Luke Devotional – Week 4
January 23 – The Gospel of Luke
Luke 6:12-16, One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. 13At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names:
14 Simon (whom he named Peter),
Andrew (Peter’s brother),
James (son of Alphaeus),
Simon (who was called the zealot),
16 Judas (son of James),
Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).
As we have already noted, prayer was Jesus’ source of power on earth. In choosing those who would eventually be the leaders of the church, He knew what was at stake so He pulled an all-nighter in prayer to elevate twelve to become apostles.
The prominence of Peter among the Twelve is reflected in the placement of his name at the top of the list and the mention that Jesus named him Peter, the name he is known by, in most of the rest of this Gospel. Bartholomew is thought to be the Nathaniel mentioned in John’s gospel.
Matthew was also known as Levi and was a tax collector. James son of Alphaeus appears only in the two lists of disciples in Luke’s writings. Levi is also a son of Alphaeus. If this Alphaeus is the same person, then James is Levi’s brother. A zealot was one zealous for the law. The term later applied to those belonging to an organized party at the center of the Jewish revolts from AD 66–70.
Judas son of James was also called Thaddaeus. Judas Iscariot was always named last in lists of disciples since he became a traitor.
The list includes quite a variety of common people including fishermen and tax collectors. It is comforting to know that they were far from perfect when they were called and needed a lot of grace throughout Jesus’ ministry as they doubted, questioned, misunderstood, abandoned, and even denied their friend and Lord.
May we be encouraged that our faith walk is a journey of learning, growing, and surrendering to Jesus and His life-giving way. Unlike Judas, may we faithfully stay with Him all the way to the very end.
Prayer: Father, thank you for calling and using common people who need much grace as we journey along Jesus’ way. Please forgive us when we fail and empower us with your Spirit so that we will be found to be faithful. Amen.
January 24 – The Gospel of Luke
Luke 6:17-26, When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.
20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,
“God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.
21 God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.
22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.
24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.
We come to Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, whereas, Matthew had the Sermon on the Mount. Here we find Jesus’ teaching on what the kingdom of God will be in contrast to the kingdom of earth. Jesus outlines the content and character of the new era that He came to inaugurate as the Messiah.
In these blessings and curses, Jesus spoke a familiar pattern both Scripturally and structurally as to what is found in the Deuteronomy Covenant between God and the Israelites. (Deut. 27-28)
Just as Jesus feasted with unlikely people, so it is the poor, hungry, sorrowful, and persecuted who will experience the blessings of heaven in this new kingdom. However, those who indulge in this world and only live for wealth, food, laughter, and praise will find that they are outside the kingdom of God. Jesus revealed an upside-down kingdom in comparison to the manner of life in the current kingdom.
Again, this is a comparison between those who are humble before God and those who are proud, independent, and show no need for God. As we will continue to discover, it is a matter of our heart’s condition before God that matters the most.
Prayer: Father, thank you for your beautiful kingdom that cares for those who recognize their poverty on every level. May we be so humbled to admit our great need before You. Amen.
January 25 – The Gospel of Luke
Luke 6:27-36, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
Here we find the core ethic of the upside-down kingdom of God. If we want to know what makes the new era of Christ so vastly different, it is this radically counterintuitive behavior. This challenging way of thinking and living separates us from the masses who cannot even imagine this kind of lifestyle.
It is a life of extravagant generosity. It can only be lived out as we have experienced the all-out amazing grace and unconditional love of God through Jesus. When we have Jesus living and breathing in us through His Spirit, then this impossible-sounding teaching can become a reality.
This teaching gives us a crucial test of how real the presence of Christ is in our lives. It gives us the answer if we have authentically and fully surrendered to Jesus and made Him Lord.
Do we only love and do good and lend to those who do the same to us? Then we only have the kind of care that any unredeemed sinner has. We have not risen above the normal kingdom of earth kind of thinking.
However, those in the kingdom of Christ will love, do good, bless, pray, give, lend, and refuse to retaliate when an injustice has been done to us by those who oppose, hate, curse, or do evil to us. To react so generously goes against every fiber of our fabric. It is only in Christ Jesus that this kind of mindset and living is possible.
In fact, Jesus tells us this is how we can be assured we are children of the Most High. He sums it up by saying, “Be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.” Matthew says it this way, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” The picture of perfection in the kingdom of God is God’s generous mercy fully received and freely extended to others.
Prayer: Father, help us to be like You. Fill us full of Your Holy Spirit so that we can be compassionate and perfect as You are. Empower us to live the countercultural upside-down generosity of Your Kingdom when it is most difficult to do. Amen.
January 26 – The Gospel of Luke
Luke 6:37-42, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
39 Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? 40 Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.
41 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
It seems so natural to judge others. If feels like it is in our DNA to be critical of how others act and perform. Does condemnation come easier than commendation as you view others? Then, we probably should pay attention to Jesus’ words here.
The background to Jesus’ teaching may have been how the Pharisees treated their law. They believed if it was lived perfectly, the Messiah would come. If they did not live it with such perfection, then bad things would happen. So, this kind of outlook provided much opportunity for critical eyes to judge and condemn others for not living up to the perfect standard.
Let me be quick to say that we need to understand what Jesus is saying in this context. He is not advocating for no moral boundaries and that we cannot make proper decisions about what is good and evil, right and wrong. Jesus teaches that we can evaluate a person by the fruit they bear. However, our attitude in doing so is what Jesus is concerned with.
The last verse for yesterday is still the appropriate context for today’s teaching. ‘You must be compassionate, as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.”
Jesus is speaking about being hypocritical in our judgment. When we quickly judge others when we have so much more that we can be condemned for, then we do not have the proper kingdom attitude. Do we really want the same level of critical judgment that we use for others to be used on us?
Instead, the way of the kingdom is generosity of spirit toward others without letting go of truth. The one central key theme of God’s generosity is forgiveness. This is how God wants to relate to us and how we should relate with one another. If we are compassionate like the Father, then we will be of the generous mindset of forgiving rather than condemning. The measure we use will be measured back to us.
How are we measuring one another? With a critical or a generous spirit?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for being too critical of others. Please point out my own sins and faults so that I can take care of them before I try to fix others. Amen.
January 27 – The Gospel of Luke
Luke 6:43-45, “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Jesus changes the topic from not judging others quickly or hypocritically in a condemning manner to telling us how we can make a proper judgment. Again, we must begin with ourselves before we turn our gaze upon anyone else.
Jesus gives us the lesson from horticulture. Good trees produce good fruit. Bad trees produce bad fruit. You can easily identify fruit trees by the kind of fruit that they bear. It is as simple as that.
In the same way, the fruit of a person reveals who they are. Those who are morally good produce wholesome qualities that come from a holy heart. Those who produce undesirable qualities have an unholy heart problem.
Jesus keeps drilling down making this teaching more specific and convicting. How can we best know what type of fruit we have? By what we speak!
Jesus reveals that our speech has a clear connection and is direct reflection to our heart’s condition. Please do not skip by this too quickly. Jesus has just given us a key indicator of how we can make appropriate judgment of our spiritual condition.
There are two important takeaways. First, Jesus is giving us insight into the reality that the kingdom of God is about matters of the heart. Jesus’ new era came to usher in much more than a reformation of the outward expression of our morality. His kingdom would bring transformation that would reach into the deepest recesses of the heart.
Secondly, this teaching targets those who speak judgment and condemnation toward others in a hypocritical and unloving manner. In this larger context, Jesus says this is a specific example of your mouth exhibiting that you have a heart problem.
What are your words telling you about your heart’s condition?
Prayer: Father, help me to pay attention to what I say and how I say it. I confess to You my need to have my heart cleansed and transformed by your grace and Spirit. Amen.
January 28 – The Gospel of Luke
Luke 6:46-49, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Luke is much shorter than Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. However, in both messages, He begins with the Beatitudes and concludes with this passage for our consideration today.
Frankly, it is easy to call Jesus, Savior and Lord. It is even easy to sing wonderful songs about the beauty and majesty of Jesus. What we declare with our mouths and sing from our lips is not, necessarily, the true test of our discipleship.
The authentic test is whether we put into practice Jesus’ teaching. Over the past few days, we have discovered Jesus’ challenging words of discipleship. Let’s do a quick review of that teaching as a reminder of what it takes to build a spiritual house that will not collapse when the storms of life come raging through.
Are we among the humble, like the poor, hungry, sorrowful, and persecuted who will experience the blessings of heaven in this new kingdom? Or are we among the proud, who indulge in this world and only live for wealth, food, laughter, and praise who will find that they are outside the kingdom of God?
Are we willing to love, do good, bless, pray, give, lend, and refuse to retaliate when an injustice has been done to us by those who oppose, hate, curse, or do evil to us? Are we compassionate as the Heavenly Father is compassionate?
Are we quick to hypocritically judge and condemn others or are we quick to forgive as we have been forgiven?
Are we observing what comes out of our mouths to determine what is in our hearts?
This teaching is so helpful to determine if we are building on Christ’s foundation or failing to put a spiritual foundation down that will hold us when life falls apart.
Jesus’ kingdom is one of action. You cannot be passive in your redemption. Truly forgiven people will humbly love and serve much. They will gladly give of themselves for the sake of others to the glory of God.
Let’s build our lives well on the solid rock of Jesus’ teaching by following Him down this narrow path where few are willing to go.
Prayer: Father, we cannot build our spiritual homes on our own. We need the redemption of Jesus and the power of Your Holy Spirit. Please infuse us with the joy of our salvation and the spiritual strength that only comes from You. Amen.