Sunday, September 26, 2010

Luke, Part 18: Jesus cleanses a man with leprosy

Text: Luke 5:12-16

This passage describes an incident in which Jesus heals a man with leprosy. This incident is also recorded in Matthew and Mark, demonstrating its significance. The encounter that the leprous man had with Jesus is a model for our encounters with the Lord, both for Christians and for the unsaved.

This leper, who was he? We don't know; his name isn't recorded. He was probably just a normal, ordinary man until he contracted leprosy and became cut off from normal civil and religious society. Leprosy was an exceptionally fearful disease at that time. A person with leprosy had to live apart from society; whenever an uninfected person approached, the leper had to shout "Unclean!" and cover his face. So when Jesus met this man, it was probably at a time of day when fewer people were around, perhaps late at night or early in the morning.

We see five things in the way the leper approached Jesus:

1. He saw Jesus -- he knew enough about Jesus to recognize Him when he saw Him. You have to know who the real, biblical Jesus is, not just someone of your imagination. The real Jesus is the only one who can do us any good.

2. He fell on his face. The leper prostrated himself and took the lowest possible position. He humbled himself, worshiped Jesus and begged Him for help. He claimed no merit of his own and didn't seek to engage Jesus as an equal.

3. He acknowledged Jesus as Lord. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the God-Man, Christ. Or conception of Jesus must be of Him as Lord.

4. He realized Jesus' all-sufficiency. He knew Jesus had the power to heal him. He knew his own need, and knew Jesus could meet that need.

5. He was subject to the will of God. He said, "If you will."He knew Christ was under no obligation to help him. God is free in his administration of sovereign grace.

What did Jesus do? Jesus healed and cleansed him. Five attributes of Christ's response are given for our encouragement, and for our example in doing good to our fellow man:

1. Jesus put forth His hand. Ordinarily, people would tell a leper to stay away. Christ opened up to this man and and encouraged him. Jesus even went so far as to touch the man. Christ made himself one with the man in the same manner that, in salvation, He makes Himself one with a sinner.

2. Jesus revealed His will. We cannot find out God's will purely through our own searching. We are dependent on God to reveal it to us. We should pray that God would make it simple so that we can understand His Word and His leading.

3. Jesus healed the leper. In this, He showed that He is the Son of God. He demonstrated that He has dominion over sickness, disease, and sin. Jesus is not teasing. None who come to Him are refused.

4. Jesus sent him to the priest. Under the Law, the priest had the duty to testify when a person was healed of leprosy. Jesus sent the cleansed man to the priest; this made the priest have to testify to who Jesus was.

5. Jesus got alone with His Father. Jesus did great miracles, but he was still completely human. He needed to frequently draw away from the crowds for prayer time alone. We should consider this when we feel "too busy" to have time with God. Like Jesus, we need that time with our Father.

If you don't know Christ, come to Him! He will save all who come to Him in repentance and faith.

Luke, Part 17:A Carpenter tells a fisherman how to fish

Text: Luke 5:1-11

This section describes how Jesus taught Simon how to fish. First, we see that Jesus told Simon to do all the "wrong" things -- He told him to go out fishing in the middle of the day (night is preferred for fishing); and he told him to go way out into the deep water -- fishing with nets is more effective in the shallower waters.

Simon answered that they had already spent all night fishing, without success, but that he would, regardless, obey Christ's command. It would have been a long process of again getting ready and preparing to go back onto the sea. Furthermore, they were already cleaning their nets -- if they cast them in again, they would need to repeat the cleaning.

Still, Simon obeyed and they cast again. They took in such a large catch of fish that their boats began to sink.

In this passage, we see Simon in a battle. He was in a battle with believing Christ rather than doubting. Surely it would have been embarrassing for him to obey Jesus. What would the other fishermen think to see him going out fishing at the wrong time, in the wrong way?

We also see see a few things about Christ in this passage. First, we see that He is omniscient (knowing everything) -- He knew just where the fish were. Secondly, we see that He is omnipotent (all powerful) -- He had the power to bring the fish to the net. He demonstrated complete dominion over the fish of the sea.

We know from the Bible that Christ came to give life and to give "life more abundant." He gives more than we expect, just as He did for Simon by giving him a gigantic catch of fish. We see that obeying Jesus is never a fool's errand.

Simon Peter won the battle and obeyed Christ. Because he obeyed, he was blessed. Often for us, we don't see the blessing right away. But, we should obey anyway. Like Simon, we may be called to do something we've never done before, something strange. We must recognize that it will be a battle between flesh and spirit and not look to the circumstances.

Also, we can see that Jesus is involved in all areas of our lives. Christianity is not just a "church thing."

Simon is humbled greatly by the great catch he is given. When he obeyed Christ, he was questioning; he still had a lot of doubt. After his success fishing, he reacts by falling at Jesus' feet in humility rather than dancing around with joy. He confesses his sinfulness and confesses Jesus as God -- all powerful. He is in amazement that God in holiness wants to have something to do with a man like him. Jesus' response to Simon's humility is, "Fear not." He gives Simon a call and tells him to follow Him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Luke, Part 16: Jesus heals and casts out demons

Text: Luke 4:31-44

The emphasis in the previous sections of Luke's gospel has been to show Jesus as a genuine man. In this section, Jesus demonstrates His power and compassion.

First, we see His power in preaching. Those who heard him were amazed because He taught with authority. Because Jesus is God, He didn't need to appeal to any other authority; He had authority within Himself and it was evident in His preaching.

How did His audience react? They were amazed, they were entertained, but nowhere do we see that they responded in faith. Hearing must be accompanied with faith for it to have any benefit.

During the preaching, Jesus was interrupted by a man possessed by a demon. This was evidently a particularly foul spirit, because it is identified as an "unclean" demon. Christ showed His power and His compassion in casting out the demon and freeing this man. Note that the demon both knew who Christ was and obeyed Him. Obedience and knowledge are not faith; the demon did not respond in faith but rather through being compelled by the power of Jesus.

The result of this encounter is that the audience is yet more amazed and spread the news of what they have seen all around. As Christians, we should be challenged by the example of these men: they didn't respond in faith, yet the couldn't help but tell of Jesus.

We also see in verses 38 through 41 how Jesus healed a number of people who came to Him with diseases and demon possession. Particularly noted is the healing that Simon's mother-in-law received from a "high fever". In performing these healings, Jesus worked on a very personal level. He didn't just wave His hand over the crown and say, "Be healed!" although He could very well have done that. He cared enough about each person to get involved personally with them as he healed them.

In verse 42, after Jesus has spent all night healing and helping, rather than going to bed, He left to get alone to pray. We see how Jesus constantly lived in prayer. Throughout the gospels (Mark 1:35 for example) we see Him getting away early in the morning for communion with His Father. Note how the early morning, when all is still and asleep, seems to be particularly chosen by Christ for His prayer times -- this is a good example for us to follow.

Finally, at the end of this section, we have the first reference in Luke's gospel to "the Kingdom of God". Throughout Luke, Jesus is referring to "the kingdom of God". This is the same thing that is referred to in Matthew's gospel as "the kingdom of heaven". Jesus' mission on earth was to establish this kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not visible with outward show, with robes, candles and incense. It is a supernatural, spiritual kingdom established in the hearts of God's people. It will be established perfectly in the new heavens and the new earth (Luke 22:30). In this kingdom, God is the King and we are His subjects.

How will we respond to the example of Christ? Will we show Christ to the watching world? Will we have compassion on a dying humanity? Will we we use the small power (our abilities) that God has given us to us to help others?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Luke, Part 15: Jesus Preaches at Nazareth

Text: Luke 4:14-30

The first verse of this section is essentially a summary of the first year of Christ's ministry. The works of Jesus during this year as described in the other Gospels, but because Luke is writing to Gentiles, he is more interested in showing them how they are included in the ministry of this Messiah.

Note in verse 15 and 16 that Jesus was a consistent attender of the synagogue. The synagogue had a fairly open style of worship. Different men from the community would have to opportunity to read a text, and comment upon it. In this passage, we are told how Jesus entered and read this passage in Isaiah (Is. 61-1,2).

This passage in Isaiah tells several marks of the Messiah:
  • The Spirit of the Lord would be upon Him
  • He would preach the gospel to the poor (the poor in every respect, the non-elite)
  • He would heal the broken-hearted
  • He would deliver the captives
  • He would give sight to the blind
  • He would deliver the bruised and oppressed
  • He would preach the favorable year of the Lord (He would proclaim the Year of Jubilee).
These were the marks of the Messiah, a particular prophecy for those times. Anyone claiming to be the Messiah had to do all these things.

After Jesus read this passage, He had the opportunity to comment upon it. All eyes were fixed on Him as he sat down. (v. 20) He said "yes", that He was the Messiah.

The first reaction of the hearers was pleasure. They liked what Jesus was saying; this was interesting, and they were excited about the idea of a Messiah. But they couldn't believe it was Jesus. "Isn't this Joesph's son?" they asked. "You're just a man," they must have thought. This is exactly the problem of men today. They don't want to accept Jesus as God. As a good teacher, sure, but they reject Him as God and reject His atonement on the cross.

Jesus reads their minds. He knows they are thinking, "If You're really the Messiah, prove it!" and, "You're just a man; You need salvation, too."

Jesus rebuked them with a rebuke that might be applicable to us today. They thought Jesus was familiar, not exciting or interesting. Perhaps we treat the gospel with the contempt of familiarity, too.

In verses 25-27, Jesus recounts two incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha in which Gentiles were shown special mercies. These events were foreshadowings, hinting that Jesus would be a Messiah to all who believe from every nation.

And this made Jesus' audience furious. They were insulted that Jesus would say He was Messiah to the Gentiles. They drove Him out of the city and attempted to kill Him, but He showed His great power in eluding them by simply passing through their midst. They were powerless to stop Him.

Note in this passage how Jesus dealt with the truth. He didn't shrink from it or soft-coat it in an attempt to appeal to His audience. He didn't give sermons about how men could derive material benefit from believing in Him, or how He would help them to solve their relationship problems. He simply presented the truth of the Gospel, and it was up to His hearers to humble themselves to this truth. Let us follow His example in not straying from the essential truths of the gospel when we share with others!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Luke, Part 14: Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness

Text: Luke 4:1-13

Jesus continues in His work as a  representation of man in this section.  Christ, in His humanity is again shown representing transgressors.  He is going out to the battle against temptation that Adam lost, but unlike Adam, Christ (the New Adam) will be victorious.

When Adam was tempted, he was with his wife, in a perfect place with all his needs supplied.  Christ, on the other hand, was in the desert and alone and suffering greatly from hunger.

In this passage, Christ is shown as our example, as well as our representative.  Through His responses, we can gain insight into foiling Satan’s attempts to tempt us.

In Satan’s first attack (v.3), he begins by saying, “If you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread.”  Jesus knew He was the Son of God; He had just been told by the Father that He was the Father’s “beloved Son”.  As with Adam, Satan’s first attack is on the accuracy of God’s Word.  We see Satan attacking God’s Word in the world all around us, from secular humanists trying to cast doubts on the veracity of the Word, to charismatic churches casting aside the Bible for so-called special revelation.  Jesus is not swayed; He responds directly with the Word.  He tells Satan that His life is not about material things such as food, but that His true life is His relationship with the Father.

In the second attack (v.5-7), Satan takes Christ to all the kingdoms of the world and offers to give them to Him in exchange for worship.  Christ was sent to the world to be a King of a new heavenly kingdom.  Here Satan is giving Christ an opportunity to rule without enduring the suffering He was sent for.  As always, he is trying to made something sinful look good (wouldn’t it be good for Christ to be king over the whole world?)   He is offering the crown without the cross.  Jesus responds to worship God only.  Jesus was familiar with Scripture and knew how to use the written Word against Satan.  We should try to be likewise skilled and to, like Christ, do what God calls us to do in God’s way.

In the final attack, Satan brings Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple.  Note how he misuses the Bible in order to get Jesus to sin.  The actual passage (Psalm 91:11-12) says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you,  To guard you in all your ways.”, implying that God will keep the one who walks in righteous ways.  But to assume that God will keep you when you are going into sin is presumption.

Presumption is not faith; the Devil wanted Jesus to substitute presumption for faith.  We can be presumptuous when, for example, we pray for good health but do not take care of our bodies.  A similar presumption is praying for salvation, but not seeking God through prayer and Bible reading.

Jesus rejected this temptation, again quoting Scripture.

From Jesus’ example in the wilderness, we should see that trials and temptations are all part of God’s refining us, and we should not seek to short-circuit the work of God, to avoid His baptism of fire.  We should be wise and recognize the difference between acting in faith and acting with presumption, and, finally, we should study God’s Word to be equipped to defend ourselves against all temptations.

Here He goes out to the wilderness, where He is tempted by Satan.  He is going out to the battle that Adam lost, but unlike Adam, Christ (the New Adam) will be victorious.

First, in this passage, we see Christ in His humanity representing transgressors.