Monthly Archives: September 2019

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – YOU CAN’T BEND THE RULES

YOU CAN’T BEND THE RULES

“For the third test the devil took Him to Jerusalem and put Him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that “He has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone”?’

“‘Yes,’ said Jesus, ‘and it’s also written, “Don’t you dare tempt the Lord you God.”‘

“That completed the testing. The devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.” Luke 4:9-13.

How stupid could he be? One thing the devil did not realise – he was not showing Jesus up. He was showing himself up! Did he really think that Jesus would fall for this one? After all, who made the rules?

But there is something more subtle in this test than trying to defy gravity. The devil was questioning the very foundation of Jesus’ authority. What God says is a manifestation of who God is. When He speaks, He places Himself under the authority of His own Word because He and His Word are one.

Before Jesus ever stepped out into public ministry, He had to settle this one. He was the “Word made flesh”; the living, breathing, acting embodiment of what God had spoken. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He also made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV).

Since it was through Jesus that God spoke the universe into existence, and all the laws by which the universe is held together and functions as a unit, Jesus was in perfect oneness with His own word. Did the devil really think that God would overturn His own word to save a foolish man from trying to defy gravity?

But there is something even deeper than that. By manipulating God’s word for His own ends, would He be trying to impress the many people present in the Temple at that moment that He was their Messiah? Was that the way to earn their allegiance? Jesus knew better than that!

It would not be His death by suicide but His death by sacrifice that would bring about God’s purpose to rescue the world from the clutches of the devil and restore them to their rightful place as sons and daughters in His family.

It was God’s way to work through the normal processes of life, including hatred and rejection, to bring about the salvation of the human race, and not through some death-defying act of stupidity at the instigation of a known liar! What guarantee could the devil give that God would overturn gravity for Jesus?

The question was: Would Jesus manipulate His Father by holding Him to His Word, especially applied out of context, or would He place Himself under that Word, no matter what the outcome for Him?

We already know the answer to that one. “…He was heard because of His reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7 (NIV); “‘Abba, Father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'” Mark 14:36 (NIV).

The result of the testing was a resounding victory for Jesus and a tail-between-the-legs thrashing for the devil! Jesus was now a tried-and-tested Son, ready to take up His mammoth task because His modus operandi had been established. It was quite simple, really – exactly what was expected of Him – submission and obedience – do what the Father says!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – IT WAS ALL LIES!

IT WAS ALL LIES!

“For the second test he led Him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the devil said, ‘They’re yours in all their splendour to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.’

“Jesus refused, again backing His refusal with Deuteronomy:

”’Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve Him with absolute single heartedness.'” Luke 4:5-8.

Really! Did the devil really expect Jesus to swallow this one?

Luke reversed Matthew’s order, putting this temptation ahead of the devil’s attempt to lure Jesus into a suicide jump. It seems that, as a third attempt to get Jesus to fall in line with his suggestion, the devil finally played open cards with Him. Was he that desperate to lure Jesus off course that he thought he could actually induce Him into falling down and worshipping him?

What was the prize if He did that? All the kingdoms of the world? But wait a minute – before we think that it was worth a little homage in secret, let’s examine the devil’s claim. Did he really own all the kingdoms of the world?

Firstly the devil only spoke lie-language. Jesus categorically stated that he was a liar and that the only language he could speak was lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44b (NIV).

Lie number one: he does not own all the kingdoms of the world. If he doesn’t, who does?

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1 (NIV). The earth is the possession of the one who created it. It is His right to assign it to whomever He wills.

Lie number two: the devil does not have the right to give away what does not belong to him. “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind.” Psalm 115:16 (NIV).

For what purpose? Not to abuse and destroy as we are doing now, but to manage for Him. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in His own image…” Genesis 1:26, 27a (NIV).

Where does the devil fit into the scheme of things? His power lies, not in possession but in deception. Had Jesus capitulated to him, would He have become the proud owner of all the kingdoms of the world? Of course not. The devil would have become His slave-driver.

How was He to gain possession of everything the devil has stolen through deceit? “I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your Father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:7-8 (NIV).

Jesus had already gained the prize through obedience. By His submission to the Father’s will, He would confirm what was already true from before the beginning of time. He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world,” Revelation 13:8 (NIV).

He would worship the Lord – pledge His allegiance to the Father alone. Sorry, devil, you lost that round too!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – DADDY DIDN’T TELL ME TO DO IT!

DADDY DIDN’T TELL ME TO DO IT!

“The devil, playing on His hunger, gave the first test: ‘Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread’. Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: ‘It takes more than bread to really live.'” Luke 4:3-4.

What sort of test was this?

There are layers upon layers of significance in these devilish suggestions and the devil was smart. He started with the physical. Jesus’ most pressing need was for food. And there was nothing resembling food anywhere nearby, except a few rocks that looked like loaves of bread. The more He stared at them the more He could almost smell the delicious aroma of flatbread cooking on a heated rock. What harm would He do by using His divine power to do a little magic? No one would know…except the Father!

But underneath that there is another layer. Before He left the Father’s side, He had renounced His right to act as God during His time on earth as a human being – for the whole time – not only when it was convenient or when He was in the public eye. Would He go back on that?

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV).

But underneath that was another layer. If He made stones into bread, He would be acting on his own initiative and not on God’s instruction. That would be a denial of what a true son is. The nature of a son is submission and obedience – not doing His own thing like Adam did. If He was to have His needs met, the Father would meet them so that the Father would get the glory.

But underneath that was another layer. Satan was not stupid. He knew that it was his ultimate job to destroy the oneness between Father and Son. That was the secret power that got things done on earth. Right back at the beginning of history God knew that people could do anything if they were united.

“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.'” Genesis 11:5-6 (NIV).

Why was this? Because unity is the expression of God’s essential nature. It was the confession of the Israelites from the beginning of their nationhood. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV). Jesus would never accomplish anything outside of perfect oneness with the Father because what the Father decreed in heaven, the Son confirmed on earth.

And underneath was yet another layer. If Jesus had listened to the devil, He would have changed allegiance, just as Adam did. He would have acknowledged that “Satan is Lord” which is exactly what the old serpent wanted!

O yes, Satan was smart! But Jesus was even smarter! With one pithy quote from the Scriptures He knew so well, He cut down the opposition and demolished every subtle insinuation embedded in those words, “Since you are God’s Son…” Satan was saying, ‘Prove it!’ Jesus shot back, ‘I don’t have to. I know it!’ How did He know it? Daddy said it: ‘You are my Son.’ And that was enough.

“…Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV).

Translation: ‘Daddy didn’t tell me to do that!’

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – UNTESTED!

CHAPTER FOUR

UNTESTED!

“When Jesus entered public life He was about thirty years old, the son (in public perception) of Joseph…son of Adam, son of God.”

“Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days He was tested by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up, He was hungry.” Luke 3:23-4:2.

I don’t know about you, but as I read Luke’s story, I am struck by the sober, down-to-earth way in which he reported the results of his investigation. There was nothing fanciful or imaginative about the details of his story. He was writing about things that happened.

At the age of thirty Jesus was eligible to enter the priesthood. But wait a minute. He was neither a Levite nor the son of a priest. He was from the tribe of Judah and His father was a carpenter and a builder. He had no earthly claim to priesthood.

But He had a connection with God the Father which overrode His human connections. As a twelve-year-old boy, He was already aware of His role as a Son, which took precedence over His obligation to be under the authority of Joseph and Mary. At the age of thirty He stepped into public view at the Jordan River to take up His office as high priest, not in the order of Levi but in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20; 7:15).

He was baptised in the River Jordan by John; baptised into humanity, baptised into John’s ministry and baptised into His high priesthood. After He was anointed by the Spirit and affirmed by the Father, He left the Jordan and made His way into the wilderness to be alone for a while. He had the connection with His Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. Now He needed the strategy for the huge mission that lay ahead of Him.

Satan needed no invitation to join Him! He was there, hovering in the background and waiting to pounce at every opportunity. And that was just what the Holy Spirit wanted him to do. The devil was playing right into God’s hands! If Jesus was to “get” God’s modus operandi, Satan would help Him to understand what it was not. Get rid of the alternatives and the right way would become crystal clear.

At this point in His life Jesus was untested. He had passed the test of infancy, boyhood and youth with flying colours and affirmed by the Father – “You are my Son in whom I am well pleased,” but, from now on it would be a whole new ball game. He was stepping onto the battlefield, and it would be a fight to the death, not just the death of His physical body but either His own death if He went the way Adam went (He was fulfilling the role of the “last Adam”), or the death of His adversary if He consistently lived as a true son.

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:7-10.

What was the “death” this passage is talking about? If it refers to physical death, then it is not telling the truth. Was Jesus saved from physical death? No. But He was saved from eternal death because of His “reverent submission”. Does that mean that by becoming a man, Jesus risked eternal separation from God if He stepped out of line like Adam did? It surely does, otherwise He would not have been qualified to be the perfect lamb that took our place on the cross.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin” Hebrews 4:15 (NIV).

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – THE FATHER’S BLESSING

THE FATHER’S BLESSING

“There was a lot more of this – words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart into them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John’s rebuke in the matter of Herodius, his brother, Philip’s wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail.

“After all the people were baptised, Jesus was baptised. As He was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on Him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: ‘You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.'” Luke 3:18-22.

What an amazing series of events! John preached “fire and brimstone” and the people flocked to him. Words that put strength and heart into them? How did that work?

Then Jesus appeared to be baptised. The Son of God – baptised? How could He be answering the call to repent? What did He need to repent about? And then the Holy Spirit came in visible form and enveloped Him; and then the Father Himself affirmed Him! Nothing like this had even happened before. What did it all mean?

In John’s Gospel the writer tells us that these things were a sign to John the Baptist that this was the Messiah. It would seem then that though they were related, Jesus and John did not have childhood connections. One lived in Galilee and the other in Judea. This was not a family affair. Each was involved in his own preparation for this climactic event. John needed to be absolutely sure of the one he was presenting as Messiah to the world.

Jesus’ baptism was not about repentance. It had much deeper significance than that. Baptism was about initiation into something – an office, a movement – and identification, agreement, with what was being presented. It was the right thing for Him to do – to make a public statement through baptism that He was one with John in what he was preaching and doing. He could not stand aloof as though He had no part in this prophetic action. After all, He was the subject of John’s message.

Just like Zachariah, who pronounced his fatherly blessing over his new-born son, affirming him as his son and speaking the prophetic words of the angel Gabriel over him, so the Father spoke His Fatherly blessing over Jesus as He stood at the brink of His ministry that would take Him on a road of submission, obedience and suffering.

Jesus was the Son of God. Did He need the Father’s blessing? Like any other human child, it was His Father’s affirmation, ringing in His ears over and over again, that energised Him to fulfil His commission with absolute loyalty. How could He state with such confidence, ‘I and the Father are one”? The Father was the stake to which He was tethered and to whom He gave unswerving obedience because the Father had owned him as “My Son”.

Just imagine how different the lives of many “fatherless” children would be if they could hear those words, “My son; my daughter.” Fathers may be present but absent in the lives of their children – measuring their worth only by what they can produce or achieve. “If you are good, I will love you. If you measure up, I will own you. Otherwise you have no value to me.” What a tragedy that children are valued only for what they can contribute to a father.

God’s love is not like that. There is no clearer picture for humans to understand the nature of the Father’s love than the simple story Jesus told of a rebellious and wayward son whom the father loved anyway because he was his son. To him his son had worth because he was his son, not because he measured up. That bond can never be severed, no matter what. A son is a son is a son.