Monthly Archives: March 2020

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – FOR THE LAST TIME

FOR THE LAST TIME

“When it was time, He sat down, all the apostles with Him, and said, ‘You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.'” Luke 22:14-16.

Was Jesus crazy? It almost sounds as though He was looking forward to His coming crucifixion. He had shared Passover meals with them in the past. He knew this was the last one He would eat with them in this life. He referred to other Passover celebrations in the future but they would take place “in the kingdom of God”.

In spite of the glimpses He gives us into the significance of His suffering, both to Him and to the Father, we will never fully understand what the cross meant – neither the experience nor the outcome.

The cross of Jesus – the pinnacle of history and the dividing line for all people for all eternity! For every person, the cross determines our eternal destiny, depending on our choice.

It was because of the cross that God’s plan to build a family of people just like His Son was put back on track. Satan’s deception in the Garden of Eden derailed it for a season, but Jesus paid the debt of man’s sin, reconciled His alienated human race and reinstated every son and daughter into His family through faith in Him.

It was through the cross that Jesus exposed the devil for the liar he is. In spite of the injustice of His trial and death sentence for who He was – the Son of God and the king of the Jews, He submitted Himself to their cruelty and to the Father’s will without a murmur. His death spelled the end for Satan. His judgment was coming and he knew it!

“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate. When He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  1 Peter 2:23-25 (NIV).

Jesus looked forward to the cross because it would be the completion of His mission on earth, the culmination of His revelation of the Father and the cue for His return to His place in glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit. So great was His love for the Father that He even relished His suffering because it was the Father’s will to rescue mankind from death and bring them back home to Himself.

‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:3 (NIV).

For Jesus, this Passover meal would be the opportunity to reveal the full significance of the historical event they were celebrating. Passover was a picture of the greater redemption from slavery to sin and Satan that He was about to accomplish as the sacrificial Lamb of God whose blood on the lives of those who believe in Him would protect them from death and open the door to everlasting life.

No, Jesus was not crazy! Once again, in His self-forgetful love for human beings, He relished the outcome of His suffering – redemption, rescue and reconciliation and the door to eternal life flung open to anyone who will receive His forgiveness and His invitation to return to the Father’s house and the Father’s arms to be a beloved member of His forever family.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – COME AND EAT WITH ME!

COME AND EAT WITH ME!

“The Day of Unleavened Bread came, the day the Passover lamb was butchered. Jesus sent Peter and John off, saying, ‘Go prepare the Passover for us so we can eat it together.’

“They said, ‘Where do you want us to do this?’,

“He said, ‘Keep your eyes open as you enter the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him home. Then speak with the owner of the house: The Teacher wants to know, ‘Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare the meal there.’

“They left, found everything just as He told them, and prepared the Passover meal.” Luke 22:7-13.

Luke’s story has an air of anticipation about it. Jesus was expecting something to happen and His disciples were caught up in the atmosphere. Other Passover celebrations had come and gone but this one would be different.

Did Jesus make a secret arrangement with a friend for a venue for His last meal with His disciples? Was He giving instructions to His disciples because of His divine foreknowledge or was He, once again, simply following His Father’s instructions as He said He always did?

Eating together had significance but there was special meaning in the Passover meal. The children of Israel were on the threshold of their great redemption. They were packed and ready to go, waiting only for the signal to make their escape from Pharaoh and his powerful army. Moses issued one more challenge, this time hitting at the heart of every Egyptian family, from Pharaoh down to the least slave – their firstborn sons! This one made its mark and Pharaoh finally consented to let Israel go.

But why stop to eat a meal before they left? There was a great deal of meaning and symbolism in the Passover meal: blood on their doorposts was an expression of faith in God’s promise of protection; they trusted in the blood of a sacrificial lamb to save them; they ate unleavened bread because there was no time to allow their dough to rise; bread without yeast symbolised eradication of sin from their lives, and so on.

Perhaps a part of the meaning of Passover is not understood, especially by non-Jews who do not know the cultural background of Jewish practices. Middle-Eastern people are very hospitable. Eating together has great significance for them. The Hebrew word for “meal” is shul and a table – shulkan. But shulkan also means “reconciliation” and “lamb skin”. Combine these ideas and you have a beautiful picture of the significance of Passover.

If you do not have a table – shulkan – you use a lamb skin – shulkan – as a picnic blanket, but you could not eat a meal together if you had issues with each other. Hence the table – shulkan – which was a lamb skin – shulkan – became the symbol of reconciliation – shulkan. As families embarking on a very long journey, they could not travel unless they were reconciled – no issues to cause division on the way – and reconciliation were only possible because of the sacrifice of a lamb.

Put Jesus and His disciples into that picture and the Last Supper begins to tell its own story. Perhaps the most poignant message on that occasion was a tender invitation from Jesus, ‘Judas, I know what you have done but I have forgiven you. I do not hold it against you. You have to bear the responsibility of your treachery but there is a way back if you repent.’

To Peter and the other disciples who would all fail Him, Jesus was saying, ‘Come and eat with me. I have no issues with you.’ In Revelation 3:20 He says to everyone who has wandered away from Him, “‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.'”

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – CONSPIRACY!

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

CONSPIRACY!

“He spent His days in the Temple teaching but His nights out on the mountain called Olives. All the people were up at the crack of dawn to come to the Temple and listen to Him.

“The Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called Passover, drew near. The high priests and religion scholars were looking for a way to do away with Jesus but, fearful of the people, they were also looking for a way of covering their tracks.

“That’s when Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot. He was one of the Twelve. Leaving the others, he conferred with the high priests and temple guards about how he might betray Jesus to them. They couldn’t believe their good luck and agreed to pay him well. He gave them his word and started looking for a way to betray Jesus, but out of sight of the crowd.” Luke 21:37-38; 22:1-6.

The plot thickens, as they say!

How amazing that, in all of history, never had God and the devil worked so closely together to accomplish so daring a plan! Two opposing agendas meet and synchronise in the greatest drama the world has ever witnessed. God turns Satan’s hand to be His unwitting accomplice in signing his own doom.

None of this would make sense had it not been for Isaiah’s prophetic insight in predicting this event hundreds of years before it happened. “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” Isaiah 53:10 (NIV).

Judas, one of Jesus’ closest associates, conspired with His enemies to sell Him out. Why? We will never really know. His greed for money was in the plot, but there had to be something more sinister than that. Was Judas disillusioned with Jesus because He had not met his expectations?

In this mix of ordinary men there were different ambitions and aspirations. They had agreed that Jesus was the Messiah but what did that mean to them? Their many squabbles over their pecking order suggest that their concept of Messiah was political. They were hoping for the overthrow of Roman occupation and the re-establishment of David’s glorious reign, free in a land that was their own. They were looking to Jesus to do something miraculous. Hadn’t He proved His power over nature, demons, sickness and even the people who were trying to destroy Him? Surely Rome would be a pushover for someone as powerful as He had proved to be!

But, to Judas’ frustration, Jesus gave no sign of making a move. He would have to orchestrate a showdown with Rome, and Passover was the most opportune time to do it. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, masterfully brings these agendas together and lays the responsibility for Jesus’ death on the shoulders of the Jews, but under the direction of God Himself. No novelist could have imagined a plot like that for a good story! It had to be God.

“‘This man was handed over by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge, and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him…Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:23-24; 36 (NIV).

It had to be Passover time because Jerusalem would be full of Jews from all over Israel, enough people to join Jesus in a successful uprising. If Jesus was cornered, would He strike out against His captors?

For the Jewish leaders, it was the perfect opportunity to get rid of Him. For God it was the perfect opportunity to set Jesus up as the sacrificial Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. For Satan it was the perfect opportunity to bring his arch enemy down and hold him in his power forever through death.

On December 11th, 1845, James Lowell published these words as the last verse of an anti-slavery hymn.

“Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ’tis truth alone is strong;                                                  Though her portion be the scaffold and upon the throne be wrong;                                            Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown                                                 Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”

At the end of his magnificent presentation of the meaning of the cross, the Apostle Paul penned these words:

O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out!                               

Who has known the mind of the Lord?                                                                                           

Or who has been His counsellor? 

Who has ever given to God that God should ever repay him?                                                     

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.   Romans 8:33-36                                                  

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – BE ON YOUR GUARD

BE ON YOUR GUARD

“But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectations be dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.'” Luke 21:34-36.

Jesus issued two warnings regarding His return; be on guard, and be ready. Almost two thousand years have come and gone since His appearance on the earth. That’s a long time to wait for something to happen that is as revolutionary as His coming promises to be. According to the Bible, when He comes He will rid the earth of every person and thing that conflicts with God’s original plan. He will set up His eternal kingdom of righteousness and peace and destroy every opposing force.

He also gave His followers instructions regarding their commission during the interval before He returns. We are to extend His invitation to everyone we meet to follow and obey Him, and we are to take care of His household, loving and serving believers so that we faithfully reflect Him to the world around us.

The temptation to believers is to become so enmeshed in the world and its allurements that we forget Jesus’ instructions and either go to sleep on the job or join the world in its selfish and worthless pursuits. We can become disillusioned with Jesus because following Him is tough and sometimes perilous. The promise of His coming seems so remote and illusory that we simply join in with everything that goes on around us. Hence Jesus’ warning is relevant and needs to be repeated constantly.

He told a parable about ten virgins who were awaiting the bridegroom’s return. The bridegroom delayed for so long that they all fell asleep. Five of them were ready but not watching; the other five were neither ready nor watching. When the bridegroom finally arrived, they were awakened by the shout, ‘Here he is!’ Their lamps had gone out. Five were able to relight their lamps with the extra oil they carried but the other five had none, so they tried to borrow oil from the others.

Since most of us don’t understand the imagery, our misinterpretation causes us to miss the point. The oil in this story represents, not the Holy Spirit as we tend to think, but the “acts of righteousness” referred to in Revelation 19:7: “‘For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)”

The five “wise” virgins were ready because their “lamps” were full of their “righteous acts”. It was impossible for the “foolish” virgins to borrow righteous acts. They had to go out and do their own, but for them it was too late because the bridegroom had come and the doors to the wedding banquet were locked.

Being ready implies that the life of Jesus in us has so transformed us that we have taken on His nature which is loving and generous towards all people. This is the proof that we are ready to receive Him when He returns and to go in to the marriage supper with Him.

His warning to be on guard is equally sobering. What if, when He returns, He finds that we have forgotten to do what He told us to do and, instead, we have joined the world in its selfish pursuits; drinking, partying and living ungodly lives like the rest? How would He feel about us?

His instruction is clear. To be on guard and ready is to be faithfully carrying out His mandate to share His invitation and to take care of those who have joined His household by feeding and clothing them and by doing our duty to Him by sharing our resources with those in need. Daily focusing on these duties will keep us from falling asleep or becoming sloppy, lazy or irresponsible while we wait.

Living for Jesus, one day at a time, is an effective antidote against the danger of failing to be on guard or to be ready for our bridegroom when He comes.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – JESUS THE ETERNAL WORD

JESUS THE ETERNAL WORD

“He told them a story. ‘Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here – when you see these things happen, you know God’s kingdom is about here. Don’t brush this off. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one too – these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.'” Luke 21:29-33.

“Words! Words!” sang Professor Higgins in the musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”. We live in an era in which words are saturating the airwaves around the globe. People are constantly posting more and more words on the web, all claiming knowledge and clamouring for attention and belief. Whose words are the truth and whose words are we to believe?

There is something different about the words of Jesus. Is there another person on earth whose words have had the power to bring hope, give encouragement and change lives like Jesus’ words have done through 2000 years? There is something so compelling about His words that people all over the world and in every generation are drawn to believe and respond.

What is it that makes His words different from the words of any other authority? No one else has made the claims that Jesus makes about His words.

  1. He knows what He is talking about because he came from the other side. “‘I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen…No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man ‘” John 3:11, 13 (NIV).
  2. He does not speak His own words or on His own authority. “The Jews were amazed. ’How did this man get such learning without having studied.’ Jesus answered. ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from His who sent me.'” John 7:15-16 (NIV).
  3. He speaks more than mere words. His words are life-giving. “‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.'” John 7:63-64a (NIV).
  4. He teaches us the truth and the knowledge of the truth sets us free. “To the Jews who believed Him Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'” John 8:31-32 (NIV).
  5. His words will be our judge when He returns. “‘As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him…There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my word; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.'” John 12:47a, 48 (NIV).

What did Jesus say that no one else has ever said? “‘ I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.'” John 5:24 (NIV)

“‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.'” John 10:27 (NIV).

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'” John 11:25-26 (NIV).

All other great religious teachers have told their followers what to do but never called them to become one with them. Jesus not only spoke God’s word. He is God’s Word, the living embodiment of everything God has spoken so that those who believe in Him will know that He alone is the truth. He is His word and He is eternal. Therefore His words will never pass away and nor will those who believe Him.