Waiting on Jesus: Luke 8.40-56

Have you ever had to wait for something? Maybe, you wanted to grow out a bad haircut. Or, like many of us in the Northwoods, you waited for plants to emerge from the ground after a long winter.

In Luke 8.40-56, we learn about a fantastic double miracle. Both recipients rely on Jesus to care for them. One recipient has to wait on Jesus.

An Urgent Request (:40-4a). Jesus and His disciples have just returned from the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They’re met by crowds which, in Luke, often function as curious, uncommitted onlookers. Suddenly, the leader (arch-leader, in fact) of the synagogue is at Jesus’ feet. It turns out that his twelve-year-old daughter is in the act of dying. Jairus has flung himself on Jesus. Jesus responds instantly, and departs to Jairus’ house.

An Immediate Response (:42b-48). While Jesus travels the crowd presses on Him. (The word “presses” is the same word used of the thorns that choke the good plants in 8.14). There’s no room to turn, to maneuver. Stealthily, a woman slips through the crowd. We’re told that she is bleeding. Her disorder is something on the order or a uterine hemorrhage. Doubtless, she’s physically weak and ceremonially unclean. According to the law of the day, anyone touching her would be likewise unclean. It’s deeply personal and psychologically damaging. We’re told she’d suffered so for twelve years, spent all her money, and nobody could help her, until now.

Believing Jesus could heal her she touches the fringe of His garment … and is immediately healed!

Who was it that touched me? Jesus asked (:45, ESV). It’s not that He doesn’t know. He’s up to something. Nobody confesses, so Peter (always with a flair for the obvious) gets involved.

Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you (:45b), Peter contributes. Jesus declares that power has gone out from Him. And, while it sounds a bit Harry Potter-like to us, we’re reminded that power is at the heart of Jesus’ relationship to both the Father and the Spirit (e.g. 1.35).

The woman is exposed. Though healed, her fears are realized. Perhaps, she’s made Jesus unclean. Certainly, she doesn’t want her previous condition made known. But, she is most horrified, perhaps, because she is no longer hidden. Jesus is forcing her outside of herself.

Even so, Jesus recognizes her faith. It’s not that she had much faith, but she had faith in Jesus as the object of her faith. (See also Luke 17.5-6). Jesus declares her at peace (:48). Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace. 

And with that we see that Jairus, an exalted man, has made himself vulnerable, and a vulnerable woman has been exalted.

But, what of Jairus?

A Timely Result (:49-56). Jairus is still there. Waiting patiently, maybe. Until a messenger approaches from the house. Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher anymore … (:49). Jesus’ diversion has cost a life, apparently. We can’t fault Jairus, if only quietly, he is crushed and frustrated at Jesus for dinking around. Certainly, he’s had to wait.

But, Jesus has compassion on Jairus. Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well (:50). Faith is the opposite of fear here. Wait, Jairus … do you still believe?

Jesus enters the house privately. The paid mourners perform outside. She’s dead, and everybody knows it. Yet, Jesus has come to overcome death, and we get a little taste of the endgame here. Jesus takes the girl’s hand and shouts to her, like she’s asleep. (I think he’s playing along here a bit.) The girl is raised; she eats, and life returns to normal. Her parents are amazed, and Jesus (curiously) instructs that nobody be told of the event. He hadn’t come to do miracles; He’d come to die. And the manner of life His followers will live will not consist in one victory after the next, but in suffering and sacrifice until they are transformed and alive with Him.

Like a complex dish of food with many flavors coming through, there are complex themes that come through in this account. The strongest of them may be this one:

Those whom Jesus includes depend on Him to care for them, but in His time. 

Both Jairus and the woman received from Jesus. Jesus said YES to the woman, and she received from Him right away. Jesus also said YES to Jairus; only to Jairus, He said YES, BUT NOT YET. And Jairus had to wait for Jesus while Jesus turned up at the time of His own choosing.

So, have you ever had to wait for Jesus? How do you wait for Jesus well?

I love John 15.7-8: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you (in other words, you’re walking with Jesus), ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 

When we’re waiting for Jesus, anxiously like Jairus, maybe, we need to pray that we’ll grow in faith. We need to pray that God will be glorified. And, we need to know that Jesus always says YES to those in His will. Sometimes, He says YES, NOW. Sometimes, He says YES, NOT YET.

All of this has to be seen in light of the end. As surely has Jesus has overcome death at the cross and the tomb, He’ll return to mop up and take the plunder. (First Corinthians 15 comes to mind.) Some of our requests won’t be granted till then. We’ll be like Jairus who had to wait for Jesus to turn up in His time. But, then it will be YES … YES … YES, in Jesus.

As surely as Jesus has saved us and is coming back, Jesus cares for those who depend on Him.

  1. Which of the two figures in the story do you most identify with? The woman, or Jairus?
  2. Have you ever had to wait on Jesus? What was it like?
  3. Did you grow during your time of waiting? How?
  4. Thinking along the lines of John 15.7-8, what does it mean to pray according to God’s will?
  5. What does it mean for Jesus to say YES, BUT NOT YET to our prayers that are asked according to His will?

Proclaim Jesus! Luke 8.26-39

These have been some fantastic Sunday mornings at Woodland!  This time of year our “snow-birds” return to us; our “cabin people” take up residence; and Forest Springs staff haven’t quite hit the level of activity at which they will find themselves a few weeks from now. These make for wonderful, upbeat Sunday mornings of joy and celebration!

Oh, and we keep learning more about Jesus from the Gospel of Luke! This week, in 8.26-39, we discover yet another unlikely follower of Jesus in the person of the demoniac. Jesus takes His disciples on a kind of spiritual retreat. But what a venue He’s chosen! It’s the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the Gentile side where we imagine a pallid sky, a moonscape filled with rocks and tombs, and a herd of pigs.

Jesus steps out of the boat, and a man approaches (:27). This man has “demons”. And there is a kind of calculated chaos in Luke’s presentation of the number of evil spirits who possess the unfortunate wretch of a man—sometimes it’s one, sometimes many; sometimes the demons use “I”, sometimes “we”. Like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings the man is submerged in darkness of every kind—mental fragmentation, social isolation, physical nakedness and a strength that far surpasses that of any healthy man.

The demon(s) recognize Jesus (:28). What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come here to torment me? Important here is that the demon(s) are absolutely lucid with respect to the reality of their situation: they’re going to be confined to darkness and brought to judgment (see 2 Pet 2.4). Only they don’t want to go there yet. Instead, they prefer to wander in desolate places looking to be hosted by flesh-and-blood creatures (see Luke 11.24-26); and, they’re crying “unfair” to Jesus who threatens to judge them before their time.

Jesus examines the demons (:30). “What is your name?” He asks. Legion, the demons answer, for many demons had entered him. This is instructive. It appears that Jesus will need to demonstrate His authority in a manner not yet shown. Since a great army of demons possess the man, a large number of hosts will be required to possess the spirits, if Jesus is to grant the request. He does, and allows the demons to enter into a herd of pigs who then rush to their destruction (:32-33).

As miraculous of a display of power as this is, we haven’t yet arrived at the point of the account. In verse 34, the herdsmen flee for fear into the city and “announce” (“tell,” in the ESV) what has become of the pigs. In verse 35, those of the city go out to their lost herd, only to find the man in his right mind sitting at Jesus’ feet. Those who find the man “announce” (there’s that word again) what Jesus has done for the man. The man, whom we’ve not yet really met in the story, is now mentally, emotionally, physically, socially at peace. And, he has found JESUS!

Like the demons, the people of the city fear Jesus, because they want something other than Jesus. They ask Jesus to leave, and He does, because He won’t remain where He’s not wanted. Then, while Jesus is getting into the boat (which functions like a pair of bookends in the story), the formerly-possessed man asks to come with Jesus.

Jesus’ reply really makes the story: Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you, Jesus tells him. Then we are told, … he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him (:39).

The major application of the account can be found in the three verbs of proclamation, in the second half of the story: announce … declare … and PROCLAIM.

Sometimes, in our attempt to be informal and friendly, we get too casual about reporting what Jesus has done. This story helps us. Those freed from darkness need to PROCLAIM what Jesus has done. And this brings us to three take-aways:

  1. We all begin in darkness and seek rest in Jesus. The demoniac is an extreme case, but we’re not entirely unlike him. We don’t begin life seeing clearly our spiritual condition. We need the Spirit of God to illumine our situation, and we need peace in Jesus in order to be free from our sins. And this is possible, because, unlike the demons, Jesus died for us.
  2. the Gospel is something we proclaim! Sure, we can talk about “sharing the Gospel”. (I probably won’t give up that language.) But, those who have been freed from darkness won’t talk about Jesus like He’s a marketing plan. We will proclaim the facts of what Jesus has done—at the cross and in our lives.
  3. We at Woodland are increasingly a people who proclaim what Jesus has done. This needs to be our business, in our services, in smaller group studies and home gatherings, and, finally, in our community, as we urge others to trust Jesus and make God’s story of redemption part of their story of redemption.

Those freed form darkness proclaim what JESUS has done!

And so Jesus gathers to Himself yet another unlikely follower. This time He’s displayed previously unseen power over a myriad evil spirits and demonstrated that He is truly “Son of the Most High God,” with power over all God’s creation. And we have once again seen our Savior at work.

Let’s think back to Jesus’ work at the cross this week. And, as we do, let’s tell somebody about what Jesus has done. Then, let’s reflect on what it’s like to find peace from darkness by faith in Jesus. And as we do that, let’s proclaim Jesus all over again.

And, as you do, have a great week in the Lord!

Forgiven Much: Luke 7.36-50

Have you ever felt not worthy? Maybe, you knew you weren’t up to somebody else’s standard, and you knew it. Some of us live in there, don’t we?

Jesus loved much by a sinner needing to know peace (:36-39). In Luke 7.36-50, we meet another unlikely candidate to be a follower of Jesus. The account opens with Jesus being invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee. And, we picture them reclining together, some disciples and other Pharisees around, maybe. The front door of the Middle-eastern home opens on to a courtyard where servants work and mix with the locals.

Then, she enters. That woman whom everybody, except Jesus (it is assumed) knows to be a “sinner,” a”woman of the city”. Bringing a bottle of expensive oil, she anoints Jesus’s feet—weeping from gratitude, wiping Jesus’s feet with her hair, kissing his feet, and anointing his feet all over again.

The scene is an uncomfortable one. Simon responds, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner (:39, ESV). Note that that Simon has now revealed his motive for having Jesus over: he wants to find out what Jesus is all about. Note also that Simon has assigned everybody a category: woman—sinner! Prophet—knows everything and condemns everybody! Jesus—can’t be a prophet, because He hasn’t cast the woman out.

Note also that Simon has only thought this. Jesus, accused of not knowing the woman, responds ironically by not only knowing the woman but knowing what Simon is thinking!

Jesus loved little by a sinner needing to know forgiveness (:40-50). Jesus interrupts Simon’s thoughts. Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered him, “Say it, Teacher” (:40).

Jesus then proceeds to tell a simple story about a man owed the equivalent of 2 months work by one man and 15 months work by another. After cancelling both debts, it is obvious that the man with the greater debt will love the debt-holder more. Simon must agree, and after pointing out Simon’s lack of civility in not offering to wash His feet or give Him the customary kiss of greeting, Jesus sums up the situation: Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little (:47).

The account ends with those around the table beginning to get the picture. If Jesus can forgive sins, then He is (at least) from God. The woman, long judged by others, receives assurance of her forgiveness and the peace that comes from leaving her burden behind. Your faith has saved you; go in peace, Jesus tells her (:50).

Forgiven much … love much … much peace and assurance. 

Some of us relate to the woman. We recognize our sins that are many, grievous, secret and shameful. Yet, we cling to Jesus, knowing He offered Himself, the infinite payment for an infinite number of sins. We experience forgiveness, and we love Jesus … But, we’re yet afraid to enter the presence of those we think have sinned less than us.

Those of us who relate to the woman need to remember whom she looks at while she endured the scorn of those who judged her. Exclusively at Jesus, right?

And, some of us relate (or ought to relate) most to Simon. We’ve hedged our bets; we’ve dabbled in some grey areas, but we’ve never been over the line. We’ve thought of Jesus as a roadside assistant: a “nice, nice Savior who gives us a hand when we break down.” But, if that’s how we view Jesus, we won’t love Him very much. If that’s how we think of Jesus, our eyes won’t be on Jesus, they’ll be on other people, so we can measure ourselves against them.

The tragedy of Simon is that he was every bit the sinner the woman is, only he didn’t know it. The woman experience peace and the confidence that comes from assurance of acceptance by God.

  1. What is it about this true account that makes it such good drama? Where do you feel the tension? Where do you feel the discomfort and, finally, resolution?
  2. Which of the figures in the account proves to be the most unlikely follower for Jesus?
  3. Whom do you relate to in the account? The woman or Simon the Pharisee?
  4. How can we know that we are loving Jesus “little”? How does one remedy a Pharisee-heart like Simon’s?
  5. How should this account affect our fellowship as a church family? How does it change our picture of what the family of God is like?

Commendable Faith: Luke 7.1-10

Have you ever made Jesus “marvel”? How would you know if you had?

Moving through Luke we’ve been following this gospel writer’s broad theme of discipleship. What does it look like to follow Jesus and bring others along?

Now in chapters 7-8, we come to a series of passages that ask and answer the question: Whom does Jesus include as His disciples? After His sobering sermon in chapter 6, you’d think Jesus would include the material poor, those who suffer material loss for their association to Him. And so He will, but Luke has a surprise for us in 7.1-10.

Jesus returns to Capernaum (:1). This account takes place as Jesus moves back to Capernaum. You’d expect Him to move among the materially poor of His own people. Maybe, He’ll preach a sermon in the synagogue. Instead, He receives an envoy from a centurion who doesn’t seem to fit the demographic Jesus is talking about. This man comes from Israel’s enemies, for one thing—the very kind of person Jesus has commanded His followers to love. On top of that, this surprise follower is wealthy.

Jesus responds to humility (:2-6a). In addition to Jesus there’s three figures or sets of players in this account.

Jesus receives a message from a centurion. He’d like Jesus to come and heal his special servant. Commanding 100 soldiers this middle-level commander would be like a captain or major in our military system. We find out in the dialogue that  he’s a lover of the Jewish people; and, he respects the Jewish practice of not allowing a non-Jew to come under the roof of a Jewish home. Jesus is apparently reaching into the upper strata of society. More important, He has found someone who is not materially poor but is yet humble toward God in a spiritual way.

There’s also the centurion’s servant. He’s described as “highly valued,” a word indicating that he’s not just useful, but loved. This man “lingers to die,” and it grieves the centurion. We never meet the servant, but he’s the catalyst for the story.

Then there’s the local Jewish leadership. These men come to Jesus urging Him to act on the part of the centurion. He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue” (:4-5, ESV), they assure Jesus. By their estimation of the centurion, he has earned an audience with Jesus. And, it’s not hard to see how there might be advantage in this for them, too. Today, we could imagine them pressing for a photo opportunity or a “selfie”—them, Jesus, and the Roman centurion. “Don’t mess this up, Jesus,” we imagine them thinking.

And Jesus went with them …

Jesus reacts to recognition of His authority (:6b-9). As Jesus draws near the house, the centurion sends a group of friends with a message. Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof … But say the word and my servant will be healed (:6 … 7b).

Ironic, isn’t it? The man who built the synagogue won’t show off his own house. Contrary to the claim of the Jewish elders, the centurion doesn’t believe himself to be worthy of Jesus.

This centurion understands something about authority. We catch it in his reasoning, also recorded in the message: For I am too a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (:8). The centurion understood that all legitimate authority is granted from God. And, he recognizes what he controls: soldiers here, and there; the occupying force of Israel, in fact. But, there are things he has no authority over: DEATH, in fact! And, in Jesus, the centurion recognizes one with authority over life and death! Just as his soldiers obey him, so sickness and death will obey the Son of God!

Jesus turns to the crowd and “marveled”: I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith (:9).

This is beautiful, because the centurion has just made a picture of the Gospel. When we come to Jesus we bring nothing but our sin. We can’t leverage God, or give Him an assignment. All we can do is “ask”. That’s humility, like the centurion’s. And, when we come to Jesus rightly we throw ourselves on His authority. And God will receive us based on Jesus’ work, not our own.

Jesus restores the sick man (:10). And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. In the anti-climactic ending to the account we have no record of Jesus “saying the word”. Jesus doesn’t meet the sick man. It’s a remote healing! And Jesus doesn’t meet the centurion, either. The emphasis here is not on how you get things from Jesus but on what commendable faith looks like. And this faith makes Jesus marvel!

Jesus commends the faith of those who are humble and recognize His authority.

Here’s a few questions to guide your thinking on this passage:

  1. What observations or insights have you made about this account that are helpful for you?
  2. What are you trusting God for?
  3. How does the Gospel inform how we go about trusting God? (Think about the place of  HUMILITY in the Gospel. We bring nothing to God but our sin. Also, consider Jesus’ AUTHORITY that is His based on God’s acceptance of His work on the cross.)
  4. What things can we pray for that God has already promised to grant those who come to Him?
  5. When we pray according to God’s will (think: John 15.7), we recognize that God can say “yes,” and He can say “not yet”. How is this distinction helpful?
  6. How do passages like Luke 11.9-13 and Galatians 4.6-7 further inform the way we “ask” God for what is dear to our hearts?
  7. Now, how would you describe the kind of faith that makes Jesus marvel?

Have a blessed week, in the Lord!

Blessed Life: Luke 6.20-49

This week, after a fine celebration of our risen Lord, we reconnect with Jesus and His disciples in Luke 6.

Jesus has just chosen 12 men to learn from Him. He’s healed and cast out demons to an extraordinary measure. And, if the 12 were anything like us, I have to believe they were impressed. But then Jesus gives His Sermon on the Plain, which begins, “Blessed are the poor …” And then He goes on to describe all kinds of hardship that will be theirs when the disciples follow Jesus.

The sermon contains clusters of images, commands, principles and illustrations—some of the most memorable in the New Testament, in fact. But we can map it generally by remembering that it contains ONE blessed life (:20-26), TWO blessed responses (:27-38) and THREE pictures of blessing (:39-49).

ONE Blessed Life (:20-26). Jesus begins by describing blessing that will include poverty, actual hunger, real weeping, and being hated. We don’t want to spiritualize these results of following Jesus, because those who experience them have an advantage. The poor, for one, have nobody else to depend on. They’re less likely to be distracted and depend on themselves.

What does Jesus say we’re to do in the day when we suffer like this for Him: Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven (:23).

Jesus is just that much worth it! And the blessed life is a life of joy with sacrifice, but because of Jesus.

TWO Blessed Responses (:27-38). Then Jesus tells us how we’re to process hardship and persecution. Important to understand is that this is not about how to live in society in general. These responses are about how individual believers should live in light of Jesus’ coming while they experience  persecution because of Jesus. 

We’re to love enemies (:27-36). That’s the first response. This is radical, visible, principled and based on God’s mercy. Important is that we don’t operate in the tit-for-tat way everybody who doesn’t know Jesus expects us to act. We don’t use our wealth and resources to give everybody else what we think they have coming. And we don’t even “pay it forward” with other people, expecting to call in favors later. We do imitate the kindness and mercy of God who has forgiven us, even though we don’t deserve it. God Himself is our standard in giving and sharing.

And, we’re to look to our hearts (:37-38). Jesus is not saying we should refuse to seek justice. He is saying that we’re not to be consumed with the actions of those who hurt us. God’s estimate of our lives is based on our response, and our reward in eternity is not blessing in this life but the Father’s pleasure.

THREE Pictures of Blessing (:39-49). Jesus finishes His sermon with three parables that describe spiritual sight, spiritual words, and the spiritual life. These include the well-known pictures of the speck and the beam, the good and bad trees bearing good and bad fruit, and the house built on the rock.

Of the three, the house metaphor is the most developed. The life that endures until Jesus returns is the life built on Jesus.  Notice that it’s not the builder that saves the house, but the foundation. In the same way, the person who looks beyond the immediate insult to see Jesus who is about to come back is the blessed one. Blessing starts now and in this life, it turns out, even while we’re leaning in and waiting for Jesus’ coming.

Have a look at these questions as we think carefully about how to apply this passage.

  1. How does Jesus’ sermon sit with you? What questions do you have still? Do you find the promise of sacrifice with blessing realistic or fanciful?
  2. Why is this sermon so difficult to apply? What keeps us from becoming doormats or totally abused people in this life when we’re trying to live out Jesus’ words?
  3. Is real joy possible when we’re sacrificing for Jesus? In what sense are we blessed now?
  4. What images do you find most powerful and helpful in Jesus’ sermon?
  5. Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand about Jesus’ cross right away. How do we miss our crosses and sometimes expect to go right to glory, in the same way we’ll later see the disciples expected to enter right into the glory of the Kingdom of God. (Think of how easy it must have seemed when Jesus was doing all the “work” in 6.17-19).

Belief and Life in His Name: John 20.19-29

Easter! Resurrection Sunday! While the follower of Jesus lives in the life of the resurrected Jesus every day of the year, Easter Sunday is special!

This morning we consider John 20.19-29 and that first Lord’s Day, evening of the day Jesus arose from the dead, as well as the following Lord’s Day. Thomas missed Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples. At issue for “doubting Thomas” in our passage is not the existence of God or the fact of resurrection. (He was ancient Israelite, and he’d seen Lazarus raised, and many other miracles besides.) At issue for Thomas is the identity of the risen Lord Jesus. What Thomas doesn’t know is whether the Jesus the other disciples claim to have seen is the same Jesus he has grown to know and love and believe in.

If Jesus is a ghost or some other apparition, then Thomas has to start all over again figuring out God’s plan and purpose and what it all means for him. But, if Jesus is the same, then Thomas is right in the middle of God’s plan and can move forward with confidence.

Have a look at John 20.19-29. Note Thomas’ response. Keep in mind that our New Testament is the product of Jesus’ first followers being convinced that Jesus is alive!

  1. What about you? If you know Christ, what about the Gospel story proved satisfying to you, so that you know Jesus is alive?
  2. If you are experiencing doubt, what is the nature of your doubt?
  3. Jesus showed Himself to His disciples before sending them out to carry His Gospel to people like us. That was before He returned to the Father. How might we expect Jesus to show Himself to us today?
  4. What do you think of Augustine’s 4th century dictum: “I believe in order to understand”? How is this not a leap of blind faith? What Scripture do you think Augustine might have been thinking of?
  5. What is particularly encouraging to you about John’s account of Thomas and the other disciples?
  6. What questions do you still have?

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb: Lk 19.28-40; 22.14-23; Ex 12.1-13

This week we jump out of our series on the Gospel of Luke to celebrate Jesus and Easter Week. But, we’re not exactly jumping out of Luke.

We’re considering three passages that show us what Jesus came to do. And all three deal with Jesus’ work as the once-and-forever Passover lamb of God.

Luke 19.28-40 describes Jesus’ arrival at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Most of us know this passage well. Jesus enters as the king of the Kingdom of God. In Luke’s account, Jesus responds to the complaint of the Pharisees aimed at those celebrating Jesus: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (:40).

But, Jesus doesn’t come to rule. Not yet. Instead, He comes hailed with palm branches, not trumpets. He comes to do something else before He reigns.

Question: Why did Jesus show up in Jerusalem right then and in the way He did?

Exodus 12.1-13 is about anticipating Passover with Jesus. Now we’re back in Egypt with Moses and the rabble of Hebrews who are about to become the Nation of Israel. We’ve also cleared 9 of the 10 Plagues, and God’s people are given specific instructions to eat a lamb with their shoes on their feet and their staffs in their hands. Also, they’re to paint the doorframes of their houses with the blood of this new sacrifice, the Passover lamb.

Why? Because God is about to visit judgment on all those who don’t take refuge in Him. Because Israel is about to become one new nation under God. Because this new nation is about to pass from bondage to freedom. All this must happen on the 10th day of the month known as Nisan.

Question: What does Exodus 12 have to do with Jesus? 

Luke 22.14-20 is about passing from life to death because of Jesus. Now we’re in the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus has entered Jerusalem on the calendar date of Nisan 10, the very day when devote Israelites would have been gathering up their lambs for Passover. In this passage, it’s Nisan 14. The lambs have been sacrificed, and Jesus celebrates Passover one last time: I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover over you before I suffer (:15).

But, Jesus doesn’t just celebrate Passover with His followers. Instead, Jesus transforms the traditional meal (that always pointed to Him!) to reflect the truth that He is the once-and-forever Passover lamb. And, in the early hours of Nisan 15, just when devout Israelites would have recalled the judgment of God falling on Israel’s enemies some 1,480 before, God’s judgment will fall on Jesus at the cross.

This was necessary because the blood of lambs can’t pay for our sins. That blood can only point to the blood of the One who can.

Just as Israel took cover under the blood of lambs, we take refuge, by faith, under the blood of Jesus. Just as Israel formed a new nation at the exodus, we come to Christ and become a new people under the New Covenant. Just as Israel ate the meal and then passed over from bondage to freedom, we pass from bondage to sin to freedom in Christ.

Because Jesus offered Himself as our Passover lamb, we have a new relationship with God, by faith and in Jesus. 

Here’s a few questions to think about as we enter Easter Week:

  1. How is it helpful to connect the different parts of Scripture in tracing themes like Jesus, the Passover Lamb? How does connecting these dots between Old and New Testaments make you want to spend time in God’s Word?
  2. Lots of people missed Jesus, because they’d celebrated Passover so long without desiring Jesus that they kinda got inoculated against God and His things? How do we need to come to God this week so that we don’t miss Jesus in the religiosity of our Easter celebrations?
  3. What to your mind is most profound about Jesus’ transformation of the Passover meal into the meal we call The Lord’s Supper? That we’ve made a new beginning, in Jesus? That we’re joined with others trusting in Jesus under the New Covenant? That we can look forward to a feast with Jesus at the renewal of all things? Or, something else …?

Have a blessed Easter Week, in the Lord!

Sacrifice with Blessing: Luke 6.12-26

Have you ever made a sacrifice? Driven to a distant town to pick up a friend from the airport? … passed on a high-calorie dessert to lose weight? … plunked down some money to take a class and learn a new skill? … given up freedom and independence to get married?

What were the blessings? What were the sacrifices?

In Luke 6.12-26, Jesus appoints His inner-ring of twelve disciples and then takes them down the mountain for a power encounter. In the presence of a “great” crowd of followers, among a “great” multitude, Jesus speaks, heals and casts out demons: And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and he healed them all (:19, ESV).

The disciples had to be impressed. Maybe, they even thought following Jesus would be easy. Just hang with the Man, Jesus, and all the blessings of the Kingdom of God are theirs, right now!

This is when, in our passage, Jesus begins to teach his followers. Pulling them apart from those who came only to be healed, Jesus gives the message some have called the “Sermon on the Plain”. In it Jesus calls His disciples (including us!) to look to our own hearts and consider what it looks like to be kingdom people following Him. There’s sacrifice with blessing. There’s blessing in the future at His return (though His disciples hadn’t learned about that yet), and there’s blessing right now in the sacrificing.

Like the prophet that He was, Jesus divides humanity into two groups: those who will experience kingdom blessing and those who will experience woe. The emphasis is on how Jesus—followers ought to respond to those who don’t heed the woes.

Jesus lists the blessings and woes in four, interlocking pairs:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God … But woe to you who are rich, for you have receive your consolation (:20/24)

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied … Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry (:21a/25a)

Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh … Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep (:21b/25b)

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! … Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets (:22/26)

So far, Jesus has encouraged His disciples with future grace: sacrifice now, receive blessing at Jesus’ return. That would be enough to motivate the true follower, but there’s a sleeper key verse in this passage:

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy … (:23a)

And, what day is that? The day of Christ’s return? Of course it is, but not in this passage.

It’s the day of sacrifice “on account of the Son of Man”! It’s the day when we go hungry, get made fun of, or experience momentary disadvantage, because we’re following Jesus!

The reason we rejoice now is because Jesus is really worth it! … for behold, you reward is great in heaven. Or, as Paul says in 2 Cor 4.17, For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison … 

Also, sacrificing on account of Jesus now puts us in the company of all God’s people throughout all time: … for so their fathers did to the prophets (:23b).

Finally—and this is a theme Luke will record Jesus developing through the gospel—there is enormous blessing NOW, in this life, while we sacrifice.

This blessing will include the Spirit of God to guide us. This blessing will include God’s grace to help us with everything God asks us to do—material need or otherwise. And, this blessing will include a new family: My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it, Jesus will soon say (8.21).

Following Jesus means sacrifice with blessing now, with the fulness of blessing yet to come!

That’s good news when I see that following Jesus costs me something. My life, in fact. That’s good news, because once I’ve started following Jesus, I learn that life with Jesus is about joy in the midst of sacrifice. And that makes me want to leap!

Take a minute to consider some of these penetrating questions from Luke 6.12-26.

  1. How does this passage sit with you? How much are you like the disciples, hoping perhaps for instant success and victory?
  2. What potential sacrifices scare you the most?
  3. How much does future grace (future reward and blessing in the presence of Jesus) motivate you in following Jesus?
  4. Where do you see God’s blessing in your life now? How has God surprised you in this?

Something New: Luke 5.33-6.11

We’ve been learning in Luke about what it looks like to follow Jesus. By the time we reach Luke 5.33 Jesus has been gathering up followers. His opponents are being exposed for their hard-heartedness, and they’re responding by trying to catch Jesus in fine points of law—their fine points of law!

Luke 5.33-6.11 includes three episodes that demonstrate that following Jesus means embracing something new, in contrast to the old way of serving God in Israel.

Jesus brings new celebration (5.33-39). This account deals with fasting which, along with feasting, played an important part in the national religion and culture of Israel. Jesus’ opponents accuse Jesus’ disciples (and Jesus by implication) of not fasting along with them.

Jesus responds with wedding imagery: Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? He goes on to say that there will be a time for fasting, but after He is gone. Important to catch is that celebration is the important response to the presence of the bridegroom!

The metaphors that follow, involving pieces of cloth, wine and wineskins, both make the point that you can’t mix old and new, not without destroying both. In the same way, you can’t mix Jesus and the Gospel with Judaism. Jesus brings something distinct and new!

Jesus brings new authority (6.1-5). In the next episode, Jesus’ disciples are criticized for eating grain on the Sabbath. Gleaning itself, provided for in Deuteronomy 23, is not the issue. But as the disciples’ actions took place on the last day of the week reserved for rest, the Pharisees are offended. Jesus tells the story of King David from 1 Samuel 21 when David (apparently) violated the Sabbath. In choosing this story Jesus reminds His opponents that even in its Old Testament context the laws of God were given to help people, not hurt them. If this be true, then He as the representative of humanity surely has authority over the law. Jesus brings something new!

Finally, Jesus brings new life (6.6-11). This is the account of the man with the withered hand. While Pharisaical law allowed for urgent medical care on the Sabbath, Jesus’ miracle is public, non-urgent and in the faces of the Pharisees. Jesus works in full view of all: Come and stand here,” Jesus tells the man. Is it lawful to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it, Jesus asks (:9).

Jesus knows the thoughts of His opponents. His healing is a picture of regeneration, renewal, new creation, a new beginning, and something completely new.

Much in these three accounts seems remote to us today. What do we make of Sabbath-keeping? While the issues are complex, two thoughts satisfy my mind on the point:

Jesus has fulfilled the Law of MosesDo not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them, Jesus says (Matt 5.17).

Jesus kept the Law of Moses perfectly, in both its letter and its spirit. In doing so, some aspects of the law disappeared. This includes its civil aspects governing how it was applied in the nation and its ceremonial aspects governing the temple worship. All gone when God ceased to reveal Himself through Israel! All gone when Jesus became the perfect sacrifice!

Other parts of the law continue but are applied differently. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matt 22.38-40).

Today, living in Jesus’ fulfillment of the law as we do, we still don’t murder or commit adultery or steal or lie or covet. Why? Because it isn’t loving. And love reflects God’s character, His moral law. And I don’t even need a verse to tell me this. I need the Spirit of God.

The second thought that satisfies me is that Jesus has brought about a new creation. The Sabbath didn’t start with Moses. God created in six days and then rested—not because He was tired, but because He was finished. His creation work was fulfilled and complete. This is why Israel finished the week with rest.

But at the empty tomb God the Father and Jesus bring about a new creation, involving new people and a renewal of the old creation. This took place on the first day of the week. And to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection believers as early as Acts 20 began meeting on the first day of the week.

That’s where we are today. Because of Jesus’ finished work we start (not finish) the new week with worship, celebration, and rest. And not because we have to, but because we want to!

These accounts in Luke 5-6 show that you can’t mix Jesus with Judaism. Jesus brings about something new. And following Jesus means embracing Jesus’ new creation!

What has been your experience? Find somebody to read Luke 5.33-6.11 with and talk through these questions:

  1. Has the Old Testament and how to keep its rules ever confused you? How?
  2. How do the ideas of Jesus fulfilling the law and Jesus bringing about a new creation satisfy YOU? What other questions do you have?
  3. Read Matt 5.17; 22.38-40; Jn 13.14; Gal 5.14; 6.2; and Js 2.8. How does our love for God and others serve to apply the fulfilled law of Christ?
  4. Knowing that Jesus has fulfilled God’s law and brought about a new creation that includes you (2 Cor 5.17), what freedom do you now feel? How does this freedom in Christ change the way you feel about rule keeping?

 

Unlikely Followers: Luke 5.12-32

If you’re following Jesus, who are you bringing with you?

That’s the question we asked last week when we considered Simon Peter’s mission in Luke 5.1-11.

This week in Luke 5.12-32 we’re going to learn more about the one we’re following. Jesus will encounter three outcasts: a leper , the social outcast; a paralytic, the physical outcast; and, a tax collector and his shady, underworld associates, the moral outcast.

What does Jesus do? He touches the leper, he receives the paralytic and, recognizing faith, forgives his sins, and he eats with Levi, the tax collector, even calling Levi Matthew to become one of his disciples.

Along the way Jesus encountered his first official opposition from Pharisees and scribes who ask: Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sin but God alone? (:21).

They’re right about who Jesus claims to be, even as they are wrong in not following him. Unlike Jesus who, in speaking earlier to the leper “wills” to make the leper clean (:13), these opponents of God don’t want to reach out to outsiders.

In these three accounts, we learn something more about the one we’re following: Jesus is sent from a missionary God. He calls to the outcasts and, through the gospel, invites each of us to follow him.

We gather three lessons from this passage:

  1. Jesus cares about outcasts. He touches lepers, heals paralytics and lies at table with tax collectors. All this is in keeping with the upside-down Kingdom of God that, in Jesus, breaks into history and the hearts of men. Those who think they are on the inside, like the Pharisees and scribes in the account, find that they’re on the outside with God. Those left to the margins in human society find—when they depend on Jesus by faith—that they are on the inside with God.
  2. We should care about outcasts. Local churches like Woodland are like chapters in the worldwide church of Jesus. This is a very dissimilar group of people, united by the person we’re trusting in: Jesus! This means there’s room for outcasts. When we say, “Come with” to somebody being left behind, we’re inviting people to a place where they won’t be judged and where they will learn about Jesus and have the chance to trust in him. We need to care about those others have left behind.
  3. Finally, we were once outcasts. First Corinthians 6.9-11 reads:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? … And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

Talk about it

  1. As you read this account about Jesus, where do you find “shock value”? How does Jesus make his point in ways that can’t be missed?
  2. What do you learn about Jesus from Luke 5.12-32 that you didn’t know before?
  3. How were you an outcast with God and other people before you came to Christ?
  4. Is there anybody on your mind that you think you need to say “come with” to  as you follow Jesus and take somebody else along?