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Book of Luke
Jesus, the Son of Man
By Max Lucado, Neil Wilson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Nelson Impact
All rights reserved.
HOPE IN GOD
It's hard not to envy good fortune. Someone else's windfall almost always raises a few thoughts of Why not me? Some people can rejoice at another's good fortune. But some people can't, and they become victims of bitterness. Think of a time when God did an amazing work in a friend's life. How did you react? In what ways did his or her blessing or benefit kindle hope in your life?
Having explained to Theophilus the purpose behind his letter, Luke immediately wades into the historical account. He has to choose a starting point, and he decides the best one is a preliminary event that involved an elderly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Luke's biography of Jesus begins with the birth of John, who became known as the Baptizer.
Read Luke 1:5–25 from the NCV or the NKJV.
5 During the time Herod ruled Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to Abijah's group. Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, came from the family of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth truly did what God said was good. They did everything the Lord commanded and were without fault in keeping his law. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth could not have a baby, and both of them were very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God, because his group was on duty. 9 According to the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 There were a great many people outside praying at the time the incense was offered. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing on the right side of the incense table. 12 When he saw the angel, Zechariah was startled and frightened. 13 But the angel said to him, "Zechariah, don't be afraid. God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son, and you will name him John. 14 He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth. 15 John will be a great man for the Lord. He will never drink wine or beer, and even from birth, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God. 17 He will go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah. He will make peace between parents and their children and will bring those who are not obeying God back to the right way of thinking, to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord."
18 Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I know that what you say is true? I am an old man, and my wife is old, too."
19 The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand before God, who sent me to talk to you and to tell you this good news. 20 Now, listen! You will not be able to speak until the day these things happen, because you did not believe what I told you. But they will really happen."
21 Outside, the people were still waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he was staying so long in the Temple. 22 When Zechariah came outside, he could not speak to them, and they knew he had seen a vision in the Temple. He could only make signs to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service at the Temple was finished, he went home.
24 Later, Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and did not go out of her house for five months. Elizabeth said, 25 "Look what the Lord has done for me! My people were ashamed of me, but now the Lord has taken away that shame."
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 "But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."
1. What kind of reputation did Zechariah and Elizabeth have in their community?
2. How did Zechariah and Elizabeth cope with the humiliation of childlessness?
3. The angel promised a child. In what way did this offer hope to Zechariah in his situation?
4. Why did Zechariah doubt God's promise?
5. In what way did Elizabeth react to the fulfillment of the angel's prophecy?
Hope is not what you expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming ending. It's Abraham adjusting his bifocals so he can see not his grandson, but his son. It's Moses standing in the Promised Land not with Aaron or Miriam at his side, but with Elijah and the transfigured Christ. It's Zechariah left speechless at the sight of wife Elizabeth, gray-headed and pregnant. And it is the two Emmaus-bound pilgrims reaching out to take a piece of bread only to see the hands from which it is offered are pierced.
Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction. (From God Came Near by Max Lucado)
6. Why do we, like Zechariah, sometimes doubt God's desire to fulfill our deepest longings?
7. What comfort or encouragement does this passage offer to us when we find ourselves in seemingly hopeless situations?
8. What steps can we take to deal with feelings of hopelessness?
9. In what way does this passage affect your attitude toward your frustrations and problems?
10. What is keeping you from expecting God to do spectacular things in your life?
11. In what way can you demonstrate your faith in God's promises?
There's a difference between expecting God to be faithful and anticipating the specific ways he will demonstrate his faithfulness. The first attitude hopes in God's constancy and wisdom; the second may assume that we know what's best. If we get the two confused, we are liable to be disappointed with the results. Even though God always gives us good things in the long run, we're sometimes disappointed because he didn't answer our prayers according to our exact agenda. This passage doesn't forbid us to tell God what we want. It simply teaches us to express even our most fervent desires within the boundaries that God ultimately knows best. He sees what we can't see; he knows what we don't know. Sometimes, as in Zechariah and Elizabeth's case, the answer is delayed because a much larger plan is in motion.
Thank you, Father, for giving us hope in a world of broken promises and dashed dreams. You have proven your trustworthiness by keeping your promises to your people. O Father, you are our only hope. Strengthen our dependence on you, give us patience to wait for your perfect timing, and teach us to rejoice in your goodness.
For more Bible passages on hope, see Psalms 42:5; 62:5; 130:7; Proverbs 23:18; Jeremiah 29:11; Lamentations 3:21–24; Romans 12:12; 15:4; 1 Timothy 4:9–10; 6:17; Titus 1:1–2.
To complete the book of Luke during this twelve-part study, read Luke 1:1–3:38.
What personal hopes or dreams am I tempted to give up on? How can I entrust them to God?CHAPTER 2
FAITH AT WORK
Faith may be a spiritual concept, but it certainly has practical characteristics that make it an essential component of life. Actions based on what cannot be proved make up much of our daily routine. We rarely examine a chair before we sit in it, or have a car checked out by a mechanic each time we want to drive to work. We take many things by faith. But life has a way of testing our faith, particularly when it comes to our relationship with God. Think of a time when you have seen faith at work. What were the results of that faith?
As the crowds grew during the early days of Jesus' ministry, they quickly divided into two camps: the spectators and the participants. As the following scene opens, Jesus is teaching in a house filled wall-to-wall with people. They are clamoring for Jesus' attention. Among them are people trying to figure out Jesus' plan. Does he fit the present acceptable categories, or is he a maverick who will soon be forgotten? They are watching his every move and sifting every word. Then the ceiling begins to cave in.
Read Luke 5:17–26 from the NCV or the NKJV.
17 One day as Jesus was teaching the people, the Pharisees and teachers of the law from every town in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem were there. The Lord was giving Jesus the power to heal people. 18 Just then, some men were carrying on a mat a man who was paralyzed. They tried to bring him in and put him down before Jesus. 19 But because there were so many people there, they could not find a way in. So they went up on the roof and lowered the man on his mat through the ceiling into the middle of the crowd right before Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, Jesus said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
21 The Jewish teachers of the law and the Pharisees thought to themselves, "Who is this man who is speaking as if he were God? Only God can forgive sins."
22 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, "Why are you thinking these things?
23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? 24 But I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, stand up, take your mat, and go home."
25 At once the man stood up before them, picked up his mat, and went home, praising God. 26 All the people were fully amazed and began to praise God. They were filled with much respect and said, "Today we have seen amazing things!"
17 Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. 19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.
20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"—He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."
25 Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"
1. This group of men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. What do you think they hoped Jesus would do for him?
2. What risks and obstacles did the men face because of the crowd around Jesus?
3. What were the pros and cons of their plan to let their friend down through the roof?
4. What did these men's actions—that they would go to any length to get their friend to Jesus—reveal about their perception of Jesus?
5. Why was Jesus' first response to forgive rather than to heal?
Whether he was born paralyzed or became paralyzed—the end result was the same: total dependence on others ... When people looked at him, they didn't see the man; they saw a body in need of a miracle. That's not what Jesus saw, but that's what the people saw. And that's certainly what his friends saw. So they did what any of us would do for a friend. They tried to get him some help....
By the time his friends arrived at the place, the house was full. People jammed the doorways. Kids sat in the windows. Others peeked over shoulders. How would this small band of friends ever attract Jesus' attention? They had to make a choice. Do we go in or give up?
What would have happened had the friends given up? What if they had shrugged their shoulders and mumbled something about the crowd being big and dinner getting cold and turned and left? After all, they had done a good deed in coming this far. Who could fault them for turning back? You can only do so much for somebody. But these friends hadn't done enough.
One said that he had an idea. The four huddled over the paralytic and listened to the plan to climb to the top of the house, cut through the roof, and lower their friend down with their sashes.
It was risky—they could fall. It was dangerous—he could fall. It was unorthodox—deroofing is antisocial. It was intrusive—Jesus was busy. But it was their only chance to see Jesus. So they climbed to the roof.
Faith does these things. Faith does the unexpected. And faith gets God's attention....
Jesus was moved by the scene of faith. So he applauds—if not with his hands, at least with his heart. And not only does he applaud, he blesses. And we witness a divine love burst.
The friends want him to heal their friend. But Jesus won't settle for a simple healing of the body—he wants to heal the soul. He leapfrogs the physical and deals with the spiritual. To heal the body is temporal; to heal the soul is eternal ... So strong was his love for this crew of faith that he went beyond their appeal and went straight to the cross.
Jesus already knows the cost of grace. He already knows the price of forgiveness. But he offers it anyway. Love bursts in his heart ...
And though we can't hear it here, the angels can hear him there. All of heaven must pause as another burst of love declares the only words that really matter: "Your sins are forgiven." (From He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado)
6. In what way did the four friends' faith in Jesus affect the life of the paralyzed man?
7. In what ways does your faith affect others around you?
8. List some practical ways we can show our faith in Jesus Christ.
9. What risks or obstacles have you faced in living out your beliefs?
10. In what way have those difficulties stretched and strengthened your faith?
11. In what ways have you seen God bless people who trust him?
This episode in Jesus' life offers us two challenging examples as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus. We can identify with the paralyzed man, and we can identify with his friends. Each role requires a certain kind of faith. The paralyzed man trusted both his friends and Jesus. We don't know if he asked them for help or if he just went along with their plan, but feeling himself lowered through the roof must have been a moment of testing. The friends had to escalate their faith to meet the obstacles they encountered. Their persistence was rewarded. We can experience the same kinds of rewards for exercising our faith in God throughout life. The paralyzed man was not only healed but also forgiven. This reminds us that no matter how bold our faith, God's capacity to go beyond what we could ask or imagine will not be exceeded.
Father, when all the doors are closed, give us the courage to persevere. When no solutions are in sight, help us to find new ways to break through the barriers that separate us from you. May we persistently seek your face and daily demonstrate our faith in you.
For more Bible passages on faith, see 2 Chronicles 20:20; Matthew 9:2; Mark 11:22; Luke 7:9; John 8:30; Acts 3:16; Romans 4:16–25; 1 Corinthians 2:5; 16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:8–9; 1 Timothy 6:11–12; Hebrews 11:1–40; James 2:14–26.
To complete the book of Luke during this twelve-part study, read Luke 4:1–5:39.
What step of faith am I willing to take this week to be closer to God?
Excerpted from Book of Luke by Max Lucado, Neil Wilson. Copyright © 2006 Nelson Impact. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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