And he [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53
“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells those in the room He appeared before.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high,” He continues.
He tells them to come and follow Him as He leads them to the outskirts of Jerusalem, as far as Bethany.
The hands that three days earlier were raised, secured by nails to a cross, are now raised high in praise. The raised hands of suffering now raised hands of blessing and victory. There was a price paid for this blessing. The most expensive free gift we will receive.
With their own eyes, they see Him carried up to heaven. And it is transformational...
No longer hiding in fear and self-pity they worship and return to Jerusalem with great joy. They continually go to the temple – the headquarters of the persecutors of Jesus – and praise God.
God, open our hearts and minds. We don’t want to believe in our head while doubting in our heart. We want to SEE You; to KNOW You. Move us from what we have heard and read about You to a CONVICTION and ASSURANCE that make us bold and brave to worship You and make You known.
Challenge: Spend time in prayer today asking God to help your belief; to make you bold; to open your eyes to see HIM; to recognize His power and great love.
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:30-31
Settled in to eat, their guest – the stranger that met them on the road – breaks bread. I wonder if their eyes grow wide as they see His nail-scarred hands in full view. He says a familiar blessing. Their eyes are opened! In the simple breaking of bread and thanksgiving.
They see! It is Jesus.
And He vanishes…
Their hearts are likely pounding out of their chest as they check under every surface and behind every door. Where has He gone? I imagine them talking over each other sharing how their hearts burned as He spoke Scriptures to them. Jinx.
Onward to tell the others. This good news must be shared!
While still breathlessly talking one hundred miles an hour with the other followers they ultimately reunite with, Jesus Himself appears among them.
“Peace to you!” Jesus says. The room could use a little peace to break through the fear, anxiety, anger, and uncertainty heavily looming over the room. They are startled and frightened; troubled and full of doubt.
He wants them to be certain of His presence. To examine His body. His hands and feet. He eats with them. He reminds them of the promises and prophesies in Scripture fulfilled in Him. Nothing they haven’t heard before, but suddenly rich with life and light. They remember. They believe.
Questions: What are your thoughts on how Jesus is appearing to His followers? What about His actions and words?
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
The two men walking with Jesus (though they don’t yet recognize Him) on the road to Emmaus, respond to Jesus’s questions…
Here is what they know: this person was named Jesus, He was a prophet, He was mighty in deed and word, He promised to redeem Israel, He was delivered by the chief priests, He was brutally crucified, and He has been gone going on three days now.
Here is what they heard: some women among their group of followers said the tomb was empty and an angel said Jesus was alive.
Here is what they hope: Jesus is who He promised, and He is alive as the angel has said.
It is a doubtful hope. They are sad and disappointed. Jesus diagnoses their core problem: they believed in their head, but not in their heart.
As they are walking, Jesus – still not recognized by them – teaches, interpreting all the scriptures and how they point to Him.
The men reach their destination, but Jesus starts to continue further. The men insist He stay and eat with them. They don’t know who He is, but there is something about Him they can’t quite put their finger on. They are drawn to Him. They want to remain in His presence; they want Him to stay.
Jesus never pushes Himself on anyone but is always willing to come when invited. Jesus accepts their invitation to stay.
To be continued…
Question: How can we keep Jesus close, even in times when we aren’t seeing clearly and don’t have all the answers?
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:13-16
One thing that constantly shocks me is the overwhelming number of times in these Biblical accounts that people are with Jesus, but don’t see Jesus; hear Jesus, but don’t understand Jesus; spend time with Jesus, but don’t know Jesus.
Two of Jesus’s followers are walking along the road. Sad, confused, lost. They are talking together – mourning, processing, rehashing. All. The. Things.
A man joins them. It is Jesus, but they don’t recognize Him. It’s the person they previously followed and are now in deep discussion about. Why don’t they see Him? Why don’t they know Him? We are told their eyes are kept from recognizing Him. How does this happen?
Jesus asks about their conversation, noting their sad countenance. He must have fought hard the urge to laugh as they asked Him if He was the only one in Jerusalem who did not know what had happened these last few days.
Oh, He knew.
Jesus probes further…pulling their hearts and thoughts into words. He knows what we are feeling and thinking. He wants us to speak it to Him.
To be continued…
Questions: How often do you think we should be seeing or hearing Jesus, but we miss Him? Why do you think we often miss Him? What can we do to ensure we see and hear Him?
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42
On the cross, Jesus is flanked by two criminals. One on either side. Both broken, bloody, beaten, breathing their last breath.
Though excruciating to even speak, one spends the last moments of his life hurling insults at Jesus. Sarcastic. Demeaning. Cruel.
Jesus is silent.
The other criminal on His right has a holy, righteous fear of God, despite his unlawful behavior. With his last breaths, he admits he is a sinner deserving of the punishment he was getting, unlike Jesus who had done nothing wrong. Perhaps he caught a glimpse of Jesus speaking or healing one day on the mountainside. In this devastating and final moment on the cross with nails in his hands and feet, he knew there was hope to be found in Jesus. He asks for mercy and remembrance.
God had to look away from sin. But He didn’t leave His Son alone. Perhaps God has given Jesus a precious gift during the last moments of His life in the flesh. Something so treasured by Jesus. A man of true faith. A sinner confessing and asking for mercy. A lost son running home.
This time Jesus isn’t silent.
“Truly I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus answers. Today. When his last breath escapes him, he will be with Jesus. This criminal likely lived a life of rejection, but he is about to be with Jesus. In paradise. The temptation, the sin, the rough circles he ran with, the rejection, the fear, the constant looking over his shoulder…will be no more. He is about to be free and fully restored in paradise.
This man had a radically different heart condition, responding with a radically different cry to Jesus, resulting in a radically different new and eternal home.
Challenge: Recap the two responses to Jesus and the two outcomes.
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48
Why Judas? We are told Satan enters Judas. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Judas was an innocent bystander. We know from John’s gospel account that this same Judas was a lover of money and helped himself regularly to the moneybag. Perhaps Judas rationalized that he had been betrayed by Jesus. He signed up to be part of a political superpower, not a humility and service gig. He loved money and power and prestige more than he loved Jesus.
John Piper notes, “Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway.”
Deception and greed opened a door in the heart of Judas, and Satan capitalized on it. “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
George Morrison says, “not only did Judas sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but he also sold himself.”
Sin will destroy us, but God’s plan will never be destroyed. The cross meant to kill is our victory.
It is a powerful reminder not to be deceived by how something appears on the outside. But even more importantly, a reminder to check our heart and motives frequently. To do whatever it takes to keep our heart pure and free of welcome invitations for Satan to slither his way in.
“Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” (2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG)
Challenge: Take time today to do a heart check. Have you strayed from truth and your faith in any areas? Are you trying to orchestrate things your way instead of seeking God’s way?
And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Luke 22:2
One of the holiest days – Passover – is drawing near and instead of engaging in prayerful preparation, the chief priests and scribes are wracking their brains over how they can put Jesus to death. Their current obsession.
But they were afraid. Not a fear of God and His judgment, but a fear of people. They couldn’t risk the public uproar if they arrested Him among the crowds that were always surrounding Him. God knows, they have tried and tried unsuccessfully to deceitfully trap Him, but nothing has worked. He is too smart for that. Too holy.
They needed another plan. They needed to know where He retreated; where He went in private. They needed to do it then and there. But how?
To their pleasant surprise, in walks Judas. One of the twelve who Jesus hand-selected after prayer and fasting to be His disciple. One of the twelve who camped with Him, ate with Him, listened to Him teach, watched Him heal…for three years!
They couldn’t have orchestrated a better plan. Though they are surprised, Jesus isn’t. He will soon reveal it at the Passover meal with His twelve closest friends, Judas included.
From the outside, Judas looked like a committed follower of Jesus. But here he is. Offering to betray Jesus for only thirty pieces of silver.
“High offices in the church do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin,” says J.C. Ryle. This is crystal clear in observing the religious leaders in Jesus’s time. And, sadly, Judas too.
Questions: How can someone seemingly so close to Jesus throw it all away to betray him? How can this be a warning to us?
So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. Luke 20:20
The Jewish elites are dying to catch Jesus in something – anything – but He continues to leave them baffled and speechless instead. Public opinion keeps them from going after Him directly, so they scheme some more.
At last…the perfect plan, they think. Let’s drag politics into it, they devise. Ooohhhh, and taxes…that’ll surely not end well, they plot.
“Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” they ask Jesus, following some manipulative & mocking complimentary words.
If He says to pay the taxes, they reason they can twist it to show He is denying God’s authority. Or, if He says not to pay, Rome will lose it and see Jesus as a troublesome rebel. They are sure it is a plan that can’t go wrong.
“Whose image and inscription does it have?” Jesus asks as He holds a denarius in His hands…the hands that will soon be pierced by the same government pictured on the coin. “Caesar’s,” they reply.
“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” Jesus responds. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. “…and to God the things that are God’s,” He concludes.
What are they to even do with this? Everything is God’s. Everything. Caesar may have his picture on a man-made coin along with a rule and right to taxes and submission for a time, but his power is limited. Jesus essentially says pay the tax but know there is a higher ruling authority under which everything and everyone submits. David Guzik paraphrases, “Give the coin to Caesar, but give your life to God.” It isn’t about two realms – secular vs. sacred; church vs. state; Caesar vs. God. God is over ALL things in ALL places at ALL times.
Questions: Whose image is imprinted on you? Are you giving Him all that is His?
And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Luke 19:7
The crowd grumbles at Jesus inviting himself to Zacchaeus’s house. How dare this teacher associate with such a disgraceful human being, they mutter among themselves and aloud.
But Zacchaeus is overjoyed. Yes, come to my house! Dinner it is!
We don’t know what was said over that dinner, but we know that Zacchaeus’s life was radically changed as a result of this encounter.
His entire adult life Zacchaeus likely heard from the Jewish religious crowd that he was a sinner, that he needed to repent, that he needed to stop extorting the Jewish people, that he needed to give to the poor. While all of this is true, it had no impact on his life.
But Jesus looking up at him from the bottom of that tree, noticing him, loving him at that moment, calling him by name, insisting He dine at his house, engaging with him…THIS forever changed him.
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Zacchaeus is a transformed man with renewed priorities.
Love for Jesus is the greatest motivation for change. Far more than legalism, guilt, lectures, or manipulation.
May we not be fooled by what we see. Things aren’t always what they seem. No one is too far gone for Jesus to stop, look up at, engage with, and radically change. In fact, they are the most likely to get His attention. May love be a mighty force for change in our lives and the lives of those we love.
Questions: What compels people to follow Jesus? How is Jesus different than the misguided religious leaders of His day?
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. Luke 192:3
As you read through the Gospels you hear the steady refrain that things aren’t always what they seem.
The first are last and the last are first. The King of kings comes wrapped in humility, not political might. Blessed are the poor, mourning, meek, hungry, persecuted.
The ones who appear righteous, moral, and most devout – the ones armed with the most Scriptural knowledge – are the ones who consistently miss Jesus. And the ones looked down on, uneducated, the outcasts, the sinners are the ones who experience radical life changes through their encounters with Jesus.
Those who should be the most overjoyed coming face to face with the long-awaited Messiah are the ones digging in their heels protecting who they are, what they have built for themselves, and their social status…all in the name of God. Conversely, the ones thought most unclean, unrighteous, unworthy by society are the ones unashamedly running to Jesus, and as a result, rejoicing in healing and wholeness.
On this day in Jericho, while the religious leaders were seeking to trap Jesus, the extremely wealthy, despised chief tax collector scurries ahead of the crowd and climbs a tree for a mere chance to see Jesus as He passes by. But Jesus doesn’t simply pass by. Jesus stops. He stops under the branches of the tree, looks up, and calls him by name.
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today,” Jesus says.
Questions: Where have you been struck by regarding the upside-downness of the Gospel? Where have you seen it play out in your life?
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! Luke 17:1
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” The first human question recorded in the Bible (Genesis 4:9). Sin is solely a personal and individual decision. Or is it?
Eve took the bite of the fruit with Adam standing right next to her. Her partner. Her husband. The one to whom God actually gave the instructions not to eat. Why didn’t he stop her? And not only did he not stop her, he grabbed the fruit from Eve’s extended hand and also took a bite.
While we don’t make another persons’ decision for them to sin, our influence is more significant than we may think. And Jesus takes this very seriously. The finality of judgment and eternity are real – Jesus is stern about causing another to stumble.
We live in a fallen world. Yes, temptations to sin will surely come, Jesus acknowledges this. But woe to the one through whom they come.
“Pay attention to yourselves!” Jesus says. Temptations are everywhere; don’t add to it. Don’t make it even harder on others.
Do we encourage those lies? Do we cause another to gossip? Do we drag friends into our sinful endeavors? Do we jump on the comparison and criticizing bandwagon when a friend confides about a disagreement with another? Do we promote books, movies, music that inspire sinful behavior, all tacitly condoning it? Are we a stumbling block to those weaker in certain areas?
Jesus says don’t do it! In fact, He says it would be better to have a huge weight hung around your neck and be cast in the sea (ummm…not fun!) than to be the cause of temptation that leads to a brother or sister in Christ sinning. Our actions impact more than just ourselves!
Questions: Are you typically a source of encouragement for your friends or a cause for their stumbling? Are you aware of your impact on others?
It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your younger brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found. Luke 15:32
The lost son is home. The father rejoices. But unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the story. Back home the older son is the one seething with anger, refusing to go to the celebration for his brother. After all, he stayed home, worked, obeyed, did all the things he was “supposed” to do. He is livid that his wayward brother is getting a party.
We don’t know the joy of being found unless we first know we are lost. The older brother didn’t know how spiritually sick he was. The religious leaders surrounding Jesus thought they were quite healthy as well.
This is a recurring theme from Jesus. He says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Are the Pharisees righteous because they practically live at the synagogue? Is the older brother righteous because he stayed home and worked for his dad? They certainly think so.
If we think we can earn righteousness, Jesus isn’t for us. Jesus can only save a sinner who knows he is a sinner. This is a big deal.
The older brother at home was just as far from God all along. Staying out of trouble and going through religious motions don’t necessarily draw one to God. Instead, he grew more bitter and further from God as he relied on his own works.
We can’t be saved if we don’t recognize we need saving. Often it is those of us who grow up in a Christian home that has the hardest time seeing it. We have a tendency to be the older brother at home going through the motions, but never realizing the riches and love of our Father.
Do you know you are a sinner in need of a Savior? If we don’t know we need Him, we won’t earnestly seek Him.
Question: Have you truly recognized your need for a Savior? Ask God to open your eyes to how lost you are without Him.
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons…” Luke 15:11
Sheep. Coins. Blank stares. “Still not with me?” Jesus may be thinking. Ok, let’s bring it a bit closer to home. He continues with another parable…
A man’s younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, leaves home, and ultimately squanders it all on sinful living, finding himself starving in a pigpen. He hits rock bottom. He knows he has traded what was best for what only brought sorrow and suffering. The enticing world let him down and he knows it is all his doing. He longs to go home to his father.
As he begins the long shameful walk back home, he rehearses his speech in his head. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Over and over he practices what he will say. He knows it is a long shot. He has brought disgrace on his family and he imagines his father anger when he learns how badly he screwed up his life and wasted all his father had given him.
But instead, His father is waiting. In fact, he has been watching and waiting for this day for a long time. His father recognizes him from afar and runs to him. He wraps him in the best robe, places a family ring on his finger and shoes on his weary feet. The best calf is prepared for a feast. His son was dead and is now alive; was lost and now is found. Pure joy…time for a party!
THIS is God’s grace. He loves us when we are most unlovable. He waits for us to come home. When we deserve punishment and a lowly position at best, He lavishes His love and riches on us. He celebrates. He makes sure everyone knows WE. ARE. HIS.
Once we know we are utterly lost without Him, we have everything we need.
Questions: Have you ever experienced grace in your life like the lost son in the story? If so, how did it change you?
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2
The Pharisees and scribes -- doing everything they can to avoid the unclean, sick, sinners -- are up to their usual grumbling about Jesus spending time with just these people. Time for another parable, boys…
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
My first thought? ME! That’s who! Why would you leave 99 all alone in the open field to search for the one who stubbornly wandered off? It’s a numbers game. Stick with the 99. (Thank goodness God is God, and I am not.)
But Jesus continues, “REJOICE with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Similarly, Jesus tells of a woman that REJOICED after finding her one lost coin.
THIS is who God is. He pursues us. He searches for us. He wants us to come back to Him when we have wandered. And when we do, He doesn’t scold us and condemn us for our wandering lost selves, He rejoices!
If you feel lost or burdened for someone who is lost, keep praying. Know that God loves you; loves them. God is still pursuing. And God stands waiting to rejoice and celebrate in the reunion.
Questions: Do you feel lost? Is someone you love lost? How can you find peace and assurance in God’s pursuit?
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor… Luke 14:7
To the guests at a dinner party of religious elites, Jesus tells them not to sit down at a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited, and you will be left in shame to take the only remaining seat – the lowest place. Instead, go and sit in the lowest place. Then the host may say, “Friend, move up higher,” and you will be honored. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The host makes the seating arrangements.
The host leans in, likely smirking, thinking to himself, ”Whew, not about me at least.” Until…Jesus turns to the host with a word. And to you, don’t just invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. Don’t only associate with people who can advance your personal agenda or give you something in return. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…those who can’t repay you. In this, you will be blessed.
Why do we so easily jump on board the worldly train when we know better? Just because “everyone else” is doing something doesn’t make it right or necessary. In fact, we are flat out told that we are going to live lives contrary to the culture around us. But yet, we follow. It’s like we just don’t quite believe that God is enough and that our hands and feet doing the work He calls us to do is enough. We just have to boost it a bit; give God a little hand here and there. Make that connection. Sit in that seat. Elevate our name (all for the sake of Jesus, of course, we tell ourselves).
We are called to share our faith and make disciples, no doubt. God has gifted us with passion, purpose and good work. But I think of the people I admire the most, starting with Jesus, and they never rely on self-promotion, posturing for seats of honor, or limiting their guest list to those who could elevate their personal status. They are completely confident in the power of God and the mission He has given them.
Challenge: Pray for God to give you wisdom and discernment to know the difference between doing your jobs in the places you have been called and self-promotion. Pray for God to show you where you might be trying to elevate your name instead of His.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11
Self-Promotion for Dummies.
Self-Promotion for Introverts.
Self-Promotion for Women.
Self-Promotion for the Creative Person.
Why Self-Promotion is the Key to Success.
How to Master the Delicate Art of Self-Promotion.
The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion.
How to Self-Promote without being a Jerk.
These are some of my favorite titles from a quick ”self-promotion” Amazon search. The world screams at us to promote ourselves. “If you don’t do it, no one else will.” Or, “Success is 1% perspiration and 99% self-promotion.” And, “You need to build a brand; build a following.”
Writer Leslie Ludy reflects, “It’s easy to justify self-promotion, because it often seems so wise and logical. After all, the more noticed and popular we become, the better Christian witnesses we will be, right? But surprisingly, that’s not God’s pattern at all.”
Dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus unassumingly observes the interaction buzzing around him. The vying, the posturing, the subtle and not so subtle strategies. “You see, a great seat can not only reflect social standing but can also create it,” is the unspoken motto they subscribe to.
Jesus has a few things to say about self-promotion. While the room is still humming with whispers, Jesus begins to speak. Almost immediately the room is silent, all eyes on Him.
To be continued…
Questions: Where do you feel pressure to promote yourself? How do you think self-promotion can get us in trouble? What are some of the potential pitfalls?
When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us,” then he will answer you, “I do not know where you come from.” Luke 13:25
“Lord, open to us,” those outside the narrow door cry as they knock. “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets,” they plead.
“I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” Jesus responds.
Oh, they knew who Jesus was. They even ate with Him, listened to Him teach, and likely saw Him heal many. But they didn’t KNOW Jesus. They were part of the “many.” The onlookers. The ones who enjoyed the wide worldly door. The ones who thought they could wait to repent; wait to follow wholeheartedly until it was a bit more convenient.
And while for now, the narrow door is open wide as God eagerly waits for everyone to strive for it, a time will come when the door is shut. Forever. Many will seek to enter and will not be able.
At judgment day, everyone will know the truth. But it will be too late once the door is locked. J.C. Ryle says, “Hell is truth known too late.” We strive and strive for all the wrong things. The narrow gate – Jesus alone – is what our striving should be about.
Strive for the narrow door. Strive for the FREE (to you) gift of entrance through the blood of Jesus; for saying, “Yes, Jesus. You are my Savior. You are the Lord of my life. You are the ONLY way, truth, and life. I don’t want to just know about You, I want to KNOW YOU. I surrender.”
A day will come when the choice will no longer be available. Drop everything that is keeping you from squeezing through the narrow gate, and with a light load of only the work of Jesus, enter.
Question: Where are you striving? Are you or a loved one waiting for true repentance and whole-hearted surrender to be a tad more convenient?
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Luke 13:22-23
“Will those who are saved be few?” A question from among the following crowd. Assessing the numbers; assessing the odds.
Jesus flips it back on them, essentially saying, “You wonder if there will be few? What about you?” We are often overly concerned with the business of everyone else without looking within.
Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly, but instead gives some advice on how to be saved: “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
Strive to enter. Strive implies a great deal of agonizing effort. But it is a striving effort toward the narrow door. A door where our good works for show won’t fit; our accomplishments won’t fit; our appearance on the outside won’t fit; our ancestry won’t fit; our possessions won’t fit.
“For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able,” Jesus continues.
Sin and society put many obstacles and detour signs in front of the narrow gate. If we are following the crowd, we might be running with the “many.” We might be on the wrong path. The crowd may be distracting us from the road that leads through the narrow door.
It takes an intentional striving effort to go against the cultural masses. God doesn’t share His throne. Partial obedience – partial surrender – isn’t obedience or surrender. We are to love God with our WHOLE heart, our WHOLE mind, our WHOLE soul. Half-hearted isn’t striving.
Questions: What do you think entrance to the narrow gate looks like? Why do you think it is narrow? Why does it require striving for? What does this type of striving look like?
If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light. Luke 11: 36
“Let there be light,” God speaks.
The world is dominated by dark and light.
Time is separated by day and night.
Be careful the filter for what is light and what is a shiny imposter.
The eye is a lamp unto the body.
Be careful little eyes what you see.
Everything bright and attractive and enticing isn’t light.
Don’t mistake darkness for light.
For even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.
When we think we have light, we might be in a dangerous place.
Here is where to find true light:
God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.
In Christ alone is life; the light of all mankind.
Jesus is the light.
The light came into the world.
But the people loved darkness instead because their deeds were evil.
What do you only do in the dark?
Open your eyes to the light.
The Jewish people were surrounded by light.
But they didn’t see the light; they missed the light.
See the light.
Receive the light.
Actively and intentionally live in the light.
Then bravely, boldly, unashamedly shine the light.
Don’t hide it, and don’t hide from it.
Lift it high for all to see.
Questions: Are you chasing after the light? How can God’s light be your guide? How can you shine your light – sourced from God’s power – to those you come in contact with?
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. Luke 10:39-40a
Jesus enters the house. I can’t believe He is here. Will He notice those leak stains on our ceiling? Look at all the people who came with Him…it is going to be so hot in here. I should have made tea instead of coffee.
I’m anxious. My mind wanders, pondering my deficiencies as a hostess.
Meanwhile, everyone else is enthralled by Jesus. I wonder what He is even talking about. I try to focus; to clear my mind and just listen. That lasts about 2.5 seconds. My mind goes to the trash bag left at the back door. If I sneak out quickly, I can remove it before anyone notices.
What have I missed? They are all listening and even laughing together. They are filled with joy and peace while I am a mess. This isn’t right. I’M THE ONE WHO INVITED HIM. I should be the one filled with joy and peace.
Two hours pass I have not really heard Jesus at all. I’ve been eagerly waiting to meet with Jesus, and I missed it all. My heart breaks. And now He is getting up to leave. What is wrong with me?
I lean against the doorframe as they exit one by one. Tired. Unfulfilled.
Jesus walks up to me and stops for what feels like an eternity. He gazes deep into my eyes and says, “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” It isn’t judgmental or cruel; quite the contrary…it is compassionate and calm. The opposite of my countenance.
His words cycle on repeat in my mind. Yes, I did everything but the ONE THING that was necessary; the one thing that needed to be done. To sit at the feet of my Savior and just be present; just listen; just soak in His glory. Never again, I vow.
Questions: Are you often so distracted with minor things that you miss the big things; miss Jesus’s presence and work in your life? How can you make an effort to be more focused on and present with others?
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Luke 10:38
Do you ever picture yourself in the story of Jesus’s visit with Mary and Martha? Sadly, I can envision my “Martha-ness” too well…
“Sam, kids, Jesus is coming to our house. Can you believe it?! Hurry, we have so much to do. The house is a mess. WE ARE A MESS!” I’m so excited, but a little anxious at the same time.
“Maddie, clean your room. Jake, I told you a million times to put your dirty soccer socks in the washing machine.” My stress level starts to rise.
“What in the world will we eat? Of course, we have nothing but cereal and leftover pizza. Maybe I can whip something up.” My heart is beating faster. I’m starting to panic a bit.
“Sam, we should have done that yard work last weekend. It is a disaster.” Irritation begins to brew.
“Maddie, why haven’t you cleaned the bathroom… and your room is full of clothes. Too late to clean now…just shove it all in your closet…if you can find room in there.” My tone is full of bitterness and sarcasm.
“Jake, are you going to wear that? When was the last time you brushed your hair?” I am yelling now.
“Oh my gosh, he is heeeeere! This is great! But wait… we aren’t ready. Quick, get the door and distract him while I try to finish up. Someone help me in the kitchen. We can at least make some coffee. Kids, remember your manners.” I’m all over the place and freaking out. I don’t even go to the door as I scan the room examining all that is left undone.
To be continued…
Questions: How do you prepare for and welcome guests? Is it a scramble to impress or calm anticipation of sweet fellowship and community?
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
[insert your name],
Beloved, [insert your name], I give you power and authority. I am calling you; sending you out to proclaim the kingdom of God. But, [insert name], take nothing with you. Don’t rely on your own power. Don’t count on your experience, personality, strengths. They will always fall short and let you down. They will trick you into thinking you can do this on your own. Instead, I will provide all that you need.
And if you are not well received – which will happen -- shake the dust off your feet. I too was often misunderstood and rejected. I know it stings at the time, but it is nothing compared to the beauty that lies ahead. I give you permission to move on.
Preach the Gospel. Speak my healing and redeeming words. This is your charge.
Be fully aware, [insert your name], if you choose to follow me, it won’t be easy. You will have to deny yourself and take up your cross. Are you ready for this? Have you counted the cost? Can your ego take it?
It will be tempting to listen to the lies around you about what you need, and what success looks like. I’m not about shiny and smooth; I’m about surrender and saving souls. I’m not going to sugar coat it. There is nothing more important than the truth. But know this: in losing your life, you will save it. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. It will be glorious. After all, what are accolades, power, followers, honor in this temporary world if your soul is lost?
Along the way, I will show you amazing things, [insert your name]. You will see my glory and experience my power. But never forget, the least is the greatest in my kingdom. Be aware of what you are striving for. Service, humility, trust, faith, self-sacrifice is the skill set I’m looking for.
Don’t waste your time and energy fighting with others around you. Consider anyone not against you for you. Don’t be distracted by nuisances. Stay on task. Don’t look to the side or behind you. No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
Count the cost…but consider the reward.
[insert your name], are you in? Will you come and follow me? Will you carry the baton passed by those before you and share the good news? Will you consider holiness better than earthy honor?
[insert your name], I so desire to have you on the team. I see what you are capable of accomplishing in my name. Oh, I wish you could see it too. I see the souls saved by the seeds, watering, and sowing you have the ability to do in my name if you say, ‘yes.’ I love you no matter what you decide, but I don’t want you to miss out on all that I see in you. I won’t force, and I won’t beg. I will only extend the invitation and promise to be with you through it ALL.
What do you say, [insert your name]?
With eternal & unconditional love,
Challenge: Read this letter from Jesus based on Luke 9 several times inserting your name. Write a letter back to Jesus with your response.
When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7:9
Marvel… “a sense of astonishment, whether critical or inquisitive, or admiration with a nuance of awe or fear.”
Marveled is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, generally concerning the crowds’ reaction to what Jesus is teaching and doing.
But Jesus -- God in the flesh -- marvels only on two occasions: Faith and unbelief.
The centurion – not only a Gentile(non-Jew) but a Roman soldier; the enemy of the Jews – is the one with faith. He believed Jesus would heal his servant and friend, even if Jesus just spoke it to be so. And from miles away, with a word from Jesus, his servant & friend is healed. Unexpected and pure belief. Jesus marveled at his faith.
Contrast that to the Jewish community in Jesus’ hometown – His own people who should know Him the best – they were the ones with unbelief. And very few miracles occurred in their midst. Unexpected and debilitating unbelief. Jesus marveled at their unbelief.
Familiarity can breed unbelief, but unexpected belief can come from anyone and anywhere.
Questions: Is Jesus marveling at you? For faith or unbelief?
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… Luke 6:27
So how do we get to a place of true blessing with God as the filler of all the holes in our heart, our lives, our contentment and joy? Perhaps this burning question is why Jesus launches into His next teaching.
Jesus tells us to love. Yes, we love those who love us, that is easy. But Jesus says to love our enemies. And love is an action, not a feeling. Love does stuff. We do good to those who hate us. We bless those who curse us. We pray for those who abuse us. These are HARD words to hear, much less do.
Loving doesn’t mean condoning, and it doesn’t mean passivity, but it does mean responding differently. It is stepping outside of our entitlement mindset that makes things all about us, and moving into reliance on God…His justice, His mercy, His grace. Because when we do these humanly impossible things, it isn’t us doing them. It isn’t our natural inclination. It is all the power of God in us. We have to tap into Him to be able to do these things, and we can do these things until we feel these things. We can act like the person we want to become. It isn’t faking…it is trusting God to come in and change us.
It is about loosening the grip on the things we strive so hard for and cling so tightly to. And in that loosened grip – that poverty, hunger, emptying – we are filled even more with God. Oh boy, how hard it is to make that leap. Honestly, I haven’t fully figured it out. But I want to.
Oh, God, change my want to. Help me want Your definition of blessing more than I want my definition of blessing. And in the meantime, help me to LOVE as You love. Help me to see people and my surroundings through Your eyes, not my own. Help me to be the person You see when You look at me. Help me to trust You enough to do what You say, even when I don’t yet feel it.
Challenge: Try to go through the day thinking about how Jesus would love in each scenario you are in. What would He do? What would He say?
Blessed are the poor….hungry…those who weep…those hated, excluded, reviled….Woe to those who are rich, full, laughing, well-spoken of… Luke 6:20-26 (excerpts)
Our idea of blessed is all backward when define it by things going our way or having beautiful things. But this is how we define it most often, isn’t it? We are blessed when we have food for a nice meal, we are blessed when our social media following grows, we are blessed when we win, we are blessed when we make captain of the team, we are blessed when we get that amazing job and new house and child.
Jesus says otherwise. Not that these are bad things but blessed is not what you physically have possession of, it is when you realize you have nothing of any value at all; when you understand God is what you need.
When we have resources, we may ask God to fill in some gaps, but we still try to take care of as much as we can on our own. We don’t tap into the mighty power of God.
When we have food, we may feast on the bread of life, but only a little because we are quite full of what we already have. We miss out on the fullness of God.
When we are satisfied, we may ask God for those new desires, but we aren’t desperate for them. We are pretty okay. We miss out on the truly abundant life God has in store for us.
When people admire us and speak well of us, we think we are on the right track. We crave more from people and truth becomes blurry. We may be leaning too far into things of the world over things of God.
In story after story and teaching after teaching, Jesus tries to get us to see this truth, but we continue to live according to the world’s definition of blessed. We may get a little of God, but only what fits in the holes left behind by our own filling. As a result, we miss the abundance of God.
Question: How do you define blessed? How might this differ from Jesus’ definition? Why do you think that might be the case?
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