Luke 24:32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
You know that feeling. It’s the one you felt many years ago. It was sometime in middle school, probably. She walked in the room and your heart started leaping. He passed by you brushing your arm and you about fainted. These are the emotional highs of puppy love. You feel like your heart is on fire and don’t know how to contain it.
The disciples had a feeling, too. They had been walking and talking with Jesus, but didn’t know it was him. But their hearts knew it. Their hearts were burning as they were in his presence. It wasn’t puppy love; it was the feeling of his presence. It was the feeling of excitement mixed with peace. It was the feeling of anticipation and wonder. It was the feeling of being with Jesus.
Do you know what it feels like to be in his presence? Does your heart remember the last time it burned for him? Because spending time with him is an experience like no other. And I don’t ever want to get to a place where my heart doesn’t burn for his presence. Yes… Jesus gives me heartburn. And I don’t want a prescription, I want more of it. Yet I go so many minutes, hours, and days just living life. I take for granted his presence and don’t pursue it. So my prayer today is for my heart to burn. My prayer is that I will take time to walk with him along the road and experience the wonder of who he is.
Luke 23:8-11 8 Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. 9 He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer. 10Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Finally, they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate.
People go to the zoo to see some of their favorite animals that would otherwise only be seen in the wild. Like the lion, except that you might not want to see a lion on the wild. Sometimes the lions at the zoo are inside sleeping and you can’t get a good view. How dare they? Don’t they know I paid good money to see them. That’s it! I want my money back; I didn’t get to see the lions! How easily we forget that the lions, monkeys, and seahorses are not just a spectacle; they are life. In their minds, they exist for more than just show. (Except for the monkeys, maybe.)
Jesus wasn’t a monkey and he certainly wasn’t here to be a spectacle. His ministry was not a zoo and he wasn’t trying to impress. But Herod had always wanted to meet Jesus for those exact reasons. He didn’t want to hear his message, he just wanted to see a miracle. He was hoping for a David Copperfield. And when he didn’t get it, he mocked and ridiculed Jesus. He rejected him completely.
So many people are just like Herod. They have heard about Jesus and might even been impressed with the stories they have heard about him. They would love to see one of his magic tricks. They would love to see him do something miraculous. They will travel the world chasing the signs and wonders that follow a revival. Yet they won’t apply His message to their lives. They won’t accept his free gift of grace and forgiveness. They won’t embrace the freedom found in obedience and discover the everyday miracles of a true follower of Jesus. But I hope you will. I hope that He becomes more than a miracle man to you. I pray He becomes your everything: your savior, your Lord, your peace, and your life.
Luke 22:4-5 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money.
Judas is a disappointment. He really blew it when it came to being a loyal disciple. And throughout church history we have been pointing our fingers at him for betraying the One who gave him life. We scoff at his choice to make a few bucks off the Son of God. Then we start to wonder how long he had conspired to betray Jesus. After all, he was the carrier of the money among the disciples. We wonder if he helped himself to the cash on occasion. We wonder if he ever really took part in any healings or if he stood by and just watched. He is guilty, for sure. He handed over Jesus to be executed. It was a decision that proved too much to live with, so he killed himself shortly thereafter.
But what about the church? What about the chief priests and the temple guards? Are we not as perplexed at their plot to murder a great prophet who was healing God’s people? They had been conspiring for years and we are mad at Judas. Friends, this is an epic fail for the church. Imagine if a person came on the scene that was prophesying and spreading the gospel today. In fact, let’s just hypothetically say that many churches aren’t real comfortable with Benny Hinn. Maybe they don’t like his style or doubt his healings. Should we conspire to hire a hit man and have him killed? That’s preposterous!
Jesus clearly stated that the church’s response to opposition is to love. Oh wait, they wouldn’t listen to Him. Will we? Will we love those who oppose us? Will we let God be the judge of those who seem to be blaspheming His name? Because it’s His job really, not ours. Yet we get so worked up about defending His name. We insist that people say “Christmas” instead of Happy Holidays. We ask people not to swear. We give disapproving looks to people doing things we don’t like. That’s not how we are supposed to defend His name. That’s just a modern day church fail. We defend His name by living a life that He would be proud of. We defend His name by loving, reaching, helping, and speaking life. It does no good to defend His name with our mouths, but not live it with our lives. So let your life line up with your mouth today. Let your love be the measure of your faith.
Luke 21:14-15 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
What happens when you position yourself for a fight? You fight. This is what happens so often in relationships and things escalate rather than resolve. Rather than listening, we become focused on what we are going to say next. We get all worked up defending ourselves to the point where peace can’t be achieved. Or what about times when someone is attacking your character? You feel robbed, cheated, and slandered. You feel as though you must be ready at all times to defend yourself.
However, Jesus said not to worry about it. How do you not worry about defending yourself? Well, you hold on to the truth that He is your defender. You hold on to the fact that He will give you the words when you need them. Worry and anxiety about this comes from a place of insecurity. So our aim must be to gain a confidence in who we are, which will only come from drawing closer to Jesus. Allow Him to speak truth to you about who you are. Allow Him to give you the words you need to say. Allow Him to close your mouth when you really feel like you need to defend. This is the Jesus self-defense crash course: let ME handle it!
Okay Jesus… I will let YOU handle it today.
Luke 20:20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.
Here’s an idea: let’s trick Jesus. Yeah, good luck with that. I mean, what were they thinking? Did they actually think they could trick Jesus? What I love about this verse is the part where the spies were going to pretend to be honest. Yes, “pretend” to be honest. Their strategy? Play stupid. It turns out that’s exactly what they were if they thought they could fool Jesus. He saw right through it, it says in verse 23. Strikeout, gutter ball, air ball, epic fail.
So why do we think we can fool Jesus? We pretend to be one way on the outside with hopes he won’t find out what’s inside. We go through the motions at church without any intention of ever becoming it. He knows, people, he knows. He knows when you are sleeping, He knows when your awake, He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! And unlike Santa, He’s the real deal! He knows our hearts. He knows when we are trying to hide. He knows when we are faking it.
So let’s be real already. Get real with Jesus. Tell him your thoughts, your fears, your sins, your struggles. Don’t fool yourself into thinking he won’t find out. Don’t try to convince yourself that if he knew your sin, he wouldn’t love you. He does know it and he chooses to accept you, love you, and forgive you. In what areas of your life are you trying to fool Jesus? Take a closer look and start being honest with both yourself and Him.
Luke 19:5-7 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord our God to see….” You gotta love a silly Bible song. I think it’s funny how the song focuses on the fact that Zacchaeus was short. No mention of the fact that he was dishonest, hated, and filthy rich – just short. As a child, were we supposed to be impressed that Jesus went to the house of a short guy? It leaves me wondering if he had to duck as he walked through the front door.
This story is not really about stature. Jesus made the conscious decision to spend time with someone who was lost rather than with those who thought they were found. This well respected Rabbi went to stay at the horrible tax collector’s house. Scandalous. Apparently Jesus wasn’t interested in media perception. He didn’t care much about popular opinion or brewing scandal. He cared about lost souls that needed saving. He cared about rescuing a lost and dying world.
To that end, he entered it and engaged it. He reached out to it, entering it’s houses and eating at it’s tables. Because of that, we can eat at his someday. His charge to us, “go into all the world.” Do we expect the world to come to us? Do we expect it to look like us? Do we avoid those who don’t? You see, we must enter and engage our world and rescue the lost. Church, we must go to them. Be like Jesus today. Engage the world, being prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have. Open your eyes and you might just find a guy in a tree waiting for an invitation.
Luke 18:9-14 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus told lots of parables, many of which were hard to understand. This one… not so much. In fact, this is probably one of Jesus’ more in your face stories. His audience is arrogant people and he pulls no punches. The story is about a self-righteous religious guy and a humble sinner. The religious guy liked to pray about himself: “Lord, I thank you that I am so awesome. You have given me so many gifts. I understand your Word and I have the gift of teaching. And thank you Lord for making me freakishly good-looking and talented beyond compare. Make me greater Lord… for Your glory of course. You are so good, God.” Uh, I think God just threw up a little.
Some people pray like that. They use the platform of prayer to flex their religious muscles. They use prayer to preach and to impress. They focus on themselves and escalate their spiritual importance. But Jesus said God wasn’t too fond of that. God was fond of those who are poor in spirit. He is fond of the type of prayer that comes out of a heart of humility. He is interested in those who will cry out to Him in their need. It is those prayers that He desires to answer.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Think about that statement today. What camp are you in? Do you lean toward humility or pride when it comes to prayer? Public prayer is not a showcase for your knowledge of Christian language. It is not an arena for you to talk about yourself. Here’s the thing: trees don’t have to talk about their fruit, they just produce it. People will take notice. Your gifts will be seen, your talents will be used. And if your heart is humble, God might even get the glory.