Tag Archives: leprosy

Luke 1-5


Monday, May 5 Chapter 1

The first four verses give us much information.  The author is not named even as he names the recipient of the book.  The earliest sources we have available (about a century after the writing) name Luke as the author.  There is little doubt that the same person wrote this book and the book of Acts, where there are several clues pointing to Luke as the author.

It is clear that the author was well educated in Greek.  Luke was a Greek doctor with an analytical mind who wanted a neat and orderly report for Theophilus.  That does not mean the same thing in the First Century that it means in the Twenty-first.  History was written in the heroic style of Homer, not the clinical style of moderns.

We do learn that Luke followed several others in the writing of an account of Jesus’ life.  We have no idea how many were written, but it is likely that most were short accounts of a portion of Jesus ministry, and that most have been lost and the rest absorbed into the Four Gospels.  By the time Luke began his own account, there were at least 50 gospels for him to look at.  We do not have copies of any of them, but their names have survived in early writings.  That does not include the many dozens of later gospels from the second century on.  We do have copies of several dozen of them, the oldest being the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas from the early Second Century.

One more point regarding the Gospel writings.  Imagine that you have to write an account of the Watergate affair and your only source of information is the memories of the people in your community.  No written records, no internet, no libraries.  That is roughly what Luke and the others faced.  They each included the information available to them.

Luke is the only account to give priority of John’s birth over that of Jesus’.  That does not seem strange to us because John was six months older than his cousin, but for early readers it suggested that the more important person was John because he was mentioned first.  That was the writing style.

Notice that Luke mentions the visitation of angels to announce the births of both boys.  When Mary visits Elizabeth, John recognizes Jesus, even though neither is yet born.  Mary sings a song, a psalm, called the Magnificat because that is the first word in the Latin translation.

When John is born, his father also sings a psalm.  Both psalms are prophesies.

Tuesday, May 6 Chapter 2

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth we see the shepherds being the first to get the Good News.  We need to throw out our modern image of shepherds.  In Jesus’ day they were nearly the lowest class of people on the planet.  They did beat out lepers, beggars and tanners.  They were dirty, stinky, uneducated and often unreliable.  Worse, they never had time to clean themselves to visit the Temple so remained ritually unclean their whole lives.  It is a powerful image to have the Heavenly Choir sing just for them.

Because Jesus was the first-born male he was taken to the Temple to be dedicated to God.  Understand that it was normal for the first-born males to be so dedicated.  Jesus and all the others were expected to spend their lives working for God in what ever way was possible given their family prospects.  If they could afford it, the family would send the boy to live with a rabbi who would bring up another teacher.  If not, he would do his work, always on the lookout for ways to serve God while doing the work.

Simeon is waiting at the Temple for the eight-day old baby.  He also sings a prophetic psalm.  Anna also recognized Jesus and praised him to all who would listen.

The chapter ends with the great story of Jesus in His Father’s House, the Temple at the age of 12.  His bar mitzvah is still a year away, but he teaches like a man.

Wednesday, May 7 Chapter 3

John takes center stage again as he preaches repentance.  John was not unique.  For the three centuries leading to the destruction of the Temple, there was usually at least one desert preacher.  Jews knew such a preacher was a sign of the Messiah, so they flocked around them, hoping to see the Messiah arrive from Heaven on his great white horse.

John was different in his preaching.  He criticized those who came, challenging them to change their thinking.  He attacked the Temple leaders as well as Herod.  It seemed the more abusive he became, the more people were attracted to him.

Jesus came for baptism.  That fact raises many questions.  Jesus had no need for baptism, being without sin, yet he came.  Luke does not record any discussion between John and Jesus.  He does tell us that Jesus prayed while being baptized and that was when the Holy Spirit descended on him.

Some of the possibilities to explain why Jesus chose baptism:  He needed to connect with the preaching of his messenger, letting the people know he was the one John spoke of.  He gave us the example to follow.  He actually took on our sins, a kind of reverse baptism.  It was a ritual cleansing to begin his ministry.  God knows.

There are also many questions about the genealogy listing.  Whatever the differences with Matthew, the whole intent is to tell us that Jesus is related to King David, that he is the promised root of the stump of Jesse.

Thursday, May 8 Chapter 4

The temptations of Jesus represent common human temptations.  Jesus gives us examples of how we can resist those temptations.  Note:  only Jesus could have given us this account.

There is a danger in reading this section.  We too often fall into the trap of believing that this was the only time Jesus was tempted.  The truth is, he faced temptations every day.  That is why he often told people not to advertise his powers; why he slipped away from the crowds when they became too excited by his actions.  The devil continued to work on Jesus because he only had to succeed once.  If Jesus ever once turned away from God, if only for an instant, God’s Plan of Salvation would have been defeated.  The devil threw all his resources at one target.

Back at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah a familiar passage promising the Messiah and then said, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.  The men there had known him as a child and could not believe he claimed Messiahship.

Moving to Capernaum, Jesus preformed his first miracle, as recorded by Luke.  He then healed many others, fulfilling the passage of Isaiah he read in Nazareth.

Friday, May 9 Chapter 5

Jesus is teaching to a large crowd and steps into a fishing boat, asking the owner to push out a ways so he can speak to the crowd more easily.  It was all a Spirit thing.  Simon would become the lead disciple.  When they went fishing, it was to show to a fisherman what he could expect as a fisher of men.

Healing a leper by touching him shocked those who saw it.  Touching a leper made Jesus unclean, everyone knew that.  Yet, he told the leper to go to the Temple (a three-day journey) for the purification ritual while he went on as though he was not contaminated.  That turned some people away from him while exciting others.

Jesus could heal from a distance, as he often did.  He touched the leper to show us that there are no untouchables.  No other person can make us unclean.

Jesus next heals the paralytic without touching him.

But first, he forgives the man’s sins.  The Pharisees and scribes had every right to be upset because only God can forgive sins.  Jesus did it specifically to get their reaction so that he could claim Godship without actually saying it.

Luke records that Jesus called himself the Son of Man.  This is the first use of the title.  It was closely associated with the Messiah.  It is used here in connection with a miracle.  Luke uses the title 24 more times, none with miracles.  It is the title Jesus preferred for himself.

Verse 26 literally refers to a b’rakhah, a Hebrew blessing common in the time.  It was used about anything that was special, giving God the credit.  This verse also shows the difference between the reactions of the religious experts and the common people.

Jesus called Levi (also called Matthew) as a disciple.  He invited Jesus to his house for a banquet to show both is respect and gratitude.  For Jews, a meal was an opportunity to share the Torah, the Word of God.  Any meal without the Word was equal to a pagan sacrifice.

Jesus again takes the position that he has come to associate with the unclean.  Even his disciples were unclean

In response to the question of fasting, Jesus seems to suggest that the Torah needs to be thrown out and a new system put in its place.  Yet, he insisted that he came to fulfill the Torah.  There is a Greek word in verse 38 translated as new.  The word really means renew.  Jesus is given the same message that John preached, repent and renew yourselves so that you can hold the newness of the Good News.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Matthew 6-10

Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, January 13, Chapter 6

A good Jew in Jesus’ day preformed three acts of righteousness : charity, prayer, and fasting.  Pharisees and many others did all three like theatre, only with an audience present.  The message from Jesus is to do these things from the heart.  Giving money in our time is easy, but it separates us from those in need and most of the time does not help them.  Only ten percent of charity dollars in the US actually help those in need.

When we pray, we should be listening to God.  Jesus gave us a sample prayer encouraging us to pray only for the basics of life, after that, we listen.

Fasting is not very popular in the US, we prefer feasting.  There are many ways to fast, but it should always be built around prayer.  The whole purpose is to give up something so we can concentrate on God for at least a day.  For modern Americans a gadget/electronic fast would be a good choice.  Try going a Sunday without TV (after the Super Bowl) and read or go for a long walk to talk with God.

We also like to feast on money and the things money can buy.  We are always on the lookout for whatever we especially like, cars, clothes, toys, what-nots.  Storing up treasures is not the same as a 401k or passbook account.  We live in a society where we expect to live 85 years without any help from our families, so we need to prepare for that.  Storing treasures is collecting beyond our needs and focusing on that instead of God.  Anything standing between me and God is darkness.

Jesus ends this section with a kind of summary.  If we trust in God, all those possessions we think we need fall away.  Living in trust makes life simple.  The only day we can live is today.

Tuesday, January 14, Chapter 7

Judging others is another hard teaching from Jesus, for we Americans especially. We are number 1 with the best way of life possible; everyone should follow our example.  As a Christian, I look at non-Christians, and fellow Christians, as not being as close to God as I am; exactly like the Pharisees.

We need  open fellowship with everyone, just the way Jesus did it.  Fellowship, not proselytizing or converting, until they knock on that door.

God will answer our knock at the door.  He will answer our questions and help us find what we seek.  Always remember that what we seek is Heaven.

Consider this passage from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship.  And it is hard to find.  On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn.  To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way.

Again from Bonhoeffer:  There is someone standing by my side, who looks just like a member of the Church.  He is a prophet and a preacher.  He looks like a Christian, he talks and acts like one.  But dark powers are mysteriously at work; it was these who sent him into our midst.

We must be ever watchful for false prophets, they are not just in ancient times.  They are members of every church.  They misuse the Word to get us to follow them, not God.  Watch.

Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount by reminding us to build our Faith on the Solid Foundation of the Word of God.

Wednesday, January 15, Chapter 8

Now Matthew has Jesus move into a healing ministry, taking up all of chapter 8 and most of 9.  He begins with the healing of a leper, a task considered  as likely as raising the dead.  Note that the man knelt before Jesus, a word which often meant to worship.  The man knew that Jesus could heal him and Jesus did so.  The man’s faith was the important element.

Telling the man to say nothing indicates that this event did occur early in Jesus ministry.  Jesus was still trying to avoid conflict with the Temple authorities.  He had much to carry out before that last fateful encounter leading to the cross.  None-the-less, Jesus sent the man to the Temple to asked for cleansing by the priests, showing us that Jesus was no enemy of the Temple of God, only of those who corrupted it.

The centurion’s servant is an unsual healing in several ways.  Capernaum was Jesus headquarters, but was also a Greek/Roman city.  This centurion commanded a cohort or century of about 80 men, one of six in a legion.  The legion stationed in Capernaum was not Roman.  It was working for Herod Antipas, though trained by the Romans.  A centurion would equal a captain in the US Army.

He had wealth and power, but he came to Jesus in much the way the leper had, in a state of faith.  While none of the men in the legion in Capernaum were Jewish, this centurion, a gentile, believed.

With the healing of Peter’s mother, we again see Jesus touching her, but nothing else. He spoke no words, made no reference to faith.  Three different types of healing: a man of faith healed with a touch, a gentile’s request for another healed from a great distance, and Mary simply touched.

In verses 18-22, Jesus is again telling us to keep our full attention on God.  We cannot use excuses when God asks us to do something for him.  We must always do God’s work first.

Jesus gives us a great example of how to live that last section of chapter 6.  He knew God was taking care of him, so he slept through the storm.  The storms in our own lives continue to upset us because we are not willing to put our complete trust in God.

The demonic men on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (really a lake) present a strange picture as the demons fly into pigs.  We can see that the story is more about the reaction than about the men being healed of possession.  The region of Gadarenes was not Jewish, so we wonder why Jesus went there.  In this account, Jesus spoke only the word, go.  He traveled some distance through a storm for that one brief encounter.

Mark and Luke include the story as well and show more about the men, but for Matthew, the reaction of the people was important.  They told Jesus to get out of Dodge, he had messed with their livelihoods.

Note that the disciples had just questioned among themselves who this Jesus was, but the demons knew at once and announced it loudly.

Finally, note that the death of the pigs did not mean the death of the demons, that comes at the end of time.  But we do see the power of Jesus the Messiah over them.

Thursday, January 16, Chapter 9

Jesus sails back to the western shore, to Capernaum, where he meets a paralyzed man.  It is reasonable to assume the man was well-known and since Capernaum was the hometown of Andrew, Peter, James, and John, it is reasonable to assume they knew him personally.  In other words, he was not a plant, he could not walk.  On this occasion, Jesus teaches a different lesson.  He tells the man his sins are forgiven.

Only God can forgive sins, so the learned rabbis and scribes were fuming.  Jesus cleared it up by healing the man.  Since only God could do that, Jesus is God.

Jewish society of the day had an informal ranking of occupations, with priests and rabbis at the top of respectability and tax collectors near the bottom; hide tanners were lower and shepherds were only a little above the tax men.  For Jesus to call such a sinful man to follow him was a sure way of getting kicked off the social A-list.

Jesus did fast and maybe the disciples did as well, but Jesus kept it private.  There is no sign that John himself questioned Jesus.  It was some of his followers.

The raising of the dead girl becomes more dramatic by having the woman stop Jesus’ progress to save her first.  Back with the girl, Jesus does not make any claim to raising the dead.  He insists that she is asleep.  The flute players and the noisy crowd tells us that the house was already in mourning for the girl.  They believed she was dead.

The woman,  bleeding for 12 years, healed by touching the tassel of Jesus’ prayer shawl.  Jews used the words for tassels and hem interchangeably in regard to the prayer shawl.  There were four tassels representing connection with the priest and with God.

None-the-less, it was her faith that healed her.

The blind, also by their faith.

Driving out demons was becoming so common that Matthew does not bother to describe the event.

With 7 billion people in the world, we followers of Jesus have much to do.

Friday, January 17. Chapter 10

In verse 1, the 12 are disciples, and in verse 2, they are apostles.  The Greek word apostolos means messenger.  Jesus chose 12 for special duties from a group of a hundred or more disciples.  Here, for the first time,  Matthew calls them apostles and has them sent into the harvest field and be  messengers of the Good News.

The rest of the chapter is a lengthy set of instructions.

Jesus’ ministry was always to Israel.  After his resurrection, the 12 would be commissioned to go to the rest of the world.

On this journey, depend on the people to support you. Do not even take a change of clothes.  If a town rejects you, move on.

Try to avoid trouble with the legal authorities.  For Jesus, having his apostles arrested could encourage the authorities to arrest him as well.

Remember that you are my students.  Do what I do, do not go your own way.  Do not be afraid.

Back in Matthew 5:9, we read, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.  Here, he says he has come to bring a sword.  It is a figure of speech.  Jesus is about Peace, but that gets people upset, so they think he and his followers are dangerous.  The stories in the New Testament tell us what happens; families are split, people attacked, beaten, jailed, killed.  Jesus does not wield a sword, but he has brought one into play.

Our families are important, but Jesus comes first. Nothing in this life is greater than Jesus.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence