Devotional Hints: Daily ask the Spirit to open your heart and guide you as you read. Also, read the passages out loud. When we hear the passage, at times, details will come out that we have missed or not thought of before, or thought of in that way before.
Luke 3:1-20 Again we note that Luke is very exact in his history of our salvation. (Name at least 14 specific details he points out in the first two verses.) If records were intact it seems we could almost pin-point the date John’s ministry began.
Concerning John’s baptism: While there were many ceremonial and cleansing washings in the Old Testament, John’s baptism is most outwardly related to the Jewish ‘baptism’ of converts to Judaism. Both Jesus and John’s baptism were commanded by God, used water and were for the forgiveness of sins. The baptism Jesus instituted before his ascension is different in that it: is for adults and children, gives us the Holy Spirit, works and transmits forgiveness of sins that Jesus earned, brings us into the Father’s family and makes us sharers in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Kretzmann puts it nicely when he stated, “the baptism of John was typical, preparatory, as was his preaching; the glorious fulfillment has come in and with Christ.” (NT, vol. 1, pp 16,17).
Concerning John’s preaching: Humanly speaking, it was not politically correct, nor aimed at winning favor. It was fiery – but with a purpose – in love and concern he was warning people to fear a deluding ‘saving faith’ that was nothing more than relying on one’s physical or spiritual lineage, on one’s notions of what religious piety is and on the fruits that came from such a ‘faith’. True saving faith is founded on God alone and on (in John’s day) the Messiah whose coming was anticipated and in our day on a Messiah who has come. Only that faith brings forth truly ‘good fruits’. Notice also John preached the fact that Jesus is a Judge – a fact we often forget or overlook, but which the Bible and the Creeds of the Church do not. As this is true, what response should we have towards Jesus, his person, words and work? (True reverence, fear, repentance, respect; reverent and careful hearing and following his words; daily seeking to be and remain in his salvation; daily seeking his forgiveness.)
Jesus, my God and Savior and Lord, give to me a heart that truly worships you as you deserve. Where I have sinned against you, in mercy forgive me, for Jesus sake. Amen.
Luke 3:21-37 The record of Jesus’ baptism and his genealogy again point out the mystery that Jesus is true God and man in one person. Baptized as a man, the Father also declares him to be his own Son, the person with whom he is well pleased. Why is it important for our salvation that Jesus was a person God delighted in? (He needed to be a perfect, sinless human being so he could be our substitute - the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.)
Luke takes Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam and to God to point out the universality of the salvation Jesus came to work for all mankind. In that list you see sinners just like you and me – kings of Judah, king David, Jacob, Abraham. They, like us, were that way because after the Fall, Adam fathered sons in his own likeness – that is, in his fallen state. In Jesus, the Second Adam, the Son of God robed in our flesh, the new creation begins (2 Cor. 5:17) and by faith in him you and I, whether slave, free, man woman, Jew, non-Jew, are “sons of God” (Gal. 3:23-29).
Interestingly Luke gives Jesus’ genealogy after Jesus’ baptism, the beginning of his public ministry. Ylvisaker points out that similarly Moses’ genealogy is only given after his public ministry begins ([see Exodus 1-6] The Gospels, p. 59, fn. 81). While there are similarities in their work, Jesus’ work is the far greater as he is the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:6-8), the Prophet that Moses foretold would come (Deut. 18:15-18, also see Acts 3:11-26), and leads us to heaven, the Promised Land (John 12:25, 26, 14:1-6).
Lamb of God, thank you for your faithful obedience to your Father’s will, for humbly and faithfully carrying out your saving work and for giving me your Spirit so by faith I might be free from sin, satan and death. In that faith let me walk on with you until you bring me home. Amen.
In the opening three chapters of his Gospel Luke spent considerable time laying a firm foundation about the historicity and the wondrous twofold nature (true God/true Man) of the person of Christ, “that (we) may have certainly concerning the things (we) have been taught”. Having established Jesus’ credentials, he now tells about how this Jesus went about his saving work.
Luke 4:1-13 Temptations often sound so innocent that we think, “It’s no big deal.” “I’m only using my common sense.” “Who will get hurt?” When tempted Jesus considered the source of those temptations and he knew that they and the tempter were not innocent at all. Jesus knew “that every act not based on loyalty to God will end in disaster.” (Oswald Chambers, adapted). Thank God he knew that, for any disloyalty in Jesus’ life would not only have brought disaster to him, but to us. Marvel, marvel, at the fact that even though Jesus faced the same temptations we face, in his entire life, he never, ever, gave in to satan (Heb. 4:14-16). Find peace in the fact that Jesus has forgiven all your fallings for temptation, and rejoice that in him you are empowered to say, “No,” to satan and his lies.
Lord Jesus, thank you for successfully facing satan and dealing with his temptations on our behalf. Because of your saving work and grace one day I will be able to see you face-to-face to sing to you my thanks and praise eternally. Amen
Luke 4:14-30 Jesus went about doing his work in the power of the Spirit – and people marveled, except in his own hometown. When he gave the people of his town the wondrous message that in him Scripture was being fulfilled before their very eyes, what was their response? (“We know you.” “Who do you think you are?” “You’re no different from any of us; so what makes you so high and mighty?”) Familiarity does breed contempt. We need to be aware that this can happen in us as well. What might be signs of contempt for Jesus? (Failure to be in worship and at the Lord’s Supper. Boredom with Bible reading and the Gospel. Not following his words and commands, or treating them with little or no respect. Having a superficial, just going through the motions, religious relationship with Jesus. etc.) What is the ‘cure’ for such spiritual sickness? (Praying that the Spirit would help us recognize the symptoms of such illness, then move us to go to Jesus for the forgiveness, and the healing that only he and his Spirit can give. Asking God to create in us a new heart and give us a right spirit. Confessing that sin to a brother or sister in Christ and asking him or her to forgive us and pray for us. Prayerfully being in the Word, in worship and partaking of his Supper.)
Brother Jesus, forgive me where I have failed to give you the honor and respect you deserve. You, thank God, are my Brother, but also my God and Savior. May I ever remember that. Amen.
Luke 4:31-37 The man in today’s reading had a demon – but note how the demon spoke of itself in both the plural and singular (“us”, and “I”. In another place when Jesus asked a demon his name, the demon replied, “Legion, for we are many.” Mk. 5, Lk. 8) The fact that a demon can be singular and plural at the same time indicates that satan and his forces of evil are beyond our comprehension and power. We should carefully heed Paul when he said,
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
To play with such evil is to toy with dangers beyond our imagination. Note that Jesus did not do that – when tempted he did not entertain satan or his statements for a second. Satan and his evil are as real as God and his goodness are. As this is true; how should we consider and handle materials that deal with satanism, the occult, demons, witches, spells, etc? (To use extreme caution with such things is wise. To avoid them totally is best.)
Lord, with regard to satan and his forces of darkness, let me be innocent. When confronted with such evil may I immediately flee from it and seek help and refuge in you. Amen.
Luke 4:38-41 Simon Peter had a mother-in-law (see also I Cor. 9:5). That’s just another of those ‘trivial’ small biblical details, or is it? Rome, which holds that Peter was the first pope, denies clergy the right to marry. This is not what Scripture teaches. St. Paul actually states that such a teaching is one of the “teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-5, see also Article 23 of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession). To deny clergy the right to marry is not a small wrong. We can learn much from the seemingly ‘trivial’ details the Holy Spirit saw fit to have recorded in Scripture for our learning.
In this reading we also see Jesus healing and casting out demons. His acts point out and confirm that the Jesus Luke spoke of is exactly who Luke said he was – God and man, whose person, words and ministry are to be taken seriously. As he is the Savior, why would Jesus tell demons to not tell of who he is? Couldn’t he use all the publicity he could get? (Consider – would you want to be ‘endorsed’ by your enemies? Such ‘praise’ would not have advanced his mission and ministry.)
Father, as we read your Word, give us your Spirit so we may understand what you are saying. Let our souls absorb its truth for the nourishing of our faith. Then as your people, may we treasure and hold fast to each truth and faithfully teach them to others – especially telling them the truths about Jesus as our Savior - to the honor of your name and for the saving of souls. Amen.
Luke 4:42-46 “Stay with us,” the people said to Jesus. It is tempting to stay where we are welcomed and appreciated. But Jesus knew his purpose – to preach, here, there and everywhere in Judah and its surrounding regions. So we see him teaching in synagogues, the local community religious centers of his day. Where are we to carry on his teaching ministry today? (In our home, with our family, neighbors, in our community, supporting missions, and wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.)
Lord Jesus, we like to be safe. We are fearful of new, unknown or challenging situations. What is true in our daily life is also true when it comes to the sharing you and your Gospel with others. Forgive us for our fearfulness and timidity. Trusting in you and our Father, as you did, and trusting in you our God and Savior, may we follow you and boldly go and tell your good news to all nations. Amen.