Luke 8 starts with teaching, but this will be followed by several amazing examples of Christ’s power. Jesus will encourage us to share the word with hope and to trust him when things begin to look hopeless.
You are the Source of all life and the Creator of all things. And we understand that you gave your Son to suffer death in our place so that our sins would be forgiven.
We thank you for Jesus, who died, but was always planning to rise from the dead. He is now risen, just as he said.
He has conquered the grave and the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church.
Though we may feel sinful, dirty and lost, we trust that our sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ.
Though we may feel forgotten and alone, we understand that he is Immanuel, God with us, and he has promised to be with us always.
Help us to constantly keep that in mind as we wait for his soon return.
Thank you in Christ’s name,
Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement. He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves. That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith. If you want, you can read more about it here.
Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life. Needy people are not always in a position to believe. They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe. Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers. Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.
18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.
The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. She was dead. In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse. Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself. The mourners were no help. Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus. But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose. I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.
Toward the end of his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said,
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Wouldn’t it be great if following Jesus was the easiest thing we could do? Popularity, public approval, material well-being, and an absence of trials and temptations. Isn’t that the life most of us would like to have? It turns out a life like that is more likely to lead to destruction.
We can learn a few things from Christ’s first followers. Neither the Gospels nor the book of Acts, nor the rest of the New Testament gives any evidence that those early believers were getting voted “Most Likely to Succeed” or winning popularity contests of any sort. They didn’t take the easy way out. Why should we expect anything different?
We need to be careful here. Lack of popularity is no guarantee we are faithfully following Jesus either. It might just mean we are doing a lot wrong.
Still, when we try our best to serve God in accordance with his revealed will, we can expect it to bring some difficulty. We can also expect that quite a few others will decide to go another way — through a wide gate and down an easy path. Many will take the easy way out. Look around. Which gate are you heading going through and which path are you following? How does it compare with the way of the cross?