A Prayer Prompted by Luke 5

Father in Heaven,

We thank you that Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but rather sinners in need of repentance.  If you were looking for righteous people, you would never have chosen us.

We now ask you for your forgiveness, healing, cleansing and complete transformation.  We want to know that we are new creatures in Christ.  

And then, just like those earliest disciples, we want to be used by you to draw others into a relationship with Jesus. We ask that you would help us to “fish for people.”  Like Levi’s friends, let us have the blessing of seeing our friends and family come to know you.

We know that we come to you as sinners, but that you have the ability to make us saints. Make us holy, please.

In Christ,

Amen.

Cleansing a leper – Luke 5:12-14

12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

The leprous man expressed his faith by coming to Jesus and falling on his face before him.  In response, Jesus reached out his hand to touch him.  Normally this was prohibited because anyone touching a leper would become unclean.  In this case, the opposite happens, the leper becomes clean.  Christ’s ability to cleanse the leper was greater than any power the leprosy had to make Christ unclean.

Then Jesus sent him to the priest.  There was an offering specified for those cases in which a leper was cured, by which the priest would declare him clean.  The biblical definition of leprosy seems to have been broader than ours, so we need not conclude that people were constantly being healed what of we would call Hansen’s disease today.  The offering, however, is instructive for us regarding the cleansing work of Christ.  We find it in Leviticus 14:3-7.

3 …Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, 4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds … 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird …, and dip … the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field.

Cyril of Alexandria 376-444

Cyril of Alexandria (376 – 444)

It’s a fascinating parallel. One bird is killed, the other is dipped in the slain bird’s blood and then released.  As Cyril of Alexandria once said it, 

We may see then, in the birds, Christ suffering in the flesh according to the Scriptures … That the one bird was slain, and that the other was baptized indeed in its blood, while itself exempt from slaughter … For Christ died in our place, and we, who have been baptized into his death, he has saved by his own blood. *

Each of us is a lot like this leper.  We are unclean because of our sin.  Jesus touches us, but never becomes unclean or sinful himself; he makes us clean instead.  Christ’s ability to cleanse us is greater than the power of sin, by which we make ourselves unclean.

* Found in Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003, 91.

Luke 4 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

Having been baptized by John in the last chapter, Jesus is now led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he endures a time of testing and temptation at the hands of the devil.  He goes from there back to Galilee to begin his public ministry.

Luke 04.pdf

Luke 04.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 4

Father in Heaven,

Thank you for all that we can learn from Jesus and the way he carried out his ministry.

Thank you that he showed us how to defeat the devil by only being filled with the Spirit and filled with your Word.  Please fill us with your Spirit this day.  Help us further to be students of the Scriptures.  We want to be able to use the Bible rightly whenever we face the many temptations that we do.  

Help us also to have discernment to know the difference between the truth, which comes from you, and the lies that our enemy so craftily tells us.

Teach us to pray about every need, not least the many sicknesses that we face in this life.

And finally, help us to seek you first, so that we might constantly grow in our faith, and help us to set our priorities in accordance with your will.

In Christ,

Amen.

 

A custom of Jesus – Luke 4:16

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day … 

Sometimes Christians fall a little short (or even a lot) by attending church on Sunday, but letting that be about all there is to their Christian life.  More regular or deeper fellowship with other believers is not high on their list of priorities.  Daily encounters with God through the Bible or prayer are seldom had.  

And then there is another kind of problem.  One frequently encounters professing Christians who rarely if ever go to church at all.  Once in a while a person is willing to admit that it is just through negligence or laziness or what used to be called sloth.  If you’ve ever had the good fortune to see a genuine mammalian, tropical sloth in action, or sloth inaction, you understand why the word applies.  If this is your problem, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath.  It was his custom according to Luke 4:16.  Make it your custom too.

Worse yet is the person who says in a somewhat self-satisfied way, “I am a Christian and think highly of Jesus, but I do not take part in a church.”  This person sees no need for the fellowship of the saints, the regular teaching of the Scriptures, or the exercise of his or her gifts in the context of a local body of believers.  

Frequently, this person has been wounded by a church or its leaders and sometimes more than once.  That’s sad, really, but so often true.  We should not lightly brush off a person’s deep struggles or too quickly minimize their experience.

The same truly wounded person should still take a lesson from the custom of Jesus.  If anyone knew of the hypocrisy of religious people, it was Christ.  If anyone could afford to do without an empty religious tradition, it was Christ.  He was rejected in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he grew up, and almost killed by those people here in Luke 4.  Later, in Capernaum, he encountered a demonized man at a synagogue service, who then began shouting at him and made Jesus the center of attention.  

The truth is, we need a weekly dose of God’s people, with all their good, bad, wonderful, stupid and terrible qualities.  Since the days of the New Testament, Christians have gathered together on the first day of the week and there is no compelling reason to change that custom now.  Learning to get along with all these imperfect people is one of the main ingredients in our spiritual growth. 

If you don’t find encouragement with other believers, find a church and go there to be an encouragement to them.  If you find hypocrisy, make it a point to be the least hypocritical person in the room. 

And then, on top of everything else, humbly admit that you may have a problem.  Perhaps your previous wounds have made you overly judgmental or somewhat too critical of others.  This is understandable, but it still is not good.  Maybe you are a little too afraid of what may or may not happen again.  Understandable again, but it is no way to live.  If you honestly talk about your issue you are likely to find someone else there who will know exactly what you are talking about and might have some encouragement for you on that level.  In other words, this sort of wounding happens a lot, so you are not alone in your experience.

Once again, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath.  It was his custom according to Luke 4:16.  Make it your custom too.

Luke 3 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

This chapter gives us a glimpse into the ministry of John the Baptist and a moment when he and Jesus crossed paths – at the baptism of Christ.  We then get a second version of Jesus’ genealogy.

Luke 03.pdf

Luke 03.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 3

Dear heavenly Father,

We certainly know that, unlike Jesus, we are in dire need of repentance and forgiveness of our sins.  Help us to truly and deeply repent, and then help us to live lives that bear fruit worthy of repentance.  As James would later say, let us be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves.

Please also empower us with your Holy Spirit, so that we can faithfully be your witnesses in this present day.  And help us to fully and faithfully entrust ourselves to your Son Jesus Christ, the King and Savior you sent to deal with our problem of sin – who we know will reign forever.

To him and to you be all the glory both now and forever.

In Christ,

Amen.