Much of Luke 24:1-12 is about the disciples looking for the missing Jesus after his resurrection. It was the women who sought him first. They were at a loss because of the empty tomb. A couple of divine messengers pointed them in the right direction. “He is risen.” Then the women told the men about their experience. Most of them at first did not believe. They thought the women were just talking nonsense. They did not look for Jesus. Peter however, was different. He ran to the tomb to look for Jesus. Where do we look for Jesus? I’ll tell you where he is. He is risen. He is with the hungry and thirsty, the homeless and naked, the sick and imprisoned. Jesus is with his church and also out seeking the lost. Where are we looking for Jesus?
1. Luke 23:34 “Father forgive them...” Forgiveness is the point of the cross - how easily do we forgive people even before they have repented? Can we forgive even when others cause us supreme pain?
2. Luke 23:43 “Today you will be with me in Paradise” Paradise is a description of a beautiful garden where we walk and talk with God - will we be there with him too? Can we forgive when others show no fruit other than a request for forgiveness?
3. John 19:25-27 “Woman here is your son...here is your mother” Are we in the church a family - are we brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers to each other? Do we arrive early and stay late at church?
4. Matthew 27:45-46 “Why have you forsaken me?” At that point when Jesus represented sin, he was abandoned by God so that we may not be.
5. John 19:28-30 “I am thirsty” Jesus took on physical discomfort that we might be comforted.
6. John 19:28-30 “It is finished” Do we live as if Christ has finished the work of salvation, or do we think that we must still work for it?
7. Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” Have we committed our spirits to God as well?
Labels: John 19
What kind of worship do we give to God? Are we extravagant or stingy towards God?
Let us understand that worship is to be extravagant.
We will look at extravagance in giving, faith and offerings.
It is a valuable lesson after the story of the extravagant son and the father’s extravagant forgiveness to look at extravagant giving (John 12:1-11). Mary was an example of bounteous giving to Jesus. She was the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back to life and naturally was very grateful. How grateful is measured by her lavish giving. Notice the elements of her gift. The perfume was contained in an alabaster box, an expensive stone vase. The amount used was about a litra, a Roman pound of around 12 oz. It was worth about 300 denarius, perhaps 300 day’s wage for a farm laborer, about a year’s income. Why so valuable? In those days spikenard or nard was only found on the slopes of the Himalaya’s and had to be imported a long, long way. How extravagant is our giving to Jesus?
Have you ever wondered at extravagant treasures in the church? Should they be sold and the money given to the poor? Jesus’ opinion on a related topic is interesting in John 12:1-11. Mary’s anointing of him was an over-the-top expensive act. I remember hearing of a family that wanted to donate their old furniture to the church and was offended when the church turned them down. Ought we give Jesus second best? In the Old Testament’s worship God expected people to sacrifice their best animals and offer up the best produce from the vegetable garden and the field. Next time we visit a beautiful church with lavish fixtures let’s think of the extravagant faith of the givers. Do we believe we are giving to a club or organization of mere human beings or the Church of the living Christ?
Jesus set us an example of personal sacrifice by offering himself completely on the cross (Hebrews 7:27; 9:14). In the manner of the sacrificial culture of ancient Israel, his offering was expensive, the best, without blemish (Leviticus 1-5). Many people offer God their best. They put their best effort into their church duties, whether finance, Sunday School, music, maintenance or prayer. Others sacrifice time for God in others ways such as in service to neighbors or taking time to learn a skill for church service. Offerings come in all shapes and sizes. Mary’s was oil, very expensive oil to anoint Jesus for his upcoming burial (John 12:1-11). What is our area of giving to Jesus? Is it a halfhearted giving, cheap and nasty, or are we thinking of ways that we can give to our Savior extravagantly?
Do we love God extravagantly?
Labels: John 12
What do we think of people outside of the church? Do we snub them or view them as lost valuables?
Let us understand that God calls those outside of the Christian faith lost valuables.
We will look at lost things like sheep, coins and children.
Are non-Christians also sheep?
Are non-Christians also sheep? In the context of the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-32) those who are sinners are like lost sheep. The term sinner was derisively used by super-religious Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus taught that even the most pious believers have done wrong, because all human beings have sinned. How dangerous and irresponsible it seems for a sheep farmer to leave 99 alone and unprotected for the sake of one lost sheep. The math simply doesn't add up. Locally, lambs average about $375 a head. At those prices, 99 would cost about $37,000. Putting $37,000 at risk to save $375 does not make business sense, but it does make heavenly sense. The exaggeration shows how much God cares for the lost and his heart’s desire for them to join his flock.
The world’s most valuable coin according to about.com is a 1933 gold double eagle worth in excess of $7.5 million. However, bornrich.com claims that another coin is even more valuable, a silver 1795 flowing hair dollar worth over $7.8 million. Luke 15:1-32 contains a parable of a lost coin. Imagine losing a small object worth almost $8 million. It could get easily lost. Imagine losing a winning lottery ticket worth millions. What would you do? I know what I would do. I’d be turning up everything in the house looking until I found it. Like the lady looking for her lost valuable coin, I’d sweep and scour every nook and cranny. When I found my coin worth millions, I’d be sure to throw a party. So do the angels when even just one sinner repents.
Celebration of the lost now found
Luke 15:1-32 reminds us that we have all been like the lost sheep, the lost coin or a lost child. Each week at church services is also like a celebration of the return of we who were lost in the world. As we gather together we are reminded of the price paid for us and the joy of our rescue from being lost. Jesus ate with degenerate sinners because those who have gone astray are important to him. We rejoice with him that he has found his lost sheep. In church assemblies we also rejoice with the angels of heaven who throw a great party over even just one sinner who repents. We rejoice with God our father as he celebrates the homecoming of those who were dead and are alive again, who were lost and now are found.
Some Christians have an us-and-them mentality. It is called exclusivism, the attitude of excluding people from the church because of a varying array of deficiencies. No church would willingly include those who actively threaten life and limb, so every church is to some degree exclusive. But the larger the list of excluded traits, the more exclusive the church. Some churches are excessively exclusive. What would Jesus’ attitude be towards this mentality? In Luke 15:1-32 we seem to be taught that Jesus is actively seeking ways to include rather than exclude people. In this parable, virtually all of humanity not currently in a church could be seen as lost and Jesus’ desire is to find the lost and include them in his flock. Rather than an us-and-them mentality, Jesus seems to have an us and the lost of us mentality.
Do we have the same attitude to God and his holy angels towards those outside of the church? Do we consider them as like lost valuables worth rescuing?
Labels: Luke 15
What do we think when calamity strikes others? Do we believe it is God's punishment or not?
Let us understand that time and chance happen to us all and that we all must repent.
We will look at disasters, governments that kill, tragic accidents and the need for all of us to repent.
Disasters and divine punishment
Are catastrophes God’s judgment on the sins of others? While such claims seem to be justified by stories of divine judgment the Bible teaches that not every calamity is God’s punishment. What would Jesus say about judging suffering? In Luke 13:1-9 Jesus answered religious people who made such claims about similar disasters. A political murder and a local construction disaster were not reasons for believing that the victims were any more sinful than the rest of us. Such self-righteous judgmentalism seemed to disgust Jesus who replied that we all need to repent or perish. As Ecclesiastes plainly teaches, time and chance happen to us all. Not every loss is punishment, just as not every gain is a reward. Even when punishment is due, rather than chastise immediately, Jesus showed God’s preference to give us a second chance to repent.
Wrong idea of God
Even Christians can get a wrong idea of God. We imagine a God who is out to get us, like that old George Jones and Tammy Wynett country song, “God’s gonna get’cha for that. Every wrong thing that you do, God’s gonna get’cha for that.” We imagine a harsh Father in heaven and a pleading Jesus trying to get us out of trouble. But the Bible says that God’s faithful love endures forever. That is the thrust of the argument in Luke 13:1-9 where Jesus answers the hypocrisy that exists in all of us when we point the accusing finger of blame. Human atrocity or simple accidents are not always God’s punishment. We have all sinned and face ultimate destruction in hell unless we repent. But, God has given us all extra time to repent. Let’s not waste it.
Mass murders by governments
Just about every human government that has ever existed has been responsible for mass murder. Is that God’s way of punishing evil? What about the mass murders committed by the Empire of Japan, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany? Were those victims worse people than us? What about the bombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Were those women and children worse than us? What about the massacres of history? Were they God’s punishment? In Luke 13:1-9 Jesus described a massacre of worshipers by Pilate, who apparently killed them in the very act of worshiping God. Was their worship insincere? Was it tainted? Such judgmental questions annoy Jesus, because as he said, we will perish too unless we regret our wrongs. Human governments claim to judge between the right and wrong but their opinions do not constitute divine judgment.
Were the 1,500 people who died i the Titanic punished by God? What about the 4,000 victims of Chernobyl or the 20,000 killed in Bhopal? What about the 7 crew members who perished in the Challenger space shuttle disaster? Are accidents God’s way of punishing us? Jesus answered the question in the context of an apparent construction accident (Luke 13:1-9). 130 were killed in the 1944 East Ohio Gas Explosion and 114 were killed in the 1981 Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse. Were they worse sinners than we are? Just like the 18 who died in the Tower of Siloam collapse, they were probably no worse or better than you and me. Unless we all repent we too will perish. We love to judge the fate of others, but Jesus reminds us to judge ourselves.
Repent or perish
We are all guilty of preferring a lukewarm version of Christianity to repentance. It’s as if we sing from a different hymnal. #57 O for a dozen tongues to sing; #89 Joyful, joyful, we kinda like thee; #110 A comfy mattress is our God; #136 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’m nonchalant; #140 Late is thy faithfulness; #176 Gadgetry, worship our gadgetry; #191 Jesus loves me, status quo; #196 Come thou long neglected Jesus; #299 When I survey the profit and loss; #349 Turn your eyes to my thesis; #354 All to Jesus I’m the lender; #369 Just like insurance, Jesus is mine; #526 What an acquaintance we have in Jesus; #575 Onward kitchen soldiers. We feel safe because we attend church, but Jesus warned in Luke 13:1-9 that there’s more to it. Unless we repent we will all perish.
Rather than judge those who suffer let's look at ourselves and understand that we still have a chance to repent.
Labels: Luke 13