Sunday Devotional: Luke 24:44-49

“Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)

These words from Jesus are the last ones recorded of Him speaking in the book of Luke.  They were said to the disciples around the time of Jesus’ ascension.  He was returning to the Father but before He did, Jesus did two things.

One, he taught them.  He “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”  He helped them to understand and relate those passages in the Old Testament (Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms) and how they relate to Jesus.  And not only that, how Jesus fulfilled those promises and prophesies.

Two, he instructed them.  He told them that he would be sending them someone that the Father promised.  That someone is the Holy Spirit.  They were to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes to empower them in sharing the Gospel in which they were witnesses.

We have that same message and we have that same Spirit inside of us.  We have the Scriptures are able to understand them through the Holy Spirit.  And because of that same Holy Spirit, we are able to go and share the message with others.  This week, let us be about that.  There is a world out there that needs some good news.  We have that good news in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 24:13-32

Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.  Together they were discussing everything that had taken place.  And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them.  But they were prevented from recognizing Him.  Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”

“What things?” He asked them.

So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him.  But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened.  Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb,  and when they didn’t find His body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Him.”

He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken!  Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

They came near the village where they were going, and He gave the impression that He was going farther.  But they urged Him: “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.”

It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight. So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-32)

This is one of the encounters that happened following the resurrection of Jesus.  There were two followers of Jesus who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They were distraught.  They were discouraged.  They had lost their joy, their hope.  And here comes Jesus.  And for the longest time, Jesus did not reveal Himself to the two.  Instead, He makes this a teaching opportunity.  He spends about seven miles sharing about all that was revealed about Himself in the words of Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament).  And only at the end of the day when they were breaking bread together, did He reveal Himself to the two.

I think we all have those times like the two followers.  We have our struggles and doubts  We lose hope and faith in the midst of hard times and struggles.  But like those two, we need to be reminded again of the truth.  That Jesus is alive.  That He did rise from the grave.  That is has all authority.  And He loves us and wants us to keep being faithful.

This week, let us be reminded of the hope that we have in Christ.  And let us keep being faithful in following Him on the road that we are walking on.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 22:39-46

“He went out and made His way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him.  When He reached the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray,  “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.  Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He got up from prayer and came to the disciples, He found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief. “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)

At this point, Jesus and His disciples had just finished eating the Passover meal and they left the upper room.  Jesus then went over to the Mount of Olives to spend some time in prayer.  While Jesus was praying, several of His closest disciples (Peter, James & John) were to keep watch.  However, they were tired and kept falling asleep.  Jesus kept waking them up and encouraging them to pray as well.

As I was recently reading over these verses again, I was struck by a phrase that I hadn’t noticed before.  It said that when Jesus checked on the disciples he found they were sleeping “exhausted from their grief.” Other translations say they were “sleeping from sorrow.”  The disciples knew something was the matter even though they didn’t know what would take place in mere hours.  But they were distraught.  And so they wanted to just sleep.

I know there have been times in my life where I was exhausted from my grief and and wanted to sleep from sorrow.  When times were hard and I was struggling and just wanted to turn my mind off and sleep.  But like the disciples, in those times we need to pray.  We need to pray for the situations that we’re struggling with at the moment.  We need to pray for those around us and the problems they are facing.  We need to pray and praise God for listening to us.  But no matter what we need to pray.

This week, whether we are exhausted from grief or things are going well, let us pray.  Let us be about prayer.  And if it something we’re struggling with, let God know.  It is a joy and privilege that we have to be able to talk to God.  Let us take advantage of that.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 22:31-32

“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

During the night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared the Passover meal with the disciples and gave what would be His final words of instruction before He would be arrested and killed.  In the middle of sharing with His disciples. Jesus looks at Peter and tells him what will happen to him.  Later Jesus tells Peter that before the rooster crows three times, Peter will deny Jesus.  Here Jesus is telling Peter (and the disciples as a whole) that Satan wants them.  Satan wants to sift them like wheat.  He wants to cause trouble in their lives.

But Jesus tells them that He has prayed for them and He tells Peter that when he repents (from denying) to “strengthen your brothers.”  Even in these short verses, there is truth.  We will have to deal with tough times.  We will mess up and fail.  But the great news is that Jesus is praying for us.  He is interceding for us with the Father.  He is able to do that because of His death paying the cost for our sins and His resurrection being at the right hand of God.  And when we fail, we can repent and turn back to Him and He accepts us.  As well, we have the opportunity to strengthen and encourage one another as we all go through various trials and tribulations.

This week, let us give thanks that Jesus has prayed for us.  Let us be grateful that when we mess up, we can repent and turn back to God.  And let us encourage one another and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 19:45-48

“He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those who were selling, and He said, “It is written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”

Every day He was teaching in the temple complex. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people were looking for a way to destroy Him, but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people were captivated by what they heard.” (Luke 19:45-48)

Most people know these verses for the cleansing of the Temple which Jesus did during his last week before His crucifixion.  That is important because the temple was where worship was supposed to take place but there were money changers and others that were taking advantage of people and pushing out real worship taking place.

But look at the next couple of verses.  Jesus that last week would spend every day teaching in the temple.  And while this didn’t please the chief priests and scribes, the people gathered daily to hear Jesus teach.  They crowds were “captivated by what they heard.”  We should have that kind of heart and desire.  We should be people that are drawn to hear what Jesus has to say to us every day through our time reading Scripture, through our prayer time, through times throughout the day that the Holy Spirit speaks to us.

This week, let us desire to have hearts like that.  Let us be like the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus teach in the temple.  Let us be a people that are captivated by what we hear from the Lord.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 6:27-36

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-36)

Jesus shared this words to His disciples as well as the large crowds that gathered to hear Him speak.  These words are a part of His Sermon on the Mount (also found in the book of Matthew).  He made a point to tell His disciples that being a follower of Jesus meant loving others even your enemies.  Loving one’s enemies goes against what people think and feel.  People who are one’s friends are to be loved, people who are one’s enemies are to be hated.  But Jesus made it a point to so say “love your enemies” and to bless them.

When He said this, there was no guarantee that the enemy would love back.  In fact, He says to “expect nothing in return”.  Those enemies may keep on hating, may keep on taking, may keep on being ungrateful and hurtful.  Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to love them.

We live in a day and age where divisiveness is prevalent.  Hate is almost celebrated and anger is cheered.  Yet even in the midst of this, Jesus’ calling for us to love our enemies still rings true.  We are still called to love our enemies.  We are still called to bless those that curse us.  We are still called to do what is good and lend expecting nothing in return.  Because that is what Jesus would do and being a follower of Jesus means doing what He would do.

This week let us demonstrate that love to others.  Let us show love and let us show mercy.  This world needs that desperately.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 20:21-26

“So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”  But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them,  “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”  He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.” (Luke 20:21-26)

The chief priests and leaders tried again and again to trip up Jesus.  This instance was another of those times.  They sent a group to try and ask a question to get Jesus in trouble with either the people or the Romans.  The question they asked came down to paying taxes to to the Romans.  Their hope was that either Jesus would say yes to paying tribute and have Him run afoul with the people or to say no and run afoul with the Romans.

Instead, Jesus answered them by taking a Roman coin and using it as a teaching tool.  The denarius had a picture of Caesar on it and therefore Jesus responded “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and unto God the things that are God.”  We are to obey the government because government has been ordained by God to watch over and protect us (and if they do not do these things God will take care of that) and we are to honor and obey the things that belong to God.

What is something that belongs to God? Us.  We are made in the image of God.  Like the coin is to be rendered unto Caesar, we are to be rendered unto God.  God made us and we belong to Him.  We should live our lives in following Him and pleasing to Him.

This week, let us honor God with our lives and give to Him all that He deserves.