Tag Archives: Luke

A Question of Value

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about a lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7), a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), and two lost sons (Luke 15:11-32).

In the first two stories, He points out the natural value people place on their possessions. A shepherd loses one sheep out of a hundred; nevertheless he goes out and scours the countryside until he finds it. Likewise, a woman loses one coin out of ten, yet she tears her house apart searching until she finds the missing coin.

However in the third story, the loss is a rebellious son – not unlike the tax collectors and sinners listening to Jesus tell these stories. Sinners. They’re so disgusting. They’ve chosen to be what they are; they should know better. But in this story Jesus shows us a loving father who anxiously awaits the return of his rebellious son and thus a forgiving God who mercifully embraces even the vilest of sinners.

But there’s another lost son in the story, the faithful son who never left. He’s lost in his father’s house. He’s lost because his self-righteousness has led him to believe he’s earned his place of favor – it’s his right, he deserves it. He has no room for mercy or forgiveness, even for a wayward brother. Such is the danger of arrogant piety.

These parables teach us that God views every sinner with compassion, not merely as a possession to be found and reclaimed, but as a precious individual – as a lost but loved son. He lovingly longs for each one to return to Him.

 – grace and peace to you all … Bill

 

“Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5.7)

The word “merciful” translates a Greek word from which we get “benefactor.” It appears in this sense only one other time in the New Testament (Hebrews 2.17) where Jesus is described as a merciful and faithful high priest.

The Latin derivation of the word is misericordia, a compound term – misernas, meaning “pity, misery, or pain” and cordis, “heart.” So miseria cordis is “pain of heart.” That’s the primary meaning of mercy. It’s when we count another’s misery or need as our very own and then act within our power and ability to relieve or supply their need.

Jesus illustrated the meaning of mercy to a self-righteous and unmerciful lawyer in Luke 10.25-37. He told the story of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead by the roadside. On no less than two occasions, highly respected men could have helped him, but instead chose to pass by. Then a Samaritan, loathsome in the estimation of the Jews, stopped, rendered first aid, carried the injured man to a place of safety and paid for his keep!

Now which of these three, Jesus asked the lawyer, was a neighbor to the man robbed? The lawyer’s only response was, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

Mercy considers neither status, ethnicity, nor race – simply the need, and compels us to extend whatever aid and assistance we are able to give.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

 – Bill

 

Denying Self

“If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9.23).

This is a difficult passage – not in understanding but in application – it’s just plain hard to do! My ego keeps getting in the way. I don’t particularly like the verb deny applied to the pronoun himself – I’d much prefer something like pamper! That just seems to go better with self, don’t you think?

But of course that’s not what it says; it says deny. Self denial and cross bearing both refer to personal self sacrifice, like “present your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12.1). Jesus makes clear, right up front, the cost of discipleship. Cost! Now there’s another attention-grabbing word. Salvation is the free gift of God – the only catch is, it costs you everything you’ve got! Self denial and cross bearing! What an offer!!!

Not the Cultural Norm

Who wants to do that? That doesn’t sound like any fun! Listen to the lyrics of our culture – “you deserve…,” “just do it…,” “you only go around once in life…,” “go for it…,” “if it feels good…,” and so on. We’ve got a great grip on the hedonistic world view! Then someone comes along and says we ought to give that all up in favor of self denial and cross bearing – Right!

But that is the cost of discipleship – a mind-altering life-changing living death in order to be as near like our Savior and Lord as we possibly can. It is a constant remembrance and imitation of His submissive will in the Garden before His betrayal, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” Over and over, all night long, begging and pleading, “If possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done!”

A Daily Process

Self denial and cross bearing is a daily process. Christians are not holy and spiritual only on Sundays. Instead, we are to worship and honor God each day by yielding our will to His. The Greek word most often translated “worship” is proskuneo. Its basic meaning is to “kiss the ground towards,” in other words “to bow down before.” As Christians we worship God by the spiritual bowing down of our hearts before Him and the submitting of our wills to His control.

Jesus taught true fulfillment and purpose in life was in serving others. Anyone can be selfish – that comes kinda natural. But selflessness is an acquired trait. Anonymous generosity is highly favored by God. And a life surrendered, dead to self but alive for God to use to do His will and work – Ah, but if only that may be said of each of us here in Holyoke and Imperial. May God bless you and bless us all in our service together. And to Him be all the glory!

– Bill

The Eye of a Needle

A young man ran up to Jesus one day and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus told him to keep the commandments of the Law, he replied, “I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Jesus told him to go sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. When he heard that, the young man turned and walked away. He was wealthy, and discipleship cost too much. (Mark 10:17-31)

The Cost of Salvation

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2.8 that our salvation is freely given. However, it’s acquired only at great personal cost – we must give ourselves in return. That’s always been the hardest thing to do. “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13.24). The word “strive” in that passage is the same Greek word from which we get “agonize.” The meaning is clear. It is not easy – it is hard. It is agony to surrender self. Not many are able to do it, but for those who do, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Problem with Wealth

As Jesus stood and watched that young man leave, He warned His disciples about the problems associated with material wealth. “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10.23), and again, “…how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!” (verse 24), and finally, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (verse 25).

Some have attempted to explain the Lord’s impossible illustration by suggesting He had reference to a small gate in a city’s wall through which a camel, after its load had been removed, might barely and with great strain squeeze through. Such an explanation robs the statement of its power; it takes that which is obviously impossible and makes it possible. The picture Jesus wanted His hearers to imagine was a literal camel trying to pass through the eye of a literal needle. He wasn’t suggesting that it might be done – He was stressing the utter impossibility of the act.

On another occasion Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of straining out gnats and swallowing camels (Matthew 23.24). He didn’t mean they were actually swallowing camels, but that they were so picky about small, insignificant matters that they were unaware of their large and obvious failures.

Only God Can Save

The camel and the needle teach us that we are unable to save ourselves, even if we are rich and powerful. In fact, wealth creates greater problems for those who have it than for those who don’t. It was hard for that young man – the Gospels describe him as a “rich, young, ruler” – to picture himself as a “broke, young, servant.” He couldn’t and he wouldn’t.

The Lord’s words startled His disciples. “Then who can be saved?” they asked, verse 26. If the rich are not acceptable, then how can we poor simple folk even begin to hope?

Jesus’ answer reveals the power, mercy, and glory of God. “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (verse 27). Entrance into God’s Kingdom isn’t dependent on what we have or who we are, but to Whom we turn.

What Does God Require of Us?

This passage in Mark alarms me. Comparing ourselves today to the disciples of Jesus then, and possibly to the rich, young, ruler himself, we are all extremely wealthy. Our advanced culture and our level of affluence makes us think we are self-sufficient. Because we have more, there’s the danger of thinking we’re better. That’s not so – we are more accountable. “…to whom much is given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12.48).

– Bill