Luke-2-6-900x300-WebBanner

Luke 5:27-32

It is not the healthy who need a doctor.

Context

With Jesus’ ministry in full swing now, he has shown that he can heal, catch fish, call people to follow him, understand the secret things of a person’s heart and forgive sins! He was in the presence of the great Pharisees and teachers of the law and rebuked their doubting hearts. He has recruited some fishermen to follow him and promised that they will be taught to catch people for the kingdom of God.

Observation

Structure

  • 27-28 Levi leaves it all
  • 29-32 Dr Luke describes the Great Physician

27-28 Levi leaves it all

“…a tax collector by the name of Levi…” Matthew 9:9-13 gives us a parallel account of this story and Levi is named Matthew. Why the two names is a mystery which many debate. There are many examples of people having multiple names. Some have suggested they are two different people. While this is possible, it’s more likely that Levi was renamed to Matthew at some point.

“…sitting at his tax booth.” He was at work. As the story goes on to suggest, tax collectors were not liked AND put into the class of sinner. They not only had the habit of taking more money than needed (through the established ethic of the job) but they worked to collect money for Rome – the Gentile rulers.

“Follow me.” Jesus singled out this man to be a disciple. The word “saw” in verse 27 carries with it the idea of taking notice of this man as opposed to just stumbling upon him. Jesus somehow knew Levi and it seems Levi knew who Jesus was by his response.

“…left everything…” We saw this type of calling earlier in the chapter. This section of Luke’s story from 4:31 to 6:16 carries a theme of gathering disciples and rousing opposition. Levi, like Peter, abandons his job to follow Jesus. Whatever he saw as important before, he no longer regards so when Jesus calls him.

29-32 Dr Luke describes the Great Physician

“Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house…” Tax collecting was a fruitful industry. When Levi’s life is changed, he responds with celebration and spending! Storing the money for the future was not his concern.

“…large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.” Coming to Jesus was not a private and embarrassing thing but worth inviting his friends to share in. Jesus has asked an outcast in the Jewish system to be a disciple and he has told his colleagues all about it. Either Jesus has made a big mistake or he is happy to spend his time with such lost children of Israel.

“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law…” These guys are now becoming regular critics of Jesus. Like little OCD people shocked that things are not being done as they should, the Pharisees and teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained as though this is just not right! How can a man of God mingle like this. It is just not done!

“…tax collectors and sinners.” Now we have the category of ‘sinners’ introduced. The mindset of the Pharisees is that God only accepts righteous folk. That is, people who listen to the word of God, and seek to obey it in every part of life. Anyone who is not practicing a disciplined life in this manner is surely a sinner! Matthew 9:13 adds something to the story with Jesus’ challenge to reflect on this saying, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” The Pharisees and teachers of the law were all about the outward duty, the sacrificial system being followed to the letter, and categorising the righteous and the sinners on this basis. But Jesus reminds them that following God is all about a changed heart, compassion for God and dependance on his mercy.

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus is not declaring that there are people on earth who are naturally or religiously righteous but that he asks everyone to see their sin and come to him for forgiveness. He has come to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Jesus does not intend to show favouritism to the upright in society and religion but to call all who in humility and bankrupt in spirit to come to him for peace.

Meaning

Jesus calls us all to see our bankrupt hearts and come and follow him – not because of our righteousness but because he is righteous. Not because we are healthy but because we want to be. “We are all in this position. We need the Great Physician!” (Colin Buchanan).

Application

  • Topic A: Salvation is worth celebrating! Why is it that so many Christians are downcast? Have we fallen into the trap of the Pharisee? We may believe that Jesus loves sinners but somehow we are living out our deep belief that Jesus loves the successful and well rounded person who has things in order. Why can’t we stop chasing the wind and just come back to grace? Praise God if you are called, forgiven and healed – irrespective of what your life looks like.
  • Topic B: Gathering a crowd to be with Jesus. Who knows how Levi talked about Jesus to his colleagues and friends. But he talked to them about him and they came to meet him too. Talking to others about our faith is not the same as telling them why you go to church or what you believe but it is most importantly about who we love! Do you talk about Jesus like he is someone worth meeting?
  • Topic C: Seeing the world through the lense of sin. Rather than promoting two types of people in this world (righteous vs sinners), Jesus pushed the Pharisees to see everybody as sinners. Jesus came to heal but he didn’t have only a certain class in mind when he came. He came to save sinners! And there’s a whole world of them! We live in a world infected by sin as if it is a disease and we need the antidote! Now, if you are someone who knows how to be saved from hell, it’s like you are in a world dying from a breakout disease and you have the only thing that can cure people! Would you keep that a secret? Would you gather around with other saved victims and bunker down while the rest of the world dies? Or do you think we should be telling everyone to get the Jesus solution?

Prayer of the Week

Our Lord and our God, please help us to rejoice with you and our church continually because you have healed us from sin. When we are tempted to rejoice in our own successes, please remind us of Jesus and our need for him each day. We praise you for calling us and for saving us and for being in fellowship with us. May we never tire of sharing this good news with others and we pray that through us you will grow your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Luke 5:17-26

Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Context

Luke has carried us from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the calling of his first disciples with examples of his preaching, his healing and his casting out impure spirits. Crowds have come to him to hear the word of God and individuals have left everything to follow him. He has welcomed the attention but also resisted unnecessary and misdirected praise by regularly taking solitude to meditate and pray.

Observation

Structure

  • 17-19 A man brought to Jesus
  • 20-21 A man who can forgive sins?
  • 22-26 A man walks out forgiven

17-19 A man brought to Jesus

“One day…” An obvious thing to mention, I know, but these types of words mark the beginning of a new story. ‘One day’ means a brand new event that doesn’t directly relate to the one before it, while ‘after this’ draws attention to an event that followed. Yes, obvious, I said that but it helps to notice how the bible is put together and the bulk of it is in story form.

“Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there.” This is the first introduction by Luke to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Forgetting what we think we know about these men, Luke tells us that they had come from all over Judea to listen to Jesus. This speaks again of Jesus’ growing reputation and he had pricked the ears of those who knew their bibles like scholars. Teachers of the law were like lawyers of religion who knew the Old Testament and made decisions on how to apply the Old Testament in specific areas of life. Pharisees were a certain breed of Jew who took their bibles seriously and applied every letter to their lives. Although we must not assume that they are bad guys and let the story lead us, they will show themselves to be hard against Jesus’ teaching in the long run.

“…the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.” It is strange to think that there might be times when the power of the Lord not be with Jesus. Isn’t he the Son of God through whom the universe was made? How can he have limited powers? Luke is preparing us as the reader for Jesus to do something powerful in this story and to say that perhaps he was already healing people that day. This would explain why the men in the story will be so desperate to get their friend to Jesus. Today was a healing day for Jesus. (See Luke 6:19 also).

“Some men came carrying a paralyzed man…” The context of this story is set and now we are ready for the adventure. A man is paralyzed and being brought to Jesus who is ready to heal.

“When they could not…they went up on the roof…lowered him…right in front of Jesus.” Notice the determination of the men and the desperation they displayed to have their friend get to Jesus. When they met an obstacle, they pushed harder to find a way. This is the type of attitude we ought to have about meeting with Jesus and mending our souls. The men could easily have abandoned their mission if they either didn’t see a great problem to be solved nor knew that the solution was just inside that house.

20-21 A man who can forgive sins?

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said…” The man on the mat has not been the centre of attention until now. It is the four friends who carried him who showed their faith. Jesus saw it. James 2:14-26 instructs us to have faith that is seen – because there is no other type of faith! The word means TRUST and you cannot simply trust in theory. If the man and his friends had stayed at home, believing that Jesus could heal, but not leaving home to act – where is their faith?

“…friend, your sins are forgiven.” The paralyzed man must have shared the faith of his four friends. The startling part of this story though is that after all this effort in coming to Jesus, the Lord grants him forgiveness! No healing. Just forgiveness. This is a clear illustration of what Jesus deems to be more important to a person.

“Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?” The folk who knew their bibles back to front tapped into a clear issue in this event. Jesus of Nazareth has just declared a fellow man’s sins to be forgiven. They heard clearly that Jesus is putting himself on equal footing with God – able to pardon men of crimes of the soul. This is the foundation of our Christian faith – that Jesus is God.

22-26 A man walks out forgiven

“Jesus knew what they were thinking…” It seems to be more than a case of “I know what you’re thinking” but a case of Jesus understanding the hearts and responses of these men. Jesus knew what is in a man and had understanding beyond any other mere mortal.

“Which is easier…” Jesus lays down a simple test of logic for the men. Anyone can say a crazy thing like “your sins are forgiven” and pretend to know what others are thinking. But here is the test. If he can make this person walk with just his words, that would be pretty good evidence that his words mean something. In other words, he can’t prove that the man’s sins are forgiven – they need to believe that. But he can order the man to walk and that will either be proved right or wrong straight away. As a claim to be made, it is harder to say ‘get up and walk’ than it is to say ‘your sins are forgiven.’

“But I want you to know…” Here Jesus announced bluntly what he wants the crowd to learn that day. Not that he can heal – they all knew that. He has already done that over and over. He wants the crowd to increase their understanding of his character, authority and identity. He is able to forgive sins. He knows what is going on in their hearts and he wants them to know that he is able to forgive sins.

“Son of Man” This title encampasses a few things simaultaneously. It speaks of Jesus’ humanity. That’s what the title at face value tells us. He is a child of the human race. But this title took on another layer of meaning in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel. In Ezekiel, it is used repeatedly to refer to the man of God who was sent to speak to the people of God. In Daniel, a vision is given to this prophet of someone like a ‘son of man’ who is equal with God, standing in his presence. Jesus identifies himself as a type of man who is equality with God.

“Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.” As easy as speaking, Jesus could undo the permanent damage of this man’s legs and restored to full strength. Not only is the fault removed but muscle tone is given! The man came to Jesus with faith and left with strengthened faith in God!

Meaning

Jesus is greater than a teacher of the law and his concern for humanity is more than skin deep. He knows what our hearts are thinking and has the power to forgive sins in response to faith. From our perspective, we need to see coming to Jesus as the highest calling in our life. From Jesus perspective, Forgiveness of sins is of greater importance than any other need we have. We need to praise God that our sins can be forgiven and that Jesus can make us right with God.

Application

  • Topic A: Making every effort to save our souls. Just as the men worked hard and earnestly to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, we ought to make no excuses for putting our life with Jesus first. Prayer, bible reading, church and Christians fellowship are means of grace through which God blesses us and grows our faith. How often do we allow other things in life to get in our way and without much of a battle from us, we neglect them. How important is your soul to you?
  • Topic B: Jesus is able to forgive sins because he is God. He is not our mate or equal. He is our saviour and Lord and we need him or else our sins cannot be forgiven. The cross is the means by which we can be forgiven but it is God’s favour on us that grants us the forgiveness. Remembering our sins before God is a valuable discipline. Read 1 John 1:8-9 and enjoy the knowledge that Jesus forgives sin.
  • Topic C: Jesus knew what they were thinking. Let’s never forget that our God operates on the level of the heart and not on external appearance. There are no secrets that we can keep from him. We may easily fool our fellow man on how we are going in life but God knows better. This truth gives us further motivation to walk closely with our God. He already knows what is going on in our hearts so share more honestly with him about our hopes and worries, our angers and our desires.

Prayer of the Week

Our Father in heaven, we praise you that you know us and you know our greatest needs. Please help us to persevere in our relationship with you. To create time to read your word and to pray earnestly with you. Give us hearts that desire to know you and rejoice because we are forgiven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Luke-2-6-900x300-WebBanner

Luke 5:1-16

So they left everything and followed him.

Context

Checking off where Luke has brought us so far, we know that Jesus is the promised Messiah who will bring freedom and redemption to God’s people. The birth of Jesus and of John were both surrounded by acts of God and promises fulfilled and the baptism of Jesus introduced the 30 year old child of Mary as a man approved by God. Ready for ministry and proven to reject the tests of the devil, Jesus began preaching in Synagogues around Judea and people were blown away by his words, saying that he spoke with authority and power. People equally loved his ability to heal and cast out impure spirits. Word of Jesus was spreading fast and he was freely able to speak although not everybody loved what he had to say. This man from a poor family in Nazareth was making an impression on all the people in the country areas of Galilee.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-5 Jesus takes on fishing
  • 6-11 Jesus takes on a fisherman
  • 12-13 Jesus is willing to heal
  • 14-16 Jesus is forced to be a healer

1-5 Jesus takes on fishing

“One day…” We don’t need to know the exact moment of this story and it doesn’t follow directly from the last. It was just one day.

“…by the Lake of Gennesaret…” This is Lake Galilee.

“…the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” While he had gained his reputation preaching in Synagogues, people were seeking him out now. We are not given any impression that he drew a crowd to himself but rather than a crowd gathered and he spoke to them. Although Jesus IS the Word of God (John 1:1), it is best to understand Jesus as simply speaking to the people about all that is written in the Scriptures and explaining what it means. We know that his preaching was about the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43) and that he will use story-telling and parables to persuade his hearers of the truths of the kingdom but he also uses the Scriptures to teach (Luke 4:4, 8, 10, 17-21; 24:27).

“He saw…two boats…got into one of them…” Nothing spiritual to get out of this but they clearly belonged to Simon Peter and his fishing partners James and John Zebedeeson :o) (Luke 5:10). Also that Jesus has previously met Simon (Luke 4:38; 5:5) and so is not simply stealing some boats.

“…put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” Again, Jesus is just being practical. When the crowd had grown, he saw a good place to preach from – a makeshift platform. See Matthew 13:2.

“…Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” What was Jesus’ motivation here? Surely the answer lies in the end result of the story: that Peter is blown away and ready to leave everything for Jesus! The request was for Peter to get a catch but really Jesus was fishing for Peter. Not such a clever pun when we later hear Jesus use the same joke (Luke 5:10)

“Simon answered, “Master”” Why does Simon call him master (Luke 8:24,45; 9:33, 49; 17:33)? It is a phrase of respect to someone of higher status. It is not the same word Simon uses in verse 8 which means and is translated as ‘lord’. Simon calls Jesus Master several times in the gospel but Lord only in verse 8 after being dreadfully impressed and after the resurrection (Luke 24:34). Jesus is not just a travelling preacher to Simon. They know each other to some extent, Jesus rescued his Mother-in-law from death, and Simon speaks to him with respect and obedience.

The story here had begun as another moment for Jesus to impress a crowd but has turned into a fishing expedition. The question is: what is Jesus doing?

6-11 Jesus takes on a fisherman

“When they had done so…” Not such and incidental phrase. We see in the context of this story that Simon Peter worked alongside other men (5:9) and was a business partner (5:10) but also that what he was willing to do was easily adopted by his workers. This makes Simon Peter a leader.

“…such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” Note that this is the first of two occasions we know of where Jesus performs a large-fish-catch miracle. The other is recorded in John 21 but they are clearly two different events. We mustn’t merge the two stories together to get an incorrect account but knowing that Jesus did this at the beginning of his ministry perhaps helps us understand something of its repeat after the resurrection. Namely, that Jesus wants the same men to get back to the mission.

“…filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” Talk about overkill! Just a large catch wouldn’t be enough to know that this was a miracle! When Jesus wanted to demonstrate his authority to Peter, he chose to control the very environment that Peter was used to mastering. Jesus not only fired a shot to get Peter but he filled two guns and unloaded the whole magazine on him! I can testify that when Jesus means to call a sinner to himself, he doesn’t mess around.

“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said…” This is surely the whole reason Jesus sent Peter on this fishing trip! He wanted Peter to surrender his future to him. The reaction from Peter is astounding. He doesn’t just see a clever man but the Lord his God. Now, I’m not suggesting that Peter knew Jesus to be God there and then, but he certainly sees Jesus on a whole different level to himself! He acknowledges that Jesus is sinless. He is blessed and sent and empowered by God.

“…and so were James and John…” While Simon Peter is the focus of this calling, we see that he got not just one but three men who formed the triple centre core of his ministry team (Luke 9:28).

“Don’t be afraid…” Jesus is about to invite Peter on an adventure of a lifetime – he will help change the world! But the show that Jesus just performed for Peter was not to scare him, but to convince him that he will be leaving everything for the right future. Jesus hasn’t come to condemn a sinner such as Peter but to call him to follow.

“…from now on you will fish for people.” ‘Catch’ is the word better used since it pictures living fish being gathered rather than fish approaching a hook and the fisherman waiting for a bite. In a very effective way, Jesus has persuaded a bunch of professional fishermen that they can commit their future to him. He didn’t just ask them to follow him but told them what type of business they will be involved in. He doesn’t ask them at all! He knows that this is what they will do!

“So they…left everything and followed him.” What a picture of discipleship! There comes a point when dancing around Jesus and church needs to change and a person must surrender everything to him. Is this to be taken as a prescription for Christians? That we walk away from everything and become solid disciples of Jesus? No and Yes. No because this is Simon Peter’s story and not a prescription for us. Yes because we are so eager to keep hold of ourselves, our reputation, our identities, our ambitions, our incomes and our self-importance and only give Jesus our thanks and cries for help when needed. A disciple of Christ (any Christian) must ask constantly, what am I refusing to let go of. Or, what do I love more than being a follower of Christ?

12-13 Jesus is willing to heal

“…a man…covered with leprosy.” The only description needed of this man was his illness. Leprosy was a disease which needed to be quarantined. It is a broad term which meant more than what we refer to as leprosy today. See Leviticus 13 for a lengthy description of all sorts of skin diseases and especially 13:45-46 for the religious, social and spiritual consequences. A leper was unclean, unable to engage with God in the Temple and cast away from society. This man was covered in skin disease. When it came to being an outcast, this guy was king.

“While Jesus was in one of the towns….[a leper] saw Jesus…” Begs the question how a leper spotted Jesus while inside the town unless the town was willing to live with men of this illness. Jesus is in the northern remote towns of Judea. It just says something about where Jesus was doing ministry.

“…begged him, “Lord, if you are willing…”” This is a literal example of prayer. A man coming to the Lord and begging to be heard and helped. See Psalm 4 as an example of this. It’s not a man of great faith we are seeing here but a man who is pleading earnestly to a great man of God. “Lord” is simply a term of high respect to someone above your status.

“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” I love that he touches him before he answers the question. Picture someone holding out an insect and asking you as a dare, “are you willing to eat this?” and you answer first, “I am willing” and then proceed slowly to touch the insect and your face screwed up in disgust! But Jesus touches the man and then speaks. Are you willing to eat this insect? GULP “You bet”.

“I am willing…” Note that Jesus’ ability is never in question here but simply his desire. If God is willing to heal, he can heal. If God is willing to forgive, he can forgive! Our relationship with God must not be on the basis of whether he is able to do, but whether he is willing and our duty is to come to him in prayer.

“…immediately the leprosy left him.” It’s been noted earlier that Jesus’ ministry is not veiled in half miracles. Even the fishing trip was Jesus blowing the minds of fishermen. Jesus is no two-bit magician or conjurer. He is, and Luke needs us to be confident of this, the Holy One of God.

14-16 Jesus is forced to be a healer

“Don’t tell anyone…” The priority for Jesus at this point in his ministry was not to keep growing his healing ministry. He wasn’t trying to stay unheard of but he had better plans for this man…

“…go, show yourself to the priest…” See Leviticus 14 about the religious response to recovering from a skin disease. Jesus knew the Mosaic Law and did not wish to abandon it. The right response for this man now was to do what is lawful in the eyes of men and God. Jesus told him that doing this is a testimony to the priests. They ought to see what Jesus is doing.

“Yet the news about his spread…” Despite Jesus wanting the man to go discreetly to the priests, the news of this healing could not be contained. Many people flocked to Jesus as a result.

“But Jesus often withdrew…” As noted in the last study, it was important for Jesus to keep connected and meditative with God in order to stick to what is important and true. Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to be determined and stay the path despite the pulls and attention of people.

Meaning

In the midst of a “crowd rush” Jesus honed in on one man to become a committed follower and in the midst of second “crowd rush” Jesus was determined to stay connected and directed by his personal communion with God. He was a man focused on his mission and determined not to be swayed by the whims or motivations of the people. Peter shows us what it looks like to surrender everything to follow Jesus and the leper shows us what it looks like for someone who has nothing to come to Jesus and find life.

Application

  • Topic A: Leaving everything for Jesus. When you think of leaving everything for Jesus do you picture going overseas as a missionary? Or do you picture, rather, regarding no other relationship or thing as more valuable than serving Jesus where you are at? Read Philippians 3:7-11 and consider what “gains” you may be still clinging to. Peter seemed to drop everything and leave it where it was to follow his Lord. He didn’t wait to tie up loose ends or finish something else he had started. Is this the type of response you are making to Christ?
  • Topic B: Praying as pleading. Peter bowed his knees to Jesus and the leper begged him for healing. Psalm 4:1; 27:7; 69:16; 86:7; 102:2. These passages describe prayers as cries for help and pleading for God to listen. They also purvey a trust that God is the only real source of help and the One they can turn to for help. Genesis 4:27 is perhaps the first evidence of prayer to God and it is described as calling on the name of the Lord (to be saved from the curse of sin). Philippians 4:6 tells us to petition God and 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast our worries on God because he cares. All of these help us to treat prayer as a passionate, persistent plea to God for help. Are your prayers directed in this way?
  • Topic C: Gaining everything. The leper was an outcast and destined for an early grave. He could not participate in going to the Temple to worship and offer sacrifices. But he could come to Jesus and he was willing to restore his health and his soul. We can talk about leaving everything for Jesus but we must confess that we gain everything too. This world is passing away and the world trains us to make something of ourselves when the fact is that anything we achieve will be short lived. The chances are that you are not going to be famous or rich or important in the world’s eyes. But you are important to God and knowing him through Jesus is the only reward that is important. Christians call this finding your “identity in Christ” and not in what you can make of yourself. The former is eternal while the latter is like mist (Ecclesiastes). Read Colossians 3:1-4 for our view of everything in Christ.

Prayer of the Week

Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and our friend, thank you for showing us your true nature and allowing us to worship you as Lord of all. We praise you for your love, kindness, power and authority. Help us to forsake all for the pursuit of knowing you. Teach us to walk with you daily and to trust you in all of life’s circumstances. Hear our prayers Lord. Amen.