Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: Luke 22-23
Jesus was betrayed by a follower he handpicked, denied by one of his closest friends and abandoned by all. He was accosted by a cowardly religious cohort, mocked him and accused of the very thing he wanted them to see: he was the Son of God (Luke 22.70). They brought false charges against him to the highest officials. Even these men, who had weak moral compasses, saw the injustice, but failed to act with conviction (23.3-25).
I do not have the words to properly capture the drama and horror of Jesus’ death. As I read through the final chapters of Luke, I was frustrated with the insincerity and ambivalence of so many. I was saddened by the loneliness he must have felt. To see how something so ugly could be done to someone that was clearly innocent was disturbing and unsettling.
And Jesus endured it all. “Like a lamb led to the slaughter… he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53.7). He didn’t fight it, but continually entrusted himself to God, ultimately committing his spirit into God’s hands (Luke 23.46).
Jesus had no romanticized ideas about God’s work for him. Doing the Father’s will was hard. It was not what felt right to him. It was not even what we wanted to do. In agony and earnest, he struggled with his feelings, ultimately finding peace in the plans of God (Luke 22.42-44).
We must appreciate the agony Jesus endured for our sins. We need to walk the path to Calvary with him, realizing he knew exactly where it was taking him. We need to feel the gut-wrenching struggle of knowing he was innocent and yet allowing the wicked to have their way. What determination he had to keep from saying the word and having 12 legions of angels save him!
We must see how purposeful Jesus was in these moments and empowered he was by the will of God. His choices go deeper than mere morality and goodness – they express resolve to accomplish something of lasting value. That’s exactly what he did, but it came at the ultimate cost.
In retrospect, his moments of suffering occurred as a blip in history. But the result has forever changed the lives of every person. “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…” (Luke 24.46-47). And that’s why he did it.
We come to Jesus looking for forgiveness. We come looking for a way to live. We come looking for hope and determination and purpose. And he offers all those things. He sets our lives on a different path that often includes struggle and suffering, but that serve to align us with the will of God. Sometimes it is hard, but we should “consider that sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8.18).
Let us learn to walk with Jesus every day, in every season, with the determination to do the Father’s will at all cost.
BIBLE READING: Luke 16
“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ (Luke 16.1-2)
Things don’t end well for this manager; but before dismissal, he makes shrewd choices to reposition himself in the good graces of the master and others. He calls his master’s debtors and makes them a deal to recoup some of the debt (16.7). His choices even impress his master (16.8).
The nuances of this parable are difficult to decipher, but a clear point is made regarding stewardship. The master would not allow this dishonest manager to waste his possessions or continue operating under his name. When called to account, we see a glimpse of what the master expected from his manager all along.
Jesus concludes this parable with some principles we must remember as we go through life.
The principle of ownership. Luke 16.12 plainly states that we are handling someone else’s stuff in hopes of one day having our own. The psalmist reminds us “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24.1). Our money, our possessions, our children and families, our jobs, even our own bodies and lives do not belong to us. We might be tempted to say: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me” (Deuteronomy 8.17). But Deuteronomy 8:18 counsels us to think otherwise: “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
The principle of responsibility. The manager couldn’t just do what he wanted with the master’s possessions. His wastefulness was an affront to the master and was addressed plainly. In the same way, we must understand our responsibility in this life. Remember Jesus’ statement in Mark 12.17: “render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s”? What things are God’s? We know. We belong to the Lord and should steward everything, even our own lives, in ways that benefit him.
The principle of accountability. God always gives with expectation. Think Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 19.11-2). He’s going to come looking for growth and stewardship. He’s going to expect we are thoughtfully handling the things put into our care. If you were called to account for how you’ve handled your finances and your family, would God find you faithful? If asked how you’ve used the talents he has entrusted, would you be found benefitting the Master’s cause?
The principle of reward. Jesus drives towards a clear hope for all: that God would give us true riches for our faithfulness. This is what he has promised. We all should long to hear the master say what he exclaims in Matthew 25:21: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us within the opportunities presented through his providence to glorify him, serve the common good and further his Kingdom.
BIBLE READING: Luke 11
“When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Luke 11.29)
Jesus always cut straight to the heart. As the crowds increased, most people were interested but insatiable. Much like he told another crowd, “You’re not here because you saw signs, but because you ate and were satisfied” (John 6.26, paraphrased). He had previously cast out a demon and people were still seeking a sign from him (Luke 11.16). He would not indulge their carnal curiosities (Luke 11.29); it was evil and wicked generation that needed to repent. His sharp remarks got their attention. They would get a sign, but it is one they had already seen: the sign of Jonah.
Jonah preached to a godless people. Even though Jonah lacked mercy for them, God saw fit to warn them of coming judgment and call them to repent. When he did, they not only listened by changed their lives (Jonah 3). Jesus calls this to witness against his listeners, along with another: The Queen of the South. She heard about the wisdom of Solomon, but did not believe it (2 Chronicles 9.6). So, she sought him out asked many hard questions (2 Chronicles 9.1). Ultimately, she could not deny the wisdom on display, and she gave glory to God (2 Chronicles 9.8).
In the same way, Jesus came with a message of repentance (Matthew 4.17). People, amazed by his understanding and answers, flocked to Jesus with hard questions and to evaluate what had been told (Luke 2.47). But sadly, many still did not listen. They were intrigued but skeptical. They were caught up in their own wisdom and blinded by pride. They were an evil generation.
I wonder if the same could be said for our generation. Many people would rather rewrite the past than learn from it. Many would rather trust their own wisdom than seek it out. Many want to be around Jesus but not actually follow him.
We are given the same witness as Jesus’ listeners… but also something greater. We see with clarity the work of God through Christ. He is the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose to both judge the world and save it (John 3.16-18). Many of us have responded in faith, but are we sharing this message? Do we ourselves continue in obedient faith? Or do we desire another sign… a further confirmation… a surer revelation? Often, what we are looking for is confirmation that already exists.
We must continue to look to God's signs in the past. His word bears witness to God’s faithfulness, both to bless and to judge. It enlightens us to the human condition that is prone to doubt and wander. This is why faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10.17). It recenters our attention on Jesus and empowers us to follow and imitate him. It’s ok to have questions, but we must “go onto maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works” (Hebrews 6.1).
Our hearts are fickle. The world we live in is evil. Let us set our eyes upon Jesus. Let us consider the outcome of those who have gone before us. Let us not be foolish but understand and pursue the will of God in our lives.
“…whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15.4)
BIBLE READING: Micah 3
“Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.” (Micah 3.5)
What a difficult task Micah had. He had a message nobody wanted to hear. But worse, he had to “compete” with other prophets saying the exact opposite of him! These people gave the pretense of speaking for God; but really, they said whatever would offer them the most benefit (Micah 3.5).
For this reason, the people responded to Micah like you would imagine: “Be quiet! What you’re saying won’t happen” (Micah 2.6). We might be inclined to do the same with presence of other “prophets” offering a more palatable message. I imagine Micah must have been discouraged by these others, but it did not change his message. He knew it was from God and this empowered him to speak boldly to these people (Micah 3.8).
From our position, it is obvious the actions of the false prophets were unethical. But more importantly they were abhorrent to God. These prophets tainted the work of God’s true prophets and blasphemed his name; and God would bring special judgment them for it (Micah 3.6-7).
A couple of lessons we learn:
- Don’t just hear what you want to hear. We are less inclined listen those who appear negative. We would rather listen to people who challenge us in ways that sound good to us. Let us heed the warning written to Timothy: “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth… as for you, always be sober-minded” (2 Timothy 4.3-5). Real change starts with an acceptance of reality. A terminal illness won’t go away just because you ignore it. It must be accepted and acted upon. In the same way, we must pay attention to those who challenge our paradigms and call us to change… their words might be lifesaving!
- Don’t just speak to serve yourself. We are inclined to appease those who work for our interests. As ambassadors for Christ, we have a responsibility to represent him rightly. We must check our passions – our fears, wants, and desires – as we go about our walk of faith. We can easily deviate from God’s message or color our words to stay in the good graces of those around us. Remember what Jesus said: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6.26).
Let us be bold like Micah and stand on what God says. Let us be humble enough to accept the calling of God and its demands on my life. Let us listen with care, speak with conviction, and live assured that God’s words are sure.
“…Do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly?” (Micah 2.7b)
BIBLE READING: Luke 1-2
“And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1.19)
Luke 1 is dominated by the angel Gabriel who is sent to both Zechariah and Mary with a message from God. He tells Zechariah that he will have a son who will prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1.13-17). He tells Mary, although she is a virgin, that she too will have a child and he will be the son of God (Luke 1.31-33).
Both messages troubled the hearers (Luke 1.12, 29). The sudden appearance of Gabriel, coupled with a message about coming events were both confusing and frightening. But there was no doubt this message was from God.
This appears to be a primary function of angels throughout scripture. They entered the world to execute divine judgment and communicate God’s will in definitive fashion (see Genesis 19.1-22; Numbers 22.22-35). Angels were not always overt in their mission (Hebrews 13.2), but in episodes when they revealed themselves, there was no doubt God was at work. Such was the case with Gabriel.
If an angel appeared to you in dramatic fashion, no doubt you would stop to consider what they were saying. As the author of Hebrews would write, “[their] message proved to be reliable” both for blessing and retribution (Hebrews 2.2). But how does he continue? Jesus is superior to the angels, in power and prominence (Hebrews 1.4-14) – “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking to you” (Hebrews 12.25).
As important and trustworthy as Gabriel proved to be, he was the preface to the incarnation of Jesus. In fact, Luke goes on to include other witnesses to this important event. The Holy Spirit enlightens Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah to the fulfillment of prophesied events (Luke 1.35, 41-45, 67-79). Another angel appears to some shepherds who share what they had been told about Jesus (Luke 2.8-20). The prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna both exalt in Jesus as the Christ (Luke 2.22-38).
All this is intended to center our attention on the person of Jesus. God communicated with beings both great and small, so the world was aware of what he was doing. As powerful and profound as Gabriel’s moment was in Luke 1, Jesus is the one we’re supposed to see. In fact, everything God ever communicated is intended to bring us to this point (2 Corinthians 1.20; Hebrews 1.1-4). So, whatever Jesus says or does is the final word from God. His words possess authority (Mark 1.22, 27). His judgments are definitive (John 5.22). His promises are sure (Hebrews 6.18-20). We must not refuse anything that he says.
“For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2.2-3)