Daily Bible Study Tips –
Luke, Chapters 13 - 24
Overview of Luke
Comments on Luke Chapters 1 - 12
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Luke 19:37-40, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem
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The passage from Luke is a bit puzzling, even to scholars. The incident Jesus refers to in vss. 1-2 is not certain, and the incident in vs. 4 is unknown outside this passage. Nevertheless, several things are clear:
Luke 15:1-10 (4/24/09)
- Jesus refutes the commonly held idea that bad things happen only to bad people. "They were certainly no worse than you are," he says.
- Jesus and Paul both urge us to take such incidents as a solemn warning to repent while there is still time. As a friend of mine says, "Half the people in the obituary column didn't expect to be dead today." This wasn't intended as a commentary on Lk 13:3 and 5, but it's a good one, even so.
- Various commentaries interpret the parable in vss. 6-9 in various ways, so I'll tell you how I see it. God owns the vineyard, and Jesus is the gardener. We are (or I am) the unfruitful tree. We (or I) deserve to be cut down. Jesus intercedes for us and gains us some time for repentance, but if we don't become fruitful by responding in faith, even he can't save us.
The best news about sinners is that Jesus is friendly with them. If you know someone who is worried that he or she must be a good person before coming to church, tell them the stories we're reading today. God and all his angels are happy when a sinner turns around and comes back home! So our goal, through the grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit, is not to commit sins; however, no matter how many times we turn away, God is always excited when we turn back.
Both of today's passages are about mug shots. Last Sunday we attended Lakewood UMC in Lakewood, Colorado. The preacher showed mug shots of various celebrities, and most of them looked pretty terrible, I can tell you. (Mel Gibson looked great.) Then she said, "God loves a mug shot." Even when we hit bottom, when we look terrible, and when we have no resources, God loves us. Very often, that's when we finally realize that we need God, and God is there for us. So God loves a mug shot.
True, but I think this is like drinking. All life-expectancy calculators and life-style assessments will show that people who have one or two alcoholic drinks per day are healthier than teetotalers – everything else being equal. Nevertheless, if you don't drink, all of these same tools say, "Don't start!" That's because when you consider everything else, it's usually not equal, and overall the risks of drinking outweigh the risks of not drinking. God loves your mug shot, but don't get into trouble just so God can bail you out. See also 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
In addition to the charge of Sabbath-breaking, the Pharisees and scribes tried to stir people up because
Jesus supposedly defiled himself by associating with tax collectors and sinners. Now, most of us would
probably be happy not to pay taxes, but we don't normally lump tax collectors with sinners. Tax collectors
were Roman collaborators – they didn't just collect taxes, they were contractors who extorted as much as
they could, paid what was due to the hated Roman occupiers, and then kept the rest. So most of them probably
were sinners in the ordinary sense of the word "thieves." Nevertheless, Jesus wants to point out to the
Pharisees and scribes that sinners are exactly the people he has come to gather back to God. He tells them
three parables about the joy of finding lost things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.
Sometimes I feel like the older son – continuing to do my job for the Church but having to watch while
some egregious sinner gets a lot of good press for repentance (vss. 29-30). Wesley points out that the
elder son still has the complete inheritance: "God's receiving notorious sinners will be no loss to those
who have always served him; neither will he raise these to a state of glory equal to that of those who have
always served him, if they have, upon the whole, made a greater progress in inward as well as outward
holiness." So we win either way. If we are egregious sinners, we can repent. If not, we have more time
to go on toward perfection. Either way, God wants us to accept the salvation he offers in Jesus Christ.
Both of today's passages are about wealth – spiritual wealth and worldly wealth, which are intimately related to each other. Some denominations preach that worldly wealth is necessarily bad, and that it will impair your spiritual well-being. Others preach that spiritual wealth will necessarily lead to worldly wealth; therefore worldly wealth is good. The United Methodist Church teaches that spiritual wealth will make us wise stewards of our worldly wealth, and wise use of our worldly wealth will increase our spiritual wealth. Just the other day, Pastor David commented about the questions people ask at the pie cafe. He asked, "What if we were as cautious about the ingredients in our own lives? What if we were as concerned about the things that take up space, demand our time, mortgage our pocket books, and consume our lives?" We need to be concerned about using our worldly wealth to promote our spiritual wealth, and not the other way around. See also Proverbs 31:10-31.
Does your family break out the reference books on Christmas morning? Ours does – sometimes we even receive
reference books on Christmas morning! A few years ago one of my sons received a tee shirt with two large, evil eyes and the message, "FEAR THIS. 'And he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.' (Luke 18:23) Don't let it be you!" Like Mary, we pondered what kind of greeting this might be – that is, we discussed what passage it might be from. So we looked up Luke 18:23, and that reference wasn't correct. We got out various concordances and quickly located the correct story, which is today's reading. We reexamined the tee shirt, and it did have the correct reference, but there was an extra dot of ink on the 6. Note that the rich man is not being punished for having
money. He is being punished for loving
his money – that is, for not using some of it to take care of the sick beggar at his gate. As you read the parable from Jesus, fear this! Don't let it be you!
The problem of works vs. grace is a thorny one, and Jesus has a few words to say on that issue today. Here are the main points you need to remember:
- You are saved by grace. You can't do anything to earn salvation.
- You are saved for works. Doing good works is your job, and God expects you to do it.
- No matter how many good works you do, you haven't done anything extra.
- You shouldn't expect anything extra for doing your job.
We should never fool ourselves into thinking that good works are optional.
Now, it just so happens that our gracious God attaches value to our good works, in the same way that a grandparent attaches value to the artwork of a little child; nevertheless, we should also never fool ourselves into thinking that our good works would have any value at an auction.
Jesus always expressed amazement when he saw outstanding faith on the part of foreigners. I wonder whether he was actually amazed. Possibly he was feigning amazement in order to hold them up as an example to the Jews, who had less faith than they should have had, given what they had seen, and a low opinion of foreigners.
The lepers stand at a distance because it was against the Law for them to approach other people. Jesus sends them to the priests because only a priest could determine that a leper had been healed and made ritually clean. Even when Jesus healed them, they couldn't legally be readmitted to society without the priests' say-so. The rules are complicated. You will find them in Leviticus 13 and 14. The rules did not apply to foreigners, so Jesus sends the foreign leper home when he has been healed.
Luke 19:37-40 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (4/5/09)
, Jesus chose symbols of humility as he came into the city of Jerusalem. Even though Jesus was mounted on a donkey, the crowds on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover recognized him as the Messiah. They waved palm branches and put their coats down for the donkey to walk on. They called out a blessing on "the king who comes in the name of the Lord," singing the words of Psalm 118
. Naturally, some people were unhappy about the way Jesus entered Jerusalem, just as Michal was unhappy about the way David entered the city so long before. When his detractors insisted that Jesus quiet his supporters, his response hearkened back to the prophet Habakkuk
. Testimony about Jesus and his work could not be silenced. If the people were silent, the stones would cry out the truth.
Luke 20:19-26 (4/14/2008)
Isn't this a great country?
I love paying taxes, because here and now it means that I earned money. In first-century Judah, it just meant
that the Romans were more powerful than the Jews.
Scripture for Tax Preparation Day, April 14, Hunter's Loose Translation.
The scribes and the high priests sent spies to trap Jesus in some anti-government statement. They wanted to
turn him in for punishment. So they asked him, "Teacher, we know you teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us
to pay taxes or not?" But he detected their cunning and said to them, "Show me a dollar bill. Whose face and
name does it have?" They said, "Washington's." So he said to them, "Then give back to Washington the things that
are Washington's, and to God the things that are God's." So they couldn't catch him before the people in what he
said. Amazed at his answer, they became silent.
Both of our passages deal with the end times. The Sadducees asked Jesus a trick question of the "I've got you now" variety, but the Thessalonians asked a serious question. Someone told the Thessalonians that the Second Coming had already come and gone, and they asked Paul if somehow they missed it. A lot of people get het up periodically about the date of the Second Coming. Many years ago my family and I were stopped on the street in Seattle by an extremely earnest young man who wanted to make sure we were saved, because the world was going to end on a specific date that fall. These kinds of calculations miss the point. You need to be ready all the time, precisely because you don't know
when it's going to be. Furthermore, if you die in the meantime, it doesn't matter
. So if you aren't ready to go right this minute, get your coat on! See also 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17.
Our scriptures this week are really preoccupied with the end times. Ironically, they are mostly saying not to be preoccupied with the end times. Don't calculate dates for the Second Coming, and don't be deceived if somebody else tells you their calculations. Jesus says in another passage that even He doesn't know when it will be. But are you ready? Get ready! See also Mark 13:1-10.
Do you have a dog or cat? If so, you have probably seen your pet stand up and lift its head expectantly toward the door. You know that someone is coming. We had a German Shepherd who knew five minutes in advance that my husband was going to pull into the driveway – apparently she could hear the car well before it turned onto our street. Jesus commented that we often recognize the signs that earthly things are about to happen, but we have more trouble recognizing that heavenly things are about to happen. It's probably because we aren't paying attention. Do you suppose we could hear Jesus coming if we stayed alert and listened?
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 22: Luke 22:47-54, Judas’s Kiss of Betrayal (3/31/15)
The best thing about this illustration, I think, is the depiction of Judas. Judas Iscariot must have had great potential, because otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have chosen him to be his disciple. For a time he was sincere; there’s no suggestion anywhere in the New Testament that he was anything but a real disciple of Jesus until the last few days before the feast of the Passover. But then something twisted inside him, and he betrayed his master to the authorities, knowing they wanted to kill him. In Doré’s illustration, Judas’s body is twisted, which to me is the closest art can come to showing a twisted soul.
Previous Step. Next Step.
"The Betrayal" by Gustave Doré,
from the Gartin family Bible,
now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.
Today's passage emphasizes the physical reality of the resurrection. I have a hard time understanding how some folks can read this and still deny bodily resurrection. The scripture, here and elsewhere, clearly states that Jesus had a physical, flesh-and-blood body after his resurrection.
Luke 24:36-48 (4/23/09)
Let us assume that the worst has happened and we have committed a sin. Now what? God is holy, and an unholy person cannot come into his presence. Jesus addressed this problem at numerous times and places during his earthly ministry, and it is apparently an important point, because he addressed it again after his resurrection. He gave his disciples specific instructions about what to preach: in the name of Jesus Christ, turn back to God, so that you may be forgiven!
After the resurrection, Jesus spent some time teaching his disciples. He appeared to more than 500 people. His teachings from this period are not recorded; apparently he was repeating what he had said before, but the difference this time was that the disciples understood it. He had told them prior to his death that he would die and be raised again, but until he died and was raised again and appeared to them, they didn't understand it. To be fair, we wouldn't have understood it either. Just before he ascended into heaven, he told them to return to Jerusalem until they were "clothed with power from on high." Certainly they could not have foreseen the nature of Pentecost, but they joyfully did as Jesus commanded, confident in the goodness of God's plan.
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