Sifted — Luke 21-23

Today’s reading recounts for us the last few hours of Jesus in His human form on this earth. As I was reading through it the theme of Satan’s sifting really impressed itself on me, and it occurred to me that he’s still in that same business continuing to try to sift us (all of us, if possible), separate us, from the Lord and his people. But the Lord warns us, like He warned Peter, through His word — let’s take the warning.

A widow’s pennies — Luke 21:1ff

Although substantial gifts can do a substantial amount of good, it’s really not the amount that matters to the Lord. This story is a famous one and it sharply illustrates that the Lord is more interested in our hearts, and less in how much we might be able to contribute. This applies not only in the amount of money we might offer in the collection plate, but it applies widely in every skill, every hour, every service, every stewardship we give to the Lord. It doesn’t have to the best, it merely needs to be our best.

Now, I think it important to comment on one more thing in relation to this story of the widow’s mite. Another reason this story is sometimes famously used is in justification of giving a pitifully small amount in comparison to what could be given — “It’s not the amount we give, it’s that we give it to the Lord.” Obviously, such people have missed the most important part of Jesus’ quote, Luke 21:4 “for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” Shame on the greed that would use this wonderful story to justify their sin.

A Passover supper — Luke 22:14ff

Luke tells a few more details of the last supper, possibly because he was writing to a Gentile audience, perhaps just because he was a good historian, but he’s the only one who mentions 2 cups in the Passover celebration. For clarity’s sake, I thought I might offer a brief order of Passover according to the traditions. It is not certain that Jesus did all these things, but for a number of centuries this has been the order in the meal:

  • The 1st cup (Kiddush, sanctification)
  • Host hand-washing
  • Parsley or lettuce dipped in salt water & eaten (symbol of tears and Red Sea)
  • Breaking of bread (middle of 3 loaves — only a little eaten: bread of slavery)
    • Prayer to bless bread
    • Oppressed are symbolically invited to join
    • “This year we keep it here, next year in the land of Israel. This year as slaves, next year as free.”
  • Telling the Exodus story (youngest, John)
  • Psalms 113 & 114 were sung
  • 2nd cup is drunk (Haggadah: explaining)
  • All now wash their hands to eat
  • A blessing is offered
  • Bitter herbs are placed between the 2 remaining loaves. Taken and dipped in the “sop” (Charosheth, fruit and nut compote) (Likely when Jesus made the announcement about His betrayer being among the apostles, and handing some of the sop to Judas)
  • The meal proper (lamb, etc)
  • Hands are washed again
  • Remainder of the bread is eaten (This is likely when the bread was given new meaning)
  • Prayer of thanks given and a 3rd cup drunk (of Thanksgiving)
  • Psa. 115-118 sung
  • 4th cup drunk, Psa. 136 sung (This is possibly when the cup was given new meaning)
  • 2 short prayers offered

Sift you like wheat — Luke 22:31ff

God had big plans for Peter, but Satan (his name means “accuser”) had doubtlessly accused Peter to God something like, “He blusters a lot about his loyalty, but when push comes to shove, he’ll deny Your Son and abandon this whole thing. Just let me put him in the right position and he’ll show his true colors, You’ll see!” Sifting. Jesus was privy to this plan and so had been praying on Peter’s behalf. Doubtlessly this is the reason that Jesus was “bugging” Peter and company to “watch and pray” because “the spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak”. Satan wants to sift us, too. He stands accusing us before God; what does he say about you? What’s your weakness that he wants to expose? What would cause you to become disloyal? To separate you from God? Sometimes the sifting process is subtle and innocent looking. Sometimes its our children, their sports programs, our work schedules, our recreation, our busy schedules, our materialistic tendencies, our laziness, or a wrong done to us by a brother or sister. Sift, sift, sift. Are you wheat or chaff? You get to choose. You get to demonstrate Satan to be the liar he is. Will you?

Today will you be with Me in Paradise — Luke 23:43

Luke is the only Gospel writer who tells us about the repentant thief who was crucified beside Jesus. It’s a wonderful story and demonstrates the real grace of our Lord. I just think that it’s important to never misunderstand what went on in this poignant event. The thief of the cross was indeed saved and joined the Lord in paradise that day. But his circumstance is different from any New Testament circumstance. The new covenant had not been sealed with the blood and death of Jesus. Baptism wasn’t needed and it wouldn’t be for another few days, only a faith in God and a repentant heart.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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