There’s so much more in these readings than I can possibly comment on in this sort of format. I hope you’re reading chapters carefully and finding things that I’m not mentioning. God’s word is full to the brim with wonderful insights. Read, think, wonder, and practice it.
Steeped in history — Luke 3:1ff
One of the differences between myth and history is that myth and legend exist in “Once upon a time in kingdom far away…” or “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”. The times and places are indistinct. Not so with history, and the Gospel is history. Luke wrote with an historian’s eye for facts, witnesses, historical time markers, specific locations, etc. In fact, the more that historians look at Luke’s Gospel, the more they are impressed. Though some past historians had doubted some of his statements, modern archaeologists and historians have discovered just how accurate he really was. The Gospel, of course, is not a history book; it is a spiritual book: but it is great to know that it is indeed steeped in history. This stuff really happened, folks!
Axe at the root — Luke 3:9
John’s preaching was not for the faint of heart. He cut to the chase, refused to candy coat anything, and motivated folks with “Hell-fire and Brimstone”. But then, he was a prophet; what would you expect? But one of the more picturesque things he says really caught my attention: “Indeed, the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Producing good fruit is really important in God’s scheme of things. This isn’t about making more Christians, although that would be one kind of fruit; but letting our lives produce the fruit of godly teaching, godly intentions, godly thoughts — the good deeds that God has been commanding. Without such fruit there’s what — a doddering old farmer who will say, “Well, that’s alright; you were a good tree anyway”? No, rather: “The axe is at the root. You’re coming down!” John is sort of harsh, but sometimes harsh is what we need. Are you producing the fruit the Lord is looking for.
Until an opportune time — Luke 4:13
This phrase is found at the end of the temptations of Christ in the wilderness. Sometimes we are of the opinion that Jesus wasn’t really all that tempted by Satan, but I would like to disabuse you of that silly thought. Sure, Satan knew that Jesus would be strong, but this was Satan’s great chance to take down the grand plan for redeeming man. If Jesus sins, it’s all over! Satan left Jesus alone, alright — until his next opportunity cropped up, which didn’t let up until He breathed His last on the cross.
But this phrase also tells us a little of Satan’s modus operandi, doesn’t it? He’s an opportunist. But what if we starve him of opportunities? The truth is, we give him way more opportunities than we should, don’t we? The shows we watch, the books we read, the songs we listen to, the people we choose to associate with. No, I’m not saying that we should cloister ourselves from the world; I’m just saying that we’d probably find ourselves less tempted, if we’d just give the devil fewer opportunities.
A miraculous escape — Luke 4:29
Jesus wasn’t appreciated in His own hometown. They didn’t believe in Him and when He told them things that they didn’t want to hear they
tried to throw Him off a nearby cliff. Jesus’ life was never easy, even at home. It was a miracle that He escaped — the Bible says as much. It wasn’t His time.
Put out into the deep — Luke 5:4
Peter and friends were professionals. They knew through experience how things worked with fish. You fish at night and you fish in the shallows. That’s what they had been doing. But when Jesus comes up and tells them to throw their net out one more time “in the deep” you have to appreciate what Peter said, “Nevertheless.” It made all the difference! It will make all the difference for us today, when we think we’re the experts. I’ve read lots of church growth books and articles in my lifetime. Some of them have good things to say and others are just the latest craze. Jesus’ way is always good however, “Cast out into the deep,” get out of your comfort zone, step out on faith, and lo and behold, people respond to the Gospel — rather than the method or the man.
Wineskins — Luke 5:33-39
Religious experts were wondering why Jesus was teaching and doing the things that He was doing. Jesus warned them to be careful about trying to fit Him into their traditions and way of thinking. He was going to be out of their box in a different paradigm — new cloth sewed onto old cloth or new wine in old wineskins. And that’s the way of most of Jesus’ teaching; it doesn’t “compute” in the world’s way of thinking. The world won’t get it; Paul talked about it at some length in 1 Corinthians 1-3. Part of dying to self is the transformation “by the renewal of the mind” (Romans 12:2). Have you renewed your thinking?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.