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A Bible Study Devotional

Luke 4:14-30: Receiving Good News

Read: Luke 4:14-30

As Jesus went about preaching in Galilee, many received his message and glorified Jesus because of his message, but Jesus’ hometown spurned him when he preached in their synagogue. In the customary manner of synagogue, they would read from a scroll. On this day, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 which is a prophecy relating to how the prophet would preach good news that would be for the foreigner, poor, sick, captives, and brokenhearted. It notes how the one receiving the prophecy would be seen as a blessed people among the nations.

What Jesus says next though raised eyebrows – he claimed that the prophecy was being fulfilled “in their hearing”. There are two reason why. First, Jesus was the one preaching and the one’s hearing the message that was for the poor, captive, blind, oppressed among other traits listed in Isaiah. They took offense because they perceived that Jesus was indicating people of Nazareth were among these undesirable states. Second, they marveled at the “gracious words” coming from his mouth, but questioned his authority, saying he was merely “Joseph’s son” – not a prophet or anyone special for that matter that could fulfill this messianic prophecy. So they demanded a sign. They wanted Jesus to vindicate himself when they said “Physician, heal yourself”.

Jesus replies to their demand for a sign by noting that a prophet is without honor in his hometown, yet is well received by foreigners. He illustrates this from 2 Old Testament examples. The first he gives is from 1 Kings 17:8-16 where Elijah goes and lives in Sidon, which was in Pheonecia. The second was from 2 Kings 5, where Naaman the Syrian is healed from leprosy. In both cases, the prophets preached to foreigners, and in both cases the foreigners received the word from the prophet. In doing so, Jesus implicates Nazareth as being like a hard-hearted Israel, and they were enraged so much so that they wanted to kill by running him off a cliff.

Luke’s emphasis on social outcasts, women, and foreigners is evident here. But at the same time, Jesus’ message was for all that would receive it, even the Jews. The problem with the Jews though is they did not perceive themselves to be in need of a message for the downtrodden because they believed they had it all together. The ones that did receive it though were not from Jesus’ people, rather precisely the ones that Isaiah 61 speaks of. The truth of the matter is that everyone even today needs Jesus’ message because of sin (Romans 3:21-25). The question though is whether or not one will acknowledge that. One can be like the people of Nazareth and outright reject it or be like those from other towns and receive it gladly.

Lord, you bring good news! Let me receive it with arms wide open!

Luke 4:1-13: Jesus’ Temptation

Read: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus’ temptation is an interesting episode in the scriptures. Here, Satan comes to Jesus while Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days, which resulted in hunger. Satan tempts Jesus with food to appease his hunger, but Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In the context of Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding Israel of the testing that they went through in the wilderness for 40 years after the Exodus. God used this time to shape Israel such that they realized in their humility that they were utterly dependent upon God for their well being – even something as simple as food. It was God that provided manna everyday for Israel. When Jesus came to earth, he submitted himself to the will of the Father and became obedient to God’s will (Philippians 2:1-11). While he was more than capable of turning stones to bread, he chose not to out of a desire to remain humble.

For his second temptation, Satan takes Jesus to a high place and shows him all the kingdoms of the earth and says that he will give them to Jesus if Jesus were to bow down and worship Satan. Here, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13, which speaks of the jealousy of God for his people. He commanded the exclusive worship of the people of Israel. The irony of the situation is that Jesus is divine, and would one day rule the nations (Revelation 21) and Satan would be subjugated (Revelation 20:7-10). The temptation here again is showing the humanity and humility of Jesus. Jesus refused circuit what would be his anyways after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension so that he could fulfill his mission and defeat death and Satan and redeem humanity.

For his third temptation, Satan tempts Jesus by taking him to the pinnacle of the temple to where he says that Jesus should throw himself off so that the angles would catch break his fall. This time though, Satan quotes from Psalm 91, which speaks of God as a refuge and how God will protect those who love him. Jesus replies again quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16. The context here follows from where Jesus previously quoted on the second temptation about worshiping God alone. Here, Moses is reminding Israel not to test God as they did as Massah, where they grumbled against God because they had no water. God miraculously provided water from a rock for them (Exodus 17:1-7). Satan was correct in quoting from Psalm, but he twisted the scripture, wanting Jesus to demand that God do a miracle instead of resting in God’s providential care.

Jesus was tempted in every way that Christians today are. And because Jesus was tempted, he is able to empathize with all humanity, yet he did not sin This makes Jesus the perfect great high priest that can help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). James 4 speaks to sin among believers and says that the remedy for it this is submission to God and resisting the devil. This is precisely what Jesus did: he he stayed humble and obedient to God and Satan was unable to gain a foothold. With Jesus’ help, believers can overcome temptation and do so triumphantly. To do this though, when needs to know what God’s word says concerning sin so that when temptation does come ones way, he or she will not fall prey to temptation (Psalm 119:11).

Lord, help me to stay humble and obedient so that I may resist temptation!

Luke 3:23-38: Children of God

Read: Luke 3:23-38

Two genealogies of Jesus appear in the New Testament: one in Luke and the other in Matthew 1:1-17. Genealogies can be boring, but usually within the genealogy there are little nuggets that the chronologist will inject into the in the genealogy to make a point. Luke does this as well First, he notes that Jesus is the “supposed” son of Joseph. This is a round about way of affirming the virgin birth of Jesus (as he was conceive d by the Holy Spirit), a nod to the fact that God the Father had just affirmed Jesus as his son (Luke 3:22), reaffirming what the angel told Mary (Luke 1:35), and also reaffirms what Jesus said when he acknowledge God the Father as his father when he was at the temple (Luke 2:49). But in keeping with tradition, Luke lists Joseph as his earthly father and traces the genealogy from there. Second, which is a curious thing, is that Luke calls Adam the the “son of God”. Adam was not divine, rather he was created (Genesis 2:7). John calls Jesus the “begotten son” of God (John 3:16). Likewise, Adam is the father of all those who sin, which results in death while Jesus is the one who brings life (Romans 5:12-19, 1 Corinthians 15:20-49).

An issue specific to the genealogies in New Testament surrounds the differences between the genealogies Matthew and Luke. Luke has Jesus as a Son of David by way of David’s son Nathan while Matthew has Jesus coming through the line of Solomon. A difference though does not imply a contradiction, but the reason for the difference is also unknown. Given what is known about the books, the difference may have to do with the purpose of each book. Matthew’s gospel was written to Jews, so it was important for Jesus to come from the royal line in order to be the rightful heir to the throne of David and the genealogy goes back to Abraham. Luke’s gospel was written to a Gentile so the emphasis was on the global aspect so he goes all the way back to Adam. Without more insight and evidence, the reason for the differences is likely to remain unresolved, but nevertheless it does not diminish the veracity or the points made in the genealogies.

What we can affirm from Luke’s genealogy is that Jesus is indeed the one begotten Son of God who came into the world by unusual means. His mission was to bring life by overcoming the death that had been brought into the world by Adam. For those that will believe in Jesus, they too can become “children of God” through adoption (Romans 8:14-23). While Christians have earthly parents, the parentage that one can claim is God the Father. It’s a good reminder that no matter how good or how bad one’s earthly parents may be, one can live in a loving relationship with God as Father. In the same manner, knowing how God loves his own children, parents ought to love their children too, looking to God as the model parent and be an advocate for those who don’t have parents.

Lord, I rejoice that am your child!

Luke 3:21-22: The Trinity

Read: Luke 3:21-22

Luke presents Jesus’ baptism in his gospel rather succinctly with only two verses. The other gospels record the same event too (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark:1:9-11, John 1:29-24) Unlike the other gospels. Luke though notes that Jesus was praying while he was baptized. Luke records Jesus praying on a number of other occasions including prior to his transfiguration and while he was at Gethsemane (Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:18, Luke 9:28, Luke 11:1, Luke 22:41-46). Luke’s special attention to Jesus’ prayer life is important to note, because it shows how Jesus was in tune with the Father and that while he was co-eternal and equal with the Father, he submitted himself to the Father while he was on earth. In doing so, God proclaims that with Jesus he is well pleased.

Jesus’ baptism is one of the most clear depictions of the Trinity in all of the Bible with all members present. The Father is speaking from heaven, the Spirit is descending in bodily form like a dove, and Jesus himself is the one being baptized. Explaining how all three of the members of the Trinity are all God at the same time yet three distinct persons is something that theologians have grappled with for years. The Bible doesn’t have a detailed explanation of the Trinity. In fact, the word “Trinity” doesn’t even appear in the Bible. Analogies are often employed, but as with most all analogies they break down at some point. Reconciling how God can be three district persons where each person is co-equal and uncreated, yet one being at the same time is difficult. Many attempts that try to rationalize the Trinity resulted in heretical view of God . A few include:

  • Modalism: God is manifested in different “modes” rather than having three persons of the Trinity.
  • Tritheism: This suggests that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different gods.
  • Arianism and Macedonianism: the Father is God and Jesus (in Arianism) and the Holy Spirit (in Macedonianism) are created beings.
  • Partialism: This teaches that the members of the trinity are only “parts” of God and they don’t become God until they all come together.

The Early church fathers, while not having a clear explanation of the Trinity affirmed it as a core doctrine of the Christian faith because the scriptures present all members of the Trinity as divine, co-equal, co-eternal, and uncreated. But while they did not have an explanation, they did express the Trinity as “three persons” and “one essence” to serve as a bright-line to weed out heresy. Any view that either separated God into parts such that there was more than one essence or diminish one or more members of the Trinity to a lower status or thing such that one or more of the persons were excluded from the Trinity would be labelled a heresy. This expression of the Trinity has withstood the test of time and is considered the orthodox view of God by Christians across multiple denominations.

While Jesus was on earth, he didn’t surrender his divinity or become a lesser being. He enjoyed the intimate fellowship with the other members of the Trinity on earth as he did while he was with them in heaven. Nevertheless, Jesus made prayer a priority in his life. He did this not because he needed to pray, rather because the this was an opportunity to have uninterrupted, unbroken, and unfettered fellowship with the ones who loved him and who he loved. The awesome part of this though is that the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit isn’t exclusive to the Trinity. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer, which draws believers into an intimate relationship with God. And spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, and time spent with God draw one into closer relationship with God too. For this reason, Christians ought to make personal time with God a priority so they can be in an intimate relationship with God.

Lord, draw me close to you!

Luke 3:15-20: Minimize Me

Read: Luke 3:15-20

John the Baptist knew his place when it came to Jesus. He was well respected and revered as a prophet by the people that were coming to be baptized, and many thought that he may be the Messiah. In spite of all this, John humbled himself and used whatever authority and influence he had to point people to Jesus. John says of Jesus that he is not worthy to undo the thong of his sandal, which was considered a lowly task generally performed for the lowliest servant when guests came to one’s house.

John’s message was called “good news” yet Luke depicts Jesus as one with a winnowing fork. The winnowing fork was an instrument used to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the chaff was carried away by the wind and burned in fire. John speaks of Jesus baptizing by the Holy Spirit and my fire. Baptism of the Holy Spirit – that is receiving the Holy Spirit – is something that happens to all who believe when they become Christians. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 2:20; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The allusion to fire though is not clear. It could either be a prophetic statement about what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) or a reference judgment that will come. In the context, the latter makes more sense because John is talking about Jesus separating the wheat from the chaff, and burning the chaff.

To illustrate how the gospel is offensive to some, Luke uses John’s encounter with Herod. John was bold enough to call out Herod, a strong and power ruler, on the adultery that he had with his sister-in-law, Herodias. Matthew 14:1-12 gives more details on the matter, where Herodias prompted her daughter, who had danced for Herod pleased him, to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod had John arrested and beheaded to fulfill her wishes. John made no special provisions for anyone and did not really care about his safety either, rather he was concerned about proclaiming good news and pointing people to Jesus.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. The coming of Jesus is good news for those that will accept it. For those that will not, it is offensive because it confronts people with their sin. But John the Baptist was embolden to preach this good news of Jesus rather than live in fear of what might happen to him. John’s martyrdom, zeal, and humility for the sake of gospel of Jesus serves as a reminder of the the attitude and priorities Christians ought to have concerning Jesus. Christians ought to get the good news of Jesus out and put Jesus in the spotlight so that he can be exalted.

Lord, help me to minimize myself and maximize Jesus in all things!

Luke 3:7-14: Detestable Religion

Read: Luke 3:7-14

John’s words are harsh. He calls those that are coming out to be baptized a “brood of vipers”, which in that time and place was not something nice to say. “Vipers” in the ancient near east were associated with wicked men. Jesus uses the word to describe the Pharisees and Sadducees on 3 occasion (Matthew 3:7, Matthew 12:34, Matthew 23:33). It was a serpent who deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden too (Genesis 3:1-15). Being called a viper was to associated a person as cunning and subtle with ulterior motives – they saw baptism as yet more religion. Those coming to be baptized by John were “fleeing wrath” which implies that they knew judgment was coming and were looking for a means to effectively purify themselves. The thinking was that the more piety one had, the less likely judgment was to fall in them. Likewise, as implied by verse 8, those coming to be baptized were clinging to their heritage as well, thinking that because they were from the line of Abraham made them special and that they wouldn’t face judgment.

The people were right to recognize that there was impending judgment, but they were approaching it the wrong way, wanting to address sin with religion and traditions without changing their hearts and actions. John on the other hand saw through both of these. He was calling people to repent (that is, change one’s heart and mind about sin) and bear fruit in accordance with repentance. He agrees with the people that judgment is coming when he says the ax is near the root of the tree and every good tree that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and burned. He specifically addresses three groups of people: those with abundance, tax collectors, and soldiers calling them to do good and be generous rather than hoard and extort.

When faced with sin or hard times, the natural tendency of people is to want to get “right with God” and they do so by by getting more religious. They will attend church, undergo rites and rituals, pray, read their Bible, among other things. None of these things are inherently bad, but if they are being done for the wrong reasons, then they are of little or no use because religion doesn’t help one’s standing before God. God wants people to repent and come to him in faith, not continue to live the same way as they did before and attempt to atone for sin with religion. The natural overflow of repentance though isn’t religion, rather charity and righteousness which God desires more than religion. In fact, James 1:26-27 says that “true religion” isn’t rites and rituals, rather caring for orphans and widows. Micah 6:6-8 and Isaiah 1:1-17 aptly describe how God sees religion in light of righteousness – religion is detestable to God when one’s deeds and heart are evil. Rather than seeking out more religion, Christians should repent and do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God!

Lord, I repent of my sins! Help me to bear fruit in keeping with repentance!

Luke 3:2-6: “Prepare the Way”

Read: Luke 3:2-6

John the Baptist was a kindred spirit to Jesus and apparently a relative too. His birth took place on months before Jesus’ birth did (Luke 1). The scriptures don’t contain anything about John’s early life, but the story of John picks up around the same time Jesus’ does in 29 AD. Luke likens John the Baptist to Isaiah as a prophet that “received the word of the Lord” (John 1:21) and went out into the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. John’s status as a prophet is confirmed by likening him to Elijah (Luke 1:17, John 1:25) and Jesus himself appealed to the testimony of John about himself as a witness to confirm the veracity of his message (John 5:31-34) because n that day and having a second testimony other than one’s own was necessary to deem a testimony as true. John’s witness to Jesus was set in place that when Jesus did come, he could point others to Jesus, as he did. John was calling people to repentance to prepare hearts to receive Jesus for salvation.

To drive the point home and link it to his theme of universally accessible salvation, Luke quotes from Isaiah 40:3-5 from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) noting that there was a voice crying out in the wilderness to “prepare the way of the Lord” The text in Isaiah is in the context of a text to no condemn people, rather to comfort them telling them of a one who is coming and will shepherd them. The chapter ends with the famous verse talking about how those that wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar. John is the the voice calling out the wilderness who is preparing the way for Jesus, who is the Lord in Isaiah 40. Luke extends the quote from Isaiah more than Mark 1:3 does to include a quotation about the “salvation” of the Lord. Luke’s regard for the salvation of “all people” is evident here and elsewhere in Luke 2:30-32 and Luke 2:10.

Salvation was never intended to be limited only a select group of people, rather it is intended for all people everywhere. But salvation isn’t automatically applied to everyone, rather it requires that one have faith in Jesus. Christians that receive salvation then should be about the task of preparing the way for others to receive Christ. The Isaiah text speaks of level mountains, raising valleys, smoothing rough areas, and straitening paths so that the coming of the Lord will be easy and without resistance. Part of evangelism requires that removal of barriers so that everyone everywhere has a chance to receive Jesus without hindrance. Some barriers are cultural such as language or cultural beliefs. Other barriers may be preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. Whatever it may be, removing barriers people can come to Jesus, repent of their sins, and be saved!

Lord, show me the barriers that hinder the gospel and help me to remove them so more can be saved!

Luke 3:1-2: History is His Story

Read: Luke 3:1-2

Luke starts Chapter 3 in a similar fashion to how he starts several of the previous “chapters” of Jesus’ early life by placing the events during the reign of a particular historical figure (Luke 1:5, Luke 2:1-2). This time though, he lists a number of people.

  • Tiberius Caesar – the emperor in Rome and the stepson of Agustus Caesar. Luke notes that this was during the 15 year of the reign of Tiberius. Tiberius’ reign started in 14 AD, so this places the start of Jesus’ public ministry around 29AD.
  • Herod Antipas – he was the son of Herod the Great, and he himself was not a Jew, but ruled over the Gallilee. He was the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded (Matthew 14:10) and the Herod that Jesus went to see leading up to his crucifixion who was in Jerusalem at the time of crucifixion. Jesus, being from Galilee, was sent by Pilate to Herod so that Herod could deal with him.
  • Herod Phillip – He was the son of Herod the Great from another woman. Antipas was his half-brother and was more moderate and tempered than his brother. He rule from Caesarea Phillipi, which as a important place in Jesus ministry (Matthew 16:12-18).
  • Lysanias – Little is known about this Lysanias, however another Lysanias is mentioned by Josephus. It is thought that Luke’s Lysanias is a descendant of the one mentioned by Josephus in the same way that the name “Herod” was used by a number of rules. Archaeological evidence supports this view.
  • Pontius Pilate – Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea directly responsible for the emperor. His job was to maintain the peace and collect taxes to support Rome. He played an important role in Jesus’ public trial where he attempted to appease the crowd (John 18:16-19:23).
  • Annas – Annas was the defacto high priest and father-in-law to Ciaphas. He was the priest that Jesus went before in his trial (Johm 18:13-23) and also the priest Peter and John went before in Acts.
  • Caiaphas – Caiaphas was the official high priest appointed by Rome. He prophesied concerning Jesus’ death conspired with others to have Jesus killed (Matthew 26:3-4, John 11:47-53)

The tendency of readers and even many commentaries is to gloss over verses that can historical data or genealogies. But Luke’s goal in writing his gospel is stated clearly in Luke 1:3 where he declares he wanted to write an orderly account of the ministry of Jesus. With this in mind, when readers come across historical figures, it’s good to take some time and read about these figure because in doing so it helps set the stage for the events that are unfolding in the gospel. The life of Jesus is not some myth set in some obscure time, rather it set in real history with real people. JRR Tolkien noted that this what set the story of Jesus apart from other mythologies even though it shared some things in common with other mythological stories. He and C.S. Lewis called the story of Jesus the “true myth”. Understanding the historical setting of Jesus’ life and ministry then helps one understand the sayings and action of Jesus too.

Lord, history is your story. Help me understand it so that I may know you better!

Luke 2:51-52: Treasuring the Moments

Read: Luke 2:51-52

Although Jesus knew that he was the Son of God, he didn’t claim this position while he was on earth. In fact, Jesus submitted himself to the same laws and customs that all good Jews would submitted themselves to, including honoring his father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Luke notes that Jesus was “submissive” to them – the idea that he was under their tutelage for the time he was a young man and young adult years. Jesus’ obedience to his parents was in line with his will to be baptized by John so that he might be able “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) and have the authority to send out the 12 to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus obedience didn’t go unnoticed either, as Luke notes that he grew in favor with God and man.

These glimpses into Jesus’ early life were small moments leading up to the ministry that he undertook during the three years leading up to his death, burial and resurrection. Luke in his effort to record a history about Jesus wanted to investigate Jesus to the fullest (Luke 1:1-4). He mentions “eyewitnesses” to events of Jesus life, and it is likely that the eyewitness for the accounts in Luke 2 is Jesus’ mother. Luke makes a special note in the midst of each of the three episodes in the chapter about Jesus’ mother reflecting on these events. She “ponders” and “treasures” the events about his his birth (Luke 2:19), along with Joseph “marvels” about what was said about him (Luke 2:32), and again “treasures” what happened in Jerusalem (Luke 2:51). These events were remarkable to her because she didn’t know what to make of them at the time they occurred, but nevertheless knew that Jesus was special.

While Jesus was on earth, he didn’t claim the authority that was rightfully his, rather he was obedient and humble even to the point of death (Philippians 2:1-12). Paul uses Jesus’ example to encourage the readers of his letter to do the same: be humble and obedient even if it means forfeiting something that is rightfully yours. When Christians do this, they do it out of a desire of love, and in doing so others take note. In many cases, those who later come to know Christ do so because they remember an episode where a Christian did something for them or someone else and it stuck with them and profound impact on their lives as the events of Jesus’ childhood did on Mary. Years later, even long after the person remembered may have forgotten, the one who does remember can testify to a moment and recall God at work in and through another person.

Lord help my obedience be a testimony that will lead others to you!

Luke 2:41-50: Amazed

Read: Luke 2:41-50

Jesus parents were devout Jews, and apparently of a family of other devout Jews as they were going up to one of the three required festivals that men were supposed to attend each year. Jesus was 12 years old at the time. There’s no historical evidence to suggest that Jesus had undergone a “bar mitzvah” or becoming accountable to the law at this point. This custom was instituted later in Jewish history. Nevertheless, it is evident that Jesus was going up to the temple and spending time there interacting with scholars and priests at the temple as men would do.

But when it came time to leave, Jesus did not return home with the friends and family he had traveled with, rather he stayed in Jerusalem. Naturally, Jesus’ absents invoked great distress in his earthly parents, and rightfully so because any parent would be worried if one of their children went missing. Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to look for the boy and they found him safe 3 days later, much to their relief.

There is an irony to this text though: Mary and Joseph, his earthly parents, went looking for Jesus in Jerusalem while they were attempting returning to their home in Nazareth calling acknowledging this fact when they call him “son” and refer to Joseph as “father”. But Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus was affirming his heavenly parentage and origin – namely God the Father in heaven. And the knowledge of God was evidence to this. The scholars and were amazed at his understanding and answers, and his response to his parents was no less amazing or baffling. They didn’t understand, because to them their home was not the temple, rather a house in the town of Nazareth 70 miles to the north.

On this side of Jesus’ first coming Christians get to see what Mary, Joseph, and the scholars in Jerusalem did not get to see. It really wasn’t until after Jesus resurrected from the dead that people really began to understand what he had been sent to earth to do (John 20:9, Luke 24:27). Christians have the privilege of seeing Jesus ministry on earth revealed and its purpose communicated and codified in the Scriptures. At times, it may be confusing, but Christians don’t have to remained baffled. Christians can ask questions and give answers to one another and be amazed at how the Holy Spirit can illuminate one’s mind.

Lord, show me the truth of who you so I can be amazed at who you are!

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