The Bible in a Year, Week 3: Luke

This is the third weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of Luke. It should only take about 5-10 minutes a day, or about 4 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Luke.

Background: The apostle Paul identifies Luke as a doctor in Colossians 4:14. Luke was also traveling companion that went to many places with Paul on his journeys. There are many sections of Acts in which Luke uses the word “we” (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). One of the main reasons we know that Luke wrote both Acts and the gospel of Luke is that both are addressed to a man by the name of Theophilus. It seems that Luke wanted to give more instruction and information to him about Jesus Christ and the one true faith.

At the same time, Luke states another purpose in the introduction to his gospel. While Luke was not himself one of the 12 disciples, he took time to carefully investigate and interview those who were witnesses of Jesus. His intention was to write an orderly account of the things Jesus said and did–not just for Theophilus but for all the Gentiles (and especially the ones he had visited on his missionary journeys).

We are most thankful for the gospel of Luke. He includes many  famous and dearly loved stories of Scripture that others chose to leave out (the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, etc.). Also, as a doctor Luke wrote with great attention to detail.

Luke’s gospel account is just another reason to praise Jesus, who is revealed as the Savior of all–both Jew and Gentile!

Luke 1-3: Once more, the opening verses of Luke inform us of the purpose of the gospel. Luke intended to gather eyewitness accounts so that he could write an orderly account of what Jesus said and did. These opening words make us doubly sure and confident that this is the holy Word of God. Not only did God inspire (literally, breath in) all of Scripture, but we have an extra measure of confidence that the words Luke wrote are not made up stories. They are eyewitness accounts!

Luke begins with the forerunner of the Savior, John the Baptist. This is the only account of the foretelling of John’s birth to Zechariah. Gabriel’s announcement and Zechariah’s disbelief remind us of Abram and Sarai who were unsure (Sarai even laughed!) when they were told they would have a child. The loss of his ability to speak helped Zechariah to learn his lesson. After the child was born and they named him John like they were told to do, Zechariah sings a beautiful song of praise and thanks to God for this child who would prepare the way for the Savior to come.

Gabriel was a busy angel at this time–with work of greatest importance! He also foretold the birth of Jesus to a virgin named Mary. It would be a great and mighty miracle that the God of the universe would take on human flesh within her womb. Yet an equally astonishing miracle to the immaculate conception would be that this child would be named Jesus. Jesus means he saves. The great miracle for us is that this child would save us from our sins. How could this all be possible? The angel gives the answer: “nothing is impossible with God.”

Having heard that she would would be the mother of the Savior, Mary went and shared the news with Elizabeth. There Mary sang her famous song, the Magnificat. It is worth noting that in 1:47 Mary says “God my Savior.” There is a false teaching that Mary was and will always be holy and without sin. Some even go so far as to call Mary Co-Redemtrix or Co-Redeemer with Jesus. Besides the fact that Scripture says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), here Mary also mentions that she needs and has a Savior. Thus, Mary has no part in our salvation–apart from simply being the mother of Jesus–and is certainly not worthy of or capable of answering our prayers.

Luke chapter 2 is the most detailed (typical Luke!) account of Jesus birth. We marvel that God chose just the right time in history to send his Son! It was no coincidence that the Roman emperor wanted to take a census of his entire Roman world, making a carpenter and his bride-to-be travel to Bethlehem to register. This was part of God’s grand plan to send the Savior and fulfill all prophecies about his coming.

When the baby Jesus was presented in the temple for circumcision, we note how he fulfilled all of God’s laws and commands–even from birth! There at the temple Simeon recognized Jesus as the promised Savior and the Light of the world!  Later, Jesus had another temple experience that we hear about. We have no more information about Jesus’ childhood until he was 12 years old. It was then that he showed his love for his true Father and for his Father’s house as he desired to stay behind to hear the Word and teach the Word.

In chapter 3 we hear about the work of John who grew up to be known as the Baptizer. As he prepared the way for the Savior, he preached repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. John even had the privilege of baptizing Jesus, something Jesus did to fulfill all commands and demands of God. Finally in chapter 3, Luke trace the genealogy of Jesus backwards–showing that he is the promised Messiah and the Savior of all. Looking at the list, we praise God for his mercy as he includes a great number of people who committed some notorious sins. Surely God’s great mercy even extends to us in this way!

Luke 4-7: We see just how powerful Satan is in chapter four. He knows exactly how to tempt everyone. He attacked Jesus when he was weak and hungry. He gave him temptations that would be alluring. He even used and twisted Scripture to his advantage. At the same time we see just how powerful Jesus is. Our perfect substitute perfectly resisted each temptation. We can learn from Jesus that the mighty sword for fighting of Satan is the Word of God.

Even though Jesus is the mighty Son of God, his own people would not receive him. Even in his own home town of Nazareth he was driven out once he claimed to be the Christ. We can give praise and thanks to God that he has given us faith to know Jesus and believe in him!

As Jesus began his ministry, there were several important things he did. He called disciples to follow him. These would be men who would be witnesses to the things he said and did. They would be trained by Jesus and then write down and preach to others the good news of salvation. It is worth noting that the root meaning of the word disciple is one who learns. As we continue on as disciples of Christ, that means that are continue to learn from him and his Word.

Jesus also performed many miracles early on in his ministry. While these miracles show Jesus’ love and compassion for the sick, poor, and suffering, the main point of these miracles was to show that he truly is God. The miracles backed up his message! More than that, as Jesus explained when he healed the paralytic lowered through the roof, Jesus’ miracles show that he has the power to heal and to forgive our sins!

As we read about the things that Jesus did, we can only but pray that God continue to grant us faith like that of the Centurion. This Gentile was so confident in Jesus’ healing power that he knew Jesus didn’t even have to be near his servant! Indeed, as we pray to the Lord, we also know that he can do anything we ask without being physically present. What a mighty God we have!

At the same time, we know what it is like to be sinners who go through weak moments of faith. We aren’t sure exactly what John the Baptist was thinking in chapter 7, but it would appear that he had some moments of doubt as he sat in prison. Was Jesus really the one? Was his work really worth it? Was the Savior finally here? We ought not doubt that John the Baptist is in heaven. But we can take comfort that even “the best of the best” have their moments of worry and wonder. With John then we can confidently listen to Jesus’ reply and know and trust that he is the promised Christ!

Luke 8-18: In these chapters Jesus tells a number of parables. Parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. They are basically analogies using things we humans understand to communicate divine truths. When interpreting and finding the meaning of parables, it is important not to get caught up with all of the little details or with deciphering who represents what. Sometimes it is very clear what things represent (like in the parable of the sower the sower is one who preaches God’s Word and the seed is his Word). Other times we aren’t too sure. But that doesn’t matter. What we should be concerned about is the truth that is being communicated–the point that Jesus is making.

So in the parable of the sower, Jesus is communicating that we are to continue to preach God’s Word. Some may reject it. Some may believe it. But God’s Word has its own power. We simply keep sowing the seed.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is another good example. We could spend hours debating who each person represents in the story. We could even spend hours debating whether the story is true or just a parable. But that’s not the point. Jesus is communicating a message to a man who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. The parable shows the man that he must show perfect love at all times and to all people. Jesus was teaching that perfect love is commanded, yet impossible to carry out. Only he himself could do that!

We also see many more miracles in these chapters. Jesus continued to show his power time after time. Yet amazingly, people continued to reject him. Or if not rejecting him outrightly, they rejected his real purpose for coming. Instead of wanted a spiritual Savior and King, they wanted someone who would deliver them from their earthly troubles and rule over them in this world. God grant us the right spiritual mindset to know and believe in Jesus as our Savior from sin who will rule over us forever in heaven!

Another significant event is in chapter 9. Jesus went up a mountain with Peter, James, and John. There he was transfigured before them and was shining brightly with divine glory. Moses and Elijah also appeared. While we may consider it a miracle for the sake of Peter, James, and John, the real purpose is revealed in 9:31. Moses and Elijah were speaking with Jesus about his death which was about to happen in Jerusalem. It was one final encouragement for Jesus to do exactly what he came to do–save all people from their sins.

There are many encouragements and reminders for our daily lives in these chapters as well. The story of Mary and Marth in chapter 10 reminds us to set our priorities straight. Jesus comes first! In chapter 11 Jesus teaches us to rightly pray with confidence in his name. In chapter 12 Jesus encourages us not worry or be afraid. He will take care of our every need! We are also encouraged to be on the watch and to be ready for his final return. In chapter 17 Jesus teaches about forgiveness. There is to be no end to our forgiveness of others, just as there is no end to his forgiveness of us! We also learn to be thankful like the one leper who returned to thank Jesus for his forgiveness. In chapter 18 we learn to be persistent in prayer like the widow, humble and repentant like the tax collector, and strong and trusting in faith like a little child.

Luke 19:24: Luke 19 is the only place in the Bible where the story of Zacchaeus is recorded. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Tax collectors were not viewed very favorably at the time. Many of them were like Zacchaeus, liars and cheats. As they collected taxes they would often ask for extra and then pocket the difference. But Zacchaeus is an excellent example of true repentance. Not only did he recognize and repent of his sins, but he also produced fruits of repentance as he gave back to those whom he had swindled.

Then begins holy week. Jesus fulfilled prophecy as he rode into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The people praised him, but we wonder if they truly understood Jesus. They addressed him as King and praised God for his coming. But did they only view Jesus as an earthly king who would rescue them from the Romans and put bread on their tables? Or did they know that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah who would save them from their sins? We pray it was the second scenario.

During Holy Week, the hatred of the Pharisees raged on. They looked for ways to entrap Jesus so that they had grounds for his arrest. Though they assaulted him with all kinds of difficult questions, Jesus answered them perfectly every time. Sadly, this filled them with more hatred and rage and pushed them over the edge toward arresting and killing Jesus.

On Thursday Jesus gathered with his disciples to institute his special Meal, which we call the Lord’s Supper. From that point forward his followers were to do this in remembrance of him. Every time we partake of this holy Supper, Jesus’ true body and blood are present together with the bread and wine–in a miraculous way that we could never understand. What an incredible gift and blessing! Jesus gives us his body and blood which were given and shed for us and for our forgiveness to continue to remind us of that forgiveness we now freely have through him!

Afterwards, Judas made good on his plot with the chief priests to betray Jesus. There in Gethsemane he handed Jesus over with a kiss, as Jesus was then arrested and taken away. Though all of his friends deserted him, though some denied him, though he was falsely tried and accused, though he was wrongfully beaten and battered, Jesus went through it all quietly and humbly. He endured gross injustice. He allowed undue sentence. He willingly was crucified.

All this he did that he might be our substitute. Our sins and guilt were placed onto him and all of his innocence and righteousness were transferred over to us. He died to pay for our sins. He died that we might live. And he rose to life to prove that we will too.

This is no fable. This is not fiction. Luke the doctor carefully investigated these stories. The disciples were eyewitness to his life, death, and resurrection. They saw him alive. They touched him. They spoke with him. Surely Jesus has conquered death and hell and risen to life that we might live with him for all eternity. Thanks be to God for our salvation in Christ! Thanks be to God for this accurate record inspired through Luke!

Next Week’s Readings (starting 1/23/11):  John

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

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Posted on January 21, 2011, in Bible in a Year, Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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