now. And, it helps us understand what God won’t do, ever.

How about about you? Take a minutes to reflect on the passage and think about some questions:

  1. One challenge in this passage involves discerning why Jesus’ kinsmen and neighbors would turn on him so quickly? Can you put in your own words why you think this happened? What spiritual condition were they revealing? 
  2. Have you ever know anybody to reject Jesus? Why did they say they were rejecting him, and how were their reasons like those in Nazareth?
  3. How are those who are trusting Jesus not exempt here? How is our coolness toward God not unlike those who reject him entirely? Is there a sense that we, also, have our expectations set on the way we think Jesus ought to act toward us?
  4. We won’t really see this till next week, but what is the proper response we ought to have toward Jesus? How do you think those in the 1-2 Kings stories who were blessed by God and those in Capernaum responded to Jesus? What set them apart and made them different than those who reject Jesus in this passage?
  5. How do you need to depend on Jesus so that “Joseph’s son” will touch the ordinary events of your life? What do you do in the business of the day that could become the starting place for God’s kingdom work in someone else’s life?

Jesus, Faithful Son: Luke 4.1-13

Have you ever fallen to temptation? Of course, you have.

Falling to temptation is part of our fallenness that’s all part of our present state of humanity. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But, not really.

In Adam, our first parent, we fell (Genesis 3; Romans 5.12). That’s where humanity is stuck at the moment. But then … (leaving a lot out here) … Jesus came! Jesus, the Son of God, serves as the new Adam, the head of a new, redeemed humanity. And, when we place our faith in Him, He becomes our new representative.

That’s the backstory to Luke 4. At His baptism the young man Jesus has been declared to be God’s choice to represent this new humanity: You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (3.22). Then, we get Jesus’ genealogy, taking us all the way back to the first Adam. Now, in 4.1-13, Jesus will stand in for temptation where Adam failed.

But, it’s hardly an academic exercise. What’s really at stake is Jesus’ mission, and our destiny. Reading the account as though we don’t know the end of the story (which we do), it would seem that God’s plan of redemption and our eternal destiny both stand on the edge of a knife.

As the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness for temptation, Jesus is tested for 40 days. We don’t know details here, but we are told that at the end of that period, Jesus undergoes three summary tests, offered by God’s adversary, the Devil. These involve a stone to be turned to bread; the kingdoms of the world that Satan says he has the power to offer to Jesus, in exchange for worship; and, a flying leap off the porch of the temple into the valley 450 feet below—the natural consequences of which will be avoided by angelic intervention, Satan says. These three temptations amount to a test of trust (Will YOU meet my needs?); a test of worship? (Are YOU enough for me?); and, a contrived test of God’s goodness (Do I trust YOU to protect me, in YOUR time and in YOUR way?).

Where Adam failed, amidst the lush, green provisions of Eden, Jesus succeeds, by clinging to God’s Word and being obedient to God’s mission.

My representative in temptation (by faith)—proving faithful where Adam failed—is JESUS, the Son of God.

Application for us isn’t hard. We don’t want to turn stones to bread, but we live in the tension of wondering whether God is worthy of our trust—for wisdom in our jobs and families, for material provision, for companionship and emotional wholeness. Will YOU meet my needs, God? 

And, most of us wouldn’t think of falling down to worship the Devil, but we face a dizzying constellation of potential idols that might take God’s place in our lives. Even good things—our children, our ministries, youth sports, technology and entertainment, in its many forms. Are YOU enough, God? 

Finally, we wouldn’t throw ourselves off a high building, I hope, but we have a human propensity for manufacturing tests for God: IF You are God, please heal this disease … bring back my wayward child … get me a husband, or a wife!

In the midst of all these temptations, we can stand the tests, because Jesus did … because Jesus has been to the cross … because we’re filled with one and the same Spirit that now points to Jesus.

We’re part of God’s new humanity (Romans 5.12-21; 1 Corinthians 15.20-28, 45-49). Jesus is our mighty hero. Jesus is God’s obedient Son and our representative.


Spend some time in Luke 4.1-13 and have a look at these questions:

  1. The story of Jesus’ temptation by the Devil is a multi-layered, true account of Jesus’ victory over Satan where others failed. Look at Jesus’ response and note where the Old Testament citations come from. Consider also that the temptation took place in the wilderness. In addition to Adam, who else failed to obey God? What do you think Luke is suggesting about Jesus’ place in the Nation of Israel?
  2. Of the three temptations we read about, which of them (tests of trust, worship and God’s goodness) do you find yourself most susceptible to? Do you have any stories where God has brought these struggles to your attention and led you through confession and victory?
  3. Is Jesus necessarily your representative? We’re all born “in Adam,” but something must take place for Jesus to represent us. What is it?
  4. How does this account help you trust Jesus with your life? Why is He worthy? (Think of what He could have gotten out of by giving into Satan’s temptations. In that case (perish the thought), who would have been left behind?
  5. What does this account suggest about the importance of clinging to God through His Word? What did Jesus do? How did He counter Satan’s distractions?



Jesus, Mighty Hero: Luke 3.21-38

Who are some of your favorite epics? You know, the big grand stories with heroes? The Iliad … The Odyssey … Beowulf … The Lord of the Rings … Narnia … Star Wars.

Now, who are the heroes of these epics? Can you list them? (How about Achilles … Odysseus … Beowulf … Aragorn, Bilbo and Frodo … Aslan … and the Skywalkers).

The Bible isn’t fantasy or mythology, but it does tell a story. It’s the big, wonderful, cosmic story of redemption, and I bet you know who the hero is … Jesus, right?

When we come to Luke 3.21-38 we’ve met John the Baptist. He isn’t the Christ, but he’s introducing the Christ: … he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire (:16)

That’s going to be Jesus, and in the next passage we meet Jesus. We meet Jesus when He comes to be baptized, not because He needs the “baptism of repentance,” but because He’s identifying with those who do. The Godhead approves: the heavens open (one of those moments, like in Acts 7.57, when mortals see beyond the veil); the Spirit of God descends on Jesus; and, the Father speaks, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (:22).

Then, Luke does something we moderns wouldn’t do, but something terribly effective: he gives us Jesus’ genealogy. There’s interesting things here. Jesus is linked to David, indicating that Jesus is a kingly figure; Jesus is linked to Abraham, the father of promise; and, Jesus’ linage is taken all the way back to Adam, the son of God.

Here’s the idea: Jesus is the new Adam who is God’s choice to represent all humanity. And, where Adam failed, Jesus will now succeed. He’s here to give humanity a new beginning!

After Jesus’ victory at the cross, the Apostle Paul will develop this theme in Romans 5.12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15.20-28 and 45-49. But, at this point in the epic we don’t yet know what kind of hero Jesus is. Full of humanity as He is, what will happen if you remove every Hunan advantage from Him? Will He really succeed where Adam failed?

And, what happens when Jesus meets God’s Adversary, the Devil, who will give anything, even the kingdoms of this world to which he has laid claim, to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross.

God’s choice to rescue fallen humanity is Jesus. 

Do you catch the suspense here? If Jesus can fail (and, I don’t think He can, but think about it for argument’s sake), God’s plan of redemption is ruined. The Devil wins. You and I lose, eternally. The story of redemption doesn’t get written. God isn’t gloried.

That didn’t happen. That won’t happen. And, it’s because of Jesus, our mighty hero, that we read this account in Luke with fascination to see how God the Father brought us to Himself, through His Son, Jesus.

Read through Luke 3.21-38 and answer some questions about what Luke is doing in his account. s

  1. Have you ever thought of the Bible as an epic story? If you do, what would be the setting, the complication, the climax, and the resolution?
  2. If you do think of the Bible as the big, wonderful, cosmic story of redemption, how does thinking of Jesus as the hero help you understand the story?
  3. Where are you in this story? Are you following Jesus the hero, who died to bring you into His kingdom?
  4. Have you ever thought of Jesus, the new Adam? Read through Paul’s description of Jesus and His work in Romans 5.12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15.20-28 and 45-49. How does this theme help you understand what Jesus came to do?
  5. Since Jesus is God’s choice of a mighty hero to rescue fallen humanity, what kinds of things do you want to know about Jesus? (Maybe, these are the very questions Luke will answer for us in the remainder of his gospel).

Spend some time in the Gospel of Luke. And have a great week learning about Jesus!

Responding in Repentance: Luke 3.1-20

In this week’s passage we move from Luke’s account of Jesus’ adolescence to Luke’s account of the adult life of Jesus the Christ.

But, before we read of Jesus’ mission, we learn of the mission of His slightly older cousin, John, commonly called “John the Baptist”. John introduces Jesus by calling people to turn from their sin and turn to God. This is called repentance. And, while John’s message and baptism are unique to his own ministry before Jesus comes on the scene, this passage remains instructive for us.

Why don’t you read through Luke 3.1-20? Then, discuss the following questions with someone who has, likewise, read the passage.

John uses lots of images in his teaching (vipers … fruit … axes and dead trees … straps on sandals … wheat stored away in barns … chaff that’s burned in the fire). Yet, the overarching picture from John’s prophecy is that of final judgment and accountability for sin. Why is this necessary? Why must sin be judged?

What do people think of sin and judgment and hell today? What are they giving up when they decide not to dwell on issues of ultimate justice before God?

Verse 8 gives us an indication about what some people were trusting in to shield themselves from the judgment to come? What were they trusting in? What are people trusting in today?

In verse 18, we’re told that John’s message was “good news”. In light of later verses like Romans 5.9, why is this the case? How could any message of judgment be “good”?

In the end, are we really saved by repentance alone? Or is repentance part of the greater work of God’s Spirit who leads us to Christ?

What does Herod’s treatment of John in verses 19-20 indicate about the kind of treatment those who repent of their sins and trust Jesus can expect to receive from those who don’t repent and turn to Jesus?

Overall Objective: Luke 2.41-52

What’s the overall objective of your life? Have one? Ever thought of that?

Reflecting on the Second World War, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote in his memoirs,

Advantage is gained in war and also in foreign policy and other things by selecting from many attractive or unpleasant alternatives the dominating point … failure to adhere to this simple principle produces confusion and futility of action, and nearly always makes things much worse later on (The Gathering Storm, 225).

In Luke 2.41-52, Jesus is a twelve-year-old boy. He and his parents have made the three-t0-four day journey to Jerusalem for Passover. After the ceremonies and celebrations, his parents can find Him nowhere. Three days after first missing Him, they find Jesus in the Temple listening to the teachers and asking question.

The crux of this passage lies in the relationship between verses 48 and 49.

Mother Mary: Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress. 

The boy Jesus: Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? 

Notice the contrast here, between the earthy house of Joseph and the heavenly house, located in that time (before Jesus’ official coming) in the Temple. Jesus is not being “cheeky” here. He’s saying, As a child I belonged in my earthly father’s house, but now I belong increasingly in my heavenly Father’s house where I’m seeking to know God. In other words, He’s saying, I will be obedient to you NOW, but my overall objective is to know God and do His will.

Knowing God and doing His will would eventually lead Jesus to the cross. His parents didn’t get this (:50). Later, his disciples won’t get this (See 9.44-45). And, sometimes, as we seek to know God through Jesus among doing a whole host of good things, we don’t get this!

But, we can!

We can understand that, unlike Jewish people before the coming of Jesus, we don’t need to go to a place to seek God. Instead, we seek God through Jesus, who took our sins on Himself and credits us with his perfect righteousness when we trust Him by faith. And, we can make seeking to know God through Jesus our overall objective.

So, this week I took my kids to Milwaukee on a field trip, cross-country skied (and crashed five times), visited somebody who is sick, finished a book, and tucked my four-year-old into bed.

All of these are good things, but none of them is the main thing. All of them (except crashing on skis) is a do-over, but they’re all things that have to be done in faith.

Jesus, in Luke 2.41-52, helps me with this. In this bridge passage that shows Jesus moving from childhood to adulthood, we see Jesus grappling with the tension of multiple priorities, but prevailing to make the seeking of His Heavenly Father the main thing in His life. We can do the same, by seeking God, in Jesus.

Our proper overall objective is seeking God through Jesus in every corner of our lives.


How about you? Find somebody to discuss with and have a crack at these questions after reading through Luke 2.41-52:

What can we learn from Luke 1-2 about the progress Jesus made in His humanity, as He learned to seek God? Notice the progression of Jesus as baby (2.16) … child (2.40) … boy (2.43) … and, finally, Jesus the young man (2.52). Consider also what it meant for Jesus to increase “in favor with God and man” (:52).

How practical is it to make seeking to know God through Jesus the overall objective of your life?

How practical is it to make seeking to know God through Jesus the overall objective of your life?

What would it look like to bring all your various activities and endeavors under this overall objective?

What does it actually look like when we do bring all our endeavors and activities under the objective of seeking God through Jesus? What does it look like when we don’t do this?

What will this cost us, if we do? What did it cost Jesus? 

Is it worth it? What do we gain, if we do seek God through Jesus and make this the overall objective of our lives?

What questions do you have about Jesus do you have as we move from learning about Jesus the young boy to learning about Jesus the adult teacher?






Growing in Faith at Christmas: Luke 1.57-80

Has God ever called a timeout in your life so that you could grow?

This week, in Luke 1.57-80, we consider the birth of John the Baptist, and think especially about his father, Zechariah. Remember, Zechariah had been taken aback a bit at the angel’s announcement of his wife’s pregnancy: How will this be?  (1.18). God responded by making Zechariah deaf and mute, so that he’d have time to ponder what God was doing.

Zechariah’s naming of his son “John” at the baby’s birth, and in obedience to God’s command, indicates that Zechariah has grown in faith during his time of silence. Then, Zechariah responds by speaking of what God will do through the boys, John and Jesus.

In the same way, many of us get time to ponder during the Christmas season. Much has happened since Zechariah praised God at John’s birth. Jesus has come in the flesh! He’s died for our sins, and we await His return. Still, Zechariah’s response, even as he was released from his time of silence, can be a pattern for us during these deep and rich days after Christmas.

Growth in faith for each of us this Christmas looks like recognizing our need for God and responding to the saving work of Jesus. 

Maybe, you’d like to do the following:

  1. Take some time this Christmas to consider your need. What areas of my life am I keeping from God? Where do I need to trust Him like never before? 
  2. Then, just read the Gospel of Luke. Get to know the Savior. Learn more about how God will accomplish His purposes through Jesus.

And, have a blessed and Merry Christmas! See you next week …