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PREACH THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Luke 1:1-10:41
Key Verse: 4:43

Thank God that we returned to Luke’s gospel study. So far, we have studied up to chapter 10 in 41 lessons. For the last 13 weeks we studied special lessons in other books in order to prepare for 2014 Christmas, and for the preparation of this New Year 2015. Now that we're returning to Luke's gospel, it seems good to review what we have studied in Luke’s gospel so that our hearts may be prepared for the next study, chapters 11-24. In this review, we can think of Jesus in three aspects: his humility, his shepherd heart, and his evangelical work.

First, the humility of Jesus. In the description of Jesus’ birth, Luke wrote that Jesus was born in a manger, although he was the Son of God (2:7). Truly his birth was humble and lowly. His coming into this world as a tiny baby with such a birth was the beginning of his humble life on earth.

Luke also described Jesus’ childhood and boyhood. Jesus did not become a grown-up overnight. He went through the growing stage. Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” And 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” Surely he ate and his body grew normally. He did not become like a superman all of a sudden. Particularly, his boyhood was the time of learning. Luke wrote about Jesus’ experience in the temple at the age of 12, when he went to Jerusalem with his parents for the Feast of Passover. He was so consumed with the desire to learn, particularly the Scriptures, that for three days he sat among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions (2:46). In his boyhood, he not only learned the Scriptures about God and his salvation plan for mankind, but also learned obedience. Humanly speaking, he was a genius with extra ordinary experiences. But he was obedient to his parents (2:51). Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

Though he was the sinless Son of God he had to be baptized by John. Luke also specifically wrote that Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry after baptism (3:23). With God’s wisdom and power he could have started his ministry much earlier, in late teens or early twenties. In the Old Testament Joseph became Prime minister of Egypt at the age of 30, after undergoing the time of discipline through many hardships in life. David also became the king of Israel at the age of 30. Though he was anointed by Samuel when he was a just a 17 year old-shepherd boy, he became the king after 13 years of God’s desert training. In many aspects Jesus was like one of human beings. From a human view point there was nothing special in Jesus’ life till he actually got into his public ministry.

In his public life as the Messiah his humility continued. He fasted forty days and then was tempted by the devil (4:1-2). He was severely rejected by his hometown people to the point of being taken to the brow of a hill and thrown down the cliff (4:29). He was accused as a Sabbath-breaker by the legalistic Pharisees (6:1,11). On his way to Jerusalem he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people did not welcome him. At this, James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy them. However Jesus rebuked them, and they went to another village (9:52-55). In this way he bore also such rejection in his humility. And although he was the heavenly prince, he himself confessed that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head in this world (9:58). We will continue to learn of Jesus' humility until the cross of Jesus. The humility of Jesus is an undeniable fact in the life of the Messiah. It should be reflected in each Christian’s life and Christian community.

Second, the shepherd heart of Jesus. In the life of the Messiah Jesus, his healing work was evident, and it was out of his shepherd heart. Luke depicts this excellently. One Sabbath, Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, who was suffering from a high fever. That evening the people of Simon Peter’s town brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness. Jesus must have been tired after the whole day’s work. It was a very burdensome situation. At best, Jesus could have performed mass healing with his power. Yet Luke described that Jesus laid his hands on each one and healed them (4:40). Jesus' healing was to show God’s mercy and love to each individual. Jesus’ healing of leprosy is written in all synoptic gospels. Yet, Luke informed us of the severity of a leper by describing “a man who was covered with leprosy” instead of “a man with leprosy” (5:12). Although the man was in such a serious stage of leprosy, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him and willingly cleansed him. When a paralytic was brought to him carried on a bed by some men, Jesus called him, “Friend” before healing him (5:20). Jesus accepted the paralytic and regarded him as his friend, when he came to Jesus as he was by the help of others. In healing the paralyzed man Jesus declared the forgiveness of sin. It must have been Jesus’ heart desire, wanting the sick people to be well not only physically but also spiritually, and have true happiness and well-being in God through the forgiveness of sin.

Luke also carefully investigated and wrote that Jesus healed a man whose right hand was shriveled on the Sabbath (6:6). His shriveled right hand surely handicapped his life more than would a shriveled left hand. Many parts of his life must have been handicapped, shriveled due to his shriveled right hand. Jesus healed the pitiful man on Sabbath, willing to be accused in the watchful eyes of the Pharisees, and even to lose his life. That was the clear image of the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus knew the sorrow of a widow whose only son was dead, and raised the dead young man, and gave him back to the mother. What a comfort and joy to the widowed mother! Jesus raised a dead girl, the only daughter of a synagogue ruler, Jairus, who came to Jesus curbing his pride (8:42). What can be more encouraging and joyful for parents than the raising of their dead children! And Jesus also healed one father's only son, who was suffering greatly from the possession of a destructive evil spirit, and gave him back to his father (9:42).

One day a large crowd of 5,000 people came to a remote place where he wanted to have a retreat with his disciples. They were a demanding and annoying crowd. Jesus did not rebuke them nor did he withdraw from them. Rather, he welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. And Jesus fed the hungry crowd by faith and they were all satisfied. The parable of the Good Samaritan also shows Jesus’ shepherd heart excellently. In the story a man, probably a merchant, met robbers on his way back home to Jericho from Jerusalem. He was left half dead. A priest passed by and also a Levite. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, saw the man and took pity on him, and cared for him, bandaging his wounds and pouring on oil and wine. The Samaritan’s care did not stop there. He put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care him the whole night. When he had to leave the next day for his business, he entrusted the man to the innkeeper, promising reimbursement for any extra expense the innkeeper might have in looking after him. The story came out of his heart, his shepherd heart, right away when he was asked, “Who is my neighbour” by an expert in the law. Jesus was also a father-like shepherd for the parentless sisters, Martha and Mary, loving and shepherding each of them appropriately. Jesus encouraged Mary to continually listen to Jesus, sitting at the Lord’s feet as the most important thing in her life. And he helped Martha not to be distracted by many tasks, even by seemingly urgent and sacrificial serving, but to have a priority in life, choosing what is better, the one thing that is truly needed in her life. Thank God for the shepherd heart of the Lord Jesus.

Third, the evangelical work of Jesus. Jesus' evangelical work in Luke’s gospel began when he taught in the synagogues in Galilee after defeating the devil’s temptation (4:15). In his hometown of Nazareth, he also went into the synagogue and read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…” Then rolling up the scroll and sitting down, he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:16-21). Capernaum, a town in Galilee, was the base camp for his evangelic work. When he taught in the synagogue there on the Sabbath, the people were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. That evening Jesus healed many in that town. Very early in the morning the next day, the people were looking for Jesus while he was praying. They were demanding more healing work. Then Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

In Jesus’ evangelical ministry, calling and raising disciples was an essential part. From the outset of his earthly ministry Jesus called his disciples. At the beginning of chapter 5 Jesus’ calling of Simon Peter, who would be the top disciple, is written in a very interesting and meaningful way, as a historical event. One day early in the morning Jesus intentionally got into Simon Peter’s boat on the shore and taught the crowd of people from the boat. This was the background of Jesus’ calling Simon Peter. After he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” At this sudden and very difficult command, Simon Peter’s response was remarkable: he answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When Simon Peter obeyed the humanly unreasonable command of Jesus, he not only experienced the power of Jesus through the great catch of fish but also the holiness of Jesus the Lord. As he fell at Jesus’ knees trembling, saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (5:10b). The Lord Jesus forgave his sins and caught him with the words of promise that he would catch men. This was the divine calling grace that came upon Simon Peter, a mere fisherman in Galilee. In chapter 5 Jesus also called Levi a tax collector with the words, “Follow me” (5:27). Levi was so thankful for this calling of Jesus that he held a great banquet at his house, inviting many of his tax-collector friends along with Jesus and his disciples. At this very gracious scene, some legalistic Pharisees were very unhappy and complained to Jesus and his disciples for their eating with the unsociable dirty sinners. Then Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (5:31). Indeed Jesus called Levi, a sinner who was very sin-sick with his terrible selfishness, as one of his disciples. Jesus must have been so happy when Levi responded to his calling wholeheartedly with sincere repentance and deep gratitude.

When the opposition was becoming intense and a large crowd of people were in need of God’s mercy, through a whole night of prayer Jesus chose 12 disciples, designating them as apostles in the hope of a new Israel for the world. Jesus had a kind of inauguration ceremony for them on a level place, addressing them his Sermon about the blessedness and the kingdom of God, saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…” First of all, Jesus wanted their persons fit to the kingdom of God, especially by being poor in heart before God. Jesus wanted them to grow to be shepherds like him, willing to suffer for his name and loving even their enemies. Jesus wanted them to be shepherds who can help God’s flock of sheep to dig down deep and lay the foundation of their life-house on rock by putting Jesus’ words into practice.

After the Sermon on the plain, in Luke’s gospel what Jesus did was healing a centurion’s servant through the centurion’s faith in the word of Jesus. The centurion believed that Jesus did not need to come to his house to heal the sick servant, but could just to speak a word in the place where he was. Jesus was amazed at his great faith and healed the servant as the centurion believed. Jesus’ disciples must have been greatly impressed by the power of Jesus’ word revealed through the faith of the centurion.

And Jesus showed his disciples his messianic work: the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, those who have leprosy being cured, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the good news being preached to the poor. And the disciples could see many sins of a sinful woman be forgiven by Jesus, and she become a new person with full devotion to Jesus.

Then Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him and also some women who had received the grace of Jesus. When a large crowd gathered around him, he told them the parable of the sower, which is about the seed being scattered in four different kinds of soil: path, rock, thorns and good soil. Only the seed sown on good soil produced a crop. When the disciples asked him the meaning of this parable, Jesus taught them that the parable was about the secret of the kingdom of God, specifying that the seed is the word of God and so the kingdom of God comes when the seed of God’s word is planted in the soil of the human heart. It was indeed a spiritual secret that God’s word is the seed of the kingdom of God. Jesus taught more about the importance of God’s word through another parable of “a lamp on a stand": the lamp of God’s word should be put on a stand for those who come in to see the light. And those who have a good attitude in listening to the word of God will be given more; otherwise what one has will be taken from him. Also, when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him and some people told him this, he said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Another important training for his disciples was faith training through the storm. To ordinary people it is a normal response to be terrified and scared to death at the stormy sea. But Jesus did not want his disciples to react in that way, since they were with Jesus in the same boat. After calming the storm, Jesus said then, “Where is your faith?” (8:25) Jesus wanted them to overcome any storms in life with faith in him at whose command even the winds and the water obeyed. Jesus also showed his disciples that not only the natural world but also the spiritual world was in his control by driving out a legion army of demons from a demon-possessed man and making him whole (8:35).

Then Jesus sent out the Twelve for field work training to preach the kingdom of God (9:1-2). This was a powerful spiritual campaign that even Herod the tetrarch was greatly troubled and shaken for his evil doing of beheading John the Baptist. After this field work, Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish, commanding the disciples, “You give them something to eat” and teaching them that they can do such impossible things with faith that offers what they have to God.

After this event Jesus’ Galilean ministry was coming to a close. Once when Jesus was praying in private Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” From this moment Jesus began to teach them about his suffering, death and resurrection, and about the way of disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. And he said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (9:26). This was a hard teaching for them. Then Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain where he showed them his glorious image as God and his talking with Moses and Elijah who appeared in glorious splendour. Finally, a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

Now Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, and the Perean ministry began, the ministry in the trans-Jordan. His life would end soon by dying on the cross at Jerusalem. Despite his great personal agony, Jesus’ concern was to save the perishing souls through proclaiming the kingdom of God. This was well revealed, according to Luke’s compilation, when Jesus said to a man hesitant to follow Jesus with the excuse of burying his father, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” As the Perean ministry began, Jesus sent out his seventy-two disciples two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” In his shepherd heart for the world ripe for harvest, he had to send out even his young disciples to the harvest field, although it was like sending lambs among wolves. They were to tell the people, “The kingdom of God is near you.”

Thank God for helping us to review of our Lord, his humility, his shepherd heart and his evangelical work with raising disciples. May God help us to grow in his humility and shepherd heart and participate in his evangelic work and ministry as his disciples.

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