Category: Devotionals

Read Luke 23

Key Verse: Luke 23: 12 “That very day Pilate and Herod became friends…”

In this chapter and the latter half of the previous chapter, we read of the crucifixion. Some have called this the “Passion” narrative. In 22:47-53 we see Jesus arrested (even while His disciples were eager to use those newly purchased swords–“Lord, should we strike with our swords?” v.49b). Then, in vss. 54-62, we read of Peter’s denial that he was a follower of Jesus. After this, Jesus is taken before Pilate and Herod, and then led to Golgotha. He dies and is buried. The story is over; or so His enemies thought.

What happened next must wait for Luke’s concluding chapter. But there is something in this chapter which is very rarely commented on. It’s a reference to two old enemies becoming friends.

We don’t really have any information on why Herod and Pilate were enemies. Maybe it was due to a clash of authority. Both men were accountable to Rome, but Herod, as Tetrarch, had a bit more autonomy than Pilate, as the Governor. Perhaps Herod resented that his autonomy could be challenged or ignored by Pilate from time to time: he could “go over Herod’s head” at will. And Pilate might have shared a common disgust for the paranoid Herod and flaunted it. But this is speculation.

For whatever reason, they were enemies, and Jesus made them friends. Isn’t that ironic? Their new view of one another sprang, not from being new men, but from trying to deal with “that Man”. They were both fascinated with and flummoxed by Jesus. Herod grew tired of his game with Jesus and had him ridiculed and mocked. Pilate had Him crucified. Neither knew exactly why. “And it wasn’t all bad–after all, it pleased the people and we’ve become friends!”

Jesus became a friend too: with sinners.

Read Luke 22

Key Verse: Luke 22:29 “I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me.”

Here’s a passage of scripture that has been remarkably silent over the years. At least in sermons, that is. We have probably heard a few sermons on Jesus sending out the disciples without “purse, bag or sandals”–the point of our dependency on God was well made in all of them. In fact, the party line has been that if God calls you and sends you out, you can rely totally on Him and have no need of money, extra clothing, or a second pair of Adidas. And the stock response from the faithful, as this principle is preached, is, “Amen!”

But wait a minute! After the disciples affirm that they had no need the first time they were out there ministering without material resources, Jesus now tells them the rules have changed. “But now” He says, “if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (v.36 NIV). Jesus is telling His disciples to buy a sword, and to sell their overcoat to get one? You mean defending yourself against an attack is more important in Jesus’ eyes than defending yourself against the elements, and you need money and a suitcase as well? Where did you say that reference was again?

What’s going on here? The real world, that’s what. Jesus had already taught His disciples the lesson of complete submission to His will and total dependence upon His provision. Now, He was stressing the complementary role we can play in our ministries by good planning and responsible management. Wha’t more, He was showing us that, as far as our physical safety is concerned, there are some “executive responsibilities” we have in assisting our Heavenly Father and His ministering angels in this business of staying alive. Jesus wants us to be childlike–not childish.

Read Luke 20 & 21

Key Verse: Luke 21:4 “all these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty…”

The question occurring to me as I read this story is, “what would Jesus think or say about some modern ministries that unscrupulously bilk widows of their life savings?” We have no record of what Jesus said or did about this poor widow who put all she had to live on in the temple treasury. All we read is that Jesus saw her do it and was impressed.

What do you suppose motivated her? It was probably the first time she had done this; and probably the last. How often can you give all you have to live on before the well is completely dry, and you die? Maybe she had a great need and felt that her eager gift was a part of expressing her deepest sincerity in petitioning God for help. Maybe she felt especially guilty about some secret sin. Or perhaps she was in such desperate straits that giving all she had was an act of frustration, anger, and acquiescence–a kind of financial suicide. Maybe she thought this might force God to intervene. Then again, may be she gave out of total gratitude for some special answer to prayer. Who knows? But the point Jesus made was that she gave out of her poverty: her gift was costly.

Contrast this to the carefully measured gifts of the wealthy. Many of them, no doubt, were meticulous in their commitment to tithing–every month the first donation was a tithe to the temple. They perhaps even preached the importance of giving first to God before any other bill was paid, and I doubt the Lord would fault them for this. In fact, Jesus said nothing overtly negative about their donations. What He did say, however, related to the relative value of the gifts–not as men saw it, but as God saw it.

The gift of the wealthy was simply that –a gift. The gift of the widow was something else–it was a sacrifice–and sacrificial giving then, as now, was pretty much out of style.

Read Luke 17 & 18

Key Verse: Luke 18:13 “…God be merciful to me a sinner!”

The Bible doesn’t always make an editorial comment about Jesus’ parables, but Luke does so in this instance. The famous parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is told to “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (18:9 NIV). Of course, the temptation to us as we read, is to look down on the Pharisee. Human nature, as irrepressible as it is, will always manage to condescend somehow.

This parable is a classic. On one side you have a self-satisfied religious type. On the other side is a self-disgusted con artist. One enters confidently, arrogantly, even into the temple–it is familiar and much loved territory. The other entire fearfully, regretfully, and awkwardly–the temple is foreign territory. The one saunters, the other grovels. And to the surprise of the listener, Jesus says God responds to the man with the dirty face, and rejects Mr. Clean. This doesn’t seem fair, does it?

To appreciate the shock value of this parable, think of it in these terms: the Pharisee is you and the tax collector is a convicted rapist. You’ve never knowingly hurt anybody in your life. You’ve attended church faithfully, paid your tithes, and helped the poor. You are always ready to testify to your faith and intend to obey God and serve Him all your life. And, in all honesty, as you see it, God owes you something, for you’ve kept your part of the bargain.

On the other hand, the rapist has been nothing but trouble all his life. He was kicked around at home, so he lashed out at school. Abused by society, he paid it back with ever-increasingly abusive behavior. Finally, he went on a rampage, beating, stealing and raping. Now, as he enters the prison chapel, he throws himself on the floor in anguish, while you, on your monthly prison visitation, take a moment for prayer before the chapel service.

And guess what? God ignores you and honours him! He disregards. your self-satisfied conversation and embraces his self-condemnation. What gives?

Simply this. That man recognizes his spiritual poverty and you don’t. He cries for mercy, even as you casually converse. His feet are slipping into the pit; yours are merely slippered. He is in anguish; you are content.

Never forget Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Regardless of how wholeheartedly we’ve embraced Christ, it is only because He’s embraced us first that we have any right to stand in His presence. And when He first embraced us, we were detestably filthy; as filthy as a rapist.