Luke 22-24

Luke 22-24

One of the most famous backsliders in the history of the church is Simon Peter. This man, who had followed Jesus faithfully in the midst of hunger, storm, and public unrest, denied Him when He made that final journey to the cross. He publicly and boldly denied that he ever had known Jesus of Nazareth. Could such a man, who had turned His back on his Savior, his Lord, his friend, ever again be confident that he would one day enter into that inheritance promised by God?

We can, of course, easily answer the question because we have a record of Jesus forgiving Peter of his sin and restoring him. But what if we did not have that scene recorded at the end of John’s gospel? What if we had no way of knowing for sure that Peter had been forgiven, only that he had continued in the ministry after Jesus had ascended into heaven? Could we, then, know for certain that Peter was restored? It might surprise you that we could.

In Luke 22:31–34, we have a record of Jesus’ prediction concerning Peter’s denial. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” A time would come when Satan would sift Peter, and he would fall under the weight of temptation and deny his Lord. But what did Jesus say about that time? He comforted Peter by assuring him that he would not lose his faith. And the reason his faith wouldn’t fail was that Jesus had prayed for him.

Peter would not fall away from the faith because Jesus had interceded for him. What an amazing thing! And it is even more amazing to consider that He prays for each and every Christian alive today. If you are a Christian, Jesus is praying for you. He is praying that your faith will not fail, no matter how far you fall.

Though Jesus’ work of sacrificial atonement was finished on the cross, His work of redemption did not stop there. He was raised for our justification and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God to intercede for us. We can be confident of our salvation because of Jesus’ promise, “I will pray for you.” We have a living hope and a living Savior, one who is praying every day at the throne of God that our faith will not fail.

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Luke 19-21

Luke 19-21

For centuries, God called the citizens of old covenant Israel to stop relying on the gods around them and instead lean on Him, the Rock who is faithful in all His ways and a shelter for those in need (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 71:3). This commandment to shun idolatry in favor of worship of Yahweh, the one true God, was the most basic requirement for the ancient Israelites (Ex. 20:1–3), but the people as a whole failed to keep it. Though the Lord sent prophets again and again to call the people back to covenant fidelity (Isa. 6; Jer. 1; Ezek. 2:1–7), most of them did not abandon their flagrant idolatry. The disobedience got so bad that our Creator was left with no choice but to cast the people into exile if He was to be true to the warnings and stipulations He had given to Israel (Lev. 26; 2 Kings 17:7–23).

Upon the return of the people to the land, there was a new and laudable dedication to obey the Mosaic law in order to prevent an exile from happening again (Neh. 8–10). Regrettably, however, over time the religious leaders began to treat Torah as an end in itself, adding commands and rules that obscured the true intent of that law. When the Rock to whom the law of Moses points finally came, these leaders, by and large, could not receive Him as the One in whom they were to find shelter. This entire story is encapsulated in the parable that Jesus tells in today’s passage, which reveals that He embodies the Rock upon whom His people must stand.

Jesus probably echoes Isaiah 5:1–7 in Luke 20, a passage in which the prophet compares the faithless citizens of Jerusalem to the Lord’s vineyard. Christ changes this image a bit, portraying the religious leaders as the tenants of the vineyard. These tenants continually reject those who are sent by the owner of the vineyard — God — and kill the owner’s son (Luke 20:9–18). The leaders to whom Jesus is speaking recognize that the parable is about them, but instead of doing the wise thing and receiving the Son, they conspire to kill Him, thereby proving Christ’s words to be true (v. 19).

Our Savior is the Rock, and if we do not stand upon Him as our cornerstone, then we will stumble upon Him and be destroyed like the leaders who opposed Him (vv. 17–18). May we always seek to stand on Him and not the sinking sand of idolatry and works righteousness that is ever before us.

Luke 7-10

Luke 7-10

The concern for Greeks and other Gentiles evident in Luke’s writings is good news indeed for those outside the covenants with Israel and without hope in the world. If even the outcast can be saved, then there is real hope for fallen creation. And Luke’s gospel shows us that God’s love for the outcast is not limited to the Gentiles, but is also for those considered outcasts within the Jewish nation. Women in the first century were looked down upon in Jewish society, but Christ showed His respect for them in His willingness to instruct them just as He also instructed men (Luke 10:38–42). This was a revolutionary act as most rabbis would not take on female disciples. Luke tells us that several wealthy women supported Jesus’ mission financially (Luke 8:1–3), and, as with the other gospel writers, reveals how they were faithful to stay with Jesus in His hour of greatest need even as His male disciples fled at the first sign of trouble.

The poor, who were considered outcasts in many parts of first-century Jewish society due to a belief that righteousness and riches went hand-in-hand, receive special attention in Luke’s gospel as well. God, Luke tells us, has a special concern for those in poverty. Mary and Joseph were poor according to the things of this world, for they could offer only turtledoves and pigeons in the temple. Paradoxically, the couple was rich beyond measure, for they were tasked with raising the Messiah to adulthood. Luke also brings out Jesus’ concern for those in need, recording the Lord’s teaching that the kingdom belongs to the poor and hungry who trust Christ. The point of course is not that the impoverished are somehow inherently righteous or worthy of God’s love. Instead, this concern for the poor indicates that our Creator will search out those whom society might otherwise forget or cast aside. His kingdom is not for the strong and mighty, but for the humble and weak, and those who are poor, because they have no material goods to trust in, are often among those who are most aware of their weaknesses. Such poverty of spirit is required of all who would be saved, whether or not they are materially successful.

Humanly speaking, nothing required Luke to record these aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. He could have chosen other events to describe, for he, just like the other Evangelists, had no shortage of material from which to draw upon. Under the direction of God the Holy Spirit, however, Luke gave us a gospel that shows the historicity of the Christian faith and emphasizes the Almighty’s concern for Gentiles and other outcasts. We can be grateful for these emphases because they give all of us who have been cast out of the kingdom on account of our sin, Jew and Gentile alike, real hope that God has intervened in history and will not regard forever as outcasts all those who believe on His Son.

Luke 4-6

Luke 4-6…The parable of the wine and wineskins

In this picture, Jesus humorously points out that no one puts new wine into old wineskins. There were numerous types of vessels that carried wine, but the most common were made from the skin of sheep or goats. After the animals were slaughtered, the hides were cleaned, and sewn closed where the legs had been. The spout of the wineskin was where the neck used to be. Newly pressed wine, or grape juice and other ingredients needed to make wine, was poured into the fresh wineskin through the neck, and when it was full, the neck was tied shut to make the skin airtight. Over time, the juice would ferment. The fermentation process would produce gas. And this gas would cause the goatskin to expand. A wineskin could be used several times before it lost its elasticity. Eventually, however, the skin would lose its ability to flex, and would no longer be suitable for making wine. If someone tried to use a wineskin that had lost its elasticity for making more wine, the fermentation process would cause the old wineskin to stretch beyond its limit, and the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. Both would be destroyed, and so Jesus retains a touch of irony in this parable. Nobody would be foolish enough to put new wine into old wineskins.

Ultimately, Jesus is answering questions about what kind of teacher He is, and what kind of disciples He is making, and ultimately, why He is doing things the way He is. The picture of new wineskins answers the question about why Jesus calls sinners and tax-collectors like Levi to be His disciples. And finally, the picture of new wine answers the question about why Jesus teaches what He does. These three questions and answers are brought out more clearly in Mark 2:1-22. And what is the ultimate answer to all these questions? The Kingdom has arrived and the exile is over.

In a way, therefore, the final statement of Jesus in Luke 5:39 is a veiled invitation to the Pharisees and the followers of John to try the new wine. He is not denouncing them or their ways, but a full cup of His wine has been placed on the table, and they are invited to taste it. Though they may not like it at first, the invitation is there. Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God, and the invitation to participate is open to all. Jesus interprets his behaviors, which are questionable and innovative to some onlookers, as manifestations of God’s ancient purposes coming to fruition.

Luke 1-3

Luke 1-3

Luke’s gospel opens with an explicit statement of the evangelist’s purpose — to provide certainty to one Theophilus through an orderly account of the life of Christ (1:1–4). Apparently, several stories about Jesus were circulating at the time, probably records of individual episodes in His life, and Luke wanted to offer a more complete history of the Savior’s ministry to Theophilus and other readers. Using these fragmentary records, the other gospels, interviews with eyewitnesses, and so on, Luke sat down, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, to give Theophilus a written document that would address his concerns.

As we would expect, our Father’s providence uniquely equipped Luke to record an orderly account of our Savior’s life and ministry. As Paul’s most faithful traveling companion (2 Tim. 4:11), Luke must have received a great deal of information about Jesus not only from Paul himself but also from the apostles with whom Paul had contact. We also know that Luke was a trained physician (Col. 4:14) whose education would have been an invaluable asset for helping him do the research and writing necessary to compose his gospel. Furthermore, God was the one who provided Luke a friend in Theophilus, a man whose concerns about Jesus needed to be addressed. This circumstance gave Luke the motivation necessary to write a gospel to deal with Theophilus’ questions and give us a glimpse at the purposes of God that we might not otherwise have received.

For instance, Luke demonstrates that the God of Israel, Yahweh, is Lord also of the Gentiles and deeply concerned with their plight. Matthew, Mark, and John make this point as well, but it is particularly evident in Luke’s work. The Greek of his gospel is refined and of a literary quality, which we would expect from someone of Gentile descent, though Luke may have converted to Judaism before hearing of the Christ. Is there a better way for God to demonstrate His love for the Gentiles than to inspire one to record the life of His Son? Luke also brings out Yahweh’s concern for the nations in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23–38. The evangelist traces the ancestry of Jesus according to the flesh all the way back to Adam, revealing that the Jewish Messiah is also of Gentile stock, for everyone between Adam and Abraham was a Gentile.

The third evangelist also shows the Father’s love for the nations through his special concern for world history. Of course, all four gospels, along with all the books of Scripture, are historically accurate and concerned with God’s work in recorded time. Yet the historical structure of Luke’s gospel gives us a unique look at our Creator’s intent to redeem people from every nation. Structurally speaking, a three-stage progression of God’s work in world history is discernible in Luke’s writings, which includes his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke 1:1–3:22 emphasizes the work of the Almighty in Israel; thus, the first stage of world history is the era of the Jewish nation in which God prepared a holy people to give birth to the Savior. Luke 3:23–Acts 1:26 represents the era of Christ’s earthly ministry, the second stage of world history in which Jesus defeated the power of sin, death, and Satan and witnessed to God’s glory before the Jews and Gentiles such as Pontius Pilate. Acts 2–28 and all of church history until the return of Jesus (implied in Acts 28:28) is the time for the salvation of all peoples, which God accomplishes through the work of the Spirit-empowered church. During this third stage of human history, the gospel goes forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth as the Holy Spirit moves the church to proclaim God’s grace in Christ to all the nations.