18 October 2006

Part 5- Luke 4:14-44 "claim & confessions"


Jesus’ first words of teaching lay claim to the prophet Isaiah’s message (61:1-2 & 58:6?). Take some time to revisit Isaiah’s prophecy, which ends up being closely related to what is happening through Jesus. Isaiah wrote during a time in which Israel was declining and the Assyrian empire conquered the northern part of Israel’s divided kingdom (722 B.C.) Though Judah, the southern portion, was spared, Isaiah warns them that their safety is temporary because God will use an even stronger empire-the Babylonians- to punish Israel for its sin (587 B.C.). Even as he gives this terrible prediction, he sounds a note of hope: one day, God will act to restore Israel. Like a new exodus, he will send an anointed one to lead them out of political and spiritual oppression. Ultimately, God will establish a kingdom through Israel that encompasses all of the peoples of the earth. Spend some time reading what Isaiah wrote through these representative chapters: (the questions that follow interact with these Isaiah texts) 1-4, 34-35, 40-44, 51-62, 66


What does Isaiah tell us about why God is ready to judge Israel? (CH 1-2)

  • they have forsaken YHWH, the Holy One of Israel. They have turned their backs on Him (1:4).
  • they go through religious motions without actually doing right (1:10-17).
  • their leaders are crooked and corrupt (1:23-26).
  • they have adopted bad practices and wrong ways of thinking (2:6-9).

In God's coming judgment, what does Isaiah reveal about His intent?

  • He wants them to stop doing wrong and learn to do what is right (1:16-17; 2:4).
  • He wants to make them be willing and obedient, not resistant and rebellious (1:19-20).
  • He wants Israel to be an example and the source of a new reality for all people (2:1-5).
  • He intends to teach people to humbly respond to Him (2:10-22).
  • He will pay people back for what they have done (3:8-26).

In God's coming judgment, what does Isaiah say that gives reason to hope?

  • the oppressed will be relieved, the defenseless defended (1:17), strength will go to the weary and power to the weak (40:29).
  • a day will come that represents a whole new age without the bad things that are part of this present age (2:3-5).
  • God will be present amon His holy people (4:2-6; 40:11) and will be seen by all (40:5; 42:6-9) as the One True Eternal God (43:10-13; 44:6-23).
  • God will give humanity a new start (43:18-21).


As I have been working my way through Luke, I have been repeatedly struck by this question: "Am I more like Jesus or the people who opposed Him?"

Obviously, most of us Christians reflexively identify ourselves with Jesus. We know that we're called to deny ourselves and make costly sacrifices for others. We know that we're to proclaim Jesus regardless of reaction and consequence. We know that we're not fundamentally different than sinners.

We know all of this. But do we do any of it? Have we made doing it a hobby or a lifestyle?

If I am completely honest with myself, and willing to really weigh the evidence of my consistent actions, I have adopted a mindset very similar to the religiously smug opposition that Jesus encoutered. I have adopted a lifestyle of separation from "those people" rather than one of seeking them and making every effort to communicate God's love to them. Caught-up in the American Dream and the comfortable lifestyle of suburbia, I don't know that I've really ever made a truly costly sacrifice for someone else that was the result of self-denial. My gifts are always within my budget, planned around my needs and wants, and typically to church-goers who I subconciously view as having "earned it" or will be able to "pay it back" in their involvement in the church. When it comes to people who are physically or financially suffering, I tend to find myself repelled or judgmental about their own foolish behavior or indifferent to their unfortunate circumstances since "this kind of thing just happens."

Perhaps I'm being too harsh or making sweeping generalizations. Then again, maybe not. Jesus' definition of who was with Him was seen in who joined with Him in the kind of life that He was living. In other words, you could see who followed Jesus because they did what He did. You do not see Jesus defining who was with Him based-on who was becoming a better person who acts better or who was most active among other followers. It is impossible to separate Jesus' mission from His identity, even though most of us are willing to confess His identity all day long while letting His mission be something that we're not "gifted" or "called" to.

My prayer for myself and you is the same: May we increasingly be people who genuinely live like Jesus. May we be people devoted to living according to the new reality that God has brought into existence by making it our new reality. May we be the people who evidence humanity's new start.

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