week 1

Luke 1:1-25

What would you do if your professor assigned you one project for the semester – to tell the story of the most influential person in history?  Undoubtedly you’d research diligently about the person, discover what others had to say and then organize and write the story with excellence.  That is exactly what God inspired Luke to do as he composed one of the four gospels (accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection) in the Bible.  Luke’s life had been changed by the person who changed the world –Jesus - and his passion was to write the most reliable and trustworthy story of Jesus that he could (vs. 3-4). 

Why does it matter that Luke wrote about Jesus with care and precision?  Well, we don’t want to base our faith on false stories.   We need a trustworthy basis for our faith, and God inspired Luke and other biblical writers to tell the truth of Jesus’ story, allowing us centuries later to confidently know the One in whom we could trust and follow.

Luke’s gospel begins with a focus on Jesus’ relatives.  Zechariah, Jesus’ soon-to-be uncle, was a Jewish priest.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, were godly people focused on honoring the Lord and living by His ways (v. 6).  But they were facing a big life challenge – infertility.  Even those close to God sometimes face difficult life circumstances. 

Zechariah prayed often for a child (v. 13), and God sent the angel Gabriel to deliver His answer.  God does answer prayer, though not normally via an angel.  But the answer to Zechariah’s prayer was big news.  Elizabeth will have a son, to be named John, who will be a great prophet, preparing the way for the arrival of his cousin, Jesus.  Facing any challenges in your life?  Pray to the Lord and see what He will do.

 

Luke 1:26-56

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for the young Mary as the angel Gabriel visited her with supernatural news.  Who could blame her for being troubled, confused and anxious that she would give birth to the “Son of the Most High”, not to mention that an angel gave the news?!  But Mary’s response is the response of remarkable faith and trust.  She didn’t understand all that was happening, yet she committed herself to trust in the Lord. 

Yes, Luke makes it clear that Mary was a virgin.  So how could she be pregnant (a reasonable question with which even Mary struggled)?  Modern minds may say it is impossible.  But it is important for us to hear Gabriel’s message again:  “Nothing is impossible with God.”  The One who created everything out of nothing - including the process of conception and birth - surely possesses the power to suspend the natural process to provide a miraculous conception.  An amazing miracle indeed, but it would just be the first of many miracles demonstrated in Jesus’ life.

The favor and grace of God is so clear in the passage today.  Through His grace, God grants his favor to Mary by choosing her to be the mother of Jesus.  But He had already been working to grace her by giving her a cousin who was just a little further along with her own version of a miracle child.  Isn’t that just like God to give us others who can share in our joys, struggles, celebrations and fears? 

Luke 1:46-55, referred to as the Magnificat, contains Mary’s prayer of praise and adoration to her Lord.   It is prayer that we too should offer to the Lord – expressing our joy, our gratitude, our praise to a merciful, powerful and holy God.

Luke 1:57-80

It’s a boy!  Like today, friends and family members came by to congratulate Elizabeth and Zechariah and to see the child.  But they also wanted to know what the new parents would name their miracle boy?  Naming him after his father seemed like a good choice.  After all, Zechariah was a good and godly man.

But Elizabeth and Zechariah followed the instructions of the angel Gabriel and named him John (1:15).  It didn’t make sense to others, but the new parents were committed to being obedient to the Lord’s instructions.  How about us?  Even if it may not make sense to others, are we ready to follow God’s ways, His word?  Are we ready to be completely obedient to His direction for our lives?

Because of his lack of faith and presumptuous questioning of Gabriel, Zechariah had been unable to speak during the pregnancy.  As soon as he showed his obedience to the Lord by confirming his son’s name would be John, Zechariah was given his voice back and immediately began to praise God.  When given the opportunity, he was ready to speak and communicate his adoration and praise of God.  Think about today – will others hear us praise and thank God?  What are ways that we can glorify God through our words?

Zechariah’s song (vs. 67-79) is a beautiful song of praise which emphasizes how God, through His mercy, provides salvation and redemption for His people.  And of course, he recognizes that his son will play an important role in God’s plan – to call people to repentance and to prepare the way for Jesus.  John wouldn’t be the Messiah, but his role was critical to God’s plan.  Do we know that God has a plan for our lives, too?  Allow the Lord to lead you toward His best for you. 

Luke 2:1-20

Modern couples go all out to prepare for the birth of their children – doctor visits, parenting classes, gender reveal parties and decorated nurseries.  Sometimes even the best of preparations get interrupted by unexpected challenges during pregnancies.  Joseph and Mary undoubtedly had been through so much preparing for the birth of their first child (angelic visits, sleepless nights, and ridicule from those who didn’t believe their story).  As such, a birth at home in Nazareth would have been nice. 

But a Roman census would make them journey over 80 miles in the later days of Mary’s pregnancy to the city of David, Bethlehem, because Joseph was a descendant of David.  Plus, Jesus’ birth would need to take place there in order to fulfill the prophecy delivered about the Messiah’s birthplace given centuries before (Micah 5:2).

Jesus’ birth was so humble, prompted primarily because there was no room in the inn (v. 7).  The city was so crowded that there was no room for the arrival of Jesus.  I wonder how many of our lives are like that – schedules so overcrowded that we haven’t left any room for Jesus.  What about you – do you need to say no to some stuff so you can say yes to Jesus?

God could have chosen any type of person in the world to receive the angelic announcement and to be the first visitors and witnesses of the Savior of the world.  Why the shepherds?  Here are three possible reasons:  1) to communicate that Jesus is for everyone (hardworking, simple, often overlooked people as well as the educated and privileged), 2) to connect Jesus’ future role as our good shepherd spiritually (John 10:11) and 3) to proclaim that Jesus was born as the Lamb of God who would give His life as a sacrifice for sins (John 1:29).

Luke 2:21-52

At the end of chapter 2, Luke provides two stories from Jesus’ early years:  his consecration to the Lord as well as his question and answer time with teachers of the law, both set in the Jerusalem temple.

As devout Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to be circumcised.  Circumcision was an indicator of the covenant that God had made with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:10).  It was intended to be a distinguishing characteristic to show their devotion to God.  According to Colossians 2:9-12, Jesus provides his followers a different type of circumcision – a spiritual one.   Jesus provides the way for us to put off our sinful nature and to be set apart by his salvation.  Do our lives indicate that we have been changed by Jesus?

Mary and Joseph followed Gabriel’s instruction and named their son, Jesus.  His name literally means Jehovah saves.  Jesus came to save people from the destruction of their sin and to provide the way to eternal life with God (John 3:16-17).  Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sin and accepted His gift of eternal life for you?  If not, what is preventing you from doing so today?

Simeon and Anna, devoted ones who served at the temple, saw in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah and Savior of the world.  Later, experienced religious teachers recognized that the 12 year old Jesus had a profound understanding of God’s word.   Indeed, others recognized he was special – the very Son of God.

In the midst of it all, Jesus was a boy who “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (v. 52).  He gave us a great example for how we need to develop intellectually, physically, socially and spiritually – to be all that God created us to be.