Reading Through the Bible, Monday, October 31. Luke 23 – John 1

    At first reading, much of what Luke has regarding the trial of Jesus mirrors the account of the other gospel writers.  But for Luke’s purpose, what stands out are the differences.  Only in Luke is Jesus accused of “perverting the nation” and “forbidding to pay taxes.”

    Since Jesus claims to be “King of the Jews,” he is sent to Herod for interrogation.  Only Luke tells us this story.  The choice given to the crowd is to release or Barabbas.  Only Luke tells you that Barabbas was charged with the crime of “insurrection,” a point he makes twice in the space of seven verses.  Thus the charges against Jesus in Luke are not religious, but political.

    Only in Luke’s account will you find Pilate specifically declaring Jesus innocent three times, and yet, Jesus goes to the cross innocent of crimes against the State and Barabbas, guilty, goes free.

    Two points demand our attention.  First, Luke takes pains to show that neither Jesus nor his followers (in the book of Acts) are guilty of political crimes – though they stand accused at every turn.  Christian people must be certain, if we are to be true followers of Jesus, that we are not guilty of breaking civil law – of being evil doers.  Only in Luke does the Centurion declare of Jesus that he was a “righteous” man.  People with a politically rebellious agenda cannot legitimately say they are followers of Jesus.  Followers of Barabbas perhaps, but not Jesus.

    But second, we should seriously note Luke’s pointed lesson that an innocent man died for the sins of the guilty.  Jesus did it not only for Barabbas, but for us all.

Reading Through the Bible, Sunday, October 30. Luke 19 – 22

    The largest section of Luke, beginning in chapter 9, comes to a close with chapter 19 and Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem.  This part has been devoted to Jesus’ teaching and it ends with a story and a parable.

    The story of Zacchaeus is found only in Luke.  Zacchaeus is not a tax-collector like Matthew.  Matthew was but an employee.  Zacchaeus is a “chief tax collector,” someone who bid for the right to collect taxes, satisfying the Roman levies and pocketing whatever else he could squeeze out of tax payers.  He would have been a wealthy man.  There is something humorous about this rich, powerful figure climbing a tree to see Jesus.

    When Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ home, the people become critical because they perceive Zacchaeus as a traitor (working for the Romans) and a thief (which he was).  Jesus shouldn’t be associating with such vermin.

    Zacchaeus is not a good guy who maintains his innocence.  He is a bad guy who changes – and not just determines to live right, but to try to make up for his past wrongs.  That’s the heart of repentance.  Salvation is seen to come to the tax-collector not in that he quits his job, but in that he performs it responsibly and ethically.

    Salvation is seen in our own lives the same way: not in an announced determination to do right, but in actually doing right.  Most important here is that you see not only Jesus’ mission: not to cater to the righteous, but to minister to the unrighteous with a view toward changing their lives.

Reading Through the Bible, Saturday, October 29. Luke 15 – 18

    Chapter fifteen is likely the most famous chapter in Luke’s gospel.  Church folks may not know the chapter number.  They may not even know it is in Luke, but everyone who has been in the Church for a while knows the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and especially, the lost boy.

    For years, all my writing was done with a pen – and even now, a pen is important to me.  Most of mine are expensive, and have been gifts from loved ones who know me well.  Most of the time, I carry the same type of pen I have been using since college – the same model I have given my boys at their college graduation.  Today, however, I have lost that pen. 

    It’s just a pen. 

    But we’ve been co-workers for many many years and I feel the loss.

    Ever feel like that about something you’ve mislaid?

    The key here in that “something” is the word “thing.”  We all know what it is like to lose some “thing” of importance to us – and the joy of finding it after believing it was forever gone.  Even Pharisees knew that feeling.

    What is more important, however, is the loss of a person, and all too often, after some falling out with a family member or good friend, it’s all too easy to write them off, or make impossible demands for reconciliation.

    But God isn’t like that.

    Twice Jesus comments on the greater rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who is returned to holy fellowship than over 99 others who played by the rules and never left.  God dearly loves the penitent.  What He’s not wild about are his sons and daughters who believe the forgiveness they give is more valuable and should be less available than that granted by the Lord.

    Such people will discover that the forgiveness they need will be hard to receive.

Reading Through the Bible, Friday, October 28. Luke 12 – 14

    You will find much similarity between chapter 12 and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, as well as Matthew’s second teaching section in chapter 10.  But what you will not find (because Luke is the only one to tell it) is Jesus’ parable in 12:13-21.

    The rule of thumb was that in inheritance, the oldest son received a double share.  In a family with 2 boys, the oldest son received 2/3 of his father’s estate.  This may well have been the problem – the younger son objected.  Or, it may have been that one of the boys (even the oldest one) was disinherited and was trying to circumvent the will.  Whatever the situation, the end result was animosity between the brothers – all over worldly goods.

    Parents do not owe their children an inheritance – and children should remember that.  Anything received from a parent is a blessing.  Sometimes, parents leave more to a specific child because they believe the child might need it.  Sometimes, that child is seen by his siblings as an unworthy heir who is likely to squander such an inheritance – as he has every other gift the parent has given him.  But this is the parent’s last gasp to provide for a child they believe is weak.  No one has a right to an inheritance in the first place, so properly, no one should complain.

    Somtimes, parents deliberately play favorites.  It’s hard for the other children to stomach – not because of the amount of inheritance involved, but because it is the parent’s final expression of a child’s value.  No parent, dealing with a child in such a manner, can be said to be godly.

    Then, there is the category of parent who, though faithful to God and a dedicated servant in His kingdom, forgets God when it comes to the end of life.  In some cases, more emotion is expended on how to divide the estate among children who have evidenced no love for God in their adult lives.  God has already disinherited them – but the parent never thinks about it.  Faith has never really penetrated the deep recesses of the heart.

    In the end however, this parable is not about the parent, but about brothers who become divided over material wealth.  The focus of life should not be on how much you have here, but how rich your relationship is with the Lord, a richness that is impoverished when people who should love one another fight over money.

Reading Through the Bible, Thursday, October 27. Luke 9 – 11

    At Luke 9:51 we move into the largest section of this book.  Chapters 4-9:50 contained some teaching, but it was mostly miracles.  The bulk of Jesus’ teaching (and no miracles) occurs from 9:51 through 19:27.  The section is held together by repeated notices that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.

    As Luke moves into the teaching section of his book, he emphasizes Jesus’ power with the story of the feeding of the 5000 and Christ’s identity with the story of the transfiguration.  But what stands out is the teaching on discipleship.

    Discipleship requires humility and concern for the least.  In Jesus’ day, that meant children.  It’s hard to fathom a society that didn’t value children, but that’s precisely the way it was.  Jesus said: “Whoever welcomes a child in my name, welcomes God.”

    Discipleship precludes retaliation and pride.  Rejected by a Samaritan village, the twelve wanted to call down fire from heaven.  Jesus rebuked them.  If someone mistreats you . . . move on.

    Discipleship means putting Christ first: above personal comfort, above family, and above regret – which comes from realizing that being a disciple might preclude you from enjoying the next popular wave.  Jesus said, pointedly and succinctly: “No one who begins this walk, and then regrets it, is fit to take it.”

Reading Through the Bible, Sunday, October 30. Luke 19 – 22

    The largest section of Luke, beginning in chapter 9, comes to a close with chapter 19 and Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem.  This part has been devoted to Jesus’ teaching and it ends with a story and a parable.

    The story of Zacchaeus is found only in Luke.  Zacchaeus is not a tax-collector like Matthew.  Matthew was but an employee.  Zacchaeus is a “chief tax collector,” someone who bid for the right to collect taxes, satisfying the Roman levies and pocketing whatever else he could squeeze out of tax payers.  He would have been a wealthy man.  There is something humorous about this rich, powerful figure climbing a tree to see Jesus.

    When Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ home, the people become critical because they perceive Zacchaeus as a traitor (working for the Romans) and a thief (which he was).  Jesus shouldn’t be associating with such vermin.

    Zacchaeus is not a good guy who maintains his innocence.  He is a bad guy who changes – and not just determines to live right, but to try to make up for his past wrongs.  That’s the heart of repentance.  Salvation is seen to come to the tax-collector not in that he quits his job, but in that he performs it responsibly and ethically.

    Salvation is seen in our own lives the same way: not in an announced determination to do right, but in actually doing right.  Most important here is that you see not only Jesus’ mission: not to cater to the righteous, but to minister to the unrighteous with a view toward changing their lives.

Reading Through the Bible, Saturday, October 29. Luke 15 – 18

    Chapter fifteen is likely the most famous chapter in Luke’s gospel.  Church folks may not know the chapter number.  They may not even know it is in Luke, but everyone who has been in the Church for a while knows the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and especially, the lost boy.

    For years, all my writing was done with a pen – and even now, a pen is important to me.  Most of mine are expensive, and have been gifts from loved ones who know me well.  Most of the time, I carry the same type of pen I have been using since college – the same model I have given my boys at their college graduation.  Today, however, I have lost that pen. 

    It’s just a pen. 

    But we’ve been co-workers for many many years and I feel the loss.

    Ever feel like that about something you’ve mislaid?

    The key here in that “something” is the word “thing.”  We all know what it is like to lose some “thing” of importance to us – and the joy of finding it after believing it was forever gone.  Even Pharisees knew that feeling.

    What is more important, however, is the loss of a person, and all too often, after some falling out with a family member or good friend, it’s all too easy to write them off, or make impossible demands for reconciliation.

    But God isn’t like that.

    Twice Jesus comments on the greater rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who is returned to holy fellowship than over 99 others who played by the rules and never left.  God dearly loves the penitent.  What He’s not wild about are his sons and daughters who believe the forgiveness they give is more valuable and should be less available than that granted by the Lord.

    Such people will discover that the forgiveness they need will be hard to receive.

Reading Through the Bible, Friday, October 28. Luke 12 – 14

    You will find much similarity between chapter 12 and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, as well as Matthew’s second teaching section in chapter 10.  But what you will not find (because Luke is the only one to tell it) is Jesus’ parable in 12:13-21.

    The rule of thumb was that in inheritance, the oldest son received a double share.  In a family with 2 boys, the oldest son received 2/3 of his father’s estate.  This may well have been the problem – the younger son objected.  Or, it may have been that one of the boys (even the oldest one) was disinherited and was trying to circumvent the will.  Whatever the situation, the end result was animosity between the brothers – all over worldly goods.

    Parents do not owe their children an inheritance – and children should remember that.  Anything received from a parent is a blessing.  Sometimes, parents leave more to a specific child because they believe the child might need it.  Sometimes, that child is seen by his siblings as an unworthy heir who is likely to squander such an inheritance – as he has every other gift the parent has given him.  But this is the parent’s last gasp to provide for a child they believe is weak.  No one has a right to an inheritance in the first place, so properly, no one should complain.

    Somtimes, parents deliberately play favorites.  It’s hard for the other children to stomach – not because of the amount of inheritance involved, but because it is the parent’s final expression of a child’s value.  No parent, dealing with a child in such a manner, can be said to be godly.

    Then, there is the category of parent who, though faithful to God and a dedicated servant in His kingdom, forgets God when it comes to the end of life.  In some cases, more emotion is expended on how to divide the estate among children who have evidenced no love for God in their adult lives.  God has already disinherited them – but the parent never thinks about it.  Faith has never really penetrated the deep recesses of the heart.

    In the end however, this parable is not about the parent, but about brothers who become divided over material wealth.  The focus of life should not be on how much you have here, but how rich your relationship is with the Lord, a richness that is impoverished when people who should love one another fight over money.

Reading Through the Bible, Thursday, October 27. Luke 9 – 11

    At Luke 9:51 we move into the largest section of this book.  Chapters 4-9:50 contained some teaching, but it was mostly miracles.  The bulk of Jesus’ teaching (and no miracles) occurs from 9:51 through 19:27.  The section is held together by repeated notices that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.

    As Luke moves into the teaching section of his book, he emphasizes Jesus’ power with the story of the feeding of the 5000 and Christ’s identity with the story of the transfiguration.  But what stands out is the teaching on discipleship.

    Discipleship requires humility and concern for the least.  In Jesus’ day, that meant children.  It’s hard to fathom a society that didn’t value children, but that’s precisely the way it was.  Jesus said: “Whoever welcomes a child in my name, welcomes God.”

    Discipleship precludes retaliation and pride.  Rejected by a Samaritan village, the twelve wanted to call down fire from heaven.  Jesus rebuked them.  If someone mistreats you . . . move on.

    Discipleship means putting Christ first: above personal comfort, above family, and above regret – which comes from realizing that being a disciple might preclude you from enjoying the next popular wave.  Jesus said, pointedly and succinctly: “No one who begins this walk, and then regrets it, is fit to take it.”

Reading Through the Bible, Wednesday, October 26. Luke 6 – 8

    Jesus is identified in the first four chapters of Luke’s Gospel: He is the “son of the Most High,” the “ruler of the house of Jacob,” “Savior” and promised one from the Old Testament.  From chapter four through part of chapter nine, Luke provides proof for Jesus’ identity with a list of astounding miracles performed by him.

    In chapter 6, we have Luke’s version of the “Sermon on the Mount.” His differs somewhat from Matthew’s, and we might be tempted to wonder: “who got it right?”  There is, however, no need.  Though there is much similar material here, there are enough differences to understand that they are not accounts of the same event.

    As Luke presents this core teaching of Jesus, we note that it has much more to do with physical circumstances.  In Luke Jesus addresses the “poor” and the “hungry,” not the “poor in spirit” or those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  He has harsh words for the rich and powerful: “Woe to you who are rich.  You’ve got all you are getting.”  He calls his hearers to care about the poor, giving to them knowing that God will return the gift abundantly.  Even our loans to the poor should be given as gifts.  All of this brings out what will be a central theme of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 9 – 19: God’s concern for the poor, the needy, the marginalized.  In our world, we are urged to rise out of whatever circumstances cause us to live in these categories.  But Jesus calls us to minister to them.  In fact, we cannot be said to be his disciples if we are not actively concerned for them.