Monthly Archives: April 2020

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – EVERYTHING IN THE SCRIPTURES

EVERYTHING IN THE SCRIPTURES

“Then He said to them, ‘So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into His glory?’ Then He started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to Him.” Luke 24:25-27 (The Message).

What a Bible study! No one ever has, and no one ever will explain the Scriptures as Jesus did to those two that day! All the learned Jewish rabbis from ancient times could not have understood the Word of God as He did because He was both author and subject of the book.

Perhaps the message of these verses is the same for us today as it was for them then – we are thick-headed and slow-hearted because of our ignorance of the Scriptures. God has not only given us His Word but He has given us His Spirit to explain and interpret His Word. And yet we have so many teachings and practices that have “evolved” from the Bible that are not true to the Bible because, unlike the noble Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11b NIV, we have not gone back to the Bible to verify the things we believe and practise.

Everything about Himself was there for them to discover if they had only taken the trouble to search. In fact, had they listened to Him with faith, they would have understood because He was the living Word right there with them for three years. John testified that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have enough room for all the books that would be written.” John 21:25 (NIV). That is quite a statement!

Firstly, Jesus gave one simple instruction to His disciples out of which flows everything else He taught and demonstrated. He said to them, and to us, “Remain in me” And yet, if one considers the variety of superstructures that have been built on Him, the picture of true discipleship has been horribly distorted. All the rituals and paraphernalia that have been piled on Him have buried Him and replaced Him with nothing but another man-made religion.

Where do robes, incense, chanting, processions, hierarchy, priesthood and laity, rituals and every other belief and practice added to the simplicity of His call, fit into His purpose for coming? Do these things help us to live in harmony together as brothers and sisters in the family of God so that we can be witnesses to Him in the world?

Jesus calls us into close fellowship with Him with no trappings and requirements other than to believe, love and obey Him. Out of that flows our fellowship with each other. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 (NIV). Where does all this other stuff fit into that?

Secondly, we have built a world-wide prayer movement called “spiritual warfare” that in fact functions as though the death of Jesus were inadequate to deal with the devil. We are taught to “pull down”, “take authority over”, “break through”, “cast out”, “identify principalities”, “bind and loose” and even do “prayer walks” with no regard to the truth that Jesus accomplished the total defeat of Satan at the cross.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations which were against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV).

If we have doubts about the efficacy of Jesus’ death, then we must add all these other things to try to subdue the devil. There is no evidence in the book of Acts that the Early Church was taught to do any of these things. By sharing their lives and their resources with one another and preaching Jesus as Lord, they turned the world upside down and brought down powerful religions like Diana-worship and eventually even the worship of Caesar.

The Bible sounds a serious warning to those who add anything to the sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Galatians 1:8 (NIV).

How important it was for those disciples then, and for us today, to know that Jesus had to suffer, to die and to be raised from the dead so that we can be living witnesses of who He is. Our transformed lives show the world that Jesus, and not the devil, is Lord, and expose his deception.

THR GOSPEL OF LUKE – WE HAD OUR HOPES UP

WE HAD OUR HOPES UP

“He said, ‘What has happened?’

“They said, ‘The things that happened to Jesus, the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed Him, got Him sentenced to death and crucified Him. And we had our hopes up that He was the Christ. And now this is the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find His body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Jesus,'” Luke 24:19-24 (The Message).

What sad words, ‘We had our hopes up…

What a story! No wonder these poor disciples were confused! So many things had happened in such a short time that they could not make head or tail of them. If they had only taken note of Jesus’ repeated warning, they would have saved themselves from all this confusion.

How many times had Jesus told them that these things would happen? He had explained to them in detail that He would be arrested, tried and crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day. Had they listened, it would have been a time of celebration and expectation instead of confusion and grief.

Jesus continued to play His little game of “hide-and-seek” with them. He listened to their story, perhaps with a touch of amusement because He was about to give them the biggest surprise of their lives, but also with some frustration because of their unbelief.

The disciples had walked with Jesus long enough to know that He was always in charge of every situation and that He always had a solution. Had they watched and listened, they would have realised that He was not a victim of an assassination plot but a willing participant in something much bigger, orchestrated to fulfill a greater purpose.

Time and again He had made it clear that He was nobody’s pawn. He had often walked through a murderous mob unscathed. He had often declared, ‘It’s not yet my time.’ The tale of woe of these two that morning made it obvious to Jesus that nothing He had said made sense to them and they didn’t believe any of it. What a slap in the face for Him!

How like them we are! We have a whole Bible full of promises and reassurances but, when things don’t go our way, we fall apart like the disciples did, and spend our time and emotional energy recounting the problems instead of trusting the promises. Has God ever failed? If He fails you, it will be the first time in history, His first lie and the first crack in His flawless character!

On one occasion, Jesus and His disciples met a man born blind. The disciples’ reaction was, ‘Whose fault was it that he was born blind.’ Jesus’ response was typically ‘Jesus’. “‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause and effect here. Look instead for what God can do.'” John 9:3.MSG

That’s it! It does not matter what crisis we are in. Three facts are non-negotiable: God is there; God is good; God is in charge. No one can ‘do’ anything ‘to’ anyone without God’s knowledge and purpose. How much better to wait and trust rather than expend useless emotional pain in fear and unbelief.

A simple, ‘Let’s see what God can do,’ will wipe out doubt and replace it with anticipation of something bigger than we can imagine. After all, isn’t God about putting His glory on display through us? He used the most impossible circumstances to do it through Jesus, and He will do it through us if we believe.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – JESUS CAME…

JESUS CAME…

“That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognise who He was.

“He asked, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?’

“They just stood there, long faced like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, ‘Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?'” Luke 24:13-19.

Jesus must have enjoyed His little game with these disciples. They were not part of the Twelve, but they were disciples, nevertheless, people who were committed to this Rabbi and learning to walk in His yoke. The events of the past few days had hit them as hard as they had hit the remaining eleven disciples.

These two people were going over and over the tragedy they had witnessed, just like we do, in a sort-of cathartic way. Sharing their pain was a way of trying to come to terms with it. When a stranger came alongside them, they were so engrossed in their grief and frustration that they took little notice of Him.

Luke continues the “mystery” of the missing Jesus. The women had not seen Him. They had evidence that something unusual had happened but that was all. Peter had not seen Him. His visit to the tomb turned up nothing. Now Jesus joins this grieving pair and they are too preoccupied to notice who was walking with them.

Imagine their surprise when their unknown companion had no idea what they are talking about! Jesus egged them on, pretending to be ignorant of the dramatic events they were recounting. He must have chuckled to Himself, anticipating the moment when He would make Himself known to them. It was also a beautiful moment, a moment of opportunity – to share with them in the clearest way possible, the meaning of the story in which they were fully involved.

They were oblivious to the obvious clues surrounding this stranger because of their emotional state. They believed that their beloved Master was dead. Because of that, they were full of sorrow and despair. This is how the human psyche works. Our emotions are the symptom of what we believe. If the interpretation of our experiences is faulty, we will feel the emotional pain of the false belief.

Most often times we see ourselves as victims in difficult circumstances. Because of our inborn sense of worthlessness, aggravated and confirmed by the way we are often mistreated by family or peers, we interpret our experiences as confirmation of who we think we are.

The minds of these disciples blotted out the possibility of Jesus being alive. Instead, they believed their false idea that He was dead and with Him all their hopes. All they could do was to come to terms with their grief and bitter disappointment.

But Jesus was about to change that! Only an encounter with Him can expose and change our faulty interpretations and replace our emotional pain with peace. It takes an honest admission that we are wrong to bring about this radical and permanent release from pain.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – BUT PETER…

BUT PETER…

“They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it; thought they were making it up.

“But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.” Luke 24:9-12.

Poor Peter! His mind must have been in torment. Put yourself in his shoes. A few days before, he had said something to a few strangers that would change his life forever. In the heat of a terrifying moment, unprepared because he would not heed his Master’s warning, he had vehemently denied the one to whom he had pledged lifelong loyalty, and whom he had recognised and confessed as the Messiah.

And now, He was dead. Peter would never have the opportunity to express his sorrow and regret for what he had done. The look in Jesus’ eyes when He had caught Peter’s eye as the cock crowed, would haunt him forever. The anguish in his heart was unbearable. He had not slept since then. He was afraid to close his eyes because of the flashbacks of all the horrifying scenes of that day.

And now the women come with a story that He was not in the tomb. Something about the stone rolled from the entrance; about shining men inside the tomb; about their incomprehensible words – “He’s not here. He has risen!”, about grave clothes left as though the body had simply evaporated! It all sounded like fairy stories to him but how he yearned that it would be true.

He wanted to believe them. He wanted to wake up and find that it was all a bad dream. He joined the others in pooh-poohing their story; (after all, they were only women, and women were not permitted to testify in a court of law. They were discredited as unreliable witnesses), but in his heart of hearts he wanted it to be true.

He couldn’t just sit there, wishing and hoping. He had to find out for himself what had happened. Had the authorities removed Jesus’ body to stop any rumours of a resurrection? Had Joseph taken Him for burial to an unknown tomb?

What Peter saw was just as puzzling to him as it was to the women. They had told the truth. The tomb was open. The body was missing. There were no angels, but the grave clothes were not just lying in a heap as though tossed aside by a careless grave robber. If someone had stolen His body, why would they have left the shroud? None of it made sense to Peter. He walked away in a daze, his heart as heavy as lead.

With masterful brushstrokes, Luke paints a picture of mystery and intrigue. Jesus was not there. Everything pointed to a very unusual event, but where was He? The women saw the tomb and the grave clothes and the angels, but no Jesus. Peter saw the tomb and the grave clothes but no angels and no Jesus?

Only one person could change this puzzling situation – Jesus Himself! But He did not show up. He left them to stew in their confusion and unbelief for a while. They had to come to terms with the situation before He could reveal Himself to them and convince them that He was alive so that every other word He spoke would be embedded in their souls and shape their lives forever, and compel them to testify that He had risen from the dead.

The entire success of His mission to earth stands on this one fact – He was crucified but now He is alive. We can trust Him and what He told us because He beat death and He is here now with His offer of eternal life for those who stake their lives on him.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – HE IS NOT THERE!

HE IS NOT THERE!

“They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, ‘Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here but raised up. Remember how He told you when you were still back in Galilee that He had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross and in three days rise up?’ Then they remembered Jesus’ words.” Luke 24:4-8.

Funny how their grief blotted out the women’s ability to think straight! Had they remembered Jesus’ words, they could have saved themselves a whole weekend of emotional pain, and unnecessary activity and expense. Instead of weeping useless tears and spending their time and money preparing to preserve the body of Jesus for a little while longer, they could have enjoyed their Sabbath in anticipation of their beloved Master’s return.

I have often wondered why their minds refused to receive the promise of His resurrection. His disciples had heard the same information many times but they still didn’t get it. For some reason the women, who were far more receptive than the men, didn’t get it either. They believed He was dead and that He would stay dead and their belief brought forth the flood of grief that shut out the possibility, for them, of His words being fulfilled.

Not even angelic visitors from the other side could convince them that Jesus was alive. The appearance of these two men was so startling that the women were overwhelmed and fell down in worship. They must have made an impression on them. No one can meet an unearthly being like these and not take note!

It took this powerful visitation to remind them of Jesus’ promise, but even that did not seem to have the desired effect on them. They remembered, yes, but what else? As the story unfolds, we will see how unbelief was like a disease that spread among Jesus’ followers.

As much as this was part of their journey, so it is a part of ours. The robust faith of the early church was the product of a painful process of failure and learning which formed the foundation of their unshakeable confidence in their Lord. He was as dead as anyone could be, but He rose again and was powerfully alive and at work in and among them.

They only knew that because they had passed through the terrible grief of their loss to the indescribable joy of His resurrection. Their faith was not automatic and neither is ours. But our experience must never end at the tomb with eyes blinded by sorrow and ears deaf to His promise. Like them, we must pass through death to resurrection, through sorrow to joy and through despair to hope.

No matter what our pain or loss might be, it gains its true value only when we come through it to a faith in God stronger and more secure than before the trial. Suffering has no value if it does not take us into a peace and security that does not make sense in the natural. It is rooted in a God who is with us and for us because He did not leave His Son’s body to rot in a rocky tomb.

No religion, based on human imagination with roots men’s minds, not in history, can match the story of Jesus. His life, death and resurrection happened as God said it would, and with that comes the certainty that everything else He said is true. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NIV).