Luke 5:1-11: Here am I! Send Me!

Read: Luke 5:1-11

Virtually everywhere Jesus went, people wanted to here the word of God because this word had the power to heal the sick and command demons (Luke 4:36. Luke 4:39). This also made Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region of Galilee. Undoubtedly, all that lived in that area had heard of Jesus by now and the wonders he performed. When Jesus came to the edge of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Gennesaret he met fishermen who were mending their nets after a long night of fishing. Jesus told them to put down their nets again, and they agreed to do so at his word. When they did, they caught so many fish they couldn’t contain them and had to call for help. His gospel was one to call people to repentance.

Peter’s response to Jesus is one of awe and wonder, and in doing so he comes face to face with his sin. He asks Jesus to leave his presence because he immediately recognizes that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Peter’s response was not unlike Isaiah’s response when he encountered God (Isaiah 6:1-8). Isaiah saw God seated on a throne, exalted. The mere sight seeing God was enough overwhelm someone to the point of death (Exodus 33:20). God cleansed Isaiah and made him his messenger to proclaim the word of God. In much the same manner, Jesus did this with Peter. He tells him from that point on that he would “catch men” – a reference to his new occupation as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. At this, James and John along with Peter left everything and followed Jesus.

God’s word is powerful indeed in how it transforms lives. Romans 10:11-15 outlines this process: faith comes by hearing the word. In order for this to happen they have to have the word preached to them, which means that some one has to be sent. Paul saw himself as one of these “sent ones” (Romans 1:1, Romans 11:13), the literal translation of the Greek word “apostolos” from where the word apostle comes from. While there was a special office of capital “A” Apostles in the New Testament which included the original 12 (Mark 10:2-4), Mathias who replaced Judas (Acts 1:26), and lastly Paul, there were little “a” apostles that were also “sent ones” who were sent out to proclaimed the gospel (Romans 16:7, Philippians 2:25, 2 Corinthians 8:23). In the modern vernacular, little “a” apostles would be called missionaries – ones who are sent out from a church to preach the gospel to that others may hear the word of God and believe. One of the main missions of the church as a whole is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The natural response to salvation is obedience, as Isaiah and Peter did – they left everything to follow God’s commands. This applies to every believer. But from among the church, God calls some out to be special envoys to be his “sent ones” to take the gospel to places and preach to those who have never heard the name of Jesus so those that have not heard can hear, believe, and proclaim themselves. Whether one is a sender or a sent one, it requires both to accomplish the task the God has set before the church to make disciples. Everyone therefore should be involved in whatever role he or she is in.

Lord, here am I! Send Me!

Luke 4:31-44: Authority and the Gospel

Read: Luke 4:31-44

Wherever Jesus went, word about him spread quickly – and it was usually a good word. While Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth, virtually everywhere else that Jesus went he was glorified by those he met because his authority in both his teaching and in his deeds. Verses 31 and 32 note that Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath, as was the custom of an itinerant rabbi and people were amazed by it. Matthew 7:28-29 compare Jesus’ teachings to those of the scribes without really expounding how it was different, but the traditional way of teaching in that day was to read a text and quote commentary from a respected religious authority either past or present. Jesus, however, would say “you have heard….” but then follow it with “but I say to you….”. In speaking this way, Jesus was drawing on his own authority, not the that of another.

In addition to authority in teaching, Jesus also demonstrates authority over demons too. The demons knew exactly who Jesus was, and they acknowledge him as such. But rather than let the demon clamor on, Jesus commands the demon to be silent and come out of the man as well. These two commands also cause people to be amazed, and word about him spread throughout the region concerning his authority. Jesus follows this exorcisms at the synagogue with the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus in the same manner as casting out the demon, verbally rebukes the fever and it leaves her. These two miracles along with the authority of Jesus’ and serve as the archetype of a summary of many more miracles that Jesus performed in the same vein as these. He performed many more healing and exorcisms that definitively established his authority.

Interestingly, the people of Capernaum got what Nazareth asked for: a sign from God (Luke 4:20-30). The difference though is that Nazareth scoffed at his message rather than accepting his message. The demand for a sign was for the vindication of his authority, not the corroboration his authority. Jesus freely demonstrated his power, but not as a defense to prove he was the who he claimed to be, rather to support who he claimed to be. The people of Capernaum though wanted Jesus to stay and continue, but Jesus notes that he cannot, because his mission was to preach. Consequentially, he did not say his mission was to come to be a miracle worker, although he did do this.

When Jesus left the earth, he acknowledged that all authority had been given to him, and he then commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey the words that Jesus had commanded them to do (Matthew 28:19-20). Later on, the Holy Spirit came on the disciples and they went about preaching the gospel with authority (1 Thesolonians 1:5) and occasionally performing signs and wonders. In all things though, the emphasis was always on the message and they drew on the authority of the words of God. For Christians today, the command to make disciples still goes out and the command to preach the gospel still goes out (2 Timothy 2:2). While miracles may happen, the authority rests in preaching the word of God, not in miracles (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Titus 2:15).

Lord, authority comes from the power of your word!
Help me to boldly proclaim it!

Luke 3:15-20: Minimize Me

Read: Luke 3:15-20

John the Baptist knew his place when it came to Jesus. He was well respected and revered as a prophet by the people that were coming to be baptized, and many thought that he may be the Messiah. In spite of all this, John humbled himself and used whatever authority and influence he had to point people to Jesus. John says of Jesus that he is not worthy to undo the thong of his sandal, which was considered a lowly task generally performed for the lowliest servant when guests came to one’s house.

John’s message was called “good news” yet Luke depicts Jesus as one with a winnowing fork. The winnowing fork was an instrument used to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the chaff was carried away by the wind and burned in fire. John speaks of Jesus baptizing by the Holy Spirit and my fire. Baptism of the Holy Spirit – that is receiving the Holy Spirit – is something that happens to all who believe when they become Christians. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 2:20; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The allusion to fire though is not clear. It could either be a prophetic statement about what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) or a reference judgment that will come. In the context, the latter makes more sense because John is talking about Jesus separating the wheat from the chaff, and burning the chaff.

To illustrate how the gospel is offensive to some, Luke uses John’s encounter with Herod. John was bold enough to call out Herod, a strong and power ruler, on the adultery that he had with his sister-in-law, Herodias. Matthew 14:1-12 gives more details on the matter, where Herodias prompted her daughter, who had danced for Herod pleased him, to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod had John arrested and beheaded to fulfill her wishes. John made no special provisions for anyone and did not really care about his safety either, rather he was concerned about proclaiming good news and pointing people to Jesus.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. The coming of Jesus is good news for those that will accept it. For those that will not, it is offensive because it confronts people with their sin. But John the Baptist was embolden to preach this good news of Jesus rather than live in fear of what might happen to him. John’s martyrdom, zeal, and humility for the sake of gospel of Jesus serves as a reminder of the the attitude and priorities Christians ought to have concerning Jesus. Christians ought to get the good news of Jesus out and put Jesus in the spotlight so that he can be exalted.

Lord, help me to minimize myself and maximize Jesus in all things!

Luke 3:2-6: “Prepare the Way”

Read: Luke 3:2-6

John the Baptist was a kindred spirit to Jesus and apparently a relative too. His birth took place on months before Jesus’ birth did (Luke 1). The scriptures don’t contain anything about John’s early life, but the story of John picks up around the same time Jesus’ does in 29 AD. Luke likens John the Baptist to Isaiah as a prophet that “received the word of the Lord” (John 1:21) and went out into the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. John’s status as a prophet is confirmed by likening him to Elijah (Luke 1:17, John 1:25) and Jesus himself appealed to the testimony of John about himself as a witness to confirm the veracity of his message (John 5:31-34) because n that day and having a second testimony other than one’s own was necessary to deem a testimony as true. John’s witness to Jesus was set in place that when Jesus did come, he could point others to Jesus, as he did. John was calling people to repentance to prepare hearts to receive Jesus for salvation.

To drive the point home and link it to his theme of universally accessible salvation, Luke quotes from Isaiah 40:3-5 from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) noting that there was a voice crying out in the wilderness to “prepare the way of the Lord” The text in Isaiah is in the context of a text to no condemn people, rather to comfort them telling them of a one who is coming and will shepherd them. The chapter ends with the famous verse talking about how those that wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar. John is the the voice calling out the wilderness who is preparing the way for Jesus, who is the Lord in Isaiah 40. Luke extends the quote from Isaiah more than Mark 1:3 does to include a quotation about the “salvation” of the Lord. Luke’s regard for the salvation of “all people” is evident here and elsewhere in Luke 2:30-32 and Luke 2:10.

Salvation was never intended to be limited only a select group of people, rather it is intended for all people everywhere. But salvation isn’t automatically applied to everyone, rather it requires that one have faith in Jesus. Christians that receive salvation then should be about the task of preparing the way for others to receive Christ. The Isaiah text speaks of level mountains, raising valleys, smoothing rough areas, and straitening paths so that the coming of the Lord will be easy and without resistance. Part of evangelism requires that removal of barriers so that everyone everywhere has a chance to receive Jesus without hindrance. Some barriers are cultural such as language or cultural beliefs. Other barriers may be preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. Whatever it may be, removing barriers people can come to Jesus, repent of their sins, and be saved!

Lord, show me the barriers that hinder the gospel and help me to remove them so more can be saved!

Luke 2:8-20: Good News For All People

Read: Luke 2:8-20

When Jesus was born, his circumstances were less than ideal. While swaddling a baby wasn’t particularly unusually, laying a baby in a manger for a crib was. But God had plans for this. God sent an angel to some shepherds who were just doing their job, which was nothing unusual. Shepherds basically lived with the sheep day and night to protect them from danger. But when the angels showed up. They were afraid. But the news that God revealed through the angels was astounding: the Savior had been born basically right around the corner. The sight and sound of angels proclaiming the “good news” and singing was enough to cause the shepherds to leave their flocks and seek out the baby that the angel told them would be laying in a manger.

When the Shepherds went to Bethlehem, everything was exactly as the angel had told them. So they spread the news around: The news about baby being born laying in a manger, the news about angels singing, the news about them finding the baby as they angel had told them, and the greatest news that the Savior had been born. While they were certainly frightened by the sight of an angel, they were overcome with joy when they found everything as they were told.

In the midst of all this, Luke makes note of Mary “pondering” these things in her heart. She had been told by and angel herself that she would give birth to Jesus who was the Lord and the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). The shepherds report vindicated what she had already experienced in a new and fresh way now that Jesus was born.

Good news was first delivered to Mary, then to shepherds, who then relayed to numerous other people, all who were amazed at what they heard. God intended this good news to be for all the people so that they too would be amazed when they heard it. This good news is still going out to all the world even today that the Savior was born into the world. Christians should be like the shepherds and proclaim this news so all can meet Jesus and be amazed!

Lord, Your coming is Good News. Help me share it!

Hebrews 12:12-17: “Strengthen Your Weak Knees”

Read: Hebrews 12:12-17

The author of Hebrews has just encouraged his readers to shed sin and focus on Jesus. Coming off of this, he gives a great “therefore” talking about the implication of what he has just said concerning the cloud, race, and fatherly discipline metaphors. First, he encourages his readers to be “healed” rather than have what is “lame” be put out of joint. In the context, the author here is probably talking metaphorically again about the weak areas of one’s life, encouraging them to strengthen these areas so theses areas will not become problem areas later on. Second, he encourages his readers to strive for peace with everyone and holiness. The implication here is that without holiness no one will see the Lord. The author here seems to have a concern for the outsiders looking in, namely those who are not believers yet. For this reason, he wants those who are believers to be at peace with nonbelievers and to live in a way that his holy so the outsiders can see the Lord in through the believers. In regards to holiness, the author lists three things he wants his readers to do: see to that no one fails to receive the grace of God, that there be no “root of bitterness” among them that would “defile” them, and that there be no sexual immorality or “godlessness” (“godlessness” Gk: “bébēlos” here isn’t talking about lack of belief, rather lack of piety – the antithesis of respect for God.)

In regards to this, the author of Hebrews draws from the Old Testament concerning Esau, the eldest son of Isaac and brother of Jacob. Esau notoriously and foolishly sold his birthright – that is his blessing from his father as the oldest son – for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). In doing so, Jacob received the blessing instead. When Esau realized what he had done, it was too late. His actions couldn’t be undone. He wanted to turn back his decision (that is “repent”) but he couldn’t. The relationships here were not damaged beyond repair. Jacob and Esau eventually reconciled (Genesis 33), but nevertheless what had been done could not be undone.

The admonitions to strengthen weak areas and to be found blameless speak to the importance of holy living. Many Christians are just one sin away from a something that could forever damage their witness as a follower of Jesus. Just about everyone could name some high profile minister whose moral failure sent his ministry into a tailspin. But being low profile doesn’t make one immune. A fit of rage at the wrong could cost one a job. One too many drinks could be the difference between the life and death of another person. But even so, the slow fade caused by the cancerous effects of a single, seemingly small sin could have last effects. Trading the blessings of Christ for short lived satisfaction is foolish and it is most certainly a hindrance rather than a help to the gospel.  Christians would be wise to identify areas of weakness and strengthen these areas before the weakness turns into a debilitating sin.

Lord, Help me to know where I am weak so that by your help I may be made strong.

Hebrews 11:3: Faith and Creation

Read: Hebrews 11:3: Faith and Creation

When the author of Hebrews writes about faith as it relates to creation – he says that by faith we understand that the world was called into existence by God’s word and from things “not seen” it has its being. The author of Hebrews is recalling the creation account from Genesis 1. Genesis 1:1 asserts that God created the heavens and the earth, and then continues to give the account of creation through the end of the chapter. Genesis 1:2 asserts that the earth is “formless” and “void”. Psalm 33:6 says that God made the universe by a word – that is he spoke it into existence out of nothingness. The traditional understanding of this is called “ex nihilo” creation – creation out of nothing rather than out of some sort of pre-existing matter.

Perhaps the reason the author of Hebrews asserts that believers understand creation as an act of God is because people were not present during the act of creation. But the act of creation is evident in the created on many counts. The act of creation from nothing is evident from cause and purpose. Any number of things exhibit cause. Children are a result of their parents, who are a result of their parents and so on. A table made of wood is derived from a tree, which owes its existence to growth from the ground, rain, and sunshine, and other elements and so on. These causal chains, however, are not circular nor are they infinite and thereby require an ultimate first cause, which is God. These arguments form a class of arguments called “cosmological arguments”. Purpose is exhibited in creation as well in the form of design, morality, and ascetics. The arguments here reason that such things are not the product of natural processes, rather the product of a being, who is God. These arguments form a class of arguments called “teleological arguments”.

Paul argues in Romans 1:18-20 that the creator is evidence in the created, such that men are “without excuse”. In a similar fashion, Paul argues that God created man such that man is not far from God. And for some time, God overlooked ignorance and is calling men to repent (Acts 17:22-31). Creation testifies to the glory of God, and should spur men towards repentance. But this is not enough to result in salvation. Believing that God exists is not enough – one needs Jesus for salvation. For this reason, Paul closes the letter to the Romans, he declaring his intent to go to Spain so he can declare Jesus where Jesus was not known (Romans 15:18-25). While the creator is evident in the created, the creator has given believers the task of declaring Jesus to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). People cannot believe in something they have never heard about, and for this reason it is the responsibility of Christians to take the gospel to the nations so they may have a complete faith resulting in salvation (Romans 10:4-17).

Lord, creation declares your splendor!

Help me to declare Jesus!

Hebrews 8:6-11: The New Covenant

Read: Hebrews 8:6-11

Jesus’ first coming was a time of refreshing and renewal. He wasn’t coming to spruce up the old; rather he came to make it new in the sense of superseding it with something else, namely himself. The author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34, which comes toward the end of two chapters in Jeremiah that are talking about how God was going to reestablish the prosperity and strength that Israel had once known. God declares that he will make a “new covenant” not like the one he made with the people leaving Egypt. The old covenant was written on stone tablets and was given to show the Israelites their need for a savior Galatians 3:22-26), as the sacrifices made year after year were never enough to atone for sin (Hebrews 9 explains this in detail). God was going to write the new covenant on “on their hearts” and put his law “in their minds”. In many ways, this was foretelling the coming of the Holy Spirit – the blessings that Christians receive when they believe in Jesus. The law of God will be so pervasive that there will not be a need to teach it, because everyone will already know it.

The promise of the New Covenant was given to the nation of Israel. The promise, however, is not to those of a particular nationality, but those who are of a particular faith. Romans 11:16-27 likens Israel to an olive tree, and the Gentiles to wild olives. The wild olives were grafted in (a process through which part of a one plant are merge into another plant) to the main tree. And even though some Jews rejected Jesus and were cutoff, some of these branches that were cut off may also be grafted back into the tree. Romans 11:26-27 quotes from Isaiah 59:20-21 where Isaiah is talking about the new covenant too and here he is promising to put his Spirit upon them. All those who have faith in Jesus are the ones who are grafted into the tree, and it is these who are partakers in of the New Covenant which mediated by Jesus and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe.

The New Covenant is still being fulfilled in part by the proclamation of the Gospel. There are people still declaring “know the Lord” all over the globe to people who haven’t heard about Jesus. Jesus has done and is doing his part by acting as high priest, and as Hebrews later explains, was the sacrifice. The duty of Christians is to be about the proclamation of the New Covenant to all peoples everywhere so a day will come when people will not have to say “know the Lord” because the name of Jesus will be known by every person everywhere.

Lord, help me to take part in the New Covenant so all may be grafted in!

Joshua 13:1-7: Unfinished Tasks

Read: Joshua 13:1-7

Joshua had spent his life conquering the land of Canaan, and was by this time an old man. Even though Joshua had been successful in what he had done, there was still work to do – an unfinished task. God promised Joshua that he would do just as he had done before and drive out the inhabitants of the land (Deuteronomy 31:3). Much of the land that remained was not land that was conquered until some time after Joshua died during the days of Solomon and David. Even though the land was not entirely conquered, God instructed Joshua to divide the land according to the inheritance between the 9 tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the west side of the Jordan along with two tribes and other half tribe of Manasseh would receive their inheritance from land east of the Jordan.

The inheritance according to the Law was to be a permanent possession for the one who received it and God intended the recipient to live upon the land and receive blessings from it while they lived out their lives according to the God’s commands. What God wanted for the Israelites was the fullest manifestation of what he intended for them to enjoy. They were to possess land of Canaan including the lands of the Phoenicians and Philistines and everything in between and in doing so, they would stamp out any temptation that might arise to seduce the Israelites into turning to other gods and participating in the vile practices used in the worship of these gods.

Jesus left his disciples with a monumental task to accomplish. All four gospels and the book of Acts record Jesus giving a version of the command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:45-48, John 20:21). Acts outlines the task beginning at Jerusalem and going to the end of the earth. Matthew 24:14 makes the return of Christ contingent upon the gospel being preached to all the earth. 2000 years later, the task is still not complete. There are still a number of peoples on the earth who have not heard the gospel and had a chance to respond to the gospel. In all this though, the blessings of salvation – that is the inheritance of Christians – is available here and now. God promised that he would be with his disciples and they received the Holy Spirit. In this, God wants his people to be obedient to the commands of Christ and expand the kingdom of God into the hearts of all peoples everywhere. This sort of conquest is for an eternal, enduring cause.

Lord, the task is not complete. I want to take part in completing it!

2 Timothy 4:10-22: Legacy

Read: 2 Timothy 4:10-22

After telling Timothy to fulfill his own ministry and talking about how his end was near, Paul addresses a number of personal matters, but in the process lists people who have slighted him and those to whom he praises for their assistance. Paul expresses that he wants Timothy to come to him soon, because he knows that he is nearing death. Only Luke the doctor (Colossians 4:14), remains with Paul, perhaps to look after him because Paul is dying. Paul mentions those who have left or abandoned him. Some had left or were not present apparently for good reason, such as Titus, Crescens, Tychicus, Erastus, Mark, and Trophimus who were going about the work of spreading the gospel. Prisca, Aquilla, Carpus, and Onesiphorus had lent their aid to Paul in his work. Other “brethren” greet Timothy: Eubulus, Puden, Claudia, and Linus. There are undoubtedly nameless brethren too. Paul lists two people that had caused him grief: Demas and Alexander. Demas loved the world and abandoned Paul and the gospel ministry for it. Alexander the coppersmith “vigorously” opposed the teachings of Paul. Paul warns Timothy against Alexander because of the harm Alexander had caused him. He is listed with Hymenaeus (1 Timothy 1:20) who is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17 with Philetus. They are all accused of teaching unsound doctrine and blasphemy. Paul says that Timothy should be on guard against Alexander.

Between the names that Paul mentions Paul talks about his trial; his first hearing. He had appealed to Caesar concerning the gospel in Jerusalem (Acts 25:11). Paul was apparently on his way to Rome and was undergoing a series of preliminary trials before his case was brought before the emperor.  Paul says that all had abandoned him here, but he says the Lord stood with him. He was proclaiming the gospel to all the Gentiles, and Paul had made this his goal. Paul had been selected has God’s instrument for the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Acts 13:47). Paul also credits the Lord for rescuing him “from the Lion’s mouth”, perhaps a reference to Daniel 6 where God rescues Daniel from the lions because he had remained faithful to the Lord even though there were laws prohibiting his worship of the Lord. Paul is hoping that through such suffering, the glory of God will be made known to all the Gentiles. This is Paul’s life mission (Romans 15:20) and he had accomplished much. The long list of names given in 2 Timothy are just a few of them. Paul calls such people “letters of commendation” that testify to the confidence of the work that Paul was doing as he spread the gospel to the Gentiles (2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Ultimately, Paul is looking forward to the ultimate rescue when he will be taken to be with God in heaven where he would receive the crowns that await him.

Christians today owe their salvation to God, but God used people like Paul for the purpose of the prorogation of the gospel to the gentiles. Many Christians can probably pinpoint who it was that shared the gospel with them such that that sharing resulted in repentance and salvation.  The gospel has been passed down from generation to generation from the first Christians until now and it is still going forward into the entire world. Paul outlines the pattern for this propagation in 2 Timothy 2:2 – taking what has been taught, teaching others who will be able to teach others. At the end of one’s life, hopefully one will be able to look back and recall those whose lives had been touched because of one’s faithfulness to the mission of Jesus. Paul even though he felt abandoned, could still recall the names of many who he shared with that he calls “brethren”. The legacy of Paul is the gospel, so should it be for all those who make it their life’s purpose to preach the word!

Lord, help my legacy be the gospel!

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