Luke: Discovering Jesus, the Son of God

For a few months, I have been studying the Gospel of Luke with some friends. It has been a joy to study the life of Jesus. Below is a Family Worship Guide that I created from our discussions. Just click on the image below. You will find questions with and without helps. I hope this is a blessing to you and your family.

Luke family worship guide

Let me know if you would like to make changes or additions. This is certainly a work in progress.

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Jesus on Trial: Injustices, Ironies, and Barabbas

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Can you name a movie or story where the main character is innocent, but is framed, tried and punished for a crime they didn’t commit? There are many. My favorites include: The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Double Jeopardy, The Fugitive, North By Northwest, The Wrong Man, The 39 Steps, An Innocent Man, and Hang ‘Em High.

In high school Minorities class, I heard the story, Cry Freedom. It is a real-life story of Steve Biko, a black South African and activist during the apartheid, and his white journalist friend Donald Woods. Woods learns about the discrimination, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence. After seeing the injustices, he risks his life to expose those stories to the world.

How do these movies or kinds of stories make you feel? We want justice! We cheer for the victims. We fear how we’d respond in a similar situation. It is natural to recoil at the punishment of the innocent. So it is with passages like Luke 23:1-25, we want to stand up for injustices against Jesus, but would we?

INJUSTICES AND IRONIES STAIN JESUS’ TRIAL (vs.1-16)

What makes something unjust (or ironic)? It’s when something unfair or plain wrong happens to someone. In other words, what should happen to Jesus is not (i.e. a fair trial or set free). In fact, the opposite takes place. The trial of Jesus is brimming with injustice and irony. Can you spot it? (I spot at least 6 instances).

First, the religious rulers accuse Jesus of misleading the nation by telling people not to give tribute to Caesar (v.2), when a few days earlier Jesus taught the exact opposite (cf. 20:19-25).

Second, the religious rulers try to ruffle the feathers of the political leaders by saying Jesus claims to be king of the Jews (v.3). Jesus has not directly said so, though He is, but not as they think. He has claimed to be the Son of God who will sit at God’s right hand (cf. 22:68-70); the seat of supreme authority.

Third, the religious rulers accuse Jesus of stirring the people through His teachings (v.5). He did stir crowds with the “truth” and the people were astonished by His teachings (cf. 4:32; 9:43).

Fourth, neither Pilate nor Herod find Jesus guilty of any crime that would deem punishable by death (vs.14-15). He is, in fact, innocent and without sin.1 Ironically, Herod dresses Jesus in gaudy royal robes making a mockery of His and the claim.

Fifth, the religious rulers will trade Jesus’ life for Barabbas, the murderer (v.18). I’ll say more on this later.

Sixth, Pilate volleys for Jesus without success. In a moment, Pilate throws Roman law out the window and give Jesus over to crowd. Unbeknown to him or the crowd, Jesus is being delivered over by the divine will of God. Pilate and the crowd are simply pawns in the hands of God bringing about redemptive history.

Surprisingly, this passage says nothing about Jesus’ friends or family. There aren’t Human Rights activists or picketers holding signs for Jesus release. The only one who stands up for Jesus is Pilate. He’s the highest man in Jerusalem, but he has little power over the cankerous crowd and the hand of God.

The events of Jesus’ trial expose the equal danger of denial and indifference towards Jesus. The religious people are in denial of who Jesus says He is. They say they worship God, but they have placed God incarnate, the Creator of the universe on trial. Pilate is indifferent towards Him. Neither the crowd nor Pilate fear God. The crowd fears the influence of Jesus and Pilate fears Tiberius charge to keep Pax Romana, which is being threatened by the rabble-rousing crowd. In their hearts, they both fear man, and the denial and indifference towards Jesus led to His unjust treatment.

This begs me question my heart too. Have I treated Jesus fairly or justly? Do I see any fault in Him? Do I resemble this sort of denial and indifference towards Jesus? If so, I am just as guilty as the crowd. If I were honest, there are times each day when denial and indifference creep in and kill the authority and power of Jesus that desires to reign in my life. If I were in the crowd that day, I probably wouldn’t cry freedom. I would be joining the crowd chanting, “Crucify, crucify Him!”

While reading this passage, I mustn’t feel guilt, rather I must reveal in the grace of God. No amount of torture, pain, loneliness, mockery, suffering, or injustice stops Jesus from following through with His divine call. Jesus bears God’s wrath, pays for my punishment, so that I will have eternal life, forever freedom, forgiveness, and redemption. Jesus’ injustice bought my shalom.

JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE INJUSTICES IS SURREAL

Why doesn’t Jesus cry freedom? Why doesn’t Jesus save Himself? Surely, He can. Even during the onslaught of scorn from religious rulers, soldiers, and a criminal hanging next to Jesus, He willingly remains fixed on the cross (cf. 22:35-39). Oddly, all throughout Jesus’ trial and crucifixion He doesn’t say many words. He’s remains silent and confident. He doesn’t save Himself. He willingly goes along with His own death sentence. He could call for swift justice and will, but not yet. An injustice must happen to Jesus for justice to prevail.

Jesus’ response should give us courage to fear God rather than man. In difficult situations or under pressure to speak, sometimes no response is needed, only trust and obedience in God’s providence. Often Christians are the worlds justice police. We see an injustice and we fight for right.  We want to see the innocent freed and the criminal hanged. We’ve established organizations like World Vision or International Justice Mission, which do great things throughout the world to give a voice to abused, neglected, enslaved, and imprisoned. Yet it was one of the worlds greatest injustices has ever seen has set us free.

YOU ARE MORE LIKE BARABBAS THAN YOU THINK (vs.18-25)

One of the wildest ironies within Jesus’ trial is the exchange for Barabbas. How crazy and idiotic is the crowd to free a convicted murderer? This shows the irrational trajectory of fearing man. They would rather live with a murderer on the loose than have Jesus in teaching and healing in their streets.

I’ve always detested for Barabbas. I picture him as a scar faced, chip-toothed, scraggly-eyed villain. The kind of guy mom would want you hanging around. However, as I read through this text again a question lingered on my mind. How is the exchange for Barabbas a perfect picture of the exchange of my life for Jesus? It dawned on me for the first time. My sin is just as detestable and punishable by death as Barabbas’, but instead of the crowd it was the Righteous Judge, Jesus, who set me free to live another day. I, like Barabbas, have been released in exchange for the blood of an innocent man.

This passage really hits home. We live among a people in Africa who are all too familiar with injustices and unfairness. Some have seen family members and friends beaten, raped, and/or killed. They are crying for freedom. Only Jesus will minister hope to their fear and despair. He too faced injustices and yet responded with confidence and trust in His Father. And God had mercy on us all through the death of His only Son. Therefore, let us boldly proclaim the Hope of Nations as ones who have experienced and benefit from the beautiful exchange.2

Questions for Application & Reflection: How is the exchange for Barabbas the perfect picture of the great exchange of our life for Jesus? How has Jesus set you free? What gives you the strength to resist fear of man and pressures in your life? How can Jesus be displayed in injustices you face in your ministry? In what ways do you relate to the crowd calling for the death of Jesus?

Jesus, lion and lamb

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Let’s say that the end of your life was in front of you. You knew it wasn’t years or months or weeks or even days, but it was hours, and your life would be over. You knew you were going to die, and you were right on the threshold of death, and it was going to be a painful, brutal, difficult, tortuous, public, shameful death. What would you be thinking about? What would you be talking about?

In Luke 22, Jesus is hours away from of His own murder. It is the dark season of His life (cf. v.53). He’s going to die soon. He knows it. And what does He talk about? What is He thinking about? The Scriptures. What gives Him confidence, what gives Him courage, what gives Him clarity? It’s the Scriptures.

One of the statements coined from the Protestant Reformation was tota sola Scriptura. It’s a Latin phrase that means all of Scripture is alone our highest authority. God’s Book is better in every way than every other book. His Book is a perfect Book. Even the best books that men write don’t compare to the book that God wrote. Scriptures are the standard to measure other books.

Now, what Jesus is going to do in Luke 22 is give a test in tota sola Scriptura. And He actually begins in Luke 22 by referring back to Luke 10. Remember, the person of peace passage, where Jesus told his disciples not to take anything, but rely upon God for provisions as they journeyed from town to town? Now Jesus will say something interesting almost seemingly contradictory,

“35 And he said to them, When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, Nothing. 36 He said to them, But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: And he was numbered with the transgressors. For what is written about me has its fulfillment. 38 And they said, Look, Lord, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.”

Well, which is it, Jesus? Pack supplies or don’t pack supplies? Be ready or don’t be ready? Wear shoes or don’t wear shoes? Pack weapons or don’t pack weapons? Which is it? It all depends on the mission. Jesus says, “On this mission, take nothing; on this mission, take everything.”

On a side note, as I read this I thought, “What does ‘sword’ mean?” Well I looked it up in my super nerdy Bible dictionary and “sword” means sword. Certainly, Jesus didn’t say pack a weapon. Oh, but he did. Fourteen verses later, Peter is going to grab a sword and will cut a guy’s ear off (v.50). Ironic?

Commercial over. The truth is, sometimes you should raise money. Sometimes you shouldn’t. Sometimes you should pack supplies. Sometimes you shouldn’t. Sometimes you should defend yourself. Sometimes you shouldn’t. Sometimes you should rely solely on God your provider. Sometimes you should have a plan and be prepared. It all depends on the mission. So, consider what God is calling you to in that moment.

Jesus is going deeper than talking about material you need for you mission, but the mindset you have while on mission. In Luke 10, Jesus encourages His disciples to be like a lamb and let God be your shepherd who provides everything you need. But in Luke 22, Jesus encourages the disciples to be tough. Not just Ford tough, but ninja fighter tough. Get your supplies, money secured, boots polished, sword in sheath, off to conflict, kind of tough. Tough like a lion.

There is no contradiction between Luke 10 and 22. Jesus is both lamb or lion. When you read through all of Luke you see that Jesus is lamb and lion or both at the same time. Check it out:

Luke 4: Jesus is tested by Satan and uses the Scripture to His defense. He’s LION.
Luke 5: Jesus heals a paralytic and leper. He’s LAMB.
Luke 6: Jesus heals man with withered hand despite the religious critics. He’s LAMB and LION.
Luke 7: Jesus heals servant girl and widow. He’s LAMB.
Luke 8: Jesus casts out legion. He’s LION and LAMB.
Luke 9: Jesus feeds 5000. He’s LAMB.
Luke 11: Jesus preaches the woes. He’s LION.
Luke 13: Jesus heals disabled woman. He’s LAMB.
Luke 14: Jesus heals man on the Sabbath despite religious critics. He’s LAMB and LION.
Luke 18: Jesus lets the children come to Him. He’s LAMB.
Luke 19: Jesus confronts money changers in the temple. He’s LION.

Do you see a pattern here? Jesus is tough and tender. He is servant and sovereign. He is lamb and lion.

Back to the Reformers tota sola Scriptura. The Scripture is about totally about Jesus. All the people, stories, and principles are part of the subplot connecting to the main storyline of Jesus’, the Savior of the world. The Book doesn’t make any sense unless it’s all connects to Jesus.

On Sunday, I was had lunch with Mark and his family. They’ve lived in Africa for over two decades. There youngest son was born there and is now a young man. Mark shared how his first few years in Africa were tough, but as he saw the Word of God transform lives he has become more tender to God’s calling him there. He’s seen many Muslims respond in faith to the Book that points to Jesus from beginning to end.

In Luke 22:37, Jesus says. “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’” He quotes Isaiah 53:12. Jesus says the the whole book is now being fulfilled in His life. He came fulfilling everything that is written in the book that God wrote. Even on the brink of torture and death Jesus understands He is to fulfill what God has said. He came as the lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. And He has promised to come back as the Lion of Judah to restore the world. The Book says so. Tota sola Scriptura.

Questions for Reflection: How has Jesus made provision for you in your life? How does the fulfillment of the cross make provision for your sin? In what ways do you lack nothing and have everything? How does your worldly perspective affect your view of provision? In what ways have you submitted to the truth and power of Scripture in your life? What does it look like for the Scripture to be your tota sola Scriptura?

Mary & me

Who are the top-5 most popular teenagers in the world? According Google search engine the top-5 are: Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Emma Watson. Are you a Bieliber? Biebergasted? Have the Bieber fever? Or OJBD? [Obsessive Justin Bieber Disorder] Are you a cult follower of Bieberism? [i.e. screaming crowd of 10-year olds]

Fame and fortune are fleeting. We have seen how the fame and fortune have gone to the heads of many teens, such as Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and countless others. Next year there will be a new set of teens that will top the billboard charts and gets their moment to shine in the spotlight.

Who are some teenagers God highlights for their relentless passion for Him?

  • Joshua was a young servant of Moses who became a godly leader that took the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land [Numbers 11:28].
  • God called Samuel at a young age and he obeyed the voice of God [1 Samuel 3:1-21].
  • David loved to sing to God on the sheep farm, but as a young man he also stood up for his God before the giant Goliath with a few stones and a sling [1 Samuel 16-17].
  • Daniel as a young man is faithful to his God and is willing to stand up and be thrown into the fiery furnace than bow down to any other God than his own.
  • Josiah ruled the kingdom of Judah at the age of 8-years. At the age of 16, he sought God and began to reform the nation back to Him [2 Chronicles 34:3-7].
  • God called Jeremiah a prophet at a very young age. God also encouraged Jeremiah not to be afraid, because He was with him [Jeremiah 1:4-8].
  • Timothy was a timid young man, but Paul, his father in the faith, encouraged him say, saying, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” [1 Timothy 4:12]
  • And Jesus who was still living with his parents was in the temple rubbing shoulders with the rabbis from an early age [Luke 2:41-52].

God uses teenagers throughout the Bible and history. God loves young hearts that and not polluted by the world and are willing to relentlessly and tenaciously give themselves to God. Are you willing to be used by God? Are you available to obey Him no matter the task or cost?

God is using young people to be characters in His story [Luke 1:26-34]

You know Mary. She is the one you see knelt next to the dirty manger with the Son of God swaddled inside with animals huddled together for warmth. A star is shining brightly above.  It is a beautiful scene in Bethlehem. But let’s go back 9-months before the baby is born. Let’s look at Mary. Why did God choose Mary? What’s so special about her that God gives her the task of bearing in her womb the second person of the Trinity? You might be in for a surprise.

On an unordinary day, an angel appears to Mary with a message from God Himself. Days like this did not happen everyday with people in Bible times. She is somewhat scared yet curious about what she’s seeing and hearing She probably heard stories from her Sunday School teacher about how God came to people through messengers in the past. Little did she realize she’d become one of the characters you and I would read about centuries later.

Why does God choose to work through people, including you? It is not because you are worthy, popular, rich, good looking, smart, or have some special skills that make you are more favorable than another. It is just the opposite. God is worthy, good, rich in mercy, generous, and wise. He enjoys using ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary redemptive plan.

God has shown favor to Mary by His grace. Mary is young. She is only a teenager. She was probably no more than 13-15 years old. She is pregnant and not married. This would have been socially scandalous. She could have been label loose or a whore. Imagine the conversations among the girls in the hallway at Mary’s school. “Did you hear? Mary’s pregnant! I didn’t think she was that kind of girl. Who’s the baby’s daddy? Could it be her boyfriend Joseph?”

Mary is the student at your school who isn’t well known. She isn’t great athlete, not a scholar, not the coolest kid on the block, she isn’t drop-dead gorgeous, she isn’t a gossip girl; she isn’t obsessed with fashion or boys. She’s a simple girl. She’s from a rural hick town. She’s from an average family that’s has an average salary. She’s got a modest amount of Facebook friends. She’s the kind of girl you probably would not notice walking through the hall. But God noticed her. He has a plan to use her. Overnight Mary becomes a key character in His story.

God is seeking young people who respond with humility and availability [Luke 1:35-56]

If you were Mary what would you be thinking if God asked you to do something really important? “This is crazy! This cannot be happening to me! What about Jennifer or Kevin, they much better looking and smarter than me? God, you want me to have a baby?” It might be hard to believe—if not miraculous—that a virgin can conceive a baby. That is exactly what God’s going to do. He gives Mary a sign by raising to life the dead womb of Elizabeth, her elder cousin.

Wow, what an incredibly wonderful day this is for these two ordinary women. Mary cannot contain herself any more. She bursts out in a song of praise [Luke 1:46-56; cf.1 Samuel 2, Hannah]. Look at how she worships. She lets begins by listing over 17 attributes about God. She is humble and available to trust God [1:48]. She is both innocent and obedient. She believes “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” [1:37; cf.18:27]. She has all she needs to know it is God who was at work in her. She does not care what others thought about her situation. She doesn’t fear man. She fears God. She desires to bring Him—and Him alone—joy. And this is what you were made to do—worship God, which brings Him joy.

It is clear from Mary’s words (and from the whole Bible) that God is not biased to the rich, the powerful, or the proud. How could God be partial to the things, which in our world are—more often than not—substitutes for God rather than pointers to God? Vast numbers of people have perished because they were enamored by pride, power, and wealth.

Today’s Teen Magazines and websites are filled with messages about finding favor with others:  “Get a smaller waist in 2-weeks,” “Hot summer looks,” “5 ways to get her to notice you,” ”Pick up lines she likes to hear.” What are people trying to figure out when you read this? Do any of them deliver the promises you were seeking? Sure. Why do we want others to notice or be impressed with us? It makes me feel important and secure. If the Bible were a magazine article or web advertisement what would it say? Find out how Jesus can satisfy your needs forever.

Notice how others around the incarnation of Christ responded to His coming: Elizabeth gives glory to God [Luke 1:39-56], prophets eagerly anticipate the Messiah [1:67ff], shepherds lift up praises [2:8-21], angels worship [2:14-15], even magi’s seek Him [Matthew 2:1-12]. How would you respond? How do you respond to God’s presence in your life? How have you been blessed by Jesus? How have you been overwhelmed to praise by the presence of Jesus?

God sent His Son into the world. God took on skin and a human body. He humbled Himself by become a human for humans. This little baby boy born in a barn and feed trough would grow into the most important man in human history. As Gabriel said, “He will be great…He will reign…He will be called holy—the Son of God.” [1:32-33, 35] The next 33 years would forever change the course of history. This child’s purpose was to live to die, to die for the sins of humanity, to take upon Himself the wrath of God in place of sinful man, to become the perfect sacrifice for your sin. The feeble infant would conquer sin, death, and Satan.

Mary had within her womb the Messiah, and if you know Christ, you too, have the Holy Spirit within you—Immanuel—“God with us,” is also with you. Wherever you go He is with you. Mary carried inside her the Savior of the world. You also carry the message of the Savior. A message that will resurrect dead souls to new life.

God used young Mary to accomplish His redemptive plan. And He still uses young and old who are humble and available to be characters in His great redemptive story.

Let me tell you about a teen named, Hannah. You probably don’t know her. She’s not on any teen top-5 lists. Hannah goes to church, she’s from an average family, loves soccer and Spanish. As a teen, she signed up for a few short-term mission trips with our church to Spanish speaking countries like Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Costa Rica. She was able to share the love of Christ with people in a language she learned at school. Now Hannah desires to translate the Scripture in unique languages so more people can hear about her Savior. Whether God uses her that way or not in the future is up to Him. But Hannah is humble and available and God loves using characters like that in His story.

Questions to consider whether you are young and old from the life of Mary and the birth of Christ

Are you available to do whatever God wants you to do? How do you know if it is from God? It won’t contradict the Bible or what God has done historically. Do you fear God more than man?

Are you humble enough to be a character in God’s story rather than having Him be a character in your story?

Will you write a poem or song that expresses your heart toward Jesus?