Good News, right? Maybe…
We’re reading through the book of Luke as our guide to the History Maker series – how Jesus’ story has changed ours. The assumption of course is that this is a change for the better, a radical, history-making kind of change, that we would all want. Which is a good assumption – it’s why Luke called his account Good News (the angels when they announced the coming of Jesus actually called it “good news of great joy for all people”). Pretty definitive. But early on in the narrative, and particularly as chapters 3 & 4 set the stage, we see that this “news” might not always be seen as good. More to the point, that Jesus – his mission, his teaching and his life – might be opposed, resisted, rejected. These chapters describe for us not only how this begins to play out, but it sets up Luke’s implied question to his readers: Will you accept all that Jesus is, says and does, as good news for you? Will you persevere through the inevitable hardship and opposition that comes with following him?
Day 1: Luke 3:1-20
The early parts of Luke’s account described the parallel birth stories of two cousins – John and Jesus. Both had words from angels spoken about them – that they were going to be great, and had specific missions to accomplish. But one was clearly and vastly superior to the other. John was sent to serve and make way for Jesus. This becomes clear in chapter 3, as John begins his work of teaching and baptizing, getting people ready to meet Jesus. John’s teaching focused on this word repentance – a word that meant rethink, to change one’s mind and one’s direction. Specifically for John, it was a turning away from sin and turning to God. John was so compelling, and full of God’s Spirit, that people actually asked him whether he was the Messiah, God’s chosen deliverer. He quickly and clearly said no, but not with a kind of self-deprecating “oh no, I could never be a messiah”. He was really clear that he wasn’t “the one”. But he was also really clear what his mission in life was. He was meant to help people see “the one”. In that sense, though John’s birth and life was unique, his mission in life is not. It is the same as our mission. That somehow, through our words, our actions and the passion with which we live, others would come to see and know Jesus. As you read through John’s story, ask Jesus to help you live your life so that others would see and know Him. If any specific person in your life who needs to know Jesus comes to mind, pray for them.
Day 2: Luke 3:21-37
This past Sunday’s message raised this question: Does God love (me)? We explored the fact that this isn’t just a philosophical or “religious” question but an existential one: How do I know that God loves me? And is it based on what I’ve done (or haven’t done), my moral/immoral behavior or my religious observances? The answer to this question, we said, is rooted in Jesus title as “Son of God” (which shows up in his birth announcement from the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:35). But as we read into Luke 3, we realize that this wasn’t just a title of Jesus; it was the identity he was meant to live out of. This section of Luke describes his baptism, and specifically the supernatural occurrence that takes place as Jesus is coming out of the water. Heaven opens and the Father speaks directly to the son. The baptism of Jesus is widely considered the beginning of his public ministry; the beginning of what was really worth writing about (nothing much spectacular had happened yet – unless you consider Jesus’ carpentry work to be spectacular…I’ve looked, none of it is on e-bay so likely not). So God the Father is telling Jesus everything he needs to know before he begins his work of saving the world. What does he say? Last minute instructions? Reminders of all the truth he was supposed to teach? No. He tells him He loves Him, and that he’s really pleased with him. Before he had done anything spectacular and miraculous. Before he had uttered a profound word of teaching. Before he had willingly laid his life down on the cross. God affirms his love for His Son. He didn’t need to earn it. He had it already. And so do we. The scriptures tell us that we are “heirs” with Christ – in other words, we get (as children of God) what Jesus the perfect Son of God gets. And the greatest of these is Love. We are loved. We don’t need to earn it. We have it. Because of what Jesus has done and who He is. He is the eldest child in our family, and the rest of the siblings get what He gets. So take some time today to reflect on God’s love for you; his personal love for you. Ask God this question: What specific things do you love about me? What about me makes you well-pleased? Take time to listen to his responses. Write them down. Reflect on them in the coming week.
Day 3: Luke 4:1-13
One of the most consistent characters in the Bible is the Devil. When we first meet him (chapter 3 of the entire story) he’s twisting truth, misquoting God, lying and trying to get men and women to distrust God. Fast-forward to the 4th chapter of Jesus’ story and nothing has changed. Here we read an account of the temptation of Christ in the desert. Amidst all the words and seemingly bizarre temptations, his approach is the same: twist truth (by quoting scripture to try to get Jesus to listen to him), misrepresent God, lie and try to get Jesus to distrust God. Whereas Adam and Eve (the first humans) gave in, Jesus, the new human, does not. He continually chooses to trust his loving and affirming heavenly Father and reject the Devil’s offer of an easier way out (which was ultimately what he was trying to tempt Jesus to do – avoid the cross). I do not think there is any coincidence in the fact that God’s affirming love spoken over Jesus comes right before the temptation. The Devil persistently calls into question whether Jesus really was the Son of God. But more importantly, I think God the Father’s public display of affection in chapter 3 was what allowed Jesus to stand up underneath the temptation of chapter 4. Perhaps the same is true for us. Fighting temptation in our lives isn’t so much about discipline or will-power (though those things are helpful), but more about living securely in the knowledge that God loves us. Ask yourself these questions:
What temptations am I currently facing?
In what ways does knowing that God loves me help me fight temptation?
How is a lack of feeling loved and accepted making me vulnerable to this temptation?
Ask Jesus, the one who resisted temptation, to help you.
Day 4: Luke 4:14-30
With Jesus baptism and temptation completed, his public ministry begins. It begins with a grand announcement, in his home town synagogue, in front of his own family, extended family and friends. He is invited to read from the Scriptures, an honourable and privileged invitation. And he reads from a famous passage from Israel’s most famous prophet (Isaiah). This section in Isaiah that Jesus reads from is all about what Messiah, the promised deliverer of Israel, would do when he finally comes. Set prisoners free. Heal, restore. Bring good news to people who desperately needed it. All is going well. Then Jesus makes a stunning statement. This is fulfilled, today. In other words, I am the promised deliverer. We don’t know how they reacted to that particular statement, but we do know how they would eventually react. Jesus tells them. One day you’re going to reject me. So I will actually bring the good news to people other than you. I’ll heal and restore and bring God’s miraculous provision elsewhere. Because you won’t believe or receive it. That definitely does not go over well. Shortly after saying how great of a teacher he was, they decide they want to kill him. It’s a strange and manic turn of events. The truth is, this chapter actually sets the stage for the rest of Luke and his account of how people reacted to Jesus. Some loved him. Some were confused by him. Others hated him. Mixed response. Luke’s underlying question (beginning with this account) is: how will you respond to Jesus? Take time to consider the following:
- In what ways has it been easy for you to follow Jesus and accept what He has brought into your life?
- What aspects of following Him have been hard or seemingly impossible?
- What things about his work in your life have angered or disappointed you?
Pray and ask for the grace you need to trust Him more, and follow Him even in the hard or unexpected things?
Day 5: Luke 4:31-44
The final section of chapter 4 demonstrates that Jesus’ words about himself (that he was the fulfillment of the promised Messiah, come to heal, provide and set free) weren’t just words. Here we read several accounts of healing and redemption, from taking a way a fever to casting out a demon, and everything in between. Jesus Christ, superstar! The fans love it. And why not? His love, compassion, power and authority were changing their lives. Things that they thought had power over them, conditions they believed would never change, situations they were sure couldn’t be fixed…all of this was changing. Jesus was bringing a kind of healing and restoration they could have never imagined. Keep it coming Jesus. But vs.42-44 tell us that Jesus has other ideas. He wasn’t just sent to his own town, his own relatives, his own small circle. But He was demonstrating that God’s love, healing, power and restoration were for all people. So he moved on (after a time of silence, solitude and prayer). If nothing else, this is a reminder to us that God’s work and blessing and providence in our lives is not meant to be kept to ourselves, but to overflow in love and service to others. Just as Jesus did not stay in one place, building up his stock and reaping the benefits of his popularity, so we are meant to see our lives as things which overflow; that what we have been given, in Christ, is meant to touch the lives of others. Our gravitational pull is always inward; to keep looking for more blessing; to stay focused on what we need and the demands of each day. But the love of Christ flows continually, and his blessings, if they are truly received, are ultimately shared.
Ask: Who will I be interacting with this week?
Pray: Help me be a conduit of your grace, healing and love to them.
Ask: Who in particular is sick or hurting in my life right now?
Pray: Give me courage to call/text/email them a prayer of Your love and healing for them.