Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Gospel of Luke

It's Christmas again. Can I hear that big sigh? Of course Christmas means busyness, crowded carparks, preparing food and too much to do. But as Christians we know that this is our celebration. This is our time to worship God and the saviour that He brought into the world. I hope that you are finding time to enjoy reading the well known story in the lead up to Christmas. In December we are reposting Rachael Connor's thoughts on the Gospel of Luke from a few years ago. I hope that you find them encouraging and challenging. Thanks for being a part of the Equip Book Club this year. Merry Christmas! Rachael Collins
Beginnings: Things Fulfilled among us Luke 1-2
Christmas. It comes around so quickly now. But remember when the wait was so long? Remember your anticipation as the tree went up, as presents appeared, as your Mum baked… You knew what was coming and you looked forward to the joy of its arrival. Well, imagine a four hundred year wait. Imagine one thousand years. And then, an angel appears… and then another… and then the barren is with child… and the virgin… and you know what is coming. Wait. Anticipation. Joy. This is the atmosphere of these first two chapters of Luke; the very first Christmas.
Luke is careful to show that God is working in the events of this first Christmas in order to accomplish what he had promised. Luke, companion of Paul, made a careful investigation and produced an orderly account of ‘the things fulfilled among us’ (1:1). He has not just recorded amazing things, nor even just amazing things God has done, but things whose beginnings reach far back into history. At the end of the book, we find that Jesus himself understood that these things happened in fulfilment of what was written (e.g. 24:27; 24:44). The whole book is recording for us the fulfilment of God’s great and precious promises, and these first two chapters ground the book firmly in these promises and leave us without doubt that their fulfilment has begun; without doubt, so that we may believe with certainty.

Luke also shows us that God is acting in these times because of his tender mercy (e.g. 1:50, 72, 78). It is not because of the righteousness of his people, but because of his love and faithfulness that he looks again with favour on his people and now acts to bring to fulfilment that which was promised.
God is working in these times because of his tender mercy to fulfil his great and precious promises. But what exactly is it that He is doing? What is it that he promised to do? This is what I want us to look for as we read these chapters. 

Recommended Readings
1:1-4 Introduction (Isaiah 11-12; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3)
2:1-40 The birth of Jesus (Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 49:1-6)
1:5-25 The birth of John foretold (Malachi 2:17-3:5; 4:1-6)
1:26-38 The birth of Jesus foretold (2 Samuel 7:1-16)  
1:39-56 Mothers (1 Samuel 2:1-10)    
1:57-80 The birth of John (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:17-21; Isaiah 40:1-11; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 31:31-34)
2:41-52 The boy Jesus

Questions to ask yourself as you read.
· What is God doing here in these times?
· What do we learn about what God is like?
· Consider the people who are part of these events. What are they like? What are they expecting will happen next?
· Consider your place in these events. Few of you are Israelites. How are you spoken of? What has God done for you?

Learning from an older woman Luke 1:39-45
I have learnt a lot from Elizabeth. Old Elizabeth, barren for so many years, is now with child. When her younger relative arrives she welcomes her; not with begrudging bitterness at stolen limelight, but with joyful humility. I can’t say what Mary learnt from Elizabeth, but I would like to share what I have learnt from this lovely older woman.

Elizabeth teaches me about Joy. The angel had said that her baby would be a joy and delight to them (1:14). But the joy Elizabeth speaks of is more than the joy the birth of a baby usually brings to its parents. John leaps in the womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting, and Elizabeth, filled with the spirit, tells us that he leapt for joy. He leaps for joy because of the one Mary bears. Here, even before birth, John is paving the way for the Lord; preparing our hearts for the Christ, whose coming is a joyous occasion.

Elizabeth teaches me about Humility. Mary’s coming to her is special because it is the Lord’s coming (1:43) and she wonders, ‘Why am I so favoured?’ She wonders because she knows that she does not deserve such a visit, recognising her own sinful, humble state. Although ‘upright in the sight of God, observing all the commandments and regulations blamelessly’ (1:6), she is humbly aware that she is un-deserving. As am I, as are you, because we are all sinners, and it is this humble recognition that will fill us with joy at his coming.

Elizabeth teaches me about Blessing. Twice Elizabeth blesses Mary. Imagine being chosen to be the mother of God! Blessed indeed! And so, when the woman later calls out…

‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!’ (11:27)
…I am surprised that Jesus replies,

‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’ (11:28)
But I should not be so, for Elizabeth had explained,
‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.’ (1:45)
Mary heard the word of God and obeyed for she believed he would do what he promised; and so she was blessed. Hearing, believing and obeying are all part of the response of true faith.
Let’s also believe that he will do what he has said, and so be blessed.

About this month's contributor, Rachael Connor
How did you come to faith in Christ?
I was saved, by the grace of God, through children's ministry. This began in a family which knew God and served him. We went to a Sunday School where my teachers faithfully taught God's word and genuinely loved us with the love of Christ. I remember heeding Christ's call to follow him and submitting my life to him at a Girl's Brigade Camp when I was ten.

What book(s) has helped you most in growing in your knowledge of God?
I have a confession to make. I don't read theological books very well. I have begun many and finished few. So in my case, the answer is, indisputably, the Bible.

No comments: