Monthly Archives: August 2019

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – LUKE, THE CHRONICLER OF JESUS, SON OF MAN

LUKE’S GOSPEL

CHAPTER ONE

LUKE, THE CHRONICLER OF JESUS, SON OF MAN

“So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honourable Theophilus, so you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt the reality of what you were taught.” Luke 1:1-4.

Luke was a Gentile, possibly a Greek or a Roman, who was acquainted with Theophilus, a Roman, judging by his name, of high rank, either socially or as a government official somewhere. He was a follower of Jesus but he needed the anchor of an authentic record of the life of the one he had chosen to follow. Luke undertook the task, researching and writing as accurately as possible, using the verbal and written reports of eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, but of those who themselves believed in Him.

Luke was only one among many, according to him, who had undertaken this task, but it was his work that made its way into the canon of Scripture. While he used the work of others, it was his that was “God-breathed” and acknowledged as inspired. It would be a fascinating story of how a document written for only one man, made its way into the public eye and eventually into the New Testament. Did Theophilus share Luke’s story with family and friends, with work colleagues and social acquaintances? Did Luke show his gospel to Paul? Did Paul circulate copies to the churches because he recognised the value of Luke’s work?

This side of eternity we will never know but God designed this book to be part of the written witness to the life of His Son. It is part of the four-fold fulfilment of the prophetic picture of Messiah represented in the four faces of the living creatures around the throne of God. Matthew presents Jesus as the King of the Jews, the fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, symbolised by the face of a lion (Ezekiel 1:10; Rev 4:7). Mark’s picture of Jesus is that of a servant, symbolised by the face of an ox. Luke portrays Jesus as the Son of Man, symbolised by the face of a man, and John the exalted Son of God represented by the flying eagle.

Luke’s purpose was to present Jesus as the Son of Man, not just the human Jesus, but the Messiah, the God-man who was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the link between heaven and earth; God in human form, weak, vulnerable, ordinary, yet extraordinary in His nature and function, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a perfect man and a perfect sacrifice. He was true man, yet more than a man. He was true God, veiled in a human body to live out a real human life and to die a real human death so that we can be reconnected to God.

Luke’s research and writing skill has left us with an incomparable record of aspects of Jesus’ birth, glimpses into His childhood and His short public life, and examples of His matchless teaching which are recorded nowhere else in Scripture. Together with the other gospel writers we have a fully rounded and comprehensive record, not of every detail of Jesus’ life, but of the witness He left by His life and death to His reason for coming – a revelation of the Father through His miracles, His life and His teaching and His death and resurrection.

Luke’s story would be incomplete without the other gospels, yet in his writing he presents a very ordinary person, a man of prayer and dependence on the Father, who lived an extraordinary life and accomplished extraordinary things because He was empowered and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that fell on the church on the day of Pentecost and empowers us to live the same life He lived.

THE BOOK OF ACTS – HE IS STILL SPEAKING

HE IS STILL SPEAKING!

“‘Go to this people and tell them this:

You’re going to listen with your ears,

but you won’t hear a word;

You’re going to stare with your eyes,

but you won’t see a thing.

These people are blockheads!

They stick their fingers in their ears

so they won’t have to listen;

They screw their eyes shut

so they won’t have to look,

so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face

and let me heal them.”

“‘You’ve had your chance. The non-Jewish outsiders are next on the list. And, believe me; they’re going to receive it with open arms!’

“Paul lived for two years in his rented house. He welcomed everyone who came to visit. He urgently presented all the matters of the kingdom of God. He explained everything about Jesus Christ. His door was always open.” Acts 28:26-31 (The Message).

And so our journey with Paul ends today. From Jerusalem to Rome — what a journey! What a story! Paul was no ordinary traveller. He could have made the trip across land in a few weeks or by ship in a few days. He was a messenger, a herald of the King, taking the message of hope to an earthly empire ruled by fear. His story had to be painstakingly told, day by day, town by town, city by city, giving people an opportunity to listen, think and respond.

His biggest disappointment was the response of his own people. Time after time he met with the same reaction. A few believed but many rejected him and his message. He experienced what the prophets had spoken of centuries before, and they knew what they were talking about because they had first-hand experience of their people’s stubborn hearts.

Once again, in Rome, Paul had to shake the dust off his feet of those who heard the invitation to choose life but had chosen instead to walk away. He had faithfully delivered his message to them first but most of them were not interested in a place in the eternal kingdom of God. They were comfortable and complacent in their sin. It was too much effort to rouse themselves from their stupor and their false hope to embrace this new life, full of suffering, yes, but also full of hope.

As we cast our eyes across the years and across the miles of this man’s journey, what do we see? We see man who had only one vision. One would think that Rome would be his cue to retire. After all, had he not fulfilled his commission to take the good news of Jesus to the world?

Rome was the heart of his world, and here he was, at last, telling his story in the centre of his universe. But “retire” was not in Paul’s vocabulary. Like the Cheshire cat in “Alice in Wonderland”, whose smile was the last thing to fade, when he finally left, only his voice would be left to tell the story of Jesus!

Luke does not finish Paul’s story, perhaps because his story is not done. He had a mission to complete, to stand before Nero to offer him the opportunity to believe in Jesus. Nero too, rejected the message and demanded Paul’s head as the price for his faithfulness.

Like Abel, whose voice cried out from the ground long after his death; like Jesus, whose blood speaks of better things, Paul’s voice was not silenced when his blood was shed. His life, his letters keep on speaking of the One he faithfully served, and he still calls for a response to his eternal message of hope. 188

Acknowledgements

NIV

Scripture take from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

The Message

Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

 

THE BOOK OF ACTS – COME FOLLOW ME

COME FOLLOW ME

“They said, ‘Nobody wrote warning us about you. And no one has shown up saying anything bad about you. But we would like very much to hear more. The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it.’

“They agreed on a time. When the day arrived, they came back to his home with a number of their friends. Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had said about Him.” Acts 28:21-23 (The Message).

As always, Paul gave the first opportunity to his own people to hear the gospel. Putting aside all his previous experiences with the Jews, he summoned the leaders to listen to his story in the hopes that some of them would believe and take the message back to their own community while Paul was restricted to his quarters under house arrest.

Paul’s meeting with the Jews in Rome started off in friendly fashion. At least, as far as they were concerned, he could begin with a clean slate. His reputation had not yet preceded him. He could tell his story to an unbiased audience and allow them to make their choices without prejudice, so he thought.

For a whole day Paul opened up their Scriptures to them, shining light on and bringing new meaning to the old familiar words. What a Bible study it must have been! His letter to the Roman church had already been written, and his readers familiar with the grand truths that he had unlocked for them from the pages of Holy Writ. No doubt drawing from the understanding he had received under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, like his Master, he spoke of the glories of the kingdom of God to men who should have had an appreciation of the Scriptures.

“Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it. When the unbelievers got cantankerous and started bickering with one another, Paul interrupted: ‘I have just one more thing to say to you. The Holy Spirit sure knew what He was talking about when He addressed our ancestors through Isaiah the prophet:'” Acts 28:24-25 (The Message).

The same thing all over again! Paul should have been used to it by now. This is the nature of the gospel of Jesus. He warned that it would be so: ‘I did not come to bring peace but a sword.’ His truth and His claims inevitably draw a sharp line down the middle. Such is the truth about Him that no one can remain neutral or indifferent to Him.

There is an innate enmity against God in the heart of every human being until their deep need for Him rises to the surface with a longing to know Him that outweighs their antagonism towards Him. Some will follow their hearts while others will retain that inward hostility that will rob them of the mercy that constantly reaches out to them. They will put anything in its place rather than submit to the love that calls them to Himself. The fight is so strong that they will destroy the messenger rather than respond to his message.

There is little else in the world that provokes such a violent response as the claims of Jesus. Religion and politics are the main causes of the great divide. But Jesus’ call is not to a cause like religion or politics: it is to Himself. ‘Come, follow me,’ He invites us, and that implies only one thing. You cannot follow a dead man, therefore He must be alive.

Unlike the founders of every counterfeit religion who can only leave behind a record of what they said or did, Jesus is alive! Like all others, He died, but unlike any other, He rose again to authenticate every claim He made about Himself. He is the only one who can speak, now, into your heart, saying, ‘Come, follow me.’

THE BOOK OF ACTS – A HOSTAGE OF HOPE

A HOSTAGE OF HOPE

“Three days later Paul called the Jewish leaders together for a meeting at his house and said, ‘The Jews in Jerusalem arrested me on a trumped-up charge, and I was taken into custody by the Romans. I assure you that I did absolutely nothing against Jewish laws or Jewish customs. After the Romans investigated the charges and found there was nothing to them, they wanted to set me free but the Jews objected so fiercely that I was forced to appeal to Caesar. I did this not to accuse them of any wrongdoing or to get people in trouble with Rome. We’ve had enough trouble through the years that way. I did it for Israel. I asked you to come and listen to me today to make it clear that I’m on Israel’s side, not against her. I’m a hostage here for hope, not doom.'” Acts 28:17-20 (The Message).

Paul was finally in Rome. What would be his first step on this tightrope he was walking across an uncharted chasm? He was not out to curry favour or to get the Jews on his side. He was above that sort of thing.

It was always his earnest desire to set before them Jesus as the fulfilment of their Scriptures and the Messiah they were expecting. But from town to town, city to city across Europe and Asia he had been rejected because of one thing — the cross. No self-respecting Jew was prepared to accept a crucified Messiah. Not all the proof in the world would convince them that the man Jesus, the humble Galilean, was the Son of God and the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament.

It was Paul’s hope that here in Rome he would be able to communicate this truth to the Jewish leaders by his own mouth before they were contaminated by misinformation from their fellow countrymen. Their eternal destiny was at stake. He wanted to share with them the unadulterated truth that Jesus of Nazareth was sent from God, not to get rid of the Romans and make them rulers of the world, but to get rid of sin and make them kings and priests of God.

Because he was already a dead man as far as his own life was concerned, he did not see his imprisonment as a hopeless situation but as a stepping stone to bringing hope to as many people in Rome as he could influence. It did not matter to him where he was or who was in the company. His circumstances were always an explosion of potential and opportunity.

In his letters Paul tried hard to make his readers understand what had happened to them when they bowed the knee to Jesus. Everything changed. This was not a new religion they were espousing but a new domain they had entered. Their allegiance to their old masters, self, sin and the world, had been broken and they had entered a new realm, the realm of God’s rule. They were under the dominion of a new Master, Jesus. He had rescued them from a life of selfishness and self-destruction and set their feet on a new path — loving service fired by a passionate love for Jesus.

They were dead to all their old slave-drivers and alive to their new Master, motivated by His selfless sacrifice for them, and this message was not confined to the Jews but was for the whole world, regardless of their contempt for the Gentiles. They were no better than the Gentiles in their hypocritical attitude, as Paul pointed out in his letter to the Romans. Since Jew and Gentile were both guilty before God, Paul’s message was equally applicable to the whole world and he was going to deliver that message, come what may.

It was Paul’s hope that, on the threshold of his sojourn in Rome, whatever the outcome, he would be able to win as many of his countrymen to Jesus as he could before the crazy crackpot Caesar, Nero, decided on his fate. Dying was not his problem. He was ready for that. It was the interlude before his death that occupied his attention and he would do everything he could to win his brothers before he left.

Eternity was a long time to enjoy the fruit of his sacrifice!

THE BOOK OF ACTS – THE ETERNAL CITY AT LAST !

THE ETERNAL CITY AT LAST!

“Then we came to Rome. Friends in Rome heard we were on the way and came out to meet us. One group got as far as Appian Court; another group met us at Three Taverns — emotion-packed meetings, as you can well imagine. Paul, brimming over with praise, led us in prayers of thanksgiving. When we actually entered Rome, they let Paul live in his own private quarters with a soldier who had been assigned to guard him.” Acts 28:14-16 (The Message).

Rome at last! The Eternal City, and what a welcome! One would have thought he was a returning hero and not a jailbird on his way to trial.

He certainly was a hero in the eyes of his friends. He was a well-known figure all over the empire. These friends, no doubt, were some of his converts, or converts of converts who had either moved to Rome or were introduced to Jesus through believers who had visited Rome at some time.

His welcome was so riotous that one can imagine a red carpet, with banners and streamers all over the streets — not that it actually happened! The centurion and soldiers must have marvelled at Paul’s popularity. The Christian quarter had been buzzing with the news that Paul was coming to Rome. They had no need of snail mail, e-mail, sms’s, satellite TV news or any of the modern forms of communication. Word of mouth was just as effective when an important person was coming!

They turned out in numbers and in relays to welcome him and show him love and support in his awkward situation. The centurion and soldiers were not his guard; they were his guard-of-honour to herald his arrival in Rome. One would almost have expected Nero himself to be part of Paul’s entourage!

What was the mood among his beloved friends? Joy and celebration! Hugs and tears! For many of them it was the first time they had seen his face, but they knew him so well that they would have recognised him anywhere. His letter to the Roman church was in their hearts, no doubt by now copied and re-copied, carefully preserved and highly treasured for its rich teaching and tender exhortations.

Paul was overwhelmed by their loving and enthusiastic welcome. Forgotten were the years of languishing in prison, the uncertainty of his future, the hardships of the voyage, the peril of the storm and the terrifying experience of being flung into the icy waters of the Mediterranean Sea. His heart was flooded with joy and gratitude. His God was faithful — guiding him safely to Rome.

How long he had wanted and planned to visit Rome, but not this way! Nevertheless he was secure in his Father’s perfect will, and that was a cause for rejoicing. With his feet firmly on Italian soil and surrounded by his friends, he lifted his soul to God in an outpouring of gratitude and praise.

This was the environment of Paul’s life. Praise! Beat him, stone him, throw him in jail; Paul prayed! Buffet him in a stormy sea, fling him into the deep, pound him with mountainous waves; Paul praised! Chain him up to a Roman guard, bring him face-to-face with death; Paul rejoiced! Wherever he went, he was surrounded by an aura of joy.

It was out of his history of trouble and suffering that he built his portfolio of God’s grace. How else would he have been able to share his unshakeable conviction that nothing could separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Whatever encouragement, whatever exhortation you may read in any of his letters, you may be sure that he wrote out of deep personal experience.

This life into which we have entered through faith in Christ is a marathon of testing, an obstacle course of opportunity to overcome self, sin and the world, and to be put on display, as Paul was, as proof of the glory of our God. A praising heart is the evidence that we, like Paul, know whom we have believed, and are convinced that He is able to guard what we have entrusted to Him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12b).