Watch yourselves – Luke 21:34-36

34 But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But 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.

In a wider discussion about signs of the times and future things, Jesus turned his attention back to the present.  He knew that our interest in the future is not always correlated with vigilance in the present.  In fact, it can be used as a way to avoid it.

The person who is always looking just beyond the horizon can grow careless.  It doesn’t have to happen, but when attention is drawn to the “What if … ?” or “Is it maybe …?” we can lose sight of our current responsibilities.  

Character is inevitably developed in the present tense.  What we do today ripples into tomorrow in more ways than we can imagine.  Preparing for the future means doing something before the future gets here.  This was Christ’s concern for his disciples and it remains his concern for us.

If we become lax in our walk with Christ, in our disciplines, or in the little details of our spiritual life, the future will be here before we know it.  It will come quickly enough anyway, but it will seem even quicker for the one who is caught off guard.

Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down …

Luke 20 – Verse by Verse

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Now in Jerusalem, Jesus gives us some teaching on authority, theology and hypocrisy.  We will also check out the Nicene Creed.

Luke 20.pdf

Luke 20.mp3  (Coming soon. Tech issue.)

Here is a link to the livestream video:

 

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 20

Dear God, holy Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit,

We believe that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human, both at the same time.

We also acknowledge that, as God, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth.

Please help us to be diligent students of your word so that we will believe rightly to the best of our ability.

We trust that right beliefs about you will lead to a better understanding of you.

Let this also lead to more complete obedience, better worship and a fuller appreciation for who you are and what you have done.

And prevent us from all forms of hypocrisy.

In Christ,

Amen

 

 

Son of David and Son of God – Luke 20:41-44

During his ministry here on earth, much of the teaching of Jesus was carried out in the form of Q & A.  That is, people would ask him questions and he would give answers.  Sometimes those questions were sincere, as when a person knew that they needed wisdom or understanding.  Sometimes they were designed to catch Jesus in some kind of trap.  This second kind of questioner usually thought they left Jesus with no good way out by the way they framed the question.  They were always wrong.  Jesus inevitably gave an answer that exposed the questioner’s mistaken assumptions.

Sometimes Jesus would ask the questions himself.  Here in Luke 20, we get just such an example, and it is designed by Jesus to lead us into the highest levels of truth about himself.  

41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

His listeners believed that the Christ would be the Son of David, thus making Son of David a messianic title.  What they could not explain is this excerpt from David’s own Psalm 110.  How is the Messiah, or David’s “my Lord” in the psalm, supposed to be the son of David at the same time?

We sometimes hear of cultures who worship or “venerate” their ancestors, such as China.  Most cultures at least intuitively give them some sort of honor.  Our memory of great people in the past seems to automatically make the great people of the present look, by comparison, well, a lot less great.  Sometimes our predecessors even make us look silly and self-centered by their sacrifice and commitment to a cause.

Of course, lately the trend is to bash and expose past heroes for the big phonies we now imagine they really were.  As far as I can tell, this is normally overblown – a way of making yourself look better by making someone else who is presently respected look worse.  The dead can’t defend themselves so they make an easy target for criticism.  Better to just admit that no one is perfect, least of all us, and leave the dead alone.

But Jesus has come across something very different indeed.  How many cultures go so far as to honor their descendants?  I can’t think of one.  Yet Jesus seems to have found a hero of Israel’s past, David, the great king, who is doing precisely that.  He is calling his descendant “my Lord.”  Why?

The answer Jesus alluded to is found explained not here, but in later Christian doctrine.  The teachings of Christianity were not given fully formed by Jesus or even his disciples, but often had to be cobbled together from different passages.  If an idea could hold all the separate notions in tension without destroying or denying any of them, then that idea is the clearest statement of biblically based truth.

So here, the idea is found in the two natures of Jesus.  He is not Son of David only, that is, merely human.  He is also not just the Son of God as in only divine.  He is both at the same time.  The true Christian faith does not hold to one as opposed to the other, but to both.  

I happen to like how this is expressed in the Athanasian Creed.  Here it is in an Anglican wording.

For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.

See https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/109017/Athanasian-Creed.pdf

Luke 19 – Verse by Verse

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As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, we see his triumphal entry.  Before that we will get lessons on stewardship and the lordship of Christ.

Luke 19.pdf

Luke 19.mp3

Here is a link to the livestream video:

 

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 19

Dear Father in Heaven,

Your Son Jesus Christ deserves all the devotion, all the praise and all the commitment that we can possibly give. He is worthy of even more.

He has said that you have given him all authority in heaven and on earth. We need to willingly give him all authority over every part of our lives.

We willingly offer you our talents, relationship, treasure, the truth as much as we know it, and our time. All that we have is from you, so we offer it back to you as yours for us to use in your service.

As stewards we want to be faithful.

And we wait for your Son to return from heaven and begin his earthly rule as King.

So we pray in his name,

Amen

 

A rich man enters the kingdom – Luke 19:1-10

In Luke 18:24-25, after his interaction with the rich (young) ruler, Jesus declares,

24 … How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

It is difficult, but not impossible, because, as Jesus points out, in v.27,

What is impossible with man is possible with God.

In Luke 19, we get an example.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

For the rich ruler in the last chapter, eternal life was something of an ambition.  It was a goal he hoped to achieve.  “What would it take for me to get it?” He asked, assuming there was some particular effort or accomplishment from his side that would merit such a prize.  When Jesus challenged him to give up his possessions, he became sad.  He never saw that coming.

We might suppose the ruler’s riches were, in his mind, a sign of his virtue.  He was either from a well-bred, respectable family or had earned his way to riches through honest work and astute business acumen.  Satisfied with the status he enjoyed, he saw eternal life as the same sort of thing.  “Good people like me are rewarded by God, ” was the basis of his religious and ethical philosophy.  This is really the opposite of grace and is an outlook which leaves no room for repentance.

Zacchaeus is different.  He seems to value Jesus more than anything else.  Being short and unable to see the Savior, he is content to climb a tree to get a glimpse of him.  Jesus freely offering to come to his house is a completely unmerited blessing.  Without any prompting, he intuitively grasps that his dishonest gains are an issue.  This is “fruit in keeping with repentance” as John the Baptist might have called it.  The greedy, wealthy swindler has become generous.  A rich man has entered the kingdom.