Saturday, August 20, 2011

Comments on Luke 4:1-13

Commentary on Luke 4:1-13

It amazes me that Jesus, who is God of the Universe, would even come to this earth clothed in the frailty of flesh and subject Himself to the same temptations and heartaches the rest of us face as human beings.  He didn’t have to do this.  We are the ones who rebelled against Him through Adam and Eve and you and I rebel against Him everyday.  Why would He leave His throne in the perfect company of God the Father by the Perfect Spirit of love?  He was perfectly fulfilled and did not need us in any way.  Why would He allow the devil to test Him like this?  He could crush the devil with one thought.  I cannot say I understand it.  But it is comforting to me that Jesus has walked through the kinds of things I walk through.  It is humbling to me and it makes me feel loved to think that He stooped to my place to show me how to live and to enable me to live differently.  It encourages me that I don’t serve a King who has asked me to do something that He has been unwilling to do Himself.  It gives me peace to know that I can go to a God who truly understands what it is to face human trials—to suffer, to be tempted, to feel lonely, to feel weak, to know pain, hunger and thirst.  This fact only makes me further believe that all the suffering in this world is somehow worth it—that God does have a plan and wants us to know that we will survive this by holding His hand and that this necessary suffering is bringing us to something that one day make the suffering of the world simply pale in comparison… just like the birth of a precious child makes the pain of childbirth worth it to an enamored mother.

I also see God’s sovereignty in this account of Jesus’ temptation.  Notice that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  This was no accident.  God did not accidentally find Himself in the place of trial.  The devil did not have the power to somehow trick or lure God into this place of trial.  In willingly allowing Himself to be in the wilderness, God had a plan here—for you and for me!  The devil serves a purpose—ultimately God’s purpose.  As John Piper would say, “the devil is a lackey!”  He is on a short lease to serve a purpose, but he will be crushed once and for all. 

This account also demonstrates to me the ways in which Jesus resists the devil’s attack.  Although He is hungry and probably tired and weak and maybe even lonely, Jesus resists the devil with the truth of God’s Word.  Jesus clearly knows God’s Word well, so that He can recall it in this time of stress.  Jesus is discerning—He knows what the devil is getting at and He knows that the devil is a liar and a cheat.  Jesus is on guard against the lying subtleties and trickeries of the devil.  Jesus has His eyes on the things that are unseen—the calling that He has been given by His Father, the Kingdom of God, the future, the hope of glory.  Presumably, in keeping the “unseen” in the forefront of His thoughts and motives, Jesus does not allow Himself to be distracted by what is seen—the food that would temporarily satisfy at the cost of disobedience; the possession that would make Him feel like a somebody in an instantly gratifying way; and the power that would vindicate Himself in a cheap way that would doom mankind who needed His humble sacrifice at the cross. 

It is also notable that Jesus has nothing to prove to the devil.  The devil keeps wanting to trap Jesus into feeling like He has something to prove.  But Jesus has a quiet confidence in what He knows is true no matter what--Biblical truth, or “the unseen”.    This confidence—this faith—makes Him firm against the devil’s advances and the fruit dangled in front of Him by the devil—fruit that is pleasing to the eye but lethally poisonous.  

This whole story is one of redemption—unlike our predecessors, Adam and Eve, Jesus did not take the fruit.  He is creating a new path for us!   (For the story of Adam and Eve, check out the first couple chapters of Genesis—the first book of the Bible—available here: )

Monday, August 1, 2011

Luke 4

The Temptation of Jesus

4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
11 and
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Brief commenary on Luke 3

I love John the Baptist’s zeal for sincerity.  We see this in Jesus too, who spent a lot of time with social outcastes who were honest about who they were, unlike the proud religious folks of the day against whom Jesus railed also.  John the Baptist rebuked those who came to be baptized only to "cover their bases"—people who generally thought they were “in” because of the family to which they were born.  John called them a brood of vipers—snakes, or a reference to Satan.  His language is strong. He contrasts this behavior of going through the motions with bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.  He is saying—be real.  If you really belong to Jesus—your love for others will be what shows it, not your genealogy. While some are quick to mistake John for Jesus, John does not take advantage of the attention or praise for himself, instead he points to Jesus for whom he is not even fit to untie the strap of his dirty dusty sandal (in a culture where touching feet was a sign of humility).  At Jesus’ baptism, the Trinity is referenced—God the Father, God the Spirit and God the Son and Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is confirmed.  In Jesus’ genealogy, we see that He could trace his descendants all the way to Adam.  As I read the genealogy, I am amazed at how long and intricate was God’s plan for humankind.  I see how Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise given by God to His people—starting with Adam—the first man! 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Luke 3

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, 
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.” 

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Brief thoughts on Luke 2

One of the most amazing things about the way Jesus came to dwell on the earth is that He came to a humble family from the town of Nazareth (people said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), born to a teenage unwed mom and laid in a barn because there was no place for him at an inn. This is not how most of us would have written the story—for the grand entrance of God in the flesh coming to dwell with man. 

The angels tell the shepherds that the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people and that Jesus is a Savior and Lord, meaning that He came to save and that He is our king, worthy of worship.  We learn that He brings glory to God and peace to man.  We learn from Simeon that Jesus is the Christ—anointed One, the One about whom all the Scriptures prophesied for several hundreds of years.

And Simeon is able to tell tat many will rise and fall because of Jesus and that sorrow will come upon Mary (Jesus death) for the benefit of many.

It’s amazing to see what Jesus was like as a 12 year old.  He was so connected to God the Father—He calls the temple His “Father’s house”.  It’s astonishing that the God of the universe came to us as a child who grew and was submissive to human parents! 

I am excited about continuing on in Luke.  So far, Luke has mostly been about preparation for and the background of Jesus.   Soon, we get to look at Jesus' actions and words.  We get to see who He really is.  I can't wait!  I'm hoping Krisitan will join me in writing on this blog too.  :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Luke 2

Luke 2
The Birth of Jesus Christ

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented at the Temple
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus in the Temple
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Comments on the 2nd half of Luke Chapter 1

We had a family wedding last weekend and we have had family in town from Norway.  It has been such fun and very busy.  Now that things are settling down a bit, I hope to jump into this study of Jesus.  

I hope to make short observations about the readings I post.  If anyone is reading along with me, please feel free to post your observations and questions as well.  Whether you are a Christian or not, and whether you agree with my observations or not, I would love to hear from you.  It would be wonderful to have a humble, respectful, and edifying dialog with others who are also interested in learning about the Jesus of the Bible.  But even if you don’t want to participate via comments, you are welcome to join me on this journey by simply reading along!

As I read the story of Jesus in the Bible, I am amazed at how unconventional it is.  Why would God (Creator of Everything, Most Powerful, Most Wise, Greatest of All) chose to work and come in such a strange way?  Why would John the Baptist be the chosen herald who prepares the way for Jesus?  He didn’t come from a particularly prestigious or wealthy or powerful family.  His parents had the struggle of infertility.  As a woman who is struggling with infertility—I can imagine what that must have felt like—the loss, the confusion, the struggle with purpose, not fitting in.  And in some ways, it would have been worse for them in a culture where infertility was a source of reproach.  Jesus’ own immediate family was also humble and unconventional.  His mom, Mary, was single (something that was not socially acceptable for a pregnant woman in that time) and a virgin (obviously a miracle that many around her would have doubted and mocked her for asserting).  

We also get a peek into what the Bible describes as characteristics of Jesus—holy, Son of God, Son of the Most High.  We see that God the Father will make Jesus a king and that His kingdom will have no end.  These are radical claims.  Jesus’ relative, Elizabeth, calls Jesus her “lord” even while Jesus is in Mary’s womb.

Mary’s song and Zechariah’s prophecy tell us a lot about the character of God, the Father of Jesus.  He is a God who sees the humble.  He is a God who saves.  He is mighty and does great things for the humble.  He has mercy on those who fear (honor, revere, respect) Him.  He is strong.  He scatters the proud and exalts the humble.  He satisfies the hungry with good things.  He is faithful to His promises—old and new.  He looks after the generations. 

One thing in particular that stands out to me is how God's plan is long-term.  He told bits and pieces of it to the prophets of old....many, many years before the birth of Christ.  They would not have been able to know how it would unfold.  The same is true for we are still in the middle of the story and there is so much of the story that does not make sense yet. 

Finally, I love the beauty of this sentence that refers to John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord Jesus--a God who saves, forgives, shows mercy, shows his light in dark places, and guides our feet into the way of peace!  

Luke 1:76-78 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us
 from on high