The gospel of luke Anne O’BrieN A Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview,
God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
THE GOSPEL OF LUKE Chapter 1: Two Prophecies; Two Mothers; and Two Songs Luke – a physician and an academic – begins the task of documenting all the important things that happened throughout the life of Jesus. (In his book of Acts, he takes a similar approach to the growth of the early church.) Luke takes a systematic approach, starting at the beginning, carrying on from the Old Testament. Read v 1-4: Luke’s Introduction and Aim Luke explains that he is writing to Theophilus which means “lover of God”. It could refer to an important Christian of the time but it could equally be speaking to every one who loves God. Luke declares his purpose in writing his gospel. “That you may know the certainty of what you have been taught.” There may have been lots of versions and rumours going around, but Luke wanted to set down the truth. Read v 5-25: The birth of John the Baptist foretold This announcement came in a dark period of Israel’s history. They were under Roman rule with a (semi) Jewish puppet king, King Herod. Most of the Roman leaders, and the Herod dynasty too, were corrupt and tolerated the Jews (and the Temple services) in order to keep the peace (the famous Pax Romana). No prophet had been heard in Israel for 400 years. The faithful few hung on to God’s promises that one day the Messiah would come. Zechariah and Elizabeth, descendants of the priestly tribe of Aaron, were among the faithful. One day when Zechariah went into the Temple he was startled by an angel standing before him!! Q. How would you feel if you went into church and began to set things up for the service, and was confronted by an angel? Zechariah’s reaction was fear. Should he have been surprised to meet with God in the Temple? Should we be surprised if God meets with us in church? Should we be surprised if God tells us he is going to do the impossible? The angel prophesied that Zechariah’s barren wife, Elizabeth, would have a child and his name was to be called JOHN. John is a Hebrew name meaning ‘YAHWEH is gracious and merciful’. John was to be a prophet (the last prophet) and, as was often the case, his name reflected his message. After 400 years of darkness God was going to pour out his grace and mercy. And John would be the one to proclaim this coming event. Q. When did the Holy Spirit come upon John? (Re-read v15-17) Before he was born John was filled with the Holy Spirit, and grew up knowing his ministry and purpose in life. But Zechariah doubted. I expect we can all identify with him!! And because he doubted, he was to remain dumb until the day of John’s birth. And of course, Elizabeth became pregnant as foretold – the ultimate seal of truth on the prophecy. Q. Why do we doubt God’s word at times? Does God allow us to miss out on blessing when we doubt? Read verses 26-38: The birth of Jesus foretold Amazing – a young teenage girl chosen to bear the Son of God! We know the outcome, but imagine the scorn and sarcasm at the time. The “newspapers” (gossips) would have had a heyday! And Mary would have faced ignominy and shame, possibly even doubted by family and friends. Jesus would be born as her son – fully human – but without a human father. And the miracle was accomplished by the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus was also fully God “The Son of the Most High” (v.32) – a clear indication that he was the long awaited for Messiah. Compare Mary’s response in verse 38 with that of Zechariah. The time had come for the arrival of the promised Messiah, of the line of David; and Mary humbly accepted her part, “Here I am .. I am the Lord’s servant”. Read verses 39-45: Mary visits Elizabeth Old meets young. At a guess – maybe a 15 year old and a 55 year old. What God had accomplished in Elizabeth must have helped Mary (in her early stage of pregnancy) to see an even bigger picture and further strengthen her faith. At this meeting of the two unborn children the Holy Spirit was at work. Elizabeth, 6 months pregnant, was filled with the Spirit and her baby leapt in the womb (fulfilment of v.17?). Mary’s faith must have 2
been consolidated and encouraged. So much so that she burst into song. Read v 46-56: The Magnificat ‘Magnificat’ is Latin for My soul glorifies God. Mary could have let pride set in at her exalted status, but she remained humble and gave all the glory to God, because: He had blessed her (v.48); He would extend his mercy to all (v50); He would perform miracles (v51); He would bring down rulers but lift up the humble (v52); He would provide for the hungry (v53); and most of all – He would fulfil his promises/covenant to Abraham. Read verses 57-66: The Birth of John the Baptist People don’t always believe, but have to change their mind when confronted with the evidence! Elizabeth’s baby was born and the friends and “church” people wanted him to have a good priestly name like his father. Elizabeth had to be strong to go against them. The angel of God had told them (v.13) to call him John because he would not be a priest, but a prophet of God’s mercy. When Zechariah wrote the word, “His name shall be John” (proving his faith and obedience) his speech miraculously returned. Q. Do we sometimes harbour doubt and hold back from being 100% obedient? What results might it bring? Read verses 67-79: Zechariah’s song of praise Zechariah’s obedience resulted in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in his life (v.67). And his first words were words of praise and prophecy. Already, in this new era God was doing so many unexpected things. Elizabeth, her unborn baby, Mary and now Zechariah – all filled with the Holy Spirit, and all proclaiming the day of God’s favour – the Age of Grace and Mercy. Each of them recognised what God was doing, not just in their own lives, but in the life of the nation/s. Zechariah remembers God’s covenant and his promise of a Messiah from David’s line – and suddenly, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, “the penny dropped”. Now was the time that all the prophecies had referred to. The Messiah was coming – Mary’s son, Jesus who would: Save them (v 69); show mercy (v72); and bring rescue (v74). And of his new-born son, John, Zechariah foretold how he would: Prepare the way for Jesus (v76); tell the people about sin and salvation (v77); and point them to Jesus. This was the turning point of all history. Read verse 80: John grew and became strong in the Holy Spirit, spending a lot of time in the wilderness (seeking God, praying, studying the word?) before he appeared in public. Both Jesus and Paul spent much time alone with God before they began their public ministries. If they needed to have quiet time alone with God, how much more do we?
Chapter 2: The first 12 years of Jesus’ life condensed into one chapter. Read verses 1-7: The Birth of Jesus The Romans held a census every 14 years but this one, which required Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem, was to have consequences which fulfilled Scripture. · · · ·
The Saviour was to be from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49v10) He would be of the family or line of David (2 Sam 7v1-17) He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7v14) Specifically, he would be born in the small town of Bethlehem (foretold 400+ years earlier by the prophet Micah – 5v2) 3
It was a journey of about 80 miles and Mary was 9 months pregnant and when they arrived there were no rooms left – we can only imagine how Mary felt. Jesus was born in an outside shelter with nothing. But the angel said he was special and she was to call him Jesus which meant “he will save his people from their sins” (see Matt 1v21). Q. What kind of way did Jesus identify with ordinary people in his birth? What does this say to us who have plenty, or alternatively to those who have nothing? Was there another reason for such a humble birth? Read verses 8-20: The sign Why didn’t the angel appear to the Pharisees or the Synagogue leaders? God chose to reveal the birth of the Messiah (v11) to illiterate hard-working shepherds. It’s like an angel turning up on a building site!! Perhaps it’s because such men are not fanciful. If they said they saw an angel (followed by a host of angels) then they must have done. The shepherds obviously were convinced by what they saw because they took God at his word and acted on it, hurrying to Bethlehem to see Jesus. The whole episode had convinced them 100% that this was indeed the Messiah. Q. So, what was the sign? And how does it connect to the previous question? A. The sign was a baby lying in an animals feeding trough (not the host of angels as might be expected). Simply a humble birth – God identifying with man. Read verses 21-24: Jesus presented at the Temple Not only did the birth of Jesus fulfil the Scriptures, but it also fulfilled the Law of Moses. (See Ex. 13v2,12 and Lev. 12v8) Read verses 25-35: Simeon How is Simeon described in verses 25-27? Simeon was very spiritual and recognised the arrival of the Messiah. Why did he recognise him? (See verse 25b) The Holy Spirit moved him to prophesy that: · · · ·
Jesus had come to bring salvation He would be a light to the Gentiles as well as the Jews He would have great influence A sword would pierce Mary’s heart (speaking of Jesus’ death)
Read verse 36-38: Anna Anna may have been a widow of 84 years old, or the text can also mean that she had been a widow for 84 years, which could make her around 100 years old. Her patience, faith and recognition of the Saviour enabled her in her old age to bring encouragement to others. We are never too old to see God work. We are never too old to be used by God. Read verses 39-43: Jesus as a boy Jesus grew up in the small town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee south-west of the Lake. We are told that he grew in wisdom and grace. That’s not something that can be said of many under 12’s! However, many young teens do become passionate and enthusiastic about their interests. (I remember my father telling me, aged 12, he didn’t mind if I went to church as long as I didn’t get fanatical!) Jesus, having studied the Scriptures (and obviously understanding them like no other person could) was keen to debate Scripture with the Jewish Rabbis – so he stayed in Jerusalem, forgetting to let his parents know. Read verses 44-52: Jesus enlightens his parents When we used to help at Youth Camp our children were in different groups and there was always somebody looking after them. But at any one time we didn’t know where they were or who that person was. It was like one big family. It was a similar scenario for Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The Festival of the Passover celebrated the occasion when God redeemed the Israelites in Egypt which brought about their subsequent exodus and freedom. Take into account that it is estimated that about 2.5 million Jews would go to Jerusalem each year for 4
Passover – you can see how easy it would be not to find someone you are looking for. Mary expected Jesus to be with them, in fact she took umbrage that he wasn’t (v48) – she hadn’t realised that Jesus was already beginning his ministry, which he explains (v49) – and yet they still didn’t understand. But Mary pondered on these things and, I guess, must have wondered exactly what the future held. In these first two chapters we have seen characters of all ages, from babies to people up to 100 years old; and people of all ages in between. For example: · · · · · · · · ·
Jesus and John the Baptist in the womb and as babies; A Child – Jesus aged 12 A teenager – Mary, a young mum Joseph – perhaps in his 30’s? Elizabeth – mid fifties? Zechariah – probably older Shepherds – of working age Simeon – elderly Anna – At least 84 or older
They were all known and used by God; all filled with the Holy Spirit; all a part of ushering in a New Age – the Age of God’s Grace. They represent the fact that · God’s grace is for all – men and women, old and young. · Anyone who loves God can be filled with the Holy Spirit and used by God This familiar story has encouragement for so many people today: The homeless and refugees, the young mum, teenagers trying to find their place in society, older people – who are never ‘past it’!
Chapter 3: The ministry of John the Baptist Read verses 1&2: Note Luke’s very careful historical dating which puts the year at 28-29 AD. Thus giving us the age, at the time, of both John and Jesus. John was preaching during the reign of Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee, otherwise known as Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas Contemporaries: John the Baptist, Jesus, Pilate Bible Ref.: Luke 3; Mark 6, Acts 4 v 27, Acts 13 v 1 * Loved building. He built the city of Tiberius * He ruled the region of Galilee for the Romans – a “puppet” King * Like all the Herods he was consumed with his quest for power * He made wrong decisions under pressure from his wife * He divorced his first wife to marry the wife of his half-brother, Philip * He imprisoned John the Baptist and ultimately ordered his execution * He had a minor part in the execution of Jesus * His life was driven by ambition and destruction of anything that got in his way He was the son of Herod the Great (who murdered innocent babies in the story of Jesus’ birth); he was the Father of Herod Agrippa 1 (who murdered the apostle James) and the grandfather of Herod Agrippa 11 (before whom Paul stood trial). The Herods were all evil men, driven by power.
Read verses 2-9: JOHN THE HERALD Not only was the Jewish King, Herod, against God’s ways but the Temple system was corrupt too – as seen by the fact that there were 2 High Priests mentioned and there should ever have only been one. So John the Baptist was not only challenging individuals about their sin and their need to repent, he was fighting the system too. But he was clearly God’s man for the job and Luke affirms this by quoting from Isaiah 40v3-5 which prophesies one who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. John was heralding in a new era. John’s style of delivery was certainly forthright! (v7) The people were saying they were safe because they were literally descended from Abraham. But salvation can only be found when we are children of Abraham in the spiritual sense, i.e. when we repent of our sins and walk by faith in God. Q. Was John right to be so harsh? Do we all too often “pussy foot” around instead of coming to the point, lest we upset people? Read verses 10-14: JOHN THE TEACHER The questions people asked seem to us a bit surprising. Didn’t they already know the answers, or were their ways so embedded in their culture, that they had become “normal”? We get the picture that it was every man for himself. But John said: · Share what you have with others who have none · Never take more than you are owed · Be content with what you have What should we do? The implication is that we should simply use what we have. Q. In our society, what things do we now accept as “normal” that we know are wrong according to God’s word? Are we, as a society, any different from those in John’s day? (In other words, if John came to Britain today, what would he be saying we should do?) Read verses 15-18: JOHN THE PROPHET Over the years there had been a number of “false Messiahs” who didn’t amount to anything so the people were a bit sceptical and also wondering if John was the real one this time. But John makes it absolutely clear that he is not the Messiah, but that He is coming. He deferred to Jesus, “I am not worthy”, and said that the Messiah would come in power. John was baptising in water but Jesus would baptise with fire. Q. Look at verse 17 again. To what is the “fire” of verse 16 referring? (Winnowing is the process of separating kernels of threshed grain from chaff; done by shaking bunches of grain into a breeze so that the kernels fall to the ground and the chaff is blown away by the wind.) When Jesus comes with fire there is a winnowing of the church – a shaking up. This can be the result of persecution. The purpose is not to destroy the church but to refine it and purify it. Read verses 19&20: JOHN THE PERSECUTED John was very brave to rebuke Herod, although traditionally Jewish prophets were meant to speak into the life of the nation and directly into the life of the King. Herod, not wanting his authority challenged in any way had John thrown into prison. In many countries today it is not unusual for the state to view Christians in this same way, so that they too suffer imprisonment and persecution. Here is an excerpt from Barnabas prayer guide for 22.9.2016: “We have to pray in secret. The risk of jail, especially for prayer leaders is very great,” said ------ an Eritrean Christian who has fled his homeland because of persecution …. He estimates that hundreds of Pentecostal believers are in prison (in Eritrea) because of their beliefs. We should never forget the privilege we have to pray openly. Read verses 21-23: JOHN THE BAPTIZER This is how we identify John – as the Baptist. And really, this was the purpose and culmination of his ministry. He had prepared the people for the coming of Jesus – and here, Jesus makes his first public appearance. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? It wasn’t 6
because he had any sin to repent of. It was because he wanted to identify with us and set an example for us. And more especially, it was at this moment in time that he was identified as the Son of God, as the voice of the Father proclaimed it and the Holy Spirit affirmed it (in the presence of the dove) God – three in one, the Holy Trinity. Read verses 23-38: Proof of John’s claim that Jesus is Messiah Although Matthew and Luke follow slightly different pathways in their genealogies (One for Joseph and one for Mary?) the point being made is (to put it simply) that Jesus was a direct descendant of David - meaning that he had the credentials to be King. He was also directly descended from Abraham and Jacob meaning that he had the credentials to be the Messiah promised in the Covenant. The lineage is mentioned for those reasons and also because the birth of Jesus had been registered in Bethlehem according to Roman Law. It cannot be argued with. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements legally and spiritually – at his birth he was dedicated according to Jewish law and prophesied over in the Temple. His Messiahship was confirmed at his baptism. The final four words of chapter 3 say it all: The Son of God
Chapter 4: Dealing with temptation. Read verses 1-13: A spiritual contest Right at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry Satan ‘chances his luck’ in a bid to get the better of his enemy, Jesus. It was therefore very important that Jesus should establish his authority as The Son of God – but in order that he could empathise with us and set us an example Jesus, as fully human, resisted Satan, trusting in Father God. In this passage · Satan reveals his true colours: i.e. tempter, deceiver, accuser. · Jesus shows us how to be victorious: i.e. stay in God’s will, rely on God’s truth, know who we are in God. A Threefold Attack 1. Verses 3&4: Jesus had eaten nothing for forty days. Just as he tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, Satan now tempts Jesus with food when he is very hungry. Satan’s strategy is to look for areas of weakness, “if you are the Son of God …”. Jesus clung to the word of God, quoting from the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy): Deuteronomy 8v3 – Thou shalt not live by bread alone. He didn’t ‘play Satan’s game’, he didn’t get into an argument about his deity. 2. Verses 5-8: Satan knew that Jesus was God and would defeat him by his work the Cross, which would earn Jesus the tile of victorious King of Kings. So he tried to tempt Jesus with riches and glory and a way out of suffering. But then if Jesus did that he would be indebted to Satan! Again Jesus counteracts with Scripture quoting from Deut. 6v13: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only. In other words, “it’s you who should worship me”! 3. Verses 9-12: Satan’s new tactic is to quote Scripture to Jesus! “Prove God will save you by jumping off this high wall”. Even when we are in God’s will and on a spiritual “high” the Devil can still tempt us (he will even use God’s word if it gets us on his side!). This is why it is so important that we know the Scriptures. Jesus again quotes from the Book of the Law: Deut.6v16 – Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Q. In what ways does Satan tempt us e.g. in our weakness (temper?), our need (desires?), our walk with God (interruptions?), our ignorance (wrong thoughts?) and why do we submit to the temptation to do things Satan’s way which is usually the easier and more palatable way? Read verses 14-30: Note firstly (v14) that Jesus returned from his ordeal in the wilderness as an overcomer, in the power of the Spirit. The outcome of testing should be refinement and a closer walk with God. Jesus passed the test. He never asks us to do anything he has not done himself. When we’ve come through a period of testing do we feel “crushed in our spirit” or “strengthened by The Spirit”? Verses 16-21: Jesus identifies himself as the one spoken about by Isaiah. He didn’t brag, “I’m the Messiah”, but he let the Scriptures do the talking for him. Those present who were looking to God would have understood and believed. It must have sent a shiver down their spine! This is the Messiah! 7
Verses 22-30:And as the news of his miracles spread, his family and friends would have flocked to see what was happening. But they were sceptical. Jesus was the boy they had seen growing up, I would think possibly a very good, obedient and kind child but not overly assertive. Behind their words was unbelief, “Physician heal thyself” was their way of saying, “Prove it. Prove to us that you are who you say you are.” (Slight echoes of Satan in the wilderness here? “If you are the Son of God …” v.3). Jesus knew their minds and astonishingly began to explain that only those who believed would see miracles; and he cited the examples of the widow of Zarephath and Naamam the Syrian leper – both gentiles. It was a blow to their pride in their Jewish ancestry. They were trusting in that rather than in God. Astonishingly they took drastic measures and tried to kill Jesus (again echoes of Satan in the wilderness?! V.9) but God protected him in a miraculous way. Read verses 31-37: It is noticeable in this chapter just how much of Jesus’ ministry was preceded by prayer and Bible reading. In synagogues it was the custom that visiting preachers could stand up and read the Scripture and preach. Jesus took every advantage of this. But, even here, the demons still tried to attack Jesus (more echoes of Satan in the wilderness?) who demonstrated his authority. The people summed it up so well in verse 36 proclaiming his authority and power. The subject of demons is a difficult one for us in the West to understand and the excerpt I found on the internet may be helpful (see appendix 1). Read verses 38-44: Name the different things Jesus was doing in verses 38-41. Even when Jesus sought a solitary place they sought him out. Did he stay, did he pander to their every whim? Jesus didn’t allow himself to be manipulated or to be side-tracked from the Father’s will. First and foremost in his mind was preaching the gospel.
Chapter 5: New beginnings Read verses 1-11: A lesson in trusting Jesus Simon Peter and Andrew were fishing in one boat and James and John had been fishing alongside of them. They had fished all night on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Genennsaret) and caught nothing. They’d given up and were washing their nets (necessary to stop them from rotting) in order to dry them in the sun. Then along came Jesus. Firstly, Jesus asked Peter to move his boat into the sea a little so that he could speak to the crowds from it. Peter was obedient – he probably felt privileged to do so. (Peter and his companions had encountered Jesus before – see Mark 1.) But then Jesus asked him to take a greater step of faith: “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”. Jesus was giving a lesson in faith. “Move out a little – then, launch out into the deep” – in other words, take little steps, and then bigger ones, when you hear Jesus asking you to do something. Peter seemed to make it clear that he wouldn’t do that for anyone else (because he thought it was foolish?) but because Jesus had asked him, he would obey. And they had the biggest catch ever, so much so they needed help from James and John to haul it in! Q. How often do we “miss out” because we do not obey the voice of Jesus? In what ways can we hear the voice of Jesus? How would this episode have had an effect on Peter? Read verses 12-15: N.B. The Greek word for leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin. The worse form of leprosy affects the nerves so that people cannot feel pain and infection sets in with disastrous consequences. It also means the person could be very contagious and that is why the disease is termed ‘unclean’. It was the job of the priests to examine the person to decide whether or not they were lepers. All lepers had to live outside the city wall, isolated. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper. In that society at that time this was an incredible thing to do. As a Jew Jesus was making himself unclean – taking the man’s disease upon himself – that he might bring healing and wholeness to the man. This is a picture of what Jesus does for us in the spiritual sense. We come to Him asking to be made whole, but we have sin in our lives, eating away at us like leprosy. Jesus never turns away from us, but reaches out his hand to touch us, takes our sin upon himself (and paid the penalty for us on the Cross) and makes us whole. Q. What was the outcome of this episode? Read verses 17-26: A holistic ministry
Doctors and nurses training today are taught to look at the person as a whole and understand how sickness relates to other things happening in their lives. In reality, they don’t usually have time to consider the wider picture! But Jesus did – he took a holistic approach before the term was ever invented. Our physical well-being and spiritual needs are often linked and one affects the other. The man on the stretcher was paralysed, and because of the faith of his friends Jesus said to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” – not what anyone was expecting!!! Q. Where was Jesus when he said this and why do you think he took this approach? (see v21)? To show that he had both power and authority Jesus said to the man, “Get up and walk home”. Not only had Jesus proved that he could heal, he had also helped people to see that he was God and had God’s authority to forgive sins. Notes: The function of Pharisees was to study and apply God’s Law in their own lives. But they often read too much into it and wanted to apply it to everyone else’s lives too. This resulted in the Jewish religion becoming burdensome. Jesus often condemned the Pharisees for being hypocrites and judgmental. The difference between power and authority A policeman has the authority to stop a car because of his position, and most motorists submit to his authority. But he does not have the power to stop a car, literally! His physical power is limited, but the authority invested in him covers all things that are within the law of the land. Jesus had both His Father’s authority (and indeed the authority of the Old Testament Law) and he had the power – in a miraculous physical sense – to affect the physical world. Therefore he could forgive sins and heal bodies. By doing this he was indicating to those who wanted to trust God, that he was indeed the Son of God – the Messiah. Read verses 27-32: This is an astonishing chapter, full of miracles and challenges: first there was the miraculous catch of fish (impossible), then Jesus touched the leper (unheard of ), then He claimed authority to forgive sins (thought to be blasphemy), and in this passage we see him eating with tax collectors and sinners (which to the Pharisees was a humiliation)! We talk about ‘disturbing the status quo’ and this is what Jesus was doing in his aim to reveal important spiritual lessons to the people. Jesus came alongside everybody – the healthy and the sick; the rich and the poor; those who were popular and loved, and those who were despised. Tax collectors were despised because they worked for the Romans. Often they took a cut of the money for themselves, although there is nothing to suggest Matthew (Levi) did this. (Jesus changed Levi’s name to Matthew which means “Gift of God”.) Q. Jesus seemed to imply that self-righteous people couldn’t repent (v32) – what do you think? Read verses 33-39: Firstly, Jesus makes the point (probably to the Pharisees) that there is no need for fasting if we have Jesus, the bridegroom, with us (using the traditional Jewish wedding custom as a parable). The Pharisees were keen on fasting and Jesus didn’t want people to follow them. There are occasions when the early Christians did fast, Jesus wasn’t saying we shouldn’t fast, but that it should be for the right reasons. Secondly, he moves on to give two parables about the old and the new, referring to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, in a bid to help understanding of the dramatic changes that people were seeing before their very eyes, in the Coming of the Messiah. Clothes When I patch my husband’s old gardening jeans I do not use material from a new pair to do the job! Then, both the new pair and the old pair would be faulty. New Wine New wine would continue to ferment and cause old, brittle wineskins to burst. Both the new wine and the old skins would be no good. The new wine – the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant, New Life – all these things could not simply be added onto the Old Covenant. The coming of Jesus, in the historical sense and in the personal sense, makes all things NEW. This was indeed a new beginning, not just for the Jews – but for all mankind. 9
Chapter 6: What are we really like and who do we really trust in? Read verses 1-11: The Sabbath Chapter 5 finished with Jesus explaining that, with his coming, all things were being made new. And here he astounds the people, especially the Pharisees, with a new approach to the Sabbath. The Sabbath (the word means “rest”) was the weekly day of rest and worship for the Jews (Saturday), instituted at Creation when God rested on the seventh day. The rabbis regarded the Sabbath as an end in itself, whereas Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for man’s benefit. Jesus himself kept the Sabbath – we often read of him in the synagogue - but was not bound by it, shown by the fact that he took the opportunity to gather some corn to eat and also to heal those in need. How is the Sabbath different for Christians? The Lord’s Day – the first day of the week – was celebrated by the early Christians in celebration of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week and that tradition has prevailed. Exodus 20v8 tells us to remember to rest every 7th day and to keep it holy i.e. to be in the Lord’s presence. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same day, but it is important that we remember why God told us to do this. Q. Is there a universal recognition that men and women need to rest and have the opportunity to recharge their “batteries”, physically, spiritually and mentally? What happens if we don’t heed God’s advice? (In North Korea, where no religion is tolerated, the law says that labourers can work between 48 and 112 hours per week - and Saturdays are spent at the workplace for political and idealogical education. Compare this to 35 hours in France!) N.B. By citing the reference to David eating the consecrated bread – which David could do because he was God’s anointed one – Jesus was indirectly showing the people that he too was God’s Anointed One. He also called himself The Son of Man. What does it mean? (Excerpt from considerthegospel.org) Some digging through biblical history reveals the answer. ‘Son of man’ comes from Daniel in the Old Testament who records a vision explicitly about the future, referencing a ‘son of man’. Here is how Daniel (ca 550 BC) recorded his vision: As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened… In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:9-14) In other words, the son of man depicted by Daniel was a powerful figure from heaven who would establish an eternal Kingdom that would encompass all peoples. Read verses 12-16: Appointing Apostles There were many disciples (in Luke 10 we read of Jesus sending out 72 disciples) but from them he appointed and especially commissioned the 12 apostles: two Simons, two James, two Judas, Andrew, John, Philip, Matthew, Bartholomew and Thomas. And within this smaller group Jesus had a core group of three – Peter, James and John – who were closer to Jesus, and to whom Jesus revealed deeper spiritual truths. (Notice that Jesus prayed before he made decisions – v12) (For list of Apostles with descriptions see Appendix 11) Read verses 17-26: 10
Jesus often accompanied healing with teaching. Notice in verse 19 the power was literally flowing out of Jesus and healing them all. Jesus teaching consisted of blessings and woes (not curses as in the Old Testament). Jesus blessed the poor (20), the hungry (v21), the sad (v21) and the persecuted (v22) – they would have great reward in Heaven. But He pointed out that the rich (v24), the well-fed (v25), the happy (v25) and the honoured (v26) (probably referring to the Pharisees) had already had their reward. So the emphasis is on, not what we own or have attained, but on what we are. Do we have a God-like character? Are we successful materially or spiritually? Jesus is perhaps asking us to examine our inner attitude. Q. Is it possible to be both materially successful and Godlike in our nature? Read verses 27-38: Verses 31 and 38 sum up this passage: Do to others as you would have them do to you … for with the measure you use it will be measured to you. In fact we are to aim high and imitate our heavenly father by being merciful, just as He is merciful (v36). In other words we will reap what we sow. We bring our own rewards and punishments by the way we act toward others. If we judge we will be judged. If we forgive we will be forgiven. If we condemn we will be condemned. If we give we will receive. Q. So where is the difficulty? See verse 35. Read verses 39-45: So often Jesus states the obvious. How can a blind man lead another? How can you help someone with a speck in their eye if you cannot see because of what is in your own? Primarily Jesus was talking to the Pharisees because they were leading people astray. We cannot lead others where we have not been ourselves. The onus is on us to do something about it. Q. Is it true that people often criticize others because they are guilty of similar or worse in their own lives? Finally Jesus teaches that what is in our heart is what comes out of our lips. Ultimately we reveal if we are ‘a good tree bearing good fruit’ or ‘a bad tree bearing bad fruit’ (v43). Read verses 46-49: Here Jesus is talking to people who call him “Lord” – most of us? It’s not enough to simply hear the word – we must also put it into practice. We should build our lives on the solid foundation of God’s truth and obedience to his will, and not on our own preconceived ideas and mere lip-service. We can be rooted in Christ if our Christian life is based on faith and obedience. Without those two things we will not stand when the storms of life come. Just obeying the rules meticulously like the Pharisees is not enough.
Chapter 7: Faith, compassion, love and forgiveness Read verses 1-10: The Centurion’s love, humility and faith This Roman Centurion was a man of character and integrity. He didn’t just do his job (which was to keep the peace of Rome), he went the extra mile and even built the Jewish people a synagogue (v5). We also see that he was a man who had concern for the welfare of his servants and he was a man of authority – he sent some Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and heal a valued servant who was ill. But the approach of Jesus made him feel unworthy and so he asks Jesus to stop his journey and merely speak the word which, he knew, would heal his servant. He had faith in the authority of Jesus. Just as soldiers obey an order from a commanding officer, so sickness was subject to the authority of Jesus. Q. What was Jesus’ response and what was the outcome? For healing to happen did the sick servant need to have faith? Did anyone need to lay hands on him? Did he or his family need to be Jews or believers in Jesus? Could he have got better anyway (v2)? There were two intermediaries between the sick man and Jesus (the Centurion and the Elders) and he may not even have 11
been aware of what was happening – or maybe it was he who initially asked for Jesus to be called to heal him. Therefore, we can pray for absent friends and know that God can touch them. Q. How do you think this healing impacted on the sick man, the Jewish elders, the Centurion and the onlookers? Q. Do you think Jesus healed the servant because the Centurion “deserved” it (v4)? Read verses 11-17: Compassion The widow had lost her husband, and now her only son; and Jesus’ heart went out to her (v13). He had compassion - Compassion is love that moves us to action. Jesus had travelled 25 miles from his previous location to “coincidentally” arrive at the town gate just as a dead person was being carried out (v12). Whilst the previous miracle demonstrated great faith by the Centurion, in this story all we see is a broken woman and her son who had died. Jesus showed her sympathy (“don’t cry”) and gentle kind-heartedness. She didn’t have to merit his attention or plead with him or demonstrate her faith. Jesus saw her need and responded. Q. What does this tell us about Jesus’s reasons for healing? Did he necessarily have any ulterior motives? Jesus did an extraordinary thing which would have immediately drawn attention to what was happening. He touched the bier (like an open coffin/platform). By doing so he was making himself ritually unclean according to the Law of Moses. But it would have made people look – and then with authority he spoke the word: “I say to you get up”, and the boy was raised to life. Jesus feels the pain of sin and sickness and death in this world. He was called “the man of sorrows” by Isaiah (chapter 53v3). He identifies with those in pain and comes alongside them in their suffering and grief. Again, Jesus only had to speak the word to change the whole situation. Q. Do we have authority from God to speak healing and wholeness into people’s lives? Is it what we say, or is it what Jesus sees in our hearts that brings results? Read verses 18-29: When doubt creeps in John the Baptist had prepared the way for Jesus and then he was thrown into prison. He had equipped the people with the knowledge that Jesus was the One sent from God – but he, himself, had no opportunity to see the works and miracles that Jesus was performing. And doubt set in. John had no choice, he could not follow Jesus. But this is a reminder to us of what can happen if we stop meeting with other Christians – we can grow cold and doubtful and discouraged. Jesus sent the messengers back to John with encouraging news. Why didn’t Jesus visit John and set John free? Did he need to be politically correct and not “rock the boat” as far as Herod was concerned? It may have been dangerous. What Jesus did do was to affirm that John was the greatest man born of woman. By performing miracles and asking the men to tell John what they had seen, Jesus was affirming that he was indeed establishing his kingdom on earth. A heavenly kingdom but not a political kingdom. Read verses 30-35: Unbelief is worse that doubt Note that Jesus didn’t berate John for his doubt. But the Pharisees were different. They had refused John’s baptism. They were judgmental of both John and Jesus. And Jesus pointed out the discrepancies in their thinking. They didn’t like festivity and yet they didn’t like mourning (v32). They didn’t like paucity (simple living like John’s) and they didn’t like the fact that Jesus was feasting with sinners. But Luke says: “Wisdom is proved right by all her children”. In other words: Wisdom will be proved right by her actions and outcomes. Jesus is saying, “Don’t judge too soon”. Jesus is the personification of wisdom. Trust in him is vital – but the Pharisees would not believe. And so Jesus stages a lesson for them in the next paragraph. Read verses 36-50: Love and forgiveness One of the Pharisees (Simon by name) asked Jesus to eat with him. As a rich man, he had a large house which was open-fronted, so that passers-by could view and sometimes wander in. One such person was a sinful woman, who upon hearing that Jesus was there, took the opportunity to meet him. And she went along prepared to worship him, taking with her an alabaster box of precious ointment. She was moved to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, dry them with her hair, kiss them lovingly and anoint them with her perfumed oil. Here was a picture of thankfulness, love, devotion and worship. 12
The Pharisee must have been very embarrassed because women were not spoken to or included at the meal table in public. And a woman of her repute would not have been welcomed. But how could he say anything much when Jesus welcomed her and spoke to her – and everyone’s eyes were on the proceedings. Jesus pointed out the contrasting behaviour of the Pharisee who didn’t even show Jesus the courtesy of washing his feet (a customary practice on entering a home in that culture) or drying them or welcoming him with a brotherly kiss, least of all anointing him. Jesus went on to explain that the woman loved much because she had been forgiven much – she understood that she was a sinner who needed forgiveness. But the Pharisee was too proud to admit to such a need and therefore would never know such love and forgiveness. But – wisdom is proved right by her children. Here is an example to the Pharisee that true repentance will have an effect on our behaviour. Knowing we are forgiven sinners should cause us to show our love for Jesus in both spoken and practical ways. The woman’s works were evidence of her faith. And Simon’s lack of works were evidence of his lack of faith. Jesus didn’t heal the Centurion because he deserved it, nor the woman’s son. And neither the servant or the son could display faith. Jesus healed them because he loved them.
Chapter 8: Acting on the Word Read verses 1-3: Here we get a little insight into Jesus’ everyday life, travelling from village to village preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. How could he do this with no job, no money and no home? Verse 3 explains that some of his followers were women of means. Ironically some, like Joanna, were related to people in Herod’s household and I guess they were taking a risk in doing what they did. Read verses 4-15: The story of the sower and the seed
Some seed fell on the path but the birds ate it.
The path represents hard hearts. The birds speak of the devil snatching away the truth.
Some seed fell on ground with rocks in it. Not enough room or moisture.
Shallow soil is like people who don’t continue to grow, they don’t put down roots. When the heat comes they shrivel up – no reserves in their roots.
Some seed fell among thorns which choked it.
Thorny soil represents hearts which allow worries and worldly things to take them away from the faith.
Some seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a good crop.
Good soil is like the hearts who are truly responsive to God’s word and bear fruit.
Q. This parable is often used in an evangelistic meeting, but think about the ways in which it challenge us? We should read the rest of chapter 8 with the parable of the sower in mind. Read verses 16-18: (and refer back to v10) It is sometimes thought that verse 10 says that Jesus didn’t want people to understand. But the opposite is true. Parables are there, not to hide truth but to reveal it. This little passage explains that all is being revealed by Jesus – BUT – we have to be careful to hear what he is saying, and then respond to it. Read verses 19-21: Here Luke inserts another snippet of Jesus’ everyday life – he was so busy preaching to the crowds that even his family could not get to see him. Jesus was not ‘putting down’ his mother and brothers, but rather he was elevating us to family relationship with him. (Rather like the parable of the Prodigal Son) It sounds blunt, but he was responding to God’s will rather than the will of the people. 13
Read verses 22-25: The narrative shifts to ‘another day’ when Jesus is using a practical real-life event to teach the disciples a lesson in faith (perhaps the teaching in the parables hadn’t fully sunk in?). He took them into a squall on the lake to test their faith … and they panicked! Once again, Jesus ‘spoke the word’ and the storm was calmed. What a challenge to them! The sea (the thorny ground) had made them take their eyes off Jesus. Q. Does this suggest that Jesus deliberately allows storms in our lives in order to grow our faith? Can we do anything to prevent those storms? Read verses 26-39: This parable gives us hope. Before we know Christ it doesn’t matter how full of stones and bad soil and weeds there are in our hearts, nothing is too hard for Jesus to get rid of and free us from. Be it drugs or drink or gambling or, as in this case, demons … Jesus can make all things new. And sometimes the process might offend others (to the Jews pigs were an unclean animal, but to the owner they were his livelihood and I don’t suppose he was very pleased about what happened!) Demons believe in Jesus, they recognise him and are opposed to him and his work, they manifest themselves in different ways. Here, they possessed the man so that he was out of control. Unlike the other people Jesus was not afraid of the demons or of the man. The people chained him up and got on with their pig farming. Jesus went out of his way to save this tormented man. He had compassion on him, and set the man free physically and spiritually. Q. What does this passage teach us about Jesus’ priorities? What was worth more to Jesus – the lives of the pigs, the livelihood of the farmer, the opinion of the people, his own reputation – or the man’s soul? How should this affect our priorities? Read verses 43-48: Two things happened almost together in this story, but I have separated them out. This unnamed woman was desperate and probably embarrassed. She had managed to get near Jesus because she believed that (despite the crowds) if she just touched the hem of his garment she would be healed. But Jesus ‘felt’ healing go out from him and spoke to her. Here we see that it was indeed the woman’s faith that brought her healing (compare with the demoniac and the dead child). We can never second guess Jesus! He healed for all sorts of reasons. Q. Why do you think Jesus healed for different reasons? In what ways is this story linked to the theme in this chapter of the best way to grow our faith? It’s important that we live by faith. But it should be faith in God and not faith in our faith. If we had a magic formula that brought about healing every time, we would use that and not use our faith. Even if we have great faith we can sometimes trust in our faith rather than trust in God’s power. Read verses 40-42 and 49-56: Jesus had been preaching in the synagogues and this synagogue leader, Jairus, had responded to the word (the seed sown). In humility and courage (the Pharisees would not have been pleased!) he approached Jesus because his daughter was dying. Notice how often Jesus delays raising the dead (Lazarus, the boy’s funeral etc.) – I guess because he didn’t want people to say the person wasn’t really dead. In fact, the people in this story laughed at him when he said as much. Showing respect and love and dignity for the child and her parents Jesus quietly joined them (with Peter, James and John) in her sickroom. And once again … he spoke the words of life into her body, “My child get up” … and she was alive and well!
Chapter 9: Least and greatest – Ups and Downs Read verses 1-9: We have seen Jesus calling the disciples (5v1-11) and choosing the twelve to be apostles (6v13). And now we see him sending them out. So, in other words they have been called, appointed and commissioned, but not without training. It is likely that they had been following and watching and learning from Jesus for about a year. Their task was straightforward: they were to live by faith, only go where they were welcomed and proclaim the good news of healing and salvation. 14
Q. As followers of Christ is this the process we should all go through? Herod the Tetrach, who beheaded John the Baptist, (mentioned in v7-9) was the son of Herod the Great (he who had tried to kill the Saviour by having the baby boys under the age of two killed when Jesus was born). He wanted to see Jesus, but we note that Jesus carefully avoids seeing Herod! Read verses 10-17: Once again a crowd is following Jesus. The day is nearly ended and the people have not eaten. John 6v48 says that the only food available was a boy’s lunch. Why had he not eaten it? I have observed that children on a coach outing often begin eating what their mums have packed way before they have even reached their destination!! I wonder if the lunch was packed with the intention of giving it to Jesus. Certainly the lad made a sacrifice that day. Q. Do you think God can match our gifts to the very person who needs to be blessed by them? Jesus instructed that they sat in a hundred groups of fifty – more if there were women and children too. And as Jesus broke the bread it was miraculously multiplied so that they all had enough to eat. And there were 12 baskets left over. One for each of the disciples. Remember verse 3? When we trust God he more than supplies our need. Read verses 18-20: Despite the crowds we see that Jesus makes it a priority to spend time in prayer with his disciples. It is uneducated Peter who, as a result of spending time in Jesus’ presence, appreciates that Jesus is the Messiah – the Christ, God’s Anointed One. The more time we spend in God’s presence, the more our eyes can see spiritual truth. Read verses 21-27: Although the disciples now recognise that Jesus is the expected Messiah, Jesus explains that it’s not going to be a smooth road. He, himself will face death, and following him is not all miracles and healings and great times. They were to be prepared to “take up their cross” and deny themselves. And although there will be testing times they are told never to be ashamed of the gospel. They are asked to be willing even to lose their lives for the sake of the gospel (and we know that many of Christ’s followers did). Verse 27 is difficult to understand and even Bible Commentators are not really sure. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best. ‘Some of the disciples will see the Kingdom of God before they die’. Was Jesus perhaps preparing Peter, James and John for what they were about to experience on the Mount of Transfiguration a week later? Read verses 28-36: Transfiguration simply means a change in appearance. Whilst in prayer the appearance of Jesus face changed (was it like Jesus’ resurrection face which wasn’t at first recognised by his two companions on the Road to Emmaus, or by Mary who thought the risen Christ was the gardener?). The whiteness and brilliance surrounding him was an indication of the glory and presence of God. His face was his heavenly resurrection face. It was as if earth met heaven; and two members of heaven were talking with Jesus – Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Old Testament Law Elijah represents the words of the prophets. Jesus was the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets. The place was hallowed but … the disciples were sleepy!!! (As they were to be again in the Garden of Gethsemane – Matthew 26v43) Can you imagine it? The greatest spiritual experience of their lives and they were nodding off! By the time the disciples were fully aware of what was happening Moses and Elijah began to disappear. And Peter basically says: Why don’t we all stay here forever? He didn’t understand. The cloud descending is reminiscent of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments when God spoke of the Old Covenant. But this time it denoted the importance of Jesus to whom they should listen – ushering in the New Covenant. And then – they were alone, and speechless. What an amazing privilege. Q. Why is it difficult to speak about our private spiritual experiences? What are they for – spiritual enlightenment, teaching, anointing, power …? 15
Read verses 37-43: Despite their anointing and their experience the disciples failed to bring deliverance to the demon-possessed boy. What was Jesus’ explanation (v41)? They were all amazed at the greatness of Jesus – and yet his disciples (including us?) are expected to do the same!! Read verses 43-50: Preparing the disciples for what was to come Jesus gave some clear teaching about his future which they could not understand and … they were afraid to ask about it, even after spending so much time with Jesus. Q. Why didn’t they understand? Why were they afraid? And so, instead of seeking understanding they had a silly row over who would be the greatest. Isn’t it sometimes the way, that after a spiritual high we get a ‘low’. In response to their question, “Who will be the greatest?” Jesus uses a child as an example: the least is the greatest. At the beginning of the chapter (with ref to Matthew 6) we saw that it was just a boy who provided the meal for Jesus to perform a mighty miracle. We can all be used by God and our greatness in the kingdom is measured by our willingness and humility and faith – not by any of the world’s measurements of greatness. Read verses 51-56: Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He was not looking forward to it because he knew the outcome. But he set his face to accomplish his mission. The Jews were not welcomed by the Samaritans and so Jesus had to take an alternative route. The response to the situation by the disciples was a bit “over the top”! They couldn’t cast out a demon, but they were prepared to call down fire from heaven!! Read verses 57-62: 3 examples of excuses given by uncommitted followers of Jesus; 1. It is implied that the man was willing to follow Jesus but not when he realised he would have to give up his home. 2. Here is a man who wanted to bury a ‘dead’ relative (who either would have been buried that same day or, had not yet died!) 3. Here is the man who would not give up his family to follow Jesus. Jesus draws an analogy with ploughing a field. The important thing is to fix your eyes on a point at the far side of the field. If you look back you will go off course and are not fit to do the job. So it is with discipleship. The same applies to the Christian life.
Chapter 10: Our commission: to believe, to go, to preach, to serve, to love Read verses 1-11: How often do we pray for the Lord to prepare the way for us? Here Jesus asks his followers to prepare the way for him (1). And they were given three commands (v3): · To be like lambs among wolves · To live by faith · To not be distracted Q. How easy would it be to follow Jesus’ commands? How often do we keep away from difficult situations and allow distractions to take precedence? These disciples were called to reveal who Jesus was to the Israelites. On their travels they were to rely on sympathetic Jews offering them accommodation and food, and to stay where they were welcomed. But if they were snubbed because of their message they were not to stay and argue. “Wiping the dust from their feet” means the same as our English idiom “to wash our hands of them”. But we mustn’t take this passage out of context, because we are not Jews speaking to Jews. We have been called to show God’s love to the whole world. And sometimes we have to persevere with those who will not listen. 16
Q. But are there occasions when we should at least let go, and surrender situations and people to God; and not use up emotional energy? Read verses 12-16: Here, Jesus likens Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum to the Old Testament examples of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom – because they did not repent and believe their punishment would be the same. Verse 16 is telling – people don’t just reject us and our message; by doing so they are rejecting Jesus Christ and God himself. Read verses 17-24: The disciples came back rejoicing in the power they had over evil spirits. But Jesus reminded them that salvation is the most important thing (v20). Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (mightily struck down to the earth)”. Q. What does this tell us about Satan’s authority? In verses 22-24 Jesus explains that he is the one who brings the truths of God into our hearts. They cannot be learned by wise men – only by those who come like little children. The disciples then were blessed beyond measure to see Jesus with their own eyes (Many of Israel’s Kings and prophets were looking forward to that day but never saw it.) Perhaps that is why Jesus pronouncement of punishment on Capernaum etc. was so severe. They had seen Jesus and miracles and God at work, but still did not believe. Read verses 25-29: Notice the question was asked to test Jesus, to try and catch him out. As usual Jesus answers a question with a question and interestingly points the expert in the law to the Law of Moses. The Law says we should love God and love our neighbour (Deut 6v5 and Lev 19v18). The lawyer believed he knew everything about the law, and probably he kept the law. Jesus doesn’t answer him directly, but tells a little story. Read verses 30-37: It’s the familiar story of the good Samaritan. The people you would expect to help, i.e. the priest and the Levite, side-stepped the wounded man. The very person you would not expect to help, i.e. the hated Samaritan, not only stopped and helped but went the extra mile in providing for his care. And then Jesus asked the lawyer his own question. “Who was the neighbour?” Q. What is the key word in verse 37? To whom can we be a good neighbour? This passage is a good example of the importance of the Old Testament and the part it plays in leading us to Salvation (v25,26). Read verses 38-42: Whilst the story of the good Samaritan illustrates how to love our neighbour, this little picture teaches us how to love God (so that both stories together are the answer to verse 27). To a degree there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be like Mary and like Martha. What earthly good is someone who worships ALL the time? What heavenly good is someone who works ALL the time? God wants both worshippers and workers in the same person!! But this is about getting our priorities right. We should be busy for the Lord, but we should also make sure we spend time in his presence. Time set aside each day to read our Bible and pray. And when we are doing that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get distracted by less important things.
Chapter 11: Prayer, opposition and choices – a chapter of teaching Read verses 1-4: John the Baptist was a man of prayer, Jesus was a man of prayer, and now the disciples realised that they needed to know how to pray. If Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, needed to pray how much more do we? Jesus provided a pattern for prayer (more fully recorded in Matthew 6v9-15).
Our Father It is clear here that we pray to Father God, through Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we acknowledge our relationship with God who is our heavenly Father – and the reason and basis for coming to him – then we can be confident that he hears us. We might not always feel able to approach God as King or Lord, but he makes it easy for us – we can come to him as Father. In fact it is easier than coming to our own father. Who art in Heaven Although Jesus was with the disciples in person, they were not to rely on him (his presence was to be shortlived). He would soon join his Father in heaven. They needed to learn to converse with Father God in Heaven directly. But as heaven is in our hearts – he is not far off. Hallowed be thy Name The word hallowed means all of the following: holy, blessed, deified, revered and special. God’s name was not to be spoken lightly, not to be taken in jest, it deserves reverence and worship. Therefore it is important that our prayer time begins with our worship of who God is and how great he is. For me, it’s all too easy to plunge straight in to a ‘shopping list’ of prayer and forget to spend time first worshipping God and acknowledging his greatness. Bit if we do this it puts everything else in perspective. Thy kingdom come God’s Kingdom is not Israel or Zion. It is a spiritual kingdom which is made up of those who have chosen to accept God’s salvation through the work of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary – both Jews and gentiles. After worship this is the most important thing for us to pray and work for. Do we put ‘kingdom requests’ before personal needs and prayers? Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven God’s will – made known through the Old Testament Law and then through Jesus – was that we should love Him with all our heart and that we should love our neighbour. When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are asking him to help us in this task. And it will require a degree of submission on our parts when we need to align our will with God’s. Give us this day our daily bread As the disciples were sent out in faith (Luke 10v4) so we are to trust God for our daily needs. And when we have more than we need we can be God’s hand extended to those who do not. At the very least it should remind us not to take God’s provision for granted. And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us Notice the caveat there! A proviso or requirement for us being forgiven is that we forgive others. It’s not something that will always be easy to do – but we are told to pray about it. It certainly should make us search our hearts to see if we have any unforgiveness towards others. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil Would God lead us into temptation? James 1v13 makes it very clear that he would not. This phrase is about asking God to guide us in the right ways. Temptation can be subtle. We might construe it as an attraction or just a part of who we are. We need to ask Jesus to steer us clear of whatever our weakness is, and not wait until we have sinned and then ask for deliverance. (Evil can also read “The evil one” i.e. Satan) We need this kind of guidance every day. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory The prayer ends as it started with an acknowledgement of just who it is we are praying to, and just how great and glorious God is. Voicing this understanding of his greatness should increase our faith on the God for whom nothing is impossible. God is both loving Father and Almighty God. What a privilege to come to him.
For ever and ever God is God of all eternity, and we cannot put him in a box of our own limitations or expectancy. His power and his presence is for all eternity. He is for ever faithful and in these words we remind ourselves that we can always trust in him. Amen Amen means “so be it”, “we agree with that”, “we believe” and are an affirmation that we mean what we have prayed. Read verses 5-8: Jesus goes on to talk about being persistent in prayer, never giving up. In his little illustration Jesus points out, if a tired and annoyed neighbour can meet the needs of a friend how much more so will God meet the needs of his children. We, as Christians, are not just friends of God, but children (in the same house!!). Good parents would always get up in the middle of the night to help their children. In fact their good name as parents would depend on it. In the same way God answers prayer for his Name’s sake and for the glory of his Son’s Name. (We pray through or in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.) Therefore when God answers prayer it is always good for us to give him the glory. Q. In what circumstances might a parent not get up for their child? What does this tell us about God? Read verses 9-13: Verse 9 follows on from the previous passage and reads keep on asking … seeking … knocking … . In other words keep in constant communion with God – don’t just come in a panic (in the middle of the night!) when there is a crisis. Jesus poses the question that if a son asks for something good is it likely that his father would give him something bad? In fact God gives us the best. The disciples listening knew that up ‘til then the Holy Spirit had only been given to a few special people, but Jesus is even saying that the Holy Spirit will be given to those who ask. The disciple’s simple request on how to pray resulted in plenty for them to think about! Read verses 14-28: Whose side are you on? Jesus makes it clear that there are two kingdoms at war over the souls of men and women on the earth and he makes several points: · · · · ·
There is power in the Name of Jesus (v14) Jesus’s power is stronger than Satan’s (v22) We cannot be neutral, we must choose to follow Jesus (v23) The result of being neutral is not good (v24-26) We are blessed if we follow and obey Jesus (v28)
Read verses 29-32: The sign of Jonah Here we see Jesus validating the story of Jonah – it was no mere fable. Jesus uses Jonah as an example to emphasise: · · · ·
The comparison between the wickedness of the Jews at that time and the wickedness of the Ninevites Jonah was the messenger of God’s grace just as Jesus was Jesus would be an even greater and wiser king than Solomon Even the redeemed men of Nineveh will judge the Jews who rejected Jesus’s offer of grace
Read verses 33-36: The Light within us We have the light of Jesus within us and basically Jesus is saying, “Let it shine, don’t hide it”. Live a healthy spiritual life and the light will shine from you naturally. In these days of persecution around the world believers are attacked because they don’t hide their lights. How easy it would be to hide away and hope that others don’t notice. We can be lights without fear in our country. Let us not take it for granted. 19
Read verses 37-44: Woes to the Pharisees Verses 39,40. “You clean the outside of the dish – but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” In modern day language Jesus is saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Con men make a good living by “looking the part” but in reality they are deceiving us. The Pharisees looked every bit the part with their ceremonial washing and fine robes, and airs and graces. God is never deceived. We need to consider how we present ourselves on the outside and what we are really like on the inside. Verses 41,42. “You give a tenth of everything, but you neglect justice and the love of God.” The Pharisees followed the tithing laws to the most minute details, but they were merely doing it to obey the letter of the Law and so that people would think more of them. They were not following the spirit of the Law. Q. What was their sin? What does Jesus expect of us? What should be our reason for giving? Tithing is a guideline. But we should give, not out of a sense of duty, but because we love God and we love others. Often this results in Christians giving far more than a tithe as they respond to people’s needs. Tithing is an expression of our love for God (and if money is scarce, it shows our trust in him to provide). Notice the end of verse 42 – we should still tithe! Verse 43. “You love the most important seats …” They felt they had rights and position because they were “super good”. Reputation was more important than true character. Is the way we live our life at home the same as we live it in church? Verse 44. “You are like unmarked graves which people walk over without knowing it.” In other words, the Pharisees look all right on the outside, but inside they are spiritually dead. Just as a dead body contaminated anyone who came into touch with it, so the Pharisees were contaminating the people they met by their pernicious teachings. What people think about God will often reflect what they think about us. If we are judgmental (like the Pharisees) then people will see God as judge. If we are loving and kind, they will see God as a loving God. Whilst it is easy to see the sins of the Pharisees it is not always easy to see our own! Read verses 45-54: Woes to the teachers of the Law. Verses 45,46. “You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, but you don’t help them.” Religious burdens and duties can sometimes stand in the way of us being the people God wants us to be. The question is, “Are we quicker to pass judgment on someone who is struggling than we are to help them?” Do we put a burden of guilt on them? Do we sometimes feel guilty because we are not doing what people expect us to do? Some people put burdens on themselves as a kind of penance. We can never earn God’s forgiveness by what we do. It is always the result of God’s grace and not our works. Verses 47-51. “You respect graves more than the people who died … but it was your sort that killed them!” Jesus knew that it would be the Scribes and Pharisees that would arrest him on false charges and secure his death at Calvary – and Jesus represented all the prophets and kings before him. They were to be ultimately responsible for the death of the greatest prophet and king of all. But does that remove guilt and responsibility from us? It might if we had never sinned. But we are all guilty of the Crucifixion because Jesus died for the sin in each one of us. Verse 52-54. “You have taken away the key to knowledge.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. HE is the key to knowledge. They had rejected Christ, but worse still, they were hindering others from finding the truth. The experts in the Law knew that all the laws and sacrifices of Moses were shadows of what was to come in the Messiah. They were supremely qualified to see that, but they rejected him. When we know the truth, there is a responsibility that God places on us to pass the truth on to others.
Chapter 12: Hypocrisy, covetousness, worry and watchfulness. Read verses 1-12: Hypocrisy The Greek word hypocrite means one who acts or plays a part. Questions: Why is hypocrisy an easy sin to fall into? To what did Jesus liken hypocrisy (in verse 1)? How many times is fear/afraid mentioned in verses 4-7? What is the best way to avoid hypocrisy (v8)? Who should we rely on to give us the right words (v11,12)? We all want people to like us and this is one of the main reasons for hypocrisy. Our thinking goes: If we pretend we are better than we are, people will like us. Hypocrisy is like yeast – it grows, puffs us up and makes us proud. Jesus tells us not to be afraid; because fear of what others may say can cause hypocrisy. He said the best way to avoid hypocrisy is to openly confess our faith, lay our cards on the table, not relying on ourselves but on the Holy Spirit who will give us the right words to say. Read verses 13-21: Covetousness The root of the man’s question wasn’t about justice but greed. So Jesus told a parable about the man whose only goal was the good life (v19), but he hadn’t considered what would happen after life. This parable presents us with some more questions: What would you do if you suddenly inherited a lot of money? What are some of the things that money cannot buy? What is more important: our life on earth, or in eternity? What does verse 21 tell us? Wealth can be enjoyed if we use it to bless others and with the attitude of honouring God. Whether we have little or plenty God will bless us when we use what we have for him. We can all be rich in God. Read verses 22-34: Worry Jesus switches to the parable of the Rich Man to those who do not have much. Q. What two things are we asked to consider (v24,27) and what point was Jesus making? Just because Jesus tells us not to worry about lack of money doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want us to have it. The key verse in this passage is, “Seek first the kingdom of God and these things shall be added to you.” The Kingdom of God is more important than our pagan world (v30). It is in our hearts and as we seek to share it (by giving of what we have) then God will bless us. If our life is preoccupied with money that is where our heart is (v33,34). If we are preoccupied with serving God, then that is where our heart is. God is never fooled. Read verses 35-48: Watchfulness In the days of the Bible wedding customs were different to ours. The marriage contract was officially agreed on the couple’s betrothal. On the day of the wedding, the bridegroom, attended by friends and accompanied by musicians and singers, went to the bride’s house. And then after receiving her from her parents he conducted the whole party back to his own house for a family party and a banquet. The celebrations could go on for up to two weeks, but the servants could be required at any time, day or night. The Living Bible paraphrase summarises this passage well: Everyone would be ready for him if they knew the exact hour of his return – just as they would be ready for a thief if they knew when he was coming. 21
Jesus isn’t really talking about weddings and thieves, but about his own Second Coming. Will we be ready? The second half of the passage infers there is a greater responsibility on the servants’ manager (representing Rabbis and Christian leaders) to treat people fairly and instruct them clearly in these matters (v47-48). Read verses 49-53: Division This is a hard passage where Jesus refers to · · · ·
The coming of the Holy Spirit (fire) His own death and resurrection (baptism a metaphor) Unbelief Division
Jesus makes us face the uncomfortable truth. Following Jesus can lead to divisions and problems in families. Truly Jesus gives inner peace to the individual, but it can be the trigger which divides families and groups. Read verses 54-59: Interpreting the times Weather is always a good topic of conversation. And just as we say, “Red sky at night, shepherds delight”, so also the Israelites would say, “when the south wind blows it will be hot”. Jesus used that as an example and encouragement for us to interpret the times – and coming judgment. In another analogy, his advice to his hearers (in v58,59) was to sort out problems on the way to court and to be reconciled to their enemy before they got there, so that they could avoid punishment. In other words, they were to put their lives right with God (through the saving grace of Jesus) before it was too late. Of course, the message still applies to the reader today.
Chapter 13: Teaching about repentance through miracles and parables Read verses 1-8: The consequences of not repenting Some incidents had happened in Galilee (v1-5). On one particular occasion Pilate had had some people killed in the Temple. And at another time eighteen people died when a tower collapsed on them. The implied question is, “Do people suffer tragedy because God is punishing them?” Jesus made it quite clear that God doesn’t work like that (v5). However, we have all sinned and will be judged – BUT – if we repent, we can be forgiven. Q. Is repentance enough? The parable of the fig tree (v6-9) suggests we need to show some evidence of repentance – by being fruitful. The encouraging thing is that the fig tree was given another chance. Read verses 10-17: What are our priorities? “Crippled by a spirit”. The inference is that this was a spiritual/mental illness, not one with a physical cause. In some way Satan had caused this woman to be bowed down. She was “crippled” in her mind as well as her body. And she had been bound by Satan’s lies for 18 years (v11&16). She wasn’t demon-possessed – she was still a practising Jew. But the influence of Satan had made her to be bent over, looking down all the time, and quite probably mentally depressed, without hope. Then Jesus stepped in and released her from the bondage so that she was able to stand up straight and confident and free. Q. What was the response from the Pharisees (v14) and onlookers (v17). Read verses 18-21: The kingdom of God Using metaphors Jesus explains how the kingdom of God is like both a large tree and a batch of dough. · · · ·
It is both visible (tree) and invisible (yeast) It may start small (mustard seed) but is always growing It provides shelter and provision We have a part to play in planting the seeds of God’s word and introducing the yeast of prayer 22
Read verses 22-30: The narrow entrance into the kingdom Why a narrow door, making entry difficult, when Jesus wants all men and women to come? Firstly, it signifies the point that there is only one way to get into the kingdom – we can’t get in through any other door, perhaps a door that looks more favourable to us. Secondly, the narrow door (like the Eye of the Needle in Matt 19v24) signifies the fact that we can only get through the door as we are. We have to let go of (and turn our backs on) any other things we might put our trust in: e.g. other people, other religions, riches, relationships, burdens we won’t let go of. This is why repentance is an important factor when coming to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. Repentance means turning our back on all those other things and turning our face towards Jesus. This is the way through the narrow entrance into God’s kingdom. Read verses 31-35: Jesus’ sorrow Jesus knew the heart of the Jewish leaders and of their king, Herod Antipas (who wanted to see him dead, the same as his father Herod the Great had done when Jesus was a baby). The Pharisees should have been serving God but they too wanted to see the back of Jesus. And because of this Jesus mourns for Jerusalem. Because of the influence of bad leadership they would ultimately reject him and kill him. We see something of his sadness in verse 34, and understand more about the parable of the rich man’s banquet at the beginning of the chapter. But in verse 35 we get a hint of the Second Coming. On that occasion Israel will recognise Jesus for who he is, and will believe in him (although that won’t help the many souls of those who rejected him on the way). Currently Israel has no king, no priest and no Temple. But Israel has this promise: she has not been forsaken. How did Jesus cope with all the opposition? · · · · · · ·
He knew his identity in God – he was God’s Son. He knew and understood his enemy He knew he was in God’s will He knew his purpose on the earth He knew he would be the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin He knew where he was going – Jerusalem He knew his ultimate destiny – death and resurrection and ascension
This chapter gives us choices about: Repentance and fruitfulness; staying crippled in mind and spirit or being free in Jesus; being an active part of building God’s kingdom; choosing the right way to salvation; and making those decisions now rather than later … when it may be too late.
Chapter 14: Insincerity or true Commitment Read verses 1-6: A meal at the Pharisee’s house Jesus had been invited to eat in a Pharisee’s house. But the Pharisee had an ulterior motive. In front of Jesus was a man suffering from oedema (dropsy). But the Pharisee was using the man to trap Jesus, so Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal this man on the Sabbath?” If the Pharisee said “yes” they would accuse him of being a lawbreaker. If he said “no” the other people would see him as not caring. Then Jesus posed another question, “Wouldn’t you rescue a child or an animal on the Sabbath?” They couldn’t comment without making themselves look foolish and hypocritical. Q. How often do we allow our judgment of someone to prevent us from showing love to them? Read verses 7-11: Jesus is speaking to all who have a Pharisaical attitude, i.e. they think they know better and are better than everyone else, and they jealously guard their reputation, wanting to be seen as important. (Rather like a traditional old-fashioned English wedding, the closer you sat to the top table the more important you were. Great Aunt Elsie who hadn’t visited for the past 10 years would be most ‘put out’ if her position near the newlyweds was supplanted by one of their close friends.) Jesus sees value in a person by what their character is like, how loving and kind they are, whether they put themselves first or last. Q. Whose fame will last the longest – John Lennon or Mother Theresa? And why? 23
Read verses 12-14: Jesus makes it clear we are to: · Give without any thought of return · Give purely out of love for others · Be unselfish in all our actions Q. What are some of the ways we can do these things? Read verses 15-24: A meal in our Father’s house Jesus was still at the Pharisees house, when a Jew who was sitting near him mentioned the feast which will occur in the Kingdom of God, and this caused Jesus to tell another parable. In this parable, the food had been prepared and the people invited. But, when the call went out around town to the people to come and eat, everyone began to make their (feeble) excuses, letting down their host. These people were representative of the Jews who knew the Scriptures and had heard Jesus’ message, but refused to accept his invitation to follow. The parable continues with the host sending out an invitation to those who were living on the streets: beggars, the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. This second group of people represent the Gentiles and all those who would respond to the gospel call of Salvation through Jesus Christ. Q. In the parable who is the other person who is mentioned (v21)? And what does he have to do with us? Read verses 25-35: Part-time disciples The crowds were waiting for Jesus as he left the Pharisee’s house, and theyjoined him on his way. But, by what he says we can see that Jesus was questioning their motives for following him about. Were they committed to him or merely onlookers? Wanting to be part of the group, following a famous person, being excited at seeing miracles, or even being healed oneself, is not the same as a spiritual commitment to him and to be his disciple. A disciple is more like an apprentice than a follower. Q. What is the difference between salvation and discipleship? Can you be one without the other? People are saved if they have repented and have believed on Jesus Christ for their forgiveness and salvation. But people are disciples if they have chosen to love Jesus more than anybody or anything else; and strive to follow him even if it means the way of the Cross and suffering. Jesus illustrated his point with three small parables: · The man building a tower. He must count the cost first (v28-30) · The King going to war. He must assess the strength of his army first. (v31-32) · Salt – (v34, 35) which is only useful if it is kept pure and dedicated to its use. If it gets mixed with other impurities, it cannot be used. Jesus didn’t explain the parables. He basically said, “If you can hear the words, then work it out”.
Chapter 15: Lost and Found – and Great Rejoicing Read verses 1-7: The Lost Sheep Verses 1&2: The Tax Collectors were not honest men in suits and ties! They worked for the Roman Government and were guilty of using their position to extort money from the people to line their own pockets. It was a lucrative job but consequently they were not liked and so we see the phrase “tax collectors and sinners”. But amazingly, it was those people who were listening to Jesus. And what is more, they were being changed by Jesus, for example: Levi and Zacchaeus. But the Pharisees could not understand why and how Jesus had such a following, and why he would even share meals with them. Note: In spite of the fact that Jesus was open to everyone, he never compromised his message to anyone. Q. So, why did sinners come to Jesus? 24
Jesus spoke in parables to help the ordinary person understand. In this chapter all the parables begin with someone who “has” something or someone. The sheep and the coin and the brother all belonged in the first place and then became lost. The owner in all of them represents God who created us all, so in that sense, we all belonged to him. But we were separated from him by sin, as if we were lost. So, in verses 3-7 we read about a lost sheep. The sheep represent those people who have a tendency to wander away from the gospel of Jesus (possibly backsliders?). Many in our world have sinned and gone astray (thinking the grass looked greener on the other side of the fence) but, like the sheep, they put themselves in danger of never finding their way back. BUT they still have a shepherd who is seeking them out, ever looking for them so that he can rescue them. Notice: the shepherd didn’t punish the sheep when it was found. He didn’t drive it home with a stick. But he lifted the sheep on his shoulders to make it easy for him to return to the flock. Q. What is the result of the lost being found by Jesus? (see v 6&7) So let us continue to pray for backsliders to return to the fold. Read verses 8-10: The Lost Coin In Bible Times when a Jewish woman got married she would wear a headband of silver coins (rather like we would wear a wedding ring). So it was a loved item which also had sentimental value. Whilst the lost sheep represented those who wander away, the lost coin represents those who find themselves lost as a result of tragedy or circumstance. There was no rebellion or pride involved, merely a result of a person’s situation or an unkindness towards them. It may be something that made them hide away so that, like the coin, they would not be noticed. In many countries today, Christians are being persecuted – torn away from their Bibles, their church and often their network of family and friends. Some Christian girls are literally snatched away and married to Muslim men and never seen again. In the same way that the woman kept looking until she found her treasured possession, God is shining his light into those dark situations and his heart is to rescue those who have been lost. Q. What was the woman’s reaction when she found the coin? (v9) And what does this tell us about God? So, let us continue to pray for “snatched” souls to be returned to the shepherd’s fold. Read verses 11-24: The Lost Son The sheep represents those who wander off, unthinkingly. The coin represents those who are lost through circumstance. Here, the son represents those who think they know better and are drawn away by what the world has to offer. Note: The word prodigal is often misused because it actually means profligate, extravagantly wasteful, reckless with money. Not all lost souls fall into this category. Some are like the sheep or the coin. In Bible Times it was actually legal to take your inheritance before your father died (obviously there was no inheritance tax to worry about then!) It ensured the land could stay in the family and be looked after properly. But this son was only thinking of himself. He wasn’t securing the future for the family, rather he was taking money out of the land for himself and his own pleasures. It was an act of wilful rebellion and unkindness against his father. As we know, the son was careless and wasteful with his money, until eventually he had none left and was forced to work with pigs (unclean animals to Jews). He was virtually a slave with no money and no food. And it was when he was at his lowest he came to his senses and decided to return home and ask for forgiveness from his father, and maybe a job so he could earn his keep.
The son, of course, represents all sinners. But the father shows us such a perfect picture of our loving God: a Father who is watching, looking, waiting – who is full of compassion and love – who accepts the repentant sinner and treats him as special – who reveals his grace and mercy and forgiveness. The father gave the son food and clothes and a ring. The ring signified sonship and the fact that his son was reinstated into the family. It also meant that he regained his inheritance. What a glorious picture of what God does for us Read verses 25-32: The Older Brother When we read this parable for the first time we can find ourselves identifying with the elder brother. “It’s not fair”, he says, as he goes into a massive sulk. But we miss the point. Because we have to remember to whom Jesus was speaking (v1,2). The lost sheep, coin and brother were stories for the sinners. The older brother’s reaction was aimed at the Pharisees. Like the older brother, the Pharisees outward actions were blameless, but they had the wrong attitude of heart, believing that they had never sinned. Q. What was the sin of the Pharisees and the older brother? Pride can make us jealous and angry – especially if someone else is given undeserved kindness and love. The Pharisees were jealous of Jesus was doing for the poor, the sick and the sinners. (Do we read of the Pharisees receiving miracles?) Their actions revealed that they were angry and were in fact plotting to kill Jesus. God knows our hearts, but sometimes we need to pause and search our own hearts, lest we become like the Pharisees.
Chapter 16: Putting things right Read verses 1-15: The parable of the shrewd manager Verses 1-9: Here we have another prodigal (remember what the word means?) but this time he is not wasting his own inheritance, he is wasting his master’s money. This passage is about stewardship of what God gives us and whether or not we are using our resources wisely; because one day we must give an account to God. A modern-day example of this parable would be Robert Maxwell, an MP who misappropriated millions of pounds from the Daily Mirror pension fund, causing hardship whilst he, himself, was living in luxury with big houses, a helicopter and a yacht. But one day, when the books were being audited he was found out. Q. If we were to be asked for an audit of how we spend that which has been entrusted to us (e.g. material wealth, time, talents, health, God’s love and grace) how would we fare? The steward decided he would make friends of his master’s debtors by accepting lower payments from them (v5-7), trusting that they would help him when he was jobless. Q. What was the manager commended for (v8)? What are we encouraged to do (v9)? Verse 9 is not clear to its exact meaning. However, we know that we cannot take earthly possessions with us. So, we must use them while we have the opportunity. We should use what we have, to win people over for God. (Not buying favour, but showing God’s love.) Verses 10-15: When we depend on God he gives to us according to our need, but also it is dependent upon whether or not we have been good stewards. Only he knows our heart and our attitude toward money. Only he knows if we are truly satisfied with what we have and are using it wisely and giving generously. He knows where our trust is – whether it is in a regular income, or in him to provide. What we put our trust in becomes our master, and we can only have one (v13). The Pharisees were keen on collecting money and acquisitions, and loved to justify themselves. But Jesus knew their hearts (v14) and he knows ours. Read verses 16: Additional teachings Here we have a short passage which corrects some erroneous thinking. The Law of Moses was proclaimed until John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. But that didn’t mean the end of the Law, because Jesus was the fulfilment of the Law. The Pharisees who upheld the Law religiously felt threatened by his message of grace. But Jesus explained that the Law has not changed. 26
Q. So, what has changed? Key Aspects of the Law: Sacrifice – sin has to be paid for by the shedding of blood Holiness – God is Holy and wants us to be holy too Worship – results from repentance, sacrifice and forgiveness Cleanliness – the Law shows us how to keep pure and clean in society Neighbourliness – the Law shows us how to treat people kindly So, what has changed? The sacrifice has changed. People can now come and worship God, be sanctified and holy, and love their neighbour more easily because Jesus gave himself to be the ultimate sacrifice. The basis of sacrifice has changed but the Law remains. Jesus gives us an example of this in verse 18. The Law stays the same. The Ten Commandments stay the same. Adultery is still adultery, sin is still sin. But whereas the blood of animals couldn’t bring permanent forgiveness and salvation, the blood of Jesus can. Read verses 19-26: The rich man and Lazarus Bringing together the themes of stewardship and judgment, Jesus tells another story about the rich and the poor man after death and he is speaking to different people: Rich man: Those with plenty of money Jews who know Us – who are saved who are selfish the Scriptures (like Pharisees) Poor man: Those with very little Those who have not Those who do not been taught (& gentiles) yet know Jesus Q. Which category do you fall into? It is easy to point the finger at the rich man. But are we not also very rich in spiritual blessings? And what are we doing with what God has given us spiritually and materially? This story shows us that our actions (or lack of them) have consequences in the life hereafter. The rich man was in torment for three reasons: 1) The flames of hell. 2) The realisation of lost opportunities 3) The thought of his relations. Read verses 27-31: After death our destiny is final, fixed and forever. The rich man said, “Couldn’t you send someone to warn my brothers?” But, more to the point – why didn’t he, himself, heed the warnings when he was alive? Verse 31 is interesting because it is spoken as a conclusion to an argument. And it is a prophetic word. There was soon to be a day when Jesus would rise from the dead – but, like the rich man, the Jewish nation would still not believe. Jesus was indeed the man sent from heaven to warn all the “family” of verse 28. And the saddest thing – they still didn’t listen. The rich manager at the beginning of the chapter was commended for being shrewd in settling his accounts and winning friends before judgment came upon him. So, this whole chapter is about being prepared and keeping short accounts with God. And the wonderful thing is, we don’t have to wait until we die to experience something of heaven on earth (whether we have much, or little, or nothing). When we worship, we can come into God’s heavenly presence and know a foretaste of the richness of the life to come in eternity with Jesus.
Chapter 17: Salvation and the Second Coming Read verses 1-10: Verses 1-3a: Now Jesus addresses some thoughts to his disciples. Jesus knew he would soon be returning to heaven and wanted to prepare his disciples for the fact that they would be his representatives on earth. With discipleship comes responsibility. And so Jesus is saying: If, by your actions, you cause someone to make mistakes or impede their progress as a Christian, you will be held responsible. (Note: “Little ones” in the Bible often refers to young Christians as well as children.) Q. In what ways can our actions or our speech be a stumbling block to others? Obviously, none of us is perfect and we all make mistakes, but we need to take extra care to avoid being bad examples. People read our lives more than we realise. The Pharisees, who were outwardly “perfect” were guilty of undermining everything that Jesus said and were perhaps the greatest stumbling block as people looked up to them. We actually have a duty to nurture young Christians and help develop their faith – and mostly that is achieved by example. The consequences of being a barrier to the spiritual growth of another Christian could be dire! (The use of hyperbole in verse 2 is probably not literal, but it serves to show the severity of the sin.) We are, therefore, admonished to “watch” ourselves (v3). Verses 3b-6: The other side of the coin is that we may be the one who has been wrongfully treated by another Christian (sadly it does happen occasionally). Our human tendency is to complain to everyone else, but Jesus says we should speak to the person concerned. And if they say “sorry”, then we must forgive them. Q. What was the disciples’ response in verse 5? Sometimes we do need Jesus’ help to forgive. Verse 6 shows us the difference that faith can make. But we should always be ready to forgive, for one day we may need forgiveness ourselves. It is always easier to forgive if we have God’s love in our hearts – far harder if we don’t. Verses 7-10: But, faith should also result in loving service. It’s not all about wonderful experiences and rewards, but it’s about doing our duty in the everyday things too. If a servant will work for his master who does not reward him, how much more should we be willing servants of Christ? We shouldn’t do our duty because we have to (it should be done because we want to) and neither should we do it expecting any reward.; we do it because we love our Lord and master. Read verses 11-19: The significance of this passage is found not only in the healing of the lepers, but in the fact that one of the lepers was a Samaritan. (Jews and Samaritans did not usually mix but, being outcasts they were thrown together.) On this occasion healing depended on faith and obedience. No-one could be deemed clear of their leprosy until the priests gave their assent to the fact. So, still with leprosy, they went towards Jerusalem, and as they went they were healed! Had they not believed they would not have been healed. Out of the 10 men, only one ran back to thank Jesus – and he was a (despised) Samaritan. Jesus response was, “Your faith has made you whole”. Read verses 20-37: Verses 20&21: Bear in mind that Israel was under Roman rule and the people were looking for a Messiah who would deliver them and literally re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. So they asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God 28
come?” But Jesus explained that the Kingdom of God was being built within God’s people. It is not found in one locality but all sorts of people around the world (even Samaritans!). The kingdom of God is evident in churches but it is also present in dark countries where public worship is banned and people worship in secret. Verses 22-25: This passage is alluding to the Second Coming and here Jesus is explaining things to his disciples (v22). When Jesus comes again he will not be “here or there” (v23) but he will be seen by the whole world. Using the metaphor of lightning he says he will light up the whole sky with his glory and be seen by the whole world. But that will be in the End Times but he wanted the disciples to know what would happen to him first i.e. suffering, rejection and death. Verses 26-29: Then Jesus used the examples of Noah and Lot to portray the certainty and suddenness of his coming and judgment. In those days the people of the world were unbelieving and unprepared – even though they had been clearly warned. Only 8 were saved in Noah’s day, taking refuge in the ark. And only 3 were saved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because they were the only ones who turned their backs on sin. It’s a very serious and grave passage because Jesus goes on to describe how things will be similar at his Second Coming if we do not heed the warnings. Verses 30-36: When Jesus returns we must respond. No looking back like Lot’s wife. As Christians we will all recognise him at his Second Coming (there may be false Christs/anti Christ) but only Jesus will come in this way and we will be raised up to meet him in the sky. More than ever before, events in our world are building up to the day of Jesus’ Second Coming. About 2000 years had elapsed between Adam and Noah; the people got complacent and thought nothing would happen after all that time. Nearly 2000 years ago Jesus was speaking these very words which will come to pass when the time is right. Already immorality, earthquakes, disasters and wars are widespread. And communications, internet, TV etc serve to show us that it will be possible for every eye to see Jesus at the same time – however and whenever that time comes. We are in a global age – BUT – God loves the whole world (John 3v16) and his desire is to save the whole world. Jesus will return to the whole world. The onus is on his disciples to respond.
Chapter 18: Faith and wealth Read verses 1-8: Jesus knew there would be times when we would seem to get nowhere with our praying which is why he encouraged us to pray and never give up, giving us the example of a poor, defenceless widow and an ungodly, corrupt judge. We see that, even though the judge was unjust, he heard the widows case just to get rid of her. So that, if a bad judge coud do the right thing for the woman, how much more will a loving God hear the voice of his people who cry out to him day and night. And if the defenceless woman could get justice, how much more will God act justly to those he loves. The widow came to the judge under the Law, but we come to Christ Jesus through grace. Jesus’ advice: Fed up wih praying? Don’t give up. Just keep on keeping on. Read verses 9-14: This was a parable, but I have no doubt it was a scenario that everyone recognised; that of the “perfect” and proud Pharisee, and the humble, repentant tax collector. Q. What was the sin of the Pharisee? And what was the justification of the tax collector?
Throughout the Bible the sin that God mentions the most is the sin of pride, and satisfaction in one’s own efforts. But the tax collector was ashamed and humbled and aware of his sinful state, asking for forgiveness. He was justified through repentance. Read verses 15-17: As if in contrast to the attitude of the Pharisees, Jesus comments on the children being brought to him, actively encouraging them to come to him. Q. What qualities do little children have that we sometimes lose as we grow older? Just as Jesus received the children and blessed them, so he longs to receive all who will come to him in simple trust, asking for forgiveness. He sees a repenting, trusting soul just as he sees the children, and often refers to young Christians as ‘little children’. He delights in us just as we delight in a new baby or a young child that melts our heart. Read verses 23-30: Verses 18-22: When Jesus confronts us, there is a cost and a call. Jesus knew that this rich young man kept all the commandments, but he also knew where the man’s heart was. We can never be saved by perfect living. We can only be saved by accepting Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. And following on from that we should put him before everything else that is dear to us in our lives. Verses 23-30: When faced with the challenge to give everything up, how did the man feel? (v23) – and why? There is nothing wrong with money in itself, but misplaced trust in money can lead us away from God. Once again Jesus used hyperbole to make a point: imagine trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle, that’s how hard it would be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Others have made a parable of this phrase. There is conjecture that Jesus was referring to a city gate shaped like the eye of a needle where camels would have to kneel down and shed their load before getting through.) Either way the point is clear. Matthew 19v22 tells us that the man went away sad. He came to Jesus with everything of worldly value and went away with nothing of eternal value. Sad indeed. The disciples pointed out that they had given up everything and Jesus promised rich rewards in heaven. We can see in society today that affluence brings self-satisfaction, but at the same time it brings spiritual apathy because people feel they have no need for God. Q. What ares in our lives are we reluctant to give up for God? Read verses 31-34: Jesus took the disciples aside – this was not for everyone’s ears. And although Jesus had talked about his death before, they still could not grasp the meaning of what he was saying – but Jesus knew and understood exactly what he would face in Jerusalem. Read verses 35-42: This is not the same miracle as in Mark 10v46-52 – Blind Bartimaeus (In one he is approaching Jericho and in the other he is leaving Jericho.) But both healings show us the point that it is easier to follow Jesus when we have nothing (following the theme of this chapter). The blind man came to Jesus with childlike faith, leaving his begging bowl behind, and was healed and received by Jesus. This chapter is amazing in that it shows us how Jesus used parables, observations, children and healing in order to get across one point: we can only come to Jesus as we are, with childlike faith, and he will receive us. (Like the hymn “Just as I am without one plea”)
Chapter 19: Being Prepared Read verses 1-10:
“Passing through” Jericho, Jesus was steadfastly making his way to Jerusalem.And yet he stopped for the children (18v16); and the Blind Beggar (18v35); and now he stops again for Zacchaeus – a man of short stature, who climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ heart, so that, when he reached the tree he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house. Unlike the rich ruler (of 18v22&23) Zacchaeus was happy to give up all his (ill-gotten) gains, to repay those he had cheated, so that he could follow Jesus and know forgiveness. Q. What was the evidence that Zacchaeus had a changed heart? Jesus had been “seeking out” people to bless on his journey – bringing them into his new kingdom. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (v10) This can be a great encouragement to us when we think about our “lost” ones. Read verses 11-14: Once again we see that Jesus knows the hearts of his followers. Many thought he was literally going to seize power and build his kingdom when he arrived at Jerusalem. So he told them this parable. N.B. Don’t confuse this parable with the parable of the talents in Matt 25 Think about who the people in the parable represent: The man of noble birth ………………….. His servants ………………… His subjects ………………... This is really a story about Jesus who, one day, would be King of Kings. And his servants who willingly follow him – each given a gift to use in the service of building his kingdom. And then there are the rest of his subjects – who oppose his teachings and who reject him. Q. Why then do you think Jesus told this parable – what did he want his disciples and the crowd to understand? Read verses 15-27: How much did the ruler invest in his servants? They all started with a mina each – a sizeable sum which would be equivalent to about 3 months wages. Two of them put their money to work and were rewarded accordingly by being given cities to govern, i.e. helping the king to build his kingdom, because they were faithful in service using what they had been given.The third servant was disobedient and unfaithful. By doing nothing he could receive nothing. He had not recognised the heart of his master or even respected him enough to try. For some reason fear had stopped him serving. We all start with the same gift – the gift of salvation – are we using our gift to win others for Christ? Q. What was to happen to all the other subjects? Read verses 28-38: (Note: A colt is the foal of a horse or an ass. Other Scriptures tell us that this was an ass and verse 30 tells us that it had not previously been broken in.) Q. What was the significance of Jesus’ choice of transport? What Jesus did was a fulfilment of Scripture (Zech 9v9), so that those who had eyes to see would recognise him as Messiah. Riding on a donkey symbolised lowliness and an indication that he was arriving in peace (compared to riding on a horse which is an animal of war). The use of a colt was also an indication that Jesus had control over what might seem incontrollable (asses are notoriously stubborn!). The disciples must have been wondering but they should have been reassured. So, this was the day that we now call Palm Sunday. Every step of the journey brought Jesus closer to Jerusalem and his destiny. Having heard what Jesus said in 18v31&32 the disciples must have been overjoyed at this reception. But their joy was to be short-lived. 31
Read verses 39-44: Jesus was not full of joy, in fact he wept. Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem? Why is it such a special place? Jerusalem - the place of Melchisedek (Gen 14v18) – a type of Christ in the O.T. Jerusalem - the place of Abraham’s Mount Moriah (Gen 22, the sacrifice of Isaac) Jerusalem - the place of David’s/Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6) Jerusalem – the place where a third Temple will be built (Daniel 9) One day in the future Jerusalem will be the capital of God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus was weeping over lost opportunity. Although the crowd were praising him on Palm Sunday he knew (at the very pivotal point in their history) that the Jews would reject him only a few days later. Jesus was weeping for all who have made the choice to reject him when they have been given the opportunity to accept him. He was weeping for the Jews who were soon to suffer national calamity because of their unbelief. Only a few years later Roman Emperors such as Caligula, Vespasian and Nero would do their best to exterminate the Jews. Over 1 million people were killed during the siege of Jerusalem, and nearly 100 thousand were captured and enslaved. Jesus was crying over, and foretelling these events. Read verses 45-48: When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem he went to the Temple. He was probably not surprised but he was very displeased with what he saw. It was the week leading up to Passover when several hundred thousand people crammed into Jerusalem, and those selling animals for sacrifice saw it as a great opportunity for exploitation. Jesus response to the treatment of the poor, weary travellers was anger. Q. How should we react to vulnerable people being exploited in our world, and even in our own country today? By exploitation we mean things like: Forced labour; people trafficking; debt bondage; enforced prostitution (women/girls); slavery; gang-masters etc etc. Hundreds of children in the UK disappear from care each year and who knows where they might end up. (Quoted from CARE newsletter 6/3/2017) We cannot ignore these things and they should make us angry in the way that Jesus was angry and it should motivate us to action. Exploitation is driven by poverty on the one hand and greed on the other. What can we do? Pray – sign petitions – write letters – give money. Some Christian charities in Britain which address these issues: A21 Campaign; A Way Out; Beyond the Streets; CARE; Hope for Justice; International Justice Mission; Love 146; No More Traffik; Salvation Army; Stop the Traffik.
Chapter 20: Jesus reveals his identity and authority Read verses 1-8: The first attempt to arrest Jesus Jesus spent his final few days before his arrest preaching and teaching in the Temple Courts – an open area where anyone (Jew and gentile) could come and listen. The chief priests (trying to trap him into blasphemy so that they could arrest him) questioned his authority to say the things he did (v2). Rather than declaring outright that it came from God, because he was arare of their hidden motive, he countered with another question, “Where did John’s authority to baptize come from?” Whatever they answered would trap them (v5,6) so they kept silent. So, instead of answering their question, he told a parable. Read verses 9-19: The parable of the tenant farmers.
In this parable: · · · · ·
the vineyard is the nation of Israel, the owner of the vineyard is God, the tenant farmers are rulers of Israel. the servants sent were the prophets the owner’s son, of course, was Jesus Christ.
Verses 9-10: The owner sent a servant to check on the vineyard and bring home some of the produce. But the tenants beat him and sent him away. That is, God sent his prophets to Israel to teach the people and warn them of exile. They weren’t listened to. Verse 11: The owner sent another servant to check again and bring home his reward, but he too, was badly treated. That is, God sent more prophets (perhaps the wave of prophets after the exile), but they too were not listened to. The vineyard went into a ruinous state. Verse 12: The owner sent a third messenger (perhaps representing John the Baptist) as a last ditch attempt to get the tenant farmers and harvest sorted out. They rejected him too. Verses 13-15a: So, finally, the owner sent his own son – surely they would respect him? – but they threw him out also, and they killed him. This part of the parable therefore is prophetic of what was about to happen to Jesus and at the same time was proclaiming that Jesus Christ is God’s Son. In a final attempt to involve the rulers of Israel in his plan, by sending Jesus, God was showing his great love for his Vineyard, Israel. But sadly, so sadly, they were about to reject everything that God wanted for them, preferring to keep their high positions instead. They treated the owner’s son even worse than they had his servants. Verses 15b-19: What effect did this parable have on the Pharisees and teachers and priests? Did they repent? No, they sought to arrest Jesus (but cunningly, because they were afraid of the people) and in so doing, they were going to fulfil the last part of the parable. How ironic! Verses 17-19 show that Jesus, “the cornerstone”, was identified as the One who was rejected (substitute builders for tenant farmers, i.e. the rulers of Israel). Read verses 20-26: Another attempt to arrest Jesus Yes, we do have to pay our taxes! Verse 20 – is about pretence. Jesus knows the minds of all who come to him. We might look sincere to everyone else, but Jesus knows our hearts. What they said was true, but they were laying a trap. If Jesus answered ‘no’ to their questions about tax then he would be guilty of upsetting the Romans, but if he answered ‘yes’ he would upset the Jews. The Bible teaches us that, even if we cannot respect people in office, we must still respect the office itself – and live as good, peaceable citizens. Caesar’s image was on the coins. But God’s image is within us. Q. Why is verse 25 such a challenge to us? Read verses 27-40: A third attempt to arrest Jesus. Verses 27-33: In Jewish law a man could marry his brother’s widow so that children could continue his line. (Levirate marriage – levir means a husband’s brother in Latin) The Sadducees only accepted the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) and did not even agree with the concept of resurrection. This question about marriage in heaven, therefore, was a trap. Verses 34-40: In paraphrase Jesus replied, “Those who go to be in heaven do not die or marry. In this respect they are like the angels, that is, they don’t die. They are children of God.” Using the present tense Jesus proved that God is the God of both the living and those believers who have already gone to heaven (v37&38). From God’s point of view everyone with eternal life (all who belong to him) are living. Read verses 41-44:
Probably talking to the teachers (v39) Jesus comes as close as he can to telling them that he is the Messiah and Lord. He does it by quoting King David from Psalm 110. The Messiah was to come from David’s line (i.e. a direct descendant of David). But Jesus reminded the teachers that David, in this prophetic Psalm, called the Messiah Lord. This was a kind of riddle with only one answer: Jesus is both David’s son and the Messiah, both man and God. But the choice to believe and act on this was with the hearer – and still is… Read verses 45-47: Beware the teachers of the Law! The teachers of the Law had always been revered. Why was Jesus so harsh? Teachers have a responsibility to their hearers. It is easier for teachers to be hypocritical, eg – “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!” (And this is something that all Pastors and teachers and church leaders need to guard against all the time) Sadly, many of those listening were in love with their position more than with God’s words. They were not passing on the prophetic truths about Jesus the Messiah from Old Testament Scripture. They were failing in their duty. Of all people they should have understood the Scriptures and Jesus’ parables, and passed on the good news to the people. But they were like the tenant farmers in the parable – along with the other leaders they, too, would reject Jesus and his message of grace and salvation.
Chapter 21: Prophetic words Read verses 1-4: The widow’s offering These few verses stand in stark contrast to the preceeding and following ones. The widow’s offering is compared to that of the Pharisees. Proportionately, the widow put in far, far more than they had done. It was an act of faith, maybe her last bit of money, which probably left her trusting God for her next meal. God doesn’t look on the amount we give away, so much as what we keep back for ourselves. God sees our hearts and our attitude. Q. Do you think the widow went hungry that night? Read verses 5-8: The Temple The Temple The Temple was originally planned by David and built by Solomon. It was enlarged and elaborated on by King Herod, and considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the Roman Empire. No-one would have considered that it could ever be destroyed. But here, Jesus is warning that the unspeakable was about to happen in their lifetime. And it did. Historians record that in 66AD, after years of dominion by Rome, the Jews finally rebelled against the Roman Empire. Four years later (70AD) the Roman soldiers under Titus took Jerusalem and destroted the Temple, as predicted by Jesus (see also Matthew 24v1-8). But this prophecy becomes part of a much larger prophecy. This attack on Jerusalem was not to be the end, but the first part of the tribulation which God’s people would have to endure over this final age. And Zion, synonymous with Jerusalem and God’s people, can never be destroyed, it is an eternal city. Despite the fact (according to historians) that it has been attacked countless times, besieged more than 20 times, and destroyed twice, Zion will never be erased forever. Ultimately it will be subsumed into the Heavenly City mentioned in Revelation. Jesus is the cornerstone of Zion (Isaiah 28v16, Luke 20v17). In this prophecy in Luke 21 Jesus words are directed down the ages. Read verses 9-11: War We are in the final Dispensation (final Age) and towards the end of it. But wars must happen first (verse 9). Wars are now affecting more countries than ever before. Statistics show us that in our world today there are only 10 countries that are actually free from conflict (The Independent 8/6/16). As a result of religion (ISIS), drugs (South America) and idealism (North Korea, Communism) there are more wars than ever before. 34
Earthquakes, famines etc These are on the increase and affect people all over the world: earthquakes in China, New Zealand, Italy; floods and tsunamis in Japan, India, Australia; Cyclones or hurricanes in North America; drought and famine in ever increasing areas of Africa. These are now common occurrences – fulfilling Jesus’ prophetic words. Read verses 12-19: Persecution Barnabas Fund lists 43 countries around the world where Christians are currently being persected (Lent Booklet 2017). And Open Doors has produced a list of the top 50. Such is the amount of persecution happening that these and many other organisations exist to help persecuted Christians. Some phrases from Open Doors: “Imprisonment,tortutre,death: this is what you risk if you decide to follow Jesus in Nth Korea” “If you are even suspected of being a Christian in Somalia, you could be murdered on the spot.” “It is illegal for an Afghan person to be anything other than a Muslim.” “An estimated 700 Christian women and girls are abducted every year in Pakistan.”
Persecution may yet come to Britain. Are we ready? Are we in sympathy with those already suffering? In these verses Jesus gives us encouragement and promises. Q. What does Jesus advise those who are persecuted? See verse 14 What does Jesus promise those who are persecuted? See verses 15, 18, 19 Read verses 20-28: Verses 20-24: This passage refers to the ‘times of the gentiles’, in other words this gospel age, when the gentiles have had the opportunity to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. In Romans 11v25-26 Paul talks about this period when the gentiles are reached and Israel is temporarily “blind”. (And after that, God will resume his work with Israel). When all(?) have heard the gospel and had the opportunity to respond, Jerusalem will again be attacked, “surrounded by armies”. And then we will no longer be in the final dispensation, but we will truly be in the Last Days. Verses 25-28: Before the very end there will be precursors in the heavens: a shaking of the heavenly bodies, signs in the sun, moon and stars. It will be fearful. That will be when we must lift up our heads to look for the coming of our Redeedmer (v28). Read verses 29-33: When the trees get their leaves we know summer is coming. Likewise when we see all these signs we know that God’s kingdom is at hand. It surely cannot be far off now, can it? The seasons may be mixed up but the signs will be there for us to read so that we can be prepared. Read verses 34-38: Even if we do witness these things we are not to fear. Rather, Jesus tells us to be careful how we live, to be ever watchful (v36), and to hold on to the glorious hope of Christ’s return. “Do not let your hearts be weighed down” (v34). Jesus did not tell us these things to worry us but to inform us. Q. How do we respond to these things? What positive things can we be doing in these last days?
Chapter 22: The Last Supper and the Arrest of Jesus Parallels with Holy Communion Read verses 1-6: The irony here is that this Festival required the removal of all leven from the home – this was symbolic of examining one’s heart and removing all evil thoughts and deeds. And yet, this was the time the chief priests and Jewish leaders were looking for a way to trap Jesus and get rid of him. And this was the time that Judas was tempted by a monetary reward to betray Jesus. Q. Do we examine ourselves when we come around the communion table – not just at Easter, but every time we participate? Read verses 7-23: So Judas did not know where the Passover would be held – Jesus sent only Peter and John to make the arrangments (v8). It would appear that Peter and John also prepared the room and the lamb for the Passover meal (v13). Little did they know what would later be revealed to them and how little they were prepared for what Jesus would make known as he began to marry the theme of Passover with his coming suffering (v15). Verse 14 - Passover was the commemoration of Israel’s exodus from Egypt when it was the blood of the lamb which saved each household from the angel of death, and brought them deliverance. Verses 19&20 - A new deliverance: On the Cross Jesus would effect a new deliverance whereby his blood would atone for the sin of the whole world and save all who apply it to their hearts. Verse 18 - The promise of a future feast will be for all God’s people (Jews and Gentiles) when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on earth. When we partake of communion we are to look back at what Jesus did for us, we should look to the present and examine ourselves, and we also look to the future when he will return, remembering that it was Jesus’ broken body and shed blood that accomplished all this. Then Jesus “threw the cat among the pigeons” – the one who would betray him was amongst their number, and yet Jesus kept Judas’ anonimity. By saying this (v21-22), was Jesus perhaps giving Judas an opportunity to repent? Although not included in Luke’s account, Jesus had already washed Judas’ feet (John 13:4,5) and shown him love, inclusion and acceptance, along with the other disciples. Q. How would it make us feel if Jesus turned up today and offered to wash our hands and feet? Read verses 24-29: You would suppose the effect of the foot washing and Jesus’ disclosures would have resulted in an atmosphere of stunned, humble, reverential silence. And yet the opposite happened! They wanted to know who Jesus considered to be the greatest! They were at The Lord’s table, and yet, he was the one to serve. Jesus promised them positions of leadership and power (v29,30), but … he was their example – the Servant King. Jesus led by example and we are to follow him. Read verses 31-38: Peter had to go through an uncomfortable time of “sifting” when he would learn lessons the hard way but emerge from it with a clear determination to stand for Christ. What lessons did Peter learn? · God allowed Satan to attack him (v31) · Jesus was praying for Peter (v32) · We cannot always put what we say into practice (v33) 36
· We should be careful what we promise God (v33) · God had provided in the past (v35) · Peter should be prepared for worse to come (v36) The other disciples who were listening offered two swords. They had not really understood what Jesus meant. By saying what he said, Jesus is showing that actually, it is he who is in control – not Satan or Peter or Judas or the Jewish leaders. The future was in His hands. Read verses 39-46: Jesus’ final act before capture, and the way he prepared himself, was to pray. This was perhaps the greatest struggle of man conquering his own will in all history – but Jesus knew that the answer and the strength lay in prayer. If only Judas and Peter had prayed more! Jesus points out that: · Prayer helps us to avoid temptation (v40&46) · Prayer can result in angels strengthening us (v43) Prayer can, and often does change circumstances. But, on occasions, this is not God’s will – he wants us to go through different circumstances. But prayer strengthens us to cope with whatever we have to face. Read verses 47-53: And so, brazenly and deceitfully Judas comes with a crowd and betrays Jesus with a kiss – an act of hypocrisy and treachery (characteristics of Satan who had etered him). Jesus did not resist arrest, but Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the servant’s ear (John 18v10). Again Peter had not understood what Jesus was about. Jesus was submitting to arrest and Peter was tyrying to rescue him! Jesus had accepted that ‘his hour had come’ He was prepared because he had spent time in prayer. Q. Do our actions reveal what is truly in our hearts (Judas)? Are our actions sometimes in conflict with God’s will (Peter)? Are our actions in tune with God’s will (Jesus)? Read verses 54-71: Because the Jews were under Roman Law their courts were limited. They could not put a man to death, so the Roman courts had to be involved as well. Verses 54-71 are an account of the 3 Jewish trials which took place (overnight) before Annas the ex-High priest, then Caiaphas, then the Jewish court i.e. the Sanhedrin, where he was found guilty of blasphemy (indicating that he claimed he was the Son of God – v70,71) and handed over to the Romans. The disciples had fled, but Peter followed at a distance. It was a dangerous thing to do because he could have been arrested too. Three times he was recognised and three times he denied Christ (compare with verse 33!). Can we begin to think what he felt like when he heard the cock crowing at the end of that long, hard night? This hard, brave fisherman wept bitterly (v62). Q. What do those words tell us about Peter’s heart? It is sad that the soldiers were permitted to mock and insult an innocent man, but Jesus did not react. The next step was for him to go through a civil, Roman trial where he could be convicted and crucified. The chief priests failed to see that everything they did was fulfilling Old Testament Scripture. See John 3v14-15; Isaiah 53v5; Psalm 22v14-18; and Zechariah 12v10.
Chapter 23: The death of Jesus Read verses 1-7: The Jewish Assembly took Jesus before Pilate (the Roman Governor of the province of Judea) and accused him of three things – all lies: · Subverting the nation · Opposing payment of taxes to Caesar · Claiming to be King of the Jews Pilate was torn between offending and upsetting the Jews, and condemning an innocent person. Pilate declared Jesus innocent, but when he heard that Jesus was from Galilee, and that Herod was in town, he sent Jesus to Herod. Read verses 8-12: Herod, “King of the Jews”, was pleased to see Jesus. Why? Perhaps he thought Jesus would entertain him with miracles. When Jesus remained quiet and did nothing Herod got his entertainment by mocking Jesus. Possibly Pilate was looking on. This unlikely scenario began a friendship between them. Read verses 13-25: Pilate again listened to the charges against Jesus but still he could find no reason to condemn Jesus. Pilate is a bit of an anomaly because he declared that neither he nor Herod found Jesus guilty, but nevertheless he punished Jesus anyway! (Both Matthew and Mark tell us that Pilate had Jesus flogged.) But … “The whole crowd shouted” (v18). One of a Roman Governor’s main jobs was to keep the Pax Romana – the peace of Rome. Pilate did not want to fail in his duty, so simply out of self-interest he acceded to the wishes of the crowds who were by then, stirred up and shouting for Jesus to be crucified; and for Barabbas the robber and murderer to be released. Q. What is the difference between Pax Romana (Civil peace) and the Peace of God? Q. Ultimately, who was guilty of sending Jesus to the cross? Read 26-31: Simon of Cyrene: Cyrene was a place in Lybia, North Africa. Luke also tells us in Acts 2 that there was a group of people from Cyrene staying in Jerusalem for Pentecost; so possibly a similar group was in Jerusalem for Passover. Simon was interested in Jesus because he was following with the crowd. Little did he know that he would be chosen to carry the Cross for Jesus. There is a Lucius of Cyrene mentioned in Acts 11 – spreading the news of Jesus Christ to the Greeks. Are all these people connected through the Cross of Jesus? I like to think so, but we will never know for sure. The Women: There were two sets of women mentioned in this account. These women (v28) were most likely the professional mourners that accompanied such an occasion. Jesus words to them were words for us all, “Don’t weep for me – weep for yourselves”. A time of trial and judgment would come when those same women would see Jerusalem destroyed (AD 70) and their husbands killed. And they would cry out (v30) as prophesied in Hosea 10v8. Verse 28 still stands as a challenge today because the final and dreadful judgment is yet to come. But Jesus is the Tree of Life. He is our hope. When we know we have the life of Jesus we need have no fear of Judgment. In verse 31, Jesus is saying that if the Romans are even doing this when he’s alive and with them, what will happen when he’s not? Read verses 32-43: The two other men: Criminals hanging on crosses – one on Jesus’ right and one on his left. Sinners – representing us. Jesus, in the middle – vicariously bearing our sin. Jesus - wrongfully accused, treated the same as the criminals, mocked by the soldiers and yet – he maintained grace, he prayed for his persecutors, he forgave as one sinner repented. 38
Like the two criminals, all mankind has the opportunity to behold Jesus and make a response. Read verses 44-49: Luke’s description of the death of Jesus is very brief. Luke lets the three hours of supernatural darkness speak for itself. It was the darkest of times, the most sombre occasion in all history – full of meaning and pain, symbolising the New Covenant that Jesus was making by taking on himself the role of the perfect lamb atoning for sin at Passover; not just the sin of the nation for one year (as in the Old Mosaic Covenant), but the sins of the whole world – past, present and future. And in those three hours Jesus Christ was separated from Father God. And at the same time, to add to the symbolism, the enormous, thick curtain in the Temple was torn in two. The dividing curtain protecting the most Holy Place (where the presence of God hovered over the Mercy Seat) was torn in two – done away with. The death of Jesus made the way open for ALL to gain access to God’s presence and mercy (not just the High Priest once a year) both Jews and gentiles. Jesus knew when the work of sacrifice had been accepted by his Father. And then, Jesus gave up his life – voluntarily, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Throughout the ordeal, Jesus remained in control – not the Romans or the Jews or the Crowds. Read verses 50-56: Some people were waiting to care for Jesus: Joseph of Arimathea: A disciple who had not agreed with the decision of the Jewish council. He must have been brave to approach Pilate. He had freely given a newly cut tomb for Jesus to be laid in and he cared for Jesus’ body by wrapping it in linen and placing it in the tomb. He then rolled the large stone into the groove in front of the tomb so that no-one could enter. The women: Several women are mentioned throughout this story and who were “looking on” at the Cross. They include Mary the mother of Jesus; Mary the mother of James and Joses; Mary the wife of Clopas; Mary Magdalene; Salome; and the other Mary (quite possibly Matthews mother). The disciples: Where were they?
Chapter 24: Resurrection! Read verses 1-12: · In his suffering Jesus identified with us in our sin · In his death Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for our sin · In his resurrection Jesus made it possible for us to have eternal life Matthew 28v2-4 tells us that a violent earthquake accompanied the opening of the tomb by an angel whose appearance was like lightning. So much so, the guards shook and became catatonic. Then Luke’s account describes how the women came and found the empty tomb. However, the glory of the Lord’s presence still emanated from the angels; so that they too, were overcome with fright (v5). Then they heard the words, “He is not here, he is risen … remember how he told you?” As they remembered Jesus’ words, in great excitement, they ran and told the others (v9) – but they were not believed!! According to John 20v1-10 Mary Magdalene then asked Peter and John to see for themselves; and on doing so they only found the folded graveclothes but no body. (If someone had stolen the body, they would have left it wrapped up, surely?) Q. Verse 6 said, “Remember how he told you”. Do we sometimes not see what’s happening spiritually because we have forgotten God’s words? Read verses 13-16:
We are introduced to two followers going home to Emmaus (about a three hour walk) after what had been a most disturbing Passover weekend, discussing all they had seen and heard: and Jesus chose to walk with them. And yet – they didn’t recognise him! Their fixation on the horror and discouragement of events prevented them from remembering that Jesus had said he would come back. Possibly they didn’t recognise Jesus because he was the last person they expected to see. Whether God veiled their eyes (v16) or whether they were so downcast that they didn’t really look at Jesus we don’t know. Q. What things might prevent us from recognising the presence of Jesus? Read verses 17-24: Who were these two men? We are told one was named Cleopas and that they knew some of the disciples (v24) and that they had been told about the empty tomb. And yet – they had no understanding, they were downcast (v17). Their hopes had been dashed (v21). Their hope of Jesus gaining a material victory prevented them from realising the spiritual victory that had been won. Jesus graciously walked with them, and listened. He even had his own little joke! (verse 19) Q. Jesus always wants to listen to us even though he knows what we will say; but, do our words reveal our lack of understanding? What does this passage show us about the way Jesus works with us? Read verses 25-27: Jesus pointed them to the references to himself in Scripture. And as the Holy Spirit enlightened them, they became aware of the bigger picture (they were no longer concentrating on their unfulfilled hopes). And yet – still the penny hadn’t dropped – they still didn’t realise it was Jesus. Read verses 28-32: We read that “their hearts were burning within them” (v32), surely a way of describing the presence of the Holy Spirit as Jesus opened up the Scriptures to them. The Word of God is living and active. It can change situations, it can bring us hope, joy, peace. But, most of all, it reveals Jesus to us. It gives us those “lightbulb” moments. “The unfolding of your word brings light” (Psalm 119v130) “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10v17) The precious moment when these two followers realised who Jesus was accompanied the breaking of bread. This was not communion. But, it does remind us that when we partake of the Lord’s Table it is an opportunity for us to recognise His presence in a special way. And then, as if to convince them that they had indeed been in the presence of the Living Christ, Jesus disappeared! (v31). Normal people don’t disappear into thin air! Read verses 33-35: In fact, so convinced were they of Jesus’ resurrection, although it would have been late in the day, they went back to Jerusalem (I’m guessing it was a much faster journey than before!). They obviously knew the disciples because they found them easily. Everyone was buzzing. Cleopas and his friend had seen Jesus. But, so had Mary, and Simon Peter, and all separately. We can only imagine the excitement and the joy. Read verses 36-48: While they were still talking, Jesus materialised amongst them, frightening them by his sudden appearance. Now there could be no doubting from those disciples who had not yet seen him. He was no ghost, because he was flesh and bones, and he ate some fish. Note: When we die we do not become ghosts or spirits without a body. Angels are created spirits but they have no souls. They are God’s messengers on earth as well as in heaven, and occasionally make an appearance on earth in human form. Fallen angels (satanic beings) are also real spirits that Satan uses to tempt us and trip us up. Our human bodies will one day return to the ground, and we will still be soul and spirit in a new resurrected body. Our soul is the essence of who we are – making us different from the spirits mentioned. 40
Jesus then went on to unlock the Scriptures for them all. He probably showed them how Prophecy had come true; how the Temple sacrifices were but a shadow of his atoning work on the Cross; and how he fulfilled the role of Shepherd King – and lots more! The result of which meant that the good news was for all people – all nations (v47). And as witnesses to his risen power they were given the commission of passing on the good news – the Gospel. Read verses 49-53: Luke finishes his gospel rather abruptly, seemingly too quickly. But only because he will go on to expand on these few verses in the first two chapters of Acts. Forty days later, the disciples saw him ascend into heaven. And seven days after that they received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as promised in verse 49 of our chapter. All that Jesus said and did came true. And it was all accompanied by the Work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and according to the Father’s Will.
Appendix 1 Question: “How do we distinguish a psychological disorder from demon possession?” Answer: The short answer to this question is that the Bible does not speak to distinguishing between demon possession and a psychological disorder. Because God chose not to equip Christians for this task, we should probably assume this is not something we are called to do. However, there are two things we know for sure from Scripture. First, we know from the Bible that demons can and do possess those who do not belong to Christ, and Scripture gives some examples of people being possessed by demons. From these descriptions, we can find some symptoms of demonic influence as well as gain insights as to how a demon possesses someone. In some of these passages, the demon possession causes physical ailments (inability to speak, epileptic symptoms, blindness, etc. [Matthew 9:32-33, Mark 9:17-18]); in other cases the demon causes the individual to do evil (Judas is the main example); in Acts 16:16-18, the spirit apparently gave a slave girl some ability to know things beyond her own learning (a spirit of divination); in the case of the demoniac of the Gadarenes who was possessed by a multitude of demons, he had superhuman strength, cut himself, went around naked, and lived among the tombstones (Mark 5:1-17). King Saul, after rebelling against the LORD, was troubled by an evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:14-15; 18:10-11; 19:9-10) with the apparent effect of a melancholy mood and an increased desire and readiness to kill David (God’s next anointed king of Israel). Second, we should be greatly encouraged to know that it is impossible for a Christian to be possessed by a demon. The believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God who comes to reside in our hearts when we give our lives to Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22). The description of a possessing demon as “evil” means “unclean” in the Greek (Mark 5:2), therefore making it impossible for the Holy Spirit to share His dwelling place with such a creature. For those who do not have the Holy Spirit, however, no amount of “cleaning up their lives” will prevent a demon from possessing or influencing them. The parable Jesus told in Matthew 12:43 makes this clear: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Jesus is teaching here that we are incapable of sweeping and putting “in order” our own hearts because our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV). Only God can regenerate us and create in us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and make us new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, while Christians cannot be possessed by a demon, this is not to be confused with being influenced by one. The apostle Peter is an illustration of a believer who was influenced by the devil (Matthew 16:23). This can occur especially when we are not mature in the faith and not sufficiently involved in the spiritual disciplines of regular study of Scripture and prayer. Lastly, a word to the wise: some people develop an unhealthy fascination with the occult and demonic activity. This is ill advised to say the least. If we pursue God with our lives and we are clothing ourselves with His armour and relying upon His strength (not our own) (Ephesians 6:10-18), we have nothing to fear from the evil ones, for God rules over all! When we are in Christ, and He in us, we have nothing to fear from the evil one because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Appendix 2 Disciple John & James Brothers,
‘Sons of Thunder’
Simon Peter and Andrew
SIMON PETER *
ANDREW PHILIP BARTHOLOMEW (NATHANAEL)
MATTHEW (LEVI) THOMAS (THE TWIN) JAMES (SON OF ALPHAEUS)
THADDAEUS (JUDAS SON OF JAMES) SIMON THE ZEALOT JUDAS ISCARIOT
Son of Zebedee, a fisherman - and the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’. Part of the core group of three. He wrote the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Epistles of John and Revelation. He took care of Jesus’ mother after the Crucifixion. Son of Zebedee and a fisherman - also part of Jesus’ core group of three. (This is not the James who wrote the Epistle that was one of Jesus’ brothers.) This James was put to death by Herod. (Acts 12v1,2) Also a fisherman and part of Jesus’ core group. Preached at Pentecost and was a leader of the Jerusalem church. He wrote 1st and 2nd Epistles of Peter. Also a fisherman who learned to become a fisher of men. Also a fisherman. He was one of the twelve and therefore probably not the Philip mentioned in Acts 6 v 5&6 Occupation unknown. Commended for his honesty and straightforwardness. He was a Tax Collector - corrupt and despised but Jesus called him and changed him. He wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Occupation unknown. Often referred to as ‘doubting Thomas’. We know nothing of him other than that he was one of the twelve disciples. Unknown occupation. Unknown occupation. His name suggests he was a fierce patriot of the Jewish cause. Occupation unknown but he kept the purse for the disciples and betrayed Jesus by selling him for 390 pieces of silver.
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to email@example.com and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549) 44