Thursday, November 20, 2014

Luke 5:33-38

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” 36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees at this point, when they question him about the apparent lack of fasting and praying being done by His disciples. Jesus answers them with a question? This is an approach Jesus often uses when someone challenges his teaching, and a way of getting at the real issue. In this case Jesus is re-defining what spiritual disciplines like fasting and praying are really for. Spiritual disciplines bring us closer to God and Jesus.

The purpose of any discipline is for training in something you are striving for. In this case, Jesus has called his disciples, which is also a derivative of discipline, to follow and learn from Him. A disciple is someone who learns a trade or way of life from someone they emulate, and want to become like. As such, a disciple of Jesus is someone who begins a lifelong journey of following Jesus, and endeavoring to become more like Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So it follows then, that if the purpose of spiritual discipline is to bring us closer to our master, that Jesus would say, "the friends of the bridegroom don't fast while he is with them!" He then he uses of the new garments and old clothes, new wine and old wineskins, as illustrations of what He is saying. Since Jesus is the new wine, the old wineskin of the Law doesn't work. Doing things in slavish obedience to the Law is like pouring new wine into old wineskins. It has lost its purpose, which is to hold and eventually drink the wine.

So the new wine is Jesus. The new wineskin are the ways we connect with and abide in and with Jesus. So a good question for us to think about is when we fast and/or pray is it to enjoy fellowship with Jesus? Does it draw us closer to Him, so we are better able to follow Him? It is easy for all of us to lose the purpose of spiritual disciplines and they become perfunctory. Maybe when you pray and read the bible you can think of it as talking to Jesus and hearing from Him. It might just motivate you to do it more often!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Luke 5:27-30

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

This passage has huge implications for what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ and a follower of Him. Jesus has been silently blowing up paradigms about who the Son of God is, and often it is demonstrated by what he does and who he does it with. As Jesus is walking down the road he sees a tax collector. Remember tax collectors were not the most admired people because of at least two good reasons. One, they represented the Roman government, or at the very least their trade was supported and enforced by it. Secondly, although tax collectors paid the taxes up front, they extorted as much money as they could out of people to pad their own pockets.

With all of this background the text says Jesus "saw him, and said follow me!" And then it says Levi left everything and followed him. This included his lucrative business. Levi, later named Matthew, then held a banquet for all of his friends. It is said that a new convert is the best evangelist because they are so excited about the change that has happened in their hearts and lives. And the large banquet, probably paid with his profits, included his friends and also Jesus' disciples. No doubt Jesus was teaching them a valuable lesson about who is worthy to be a disciple.

And then we see the Pharisees' response. "Why do you eat with the tax collectors and sinners?" By sinners it likely meant other Gentiles, who were regarded as unclean by Jewish standards. Then comes the punchline of the whole story as Jesus states, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." He is not being literal here, but referring to a disease we all have, which is sin. But for those who are willing to admit they are sinners and turn to Jesus the Great Physician, there is hope and salvation. He is not literally referring to those who are righteous, but those who are self righteous. And those who are willing to realize they need a righteousness that is outside of themselves in Jesus.

It is easy to look down are noses at the Pharisees, but is there not a little Pharisee in all of us? We start making the religious things we do a badge of spiritual superiority, and look down others who not as spiritual. I am not saying that having spiritual disciplines like tithing, praying, reading the bible, being in a small group or evangelizing our friends is a bad thing. But the moment pride sets in we need to be careful, because pride comes before the fall. Jesus tells us to serve in humility and not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. He tells us not to parade our righteousness in front of others to get their approval. He says when you pray go in your room and pray in secret. Jesus models this kind of "secret service" with his disciples us and encourages us to do likewise.

Where is Jesus calling you to serve Him, where you will not receive any worldly credit? Where is Jesus calling you to hang out with sinners to remind you of the fact that, "if not for the grace of God there go I!"? Thank God that while were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Luke 5:17-26

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Today we see three things of importance. One, Jesus continues his healing ministry with a growing number of people who see his works. Second, the Pharisees and teachers of the law are becoming more and more suspicious and jealous of what Jesus is doing. Some of it is theologically driven, as Jesus is blowing up their boxes they have for thinking about God. And the people are going after him and this drives their fear and insecurity about their own position and standing. Finally, Jesus links the power to heal with the power and authority to forgive sins. For who else could heal like Jesus is doing but God himself. And if Jesus is God, then it follows that He has the authority to forgive sins.

Ultimately the works of Jesus reveal who He is and His divine nature. And though we often need physical healing in our earthly lives, we also need the healing and salvation that comes with having our sins forgiven. When we are forgiven and in a right relationship with God as the song goes, "It is well, it is well with my soul".

Where do you need forgiveness in your life today? Maybe you need to feel and know the forgiveness of God through Christ? The word confession just means being honest with God. Literally the word means to "say the same thing". The thing is God already knows our hearts so it really doesn't make sense to try and hide from God. Bringing our faults to the light and allowing God to forgive us through Christ frees us to serve Him in newness of life.

Finally, maybe there is someone you need to forgive? The scripture tells asks us, how can we withhold forgiveness when God has forgiven us for all we have done. We pray, "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". So implicit in our asking for forgiveness is being willing to forgive others. Who do you need to forgive today? Some people say I can't forgive someone unless they say, "I'm sorry!" But I don't hear that condition in the Lord's Prayer. The relationship may not be completely healed until a person asks for forgiveness, but that doesn't mean we can't forgive them out of gratitude for the forgiveness we have received. When you think about it, God didn't wait until we said sorry, but Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. This is a good model for us to strive for even though we will never be perfect at it.

Thank God for the forgiveness you have been given and then as you are able forgive those who have trespassed against you in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Luke 5:12-16

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Our story today is another instance of Jesus showing forth the kingdom in the healing of disease. And today the horrible disease is leprosy. Leprosy was not only physically painful to those who contracted it, but it also brought about quite a bit of social humiliation as well. Jesus met this man in one of the towns, which we know is Capernaum, from Matthew and Mark's version of the story. What we see here today shows us two very important lessons. One is how to approach Jesus with a need. And secondly, how Jesus responds to a need.

First, we see the man's approach to Jesus. When he sees Jesus, he pays deference to him and puts his face to the ground. He recognized who Jesus was. Then, he humbly asked Jesus to heal him. In his humble request he affirms that if Jesus was willing, he could make him clean. So he shows not only humility, but his complete faith at the same time. Finally, through his prayer of faith he is made clean. We don't know exactly what he did afterwards, but in Mark's gospel it says he freely shared the Good News. Though Jesus was trying to keep his identity secret at least for now, the man cannot help be freely share what Jesus has done for him.

Second, we see Jesus' response. It says Jesus reached out and touched his hand. The Son of Man stooped to touch the diseased man's hand. Again it would have been unthinkable for a rabbi to come in contact with the one who had to yell "unclean", when they were in the temple. But Jesus saw this man's faith and he touched him. Jesus said, "he was willing". Jesus, always the man of compassion, saw this man's need and in love was willing to meet it. So we see not only his mercy and kindness, but then his power. He merely says, "be clean" and the man is instantly healed. Jesus in humility tells the man not to tell anyone but to go tell the priest as was required by the Jewish law. Again this shows his obedience to the Law he came to fulfill. Finally, as Jesus often did, he withdrew to a quiet place to pray. We see the rhythm between ministry and abiding in the Father. Jesus knows His need to stay in communion with His Father, if He is going to continue to do the works of the Father. Apart from Him, He can do nothing.

What can we learn from this story, and how might it apply to us today? Though most of us will never suffer from the terrible disease of leprosy, we all share another terrible disease. It is the "sin disease". Like leprosy it covers us from head to toe. The question for us today is will we go to Jesus and say in humility, "if you are willing you can make me clean". This is what we call confession, when we admit that we are in need of spiritual healing to Jesus. And the Good News today is if we seek Jesus and fall at our knees and confess our need for His healing, He will likewise utter, "I am willing!" How do we know this for sure? When Jesus went to the cross he proved to us He was willing. When Jesus reached out his nail pierced hand to touch us, he showed He was willing. Though our sins be as scarlet, He has made us white as snow.

And like the leper, when we have realized such a healing from Jesus, we too can do nothing but freely share the Good news with those around us. Amen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus Calls His First Disciples
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

One of Jesus' favorite teaching methods is what we call a "teachable moment". That is something happening in everyday life that Jesus can use an analogy to illustrate the spiritual life. In this case Peter, James and John had been out all night fishing and had "zilch" to show for it. For someone who earns a living by fishing, this was not good and I'm sure disheartening for them.

At the same time the crowds who had been following Jesus and amassed around him were waiting for what he might do next. Then it says he got in the boat and started teaching them. The sea became his classroom and the boat his pulpit. It does not say what exactly he taught them, but he decided to bring home the lesson by telling Peter to cast his clean net into the deep water. Peter is reluctant, but he has already seen Jesus do some pretty miraculous healing so he listens and obeys.

And then they caught such a huge amount of fish their nets were breaking, and they called the others to help bring it up out of the water. They filled not only Peter's boat but their companion's as well. When Peter saw this miracle he realized who he was standing in the presence of. When he realized Jesus' divinity, he realized his own human sinfulness so much so that he didn't feel worthy to be in Jesus' presence. Later Peter will be the first one to confess that Jesus is the Messiah.

Then comes the punch line and the teachable moment of the story. Jesus says don't be afraid from now on you will fish for people. And the disciples responded to the call, left all of their fishing equipment and followed Jesus. In essence they left everything they knew up to this point. They left their profession and their families, the two things nearest to them.

We are not sure what happened to the crowd, as this teachable moment was mainly for the disciples and specifically Peter, but I'm sure this added to buzz about Jesus. What can we learn from this!?

1. Peter had exhausted his skills and caught nothing. Even when Jesus told him to throw out the net he doubted it would do any good. But most importantly Peter obeyed and gave Jesus a chance to work.

How many times have you been in this place where you exhausted your resources and the thought of doing anything more even with God's help seemed in vain. Sometimes it is just when we are at the end of our rope that God extends us His rope. Why? So that we can know without a shadow of a doubt that it is He who is providing the catch.

Where do you need to listen to Jesus' and throw your net out there one more time, but this time with Jesus' help? Where are you trying to do it alone? Where is Jesus inviting you to completely trust him? Despite your doubts will you listen like Peter did today? Who knows you may receive more than you had hoped for or imagined!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Luke 4:38-44

Jesus Heals Many
38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Today Jesus gives us more understanding in how the kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven. Remember when John the Baptist saw him he said, "repent because the kingdom of God is at hand." This basically meant turn around, change your mindset, because you are going to see God doing a whole new thing through Jesus. And today we see that part of that manifestation of the kingdom that came through Jesus was the healing of various sicknesses and diseases.

Today, Jesus goes to his good friend and confidant Simon Peter's home. His mother in law was sick with a fever and Jesus took time out of his busy day to rebuke the fever and it left. Notice Jesus rebuked the fever. Normally we see this word with how Jesus handles demons, as we see in the story below as well. It is too far to say every sickness is from the devil, or someone sick with a fever is demon possessed. And yet this shows that sickness is not of God. Jesus rebukes the sickness as a sign that in God's kingdom, where God is reigning, there is no sickness. It is a foretaste of what is to come.

As Jesus heals his mother in law, word must have gotten out, as by sunset all kinds of people were brought to Jesus, with all kinds of diseases. And laying his hands on them, he healed them all. Notice too that as he healed people of sickness also demons presented themselves. They tried to reveal Jesus' identity, yet he rebuked them and wouldn't let them speak. Why? Because it was not yet his time, he had more people to preach to and reveal God's kingdom. This by the way is why we often lay hands on people as we pray for healing. Not because it is magical, but because that is the way Jesus and the early church did it.

Of course after this kind of day, Jesus needed rest. He was human after all. But the people kept looking for him and tried to prevent him from leaving. We would probably do the same thing. But Jesus knew his time was limited and that he had to show what the kingdom of God was like in other places, so that they too might know He was the Messiah.

Question: Do we pray for healing today? Do we believe through the power of the Holy Spirit we can pray and lay hands on people for the purpose of healing their diseases and sicknesses and confront demonic forces if necessary. One way to answer that question is to say only Jesus could do those sort of things. Another way would be to say if Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit,and the apostles did many of the same things that Jesus did, then why would we say that was just for Jesus and his apostles to get the church going. We really don't need that kind of power today. But the fact is we are still fighting the same powers Jesus fought. God is still healing people today in Jesus' name. And the only question is, are we as a church going to be part of God's kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.

Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism in regard to the petition, "thy kingdom come". God's kingdom will surely come without our asking for it. The only question is will it come through us. Let us repent for the kingdom of. God is at hand!

PS if you would like to read a good article talking about Luther's view of healing today I have attached a link.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Luke 4:31-37

Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit
31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

Again as Jesus went Capernaum, he went into the synagogue and was given the opportunity to teach. Importantly he taught as one who had authority. The authority came from the Word of God being preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, people are convicted of their sin and led to repentance. And in this case the power and authority of the Word confronted a man who was possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. Demons are spirits that have fallen from the holiness of God and as we say, "they have gone to the dark side".

The authority of Jesus, which convicted the people who listened, also confronted the dark power that had creeped into the synagogue. After all, what better place to be for a demon to possess a man than the place where God's people meet for worship. The devil hates it when we worship God, and he would as he tried to do with Jesus, rather have us bow down and worship him. But in this case the demon knows he is in trouble for "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world".

But then we notice something interesting. Instead of trying to make a last ditch effort to harm the man he had come into, the demon throws the man down without further injury. He submitted to Jesus' command. Again the people in the synagogue are amazed this time not by his words, but by his works. With power he preached the word, and with the same power and authority he rebuked the demon who obeyed, left, and did not harm the man.

We can be certain that if we are looking to follow Jesus and advance His kingdom here on earth, there will be resistance. Resistance from not only men, but principalities and powers of this present spiritual darkness. (Ephesians 6). But the Good News is, like Jesus, we have the power of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. With the same authority Jesus used, we also can wield the authority of the Word. It is not our power, but God working in us to defeat all of Satan's schemes and leaving us unharmed.

Praise God we have nothing to fear. If God is for us who can be against us! Amen.