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Luke Lesson 5While the circumstances of Jesus’ birth were unique (i.e. angelic announcements and a miraculous conception), his infancy and childhood were fairly normal. He was raised up within the culture of Nazareth and within the religious structure of 1st century Judaism. His parents were faithful to the rituals prescribed by the ceremonial law and God used their faithfulness to establish Jesus’ self-awareness of his identity and destiny. Through the covenant of circumcision and subsequent instruction from Torah, Jesus would grow up with the knowledge of God’s Law, which forecast a Messianic figure that would restore the fortunes of Israel. In addition to this basic religious framework, he would eventually become aware of some prophetic words that were spoken about him by holy people in the Jerusalem Temple. These words of affirmation concerning his Messianic calling included an understanding that his ministry would extend beyond the Jews and make salvation available to all people. We must assume that the combination of his parents faithfulness, along with the prophetic instruction of God’s covenant people were the primary shapers of Jesus’ worldview. As the community of faith took a new shape in the birth and development of the church, we will see Timothy growing up in a similar fashion, attaining an authentic faith from his family and finding clarity of God’s purposes for him from the church. In this story we can see how God has ordained a partnership between family and church to raise up a generation of faithful followers of Jesus. Will we do our part?
Who Will Make Room For Jesus?The circumstances of Jesus’ birth elicited several responses that are indicative of how people respond to his message today. While Mary was easily convinced to surrender to God’s plan, Joseph had to be brought along. Eventually he embraced the sacred trust and made room in his life for God’s Son. Meanwhile, the rulers of the world at that time were executing their own plans. Caesar Augustus was attempting to establish peace through force and decided to tax the people to pay for his military operations. God used his personal ambitions to move Joseph and Mary to the appropriate place for Jesus to be born. When King Herod heard about Jesus’ birth, he became threatened and used his power to try and put an end to God’s plan. God used his defensiveness to continue moving Joseph, Mary and Jesus along in God’s will. God decided to announce the significance of Jesus’ coming to Shepherds, who were the lowliest people of that day. They responded with faith and experienced the joy of discovering Jesus. Perhaps the saddest, yet most common response was by the residents of that Bethlehem inn. They were indifferent to the plight of this poor couple and missed the most significant event in history. Just like Joseph, Mary, Caesar, Herod, the Shepherds, and the residents of the inn, every person has to respond to God’s Son. The question is: Who will make room in their lives for Jesus? Will we?
Luke Lesson 3When Mary decided to surrender to God’s plan, she immediately went to Elizabeth, who would be the only person that could understand what God was doing in her life. They found mutual encouragement from one another and their time of fellowship was filled with worship: a celebration of God’s Faithfulness. Meanwhile, Zechariah’s doubt was replaced with expectation as he watched his wife carry the fulfillment of all that the angel had told him. Throughout Elizabeth’s pregnancy, he still couldn’t speak, but his heart was undergoing a spiritual renewal that would prepare him for the sacred task of raising a prophet. When the baby arrived, Zechariah and Elizabeth broke with tradition and did not name their son after a family member. Instead, they named him John: in accordance with God’s word and plan for his life. Immediately Zechariah’s tongue was loosed and he began proclaiming words of faith. While not much is said about John’s youth, the Bible says that he “became strong in spirit”, thanks in large part to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s faithful impartation of God’s purpose for him and their careful, consistent instruction concerning God’s will. Like Mary, we need spiritual mentors who can show us, by example and experience, how to live faithfully in the world today. Like Elizabeth, we need to pour ourselves into the next generation so they can be prepared to follow God. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we need to reject the powerful forces of cultural trends and traditional rules when they conflict with God’s revelation. Will we be courageous enough to let God work through our lives?
Luke Lesson 2 - A Sacred TrustAfter more than 400 hundred years of no prophetic voice, the Israelites were longing for the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promise of Messiah. God decided that the time was right to act in sending his Son, along with a fiery prophet named John, to prepare the way for His message. First he went to where we might expect Him, to the Temple in Jerusalem to speak to a priest. However, it was an elderly priest whose wife was barren and had given up on their desire to have a family long ago: An unlikely choice to bring a prophet into the world. Then He went to a remote village, far removed from the religious center of the day, to a young virgin girl who was engaged to be married. Mary, poor yet innocent, was told that she would soon find herself pregnant and expecting the Son of God. God was calling these two couples to oversee the physical, moral, and spiritual development of two boys who would be raised up to have a powerful influence in the world. While John the Baptist and Jesus were unique in their calling, we can learn a lot from their origins. The foundation of God’s word rests upon people who willing embrace the responsibility to train their children up in the ways of God. Webster’s defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”. God showed that He trusted these two couples with His most treasured possessions. It was a sacred trust. They responded with doubt, surprise, joy, and, eventually, a glad surrender. Will we follow their lead and embrace the sacred trust of raising up another generation to advance the Kingdom of God?
Luke: Lesson 1: IntroductionFrench scholar Joseph Renan once coined the Gospel of Luke as “the most beautiful book ever written”. This was not only due to its eloquent account of the life of Jesus, but also because of its emphasis on the many encounters Jesus had with marginalized people. Women, shepherds, Samaritans, the poor, and children, all of whom were shunned by the religious establishment of the day, were transformed through Jesus’ proactive attention to their needs. While the other gospel writers also conveyed stories of Jesus healing and delivering many people, Luke’s perspective is unique. He was a Gentile doctor: an educated man who documented miraculous healings done by a Jewish rabbi. He was a traveling companion and a loyal friend of the Apostle Paul. He was the only Gentile author of Scripture and he provided the only detailed account of both the ministry of Jesus and the continued ministry of the early church (Acts). Because of these things, his works have provided credibility to the ministry of Jesus as being accessible and available to the whole world. His emphatic recitation of Jesus’ words that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost“(19:10) and that “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (24:47) reveal a God that is actively pursuing the salvation of all people while calling all believers to join with Him in that pursuit. Will we truly follow Jesus?