Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #2 (13-24)

I am continuing to read through the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today,Luke Chart Color edited by John Stott, and post quotes from my NT reading 3 times per week on my Facebook page. I just finished reading through the Gospel of Luke last week, accompanied by the third volume in the series, The Message of Luke: The Saviour of the World, by Michael Wilcock (as always his quotes are in blue font below). In chapter 13 Jesus continues his teaching to prepare his disciples for the coming kingdom of God. He pictures it as a banquet and explains that the repentant, ready and committed will enter the kingdom banquet but those who reject the gracious invitation will be excluded and their invitations given to others (outcasts) who will respond.

(Jesus) comes to men even now, day by day, with the good news of the kingdom of God...Unspoken but implied is the urgent appeal to heed the lessons of the previous two sections, as to how man must come to seek God in penitence and emptiness, and how God will then come to meet man in salvation and blessing. Will those lessons be heeded, or not? This is the judgment. Luke 13.6-17, 141.

Any number of people today will talk about ‘One above’ whom they acknowledge but ignore, will claim to be ‘Christian’ while denying what Christ says they ought to be, and will rest content with ‘believing’ in a religion which they have neither the patience nor the courage to follow through to its conclusions. The man who wishes to pass through the narrow doorway of salvation will have to discard such half-baked religious notions before he can do so. Luke 14.1-6, 145.

It is only he who is prepared to ‘renounce all’ who will be able to enter through that narrow door. It is no use hoping for another chance, or for a less uncomfortable stripping, or for a less total yielding. You can only be a disciple if you discard all sloth, all pretensions, all reservations. That is what it means to be a disciple. Luke 14.33-35, 148.

Luke 15 is one of the best loved chapters in the Gospel. It describes how God’s love pursues sinners to bring them back into relationship with him. The outcast has value to Jesus because they are made in his image as his cherished children.

We see in this chapter, then, the great scheme of the trinitarian salvation, and, viewing each parable separately, the three Persons of the Trinity as they are engaged in it. Who is concerned with the salvation of man? It is the triune God himself. It is his ‘property’ which is precious but lost, his own sheep and his own silver and his own son, and it is he who longs to have it restored and rejoices when he has recovered it.  Luke 15, 153.

And thus 15:7 summarizes the whole lesson. It tells us who is concerned in the salvation of mankind: the principalities and powers of heaven, the triune God himself, none else and none less. It tells us why: because it is God’s joy and delight to save men from their sins. And it tells us how: by their drawing near to God as penitent, helpless sinners. For there is ‘joy in heaven over one sinner who repents’. Luke 15, 157.

In chapter 16 Jesus teaches that God gives us money to use as a tool to build relationships with God and our fellow human beings. We are accountable to God for how we use our wealth to build his kingdom. Real disciples value God and his priorities over worldly wealth. The choices we make now with our money will have eternal rewards or consequences.

Everything that we have here but shall not be able to take with us into the next life—your property, ability, time—belong to this life only, says Jesus, yet what will happen to you then, when you pass into that life, will depend on what you are doing with them here and now. Make sure that your use of them brings you into a fellowship of friends which will survive beyond death.  Luke 16.1-13, 160.

The story could equally well have featured a politician with his power, or an academic with his brains, or even a preacher with his eloquence—indeed anyone with any kind of resources or skills. Every man possesses something of the sort, be it no more than a heart and a hand and a span of life; and to every man is given some ‘Lazarus at the door’, a test case as to whether he will use those possessions rightly or wrongly, with love or with self-indulgence, bringing God’s will into the matter or leaving it out. Will he or will he not bring into time the considerations of eternity? That is the question. Luke 16.14-31, 162.

God operates the universe on the basis of grace. Thus we should live by grace demonstrated by forgiveness, faith, humble service and thankfulness. The smart way to live is to invest your life in the Messiah’s eternal kingdom now to reap the benefits of the coming consummation of the kingdom. 17-18

Having been privileged to receive all this teaching, which is Luke’s basic theme (the message of salvation for all men), we also face the challenge which is spelled out in the words of Jesus in this section, and illustrated by the story of one of his great deeds put into the centre of it. It is the challenge to be like the one, and not like the nine: actually to turn back, praising God with a loud voice, and to fall on our faces at Jesus’s feet, giving him thanks. Luke 17.1-19, 167.

For in another sense, the kingdom has come already: that is, God’s kingly power has been revealed in the person of Jesus himself... If they could not recognize the first coming of the kingdom when it was right under their noses, there was no point in telling them anything about its final coming. Luke 17.20-21, 163.

It is a mark of the disciples of Jesus that they practice constant contact with the God who they know always hears their prayer. His answer may not always be what they hope for; it may sometimes be ‘No’, it may often be ‘Wait’. But they learn by experience that, as often as they pray, so often will they be answered speedily. ‘His elect … cry to him day and night’, in fact, not because he does not listen, but precisely because he does. Luke 18.1-8, 165.

The children represent the attitude a person must have if he is to ‘receive the kingdom of God’ (18:17); conversely, a man preoccupied with his possessions will find it ‘hard … to enter the kingdom of God’ (18:24). The blind man at Jericho, as he hears the crowd passing, cries out to the ‘Son of David’, the descendant of Israel’s greatest king; and Jesus responds in the same spirit, halting the procession as with a royal word of command, having the suppliant brought into the royal presence, asking his request, and granting it then and there with royal bounty (18:38–43) Luke 18, 169–170.

Luke is saying that, whatever people may have understood by the kingdom, when it came to the most important facts of all ‘they did not grasp what was said’—their understanding of the whole was hopelessly awry if the cross was missing from it.  Luke 18.34, 172.

We receive salvation by responding to Jesus seeking us and we gain kingdom reward as we serve our
king by investing the resources God gives us in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus presents himself to us as king, lord, God and savior. Our response should be obedience, sacrifice, praise and trust. 19

The description of Zacchaeus does give good hope that the other changes will follow in due course; the man is a capitalist—a collaborator—a crook—a notorious bad lot!—and when we witness the conversion of a person like that, there are two things we can hardly deny: its cause must be a power which can work miracles, and its effect will be repercussions all round in the society in which he lives. In other words, his world will begin to change. But it will be only because his heart has been changed first.  Luke 19.1-10, 173.

It is ‘the thunder of the Lord’s appearing’, the return of the King, which will bring our age to its close. Should we then change our ways as that day seems to be approaching, either to withdraw from the affairs of ordinary life into an increasingly inactive piety, or to plunge into ‘Christian work’ with increasingly fervent activity? No, we should not need to; the same steady faithful service is what he will be looking for, whether he returns soon or late. Luke 19.11-27, 174.

For Luke’s grasp of the message of the kingdom has from the beginning made him stress the universality of it. Jesus is King; but the earthly Jerusalem is too small and mean to contain his majesty. All nations are to be his. He is the Saviour of the world. So the destruction of that city and people, though in one sense a tragedy, is in another sense a challenge to take seriously the call to worldwide evangelism. The kingdom is for every city, every people, that the church can reach and touch with the message of salvation. Luke 19.39-44, 175.

Israel’s judgment will come because they did not recognize the coming of their king and rejected
Him, and will last until He comes again. Instead of trusting their Messiah they challenged his authority and he, with sadness, pronounced judgment on them and their religious system. 20-21

The ‘I know best’ attitude is the result not of education, nor of intellect, nor of commonsense, nor of intuition (although any of these may foster it), but simply of the basic pride of the human heart. This kind of religion must be swept right out. We cannot afford a man-centred ‘I’-centred faith. We must ‘respect him’ (20:13), for the temple from which the chief corner-stone is ‘rejected’ (20:17) cannot be far from collapse. He must always have the central place and the last word. Luke 20.1-18, 183.

His (Jesus') kind of religion is one which embraces all of life, the secular as well as the sacred, and has something to say about every part of it. Luke 20.19-26, 183.

A thoughtless religion is as unworthy of the temple as any of the distorted kinds we have seen hitherto. It is no use accepting truth without thinking it through—swallowing it without digesting it. Luke 20.41-44, 185.

Like those who saw Jerusalem besieged, those who see the Son of man coming in glory will know that judgment is not simply on its way, but has actually arrived. These, and these only, are the end-signs. All other signs indicate, not the end we look towards, but the age we live in... The disciples are told ‘to reject the usual apocalyptic interpretation of political distress. It is a sign of the age, not of the end.’ ‘This will be a time for you’, not to calculate the nearness of the Lord’s return, but ‘to bear testimony’ (21:13). Luke 21.20-28, 187–188.

Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension show that He truly was the God-Man who so completely identified Himself with sinful humanity that He suffered the consequences of sin, defeated the dark forces of sin, satan and death, and now offers forgiveness to all nations. The Son of Man is the Passover lamb whose blood begins the New Covenant and new kingdom. He submitted to the will of the Father to die, though He did not deserve it, to becomes the means of forgiveness for sinners and hope for eternal life. His resurrection shows that the glorified Son of Man can provide salvation for all nations and we are commissioned to take this message of forgiveness and universal kingdom access to all of the world. 22-24

‘Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover” ’ (22:8). The strange thing was that as they went they found the way had already been prepared for them (22:10–13). And what happened with the preparations for the meal was happening also on the broader scale. A divine plan was being unfolded, as a counter-plot to that of Satan. Luke 22.7-13, 191.

First he shows how the Passover fits in... But now it is to be filled with its full meaning, and from this year onwards will signify to the people of God a deliverance of the profoundest kind, from sin and death into eternal life. Moses’ exodus will be fulfilled in Jesus’s exodus. Luke 22.14-20, 192.

But for the rest of you, although Simon is going to deny me, yet I can restore even one who sinks as low as that, and through him I shall restore all of you. So much for Satan’s power! He has met his match. When the Son prays to the Father, a power is released which checks all Satan’s demands. Luke 22.31-34, 192.

From now on it is Jesus who will occupy the throne of judgment. By rejecting God’s Christ, they forfeit their right to be leaders of God’s people. In the act of judging him, they themselves are judged by him. From this point onwards the old Israel is replaced by the new, whose rightful ruler he shall be for evermore. Luke 22.63-71, 194.

The most diabolical of all the schemes of Satan was not only countered at every point by a superior plan of God’s devising. It was actually woven into that plan, and made to serve its ends. And if that was what God could do with the master-plot of hell, then there can be no evil which he cannot in the end turn to blessing. Luke 23.1-25, 197.

Let no reader imagine that he has begun to understand the Christ of the gospel—or indeed the gospel of the Christ—unless the cross has come to dominate his horizon also. Only when he has sought it, and reached it, and let it fill his vision, as it filled the vision of the Lord and of his evangelist, can he say that he is beginning to see what the Christian faith is about. Luke 23.26-56, 200.

But for the rest—for the thief, for the soldiers, for the friends, for the bystanders, even for Joseph (member of the Jewish Sanhedrin though he was!)—the offer of salvation stands open. It is for all who are not fatally determined to make their own way without Jesus. Luke 23.26-56, 204.

No deed of Jesus, and certainly not this last and greatest, has been without its accompanying word. No event has been left unexplained. Nor has any part of God’s creation or man’s life. The disciples know the words of Jesus, and need to be reminded of them. The world at large has the words of Jesus available to it, and needs the church to preach them and apply them to us condition. Yet both church and world are often quite unnecessarily ignorant of these words, a system of faith which takes everything into account and interprets all of life as one connected and meaningful whole. Luke 24.1-12, 207–208.

What we believe and what we proclaim must be only those truths which we are authorized to believe and proclaim by the teaching of the twelve...We are not at liberty to say that we feel ‘led by the Spirit’ along paths which have not been mapped by the twelve. To learn of Jesus, and so of his way forward for his church, we look to their witness alongside the witness of the Spirit: neither without the other. Luke 24.33-53, 213.

What has been achieved in the course of the gospel story is that a new way has been opened by which man and God can be reunited. There is a new temple. So it is in the temple that Luke not only begins but also ends his Gospel; the important thing now, however, is not the old building, which is doomed to destruction, but the community of Jesus’s people gathered there. Henceforth it is they who ‘are God’s temple’, and among them God is to be met with. For them, and for them alone, life is a meaningful thing, God’s word is a living reality, and the proclamation of the good news is a consuming passion. They know the Saviour, and they want the world to know him too. Luke 24:53, 215.

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