Day 277 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Luke.
Luke 21 – More than any of the other Gospel writers, Luke focuses on teachings, parables, and stories about money and wealth. This short story of the widow’s offering is a good example. At one level, the story reminds us about the deceptiveness of riches and how we over-evaluate the worth of money (Matthew 6:19–21; Luke 8:14; 1 Timothy 6:17). At a deeper level, we are reminded that in God’s economy it is not the quantity of money given but the quality, as evaluated by the worshiping heart behind the gift. This story challenges us to give more radically and sacrificially, but it also encourages us that God is no respecter of persons when it comes to financial means. He cares about our faith and worshipful giving, regardless of our ability to give.
Jesus’ teaching here contains a paradox that is a basic part of the Christian experience. On the one hand, to be a disciple of Jesus means to experience persecution, division, conflict, hatred, and for some, even death (v. 16). Yet at the same time Jesus says that not a hair of our heads will perish and that by endurance we will gain our “lives”—or, as the word could be translated, our souls (v. 19). These seem like contradictory statements until one sees that the gospel promises of blessing and peace are statements about one’s soul in relation to God, not necessarily of our experience in this world. We apply this to our lives by an adjustment of our expectations of what the Christian life will be like. If we expect God’s favor and blessings to mean that all goes our way in this fallen world, then we will either become disappointed and bitter or else we will avoid living according to God’s kingdom ways, to avoid the pain and suffering.
The proper perspective on pain and suffering that Jesus has just related (vv. 16–19) is a necessary prelude to these important words about the future destruction of Jerusalem (verses 20–24). The catastrophic scene Jesus describes would be unthinkable to His disciples. Yet though modern commentators debate the timing and identification of these events, it is important for us to recognize that they are real and that Jesus speaks to His immediate audience and to us with assurance that He will ultimately come to rescue His people (including the Gentiles He intends to save; v. 24) from their distress (verses 25–28). Thus, it is important that none despair and all remain vigilant for the signs of His certain appearing (verses 28–33). Here grace is expressed in terms of Jesus coming to establish a kingdom that rescues from evil and destruction.
The gospel should never be conceived of as merely a new religion of duty, self-sacrifice, and piety. The true gospel will at times involve each of these things, but these are not the gospel itself, nor are they a safe gauge of the gospel’s effect on our lives. Yet at the same time we must not think of the gospel in a sloppy or ambivalent way. Because God’s kingdom, ruled by King Jesus, is coming upon the earth to set things aright, the gospel calls us to be on guard against the deceptive pleasures and cares of this life (v. 34; 8:14). The gospel call to “stay awake” (v. 36) is not a command to strive for a certain level of self-imposed piety, but a reminder that the deceitfulness of sin and the work of the Devil (1 Peter 5:8) must be resisted as we travel on the road of discipleship.
How has the Gospel transformed your life in the areas we see in this chapter?
Luke 22 – The Last Supper is one of the most important events in the Gospels, and each of the Gospel writers tells the story in a slightly different way to emphasize different aspects of its importance. In the Last Supper we see how the gospel is backward-looking, presently engaging, and forward-looking. The backward-looking aspect is our continual remembrance of how Jesus sacrificed His body and blood on our behalf. This conscious act of remembering Jesus’ past sacrifice and presently uniting our hearts in communion with Him should be regularly practiced in the church, producing gratitude and allegiance. At the same time, there is an equally essential forward-looking element to the ongoing practice of the Lord’s Supper. It is highlighted twice by Jesus in His reference to the future time when the kingdom of God comes (verses 15, 18). To be a disciple of Jesus means not only looking back to the cross with gratitude but also engaging with Him in present allegiance and looking forward with hope. It is especially this forward-looking hope in God’s coming kingdom that provides resources for our endurance and willingness to live now in the radically different ways that Jesus calls us to.
Constantly throughout Luke the gospel message has shown that what God values is often in direct contradiction to our natural and sinful tendencies. Jesus continually explains the gospel as a call to follow His example in living according to the unexpected but blessed ways of God’s coming kingdom. We must repent of our own broken conduct and reorient our lives to God.
The particular issue at hand in verses 24-27 concerns how we relate to one another in authority relationships as kingdom-gospel people. This same dispute, about who is the greatest among the disciples, has arisen before (9:46–48). Jesus addresses the matter head-on and turns our values upside down. Human greatness is not found in having authority, receiving honor, or being a recognized leader. Rather, in God’s kingdom, it is the servant and the lowly who are the true leaders and the “great” ones.
Jesus is the ultimate model of this paradoxical truth (Philippians 2:1–10). Following Jesus’ example, our lives together as Christians—individually and corporately—can be measured by this test: Is our primary goal toward each other about serving or about being served?
Jesus has previously given His disciples (including us) instructions on praying (11:1–13; 18:1–8). Here He models one of the most important and universal truths about what our prayer life should be like. Jesus expresses His desires and even laments before the Father with full honesty and humility (v. 44). He desires to be delivered from the pain and suffering He is facing (v. 42). Yet there is something in His prayer that is even more important than His requests. It is His acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and goodness in all situations and His glad submission to whatever God’s greater plan might be: “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (v. 42). This is the banner that should fly over all of our prayer requests. It is the heart of childlike faith that honors God and blesses us. We can pray bold prayers, knowing that God is our Father, through our adoption based on the work of Jesus. Yet we can also rest in confidence that since He is our Father, even His denials of our requests can only be what is best for us—as can be His granting us “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
The tragic story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is really the second part of a story that began in verses 31–34 with Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s failure and Peter’s vehement reaction. Thankfully, it is not the end of Peter’s story. Unlike Judas, who also failed to be faithful to Jesus (verses 47–53), Peter repented and was restored (John 21:15–19). Peter is a model of a zealous and sincere heart, even though he fails morally. In this he stands in a long line of biblical men and women who despite their failings were people who sought God from the heart (for example, Abraham, Moses, David, and Rahab).
God uses these real-life, flawed people as pictures of His loving and merciful kindness toward us. God cares most about our hearts, and even when we fail out of fear and rebellion He restores us out of His abundant grace. Such stories reveal God’s heart of acceptance and forgiveness. When we understand God properly in this way, it creates in us a freedom to be honest and open about our weaknesses and failures, which is precisely the humility needed to approach God. Our acceptance of God’s acceptance of us—free from condemnation, because of Jesus (Romans 8:1)—woos and draws us near to God and frees us from shame and fear.
Luke 22:66–23:31 The authorities of the world collude to conquer the Prince of Heaven. They fail to recognize that they are actually fulfilling the divine purpose by which Jesus’ death will conquer death, the Lamb slain will overcome the reign of sin, and the “seed of the woman” will crush the seed of Satan in fulfillment of the most ancient of gospel promises (Genesis 3:15). Had we been there, we would have protested the wrong and urged God to stop it. But though Jesus’ adversaries meant the events of His passion for evil, God meant them for good (Genesis 50:20). Jesus’ suffering for our salvation should always remind us that, as the old hymn puts it, “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” His grace shall reign over all and in all things.
Is your primary goal toward others about serving or about being served?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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