Amazed and Amazing
Text: Luke 4:14-19
by Robert J. Young
We turn this month in our Bible study materials primarily to the early chapters of Luke. What an intriguing section of Scripture. (Briefly recount.)
Shelly calls Luke's gospel the story of a "Jewish savior through Gentile eyes." One can easily identify certain themes that weave the tapestry of this unique gospel: themes likely familiar to many here--the universal savior; the importance of the individual, especially women, children, families, the poor and downtrodden; the Holy Spirit; repentance, discipleship.
Even a casual reading reminds us also that we are reading history, written by a physician-historian. Although written to an individual and containing a purpose statement focused on instruction, one cannot miss the broader purposes--historical, apologetic, pastoral. A short list might include to recount the history, to strength faith, to provide an apologetic that will answer the attacks of unbelievers, to provide an apologetic for Gentile inclusion.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Working primarily from Luke 4, this month's lessons will remind us of Jesus' temptation, early powerful works, Jesus' introduction in the synagogue, Jesus' rejection, and Jesus' powerful compassion. You have probably read the story many times. Important, personal questions and correlative answers and affirmations arise. For example:
1. How can we resist temptation? God helps us do what's right. Do the right thing.
2. How could Jesus do miracles? He was empowered by the Spirit. Jesus cares about our problems.
3. Who did Jesus come for? Jesus helps hurting people. Jesus came for all of us, for me, for you.
4. How should we respond to Jesus? Believe in him, trust him.
I read the stories, I find the questions, I know the answers, I believe the power, but a haunting question remains. How can I know that I am living within the will of God? Jesus prayed for God's will to be done. As we follow his example and instruction, we often pray for God's will. We say we want his will to guide us. We may even affirm that someone is not within the will of God, or we may suggest they are not doing what God wants.
How do we know? Most of us are alike in that we do not believe anyone has a direct pipeline to God. It's not as simple as my tin can, God's tin can, and miles and miles of string. Those who claim they surely, without doubt, know God's will and affirm his participation in their every action are incredible, unbelievable to me. My doubt extends also to those who have no interest at all in knowing God's will, those who affirm that God has given us the Bible and left us on our own. I would like to see a more compassionate God, the God of Luke, the God who cares, the God who resists temptation to prove to us we can, the God who empowers, the God who helps the hurting and heals the hopeless and havens the homeless. I want to know that God. The Jesus that Luke is telling us about , the themes we surface in Luke's gospel, suggest Luke had a similar desire.
Luke studied the life of Jesus, he studied the written accounts, the oral accounts, the eyewitnesses may have been interviewed, he certainly knew some of them, he collected information. And he saw the marvel and the meaning of the Messiah, things hidden becoming clear, closed eyes opened, a plan of God is being worked out in this world, a plan of God is being worked out in his life, and in the lives of every disciple of Jesus.
Our model in this will of God matter is Jesus. At his baptism, in his temptation, in his introduction in the synagogue, in his rejection, in his empowerment, in his compassionate caring, throughout his life, culminating in the garden. Jesus freely, without coercion, is seen as participating in the divine will by choice. He chooses what he could refuse.
In Luke 22, he prays. It was his custom, he went to the closet, he communicated with the father, his accepted his cup, he renewed his commitment, he makes his choice, he believes the reality of the ultimate conquest, he finds strength for the cross, and he goes to be crucified, confidently.
Many days, we would like the great confidence of the Christ. But in our heart of hearts, we know. We cannot follow God and follow our self willed ways simultaneously. We cannot turn our back on God and find security and comfort.
We need to hear again the bold affirmations, God has a plan for humankind, and that plan will ultimately be realized. Nothing will interfere. But, each individual must submit to that plan. We choose the course of our lives. And whether the plan of God is fulfilled in our lives depends upon our conscious choices.
In Luke's gospel, one should not miss the unfolding will of God, things fulfilled among us, God eternal purpose alive, redemption now realized. Eighteen times, it is necessary, dei. Some things happen simply because they have to, loyalty will not veer from the path.
Shelly gives several examples of this from Jesus life: 2:49, I must be about my Father's business; 4:43, I must preach the gospel in other towns; 13:14,16, one must work on six days, and it was necessary to loose Satan's bonds on this day. In 9:22, the Son of Man must suffer. In 17:25, he must suffer. In 24:7, he must be delivered, crucified, and raised. In 24:26, he has to suffer and then enter his glory. In 24:44, all must be fulfilled.
"Jesus sees his whole life...comprehended in a dei...which he unconditionally follows. His disciples, apostles and community are also laid under this dei which derives from the will of God...This will of God claims man in every situation of life and gives goal and direction to life on the basis of its saving purpose (TDNT, dei, Grundmann).
While one can reject God's purposes, there is an element of necessity in Luke's version of this good news.
How can we know the will of God for our lives?
In our text, we learn who Jesus is, his identity is revealed. We read of his experiences, how he is confirmed in his baptism, strengthened in temptation, empowered in Holy Spirit, guided by Scripture, in synagogue, serving by works, miracles, faithful through rejection.
As we read this text, questions arise in our lives. As we follow Jesus, how can we find/begin our ministry? How can we know our identity, our confirmation before God? How can we find strength, power, guidance, service, faith.
Luke's answer is not difficult. Six affiirmations. When we seek to understand the nature of God's will, we see it is not a blueprint, law code, life detail, but is an unfolding, outworking of our commitment to him. Prayerful sensitivity to the presence of God in your life and in this world leads to surrender, in what Luke describes most frequently as repentance. God is at work in our world, and in our lives. When we study Scripture as the history of God's outworking of that will, we find the joy of repentance and remission of sin. When we are spiritually discerning, we are not like some who walk against God's will under the guise of following that will.
So here are our six affirmation, suggested by a single question, based on the text before us: Do you look like Jesus?
1. LISTEN/BE GUIDED, Are we guided by Scripture like Jesus
Our chapter concludes with the people seeking Jesus, coming to him, amazed at his authority and power. Perhaps if the modern church is not filled with seekers, it is because we are neither amazed nor amazing. Let us pray as Jesus as the Scripture Jesus read, for the Spirit of God upon us, for the burden of preaching good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom, to seek sight for the blind, to fight oppression, and to see God's favor in the eyes of this world.
2. DEPEND/SUBMIT, Are we empowered, dependent upon divine power like Jesus
3. OBEY, Have you experienced the confirmation of baptism, obey like Jesus
4. DO RIGHT THINGS, Are we strong in face of temptation, do right thing like Jesus
5. SERVE/HELP, Are we willing to serve, help hurting people like Jesus
6. KEEP ON, Can we remain faithful despite rejection, keep eyes on Jesus
Six simple affirmations, based on the example of the life of Christ. Listen, submit, obey, do right, serve, keep on. Have you? Do I? Do you? Will you? As we stand and sing, we invite you to find the will of God in your life.
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Last updated February 23, 2001.