Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gospel of Luke

It's only a few days to go now. Last minute presents to buy. Ticking off everything on the to-do list. But in the midst of the busyness, (and the school holiday whinging) here are some more thoughts on the Gospel of Luke to help us to take a moment and reflect upon the reason that we celebrate. 
In Galilee: the year of the Lord’s Favour (Luke 3:1-9:50)
Last week we read about how God had begun his great work of salvation. After a long wait, He has come to his people to comfort and restore them, to forgive their sins and to bring in His kingdom; salvation not only for his people, but for Gentiles too. All this began in the birth of two small babes, the one who would herald these things and the one who would accomplish them - the one who was the Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God. This week we see these babes grown and their work begin. The year of the Lord’s favour has arrived.

The historical detail Luke records at the start of chapter three grounds the momentous events which follow in history; real time, real people and real places. They take place in Galilee,during the reign of 
Tiberias Caesar. This detail is not only significant for its historical value, but it also reminds us that God’s people are waiting to be redeemed, waiting for their own King who would save them from this foreign rule, a King who would restore the Kingdom to Israel and show that God had finally forgiven their sins. Not surprisingly, therefore, these chapters of Luke address the question of whether Jesus is that very King.

Throughout these chapters we read of Jesus travelling around Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of God (e.g. 
4:43) and performing miracles. He heals the sick (e.g. 4:40) and the lame (e.g. 5:22-25), he casts out demons (e.g. 4:33-35, 41), raises the dead (e.g. 7:11-15) and proclaims forgiveness of sins (e.g. 5:20). He teaches with authority (e.g. 4:36). People flock to see, to hear and to be healed (e.g. 6:17-19). They crowd around him (e.g. 5:1) and are amazed by him (e.g. 4:36, 5:26).

Luke shows that all this happens in fulfilment of what was written (Luke 
4:21); drawing particularly and deliberately from Isaiah 61:1-2 (other Old Testament passages to keep in mind are Psalm 2:1-7Isaiah 35:5-642:1-7;Daniel 7:13-14). The miracles and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God occur in fulfilment of what had been promised, showing us both who Jesus is and what he came to do.

There are two questions I want us to focus on this week;
Who is Jesus?

What did he come to do?

As we work out who he is, this will tell us what he will do. As we see what he does, this will tell us who he is. As you read, think about what the prophecies had said, think about what he says about himself and about what he does, and think about what others say about him.

Other questions to think about as you read

· What is God doing through Jesus here?

· What does it tell me about the Kingdom of God?

· How do people respond to him? How do I respond to him?

Recommended Readings

· 3:1-4:30 Beginnings (also read Psalm 2:1-7; Isaiah 42:1-7)

· 4:31-5:26 Miracles (also read Isaiah 35:5-6)

· 5:17-6:11 Questions

· 6:12-49 Teaching

· 7:1-50  Is he the One?

· 8:1-9:6  Hear and Obey the Word

· 9:7-50  Who is this? (also read Daniel 7:13-14)

A story of love and the heart (Luke 7:36-50)

I love the story of the incident at Simon’s house.

I love the raw emotion of it, the way it shakes me from my academic and theoretical analysis and makes it personal, the way it forces me to ask myself, ‘do I love him?’

I love the way it reveals my sinful, self-righteous heart. I see the woman, her hair uncovered, kissing his feet and I respond as Simon does. I am embarrassed, squirming in my seat. I don’t know where to look! Like Simon, I have become a judge with evil thoughts, judging not just the woman but also the one who will not send her away. Like Simon, I think they are unclean, but I, the one who judges, am clean. I am like Simon, in danger of rejecting God’s purpose for myself (7:30).

I love the way it gently but unmistakably rebukes Simon, and me. Jesus says, ‘He who is forgiven little loves little’ (7:47); or she who does not think she needs to be forgiven, loves little. And he gently reminds me of all the hidden thoughts and desires that no-one else sees. He gently reminds me of my sin.

I love the way it reveals the Saviour’s heart. The saviour, the friend of sinners (7:34) who will not send away the sinful woman, but accepts and affirms her love and assures her of her forgiveness. Jesus, the friend of sinners, the one who forgives sin (7:49), the one who came to seek and save what was lost (19:10).

I love the way it shows me a truly repentant heart; a heart so full of sin and sorrow that it has burst open with love upon being forgiven. A heart that recognises its sin, and being truly sorrowful, turns to the saviour in faith for forgiveness. A heart that, in recognising and loving the saviour, is greater than John (7:28). A heart that, by God’s grace, is also mine.

I love this story. But do I love him?

And how would I demonstrate such love? What do you think?

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.

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