Luke 24 gives us his record of the resurrection. We learn a few more details from Luke. The women go to the tomb and we learn that along with the Mary’s was also “Joanna….and the other women”. There were a number of women who headed to the tomb the third day to complete the preparation of Jesus body. We also find out that there were “two men” who were there to greet the women at the tomb, two angels that met them in dazzling apparel. I love the question they asked the group – it is the same one we need to ask ourselves. “Why do you seek the living among the dead….He is not here, but has risen”. We look for Jesus the wrong place sometimes. He is not hiding in a church, or constrained by things that we might expect. He has risen. He has overcome death with life and given us the promise of eternal life. We see here that “Peter rose and ran to the tomb” after the women told him what they had seen. And he finds the same thing – “he saw the lines cloths by themselves” but no Jesus. This is foundational to our faith. Jesus is alive. He was not held captive by the tomb. He overcame and is alive and able to meet us wherever we are. We need to seek Him and invite Him in. He is not lying in the tomb. He is victorious over death.
We also see Jesus come alongside two of His followers walking on the road to Emmaus. “Jesus drew near and went with them”. That describes how Jesus approaches us. He draws near to us. These guys were “talking with each other about all these things that had happened”. They were just going through life – trying to figure things out – and Jesus is there and walks with them. They invite him to come along. We need to do the same. Are you inviting Jesus to be right in the middle of your life? Is He welcome to walk with you? He doesn’t force the issue – it is a matter of asking. It is a matter of bringing Him in. When we do, we too can experience what these guys did. “He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures”. He will come along side and help us know how to live. Jesus stays with them and they break bread together. At that point, they recognize Him. We also find that He shows up with the 11 and they were amazed. They couldn’t comprehend how He could be alive. “Touch me and see” is what Jesus tells them. And again “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures……that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed”. Jesus comes and helps the disciples put things together. This is some pretty out of the norm stuff. But He walks alongside them, gives them the opportunity to process it, shows them the truth and then “He parted from them and was carried up into heaven”. Jesus comes to His own and gives them the task ahead – to share truth and Scriptures with all in their patch. Jesus wants to come alongside us and walk with us. He has the truth. He will help us and wants to save us. We need to invite Him to walk with us. Have you done that?
Luke 23 gives us a few more details on the crucifixion. We learn what charges the chief priest leveled against Jesus:
- “misleading our nation
- forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar
- saying that he himself is Christ, a king
- He stirs up the people”
Of course none of these were true, but they were determined to make something stick. Pilate learned that Jesus was Galilean, so he instructs Him to be taken to Herod who happened to be in town at the time. Herod had wanted to meet Jesus having heard much about Him, but got no satisfaction as Jesus did not answer questions or defend Himself in any way. Herod “sent Him back to Pilate” finding no fault at all. Two powerful leaders question Him and neither finds any fault at all. Pilate says it this way: “after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us”. There just wasn’t anything at all to go with for a charge. But the people were in a frenzy and Pilate gave in to the crowd and releases Him to be crucified.
Jesus goes to the cross. “And there followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him”. The entire crowd was not in favor of crucifixion. But the religious leaders had orchestrated things so those up front and in Pilate’s presence were all conspiring against Jesus. They were dead set on His death. Jesus went to the Cross and as He hanged there, facing death and bearing the burden of the sin of the world, He didn’t lash out and respond negatively. He teaches us a great yet very difficult lesson. Listen to the words He said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what to do”. Did you catch that? Jesus is falsely accused, wrongly convicted, punished horribly and hanged on the Cross yet He forgives. What love. He models what real forgiveness is all about. You will recall He taught His disciples that they had to forgive, up to 70 times 7. And here He is – death staring Him straight in the face – for no reason other than some selfish leaders protecting their turf – and He finds forgiveness in His heart. Wow – that is what it means to model truth. Joseph, one of the council members who asked for Jesus, “had not consented to their decision and action”. So we learn here that not all were set on getting rid of Jesus. Some were believers yet went along with the crowd or at least did not resist their actions. We need to be willing to stand up for truth, to stand apart and be willing to stick out like a sore thumb if people are on the wrong path. Jesus is put in the tomb and they “prepared spices and ointments….on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment”. They had to hurry as the Sabbath was coming and they needed to get His body prepared before the day began. Nothing was allowed to interfere with that day, not even death. Jesus is in the tomb and we are waiting for Him to rise from the dead!
Luke 22 gives us a few more details of the events leading up to the crucifixion. Dr. Luke is a bit more of a detail guy than the other gospel writers. He tells us that “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot”. The enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy, and every one of us is his target. Remember that Judas Iscariot has spent the last three years literally in the company of Jesus. And yet, with all that first-hand experience and training, he still is a target. Satan comes after him and takes advantage of his weaknesses – greed and power being the key ones that appear to cause Judas to betray Jesus. At the Last Supper, Jesus lets the 12 know that one of them will betray Him. They immediately look around and ask who that might be. But very shortly the focus changed from identifying who the betrayer might be, to who is the greatest. Check out what Luke writes: “they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest”. Do you see the transition? From being concerned about who would be the one to betray Jesus to arguing about who would be the greatest. The focus changes to self and completely moves away from the issue at hand. Is Satan tempting them by working on their humanness? Sure, just like he caused them to fall asleep while they were to be praying as Jesus asked. Jesus doesn’t get wrapped up in their petty arguments but gives a very important statement: “I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom”. Jesus is telling the 12 that the time is near when they need to step up and continue the work that He had started. They definitely are not tuned in, but the words are important.
Jesus also makes it clear that Satan wants to come after Peter. He says Satan wants to get to Peter “that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”. Jesus knows that Peter will fail and fall to temptation. He knows that Peter will deny Him. But as we often see in scripture, there is grace for those who fail. God can not only restore, but can then turn and use sinners to make significant impact after restoration. That is Peter’s fate. He completely falls off the bus – he denies ever knowing Jesus at all. But Jesus tells him that he will play a critical role in the early church – to be one who strengthens the brothers. Elsewhere we know Jesus said Peter will be the “rock” on which the church would be built. That doesn’t sound like a guy who would deny the Man he has followed for the last three years. But that is how God works. He takes us where we are and exercises grace as we repent and come back to Him. We know that Peter denies Jesus three times as different people accuse him of being one of the 12. Luke adds one critical fact: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter”. Remember that Peter was not close – he was hiding in the shadows and staying away from the crowd. Jesus turns and looks at Peter. He makes eye contact. At that moment scripture tells us that “he went out and wept bitterly”. Peter knew he needed to repent. He had failed His Lord. He had turned his back on the One who He had been following and decided to give his life to. But when the chips are down, he turns his back and denies Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus is very personal. Jesus knows us deeply. Jesus knows our heart. He is the intimately knowledgeable of who we are and how we relate to Him. Do you deny Jesus? If you do, it is time to evaluate your relationship with the Savior. Are you in denial? Or do you just need to come to the Savior?
Luke 21 tells us about the end times. Jesus gives us more insight into what is to come. Things will be overturned – the routine will go away – that which we think is unchangeable will be shaken. “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”. Things are going to get interesting for sure. Along the way “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them”. There will be a lot of people crying that the sky is falling that will not have it right. There will be many trying to round up followers by creating fear of these coming events. We see it all around us. But no one ones the day or time – scripture is clear on that. Jesus did tell us what events will take place as we move toward the final day of reckoning. He tells us not to get too worried as we hear many things – “when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once”. There is a lot of water that has to go under the bridge. Jesus tells us to watch for these things:
– “Nation will rise against nation
– kingdom against kingdom
– There will be great earthquakes
– in various places famines and pestilences
– there will be terrors and great signs from heaven
– But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you
– delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons
– you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake”
Lots of things have to happen before He comes again. Jesus tells us what we need to do as we see these things coming: “This will be your opportunity to bear witness…. I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict”. We aren’t just supposed to sit back and watch it happen. This is our opportunity to speak truth – to share God’s love with all. Will everyone receive it well? Not exactly. Jesus tells us “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake”. Now that really makes you want to speak up doesn’t it? Knowing that the response of many will be hatred and likely blaming you for being part of the wheels coming off their comfortable life. It’s easier to just keep the old mouth shut isn’t it? But Jesus tells us why we need to speak boldly about these things and bear witness to Him: “By your endurance you will gain your lives”. Did you catch that? It is by living consistently and daily for Him that we will be able to maintain our lives and not get sucked into the terror and fear that most will face. We need to stay close to Jesus. “The powers of the heavens will be shaken”. All that we thought we knew will likely be changing. We need to cling to the Rock, to hang on to the one thing that is the same yesterday, today and forever. We need to realize that soon we “will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”. It doesn’t get any better than this! Jesus is coming again. We are told to “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man”. Are you ready for Jesus to come again? Are you walking with endurance and staying close to the Savior? Are you speaking truth and bearing witness to Him? We have work to do. Let’s get after it!
Luke 20 contains a few familiar stories and parables that we have seen other authors write about. The religious leaders are bent on trying to discredit Jesus. He is rocking their world and they don’t like it one bit. In fact, they really dislike it a lot. Their power has been threatened and like most leaders, they are all about staying in control. Hardly goes with the concept of servant leadership does it? No question that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not focused on others – and serving their needs – they were focused on self and making things as positive for themselves as they could. So this guy from Nazareth was throwing a big wrench in their otherwise comfortable lives. He began to get very personal in the story of the vineyard when He talks about the tenants killing the servants who were sent to gather some fruit, and then the killing of the Son who was sent. This foretelling of what was to come was not understood by the leaders of that day, but certainly does point to what was coming in His life and God’s Story. What causes us to believe that we can kill the messenger of any truth and cause it to go away? Truth is not dependent on the messenger. It is based on the Author.
But they were focused on finding a way to discredit Him and “they watched and sent spies who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch Him in something”. Things are getting desperate now. They couldn’t trip Jesus up in the normal interaction around His teaching, so now they have sent some people in under cover to try and intentionally trip Him up. They fail to realize just who they are dealing with and attempt to get Him to say something against Caesar around taxes. “He perceived their craftiness” – it doesn’t say they were bad at being liars – but that He was perceptive to their motives. This is how God is my friends. He knows the condition of the heart – and Jesus did too. Scripture tells us over and over that it isn’t the outward things that God measures as much as the inward drivers. He wants our heart right. These deceivers didn’t stand a chance in catching Jesus. He knew their every move. And the attempts of the Sadducees that followed. Jesus was not deceived for a minute. He can see right through the words we say or the external actions we take and cuts to the heart. We need to keep that truth in mind. The end result of this little cat and mouse game? Jesus makes it clear that those who have been given places of responsibility “will receive the greater condemnation” based on how they live. With authority comes responsibility and accountability. God will hold leaders and teachers to a higher standard. There is more at stake and we need to realize that how we lead and teach makes a difference. Life matters. We need to live it well, and live it His way!
Luke 19:1-48 tells the story of Zaccheus. You remember the song right? Zaccheus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in the Sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And on it goes. We learn a few things about Zaccheus here in Luke. He was:
– “Chief tax collector
– Seeking to see Jesus”
Jesus calls to Zaccheus and tells him He is coming over for dinner. How can that be – the religious leaders want to know. “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner”. He can’t do that. It just isn’t right for anyone to associate with a tax collector. But Jesus ignores their wishes and goes and ministers to him. Why? Because God loves all of us – and we are all sinners in His sight. If Jesus was not going to associate with anyone who is a sinner – well we would all be in big trouble. But He goes and eats and brings Him to eternal life. That is His mission. To seek and save the lost. It still is.
Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the rich man who left on vacation and gave money to his servants to care for while he was away. Some of they invested it wisely and earned a return – others just hid it and gave back what they were given. Of course the expectation was to multiply it, and when the owner returned he took from the one who had not grown it and gave to the one who had done the best job. Then the principle comes: “to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away”. Another story of life not being fair – right? God’s economy does not run on fairness. It runs on His laws. He has expectations for our behavior and requirements for what we should do. Jesus moves on toward Jerusalem, and “when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it”. Jesus is not some macho man who has no emotions. We see Him weep a few times in scripture. He wore His heart on His sleeve. Why is it that we try so hard to hide that from others? We even try to hide it at home. It is the wrong way to live. We need transparency in our lives. People need to see that we are real and impacted just like Jesus was. Jesus teaches and shares truth much to the chagrin of the religious leaders. And the response of the people – “all the people were hanging on His words”. Do you hang on the words of Jesus? Is it something you can’t wait to get to read or hear? We should be obsessed with His words. They are the words of life!
Luke 18:15-43 is about rebuking. The disciples seem to have that talent down pat. They start by rebuking parents who are bringing their “infants to Him that He might touch them”. These guys have been with Jesus for almost three years now and they still don’t quite have it down. Jesus makes it clear that not only does He have time for children, He wants them to come to Him. In fact, His teaching is that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”. What does that mean? It means we need to come with pure and simple faith. Not a bunch of strings or expectations, just pure trust and faith. Kids really get it. They don’t let politics or concern for what others think get in the way. They just believe. They put their faith in things and accept them simply – the way we have to receive Jesus. A rich man comes and asks Jesus how to get into heaven. Jesus points out that this guy “knows the commandments”. It isn’t about knowledge in the head. Knowing about Jesus won’t be enough. We have to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We have to have faith and believe in Him – as Savior and Lord. Obedience won’t cut it – this guy said “all these I have kept from my youth”. It isn’t about living a certain way and doing things. It is about knowing Jesus. It is about giving our heart to Him. The problem for this rich guy was his wealth. He was willing to give Jesus most of his life – but not his money – and not his life. When told to “sell all you have…..come follow me” he turns and goes his own way. Being a Christ Follower costs all we are and have. It means we have to give it all to Him.
So is it worth it? How do I know that giving up all I am and have will really be worth it? First we have to consider that eternity depends on it. And eternal life is a very long place to spend the rest of time. But Jesus directly answers this question this way: “there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life”. Will you get back more than you give up? Absolutely. It will be the greatest decision you will ever make. Some mistakenly believe that becoming a Christ Follower immediately means we move on to easy street. That is not what it says. It doesn’t say we will get more of what we had, it says we will get more – more in God’s economy – more of the things that really matter. Both in this life and the life to come. So why do so many struggle so much to let go and believe in Christ? Because the core of that decision is giving up control and letting Him have the wheel. It means that self is no longer the main event – He is. It means that we are no longer focused on me – we are focused on Him. Most of us want to stay the center of our universe. We like that attention. We like being on the main stage of life. But if we are going to become a Christ Follower – priorities have to change. He has to become more while we become less. The greatest reward to believing in Jesus is eternal life, but this life will also receive many times more. So what is the holdup? Time to get on with the greatest decision you will ever make!