Luke 4:1-13: Jesus’ Temptation

Read: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus’ temptation is an interesting episode in the scriptures. Here, Satan comes to Jesus while Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days, which resulted in hunger. Satan tempts Jesus with food to appease his hunger, but Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In the context of Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding Israel of the testing that they went through in the wilderness for 40 years after the Exodus. God used this time to shape Israel such that they realized in their humility that they were utterly dependent upon God for their well being – even something as simple as food. It was God that provided manna everyday for Israel. When Jesus came to earth, he submitted himself to the will of the Father and became obedient to God’s will (Philippians 2:1-11). While he was more than capable of turning stones to bread, he chose not to out of a desire to remain humble.

For his second temptation, Satan takes Jesus to a high place and shows him all the kingdoms of the earth and says that he will give them to Jesus if Jesus were to bow down and worship Satan. Here, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13, which speaks of the jealousy of God for his people. He commanded the exclusive worship of the people of Israel. The irony of the situation is that Jesus is divine, and would one day rule the nations (Revelation 21) and Satan would be subjugated (Revelation 20:7-10). The temptation here again is showing the humanity and humility of Jesus. Jesus refused circuit what would be his anyways after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension so that he could fulfill his mission and defeat death and Satan and redeem humanity.

For his third temptation, Satan tempts Jesus by taking him to the pinnacle of the temple to where he says that Jesus should throw himself off so that the angles would catch break his fall. This time though, Satan quotes from Psalm 91, which speaks of God as a refuge and how God will protect those who love him. Jesus replies again quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16. The context here follows from where Jesus previously quoted on the second temptation about worshiping God alone. Here, Moses is reminding Israel not to test God as they did as Massah, where they grumbled against God because they had no water. God miraculously provided water from a rock for them (Exodus 17:1-7). Satan was correct in quoting from Psalm, but he twisted the scripture, wanting Jesus to demand that God do a miracle instead of resting in God’s providential care.

Jesus was tempted in every way that Christians today are. And because Jesus was tempted, he is able to empathize with all humanity, yet he did not sin This makes Jesus the perfect great high priest that can help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). James 4 speaks to sin among believers and says that the remedy for it this is submission to God and resisting the devil. This is precisely what Jesus did: he he stayed humble and obedient to God and Satan was unable to gain a foothold. With Jesus’ help, believers can overcome temptation and do so triumphantly. To do this though, when needs to know what God’s word says concerning sin so that when temptation does come ones way, he or she will not fall prey to temptation (Psalm 119:11).

Lord, help me to stay humble and obedient so that I may resist temptation!

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 2:1-7: Humble Roots, Glorious Ends

Read: Luke 2:1-7

Luke is meticulous about the details of the historical setting of his Gospel. Here, he places Jesus birth during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The difficulty though with dating this text has to do with dating the census in reference to Quirinius was governor of Syria around AD 6, but Herod who was the king of Judea who had died sometime earlier. There have been a number of proposed solutions to this problem (some more reasonable that others) while others think Luke was simply mistaken. Given that Luke’s accuracy is impeccable on other matters, it would be jumping to conclusions to say he was mistaken. But it would also be jumping to conclusions to say that any one of the proposed solutions is indeed correct either without further historical evidence.

In any case, we can affirm that God used the most powerful political and military figure in the world at the time to fulfill his purposes in earth. The census that went out from Augustus forced Joseph to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, his home town and the town of his ancestor, King David to register with Mary his espoused wife who was very pregnant at the time. When Mary gave birth, she gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. In ancient times, inns were usually accompanied with a stable for animals. An upper room would be for guest and a lower room would be for the animals. The plain reading of this suggests that the inn was simply full. Some have suggested though that the innkeeper did not have room specifically for Mary and Joseph. Nevertheless, the picture of God using the most powerful man in the world to start a chain of events that would lead to the King of Kings being born in a lowly stable is intentional. God was fulfilling an age old prophecy from Micah 5:2-4 which tells of a King that will come from lowly Bethlehem that would be known to the ends of the earth.

What started from humble roots in a stable in the small Bethlehem has shaped the course of human history and is still shaping the course of human history. Jesus’ renown is still going forward into all the nations and more and more people are coming into his kingdom every day. The juxtaposition of the God exalting the humble and diminishing the proud is a theme in scripture (Psalm 138:6, Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 19:30, James 4:6, 1Peter 5:5, etc). Caesar’s reign ended and the empire eventually crumbled. But Jesus after enduring the cross was exalted. His name is the name above all names and every knee will bow to it (Philippians 2:5-12). Christians are encouraged to be like Christ, and lay aside what we might have rights to and become humble, and in doing so God will lift them up to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-14)!

Lord, you humbled yourself for glorious ends: the salvation for all men.
Help me to be humble so you can be lifted up!

Luke 1:46-56: Song of the Humble

Read: Luke 1:46-56

Mary’s song in response to Elizabeth’s greeting bring is about bringing the utmost glory to God for what he had done in her life concerning Jesus’ conception. God saw an unpretentious woman who feared him and he exalted her because of it. When Mary speaks her verse, she extols the Lord in a number of ways, but the point being that God extends mercy and blessings to those who are humble and seek him, yet scorns those who are proud for whatever reason.

The juxtaposition of Jesus exalting the lowly and scorning the proud is a common theme all throughout the New Testament (Luke 14:1, Luke 18:14, Matthew 5:3, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5-6 and many others) and the Old Testament (Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 16:18-19, Proverbs 29:23, Isaiah 57:15 and many others). God undoubtedly prefers such people who are humble because these are the people who truly know there place before God, and when something extraordinary happens they turn the glory back to God rather than themselves.

The theme of God opposing a proud heart was not new in Jesus’ day and is not something new even until now. God does not turn a blind eye to those that seek his face and do it with a pure heart. Genuine humility is not about trying to make sure that everyone else knows sees one’s humility, rather being mindful of God in a quiet way as one live his or her life as Mary was doing when God chose her. Because she was humble, obedient, and believed God, she was blessed. And she turned the glory back to God when she was.

Lord, help me to remain humble and praise you when you exalt the humble.

Joshua 6:1-5: Receiving God’s Commands

Read: Joshua 6:1-5

Joshua in the previous chapter had encountered the presence of God when he met the commander of the Lord’s army outside of Jericho. The text does not say whether or not that the man was God incarnate himself, but regardless of that, Joshua responded in humility, asking of the man what he should do. Some scholars think of the last part of Chapter 5 as an introduction to chapter 6, which is where Joshua receives explicit instructions from God. It is likely that Joshua was planning a military strategy when he was looking on to Jericho, but God had other plans. Jericho had heard of the works that God was doing on behalf of the Israelites, so they sealed the city so that none went in and none went out. God gives Joshua specific instructions to march around the city once one time per day for six days, then on the seventh day, march around the city seven times. Then seven priests would blow seven rams horns. Then the people would shout and the walls would fall.

As a leader, Joshua was a conduit through which God gave his instructions. He had been recognized by God, by Moses, and all the people. God had made Joshua mighty in the sight of the people and in sight of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 31:7-8, Joshua 1:1-9, Joshua 3:7). The people had accepted Joshua as their leader too (Joshua 1:10-18). The instructions that God gave Joshua were not an orthodox military strategy. Hebrews 11:30 calls the actions of Joshua and the people of Israel an act of faith – that is they believed that God would act according to the way he said he would. Rather than act according to his own plans, he listened to what God had to say and obeyed the commands.

Christian leaders and followers alike are like Joshua in the sense that they sometimes receive commands from God to give to the people of God. And sometimes, the plans that God gives do not make sense according to conventional wisdom, but nevertheless require faith to believe and act upon. Faith, however, is not blindly doing something with no good reason to do it. God had acted mightily on behalf of the Israelites and had exalted Joshua in their sites. Joshua was obviously anointed by God and God was using Joshua. Joshua had seen God act mightily through Moses on numerous occasions and was seeing God act through him. What this does require on the part of the Christian leader is humility and reverence towards God. And when God does speak, the one whose heart it tuned towards God will know and can act accordingly!

Lord, humble my heart so I can hear you speak and act accordingly.

Joshua 3: Exaltation

Read: Joshua 3

Joshua had already received his commission from God and Moses before all the people of Israel. He had been commanded to be bold and courageous and be obedient to the law of God. The people had recognized Joshua as the successor to Moses. With this in mind, Joshua’s leadership was about to be put to the test. In light of this, God promises to exalt Joshua as the leader as God exalted Moses as the leader of the people. Joshua gives specific instructions to the priest concerning what to do with the Ark of the Covenant as they went down to the Jordan. God says that the miracle that he was about to perform would serve as a reminder to them that God was among them and would dispose of the inhabitants of Canaan. The priest did exactly as they were instructed to do, and the Jordan River was stopped so that the Israelites were able to cross.

The crossing of the Jordan was certainly reminiscent of crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14. Joshua 4:23 likens the crossing of the Red Sea to the crossing of the Jordan River. The mighty work of God at the Red Sea was remembered for generations to come and it also cemented Moses’ position as leader in the minds of the people that left Egypt, although they did at times forget. What the Red Sea crossing did for Moses the crossing of the Jordan did for Joshua: establishing God’s role as the Mighty One and Joshua as his emissary. God also exalted Solomon in much the same manner as he did Moses and Joshua when Solomon became leader (1 Chronicles 29:25). Ultimately, though, the one who was exalted above all others was Jesus (Acts 19:17, Philippians 1:2, Philippians 2:9-11, Hebrews 2:8-9). Jesus was already God (as if he needed anymore exalting!) but Jesus set aside his glory and became a man, humbling himself to the point of death on the cross. Jesus was completely obedient to the will of the Father while he was on earth. After Jesus accomplished this task, God exalted him above all others.

The exaltations of Moses, Joshua, Solomon, and Jesus by God all came with a demand for submission to God and obedience to God. It is for this reason that Jesus talks about humility in light of exaltation. Jesus says that the ones who want to be the greatest in the kingdom of God must be humble as a servant – that is become completely submitted to the will of the God as Jesus did (Mark 1042-45). God cannot use a person who is not obedient to his will to accomplish his mission. Nor can God use a person that seeks his or her own will over God’s. The ones that God exalts in his kingdom are the ones who are willing to do what God asks. These are the people who God lifts up to lead and inspire others to do great things in accordance to the will and purposes of God.

Lord, help me be completely obedient to you so I can be effective in accomplishing your mission!

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7,16-17: Maturity

Read: Ecclesiastes 10:5-7,16-17

The Preacher again labels something a great evil, and in this case he sees foolishness and immaturity being exalted over wisdom and experience. Here the Preacher likens to a rich man in the place of a poor man, a prince in the place of a slave – this violates of the order of the way things ought. Later in the chapter, the Preacher pronounces woes on a country whose king is a boy (that is, a person who lacks experience) and whose princes celebrate before due time. A country whose ruler excels at folly will end up in ruin. And same is true whenever immaturity and foolishness are exalted above experience and wisdom in any situation.

Maturity is something the New Testament encourages Christians to strive for. Hebrews 5:12-6:1 uses the analogy of an infants and milk. The writer of Hebrews says that his readers are like infants who drink milk rather than adults who eat solid food. Their “milk” is analogous to elementary teachings while “solid food” is analogous to deeper teachings of the Christian faith. Hebrews encourages its readers to move beyond the elementary teachings to a deeper understanding. Paul uses the same analogy to describe Christian behavior in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. The Corinthian church had numerous problems, and Paul was saying that they were “fleshly” rather than “spiritual”. They were living as if they were carnal men rather than men who had received the Spirit and lived according to the spirit. The Corinthians thought that what they were doing was acceptable, but it was most certainly not and Paul makes this evident in the letter. Rather than act like children Paul encourages them to grow up in their faith, putting aside their carnal nature and take on a spiritual one.

One should not confuse this with what Jesus said concerning the nature of humility and coming to Christ. Jesus said that unless one becomes like a child, he or she cannot enter the kingdom  (Matthew 18:2-4). When Jesus says this, he is driving a wedge between people who think they know it all and those who are truly teachable. When one comes to Christ, the less he or she presumes to know about Jesus and God, the less one has to unlearn. In other words, one must first become first become humble in order to become mature in the faith. And one should remain humble as he or she grows too. What is now known as the “Golden Rule” encourages one to treat others as one would one to be treated (Matthew 7:11, Leviticus 19:18, Romans 13:9). One should honor others if one wants to be honored.

The Preacher is keen to note that foolishness and immaturity should not be exalted above wisdom and inexperience. Rather than extol folly and remain immature, Christians should pursue spiritual maturity in doctrine and deed. But in order to do this, Jesus says one should be humble, taking on the attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:3-8). Through sound biblical teachings from mature believers and the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s own life, one can grow into a mature Christian who can teach others and live skillfully before God.

Lord, help me to become a mature believer!

John 13:1-20, John 13:34-35

Read: John 13:1-20, John 13:34-35

Jesus loved his disciples very much — there can be no mistake about this. One of his purposes while on earth was to teach the disciples how to love as he loved, and in a meaningful way, Jesus demonstrates this love by washing their feet. Jesus, being master and lord, takes on the role of a servant and washes the feet of all the disciples, even Judas who Jesus knew would betray him and who Jesus knew that the devil was already working in Judas’ heart. The work of washing feet was reserved for the lowliest of servants. In New Testament times, people principally wore open toed shoes that walked on dusty streets covered with all sorts of unclean things. This stuff would inevitably cover one’s feet. When going into a person’s house, a servant would usually be there to wash the guests feet as they entered the home. Jesus was demonstrating how the disciples were to love one another in a very tangible fashion.

In the midst of this, Peter insists that Jesus not wash his feet, as Peter did not fully understand the meaning of the what Jesus was doing. Jesus tells him that unless Jesus washes his feet, he has nothing to do with him. Peter, wanting everything to do with Jesus, insists on a bath. Jesus says that Peter is not in need of a bath because he is already clean. Judas was not clean though as he was about to betray Jesus. Jesus instructs the disciples that they should wash one another’s feet. In a manner of speaking Jesus was saying that they should love one another as he loved them. Jesus then quotes from Psalm 41:9 speaking of a friend who eats bread with him will betray him. Jesus knew that the betrayal was coming, but he mentions it so that they would know that Jesus said it to be so and that they would believe for this reason.

Paul exhorts Christians to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus in Philippians 2:1-8. Paul describes Jesus as one who was equal with God, but did hold onto this equality. Instead, he, being master of the universe, becomes a man, then a servant, then a death-row inmate all in sacrificial humility and obedience to God. This attitude of mutual submission to one another is the attitude that all Christians should have. Jesus notes that in John 13:35 that in this way people would know that they are his disciples. In other words, the mark of a Christian is love for other Christians, even when some people are difficult to love as Judas certainly was. Christians have Christ’s example and can live according to it.

Lord, you’re commandment is for us to love one another.

Help me to love others and others to love me so many can see this and give glory to you!

John 7:32-53

Read: John 7:32-53

After Jesus had rebuffed the authorities in the temple, they sent the temple guards to arrest him. Jesus says something that sounds somewhat enigmatic, in that they won’t be able to find him. They supposed he was going to flee the country and teach Greeks in the dispersion. A number of Jews had been scattered throughout the Roman world after they came out of exile some hundreds of years before. They did however preserve their religion and customs as they moved away from Palestine. The synagogue system was set up as a result. What Jesus was really talking that one day he would return to the Father, and they could not find him there.

At the end of the Festival of Booths, Jesus starts teaching again about Living Water again, the same message that he had given the woman at the well in John 4:7-13. Jesus says this in regards to the Spirit, but the Spirit had not been given yet. The Spirit of God was promised to come after Jesus was crucified (John 14:16-31). The people in Jerusalem did not know what to think about Jesus as a whole. Some thought he was a Prophet, and other thought he was the Christ. They debate the Scripture in saying that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem and would be of David. The guards did not arrest Jesus because he spoke with authority. The Pharisees then accuse them of being led astray by Jesus’ teaching. They say the crowds are ignorant and accursed because they do not know the law, and that none of the Pharisees believed him – a direct appeal to their own authority. They then suggest that Jesus was from Galilee, and the Scriptures don’t say anything about a prophet coming from Galilee.

But the Pharisees were wrong on at least six counts:

  • First, they appealed to their own authority, a blatant fallacy in its own right and vindicates what Jesus was saying earlier in that one who speak on his own authority seeks his own glory (John 7:4).
  • Second, they make and argument from silence in that the Scriptures say nothing about a prophet coming out of Galilee. This does not mean that one will not.
  • Third, they were just plain wrong: Matthew 4:15-16 ascribes Isaiah 9:1-2 to Jesus, describing the region of Galilee as a place that will see a great light. Also Jesus was of David’s line and was born in Bethlehem.
  • Fourth, the Pharisees had been exposed, and they knew it, but they were jumping to conclusions. Nicodemus attempts to intercede on Jesus’ behalf, saying they were making a hasty generalization without hearing Jesus out.
  • Fifth, they poison the well against the masses saying they are uneducated and attempt to associate the guards with them — these are ad hominem attacks.
  • Sixth, they attempt to silence Nicodemus by accusing him as being a sympathize– a genetic fallacy.

What is certain is that the Pharisees were backed against a wall and were doing anything they could to wiggle they’re way out. John says that they went home after this, perhaps in an attempt to save face because they knew they had been put to shame.

Jesus’ message is truth, and when he speaks, no falsehood comes out of his mouth. Those who oppose Jesus will feel exposed by the truth. A Christian’s job is to speak the truth. But at the same time, a person should also be willing to be corrected. The Pharisees were unwilling to be corrected, so they dug themselves in deeper such that they were willing to say and do anything so they did not have to admit they were wrong – even lying about things. Christians should maintain a great deal of humility such that they can be taught, but not as to be carried away by whims. The anchor Christians have is the Bible from which doctrine comes, and with the Holy Spirit, Christians can arrive at the truth (2 Timothy 3:14-17). But do not discount the work of faithful teachers either. The spiritual mature are to correct those who are in error (Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 4:2).  The ones under authority should be willing to be corrected by those who are over them.

Lord, help me to understand and speak truth!

John 7:14-31

Read John 7:14-31

Jesus did eventually make his way to the Festival of Booths in Jerusalem, but he did so in secret because he was not trying to make a name for himself, rather do the will of the one who sent him. Jesus’ goal was to be in sync with the Father, and draw people to the Father…not merely himself. And Jesus said that his preaching was not his own, but the one of him who sent him – the Father. If a person speaks in his own authority, then he seeks his own glory, but Jesus was seeking the glory of the Father. The ones who know this are the ones seeking to do God’s will. In a manner of speaking, Jesus says like knows like. He is doing the Father’s will and others seeking to do the Father’s will would recognize it as such. That is more than just obeying the law, but seeking to give God the glory for it when one does rather than seeking glory from another.

Jesus then calls out the ones trying to kill him, because Jesus was a threat to them in that he could expose them for who they really were. They of course deny they are trying to kill him because he had claimed equality with God and healed a man on the Sabbath (John 5:16-23). Jesus was recalling these facts, but they rebutted, saying he was crazy. But Jesus offers another rebuttal to strike at the heart of the matter. One part of the law says that a male child should be circumcised on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12) but another part of the law says that one should not work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). Sometimes, the eighth day would fall on the Sabbath. So in order to uphold the law of circumcision, one had to “break” the law of the Sabbath. Jesus was pointing out that they were doing this very thing, such that they were nitpicking what they wanted to from the law. Jesus says the issue is not a matter of the letter of the law, but a matter as to what is right, and if healing on the Sabbath is right, then by all means.

Jesus then goes back to the original issue – personal glory and testimony. A number of believed in Jesus, probably because they understood and were not pretentious. They allege that they know where Jesus is from and that no one will know where the Christ will come from. On the other hand, Jesus “shouted” in the temple to them, saying they know who he is and where he comes from. Jesus was not speaking about which town he was from, but his origin in heaven, and that they knew this to be the case. They were trying to make it a matter of technicality rather than a matter of truth. They did not believe in God, rather were seeking glory for themselves. Jesus in a sense had just exposed them for who they really were, and they knew it. For this reason, they wanted to seize him, but no one did because Jesus’ time had not come (John 13:2).

Often times, people use religion as a means to gain glory for themselves. They use the guise of piety and abuse the authority of teachers to garner worldly things such as money and fame. Jesus could have easily done this, but was making moves as to not gain popularity and draw people away from God, rather point people to him. The ones who seek the will of the Father will recognize those who are authentic and the ones that are not. The job of the Christian is not to go on a witch hunt, but to continuously do the will of the Father. Others, then, will be able to see through the guise and know who is true and who is not true and believe.

Lord, the glory is yours! Help me to not seek it for myself!

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