Welcome to Luke 24, the end of another book! I find interesting today that there are times when people assume that people living in the first century were gullible by nature. That is then extended to point out how it is not surprising that they were fooled by some type of apparition. It wasn’t really Jesus Christ, but they were fooled at some point. After all, they were from the ancient world, so people say that they were superstitious by nature. However, that doesn’t seem to be the picture we see here in Luke.
Luk 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Luk 24:26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
Luk 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
I took out this one example of a skeptical audience, but I also point it out because of how Jesus approached the situation. He did not just appear and say that He was Jesus resurrected. However, He used evidence to demonstrate to these two people on the road to Emmaus why Jesus fulfilled all the prophecy set aside for the Christ. Only later did they realize who He was.
There are two options. Both of these people could have had a simultaneous delusion where Jesus expounded on highly detailed prophecy from throughout the Old Testament. The chances of that are minimal. We can even grant that maybe they were both grieving and were hallucinating as a result of that pain. However, they did not even realize it was Jesus at this point as you read further in the passage. The hallucination was therefore not of Jesus, but it was rather of a man talking about Jesus, and why would that necessarily be the result of grief?
The evidence for the resurrection is of a different type than simply hallucination. Jesus appeared to many people at the same time. If they reported the same story, then the question is whether or not they had separate hallucinations that happened to be the same or they witnessed the same event in reality. One makes a lot more sense than the other.
I think that we all have a desire for justice. I think there is something about humanity that embraces fairness and does not want to see the innocent suffer. Jesus was an innocent victim. He was brought to death based on charges of essentially treason against Rome, and Pontius Pilate found Him innocent before caving to the desire of the crowd and consenting to the crucifixion in Luke 23. I always am amazed by the fact that Jesus forgave all these people in some of His final moments before death.
Luk 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
Luk 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
I am incredibly grateful to have never faced the terrors of crucifixion. However, I am pretty confident that my first instinct would not be to forgive those who would be doing that to me. Even if I knew I deserved a death sentence, I don’t think I would want to forgive those performing the crucifixion.
Jesus on the other hand was entirely innocent. He did not deserve what He received, but He willingly took on the penalty for all of us. He died to bridge the gap. He was and is the true way to salvation. Despite all of that and the fact His entire trial was unjust, He was still willing to forgive.
Obviously, that is a powerful example for each one of us. If Jesus was willing to forgive in those circumstances, how much easier should it be for us to forgive those around us? If Jesus could forgive people who were driving nails through His hands, shouldn’t I be able to forgive someone who said something bad about me? Clearly, Jesus was perfect and I am not. However, it shows me the direction I need to move in. As Christians, we endeavor to become more like Christ, and forgiveness was a hallmark of Jesus’ character.
Peter is one of my favorite people mentioned in the Bible. However, in Luke 22, he is told ahead of time by Jesus that he would deny Him three times, and then he actually does that later in the chapter.
Luk 22:31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Luk 22:33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
Luk 22:34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
I like what Jesus said to him. Satan wants you, but I have prayed for you. However, I don’t want your face to fall apart because when you return, you have a job. Your job is to strengthen your fellow Christians.
That word converted seems to be a little bit out of place given what we generally mean by conversion in Christianity. Conversion happens when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, and Peter clearly was already that. However, the word seems to carry the connotation of coming back.
That is exactly what Peter did. He did fall, and he had a weak moment. I think we can all identify with that. I know I have had moments where I don’t live up to my own standards, and if I can’t even do that all the time, there is no way that I can fulfill God’s standard of perfection all the time.
However, as we will see later when we read Acts, he became one of the most important figures in the early church. He strengthened many people, and he continues to do so through his example as we have recorded in Scripture.
In fact, even though Scripture does not tell us, church tradition speaks about Peter being crucified for his faith. He faced a similar challenge to what he did in Jerusalem on that night. He was killed for being a Christian. He did not deny it. He learned from his mistake, and even though it cost him his life, he knew that his higher responsibility was to follow Jesus Christ wherever that might lead.
I know it is easy to talk about Peter and talk about how great he was, and I do believe he was a great man. I think we can learn a lot from his transformation after he denied Jesus. He strengthened his fellow Christians, and he did that no matter what the cost.
He did what Jesus told him to do by not losing faith and persevering.
It is interesting for us to talk about the older lady in Luke 21 who gave everything she had for an offering.
Luk 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
Luk 21:2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
Luk 21:3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
Luk 21:4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
I think that the implications seem to be rather straightforward here. It is true that there were plenty of people who donated much more money to the Temple in Jerusalem, and the next few verses talk about splendor of that Temple. However, Jesus calls attention to the poor lady who was willing to give at a much greater sacrifice.
I want to broaden this topic a little bit. I was particularly thinking about time. How easy is it to give my time to what God would want me to do when I’m sitting at home doing nothing anyway? In those situations, it is not that difficult for me to pick up a Bible or some other Christian material. I have the abundance of time, so it is easy for me to give that away.
However, when we get really busy, it is hard to give time to God. It is hard to keep our focus on giving God whatever time we can. Obviously, our whole lives belong to God, and everything we do should reflect his glory. It is simultaneously true that Christians are not expected to do nothing but read their Bibles or go to church all the time. We are supposed to earn a living, care for our families and develop friendships and relationships.
Giving money to the Temple is certainly a good thing. Reading the Bible is a good thing. Spending our time in church is a good thing. However, there are other things as well that our money and time needs to be committed to, and those are also good things like caring for our families. Therefore, when I think about this passage, I think the bigger message involves our commitment. Everything we do and own belongs to God anyway, but what do we give to God?
In Luke 20, we find a plot to catch Jesus in some type of treason so that the Jewish leaders would have reason to get Him in trouble with the Roman authorities. As a result, they brought Him what would have been a controversial question at the time.
Luk 20:22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?
Luk 20:23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?
Luk 20:24 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s.
Luk 20:25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.
The question had to do with money, and Jesus addressed that. However, I imagine that the audience was left with another question. Doesn’t everything belong to God? I think that was the point.
That is true, and even Caesar himself belongs to God. As a result, it seems to me that Jesus is making a larger point than simply whether or not it is right to pay taxes.
By giving God what belongs to God, we are talking about total surrender. We are talking about our money of course in the context of the passage, but our ambitions, dreams, hopes, relationships and everything else go along with that. If we are giving to God what belongs to God, then it is a package deal.
I don’t know about you, but that is somewhat intimidating. I like to have some control. I like to call some of the shots, but Jesus seems to be making the point that if we are really going to follow Him, we need to give unto God that which belongs to God.
Where then do we go from here? What are the implications of this type of radical surrender?
Luke 19 provides us with what I believe is one of the most convincing reasons that the Gospels were written soon after the life of Jesus Christ.
Luk 19:41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
Luk 19:42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
Luk 19:43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
Luk 19:44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
In approximately 30 years, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. After a siege, the city eventually fell, and this prediction of Jesus was fulfilled.
Here’s my question then. Why do none of the Gospels or Acts mention that destruction? After all, we have Jesus making a very clear prophecy about what is going to happen, and we know that it actually did. It would seem natural to point out that Jesus had it right. That would reaffirm His predictive ability.
Of course, the writers might have assumed that everyone would just put the pieces together. If it was common knowledge that Jerusalem was destroyed, then they certainly could have decided not to mention it.
However, even with that as a possible explanation, there is something else at play here. If the Gospels were written late, then it even seems doubtful that the destruction of Jerusalem would be common knowledge at that point. For example, what if the Gospels were written in 150 A.D.? It is possible that the destruction of Jerusalem might not be common knowledge at that point, and if the writers were trying to build a theology, it would similarly make sense to mention that Jesus made an important prophecy that came through.
As a result, if the Gospels mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem, we would have two very important pieces the data. First of all, it would have to be written after the event had taken place. If they were written late however, it must not have been so late that the destruction of Jerusalem and the circumstances around that would not be common knowledge in the area it was written.
They do not, so our options are somewhat more limited. The Gospels could have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem which supports an early date of authorship. The other alternative is that the Gospels were written at a time and place where this would’ve been an obvious reference and did not deserve mention. Maybe this does not support as early of a date, but it still supports an early enough date for the public memory to hold.
I know that people like to drag the Gospels as late as the middle of the second century, but it simply doesn’t make sense on this one.
Reality is sometimes hard to face, and Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18 that challenges us to understand our own predicament.
Luk 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Luk 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
Luk 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
Luk 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Luk 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
This stood out to me because I think that we all have a tendency to put our best foot forward. Most of the time, I don’t think that is a bad thing, but look at how the Pharisee prays. His prayer is all about being better than other people, and the truth is that all people are sinful. Outside of Jesus Christ, there has not been a perfect person. Therefore, if it is our hope is in the fact that we are better than someone else, it still won’t be enough.
If you think about water that is 90% salt or 10% salt, it is still salt water. It isn’t pure. That is kind of what is going on here. The fact that we are sinful is enough to separate us from God, and these types of comparisons do not reflect the reality of the situation.
That is why Jesus called him out. The Pharisee was no more pure in the first place, and even if the other guy had committed some pretty major violations, he came to God asking for forgiveness which is what the Pharisee should have been doing even for his presumably “minor” offenses.
All sin separates us from God, and while some forms have more consequences than others without a doubt, the bottom line is that all of us need to come to God no matter what our offense with humility and find forgiveness.
Christians ought to be people of forgiveness, and we see that laid out in Luke 17.
Luk 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
Luk 17:4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Interestingly, this passage comes immediately after one where Jesus is saying that sin and temptation are going to come. However, if your neighbor does sin against you, there are two steps that seem to apply every time. First, we confront the issue. Then, we forgive assuming that the person repents.
There is a process here. Part of me thinks that this process is meant as much for the trespasser as it is for the one who was trespassed. What I mean by that is the person who did whatever offense we’re talking about will ideally be made better by this process as well. He or she will recognize the problem that was created, and that should help in the future. I know that sometimes people don’t take direction well, but Jesus seems to prescribe this type of correction as the first part of the process.
After that, it is the responsibility of the one who is offended to forgive. I don’t know which part is harder. I just said that people don’t like to be corrected, and I think that is true. However, people also don’t like to forgive. We like to hold on to grudges. I don’t know if it is our own pride or what the real issue is, but Jesus prescribes that when the person has repented, forgiveness is a necessary response.
This is a challenge. I guess the application for all of us is really easy. The interpretation is rather straightforward. When a sin occurs, there needs to be an addressing of the problem and then forgiveness. Maybe we can work on that today.
I know that as Christians, we often times take great comfort in the fact that God knows everything about us. However, for some people that is a very intimidating prospect, and Jesus speaks to that in Luke 16.
Luk 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
Luk 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
God really does know our hearts, and He also realizes that there are problems in there. He knows our weaknesses, and in this scenario if we are being self-righteous or covetous, God is going to know about that. I don’t know about you, but that is a little bit threatening. After all, it is a lot more comfortable to try and be like Jonah. It is easier to try to run away from God and try to find a place where God will not see us. Instead, we know that God sees inside of us.
As threatening as that might be, there is another truth that is important. God loves us anyway. Even though we are sinful people, and even though God is fully aware of all of the sin in our lives, He loves us anyway. He came to die for us so that we would have a way to be reconciled to Him. He took on the penalty that should belong to each one of us, and He did that even though He fully understood that He was doing it for people who were in rebellion against Him.
I think it is important to remember both of these dimensions. It is true that we cannot hide anything from God, and we do need His forgiveness. However, the fact that that forgiveness is there in the first place is remarkable to say the least. It is almost like we are thirsty when a glass of water appears. There is a problem, but there is a solution. I just think it is amazing that God did not leave us to spiral to our own doom. Rather, He gave us a way to achieve reconciliation.
The prodigal son is one of the most popular stories in the Bible, and we find it in Luke 15. I have always found the end of the story the most interesting.
Luk 15:28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
Luk 15:29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
Luk 15:30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
Luk 15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
Luk 15:32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
The “good son” was upset because he felt like he was being cheated. He felt that he had worked hard for so many years, but when his troublemaking brother came home after doing everything wrong, he received all the attention.
How often do we fall into this kind of trap? We follow the rules and want to be recognized for it. Part of that I feel like comes from our culture where we feel entitled to congratulations, but part of that is also a pride issue. We think that we deserve certain things like this son simply for doing what we ought to be doing anyway.
There is certainly a time for rewarding people. After all, if you do well at work, you might get rewarded with a promotion. If you do well in school, you might get a scholarship. However, it doesn’t seem to me that the rewards should be our only motivation for doing well.
We do should try our hardest because God has given us gifts of various types. We should work hard and do our best because while we are working for our company or whatever else we might be committed to, we are also working for God. We are His representatives on earth, and we are called to a higher purpose than the earthly rewards we might receive while we are here.