Tag Archives: Luke

Luke 6-10

100+ yr Grape Vines. Seppeltsville, Barossa Valley, South Australia.  photo by  Mark A Hewitt


Monday, May 12 Chapter 6

The Sabbath when Jesus and his followers were picking and eating grain from a field would have been a week or two after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  They could not have been more than half a mile from a town or there would have been no Pharisees around.  They would not walk that far on a Sabbath.

Jesus does not throw out the Torah teaching, he simply makes it practical.  People get hungry on Saturday just like any other day.  When Jesus says, The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath, he is repeating the common teachings of rabbis of the day.  Those same Pharisees would think nothing of working all day to save one of their animals, yet they condemn people for eating.

Jesus selected Twelve of the disciples for his inner group.  They were also given the rank of Apostles, ambassadors for Jesus.  Most of us are disciples, followers with only a few chosen as Apostles to work in mission fields, near and far.

Starting with verse 17, Jesus gives the blessings and woes, better known as the Beatitudes.  We generally think of chapter 5 in Matthew for them, but we find them here as well.  One scholar has recorded 45 beatitudes in the Old Testament, such as Psalm 1:1-2:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers, 

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

The word, poor, occurs 131 times in the Old Testament (NIV).  Poverty another 15, and love several hundred.  Again, Jesus is hardly breaking new ground.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, The only way to overcome your enemy is to love him.  In the New Testament our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility, for Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility.  Exodus 23:1-9 and Leviticus 19:18 give practical examples of such love.

We find this whole section difficult.  We would rather picture Jesus in the Temple chasing the money changers with a whip.  But that is the duty of God not ours.

If we judge, we cannot love.  By judging, we place ourselves above the other person.

About one-third of all the words of Jesus in the first three Gospels are parables.  Verses 39-45, however are really proverbs.

The Tree and Builders are parables teaching us to watch and take care who we follow.  Look for the fruit; is it hate or love.  Check the foundation; is it set firmly in the Scriptures?

Tuesday, May 13 Chapter 7

Jesus reentered Capernaum, his headquarters and the home of at least four Apostles.  The centurion first sends Jewish elders to request Jesus to heal his servant, then sends friends.  It is clear that the centurion believes Jesus has the power to heal without understanding what it all means.  That is a lesson for us.  We will never fully understand what God is about.  We take it on faith that He knows what He is doing.

The second message is interesting.  It shows that he believes he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his gentile house.  His faith impresses Jesus.

In Nain, Jesus raises a man from death.  The centurion invites Jesus to his house, but now he steps in uninvited.  In both cases, people call him Kyrios, Lord; Luke being the only one to use the term before the crucifixion.

There is an important passage in 1 Kings 17:17-24 that we need to read in the context of the resurrection.

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.  She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.  Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

This is another sign of the Messiah that Jesus had to fulfill.  Yet, in verse 16 the people accept him as a prophet, but not the Messiah.

In Verse 18, John sends his disciples to Jesus without mention of prison.  Luke does seem to assume that he is in prison.  Josephus wrote in his history that John was held at Machaerus, a stronghold and prison east of the Dead Sea.

John is not sure about all the tales he is hearing.  Was I wrong when I baptized you?  Jesus response is to paraphrase Isaiah, leaving out releasing the captives possibly to avoid giving John false hope.

Jesus praises the work of John to the crowds.  He quotes both fables and scripture to show the greatness of John.  Yet, in verse 28 Jesus says that everyone is greater than John.  Why?  It is a common Hebrew style.  It means that as great as John is, others will be at least as great; basically, all will be equally great.

In the next account, Jesus is at a special dinner in the home of a Pharisee.  Many wealthy men liked to have their sumptuous meals out where the neighbors could be envious.  A woman washed Jesus’ feet and cried for him.

In the eyes of the Pharisee, touching any woman not his family defiles Jesus.  But he goes farther in his thinking: a true prophet would have recognized that the woman was a sinner and would have refused her presence.  The Pharisee is gloating in his own superiority.

Jesus lets him know that he knows both the woman’s sin and the Pharisee’s inner thoughts.

On this story, three early Church Fathers wrote:

Ephrem the Syrian (360 AD) Impure lips became holy by kissing his feet.  She was graciously comforting with oil the feet of her Physician, who had graciously brought the treasury of healing to her suffering.  That blind Pharisee, for whom wonders were not enough, discredited the common things he saw because of the wondrous things he failed to see.

Ambrose of Milan (385 AD) The Law does not possess the mystery in which secret sins are cleansed.

Augustine (420 AD, a student of Ambrose) She will not think that she has been forgiven little and so love little.

Isaiah 43:25 is important here:

I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.

Wednesday, May 14 chapter 8

Jesus went from town to town preaching the Good News.  G. Campbell Morgan, writing in 1931, has this to say about that preaching:

The word preaching shows the style, the method….  Preaching is proclaiming as a herald, and when a herald proclaims, he is representing a King, and therefore there is authority in his message….

The word evangelizing reveals the content of the preaching.  What was it?  Telling the good news.  What good news?  The good news of the Kingdom of God.

That is the Gospel.  God reigns, and He has provided a way by which banished ones may return.  He went everywhere, not submitting a Gospel to the consideration of the crowd, but hearlding it, declaring it, God’s message to men, good news.  He went through the cities and the villages, heralding the good news f the Kingdom of God.

Luke includes the women who play an important role in the spreading of the Gospel.  In verse 3 they are said to be deacons, the meaning of the Greek translated helping.

The parable of the sower follows traditional Hebrew story telling style.  It was common to use a noun-verb combination of the same word: the sower will sow the seed.  It was also common to use three negatives with one positive.

This parable could be called the Parable of the Hearers.  It is about receiving the Good News.

Verse 9 is a stumbling block for many.  Why would Jesus hide the truth?  He does not.  He speaks the truth in a way most people can understand, yet they do not grasp the full meanings which even the Apostles will not understand until they become filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The Good News is simple enough for a child to understand, but difficult enough for Peter and Paul to still be confused upon their deaths.  We cannot know God; He is the Great Mystery.

Jesus’ parables are more than stories; they demand decisions.  First, do you believe the truth of the story?  Second, will you repent and turn back to God?

Rabbis from ancient times to today have spoken of students as sponges, funnels, strainers, and sieves.  The sponge takes in everything and is overloaded, so understands little.  The funnel allows everything to flow out the other ear.  The strainer allows the good ideas to flow out and keeps the bad.  Only the sieve saves the best.

On the account of Jesus’ family coming to visit, Luke does not use the harsh expressions of Mark, but the meaning is the same:  Jesus’ family are the brothers and sisters of the Fellowship.

When Jesus and others took a boat on Lake Gennesaret (became the Sea of Galilee in recent times, even though it is fresh water), the Greek word is whirlwind that came up and endangered them.  The fishermen understood the danger better than the others.  They cried to Jesus to save them.  Ephrem the Syrian in 370 AD said it best:  He who was sleeping was awakened and cast the sea into a sleep.

The demon possessed man puts Jesus to the test.  He is in Gentile territory instead of the Holy Land and the demons number in the thousands.  The Greek word for Legion comes directly from the Latin for a Roman Legion of about 8,000 men.  Mark says that there were about 2,000 pigs sent into the lake.  Regardless of the odds, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, won.

The people did not have the proper response though, one of fear instead of faith.

The dead girl and the bleeding woman are one story, not just because one interrupts the other.  We have a 12-year-old girl and a woman bleeding for 12 years.  The girl is just at the age to begin bleeding, to have her bat mitzvah, and be ready for marriage.  The woman has not had a life for those twelve years because uterine hemorrhaging left her unclean and unable to be with family and friends.

On his way to heal the dying girl, the woman touches the tassel on the prayer shawl of Jesus who feels the touch.  He knows the woman touched him and why, but he wants a teaching moment.  So he stops and forces her to tell everyone what she has done.

Notice what happens in verses 48-49.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Jesus, with one word, links the healing of the woman with the resurrection of the dead girl; daughter.

Thursday, May 15 Chapter 9

Sending the Twelve on their first missionary journey was a big step for them and a big risk for Jesus.  Chrysostam, writing about 400 AD, gives us a good description of the importance of the event.

Jesus succeeded in setting the human race free with no force of arms, no expenditure of money, not by starting wars of conquest, nor by inflaming men to battle.  He had only eleven men to start with, men who were undistinguished, without learning, ill-informed, destitute, poorly clad, without weapons, or sandals, men who had but a single tunic to wear.

We can imagine the Twelve returning to Jesus as excited as five-year olds on Christmas morning.  They each vied with the others to tell Jesus what happened.  Jesus had no doubt spent the time in prayer to support them in their efforts, but let them enjoy the moment.

Teaching again, they found themselves near Bethsaida on the north-eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret with thousands of people ready to eat.

An important point often overlooked:  the Apostles have just returned from doing miraculous things, but they have no idea how to feed these people.

So Jesus feeds them, much like Moses and the manna, much like Jesus at Passover.  Unlike with the manna which could not be kept for later, the Apostles picked up 12 baskets full, one for each of them.  They probably did not get the message then; feed people.

Jesus then asks the Twelve, Who do you say I am?  Once we answer with Peter, You are the Christ, the Messiah sent by God, we must respond by taking up our crosses.  We first deny, repudiate, reject, contradict, disagree, rebuff ourselves.  To take up a cross is to cease being the sinful, greedy, self-centered human we really are and become the person who thinks only of others, to become like Jesus.  We must do it daily because we are not strong enough to maintain our faithfulness.  We are of the two steps forward, one back class; and sometimes two or three back.

Eight days later, eight being the number of days old Jesus was when presented at the Temple, Jesus took the inner circle with him to visit with Moses and Elijah.  As Jesus prayed and his trusty inner circle slept, Jesus’ face began to glow like that of Moses returning from the mountain with the tablets.  Moses and Elijah were both forerunners of the Messiah, so here another promise of the Old Testament is kept.

Verse 35 is right out of Deuteronomy 18:15-20:  The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.  I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.

The next day, a man accosts Jesus wanting him to do what the disciples failed to do.  Jesus’ response makes sense in the context of visiting with his old friends, Moses and Elijah.  He is ready to join them in heaven.  How long shall I stay with you?

From the commentary on Luke by F. Godet, a Swiss theologian  (US translation 1881):  After enjoying fellowship with celestial beings, Jesus suddenly finds himself in the midst of a world where unbelief prevails in all its various degrees.  It is therefore the contrast, not between one man and another, but between this entire humanity alienated from God, in the midst of which He finds Himself, and the inhabitants of heaven whom He has just left, which wrings from Him this mournful exclamation….  The holy enjoyment of the night before has, as it were, made Him homesick.

 In verse 45, Jesus is telling the Apostles several things:  the Man Jesus will be betrayed by men; do not take the adulation of the crowd seriously, they will soon turn against me, and you; it is going to happen in a way that will surprise and confound you.

The Twelve respond by arguing over who of them is the greatest.

Verse 37 begins the long journey to resurrection.  As they pass through Samaria, Luke alone records many of the incidents, though John has several of them happening over three years time.

The literal translation is that Jesus set his face for Jerusalem, a common expression of the day.  Samaria was a region settled by a mixture of people after the Great Exile.  They believed only in the Torah, the five books of Moses.  They had no conception of the Messiah and did not worship in Jerusalem but on Mount Gerizim.

At verse 55 most ancient manuscripts read:  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

The chapter ends with another lesson in the cost of discipleship.  The work of the Kingdom always comes first.  On that point, most of us are deficient.

Friday, May 16 Chapter 10

Jesus selects 70 or 72 people (manuscripts are split about in half on the number) from among the disciples, not including the Apostles, to go on a mission trip, preparing the way for Jesus.  He asks them to go into the homes of the dreaded and unclean Samaritans, eat and sleep with them.

The Kingdom of God is near.

The Samaritans responded so well that Jesus mourned for Bethsaida and Capernaum because they did not respond as well.

When the disciples returned saying even the demons responded to them, Jesus quoted Isaiah 14:12, morning star being the name given to the evil one:

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

In verse 21 Jesus gives another lesson in who is great.  The Apostles had to notice that even the “other” followers were able to do what they had done earlier.

If you have to pick one parable as the only explanation of the Gospel, The Good Samaritan is it.  The expert in the Law asks a question and then quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  It is hard to do any better than that, but notice Jesus response, you will live; no mention of eternal life which was the question.

Luke says the lawyer wanted to trick Jesus and he pushed for more.  He got it.

Jesus has a Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  It is in Judea, not Samaria.  The road is 17 miles long, dropping from 2,600 feet to 855 feet below sea level, a total of 3,455 feet down.  Bandits lived along and worked the road like it was their own ATM.

The single most dangerous spot was the Adummim Pass where hundreds were robbed every year and many left for dead.  Everyone who heard the story knew all these details and probably knew someone who had been robbed and/or killed.

Notice that Jesus says they were all going down the road.  That means the priest and Levite did not have to concern themselves so much with ritual purity.  Touching a dead man or a not Jew would require seven days of purification, but they were not headed for the Temple for duty.  In other words, they had no ready excuse.

Most priests and Levites were Sadducees who rejected the teachings of the rabbis and Pharisees while the lawyer who started this parable was most likely a Pharisee.  Their teachings required both the priests and Levites to bury the dead in just such a case as this.  Even stronger, they required all written laws must be violated to preserve life.

All the listeners would have understood that the priest and Levite would have traveled with several servants for protection, but they would not allow any of them to touch the man because touching the servant would then make the priest and Levite unclean also.

In the parable we have the typical balance:

The robber steals and beats the man               the Samaritan pays for his care

The priest does nothing                                   the Samaritan transports the man

The Levite does nothing                                 the Samaritan treats his wounds.


The surprise for the listeners is that the man who stops is not a Jew, not even a Galilean.

As to the end of the chapter, Augustine (about 400 AD) wrote:

Martha was busy satisfying the needs of those who were hungry and thirsty.  With deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house.  It was an important but transitory work.  It will not always be necessary to eat and drink, will it?

What was Mary enjoying while she was listening?…  Let’s ask the Lord, who keeps such a splendid table for his own people, let’s ask him.  “Blessed,” he says, “are those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, because they shall be satisfied.”…

What was Mary enjoying?  What was she eating?  I’m persistent on this point, because I’m enjoying it too.  I will venture to say that she was eating the one she was listening to.  I mean, if she was eating truth, didn’t he say himself, “I am the truth?”  What more can I say?  He was being eaten, because he was the Bread.  “I,” he said, “am the bread who came down from heaven.”  This is the bread which nourishes and never diminishes.

Ambrose added a few years earlier:  Virtue does not have a single form.  In the example of Martha and Mary, there is added the busy devotion of the one and the pious attention of the other to the Word of God….

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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

Acts 1-5


Drawing above: When the day of Pentecost came. Mark A Hewitt, Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012.

Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, February 10, Chapter 1

Writing sometime around 390 AD, John Chrysostom remarked, “To many people this book, both its content and its author, is so little known that they are not even aware it exists.”  He then did his best to bring the Acts of the Apostles to light.  Remember that he was writing only about 200 years after the last Apostle died and before the books of the New Testament were agreed upon.  Many did not accept Acts as scripture, only as an interesting read.

We will find it more than just interesting.  Luke, having written a Gospel, now describes events of the early church.  Beginning in verse 2, he stresses the importance of the Holy Spirit in that experience.

When we read the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts, we find no contradictions.  The Gospel account is a quick summary, expanded in Acts.  Now we see Jesus rising into a cloud, but not just any cloud, He rose into the Cloud of God, the Cloud that led the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land.

In verse 14 we read that the 120 apostles met every day in prayer.  In the Gospel, Luke adds that they met continually in the Temple.  There was no other place indoors where that many people could gather, not even in Herod’s palace.

Since Jesus chose the Twelve to represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel and since Judas killed himself, the Eleven suggested two men to replace Judas: Joseph and Matthias.  We can speculate that Jesus treated both men with special favor, but we do not know anything about them.  Lots were cast and Matthias became an Apostle, much the way we decide which goal a team will defend.  Neither man appears again in the Bible.

Tuesday, February 11, Chapter 2

Pentecost deserves some explanation.  The word is Greek, meaning 50, because it took place 50 days after the Saturday following Passover.  In Hebrew it was, and is, called the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), also sometimes Feast of Harvest or First Fruits.  On the first day of the festival, priest harvested wheat, ground it, made it into bread, and offered it at the Temple as the first fruit of the harvest.  An earlier first fruit harvest of barley took place earlier on the first Sunday after Passover.  We as Christians should celebrate it because Jesus rose from the grave that very day, becoming the First Fruit of the Eternal Harvest.

Forth-nine days later, the Holy Spirit filled 120 followers with a power that must have felt like fire.  Peter preached his best sermon and thousands of lives were changed forever.  All of the followers spread throughout the city like a flood, preaching and teaching through the power of the Holy Spirit.  They could speak Aramaic but be understood by a Greek speaker as speaking in Greek and a Syrian in his language at the same time.  The Holy Spirit became a universal translator.

In the days that followed, only the Twelve did the miracles, but all joined together in complete trust, sharing all that they had.  The phrase, ‘breaking bread’, simply means they ate together.  Spreading the Word all started just as Jesus said it would, in Jerusalem, then Judah, Samaria, Galilee, and the world.  It is fitting that the Romans aided the rapid spread of the Way, as it was first called.  Their transportation system was one of the best known before modern times.

Wednesday, February 12, Chapter 3

Peter and John healed a crippled man, well, not really.  Jesus through the Holy Spirit healed a man, a man who accepted the power of God on faith.  The message of this chapter is that everyone is crippled and in need of the healing power of Jesus.  Peter said, ‘Repent, then and turn to God that your sins may be wiped out.’  It is sin that cripples us; it is sin that we need to repent.  Understand though that God forgives sin and we are healed in that, but we still live in a world with worldly bodies that decay and die.  Asking God to cure a disease will only postpone the death all Christians look forward to.

Thursday, February 13, Chapter 4

Remember that the Apostles and disciples were preaching and teaching in the Temple and in the synagogues to Jews almost exclusively.  They were not peddling a new religion, but rather claiming that Jesus was the Messiah promised by the Scriptures and that he rose from the grave.  The religious leaders believed they were rid of the problem when they had Jesus killed, but his followers continued to spread the same message, adding the resurrection to what the leaders perceived as blasphemy.  When Peter and John healed the crippled man, the leaders decided to go on the attack once again.

A note on the high priest.  In the days of Jewish kings, the high priest was the second most powerful person in the land because the nation was ruled by the religion, somewhat like Iran today.  In the time of Jesus, the political rulers were Roman, so the high priest was the most powerful Jewish leader.  Annas had been appointed to the position at the time of Jesus birth and held it for 21 years when the Romans forced his removal.

However, Annas was rich and powerful and able to control the office through the next six office holders, five of whom where his sons and one his son-in-law.  In the years of Jesus ministry and the beginnings of the church, the high priest was the son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas.

The Captain of the Temple Guard was the highest ranking officer of the small Jewish army, small because the Romans kept it that way.  He, none-the-less, held a powerful position, in part because he worked closely with both the high priest and the Roman legions.

Notice in verse seven the leaders get right to the issue of blasphemy.  The scriptures say that only God can heal, so it they claimed they did it or that Jesus did it, they would be guilty of blasphemy.  Peter threw it in their faces, ‘it is by Jesus the Messiah, the one you murdered.’  The leaders had a problem: healing comes from God and the man was clearly healed.  He was a man they had all seen before.  To claim it was faked was absurd.  In the end they warned Peter and John to stop preaching and let them go.

The response of Peter and John was to pray for even more of the Holy Spirit to speak the bold words they knew angered the authorities and put their own lives in jeopardy.

Luke reminds us of how the Followers of the Way lived.  It was a true commune, each sharing what they had as it was needed.  We are introduced to Barnabas who will later become one of Paul’s closest associates.

Friday, February 14, Chapter 5

What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira?  The answer takes us back to Luke’s first book when Jesus spoke with the rich young ruler.

18:24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!  18:25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  18:26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 18:27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  


Note that in verses 4:35, 4:37, and 5:2, Luke uses the same phrase, ‘put it at the apostles’ feet.’  An important Greek word is used here, nosphizein, meaning to misappropriate. The difference is that Ananias tried to pass it off as the full amount.  All he had to do was announce, ‘Here is part of the sale. I can give you more as needed.’  Keep in mind what Jesus said in Matt 6:2-4.  Ananias was being a hypocrite.

The Greek word translated ‘died’ was used in ancient times only to describe a person struck down by God.  Why was the penalty so heavy?  Ananias and his wife were no longer controlled by the Holy Spirit but by Satan, by greed.  The Holy Spirit is Life, Satan is death.

In verse 11, the Greek word, ekklesia, is used for the first time.  In English it is church.

Solomon’s Colonnade or Portico, located along the eastern wall of the Court of the Gentiles, was used by many groups for teaching and meetings.  The followers of the Way seem to have taken control of a portion of it.

Verse 17 starts the first great escape.  We see the leaders filled with jealousy.  That tells us much about the true nature of their attacks on the still tiny Messianic movement.  Nothing is said about the jailers here, but remember that if a prisoner escaped, the jailer was killed.  Later, we are told they were still at their posts.

In verse 20, the angel tells the Twelve to ‘stand firm’ in the Temple.  They had to wait for sunrise when the gates were opened again.  While they were teaching, the captain took his men to bring them, carefully, to the Sanhedrin to be questioned.

Notice in verse 28 the leaders will not even speak the name ‘Jesus’, perhaps out of fear the very name contains powers they cannot control.  Peter speaks for the group and claims Jesus to be the Prince of God and the Savior of man.  The word for savior is used in the Old Testament only of God and of those defeating evil.

Gamaliel was important because he is still considered the greatest teacher of the Law.  He is important to the early church because Saul who became Paul was his student.  Later, in Acts 22:3, Paul claimed he was well trained by Gamaliel.  Here in chapter 5, Gamaliel, perhaps with Saul standing beside him, suggests that the Sanhedrin allow Peter and crew to destroy themselves as did all the other would be Messiahs.

Pay special attention to verse 39 and compare it to Deut 18:20-22.

They were flogged according to Deut 25:2-3.  We do not know how many lashes their ‘crime’ required.  It did not matter to the Twelve, they rejoiced for their bloody backs.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

A Righteous Branch

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-79
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

I stand on the edge of time.  It lies before me as a scroll.  I see Creation and the end of Creation.  Through it all I see the hand of God the Creator.  Nothing happens that He does not attend.

The lives of humans seem to attract the most attention from God.  Their rebellion and petty struggles to become little gods occupies much of His interests.  Another god, if there were such a being, would have done away with the defective ones, but God Yahweh tolerates their machinations.

Here, look at the Chosen People near their captivity into slavery for disobedience.  God has His servant Jeremiah deliver a double message: you will become slaves, but return trusting in God.  Still later, you will receive a King greater than David.

I ask you, what self-respecting man or woman would think of such a thing?  Had humans been in God’s place, they would never have put up with such disrespect and they certainly would not have put in place a perfect plan for all those rebels to sit with them at the Great Banquet.

And here, the messenger of God telling an average priest that his son will be the one to announce to the world that the King, the Righteous Branch, the Rising Son, is coming.  Humans would have written it in the sky, on the sides of mountains, had millions of angels shouting it to all corners of the earth.  God tells one priest and then strikes him silent until the birth.

Look at one more.  The Righteous Branch hanging between two thieves, unjustly accused, in his dying breaths—forgives a man’s sins.  I see it and even I have trouble believing it.

But I have seen the last page and know how the story ends.  As Paul said, For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.


The Roman torches burned angrily to keep the darkness from completely overcome them.  Mary continued stared at her son as his life’s blood drip-dripped to the ground.  A slight smile filled her eyes when she heard him forgive the Romans.

The words of Jeremiah about raising a righteous Branch of David who would reign with justice and righteousness echoed in her thoughts.  Her son, her Yeshua never failed to be righteous,  a friend and helper to all.  For that, back stripped of flesh, the cross, nails pounded through him, desperate gasps of breath, agony his companion.

God’s Son promised the thief he would be in heaven today.  Mary remembered the prophecy of her cousin Zechariah that Yeshua would give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  That he would shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide their feet into the path of peace.  Little did she know then that he would do it as the Great Sin Offering.

She knew without understanding that Yeshua was fulfilling the prophecy in this death.  Her own heart ached from his pain, her own tears poured out for his grief; yet, her son would bring light into the darkness, even now, even with his last drop of blood and his last breath.

God promised to give him the throne of David.  God promised his kingdom would never end.  God’s broken heart was greater than hers and his pride in their son had to be mountains larger.  No understanding, no knowing, only believing.  Someway, God would turn this ugliness into Holiness.

When he spoke his last, when he died, when the earth shook, when the darkness nearly snuffed out the torches, when the others urged her to leave, she refused to look away.  She lived through the pain of his birth; she would not abandon him in his, and her, pain of death.

The Wolf and the Lamb will feed together

Isaiah 65:17-25
Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19


This reading from Isaiah is an echo of the great Messianic chapter 11 and sets the tone for today’s lesson.  New life comes from the Messiah, both now and in the new world to come.

Anyone who reads all 66 chapters of Isaiah straight through has done some heavy lifting, not just because of the size of the book, but because of its poetic style, repetition, and its inability to stay on one topic.  If a modern American wrote the book, it would be thee chapters long.

Yet, Handel would have had a hard time writing the Messiah without it.  Every Old Testament book points in some way to the coming Messiah, but none do so as powerfully as Isaiah.  It is in that sense that we must consider today’s readings.

It is easy to hang up on the apocalyptic nature of both the Isaiah and Luke readings, but Jesus makes it clear that the point is more immediate.  They will build houses… plant vineyards, does not sound like my idea of heaven.  Isaiah was telling the people of the captivity that they would be able to do that after their return.  But he was also using that image to let them know what it would be like in the new life after death in this life.  The Bible is always speaking to us on both levels, now and in the future. Continue reading The Wolf and the Lamb will feed together