A chance to repent – Luke 13:1-5

When extreme tragedy strikes, there is an almost universal tendency to see that the person somehow had it coming to them.  Call it karma, call it something else, the tendency has always been there.  The Bible has a version of this, memorably expressed by Paul in Galatians 6:7-8.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

At the same time, the Bible sees this principle as limited, at least in this life.  The story of Job is an excellent example.  A perfectly righteous man endures terrible hardship, while his friends try to make sense of it as best they can.  Perhaps inevitably, they resort to blaming Job for his own troubles.  They were wrong, but they add much insult to Job’s injury before they are forced to see it.  God sets all things right at the very end, but it took Job a long time and a lot of undeserved suffering to get there.

Jesus encountered this kind of thinking one day and answered it perfectly as always.  Let’s read it from Luke 13.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The Galileans killed by Pilate and the victims of the fallen tower were no worse people than anyone else.  The twist in Christ’s version is not that they were especially innocent in God’s eyes, but that everyone else is comparably guilty.  This is the biblical view of sin.  It is the bad news that makes the good news of the gospel good.

We are all in need of repentance.  That is one of the earliest lessons that the Bible aims to teach us.  At some level, we are guilty before a perfectly holy God.  Sure, there may be mitigating factors to the particular level of our guilt.  A certain temptation was especially difficult.  Under the circumstances there were no good choices.  We have a natural tendency to do this or that.  Someone or something drove us to a point where we reacted, which was wrong.  But, in the end, we are wrong too.  We have sinned because we are fundamentally flawed members of a flawed race who eventually lived up – or maybe down – to our potential.  We sinned and fell short of perfect holiness, which is the standard of the one and only thoroughly holy God.

The solution is repentance.  We are not to hold onto our sin and cherish it.  We are to turn from it and turn our hearts toward our divinely provided Savior.  This is the point made by Jesus when he says, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

John 3:16 steers us directly to this principle.  We have a chance to repent right now.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Luke 7 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

In Luke 7, we get several stories that all point to Christ’s divine identity, revealing his power over sin, disease and even death. Response to him will be divided. Some see their need for him while others do not.

Luke 07.pdf

Luke 07.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 7

Dear Father in heaven,

We come before you in humility knowing that in ourselves there is nothing that would make us worthy to have you listen to our prayers.  We truly have nothing to offer but our faith in Christ.  We know that he came to proclaim forgiveness to sinners like ourselves, so we ask you to cleanse us of our sins.

We ask you to make us faithful intercessors, much like the centurion, with respect to those we love. Please hear the prayers that we offer up for others.

Help us to remain faithful in the midst of our own trials, even as John had to remain faithful in prison.

And as we recognize how great your forgiveness has been toward us, make us people who would show you great love.

In Christ,

Amen.

Luke 5 – Verse by Verse

Photo for LukeWhen Jesus begins calling disciples he does not call those who believe they are righteous, he calls sinners instead.  In this chapter, we will learn a lot about the attitude we need in order to be put right with God.

Luke 05.pdf

Luke 05.mp3

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.

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.