Sunday, March 13, 2011

Luke Part 33: Feeding of the Five Thousand

Text: Luke 9:10-17

This section continues the theme in Luke, where Jesus is describing the kingdom of God and the King of that kingdom. Remember that this is a spiritual kingdom; the kingdom is the people of God, Christians.

In the first two verses of this section, we see Jesus' approachability. He had withdrawn from the crowns, taking His disciples off into a desert place. But the people found Him our and came after Jesus -- this is an example for us to never let anything stand in our way of getting to Jesus. And Jesus' response was not to drive the crowds away and tell them He wanted to be alone. He welcomed them -- Jesus receives all who come to Him! And He taught them about the kingdom of God and healed them.

So what was Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God? What is new about the New Covenant?
  • Being right with God depend's on God's grace. (In the Old Covenant, men had to perform (circumcision, sacrifices) in order to be in the Covenant.)
  • There is love and acceptance in Christ Jesus. (The Old Covenant was one of fear and doubt.)
  • Christ is the light of the world; the darkness of the Old Covenant is lifted and God is made known in all His glory.
  • Sin has been slain. In its place is peace, unity, comfort, and purity.
  • The King of this kingdom has come as a servant, to serve others.
  • Humility is the rule, rather than pride and religious pomposity and display.
  • The Law says, "You must"; Jesus says, "Only trust."
In verses 12-17, the apostles see that the huge crowd of people who have come to see Jesus have no way to be fed. They suggest that the crowds be sent away to go eat. But Jesus says, "You feed them." Jesus has given them a task that they are unable to do, so they respond that they cannot do it.

Jesus was teaching an important rule: as Christians, we are responsible for ministering to our brothers and sisters in Christ -- we are responsible for their welfare. But the job is too much for us, we cannot do it! And that is exactly what God would have us to learn -- that the task is beyond our strength and requires His help.

Note the disciples first response at seeing the hungry crowd. They did not come to Jesus with a problem, they came to Him with a solution! And we are often tempted to do the same. We decide all of our plans for how to execute a ministry objective, deciding entirely in our own wisdom and maybe a book or two. Then we show our plan to God and ask Him to bless it. This is completely wrong! Bring the problem to God, and ask Him what you should do.

Next, Jesus gives the disciples a ministry. He gives them something to do, and they do it, in an orderly fashion. The apostles ministered by arranging the people into groups of 50. Jesus takes the small food that they do have and blesses it; then, the food is given to the apostles who distribute it among the groups of hearers. All are fed and twelve baskets are needed to contain the leftovers.

There are several lessons for us here. First: Nothing is too big or difficult for Jesus. He will take care of all aspects of His work. Next, we see that God tends to use human means. Jesus could have made everyone attending instantly full, or miraculously distributed the food among the hearers. Instead, He used His disciples to pass the food around and feed the people. We see that God met the disciples in their need. When they realized that the work He had given them was beyond their ability, He equipped and enabled them to do the work.

Finally, we see that God gives an abundance of blessing. Twelve baskets of leftovers! God will give so that His people do not lack. If you lack anything spiritually: Joy, assurance, faith -- ask Him and He will give, and give abundantly!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Luke Part 32: Who is Jesus?

Text: Luke 9:7-9, Luke 9:18-22

At this point in Luke’s gospel, he is summarizing all of what Christ has been doing, and the emphasis is shifting to what Christ is teaching.  This section begins to discuss truths about the Kingdom of God, and about the King of that kingdom, Jesus.

At that time, there was a question raised about who Jesus was.  This is the question of the ages: “Who is Jesus?”

Like many in our society, Herod thought Jesus was just an ordinary man, and many of the people of that day thought so too.  This is an inaccurate description, the thought of Jesus being a great teacher who died a tragic martyr’s death.  This is wrong and dangerous – following this belief will get you into hell.  This “ordinary” view of Jesus is just a cover and excuse for sin.

Peter, as spokesman for the disciples, gave the correct answer: “You are the Christ of God!”  The Anointed One, the One who has come from God.  This view of one Man in whom salvation can be found, one true Messiah, flies in the face of the world.  Of course, this is to be expected – we are not of this world, and shouldn’t be expecting anything from the world.

Jesus then tells the disciples not to tell this to anyone.  This is quite remarkable.  Why did He give this command?

  1. First, the Jews were looking for a political Messiah to liberate them from the Romans.  They may have interpreted Jesus’s claim to be a Messiah as an announcement that He was establishing a physical kingdom, when He was in fact establishing a spiritual kingdom.
  2. Second, this was not the time for public acclamation.  This was not a time for great crowds and a mixed multitude.  Jesus wanted to spend this time with His people, giving them the truths they needed to hear and learn.
  3. Third, this was during the time of His humiliation.  It was not yet time for Him to be praised and recognized.

The question of “Who is Jesus” also asks, “What kind of Messiah is He?  What is He going to do?”  Jesus explained this in verse 22: the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, must die, and must rise again on the third day.

Must suffer – it is a necessity that Christ’s sufferings would happen in order for Him to be a Messiah.  This was the Father’s will and the Son’s promise.  Christ willingly came and suffered.  The Law demands perfection and requires a penalty for failing to meet that perfection.  Man is required to pay that penalty, and, apart from Christ, he cannot.

Must be rejected – Christ was to be rejected by the religious leaders.  The Elders (the elite families, the ruling class), the Chief Priests (the families within the Levitical Priesthood), the Scribes (the theologians and interpreters of the Law) – all of these thought Jesus was just an ordinary man, and all rejected Him.

Must die – the Sacrifice must be slain.  Death is not uncommon, but Christ’s death is unique.  He died after living a sinless life, and He died alone, cut off from God by our sins which He bore.

Must be raised on the third day – This death is a victorious death, a temporary death.  Christ rose victorious over the grave.  After He rose, He discussed the Scriptures with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, saying, “Isn’t it right that the Christ would suffer these things?”

Christ is celebrated now in the heavens as the One who has triumphed.  Paul saw this glory (but he was not allowed to speak of it.)  We can’t know the glory of Christ in heaven – it is beyond us.  But the glory of Christ on earth is us, His children.  We are His people, an example, the testimony of the work that He accomplished on Calvary.  Let us live mindful of that!