Weekly Summary – Luke 7-12
These chapters in Luke show us some of the core parts of Jesus’ ministry on earth and are overflowing with good lessons and teachings for us today. The Israelites of Jesus’ time had grown complacent and worldly. Their leaders used the Mosaic laws and rules they had invented to serve their own pride and greed and had therefore prevented many others from learning the truth of God’s will. Jesus had the monumental task of taking a group of people who were rooted in worldliness and shaking them out of their complacency and sin, showing them the path to salvation, and then preparing them for long term life as the Church with the Holy Spirit to guide them. This is the most recent and greatest act of God to reconcile the world to himself in order to save us from our sins. Each step in God’s plan has prepared the way for the next, and just as John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus’ ministry, so too the Holy Spirit is working today to prepare us for Jesus’ second coming. Today we have many of the same societal issues that Jesus dealt with in his first coming. Our culture today idolizes the greedy and prideful while openly encouraging blatantly sinful lifestyles. There are a lot of lessons in these chapters that will help us see the world as God sees it so that we can turn from our worldly ways and live a changed life for Christ. It takes a lot of hard work, and the world will not reward you for it, but that is why we have the Church, to help us through.
I have enjoyed going through these chapters this week, and I hope some of my thoughts made sense and have helped you.
“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8
In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus how to pray and he gives them the Lord’s prayer, which you probably heard before.
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
There are several parts of this prayer that are important and that I think we sometimes miss. First he praises God and asks for the kingdom to come. I think it is important to start our prayers by focusing on God, because he deserves the respect and it helps to remind us that he is more important and greater than our problems. Then it is important to remind ourselves that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and that we need to forgive others as well. Also, when praying for ourselves we need to keep it simple, by only asking for the basics of our physical needs and for God to guide us spiritually.
Then later he goes on.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
God is very good at giving gifts, and he is not looking to hide himself from us. If you need something then ask for it. If you need more wisdom or patience to deal with an issue in your life, then ask God for it, and keep on asking God for it. Just make sure to check your motives as it says in James 4:3. If you are asking for your own selfish reasons then you may need to rethink your request. But if you are asking for something for the reason of helping to further the kingdom and the gospel then God is excited to give to his children.
In Luke 10 Jesus is appointing 72 of his followers to go out ahead of him and to spread the message and to see which towns will be open to his message. Now I think that his instructions to this group of believers is unique to their purpose in aiding Jesus’ earthly ministry, but there are also some useful instructions for us today. In verses 2 and 3 he tells them to pray that God will send his missionaries into the world, and then tells them that they are the ones that are being sent, but that it will be dangerous. At that point in Jesus’ ministry I think that some of the disciples had been living in a bit of a bubble and hadn’t yet realized the kind of persecution that they would undergo in their lifetimes, and Jesus was preparing them for what was to come. I think that similarly Christians in America, and especially those who have grown up in the church have been living in a bubble. We have been a predominantly Christian nation for several generations, but our nation is quickly moving away from God and I personally believe that within my lifetime we will start to see a lot more persecution of the church. So those of us that plan to be bold with our beliefs and plan on spreading them to those around us need to be ready and understand that there are dangers associated with being a Christian and being different from the world.
In verses 4-8 Jesus describes how they should move about and how they should act while they are staying in these towns they are visiting. The summary of these instructions is that they need to move with haste and purpose and while they are staying as a guest in these towns they need to live simply and humbly. They were to take whatever was given to them gladly and not complain about any food or accommodations. I think that for us today we need to remember to live with a purpose and to not let ourselves be distracted by fancy living or money or other things of this world. Our lives are relatively short and there is a great deal of work to be done for the Kingdom. I’m not saying that we should go around without a wallet or purse or shoes like these disciples were instructed, but that we should lead simple lives so that we have more time for God.
At the end of Luke 10 in verses 38-42 we have the story of Mary and Martha, sisters who hosted Jesus while he was traveling and teaching. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to all that he said while Martha ran about getting food and things ready for all of the visitors. Finally Martha had enough and told Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the housework. Jesus replied.
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Again a lesson to live simply and to put spiritual matters ahead of physical issues in our lives.
So I want to start today’s devotion with a short story. The past two weeks or so I was in China on a business trip. While there my local guide/coworker asked me if I was a Christian and went to church. Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I have heard about persecution of the church I think about the countries in the 10/40 window, including China, where Christians have been very persecuted. This always leaves me with a bit of anxiety in the back of my mind while I am in China. When my guide/coworker asked me this I paused for a split second and was reminded of a passage from Luke 9:23-26.
“23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
So I unashamedly told him about my church and explained some very basic parts of church to him. He then told me about the government’s attempted control of churches in China and the persecution that he knew of. It wasn’t much, but I tried to bring up church with him a few other times during my trip. I hope that I helped to plant a seed as we looked at yesterday in Luke 8, we’ll see. I encourage you to never be ashamed of Christ and to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15.
The other part I want to look at is a passage that I find funny, but it also can hit close to home. It is Luke 9:51-55. As Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world he tried to stop in a village, but the locals did not welcome him, so the disciples asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven just like in the good old days, and he rebukes them and they move on. The disciples asking Jesus to nuke a town of people that he is ready to lay down his life for is so jarring and odd that I find it funny at first. I’m sure the disciples looked back on this moment in later years and shook their head, and laughed at themselves. I remember praying for silly things when I was less mature, and then wondering why the things I prayed for didn’t happen. If you ever feel like you are a little out of sync with God, that is OK, even the disciples missed the mark sometimes. But I encourage you to work hard at figuring out where your worldview differs from God’s, by reading the scriptures, praying, and asking for advice from more mature Christians. Maturity and wisdom take time and perseverance to develop.
In Luke 7:1-10 we find the story of the centurion’s servant. The centurion was a conqueror and a foreigner, but despite this we find that he is a God fearing man who supports the Jews by building a synagogue for them. He has a servant who is dying so he sends messengers to Jesus to have Jesus heal the servant. He shows great humility and faith in Jesus through his actions and the servant is healed because of his great faith. Faith unequalled in all of Israel according to Jesus.
I think there are a couple of important lessons in this.
First, maybe you are like the centurion, maybe you didn’t grow up in the church and are a new believer, and maybe you are looking at Christianity from the outside and wondering if you can even be a part of this community. Of course you can! Salvation and God’s work in the world is based on faith, not upbringing or culture or works. So don’t worry about your past, because God can work powerfully in your life no matter what is in your past!
Second, maybe you are like the Israelites in this story, you grew up in church or have been a Christian for a while and are maturing in your walk with God. I think for you this story has an encouragement and a warning. I encourage you to be like the Jewish people that the centurion sent to Jesus that were able to see past the fact that the centurion was a foreigner and conqueror and see the faith he had and to then recommend that Jesus help him. We should always be ready to welcome new believers based on their faith, and not judging them the way the world might judge them.
I also warn you to not be complacent or lukewarm like much of the Jewish community was when Jesus was with them. Jesus said that this centurion had more faith than any other in Israel. Many in Israel missed out on being healed and having their sins forgiven in Israel because they were out of tune with God and were not able to see when he was moving. I encourage you to be disciplined in your prayer life and in reading the scriptures so that your relationship with God will not grow stale.
I encourage you to read the rest of Luke 7, and especially verses 36-50, and to ask yourself a couple of questions.
Do I show my gratitude for Jesus’s sacrifice for my sins like the Pharisee or like the woman?
When I give God my time or money or talents do I give my best or do I give the leftovers?