Jesus of Nazareth: Cleansing Lepers And Changing Lives For 2,000 Years

Luke 5: 12,13  While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.  (English Standard Version)

Leprosy.  Even today the word is pregnant with dread. It conjures up images of disfigured victims, rotting flesh and a life of permanent isolation.  In Jesus’ day, leprosy was even worse.  The physical symptoms were but a small part of the stigma attached to the disease. It was the spiritual significance of being spiritually unclean and cut off from God’s people that was the real rub.

A man, or woman, diagnosed with leprosy was not allowed to participate in the temple ceremonies or even mingle with the worshipers.  The leper could not stay home and receive support or comfort from family members, but had to live outside the city and warn all who came near that he/she was unclean.

Can you imagine the emotions that the leper lived with?  The loneliness?  The sense of helplessness and hopelessness must have been overwhelming at times.

People avoided lepers at all costs, because even to come in physical contact with an individual with leprosy would render one as unclean, also.

Leprosy, described in detail in Leviticus 13 and 14 was symbolic of sin, which causes us all to be separated from God.  It was a horrible burden to bear.

Then Jesus came and everything changed.  Luke tells the story in such a brief, matter of fact way that the significance for the 21st century dweller could be easily missed. Let’s look at it a minute and see what we discover.

First, the leper recognizes Jesus as the one person who can truly help him.  His need, his humility and his faith are all right out there in the open when he bows before Jesus and says, “If you want to, you can make me clean.”

He is not arrogant or demanding.  He knows he is in no position to make demands. He is in need of mercy and healing.

He also has no doubt about Jesus ability to cleanse him. He doesn’t say, “If you can,” but rather, “If you are willing, you can.”  What a difference.

At this point in the story, Mark, in his gospel, gives us an added detail.  He notes, “Jesus looked on him with compassion”.  How absolutely amazing.  Jesus looks past the ugliness and uncleanness and sees the broken soul inside.

Here is the earth shaking, history changing part; verse 13 says, “Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him.” Jesus didn’t run from the leper, He was not repulsed, He touched the man.  Jesus never hides from the dark places or stained ones.  Those are the places he came to fix, to clean, to make new and shiny.  When Jesus touches the leper a marvellous thing happens; rather than Jesus becoming unclean, the man was healed. Instantly. Completely.  Perfectly. Jesus changes everything.

He is still touching lepers and making them clean. There is no life so far gone that He cannot reach it.  No one is beyond redemption. There is no life so clean that it does not need Him. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, (Romans 3:23)

I know His compassion first hand. Some years ago, my pain, my sin, my rebellion drove me into isolation and dismay, but when I followed the example of that other leper from  long ago and humbled myself before Jesus, He touched me, too, and made me brand spanking new.  He took all the ugliness, the sin, the guilt and threw it away.  I stand amazed.

Jesus is still saying, “I am willing” to anyone and everyone who needs a clean heart and a fresh start.

Chew on that thought for a while.

 

I’ll Have One Customizable Jesus To Go, Please

Luk 4:14  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. Luk 4:15  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. Luk 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. Luk 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, Luk 4:18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luk 4:19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luk 4:20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Luk 4:21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luk 4:22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Luk 4:23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Luk 4:24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. Luk 4:25But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, Luk 4:26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. Luk 4:27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Luk 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luk 4:29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. Luk 4:30 But passing through their midst, he went away.  English Standard Version

 

One does not have to look at me very long or very hard to realize that I like to eat.  I like to eat, a lot.  And, I like a lot to eat.  I am fond of buffets, for example, if I get there early, that is,  while the food is still fresh.  Once it gets a little feeble and pawed over, I’m not nearly so enthused.

I like those option menus, too.  You know, take one from column A, two from column B, places.  One of my favorite eateries B and I frequent is like that.  It’s called “Starch R Us” or something along those lines.  Anyway, there’s a list of meats and a list of side dishes.  You can mix and match as you like.  It’s great fun. And so healthy, too…NOT!

Last weekend, Brittan and I went out to eat at a nice family steak place.  As we studied the menu, B showed me an item that looked good.  It said (I paraphrase, but am pretty close), “a juicy sirloin served with two skewers of grilled shrimp over a bed of rice, with tomato butter, one side and your choice of a side salad topped with garlic croutons and your favorite dressing or a Caesar Salad, along with unlimited warm soft brown wheat bread.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed with much enthusiasm.  When the waiter came to take our order, I turned to him with great aplomb and said, “I’ll have the sirloin and shrimp, please.  But instead of a sirloin, I’d like a filet.  Instead of rice, I’d like broccoli.  No bread please.  I’ll have the side salad please.  No croutons and I’d like the blue cheese dressing on the side instead of on top.”

I’m guessing both Brittan and the waiter are still speechless.  What I ordered was certainly based on the menu item, but was customized to my liking.  Fortunately for me, there was no notice in the menu carrying the dreaded phrase, “No substitutions.”

Here in America, we’re pretty spoiled.  We’ve come to expect to have our every wish accommodated.  We are the mix and match generation.  We want our food that way, smart phones that way, our wardrobes that way, our relationships that way and, yes, we even want a customizable Messiah.  Introducing the all new iJesus.  Download the features you like from our convenient app store and configure the Savior just the way you want.

“Yes, I certainly want the salvation part.  I’m big on the ‘friend of sinners’. Oh, and definitely hook me up with the water into wine feature.  You can never have enough of that.  That ‘take up your cross and follow me’? Nah, not so much into that.  ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’…definitely.  ‘Go and sin no more’, I can do without.  As for ‘hungering and thirsting after righteousness’…well you can just forget that one too, honey.”

Desiring a customizable Savior isn’t new.  We’ve just made it high tech.  Take a look at Luke, chapter 4, which is where we are in our study.  Jesus has been on the road making headlines, making friends, making enemies, changing lives.  Now He’s come home to Nazareth and has been invited to be the guest Rabbi in the local synagogue.

I have no doubt that the place was packed.  Homeboy makes good and comes back to wow the locals.  That’s always a draw.  Jesus does not disappoint.  He begins his sermon by reading a very popular passage of Scripture from Isaiah that everyone would recognize as Messianic (see text at the beginning of this post).  The coming rescuer of Israel would indeed liberate them from poverty and set them free from the prison of oppression to the Roman invaders.  Messiah would set up His kingdom and restore the fortunes of the nation.  This is just what the crowd wants to hear.

The synagogue is ripe with anticipation, filled with wonder and awe as Jesus reads them this favorite scripture.  When He’s finished, He rolls up the scroll, takes His seat and listens for a second to the pregnant silence. Finally, He speaks, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Oh yes, this is the stuff heroes are made of.  Jesus, the home grown prophet has just declared Himself the fulfillment of a most important prophecy.  The crowd is filled with excitement and hope.  They love this guy.  They love this message.  It fits all their expectations.  Then, in the blink of an eye, He becomes the ultimate buzz kill.

Jesus follows His announcement of Messiahship with a story about God reaching beyond the people of Israel to the nations around them.  When Jesus reminds the people of Elijah raising the son of the widow from Sidon, they instantly understand that He is saying that He doesn’t merely want to rescue the Jews; He’s come to save the Gentiles as well.

Unfortunately, that message was incompatible with the desires and expectations of the people.  They didn’t want a Savior of the World; they wanted a Savior for Israel.  Jesus message did not fit their view, so they quickly went from adoring Him to wanting to murder Him.  Jesus, though, took advantage of the chaos created by their rage and escaped through the mob.

Jesus is not always going to meet your expectations.  He is not the creation, He is the creator.  We don’t get to customize Him.  He wants to upgrade us.  There is no Jesus shaped box to keep Him in.  He’s way to big, way too awesome.  He is still saying, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  He’s also still saying, “Leave everything and follow me.” Jesus is not customizable, neither is the Gospel.  There are no substitutions. He is, and always has been perfect just as He is; out of the box.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear: Shepherds and Kings and Surprising Things

Outside of Joseph and Mary, the very first humans to lay eyes on the Christchile were Bethlehem’s shepherds.  How absolutely marvellous and appropriate that is, and on multiple levels.

On a similar night, a thousand years before, another shepherd was called from these same fields to receive God’s message and become King of the Jews.  His name; David, son of Jesse.  Now, the heirs of David’s first occupation were the first to gaze upon the heir to David’s throne.  This King’s reign however, would not be limited to 40 years like His ancestor.  As the prophet Isaiah had said, “And of His kingdom, there shall be no end.”

In the first century, outside of Jerusalem, Israel was still primarily an agrarian society.  Sheep and goats, along with cattle and donkeys, were the primary symbols of wealth.  Shepherds tended to be servants, men too old to go to war anymore or the youngest sons of the landowners.  They were men and boys of little station, yet given the awesome responsibility of guarding and guiding the wealth of the nation.

Sheep and goats are far from the stupid creatures they have been portrayed to be over the years.  As someone who has owned many of them over the years, I can attest to the fact that they are quick learning and crafty creatures.  In fact, it is said that a sheep can remember a human face for up to two years.

While not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, sheep and goats are, however, prone to wander.  They don’t pay attention to their surroundings and are easily lost.  They are also prey animals, hunted by creatures as diverse as hawks, owls, bears, wolves and lions.  It was the shepherd’s responsibility to keep the flock safe from themselves and from the many predators roaming the hillsides and the skies surrounding Bethlehem.

Shepherds were not men of standing, but they were frequently courageous.  David, himself, described how as a boy, he was forced to tackle both a lion and a bear in defense of his father’s flocks.  And it is these men who are the very first to see the Savior and carry the good news of His arrival.  They were nearly two years ahead of the Wise Men.

By the time the Magi arrived with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Jesus was a toddler and the shepherds had already spread the message of the Messiah’s arrival to the surrounding villages.

Not much has changed in the last 2,000 years.  It seems that the wealthy, the important, the positioned in society, take a little longer than the ordinary citizen to catch on to God’s truth.  It’s not that they are bad people, at least not any worse than anyone else, but on occasion, money, privilege and power distract their possessors.  The rest of us, having fewer speed bumps, are able to get on board a little faster.

The good news is, the Wise Men, did catch on and did follow the star and did arrive at the party.  Sure they were a bit late, but it’s never too late.

God is still calling shepherds and Wise Men to meet his Son.  Young and old, male and female, from all races and languages we are invited to sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men.”

 

 

Easter’s Prequel, AKA – The Christmas Story

And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.       Luke 2:6,7 King James Version.

Just in time for Easter: The Christmas Story.  How convenient is that?  As we focus on the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ, it’s a great time to reflect on some of the events surrounding His birth.

The only narratives regarding Jesus’ birth, are found in Chapter 1 of Matthew and Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke and they record totally different aspects of the event.  They don’t contradict each other, but rather tell the story from different angles.  Matthew gives us some of the events from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke (the detail obsessed doctor) gives us much more information, and does so from Mary’s view.

Luke, Chapter 2, is the first chapter of the Bible I remember memorizing as a child; King James version, of course.  To this very day, I still love the poetic, lyrical rhythms of that translation of this particular chapter.

I want to focus our attention on verses 6 and 7, if you have a minute.  These two short verses, tell us many things about Jesus arrival, some of it counter to what we may have thought all our lives.

‘ She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  There are so many layers in this one sentence that it’s hard to know how many of them to peel back.

It seems to me that growing up, I had this idea that Mary’s labor pains caught everyone by surprise and that she and Joseph were scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.  ‘….wrapped him in swaddling clothes’ suggests something quite different.  These strips of cloth were not scraps left laying around the barn.  Every baby born was wrapped in these. I would almost compare them to a combination diaper/receiving blanket kit.  The point is, Mary and Joseph were not surprised by the onset of labor.  They travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem because they had to and they knew full well that the baby would arrive while they were out of town.  They came prepared.  They had their ‘diaper bag’ kitted out so that wherever they were when labor hit, they would be ready to handle the situation.

‘…because there was no room for them in the inn.’  For some reason, I get the impression that there are still folk who have the notion that Mary and Joseph were poverty stricken, homeless and in despair and were forced by their situation to hole up in a stable.  That’s not exactly the case.  In point of fact, we don’t know anything about Joseph’s and Mary’s financial situation.  We know Joseph was a carpenter of Royal Descent and they lived about 70 or so miles north of the family home.  The reason Jesus was ‘laid in a manger’ was because there was no room for them in the inn.  The census had caused an influx of visitors to the village and the hotel was full. The No Vacancy sign (or it’s equivalent)  was in the window.

The sad part to me was not the absence of hotel space, but that no one MADE room.  Here is Mary, clearly ‘great with child’, and not one person said, “Oh my, here take my room,” or, “you know what, we’ll crowd you into our space with us.”  They were all so busy, so focused, dare I say it, so selfish, they left the expecting couple in the streets to fend for themselves.

I can’t help but wonder how many ‘Marys’ we pass each day, who need a bed, a room, a meal, some water, a dollar, a hug, or maybe just a smile, but there’s no room in our day or our hearts to notice anything but our own needs.

You know who did make room?  The cows moved aside, the goats stepped to the back of the stable, the sheep left their feed trough, the donkeys walked away.  Even the snake slithered into his hole and made room for the Creator.  The created world recognized their Lord and rejoiced to see Him, while the people, the humans created in His image had ‘no room’.  The apostle John, in the first chapter of his Gospel put it this way, “He came to that which was his own, and his own people did not receive Him.’

Before this night was over, angels would sing, shepherds would marvel and the very stars of heaven would shine down in worship of the Word who became flesh. The citizens of Bethlehem, though, revelled the night away, or slept blissfully in their own little self centered worlds.

Those of us who are Believers, know that Jesus is coming back.  His first trip began in obscurity and ended in a cocktail of gore and glory.  There was no room for him to be born in Bethlehem, so He was laid in a manger. There was no room for His message in Jerusalem so they nailed Him to a cross, There was no room for Him to be buried, so He was laid in a borrowed grave.  There was no room for Him in the grave, because He is Life itself, so He rose.

Even today, there is no room for Him.  There is no room for Him  in the School House and there is no room for Him in the Court House. There is no room for Him in the public square or in the city park.   Is there room for Him in MY house?  In Your house?  What about in our hearts?

Mary and Joseph knew the time was near for the baby to be born and they were prepared.  The place and time didn’t matter, they were ready for any circumstance.  They had their ‘swaddling clothes’ all in order.  When He returns, this time in triumph rather than obscurity, I wonder how many of us will be prepared, or whether or not we’ll have room at all?  I choose to be ready.  I hope you make that choice, too.

 

Mary, Mary, Not Contrary – One Remarkable Lady

 Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God…  38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  (English Standard Version)

Right in the middle of Luke Chapter 1 (verses 26-38) we are introduced to the remarkable young woman, Mary of Nazareth, who is to become the mother of the Savior of the world. We can’t help but be impressed by her faith and willingness to be obedient to God, despite the fact that much of her encounter with the angel, Gabriel, probably made little sense to her at all.

While I believe that many Roman Catholics overstate Mary’s importance and role in God’s plan of redemption, I believe that many non-Catholics underestimate her.  I find her faith and obedience to be on the same level as some of the other great heroes of the Bible, like Abraham, Joseph, Daniel and Ezekiel who were asked to make great sacrifices of faith and were blessed because of their obedience.

Mary is probably somewhere between 14 and 20 years old when Gabriel visits her. For the sake of argument, let’s make her 17.  She comes from a tiny, backwater town in the most remote province in the nation.  She is from the tribe of Judah, is engaged to a Carpenter named Joseph, also from Judah, and she is related, probably through her Mother’s family, to an elderly woman called, Elizabeth who is from the priestly line of Levi and is married to a priest, Zechariah (this will all be important later in our study, so take note). That, my friends, is pretty much all we know about Mary at this point.  We are about to learn, though, that this teenage hick from the sticks, is one of the all-time great heroes of faith.

As an aside, I believe that Mary was one of the original sources Luke uses in his research.  The first several chapters of the book, and then again some of the very personal information near the end, sound like they come from Mary’s perspective. If she was a middle teen when she the events of chapter 1 occurred, she would have been in her mid-seventies at the time Luke wrote his Gospel.

Alternatively, the source could easily be one of her other sons.  After all, two of her sons, James and Jude, were leaders in the early Church and even wrote books of the Bible.  They were not much younger than Jesus and would easily remember Mom’s stories about their older brother.

But I digress.  Let’s go back to Mary’s chat with Gabriel and see the signs of her great faith.  Let’s start with the fact that Gabriel greets her by calling her the ‘favored one’ (verse 28). Luke writes that this ‘troubled’ her.  She’s probably thinking, “I’m sorry Mr. Angel, but you have reached the wrong number.  You are in Nazareth; you are probably looking for another Mary, maybe in Jerusalem.  Mary’s a common name, it’s a mistake easily made.  No harm. No foul.  Enjoy the rest of your day and good luck finding that other girl.”

She’s also likely scared out of her mind.  I don’t know whether or not you know this, but Angels appearing to teenage girls in Nazareth was not an everyday occurrence. In fact, the last time it happened was…NEVER!

In a fascinating case of irony, after assuring Mary she doesn’t need to be afraid, Gabriel gives her a message that was sure enough going to scare the daylights out of her.  He tells her that she is going to have a baby. This baby is going to be extraordinary.  He is going to be the long awaited Messiah and savior of the human race.  Gabriel even tells Mary that God has picked out the boy’s name, “Jesus.”

Put yourself in Mary’s position for a few moments.  Can you even imagine all the thoughts and emotions that must have been running through her? “Me?  Who am I? I am just a girl from Nazareth. Saviors don’t come from people like me.”

Her one vocalized question is insightful.  It does not come from doubt, but logic.  Mary asks, “How can this be since I am a virgin?”  You see, she might come from Hicksville, but even in Nazareth they knew where babies came from.  And Mary knew she was not, nor had ever been, sexually active.

At this point, Gabriel reassures her, that little things like biology are not a problem for God.  The One who formed the universe and created the human race would have no trouble suspending the laws of nature and normal reproduction. This Jesus would be a ‘miracle baby’ in every sense of the word.

Oh the thoughts that must have run through Mary’s mind, when she heard the angel’s message.  “No one will believe this.  No one.”

The town gossips would be one thing.  In a small town things like pregnancies would not go unnoticed.  Of course, she wouldn’t be the first girl who ever turned up pregnant during her engagement.  Under normal circumstances, she and Joseph could just get married, leave town and let the tongues wag behind them.  In a new city, they could start over and no one would be the wiser.

These, though, were not normal circumstances, and Joseph was the problem.  Regardless of what the town busybodies would think, Joseph would know this was not his child.  Of all the people in the world, he was the one who would be certain of the fact that he and Mary had not been together.  It was in his power to have her stoned to death as an adulteress.  Her life was literally in Joseph’s hands. If he did not believe her, she was as good as dead.

So here she is, being told she was to return home and tell as farfetched a tale as had been ever heard in Galilee.  Her very life is in the balance.  What could she say?  What would you say?  What would I say?

Mary somehow reached down into a place of faith most of us never go and replies, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38).

Wow! Mary doesn’t keep testing the message, like Gideon did.  She doesn’t try to talk God out of the plan, like Moses did. She doesn’t try to hide like Saul did when he was chosen to be king.  On the contrary, Mary takes the path of Abraham, when he is asked to sacrifice Isaac.  She follows in the footsteps of Daniel who, when forbidden by the King to pray, goes straight home and has a prayer meeting. Mary says, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney would paraphrase some 1970 years later or so, “Let it be.”

God is still using ordinary people from backwater towns and He is using celebrities with high profile platforms to do remarkable things to change the world.  In fact, He would love to use YOU. Oh, you won’t be giving birth to Messiah, but you can heal a hurt. You can feed a hungry mouth or embrace a broken soul. There is much He can do through you.  He’s just waiting for you and me to say, “Let it be.”

A Faith Rooted In Fact – The Adventure Begins

Luk 1:1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,

Luk 1:2  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,

Luk 1:3  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,

Luk 1:4  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

English Standard Version

 

I am alternately amused and bemused by the number of people who think that faith means turning off our brains and believing something beyond reason despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary of the subject believed.

It’s one of those half right notions that makes a whole lie.  Faith IS, at some point, a step beyond knowledge, but it is far from a leap in the dark.  Biblical faith is, and always has been, founded on fact.

Luke doesn’t waste any time explaining to us why he wrote this letter.  He writes to confirm the truth of the Christian message that was sweeping the Roman Empire.  This Christian sect would soon catch the attention of Nero himself, who would, in turn, use the rumors and myths about the Christ followers to his advantage when he needed a villain upon whom to blame the burning of Rome.

It had been roughly 30 years since Jesus had been crucified and raised.  His followers were taking the news that this Galilean Jew was more than a martyred prophet; He is the long awaited Messiah of the Jews and the hope of eternal life for all people, Jew and non-Jew alike.

Most of the message of Jesus life and teaching was handed down verbally, though, according to Luke, there were also a number of written versions.  These written versions almost definitely included Matthew’s Gospel and possibly Mark’s, though I happen to believe Mark’s Gospel came just a few years after Luke.  I’ll explain why I think that some other day, for now just go with it.

Luke, a practicing physician and travelling companion of the Apostle Paul, decided to interview the original sources and put the story of Jesus into an ‘orderly account’.  I think that by orderly, he means ‘ordered’ or organized.  Many of the versions of Jesus life were likely random collections of sayings, teachings, and memories of events that people put together in no particular order as they shared their experiences of their time with Him.

Luke, having a scientific mind, realizes that by creating an organized account of the life of Jesus, it will make more sense to people, and by showing his research he can confirm to Theophilus (and the rest of us) that these Jesus stories are not wild tales of fantasy like those from Roman and Greek mythologies, but were real events based in time and space.

Luke’s Gospel is, then, the oldest book in existence written with the express purpose of establishing the veracity of Christian doctrine.  Sure, some of Paul’s letters are older than Luke’s Gospel, but they were written to assist Believers in the living out of their faith. Luke writes to defend that faith.

He categorically states that the book is “that you might have certainty of the things you’ve been taught.”

As we travel through Luke’s Gospel, we’re going to look specifically at the different stories, events, miracles and sermons he uses to show who Jesus is.  Is Jesus just another wandering rabbi who ended up on the wrong side of the law?  Was he a cult leader leading his followers astray? Was he just a good guy who got framed for crimes he didn’t commit? Was he a trouble maker who got what he deserved?  Or was he possibly the Savior of the world as His followers claimed?

We’re going to dig in and see what we can discover, because the identity of Jesus is a hugely important question.  If He is a goofball or a fraud, He should be dismissed.  If He is something more, we need to know that, because it could change our lives….forever.

Not every claim in the Bible can be put in a laboratory and tested, but much of it can be.  If what can be tested proves trustworthy, then it follows that we can trust its message also in the areas that can’t be tested.  Luke writes about things that happened in time and space.  He interviews men and women who were there; people who were familiar with the origins of the Christian Gospel and he draws some very interesting conclusions.  The first of which is, the Gospel message is certain.

Do you have the courage to journey with me through the rest of Luke’s Gospel and see where it leads?  Gosh, I hope so.  I think we’re in for quite the adventure.  Please do join in the discussion as well.

Let’s Go On An Adventure Together

Helen Keller is credited as saying, “Life is either a great adventure, or it is nothing at all.” Whether Ms Keller was the source of that statement or not, it is certainly profound.

Far too many of us are addicted to mediocrity.  We are stuck in a daily grind or routine that leaves us exhausted, but unfulfilled. We are overworked yet under exercised. We are over fed yet under nourished. We make more money than our parents and grandparents combined yet we are tonsil deep in debt.  Our relationships are fractured and our nerves are shot. We take more medication for stress and anxiety than any previous generation. There is a reason it’s called, ‘The Rat Race.’

Here’s some good news, we can get out of the rut and out of the race and live lives that are full of meaning and adventure.  In fact, we were designed to do just that.  Jesus said, “I came that you might have life to the full.”

What a novel idea. Most of us would love to live life to the full instead of just being busy, but we don’t know where to begin. Here’s a crazy notion; the best way to start transforming your life from a rat race to an adventure is to slow down. That’s right, slow down, refocus and reprioritize.

I want to invite you to join me for a few minutes each week to look at God’s love letter to the human race.  By taking a few minutes to read (or sometimes listen to) this space, you’re going to find a whole new world will open up to you.  The Bible is not at all what you think it is.  It’s not nearly as complicated as it’s been made out to be and in its pages you will discover the Adventure you’ve always wanted to be a part of.

Even if you’re a skeptic, stay with me for about 6 weeks and see what happens.   After that, if you want to drop out, it’s a free country.  Deal?

The first thing you’re going to need is a Bible, specifically a New Testament.  We are going to go through two books of the Bible together. First, we’re going to examine the Gospel of Luke.  That’s the third book in the New Testament.  That Book has 24 chapters and it will help us solve a huge mystery; who is Jesus of Nazareth, really?

Luke was a medical doctor who lived in the first century a.d. and was an early convert to Christianity.  He was also a meticulous historian who researched the life of Jesus and wrote down his discoveries in a letter to a friend he calls, ‘Theophilus’.  Because of Luke’s thorough research, I thought it would be a great place to begin our adventure.

After we finish Luke, we will look at the 5th book of the New Testament, called, Acts or The Acts of the Apostles.  Acts was also written by Dr. Luke to Theophilus as a sequel to his first book. In the Gospel of Luke, he tells us who Jesus is, and in Acts he tells us what to do about it.

Acts is the only book in the Bible that tells how people became Christians, how Churches were formed and how Christianity started its worldwide advance.

There are 28 chapters in Acts.  If you do the math you’ll see that 24 chapters plus 28 chapters = 52 chapters. That will give us one full year of Bible Study.  Some weeks I’ll probably add bonus posts on subjects that I think need extra explanation or are just too much fun for me to pass up.

If you don’t have a Bible, they are easy to get.  You can buy them in stores and online.  There are lots of free ones online that you can download to your pc, laptop or mobile device.  Be careful though, as not all translations are created equal. Some are much better than others. Find one you like and stick with it.  If you have a question about a translation please feel free to send me an email, samburtononline@gmail.com and ask away.  I will primarily be using The English Standard Version (ESV) and The Voice Bible.  Somewhere along the way, I’ll take time and explain why there are so many different translations and why that’s a good thing.  For now, though, let the adventure begin.