Leviticus 11-12, Isaiah 7, Luke 24

Read Leviticus 11-12, Isaiah 7, and Luke 24 today. This devotional is about Luke 24.

Remember those women in Luke 8:2-3 that Luke said traveled with Jesus and the disciples? Luke named a few of them: “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others” (v. 2b-3a). He had told us that they “were helping to support them out of their own means” (v. 3b).

That passage in Luke 8 is the only insight we are given in the Gospels–at least, that I can think of–about the financial support of Jesus ministry. Think about 13 men traveling to different villages, towns, and cities. Where did they sleep? Where did they get their meals in an age before restaurants? These women provided them the money they needed to buy food; they probably also prepared food when needed, found places for everyone to sleep at night, brought Jesus and the disciples water during the day. Maybe they helped mend clothes and wash them, too, but it seems clear that they volunteered to help Jesus and his disciples in whatever way was needed.

Here in Luke 24 these women emerge from the shadows again (v. 1, 10). The passage says they came “very early in the morning” (v. 1) to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been buried. My guess is that they figured this would be the last of their unheralded acts of service on behalf of Jesus. When Jesus’ burial was complete, they might have stayed for a few days to mourn his death and remember his life, then they would return to Galilee and re-enter daily life.

Instead of doing the sad, unpleasant, and difficult work of embalming Jesus’ body, the women were surprised to hear the message that Jesus was risen from the dead (vv. 3-7, 10)! The angels that reported this news to them said to them in verse 6, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” That happened back in Luke 9:22. It was just after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the benefits of being on Jesus’ support team was that they could listen to him teach as they served or during the moments when there was nothing immediate to do. Verse 8 here in Luke 24 says, “Then they remembered his words” which tells us that they were in the audience when Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah so they heard Jesus predict his death and resurrection. Now God had chosen them to be the first people learn of Christ’s resurrection.

Although it isn’t the point of this passage, this story suggests a truth that may encourage you today which is that some of the greatest blessings of following Jesus occur when we are doing the difficult, unpleasant, unnoticed work of serving him. If you are discouraged because you feel like your life and or your ministry in the church is often overlooked, unnoticed, unappreciated think of these women. You may be tempted to think that your life doesn’t matter much, but God sees. He knows what your love for Christ leads you to do for him even if nobody else ever knows.

And, God may just surprise you one day with an unexpected blessing; it won’t be anything as big as an angel informing you that Jesus has risen from the dead, but it will be a blessing nonetheless. So don’t be discouraged or give up serving Jesus.

Leviticus 7, Isaiah 2, Luke 22

Read Leviticus 7, Isaiah 2, and Luke 22 today. This devotional is about Luke 22.

There are moments in life when it is hard to think about or care about anything other than the big thing that is about to happen. It might be a really big thing like major surgery or something a bit less scary like a job interview, your wedding, or the birth of a child. When we were kids, a big game or major exam might fit with what I’m describing.

You remember how it felt to be waiting for one of these big things. You might have gotten so nervous that you couldn’t sit down. You tried to watch TV or do something else to distract you but you couldn’t concentrate. When we’re faced with moments and events that scare us, it is hard to think about anything else.

At the end of this chapter, Jesus betrayed by Judas, arrested by the chief priests, and put on trial (vv. 39-71). He knew this time was coming and had predicted it to the disciples. In the first part of Luke 22, then, it would be normal for a person in Jesus’s position to be nervous and unable to think about anyone but himself.

That was not Jesus’s mindset, however. Instead, he sought to make the most of the time he had left with his disciples by having the Passover–his last supper–with them.

While Jesus was not focused on himself, the disciples certainly were. Oblivious to the danger that Jesus was about face, they were arguing openly with each other about which one of them should be “considered to be greatest” (v. 24).

Jesus used their argument as a teaching moment. He flipped their expectations about greatest and taught (as he had before) that the greatest servant is the one who matters (vv. 25-26).

So often we are defensive about our rights, sensitive about perceived slights from others, and miffed when we don’t get something that is owed to us. And, at our worst, we compare ourselves to others, accentuating in our own minds the ways in which we feel superior to those we measure ourselves against.

But the words of Christ in Luke 22:27 cut through all of that like a knife: “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” The greatest of all came to serve us and he served us well, bearing our sins in order to be our salvation.

As his followers, he calls us to emulate his example—serving him by serving each other. Do you have a servant’s heart or a “serve me” heart? How can you follow the pattern of Christ today? Who can you serve for the glory of God?

Exodus 39, Song of Songs 3, Luke 16

Read Exodus 39, Song of Songs 3, and Luke 16. Note that we were supposed to have read Luke 16 yesterday and Luke 17 today but I made a mistake. Sorry about that. Today’s reading puts us back on track.

This devotional is about Luke 16.

At the end of this chapter we learned about a rich man, unnamed, and a poor man named Lazarus (vv. 19-31). As rich people do, the rich man lived a comfortable life; conversely, Lazarus the poor man lived a painful, uncomfortable life. Despite his disadvantaged financial standing and the difficulties that poverty created for him, he trusted in God.

When death came to both men, their previous situations were reversed. The wealthy man was in torment in hell (vv. 23-24) while Lazarus was in eternal bliss (vv. 23b, 25b). Unable to be blessed in any way while in hell, the unnamed rich man pleaded for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his family (vv. 27-38). At this point, some interesting thoughts emerge:

  1. The rich man knew Lazarus by name. Verse 20 told us that Lazarus was laid “at his gate.” These two facts suggest that the rich man talked to Lazarus at some point or at the very least had his servants find out about Lazarus. Yet, according to verse 21, the rich man gave Lazarus nothing, not even his leftovers. So the rich man had interacted with Lazarus but day after day ignored his horrible poverty.
  2. The rich man’s family knew Lazarus, too. That’s not stated but it is implied by the phrase, “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” If the rich man’s family was unaware of who Lazarus was, they would have been unaware of his death and, therefore, unmoved by his resurrection from the dead. So they, like their brother it seems, had personal contact with Lazarus and yet did nothing to help him.

This gives us some insight into the selfish nature of the wealthy family portrayed in this story. Not only did they receive “good things” (v. 25) in their lifetime, they were stingy with what they had. Once in hell, however, the rich man became aware of how foolish his comfortable life really was. Unable to be saved or to save himself, the rich man called for a miracle to save his family.

The word of Abraham to this rich man in hell explains so much about our faith. Verse 31 said simply, “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Why did so many people see the miracles of Jesus yet reject him as Messiah? Because unbelief is not about evidence; it is the outgrowth of our darkened sinful hearts.

Why do so many people today believe that Jesus did miracles and rise from the dead? Because God’s word has supernatural power. It is not solid logic, or great evidence, or even supernatural displays of power that create faith. It is God who creates faith and he does so with his word. As Romans 10:17 says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

What do you need to be effective in evangelism? God’s word. That’s it. Be faithful in sharing God’s word when you can and ask God to use it to make faith in others.

Exodus 38, Song of Songs 2, Luke 17

Read Exodus 38, Song of Songs 2, and Luke 17 today. This devotional is about Luke 17.

Each one of us is responsible for himself or herself. When you stand before God, you will give an account of your life. You will not answer for the sins of others nor will you be able to shift blame to others for your sins.

But…

…none of us lives alone, unaffected by others or able to avoid affecting others. In verse 1a-b, Jesus acknowledged that: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come….'” The word “stumble” in verse 1 means to sin. The first part of verse 1, then, says that people cause other people to fall into sin. Just as Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam, people continue do things that entice others to sin. Adam was responsible for his choice to sin but Eve was held responsible for her sin and her role in Adam’s sin. 

So, fact one is that sinners lead other sinners into sin. No one can make another person sin but we can cause others to sin by leading them into temptations that their sinful natures cannot resist.

When we do that–when we entice others to sin and they choose that sin–we’ve sinned. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “…but woe to anyone through whom they come” in verse 1c. Verse 2 goes on to say that there will be severe punishment for those who entice others to sin so, as verse 3 says, “So watch yourselves.”

One of the ways we entice others to sin is by sinning against others. If I insult you and you punch me, we’ve both sinned but my sin provided you with the occasion for your sin. But instead of choosing to sin when we are sinned against, Jesus taught us the right way to respond in verse 3b: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”

This, then, is how we should treat each other. Be careful not to put others in the way of temptation. Don’t recommend actions that cause them to feel tempted, don’t sin against them and give them the occasion to sin themselves. Finally, if someone sins against you, resist the temptation to sin yourself and, instead, call them into accountability and invite them to repent and receive your forgiveness.

It is impossible for anyone of us not to lead others into sin so the “woe” that Jesus announced in verse 1c applies to all of us. The word “woe” describes the kind of deep sorrow that comes from knowing you are under the wrath of God for your sins. Jesus told us, then, that we are in big trouble.

By God’s grace, however, Jesus is also the way out of that trouble. He took our “woe” before God by his death on the cross. We all can (and do) lead others to sin but in Christ, our sins are forgiven.

Now that they are forgiven, we have the power to deal with sin properly. We should think about how our lives might tempt others–our families, friends, co-workers, etc. By the power of God’s spirit, we should strive to live a life that doesn’t trip anyone else up and we should deal with the trip hazards others put in front of us with loving confrontation and forgiveness.

Have you knowingly enticed someone else to sin? Have you seen in hindsight how your actions created a sin situation for someone even though you did not intend it? Seek God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with that person if possible. Then “watch yourself” (v. 3a) in the future.

Has someone put temptation into your pathway? Can you learn to bring correction to those who sin against you instead of justifying your sinful response?

These are challenging truths for us but they important ones for us to live by. Blessed is the person who is careful not to cause others to be tempted. Blessed, too, is the person who can resist temptation and restore to righteousness the brother or sister whose sin caused your temptation.

How much better would the world be if we disciples of Christ responded to sin in these ways?

Exodus 37, Song of Songs 1, Luke 15

Read Exodus 37, Song of Songs 1, and Luke 15 today. This devotional is about Luke 15.

Luke 15 contains three parables of God’s love. They were motivated by the complaint of the Pharisees, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v. 2). Christ explained to the Pharisees that God sees sinners like a shepherd who loses a sheep or a woman who loses a valuable coin. Rather than shunning the lost sheep or the lost coin, criticizing it for getting lost, God actively searches for sinners the way that a shepherd actively searches for his lost sheep and the way that a woman actively searches for her lost coin. Then, when a lost sinner is found, God cheers more exuberantly than the shepherd who finds his lost sheep and the woman who finds her lost coin. What an incredible affirmation of God’s love for sinners! I can never read this chapter without feeling very grateful and humbled by God’s saving love.

But, in verses 11-32, Jesus turned his thoughts back to the Pharisees. In the parable of the lost son (aka “the prodigal son”), Jesus compared God to a father who had two sons. One son rejected his father and squandered his father’s wealth with sinful living; the other son dutifully fulfilled his obligation as a son. When the prodigal son found himself in desperate need, he returned in humility to his father, hoping to be accepted as a slave. Instead, however, his father welcomed him back and threw a party in his honor because of his joy in recovering his lost son.

The other brother, on the other hand, was jealous and angry. He self-righteously condemned his father for celebrating the return of such a sinful, selfish son. In this way Christ revealed the heart of the Pharisee and the temptation of every self-righteous person who has ever lived. Instead of understanding the worth of a soul that has been saved, the self-righteous are angry at the Father’s grace to such sinners.

The other brother, in this passage, represented the self-righteous Pharisees, yet even genuine Christians sometimes struggle with the same self-righteous attitude.

One way might be our attitude toward world missions. If we believe that funding our own lives and even our own churches is wiser than giving to people who are going to other parts of the world to reach people for Jesus, then maybe we have a self-righteous attitude. Or if we pray little for the missionaries we know or just other countries that are closed to the gospel, perhaps its because we believe the people who live there are greater sinners than lost people in America.

As encouraging as this passage is when it describes God’s love, it should also make us pause and think: Do I get excited about the salvation of God’s lost sheep? Can I celebrate the salvation of others in other parts of the world or do I think they deserve judgment more than I do or the people around me?

Exodus 36, Ecclesiastes 12, Luke 14

Read Exodus 36, Ecclesiastes 12, Luke 14 today. This devotional is about Luke 14:33-35.

The Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat in his home on this Sabbath day (v. 1) probably had no idea that his own sacred cows would be on the menu.

A recurring theme in Luke has been what is permissible on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had very strict views on this subject and Jesus challenged those views by healing a man on the Sabbath (vv. 2-4), then pointing out their hypocrisy. They would help a child or an animal in a dangerous situation or with an injury on the Sabbath (v. 5) but were deeply offended when he healed a man who had been suffering. God is never offended when people do good and relieve the suffering of others on the Sabbath. The intent of the Sabbath laws supersede strict interpretations of that law.

That opening paragraph (vv. 1-6) happened on the way to the Pharisees house, before the meal even began. That is suggested in verse 1 where it says, “Jesus went to eat…” but it is confirmed in verse 7 by the fact that people were picking out places to sit, so the meal had not yet begun. Jesus turned his rhetorical attention to pride, noting how at wedding banquets people assumed themselves to be the most honorable person in attendance by how they chose their seats. He counseled people to go for the worst seat at the banquet (v. 10a); after all, it is better to invited to move to a better spot than to be demoted to a lesser seat.

This is one of the most practical things Jesus said that didn’t have to do with a directly moral or spiritual issue. He addressed a common life scenario in those times and gave very sage advice. While the situation Jesus described in verses 7-10 is far more mundane than the usual topics he taught about, the deeper issue was human pride as we see in verse 11.

Finally, Jesus addressed his host directly (v. 12) and instructed him to be more discriminating about who he invited to dinner (vv. 12b-13). Instead of inviting people he loved and liked, Jesus advised him to invite the kind of people who don’t usually get dinner invitations–“the poor, the crippled, the lame, and blind.” This was about human pride, too. We like to spend time with people we like, friends who elevate our mood and even our status and who might invite us to their homes as well. A party for the poor, however, doesn’t appeal to us but Jesus said we “will be blessed” (v. 14a) if we befriend and include those who are low in social status. This blessing awaits in the future, however, for Jesus said, “…you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14b).

Passages like these indicate that pride was more overt in Jesus’ day than it might be in ours. We are the inventors of “the humble brag” after all. While we might be more subtle about our pride than the Pharisees and others in Jesus’ day, we still struggle with pride. It’s nice to be noticed so putting ourselves in a place where we are noticeable can be just as tempting now as it was in the wedding banquets Jesus attended. Likewise, we enjoy spending time with people who are like us–“your friends,  your brothers or sisters, your relatives” and especially our “rich neighbors” (v. 12). Jesus’ confrontational style of speaking was designed to challenge our pride forcefully–not to say we can never have our friends and family over for dinner but that we should intentionally befriend and include those who are not usually coveted as friends. His teaching calls us to get over ourselves and look for ways to be a true, tangible blessing to others.

So, what might you do today or this weekend or next week that could wound your pride but make a real difference in someone else’s life?

Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13

Read Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13 today. This devotional is about Luke 13.

Before radio and TV and cable news channels, world news was scarce and was mostly confined to events that related to your own community or, at most, your own nation. So the terror attacks in New Zealand last week would never have been known about in Israel during the days Jesus lived on this earth.

Some bad news did get around and Jesus was informed of some here in Luke 13:1. The incident in question was brutal and tragic, but it was also political. It involved “Galileans,” so those were Jewish people who lived in the region where Jesus spent most of his life and ministry, the northern part of Israel called Galilee. These men were in Jerusalem offering sacrifices and Pilate–the Roman governor or that area–had them put to death as they offered their sacrifices in the temple. These men may have been plotting against the Romans and Pilate may have chosen to make them a public example. Since Jewish people wanted Messiah to lead an insurrection against Rome, Jesus may have been informed of this situation to see if he would take on this revolt as the Messianic leader. Later in the chapter, in verse 31, Jesus was informed that Herod was plotting to kill him So there was a lot of political pressure swirling around Jesus at that moment.

Pilate’s actions were brutal but Jesus did not express moral outrage when he was told of this news. Instead, Jesus warned the people that the men who died were no more sinful than the average citizen of Galilee (v. 2). Jesus then raised the tension in the audience by speaking of eighteen who died in an accident when a tower in Siloam fell on them (v. 4). What about them? Did they deserve an untimely death because they were especially sinful? No, according to verse 3a. Whether one died by abuse of government power as in verse 1 or in accidentally as in verse 4, Jesus did not condemn the victims as being more sinful than anyone else. Instead, he used these incidents in the news to raise an uncomfortable truth: “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (v. 5).

There was a common superstitious belief that only the worst sinners died prematurely. That belief exists somewhat today in our culture when people talk about “karma.” But Jesus wants us to know that the only reason we are alive today at all is the mercy of God. If God gave us what we deserve, none of us would live a rich, full, happy life. We are all sinners living on the wrong side of God’s laws so he is perfectly just anytime one of us dies, whether at a good old age or way too soon.

Christ has redeemed us who believe from the eternal curse of our sin. Some who believe in him will escape the curse of physical death by being alive when Jesus returns. But none of us is guaranteed anything; physical death is a curse that has been handed down to all of humanity because of the fall.

God’s plan for redemption from physical death is to let most of us die and to raise us from the dead physically at the end of the age. It is wise for us, then, to be thankful for today and to use it as best as we can for God’s glory. It is also wise for us to share with others what Christ has done for sinners so that they may repent and avoid perishing spiritually.

But the most important application of this passage is for any of you who have not turned to Christ for salvation. The only way to avoid the curse of sin is to turn to Jesus for salvation. Take the time you have today to do that; you do not know what God may allow into your life tomorrow.