Luke 24 – Emmaus

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The narrative of the Road to Emmaus is unique to the book of Luke and sets the stage for Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  It also shows us a very particular way that God reveals Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  It was in the moment in which Jesus broke the bread that His true identity is revealed to the two men that were with Him.  We believe that this continues to be true when we come to the Table of Our Lord.  When we eat the bread and drink the juice, Jesus is revealed to us in a unique and mysterious way.

There is another thing that is happening in this story that is really special; it is a narrative of those who are searching for answers and finding them in God’s Word which is the revelation of God and points to Jesus Christ as the true Messiah and Savior.

These two men are walking a road from Jerusalem, after seeing and hearing all of what happened in Jesus’ death.  The implication here is that they are part of those who followed Jesus and were at least somewhat familiar with Him.  But they are also confused about what just happened.  Sometimes this is true with us as we see God at work in our lives; we don’t truly understand it.

Yet Jesus appears, not miraculously and powerfully to chastise them for their questions, but instead comes along side them and joins in their conversation, gently and purposefully revealing Himself through the teaching of Scripture.  God is not afraid of our questions or our faith struggles; He directs us through the Holy Spirit to the true and certain revelation of who He is and His love for us in Scripture.



Luke 13 – Time Limit

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One of the things that I like to impress upon my congregation when we celebrate the Lord’s supper is that the invitation to the Table is always open.  When we use the traditional communion plates that have covers on them, I leave them off at the end as a symbol to this effect.  Jesus is always calling to us, desiring that we would turn to Him, declaring Him as our Lord and Savior.  John 3:16-17, the most famous verse in the Bible, speaks to this as well:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God’s desire is that none would perish, that none would be left out of this salvation.  Yet there are three facts here that Jesus also addresses, ones that are much less popular.  The first is that we are all sinful and no one’s sin is more sinful than the others.  Jesus addresses this in his questions at the beginning of Luke 13.

The second is that, for us to be forgiven of our sin and for our relationship with God to be restored, we must place our faith in Jesus.  He is the narrow door through which we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  There is no other way.

Finally, while this invitation is available for all, is not one that will be extended forever.  At some point, Jesus Christ will return for His people and at that point, there will be a judgment.  This too is not something that is very popular, it is a truth that Scripture teaches and therefore one that we must heed.

 



Luke 9 – Who is Jesus?

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Here at Hopkins Community Church, we have been going through a sermon series examining 7 Essential Questions for faith and life as we journey through Lent.  We began this series examining the question that Jesus asks His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

This is an important question that Luke has to examine for his audience, the answer of which is the crux of the whole book.  If Jesus is not the Messiah, then Luke is simply chronicling the life of a religious leader.  The whole purpose of his writing revolves around this.

What we see in this chapter, in response to Jesus’ question and particularly Peter’s response, is a series of incidents related to Jesus’ question.  More important are the different sources from which the consideration comes.  Herod, a Roman official is perplexed at the news of Jesus.  Could a prophet really rise from the dead?  Obviously, it can’t be John.

Later, in the scene of the Transfiguration, we see the Divine affirmation of who Jesus is, followed by another spiritual affirmation of Jesus’ identity from a demon.

I think the point that Luke is trying to make here is two-fold.  The first, and probably more obvious, is that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son, our Lord and Savior.  Yet the second, and perhaps the one we often miss, is that the answer to the first may not readily be obvious to everyone.  Peter is the only one of the disciples that confess Jesus as Lord.  Later Thomas will still doubt Jesus even after He appears to them.

This is a question that we all must answer at some time in our lives.  God in not afraid of our questions.  In fact, He welcomes them as an opportunity to show His true love to us.



Matthew 22 – Ulterior Motives

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Have you ever done something that would seemingly benefit someone else but, in reality, you did it to benefit yourself?  Whether it is helping someone so as to receive public affirmation or being publically generous, the true intentions of our hearts are something that we have to contend with.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were such people, always having an ulterior motive in their minds when the questioned Jesus.

For Jesus, questions like this were not uncommon for religious teachers.  Leaders would question each other so as to affirm the truth of their teaching, or to garner more followers for themselves.  We see this in our culture a great deal, especially during election years.  In Jesus’ case, however, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were looking for an excuse to have Jesus arrested and to rid themselves of this nuisance.

Yet Jesus is unphased by these questions, not simply because He knows that they are trying to trick Him, but because He understands what is most important, what the Father truly cares about: the heart.  Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were “experts” in the law; they “knew” how to follow God.  When they questioned Jesus though, the Lord redirected the question to expose the true fault of their hearts.

God does not concern Himself with “temple taxes,” He wants the heart of the giver.  We need not concern ourselves with holding on to worldly things, even some of our closest relationships.  Instead, He desires our trust that, when resurrection happens, all things will be made right.  The things we hold as important now will pale in comparison to what life will be like then.

What does God desire then?  The answer seems so simple: Love God and Love your neighbor; love like that has no ulterior motives.



Day 304: Luke 19-20; Questions… Questions…

We talked a while back about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and about His ministry in Jerusalem throughout the last days of His life on earth.  So today, I would like to focus on the questions that Jesus fields from the religious leaders.  While today I am referring to a very particular section of of Luke 20 in which the religious leaders are challenging the authority of Jesus, I think that most of the questions from the religious leaders towards Jesus would fit into this category save those from Nicodemus in the book of John.

So Jesus has entered the city of Jerusalem in a rather humbly triumphant manner and has gone into the Temple and cleansed it, driving out all of the people that were in there buying and selling, cheating many for the sake of religion.  The religious leaders did not like this so they devised a way to trap Jesus by “asking” Him a question.  Their motive?  To try and trap Jesus publicly so that they could “de-frock” Him and thus remove Him from prominence.  There is an even deeper goal here I think, and its one that we often share with these religious leaders.  This goal is also one that is shared by those that are not believers, in order to trick Christians into saying specific things.  What is this goal?  They want to be right… or at the very least for Jesus to be wrong.  They want to catch Jesus to prove that the way they believe is correct.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t do that at all.”  But I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we do this with God all the time.  Whether we read our Bibles or just go to worship on Sunday mornings, we want to know that what we are doing is good (or at the very least okay).  If we read in the Bible or hear the pastor say that we should not hate our brother because it is just like murdering our brother, do we not often say, “well its not exactly like murder” or “I don’t really hate them, I just strongly dislike them.”  We justify our actions as a way of making ourselves feel okay about the way we are living.  We don’t want to feel guilty and we certainly don’t want to change, so we justify ourselves in our own minds.

We often do this with pastors as well.  In come classes that I have taken at seminary, I have witnessed some of my peers try to justify their own beliefs in front of pastors and professors by twisting their words or tweaking their statements so that they will be okay with what is being said.  In the same way, I have seen people go to their pastor and even had people come to be that try to justify their sinful actions by talking about how the context of a particular passage clearly means that what they did in the present is not what the Bible meant.  What they want to hear is that their sinful actions, their way of believing is good enough… what they want is cheap discipleship… cheap faith.

I think the greater world does this a lot too, posing questions like the ones Jesus is asked to the Church in an effort to somehow get a religious pass for immoral or unjust action.  To be honest, I think that the Church has long been silent about a lot of things, refusing to answer and thus affirming the direction that culture is going.  Sure we speak up every now and then on hot-button issues, but do we really care about the deep day-to-day living of those around us?  Do we really want to stand idly by while our friends and neighbors plunge deeper into darkness?  We need to have an answer for these questions… we need to have an answer for the culture.

What is Jesus’ answer here?  Well, He turns the question on its head and throws it back at the religious leaders.  He is well aware of their intent and traps them in their trap.  However, earlier and later in His ministry, even in our reading today, Jesus references time and again the words of Scripture in His answers.  Jesus doesn’t need to come up with a new and creative answer for the time because He has the Word of God inside of Him.  It is close to His heart and deep in His mind and at any time He can pull it out at any time.  Not just His favorite verses that have little meaning, but all of Scripture at all times.  Are we familiar with the Word of God in this way?  Do we have answers for the questions that the world poses to us?  Do we have answers to the simple questions?  Can we back them up with Scripture?  Are these words truly our life, as Moses says to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy, or are they just idle words that pass in and out of our ears.  We need to recover the Word of God in our hearts and on our minds that we may answer the questions for ourselves and for others!



Day 149: Job 22-26; Final Accusations

As we have discussed over the past couple of days, when people encounter others that are dealing with pain and struggles in their life, it can become very uncomfortable for those who mean well trying to be supportive.  Like Job’s friends, we are more than willing to sit and be silent with our friends who are suffering.  We gladly share in their grief offering compassion and love in as many ways as we can.  We can subscribe to the idea of being slow to speak and quick to listen, willingly offering our shoulders for others to cry on.  We even bring meals to our friends who are traveling through the dark valleys of life.  These are all good things, and easy things for us to do.  They show that we care, communicate our good will and intentions, and provide support for those dealing with pain.

Yet what happens when our friends start asking questions about the struggles that they are going through?  Maybe the first two are not so bad.  They might ask “why me?” or say “I wish so-and-so was still with us.”  We can nod or shrug, silently still giving support without engaging the questions that we have no answers to.  These questions are normal for people to ask.  We don’t really think that they are looking for answers, but rather just traveling down the road of grief and trying to make sense of the situation.  But when the questions keep coming, just like most people, we start to get uncomfortable.

People like to have answers, order, and processes.  We are naturally curious about how things work and why they work the way that they do.  Humanity strives for knowledge, and especially in the last 150 years or so, work hard to discover and learn about the world and how it functions.  But these difficult things, they don’t have simple little explanations or solutions; they don’t often fit into our categories or life processes.  There really are no good answers for why someone very close to you died at a young age, or why your family member got cancer, or why that young girl got hit by a train.  No explanations or logic can really figure that out.  And this makes us uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, the questions don’t always stop when we start feeling uncomfortable.  A grieving mother doesn’t look up from  her painfully blank staring to say, “Oh I can see that my grief and questions are making you uncomfortable, I’ll stop.”  No, instead she just continues to ask questions of both men and God.  This is the point at which we feel uncomfortable.  It is here that we tend to shut down, disengage, ignore, or even become angry.  We often end up here, and today we see that clearly Job’s friends are at this same place anymore.

Here we pick up the final accusations of Job’s friends Elephaz and Bildad.  They have gone through a great deal of discourse, talking back and forth, listening to Job’s pleas and questions before God almighty.  They are ok to sit with him, but when the rubber meets the road, they are just as ignorant to the true purposes of God as everyone else in the world.  But rather than returning to a point in which they can be supportive and uplifting, they choose to take out the anger and struggle on Job.  We have read their accusations against Job, they are bitter and unhelpful to this suffering man.

Perhaps it was something in their past that has been brought up while Job sufferings and struggles even for breath after all the calamity that has fallen on him.  Perhaps it is their unfulfilled need to be able to explain the world and put logic to words in these crazy times.  In any case, Job’s friends have listened and been somewhat supportive, but clearly now they have had enough. Rather than saying that they didn’t truly know why all this was happening to Job they have chosen the past of anger and even accusation.  Job doesn’t need someone who questions their every saying, he needs someone who is willing to listen and dwell with him in the dark valley of the shadow of death.  Job needs someone with open ears, not an open mouth.

Today we read the last accusations of Job’s three friends.  As you do, ask yourself which character you can relate with.  Maybe you find death or struggles uncomfortable.  Perhaps you are scared of the questions that might be raised?  Are you quick to cast blame so that you don’t have to process of the emotions or answer the questions that people ask.  As you evaluate yourself, ask yourself… who am I in this story?  Is that who I truly want to be?