Luke 19

Read Luke 19.

Today’s passage described the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ life. Just before Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (vv. 28-44), he told the disciples the parable of the ten minas (vv. 11-27). The purpose of this parable, according to verse 11 was, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” In other words, Jesus told this story to prepare his followers for a gap of time between then and when his kingdom would arrive.

The parable accomplished three things. First, it slightly foreshadowed Christ’s rejection and and crucifixion. That is suggested in verse 14 where the subjects of the king sent a delegation to try to prevent him from becoming king. In every age, everyone who rejects the Lordship of Christ is trying to prevent him from being king; that applied especially to those who plotted against Jesus to see him crucified.

The second thing the parable accomplished was to begin preparing his followers for his ascension. Although Jesus would receive a Messianic welcome in verses 28-40, he would not literally become king over Israel during this time. As we saw in verse 12, the parable alluded to Jesus leaving, becoming king, then returning.

The third thing the parable accomplished was the main point of the parable which is to instruct us about what to do while we wait for Jesus’ return.

Waiting for Jesus’ return is not like waiting for a plane to depart. In that situation, people just sit around until the plane is ready to be boarded. Instead, we “wait” for Jesus like a pregnant woman and her husband wait for the baby to be born. They “wait” in the sense that time passes, but they also should be preparing during that time–deciding on a name for the baby, preparing a nursery, buying baby clothes and supplies and so on.

Similarly, we are waiting for the time to arrive when Jesus will return, but this parable commands us to be productive with the time. Before he left this earth, Christ commanded his disciples to make disciples, baptize and teach them. Instead of sitting around waiting as the wicked servant did in verses 20-21, we have the opportunity to invest in Jesus’ kingdom by obeying his great commission.

There are great rewards promised for those who produce for his kingdom (vv. 17-19), so this parable challenges us use the power Christ gave us, obey the commission he left us, and watch as God uses our faithfulness to his word to produce more and more believers who will enter the kingdom.

So, how are you involved productively for the increase of God’s kingdom? Have you figured out your spiritual gift and found a place to use if for God’s glory? Are you making the most of the opportunities you receive to share the gospel? Are you going on faith that God will use you if you invest into his kingdom as he commanded?

Luke 18

Luke 18

Verses 1-8 start Luke 18 with a parable about prayer. The point of this story according to Luke was, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” The woman in this story badgered the unjust judge and eventually won her case because of her badgering (vv. 4-5). Then Jesus said that God will listen to those who “cry out to him day and night” (v. 7).

So, if this is the case, why don’t we persist in prayer?

One answer is weak faith or a lack of faith. Another answer is just that we’re human and humans struggle with various kinds of weaknesses.

But I think pride is a reason why we don’t pray persistently. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we cannot control something. It is a response to the knowledge among the faithful that we cannot make something happen on our own so, if it is to happen, God will have to do it.

That takes humility!

Our default assumption is that we can handle things. We can:

  • put up with stuff we don’t like or
  • persuade someone to do what we want, or
  • reason with someone who we have a dispute with, or
  • change ourselves if we try hard enough for long enough.

But prayer makes us admit that these things may not be able to handle everything ourselves and that, in reality, only God can make something happen.

We might pray once or twice asking God for something but after that, we give up to look for “more productive” ways to attack the problem we’re praying about. Also, God is sovereign and will do his will, so he may refuse to answer our prayer requests with yes because they are outside of his will.

All of these are blows to our pride.

So, what do you wish God would do for you? If it is within his moral will, will cause him to be glorified, and is truly righteous and just, don’t let your pride keep you from asking God–continually–for it in prayer.

That’s the message of Luke 18:1-7.

Luke 17

Read Luke 17 today.

Leprosy was a horrible disease to contract in the days Jesus lived on this earth. In order to keep from infecting other people, lepers had to live alone, away from society. If they came near anyone else, they had to warn them by calling out, “Unclean!” If you contracted leprosy, your family would never touch you again and the only human companionship you’d ever know again was from other lepers.

It was social-distancing long before it became cool here in 2020.

Lepers would watch parts of their bodies rot away and fall off until, eventually, they died. So you can understand why lepers were so eager to meet Jesus and when they saw him, according to verse 13, they “called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”

Instead of making new skin out of mud or laying his hands on them or even waving his hands toward them, Jesus just told them to find a priest and have him check their skin. This was required by the Old Testament law for someone who wanted to be re-admitted to society after having a skin problem that cleared up. Between verses 14-15, they were healed. In verse 14b they expressed faith in his word by obediently turning to find a priest. But, according to verse 15, it took a few moments before they actually realized they had been healed.

Of the ten men who were healed of leprosy, only one of them returned to thank Jesus (v. 16a). And he was less than subtle about it; according to verses 15b-16a, “when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him….”

This is what you’d expect from someone who not only just saved and extended your life, but made it possible to return to your family and friends. But, of all the men Jesus healed, he alone gave glory to God and thanks to Jesus and, to top it all off, “…he was a Samaritan.” That continued a pattern in Jesus’ life of being received best by outsiders.

Jesus made a point of highlighting that only 10% of the cleansed lepers gave thanks to him and glory to God for their cleansing. His point is one that we should consider as well. People frequently ask others to pray for them but, in my experience at least, rarely give glory to God when the prayer is answered.

Furthermore, genuine thankfulness is in scarce supply in our world. We should serve God by serving others in love without expecting to be thanked but thankfulness is a trait of godliness (see Colossians 2:7, 3:15 and 17 for just a few examples).

Do you live a thankful life? Do we notice when God answers our prayers and give him praise and glory for it? Do we thank his servants, his children, when they are good to us? These are habits of a godly life.

While we’re stuck in this weird, COVID-19 world, we have the opportunity and the time to reach out to others. Is there someone you should thank? Make a phone call to that person today and let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done in your life.

And don’t forget to thank God in prayer for his goodness to you. Life is weird right now for us all, but we don’t have leprosy, we do have what we need, and this crisis will pass. Let’s be thankful for how God is providing for us and for his promise to keep providing for us in post-coronavirus world.

Luke 16

Read Luke 16

This chapter contains one of the strangest parables Jesus spoke in verses 1-8. It is about a bad manager who, when he was getting fired, gave deep discounts to the customers of his master (vv. 1-7).

The purpose of those discounts was to make the customers like him so that they would give him a place to stay after he was fired (v. 4). After wasting his master’s money (v. 1)–probably by making risky loans that went bad–this man lowered his master’s revenue even further by reducing the profit his master would make on the few good loans this bad manager made.

Think of it like this: Back in 2008, banks started to lose money on all the risky loans they had made. You made all your mortgage payments on time and would continue to do so even though your lender was going bankrupt on all your other loans. Imagine you owed, say, $50,000 on your house. Then the loan officer at your bank called you and said, “I’ve re-financed your mortgage; you now only owe $25,000. You can pay it off now, if you can or just keep making the same mortgage payment but you’ll be done much earlier.”

That would be nice, right?

But what if that loan officer got fired and needed a place to stay. Would you let him sleep on your couch for a while, or in your basement or spare bedroom?

It would be weird; but given how much money he saved you, wouldn’t it be worth a few months of free lodging?

If I were the master in this story, I’d be mad at the money manger for wasting my money and I’d REALLY be mad at him for giving such deep discounts to the few profitable clients we had left. But that’s not what the manager in the story did. Instead, he “commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8). Though he lost a lot of money, he had to admire how his ex-manager made a safety net for himself out of nothing. That was a shrewd thing to do.

Jesus applied this story to us and the way we use money. He commanded us to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9). What does this mean?

It means be generous with your money and give it away to others instead of being stingy with it. After all, money all belongs to God, not to us (v. 12a). If we trust God, we’ll be generous knowing that our eternity is secure (v. 9). Generosity is the result of faith in God; it does not buy God’s affection.

But the reverse is also true–stinginess is the result of no faith in God. Instead, when we live like money is everything and should never be shared, we are revealing that we love money more than we love God (v. 13).

Think about how you use money. Does the way you save it and spend it reveal that it is your god? Or, are you growing in generosity because you are a servant of God?

What is one financial decision you could make today that would bring your money-management into greater alignment with your statement of faith?

Luke 15

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

The other day I was standing in line at a coffee shop while the couple in front of me placed their orders, paid, and received change. As the cashier was handing the man his change, he dropped one of the coins. I watched it fall to the ground where it leaned on its edge against the man’s shoe.

My first instinct was to reach down, pick up the coin, and hand it back to the man. But then I hesitated for two reasons. First, the coin was touching him, so reaching down to pick it up would put me uncomfortably into his personal space. Second, the coin was a penny, so was it really worth it for one measly cent?

Before I made a decision, he reached down and picked it up himself so my problem was solved. But the fact that it was a mere penny got me thinking about things that are lost. If you lost a penny, you might look around for it for a few seconds, but probably would not waste too much time searching because the value is so low. If you lost a ten thousand dollar check or an extremely rare coin– one that was of great value to collectors and of personal value to you because it was given to you by a favorite grandpa or aunt or someone else you loved–you would tear the place apart looking for it, right? You’d do that because of the immense value it has in terms of cash and personally to you.

Here in Luke 15 Jesus overheard the muttering of the religious (v. 2) about Jesus’ tendency to spend time with the outcasts of society (v. 1, 2b). “Those people” were not worth anything to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were worth less than a penny because they were “sinners.” If they were coins, not only would the religious people refuse to stoop down to pick them up, these religious leaders would grind them into the dust with their sandaled feet.

Jesus told three stories here in Luke 15 to illustrate why he spent time with sinners. All of them have to do with the worth of the sinners involved. To Jesus, saving sinners was like a shepherd finding a lost sheep (vv. 3-7), a woman finding a lost coin (vv. 8-10), and a man reconciling with his lost (that is, rebellious) son (vv. 11-24). The point of these stories was to invite the religious leaders to reconsider their hatred of sinners (vv. 25-32). But another key point of these stories is to illustrate how much lost humanity means to God.

I have many things in my past that I am ashamed to have said or done. In my present life, there are areas where I wish I was more like Christ and had a greater desire to improve. While I don’t think of myself as worthless, I have to admit that my sinfulness makes me far from desirable to a holy God. Jesus taught, however, that God loves to find his lost sons. This chapter calls us, then, to look at sinners differently. We should see ourselves and others not as worthless pennies but as precious in God’s sight, so precious that he came to find us. Let’s give thanks for God’s love and remember to love other sinners, no matter how reprehensible we think they are. To do anything else puts us in the place of the judgmental older brother who missed out on the party because of his unloving attitude.

Luke 14

Read Luke 14.

“Ok, these guys won’t like it if I heal you now. So come back tomorrow, if you still want me to heal you and I’ll do it then. Mkay?”

Jesus could have said that in verse 4.

Instead, after asking the Pharisees and scribes if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, Jesus went ahead and healed him after “they remained silent” (v. 4). Jesus knew they wouldn’t like it; that’s why he asked them about it in verse 3. Instead of changing his actions to suit the expectations of the religious, so that they would like him, Jesus challenged their false assumptions and healed the man anyway.

Then he explained to them why it was NOT wrong to heal on the Sabbath day (v. 5).

How often do we act like this?

How often do we do the right thing or say the righteous thing even when we know it will anger the people around us?

How often do we have the courage to do what God wants us to do even if it is offensive to others.

For me, not often enough. If I think someone might not like what I have to say or what I’m going to do, I’ll avoid the topic, change the subject, try to soften the statement or do what I’m going to do privately or another time.

Jesus didn’t run away from controversy. He looked for it. He took every opportunity to do good, even if others didn’t like it. He knew God would be glorified and God’s people would be blessed and that’s all that mattered.

There’s no reason to be unkind or act like a jerk. That’s not godliness.

But it is also ungodly to be a chameleon. Jesus could have acted like the Pharisees when he was around the Pharisees. He could have sneaked over to the home of the puffy man in verse 2 and healed him privately after he left the dinner party.

Shoot, he could have just said nothing at all and healed the guy remotely as the man walked out the door and nobody was watching. Instead, he took the opportunity to heal the man and shine a light on the hypocrisy (v. 5) of the religious crowd.

We care too much about what others think and not nearly enough about what is right. Let’s look for ways to be more like Jesus and less like a chameleon.

Luke 13

Read Luke 13.

A few weeks ago, workers in China built a new hospital. The hospital was needed to quarantine and treat victims of COVID-19 which was spreading rapidly.

Construction on the hospital took 10 days. The time-lapse video of it being built is very impressive.* It’s incredible how rapidly they were able to built it.

God’s kingdom doesn’t work like that. God does not build his kingdom rapidly. Instead, Jesus said it was like a mustard seed that grew into a tree (v. 19) or yeast that permeated a huge lump of dough (v. 21).

Both of these things happen slowly, imperceptibly. You can plant a mustard seed and look at it everyday. You will see that it has changed over time but you can’t see it changing in time. The growth is happening too slowly to see in real time, but it is happening.

So it is with the gospel. There have been times in church history when thousands came to Christ at the same time (Acts 2:41) but every salvation happens individually and usually those individuals believe alone or in a small cluster. Yet, everyday, all over the world, people are being saved. The church worldwide grows a little bit all the time and, when Jesus returns, we’ll enter the kingdom and see how that little mustard seed has become a massive tree.

If you’ve lost faith in God’s saving power, take heart. The kingdom of God is not a hastily assembled hospital built by people forced to work around the clock by their tyrannical government.

Instead, it is a tree, growing slowly but constantly. And you and I contribute to that growth as we share the gospel message with others.


*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VvV10S4QSw