In Luke 5, I want to focus on the calling of Peter.
Luk 5:5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
Luk 5:6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
Luk 5:7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
Luk 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
Peter was clearly a practical man. If I had been fishing all night, and my shift was over, I would be ready to go home. They had worked through the night without catching anything, and Jesus told him to try one more time. If it were me, I might have said, “Whatever…” and gone home, but Peter was willing to try for whatever reason. Maybe he had some idea of who Jesus was at this point, or maybe there was some divine work being done on his conscience. Whatever the reason, he did it, and after catching a gigantic haul of fish, his immediate response was to call Jesus Lord and ask Him to depart.
I think this is significant. I kind of wonder if this will be kind of like our reaction when we get to heaven. We will see God, and we will realize that we are entirely unworthy on our own. We know that we don’t deserve heaven because of anything we have done, but we can also be confident that because of what Jesus Christ did, we will live forever with Him.
Maybe the unbelievers will finally recognize the errors of their ways and will say something like this as well. After all, I do believe that people make a choice. If they reject God, God is going to give them what they want and they will have eternal separation from Him. As a result, maybe at this point where they are finally seeing the God they rejected, they want to get away from Him because they realize they cannot be with Him on their own merits.
I find this really interesting, but I think that it is certainly possible that believers and nonbelievers have similar reactions to seeing God. We will all be blown away by His awesomeness and our inadequacy. However, the question is not whether we deserve heaven. The question is whether or not we trusted Jesus Christ to be the one and only way. We get in on His merit; our own works would be a problem.
In Luke 4, we see the temptation of Jesus, and I find it so interesting that the entire episode is book ended by the fact that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit.
Luk 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Luk 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
I think this is significant. Obviously, it shows us two parts of the Trinity simultaneously active, but it emphasizes that Jesus was not operating alone. It makes it even more significant than when he is later on the cross and speaks about being forsaken by God. Even in the difficult times, Jesus was following the will of God.
The temptation of Christ could have taken place anywhere. Satan could have met Him in His normal hometown, and Jesus could have undergone the temptation in comfort. However, it was clearly the will of God that He be led into a much harsher environment. Why?
I’m not entirely sure obviously, but it seems significant that this is reflective of the circumstances that some people live in. There are plenty of people who live in difficult environments with very limited resources. For those of us in America, we mostly don’t have a lot of concept of material suffering. However, because of this experience, Jesus did, and He was able to withstand temptation even in this circumstance. If Jesus had not done this, I wonder if some people might say that even Jesus would have sinned if He had to live through what I am living through. He lived in the desert with no food while being directly tempted by arguably the cleverest of all the angels. I think He understood something about adversity and living in a difficult situation.
Ultimately, God knows why God led Jesus by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, but it is clear that this was a very intentional act.
John the Baptist was an impressive man. He was an excellent preacher, and in Luke 3, we have a wide range of people coming to talk to him, and some of them are beginning to wonder if he is the Christ.
Luk 3:16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
Luk 3:17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
John was a humble man. He was able to keep his perspective. Even though he had people coming to him to be baptized, he reminded them that there was someone even greater who was going to do something even greater.
After all, water baptism is a great thing to do. That type of public identification with Christ is valuable, but when compared to the baptism from the Holy Spirit, it is a much different process.
John realized what he could do, and that is a vital part. He did the job that he was called to do. He was essentially had to be the first missionary for the cause of Christ. He was preaching about the Messiah who was coming soon after him. He was not called to baptize people with the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus was able to do. John was not upset that he did not have the job of Jesus Christ, but he did his job with power and humility. It is an interesting combination.
I then think about us. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; we are not called to be Jesus Christ. We are the messengers, and we do the work that we have been called to. We need to remember what our job is and do it well.
In Luke 2, we of course get the ever popular birth narrative of Jesus Christ, and as important as that is, so much has been said about it that I want to turn our attention to Jesus at the temple and the character of Simeon.
Luk 2:25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
Luk 2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Simeon was a man who clearly was given a supernatural promise. We don’t know much more about it than that, but we know that he was told that he was not going to die until he saw the Christ.
I have to wonder what this moment was finally like for him. After all, his life was now complete. For most of us, we are grateful we have life, and we don’t know how long that life will continue for. Simeon had a definitive benchmark. He knew that he was on earth for a purpose. He was going to see the Savior of the world. He certainly might have had other purposes as well along the way, but he definitively knew that this promise was going to come true.
It makes me think about purpose and all of the variety of things that we can live for. We can try to become famous. We can try to make a lot of money. We can try to have a lot of friends. However, shouldn’t our ultimate purpose also be living our lives in such a way that the conclusion is simply a gateway to an eternity with our Lord and Savior?
We have come to the third gospel, and I think it is appropriate to show the way that Luke begins his account.
Luk 1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Luk 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
Luk 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
Luk 1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
What do we learn from this introduction from Luke to Theophilus? We first of all learn that other people had a tradition. This was not something that Luke all of a sudden made up to explain who Jesus Christ was. Rather, many people had established a tradition that began with the eyewitnesses. The people who had seen Jesus passed along what they knew about Him, and our author here was writing within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. As a result, Luke apparently thought it was a good idea because he had studied these things and had an understanding of what had taken place to write down the tradition for his friend Theophilus.
Why is this significant? It is a very popular tactic to that to write off the Jesus of miracles as a late embellishment. Sure, most people will agree that Jesus was a real person, and they will affirm that He did teach many wise sayings, but kind of like Thomas Jefferson, they decide that those miracles have to go. Luke challenges that right up front. As we will read through his gospel, there are miracles. The eyewitnesses that Luke was able to interview as he explained in verse two gave him his material, and that material included miracles and of course the great miracle of the resurrection.
The generally accepted dating of Luke is somewhere around 80 A.D. (although I would say it is earlier based on the fact that it is clearly a prelude to Acts which does not mention the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and probably would have merited inclusion in the Acts narrative as a confirmation of Jesus’ prophecy about the temple being destroyed). For the sake of argument though, in 80 A.D., there would have been people that could have either affirmed or denied his claims. Luke said that these traditions have been in circulation from the beginning, and these eyewitnesses could have easily shot down his conclusions or said that he had misunderstood what had been passed so to him.
These types of checks and balances are very important.
We have come to the end of another book. Mark 16 chronicles the resurrection. The women had come to the tomb, and they found the stone rolled away and an angel who told them that Jesus had risen.
The interesting part is that they came with the intent of anointing the body. However, they had a common sense consideration on the way.
Mar 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
Mar 16:2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Mar 16:3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
I point that out because we know that the women made it to the tomb. Even though they were clearly aware that three women would probably not be able to roll away the giant stone by themselves, they still continued walking to the tomb. It kind of makes you wonder what they were expecting when they got there. Jesus prophesied His resurrection reportedly as testified by the Pharisees in Mark 14:58, but it doesn’t seem like they were expecting that. The general assumption is that dead people remain dead.
All of that being said, the women followed through. Maybe they thought someone would be around and able to help them remove the stone. Maybe they thought it really wasn’t that heavy. We don’t know, so this is speculation, but the fact of the matter is that they knew they probably could not do it, and they still continued to go.
Because they went, they saw the empty tomb. That was clearly very important. Hypothetically, what if no one had been checking on the tomb? Jesus still would have risen from the dead, but someone had to spread the news. These women were there to fulfill that purpose. In a sense, they were the first missionaries.
I think that is then what we have to keep in mind. God knows each of us as individuals. He knew that these women would be the only ones who would come to the tomb, so He used them. Perhaps there was even divine intervention. Despite the doubts that they might not be able to do what they intended, maybe there was some voice inside of them telling them that they had to follow through. That is not recorded, but there was something that motivated them to continue, and because of the purpose that God had for them, it would seem to make sense that perhaps He was the motivation behind it.
Pontius Pilate was a man who was put into an interesting position in Mark 15. On one hand, he knew that the chief priests had only delivered Jesus to be crucified because they were envious of Him. However, he was also afraid of the people. He did not want a riot on his hands if he decided to release Jesus.
Mar 15:12 And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?
Mar 15:13 And they cried out again, Crucify him.
Mar 15:14 Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.
Mar 15:15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
Interestingly, the people had no response for what evil Jesus had done. I wonder why nobody even made one up. Pilate asked for a reason, and all they said was that they wanted to crucify Him.
I think that happens so many times today. People don’t have a rational reason for rejecting Christianity. Many times, the response is emotional. Of course, this is often times that problem of evil in a nutshell. Even though it is generally accepted that it is logically possible that God could have sufficient reason for allowing evil to exist, many people will take the emotionally driven position that it is not experientially possible. That is like the crowd in this situation.
Then we come to Pilate. He wanted to do what was popular, and in many academic circles, the popular decision is to reject Jesus. Even though they might have reservations like Pilate did, many people seem to be pressured to go along with the crowd.
I think then this is instructive for us. We clearly do not want to be like the crowd. We don’t want to reject Jesus on purely emotional grounds. They never gave a reason which leads me to wonder if they had one outside of pure emotion. However, we also don’t want to be like Pontius Pilate. We don’t want to be pressured into rejected Jesus one we have our own suspicions inside. If it is possible that Jesus Christ was everything He said He was, then we better do our homework because that decision could have enormous consequences.
Mark 14 begins with the familiar story of Jesus’ feet being anointed with a very costly ointment. Some of the disciples grumbled that the ointment could have been sold and the profits donated to the poor. However, here is how Jesus responds.
Mar 14:6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.
Mar 14:7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
This is interesting because I, and most other people, would affirm that charity is a good thing. I think the Bible reinforces that as well. It is a good thing to take care of the poor, and I think that Jesus would have agreed.
However, in this particular situation, Jesus tells the disciples that they should not criticize. Certainly, He was aware that the money could have been donated to the poor. He defended her action nevertheless because what she had done was clearly even more important than charity.
I think about this in relation to all of the great things that we can do here on earth. Charity is still a great thing, and I would hope that we can all agree on that. However, honoring God is our top priority.
If honoring God is our top priority, then I think that charity is a natural outgrowth of that. If we are living in the way that God wants us to and are honoring Him with our lives, I think that we will be generous with our neighbors and be willing to lend a helping hand. After all, those are attributes that the Bible says are good. That will come out of having our priorities in the right order.
Could the ointment have been sold? Certainly. Could the money has been donated to the poor? Yes it could have. However, is it more valuable to have a one-time donation, or is it more valuable to have a person who was willing to honor Christ and live in a lifestyle that cultivates Christian values including charity? If this lady was willing to put of Jesus in such high esteem, her life made a bigger impact than that money ever could have. She can speak to every one of us about how valuable Jesus is.
In Mark 13, Jesus begins to speak about the future. Interestingly, in each of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus mentions the point that the temple is going to be destroyed.
Mar 13:1 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
Mar 13:2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
I wonder at this point how many people took Jesus seriously. After all, the nation of Israel was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans were pretty good at protecting their own territories, so barring some type of natural disaster, I would’ve felt pretty safe about the temple standing.
However, after the Jewish rebellion and the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple was torn down by the Romans. All that we have left is the Wailing Wall, and that was not even part of the temple. It was part of the wall that went around the temple. The temple was literally destroyed.
After Jesus said this, His disciples pulled Him aside and asked Him what He was talking about. When would all of these things happen?
I think that this is telling for all of us. We think about the institutions that are in the world today. We think about things that will always be there. We simply assume that they will always be there, but we don’t always know the time that God has planned. I would have assumed that the temple was not going anywhere. With the Roman Empire as a protector, no one would have expected that the same would have torn it down the temple approximately 35 years later. However, Jesus knew it was coming. That has to tell you something about His prophetic abilities.
Mark 12 begins with a parable. Jesus talks about a man who planted a vineyard far from his home, and husbandmen were working the vineyard for him. However, at the time of the harvest, the master wanted his profit, so he sent a servant to collect it. The husbandmen beat up the first servant, beat up the second one and killed the third one. Apparently, more servants received the same treatment, and the master decided that he would send his own son to collect.
Mar 12:6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
Mar 12:7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.
Mar 12:8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
Mar 12:9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.
It seems rather obvious that Jesus is prophesying his own death at the hands of the Pharisees who were supposed to be taking care of the vineyard. However, verse seven stood out to me distinctly because of what the husbandmen were after.
This is almost the Garden of Eden again. Humans wanted control. They wanted the inheritance, and they thought that they could take the place of the only son. It is kind of similar to that temptation of Adam and Eve in the sense that they were told that they would be like God. They clearly did not anticipate the reaction of the master.
We all have a tendency to exaggerate our own importance. Humility is so admirable because so few people have it. It is a rare commodity.
It seems as if the party line on this issue comes back to personal choice. If only we disregard what God told us, we are going to be that much better off because we are that much more independent. It is a blatant lie.
Humility is our proper response rather than trying to usurp the order that God has established.