Vs. 6, “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.” I don’t want this fact to be lost in this chapter, He is risen. There is power and fulfillment in the Resurrection! How wonderful that Jesus would meet the women as they came first to honor him on the very first Easter Sunday. Naturally, it would be hard for the disciples to believe this claim, so Peter and John would check it out themselves (vs. 9-12). We are told in John’s Gospel that he also came with Peter. We then are given this interesting story of the road to Emmaus (vs. 13-35). It’s kind of comical as Jesus walks up to Cleopas and his friend who happen to be talking about him. The writing on the wall for hope was there, but they didn’t understand it yet. When then see Jesus reveal Himself to the others in Jerusalem (vs. 36-44). In both instances, we see Jesus the patience and the love of our Lord. Lastly, the disciples and all of us are reminded that we have a job to do! Jesus has commissioned us to be spiritual ambassadors and witnesses to tell the world who He is (vs. 45-53).
Regarding application…Open Our Minds. Vs. 45, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scripture.” Question: What was Jesus trying to teach them? That all of Scripture points towards the Messiah! Jesus is teaching us that God had a plan from the very beginning of Genesis to the book of Revelation. The disciples were in a relationship with Jesus, but still did not fully understand. And you know what? That’s okay. God does not expect us to know the deep things of theology or Scripture all at one time. But as we progress in this life, our prayer should be that He would continue to open our minds. That is why we read the Bible daily so that our minds would not grow dull to the heartbeat of God. Let Jesus open your mind and your heart today!
Vs. 14-15, “and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.” What a dark day in the history of God’s creation. At Jesus’ trial, we see Pilate and then Herod find no basis for death, but God’s own chosen would yell out crucify him (vs. 20). The same crowds that were praising Jesus a week earlier were now condemning Him. Think of Jesus at this time. He had no sleep all night, , ridiculed, humiliated, abandoned, beaten and scourged so badly that He couldn’t even carry his own cross all the way. And speaking of crucifixion, it is only one of the worst ways to die. During that day, it was reserved only for the worst criminals. Even during the death process of our Lord on the cross, His love and concern for those around him (the thief, his mother, forgiving others) are amazing.
Regarding application…Grace Given. Vs. 34, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Here we see Jesus’ love in action. Grace is God’s undeserved love and forgiveness. Forgiveness does not guarantee salvation, but the first step was initiated for us. We can’t repent and receive salvation if we are not forgiven. As we soberly are reminded of the death of our Lord Jesus today, we want to ask ourselves; How will this apply to me? Just as you have been given grace, now it is time for you to extend grace to another. Forgiveness breaks down the walls of hostility. Question: Who can you give grace to today?
Vs. 4, “And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.” The gauntlet has been thrown down and will of God is set in motion. What a tragic tale that Judas Iscariot brings to light. But that would not deter Jesus from fulfilling His Father’s will. As they celebrated Passover, it is no coincidence that Jesus (The Lamb of God) would shed His blood just as the lamb did in Egypt for God’s people. It really amazes me that in the midst of the last supper, that Jesus is so patient with his bickering apostles (vs. 24). Jesus would warn them there soon will be a time when people will no longer welcome them (vs. 36-38). Now we come to the events in the Garden of Gethsemane (vs. 39-53). Jesus teaches us all about life and dependence upon the Father. I always feel myself rooting for Peter’s courage in drawing his sword to defend Jesus (vs. 50). But, Jesus would not allow the enemy to get a foothold in God’s plan. The enemy probably thought he was winning, but God was and always is in ultimate control. Sadly, we see Jesus’ prophecy of Peter denying him three times come true (vs. 54-62). Even more excruciating, we must read about the mockery of trial(s) and the beating Jesus would endure (vs. 63-71)
Regarding application…Not My Will. Vs. 28, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Question: What is “my” will? My will can be our own desires whether we believe them to be selfish or even good intentioned. For example, let’s say a father is teaching his son how to build a shelf. He is giving him explicit instructions on building a strong base and using enough nails to strengthen the foundation. The son understands the father’s request, but is in a hurry and wants to play so he only uses four nails instead of the eight his father instructed him. The son had good intentions and technically did listen to his father and even did some of the instruction. But upon the completion of the shelf, it falls down because the son did not follow his father’s will. Question: How do we know the Father’s will? Know His word, pray daily and be connected to the church; so basic yet incredibly hard to do because we are selfish. Make today a day where you mirror the prayer of Jesus!
Vs. 8, “He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” The days are numbering down and Jesus is spending time in His Father’s house. In the beginning of this chapter, we see the woman with two copper coins bring an offering to the temple (vs. 1-4). God looks at the heart of the giver and is honored by such things. Then Jesus gives us some amazing insight about the End Times. The Mayan prophecies though false, do help remind us that there are biblical signs that point towards the end of the earth (at least how we know it). In Jesus’ prophecy we see both the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans some forty years later and also the End Times that are yet to come. So, it certainly can be confusing for us the reader. Be careful of false teachers claiming to the real Savior of the world. Jesus’ exhortation to be ready to defend ourselves speaks of standing up for our faith in an age where Christianity is mocked (vs. 14).
Regarding application…Keep Your Head Up. Vs. 28, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Just yesterday, I exhorted one of my students with this very phrase. The anxieties of this life (vs. 34) certainly can keep us downcast. It’s a reminder that it’s normal not to feel comfortable in this world. If you walk with the Lord…Jesus tell us our family may disown you and people will hate you (vs. 16-17). Yet, do not dismay because there is the most amazing future ahead of us! That is why we read the living Word of God! It reminds us to hear His voice and keep our heads up! I’ll end with something that happened today to me. I went to work out at the local gym (funny how packed it was with all those New Years resolutions). So I got home and realized I couldn’t recall where I left my wallet. I looked everywhere for it and even drove back to the gym to search for it. My head was pretty low and I was frustrated because I had just put about $90 in cash in my wallet a couple of days ago. I got home, went to my bedroom and sat down with my head low. And lo and behold…my wallet had fallen underneath one of the furniture items in my bedroom. A big sigh of relief and a smile came on my face! Then, I turned to God’s word and He reminded me to not let life’s anxieties keep me down, Praise God!
Vs. 2, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” It was Passover feast, so the population of Jerusalem increased. The Pharisee’s and Teachers of the law had a predicament; there were still many who were supporting Jesus. How could they find a way to arrest Jesus? So they came trying to test and corner Jesus into saying something blasphemous. Question: Who did this Jesus think He was? But Jesus masterfully throws back another question that keeps them quiet (vs. 1-8) Jesus goes on to share the Parable of the Tenants. The original audience would have full well known Jesus was referring to the tenants (workers) in the vineyard as themselves (vs. 9-19). Jesus also teaches us to rightfully respect the nation we live under, but ultimately, God is number one (vs. 20-26). Then the Sadducees come with a question to stump Jesus (vs. 27-39). The Sadducees didn’t believe in Resurrection in the first place, but Jesus once again gives an answer that puts them in their place. Jesus also turns the tables and asks them a question (vs. 41-47). Question: How can the Messiah be the son of David and be called David’s Lord? Doesn’t make sense, huh? Jesus was both…He is God and He was the also the human descendant of David. This is what we call the incarnation. Jesus was in the flesh and yet also God, Amen!
Regarding application…What is Your Response? Vs. 13, “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” First of all, Happy New Year! It’s amazing how 2012 is upon us. The vineyard owner is God and He sent His one and only Son. Many tenants rejected him. Question: What is your response? Are you respecting Jesus enough to put Him first? Perhaps we have all heard the adage, “half-obedience is disobedience.” As this New Year is upon us, let’s keep our eyes focused Heavenward. We see the slippery slope the vineyard workers had as they continued down the road of sin. Their continual rejection led to crucifying our Lord. Start building your house on the foundation of Jesus this New Year! We can do this dearest brothers & sisters in Christ! I pray that you would have a blessed week turning to the Lord and living this life wholly in Christ!
Vs. 10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” In this chapter we see Jesus nearing Jerusalem and making His triumphant entry. But as Jesus was journeying south, he ran into our friend Zacchaeus (vs. 1-10). It’s important to note that while Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus, it was Jesus who called him (vs. 5). It is only when we realize the depths of our sins that we can than acknowledge the one who came to save us. The Parable of the Minas (one mina was about four months wages), gives us a different perspective than the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25). In this we see the master give everyone the same amount of money (vs. 11-27). Question: Why the difference from the Talents? Jesus is emphasizing that we all have the same opportunity to respond to Him. And now we come to Jesus’ final week before his crucifixion and triumphant entry (vs. 28-48). It always touches my heart when we see Jesus weep (vs. 41) for the future lost.
Regarding application…Investing Your Life. Vs. 15, “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.” This is the last day of 2011. As we round the corner to the New Year, what are you going to invest your life in? Investing is a scary thing because nothing is guaranteed. Buying a home, investing in a 401k/IRA, to name just a few shaky things we can put our hard earned money towards. However, the wisest way you can invest your life is storing up treasures in Heaven. It’s when you choose to live a life declaring, “Not my will, but yours be done.” It’s not a popular investment to devote your life to the Lord and His church, but certainly the most important eternal investment you will ever make! Make 2012 a year of investing in the Lord!
Vs. 1, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” We continue to see Jesus interacting with those around him and teaching in parables. Yesterday, I talked about exercising our faith. Question: Have you ever felt like you just wanted to give up? In the persistent widow, we see how important it is to keep our faith when we pray to God (vs. 1-8). Continuing the prayer theme, Jesus gives us a contrasting scene of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector (vs. 9-14). There are many lessons to prayer, but the one I see here is the importance of humility before God. We can never stand before God with justifiable reasons; it’s only the grace of God. We are once again reminded of how important children are to Jesus (vs. 15-17). This morning, our church invited the Youth group to come to the adult early morning service. We had an opportunity to really pray for the youth and remind ourselves that they are the future church! In the rich young ruler, we are reminded from two chapters ago about the love of money (vs. 19-29). How sad that the man realized the truth, yet chose riches. Thankfully, another person in the blind beggar, would respond with joy (vs. 35-43).
Regarding application…Obedience in Trials. Vs. 32, “He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.” May we never forget the obedience to death, even death on a cross that Jesus would do for us. Jesus knew it beforehand, yet was obedient. Christians with faith when life is good, they come a dime a dozen. What separates the sheep from the goat is having faith even in the storms and trials of life. Question: How do you respond? Over the years of ministry, I’ve seen many respond in different ways. Some use trials as a reason to blame God or the church. Others use it to feel sorry for themselves. Still others choose to not give up and are faithful. Question: Which one are you?
Vs. 5, “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Question: What helps us be able to call out to God? Faith. Yes, this very elusive word that has confounded many throughout generations. The author of Hebrews gives us probably the best understanding of it, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) It is faith that helps us to forgive each other (vs. 1-4). It is faith that we obey God in all that we do (vs. 6-10). It is faith that heals us physically, emotionally, and spiritually (vs. 11-19). It is faith that gives us the hope that one day Jesus will indeed return (vs. 20-37)…and no, Dec. 21st, 2012 is not that day!
Regarding application…Exercise Your Faith. Vs. 6, “He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Question: How do you exercise your faith? I worked for Nike in Beaverton, OR for a few years and their slogan back in the day was, “Just do it”. Essentially, that is what Jesus is telling us to do. The disciples wanted more faith as most of us do too. But Jesus would make it simple for us. We can’t just sit on our rear ends and expect to be strong physically? Likewise, the same principle lies with our faith. Thankfully, it is not an unattainable faith that Jesus is demanding of us…it’s faith as small as a mustard seed. Question: Isn’t that incredible? Make today a day where you exercise your faith. Perhaps you need to forgive someone. Perhaps you need to be healed of a sickness (physical, emotional, spiritual). Perhaps you need hope. Turn to the Lord today and seek Him! He lift your burdens and give you the spiritual food to have a day that is blessed for He has made it!
Vs. 1, “Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.” The rock band ACDC coined the phrase, “Money talks”. Did you know that Jesus talked about money more than any other topic? Scholars break it down to 1/6 of the time! Having worked in the banking world for many years, I concur that money has been a very hot topic. Having just finished the story of the prodigal son wasting away his father’s inheritance, we see Jesus give another parable on money (vs. 1-15). Why would Jesus comment a dishonest money man? Because this man realized the prospect of a bad future and acted shrewdly (wisely) to ensure he would be treated fairly later on. If Christians would do likewise with our faith, we would be better of as well. We then move on to the Rich man and Lazarus (notice how Luke did not address this as an actual parable). When death came knocking at the rich man’s door, it was then that he realized the folly of his ways (vs. 19-31).
Regarding application…What Do You Value? Vs. 15, “He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Question: What was it that is detestable in God’s sight? The love of money. We cannot love both God and money. Yet, many foolishly think both can be achieved in this life. I confess, there was a time that the allurement of financial success fell upon my heart. I was working at a bank and moving up in the ranks. I owned my own house and could see a very comfortable life. I justified the success with the fact that I was still serving God in the local church in part-time ministry. However, God knew my heart and by His grace he drew back to Him. Perhaps my heart was a bit like Jonah’s who wanted to flee from obeying God’s will in my life. It’s always a wise think to ask ourselves what do we value in this life? Because as Jesus so aptly told us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21.
Vs. 2, “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” What the Pharisee’s didn’t realize is that they were the “sinners”. Jesus goes on to share with us three very powerful parables about the lost. People have different views on how God approaches His relationship with His creation. In the examples of the sheep and coin, we see God making the assertive effort to find the lost. In the prodigal son, we see the son making the effort to turn back to the Father. It is important to note that in all three: sheep, coin, son…we understand how valuable they are to God. Each of us have high value when it comes to how God sees us!
Regarding application…When God Ran. Vs. 20, “So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Phillips, Craig & Dean wrote and sang this very powerful song called “When God Ran”! This story of the prodigal son cuts deep into my heart. In a time where families all over the world struggle with relationships and absent Fathers, we are poignantly reminded of the Father’s love. There are lessons to be learned in the response of the younger son and the older son, but the parable really is about the Father. Question: Are you lost? Do you feel like you have been playing hide & seek with God? As we round the last corner of 2011, let us be found by God and let Him use us powerfully as the New Year begins.