Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” 36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. If they do, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And none of you, after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, ‘The old is better.’”
Jesus is challenged about the devotional life of the disciples, especially in regard to fasting. Of course fasting is not meant to be on display, but then again we are speaking of the religious people. Jesus simply makes plain that the disciples will fast. When He has gone. This is an encouragement to us to fast.
He also makes plain that the old and new do not mix well.
Written by Ps.Richard Botta
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus goes against cultural stigmas and invites Levi a tax collector to follow him. Although Levi was rich, he was viewed as a traitor; he had made his wealth by betraying his Jewish people, heritage, and religion. Levi was probably following Jesus, because when the crowds came to listen, he could set up his booth, collect taxes and get richer. While taxing the people, Levi would have seen the miracles, and heard Jesus teach. Jesus would have noticed him & instead of telling him to leave, He said, ‘Follow Me’ He invites Levi to become one of his followers. Jesus doesn’t care that society hates Levi or that he’s a sinner, He just wants Levi to follow Him. Jesus chose the outcast, despised, and rejected – Levi certainly fit that description.
Levi leaves his tax gathering booth, all the money, rose up, and followed Jesus. He invites Jesus to a great feast in his own house, the only people he knew were outcasts like him, so they were invited. Am I prepared to befriend the socially outcast, go to their home for a meal? Will I worry what people will think about me if I mix with the outcasts of society?
In these days of political correctness, will the outcast listen to me & come to a place of knowing they are sick and in need of a doctor. I don’t need to convince them, the Holy Spirit will do that, I just need to be a place where they can see Gods love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Written by Cathy Croft
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Jesus is teaching, inside a large group of religious people were gathered. In fact it seems that there was a larger than normal group there.
Luke records that the power of God was present to heal in a stronger than normal manner. Is this a reference to the gift of healing?
Some men had a friend on a stretcher and they wanted to see him healed. Unable to get in via the door, they go to the roof and make a hole and lower him down to Jesus. Now this is an act of desperation! It shows the great love the men had for the paralysed guy, and how strong their expectation and faith in Jesus was.
Jesus sees their faith. What did He see? He saw them carry this guy onto the roof, make a hole, and lower Him down. He sees their faith and perseverance.
Jesus, clearly realizing one assumes, that the man needs healing, and that the friends had brought him to be healed doesn’t go there. He says, “Your sins are forgiven”.
Now the expectations of the man and his friends are dashed, and Jesus has managed to insight the displeasure of the religious men. A classic lose, lose!
The religious guys claim He is blaspheming, knowing that God alone can forgive sins.
Jesus however had not created a lose lose. He knew what their response would be and used it as an object lesson to show who He was, the Son of Man. It was a question of authority, and to show that He had the authority He healed the man.
The man now gets what he came for his healing and leaves rejoicing. The crowd saw a miracle, and more, great authority, and they too praised God.
So it is clear that God’s power to heal can be ‘more present’ at some times to heal then others.
It’s clear that faith can be seen and Jesus responded to that faith.
It is clear that authority to forgive was seen as the domain of God and Jesus equated Himself with God.
I need to be more aware of when Jesus is present to heal and to ensure my faith can be seen!
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
It doesn’t matter how many times I read this passage, I always stumble over Jesus’ reply to the man with leprosy. The man asks, “Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus has the power to heal, to provide, to comfort… But how often do we fail to ask, under the impression somehow that He is unwilling to involve Himself in our daily lives? I need to meditate on Jesus’ words, let them ring in my ears, “I am willing.”
Written by Beth Waugh
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
These 11 verses tell us about when Jesus met His first group of disciples – a group of fisherman.
The verses that have struck me are 4 – 6. Jesus asks Peter to go deeper and then he will definitely catch fish – even though he had been fishing all night without catching anything… Peter isn’t keen at first as he is obviously tired, but follows Jesus request. The outcome = nets full of fish!!
For me, there have been times when I get caught up in disappointment, distractions, sickness, the world, … things that take my eyes off Jesus. What if at these times, I chose to “go deeper” with Jesus, to trust His voice – what if a mighty breakthrough was waiting on the other side of the disappointment? My”net full of fish” outcome.
There are times where I need to take myself out of my comfort zone and push further into the deep with Jesus, where I can’t stand, but I can rely on HIM! He knows the next part of my plan A & that’s the road I want to travel on – even when I can’t see what’s coming up. Scary but exciting, giving Jesus the control!
Written by Ps. Mandy Miller
38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. 40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah. 42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Jesus attended the synagogue and it was after this that he performed many miracles ie. healing the sick and casting out demons. Theory first and then the practical outworking of God’s purposes.
People begged Jesus to heal Simon’s mother in-law. They knew Jesus could make her well. There was faith in that room and ultimately that village because they were all healed. Once Simon’s mother in-law was healed she immediately went on to do what God called her to – serve!
Jesus pleased his heavenly Father above pleasing men and women. This is evident in his deciding to move onto the next town to preach. It would have been easy to stay in a place where you are so wanted and needed. He chose to be obedient and move on not knowing how he would be received in the next town.
A desire for the supernatural is stirred by the reading of this passage. To see people set free and God’s awesome power displayed. Get clued up first though ie get understanding on the topic first. This understanding will help build faith. We see Jesus attended the Synagogue where knowledge was obtained from Scripture. Jesus also shows us the importance of getting away from it all and seeking God’s will as opposed to what is popular or reasonable. Jesus intentionally went somewhere isolated where he could hear God clearly, free from distraction. We need to do the same.
Written by Ainslie Woods
31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are —the Holy One of God!” 35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
The passage in Luke 31-37 describes an intriguing account of a man who is possessed by a demon. When encountering demon possession in the bible, it is useful to bear in mind CS Lewis’s accurate analysis of our tendency to take the wrong approach when we reflect on the role that demons play in life:
‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They (demons) themselves are equally pleased by both errors.’
I myself have made both errors in the past, so it is helpful for me to be mindful of my beliefs regarding demons, who are very real and active in the world, without getting carried away.
The intrigue in the biblical passage for me initially is that this demon, although speaking against Jesus, is openly and publicly acknowledging him as the “Holy One of God”
On deeper reflection, it is noteworthy that this man is “in Church” despite being possessed. If you met someone whom you suspected was under demonic influence, how would you respond? Would you invite them to Church?
Do you hold a view of demons that is compatible with the bible, or do you base your beliefs on film and television?
Written by Justin Ware
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[a] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Today’s bible story is about Jesus’ work in Nazareth.
In Nazareth people were amazed at the gracious words that came out from Jesus and said: “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
Jesus challenged their attitude because He knew what was in their minds?
No matter what Jesus had done in Capernaum, Nazareth’s people were unwilling to accept His words because of His low identity – “the son of Joseph” (similarly Nathanael said: Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? John1:46)
But, Jesus still preached the gospel first to His own town; even though He knew “no prophet is accepted in his own country”
Also, Jesus warned them that if Nazareth/Jewish people did not accept Him, God’s salvation would go to the Gentiles who are originally unrelated to God – like Elijah was sent only to a widow in Zarephath in Sidon and Elisha cleansed only the Naaman the Syrian.
Today, how do I see/identify other people in Church? By their outside or inside?
How do I see/treat God’s warning in my life? How do I respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit that has spoken to me?
Written by Allen Leu
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[a] 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[b] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
What an extraordinary story.
Luke has described Jesus origins: the Son of God, announced by angels, conceived of the Holy Spirit, promised to Abraham, foretold by the prophets; and Jesus called the Son of Joseph, descended from David (and heir of his promises), but also the son of Adam, the second Adam who would put right what Adam made wrong. It’s essential that he is both. But the people of his home town can’t see how can he be the fulfilment of prophesy and the son of Joseph they think they know.
They’ve heard of his teachings and the miracles he has done in Capernaum. Jesus reads from Isaiah and tells them that the law (“year of Jubilee” from Leviticus when slaves are set free and debts cancelled) and the prophets are fulfilled in their presence. This is one of those times when the threads of God’s plans coming together in a way that sends a tingle down my spine. And yet these people think they know Jesus. They can’t see past their preconceptions that he’s just Joseph’s son.
Jesus sees into their hearts (as he often does) and sees their disbelief: they want to see proof, they want to see a miracle. They are wrong on so many levels. God is not subject to our judgement, we are subject to His. God gives blessing where He chooses, not where we demand.
They are so outraged at his suggestion that they would reject him that they not only reject him, they try to kill him: an extraordinary reaction.
So do I rush off with what I think I know and fail to hear what God is saying? Do I expect God to support my expectations, or do I change my thinking (repent) to align with his?
Written by David Cornell
4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Jesus interaction with the devil is one that is instructive in spiritual warfare.
The conditions Jesus finds Himself are these. He is full of the Spirit, He is led by the Spirit, He is tempted by the devil for 40 days, He eats nothing for 40 days, and He is very hungry.
Then come the 3 known temptations, although the Scripture tells us there were more.
The Devil delivers the temptations each one with a clear quotation from Scripture, each with a clear challenge to prove Himself. Identity is the challenge for two temptations; “if you are the Son of God” something that would not have been proved by Jesus doing what He was being tempted with. The other is a direct temptation to serve Himself, to live for Himself.
Jesus meets the temptations with a clear quotation from Scripture for each. This suggests that Scripture is a necessary ingredient to withstand the temptations of the enemy, but a closer look reveals there’s more.
However the devil decides to tempt us, we clearly need the Scripture, but it’s not our only weapon. Of the other ‘conditions’ that Jesus has here the ones surrounding the place and his physical condition are probably least important.
Rather it’s that He is full of the Spirit and being lead of the Spirit that are most critical, plus His understanding of Himself (He didn’t try to prove who He was) and He understood how God had created things in order.
For us to withstand the temptations of the devil we need to ensure that we are full of the Holy Spirit and are being obedient to Him in that we are being lead by Him, in addition to knowing God’s Word, which is how we become obedient to God.
It also matters that we understand God’s created order and His calling and identity in us.
Written by Richard Botta
23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josek, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon,[a] the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,[b] the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
What strikes me most about this passage is not the list of names, impressive or famous as some of them are. Instead, I am struck by the last four words of this passage, “the son of God”. All these people show a family lineage back to Adam and therefore to God, but I too am a child of God! John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Because of my salvation through Jesus Christ, I am now considered “part of the family” – a child of God. How truly awesome is that! What an inheritance!
“Thank you, Lord, that through your Son, Jesus Christ, I am your child. Thank you, that as a father, you love me, you care for me, you encourage me, you strengthen me, you discipline me, you walk beside me and you are forever “for me”. Praise you!”
Written By Jen Irving
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The ministry of Jesus begins in these verses. Luke has already told us that John was baptising ‘for the forgiveness of sins’. Jesus – who was sinless – chose to be baptised identifying Himself with us. While praying, after His baptism, the Holy Spirit comes upon Him and not only that but heaven opens & the voice of the Father confirms His love, favour and presence completely upon Him for His ministry ahead.
There are a lot of theological points in these verses … but the simplicity of Jesus identifying so completely in who I am, is actually overwhelming as I think about. No one person has ever so completely identified with me ever. Many have identified with me in certain aspects of my life, but not so completely. This one act, identifying with me through baptism – displays a love for me that brings security, comfort, acceptance, safety, courage …. I pray that I will never loose sight of the fact that Jesus is the only one who can truly & so completely walk through life with me. He ‘gets’ me.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
John answered peoples’ questions about the coming Messiah. John had a clear understanding of his role and the far, far superior role of Jesus. He also warns people that their lives will come under scrutiny when Jesus comes. John doesn’t hold back with his warnings about the way people live their lives and will ultimately be judged. It’s important to note that people came to John with their questions about Jesus. He did not shy away from telling the truth but boldly declared what was to happen to the point where he was jailed.
John answered peoples’ questions about Jesus. It made me wonder if I was answering peoples’ questions about Jesus in my own life. One step further, were people asking me questions in the first place? John clearly had a relationship with Jesus (they were cousins) and it is out of this relationship that he gave answers to people in such a bold and direct manner. It encourages me to know Jesus better so I can answer questions and even start conversations about Jesus. It also suggests that some answers aren’t what people want to hear but shouldn’t be left out of the conversation because I feel uncomfortable.
God make me bold so I can warn our generation like John the Baptist warned his!
Written by Ainslie Woods
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely —be content with your pay.”
John uses some strong language speaking to the crowd; it’s never complimentary when you’re referred to as a poisonous snake! John shocks the people out of their comfort zone; he confronts them in regards to their reliance on ritual, and their identity as sons of Abraham. The main issue here is the state of these people’s hearts. John challenges them that if they are sincere in repenting from sin and turning to God there should be clear evidence in their lives. Selfless generosity, integrity and compassion, these should be the fruit in our lives.
John’s voice challenges me, how deep does my repentance go? Is there evidence in my life day by day that I have turned from a life of sin and am pursuing Christ? I desire that the fruit of my life draw people closer to God.
Written by Beth Waugh
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
John is in the wilderness at about 26-29AD at a time of political chaos & religious barrenness. In the midst of this chaos, “the word of God came to John”. It did not come to the politically powerful, or to the religious leaders, but to John, alone in the wilderness.
The wilderness is a place of uncharted territory, and there are no maps or guides. It is a place of barrenness and beauty; it can be in drought or have flash floods, unpredictable and irregular rain. However, in this wild and uncharted place, God spoke to John. Some think the way of the world is a way of life that will satisfy, and remember, the world will not hesitate to impose its belief on us. Some believe to only following God’s law will make us right with God. However, our hearts will always be restless until we find rest in God. We need to make a choice to prepare the way of the Lord in our heart. When in the wilderness, we must live by faith and be aware of our total dependence on God. We cannot be self sufficient; we must rely on God alone. We must shift from self-reliance to total reliance on God. Do not despise the wilderness, it is a call to surrender everything and in the surrender is the joy of knowing we can hear His word and be assured we can depend upon God.
Written by Cathy Croft
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Jesus had parents – imagine being Jesus’ mum or dad. Initially it might seem easy – the perfect kid. But Mary and Joseph didn’t “get” Jesus – they knew He was different but they didn’t “get” how. Imagine looking for Jesus for 3 days!!! Then finding Him calmly talking and listening in the temple. Didn’t He know He was lost? Why did you do this to us Jesus? Why are you doing this to me Jesus? I hear my anxiety echoed in their words. I thought You were coming this way with me – but I turn around and You’re not here!
Jesus answer to them is the same answer to me – Didn’t you know I would be here?
Do I know where to find Jesus when “He”, I mean “I” get lost? How incredible to know that He is with me – always and everywhere. I can be with Him – I just need to keep Him in view, not get too far ahead, watch where He is leading me. Challenging but comforting. Lord help me keep close today.
Written by Linda Quinn
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
This passage is about the prophetess, Anna. After 7yrs of marriage, she lost her husband. A widow of 84 years, living in the temple, praying and fasting to God. I can only imagine she had been in the temple about 60yrs!
After Simeon, had prophesied over Jesus, Anna came up to him too. It is not clear if Anna heard what Simeon said, but regardless, she too gave thanks to God. And Anna spoke “about this child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”. The holy city of God’s chosen people. Thereby confirming Simeon’s prophecy. This, I believe, took a lot of boldness!
The bible calls Anna a prophetess. She must have had may prophesies for many faithful Jews. Inspired by the Holy Spirit.
What this passage speaks to me, is how God uses women, like men to speak prophetically and serve the Lord. Certainly Anna may not have had anyone to provide for her, but her faithfulness in the Temple, loving and seeking God, was foremost to her.
Father God, please fill me with your Holy Spirit that I too, will seek you passionately, and know you have a purpose with my life, as you did with Anna.
Written by Linda Stengl
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simenon was one of the witnesses in Jerusalem who saw Jesus as the comfort of Israel.
His story is not very long, but the bible said “he was righteous and devout, and waiting for the comfort of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” What a great man!!
Not only that, the action of the Holy Spirit upon his life is mentioned 3 times in 10 verses.
Before Jesus went to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to His believers, there are not many cases for people to have Holy Spirit upon them.
Also, there was one special element of Simeon life: “waiting for the comfort of Israel” before he died.
Today, I have Holy Spirit with me at all times. But, what I am waiting/longing for? new car, new house, new Job, new……?
I am not saying a new car, house, job…are not good. They all come with the blessings of Jesus.
But, what is the heart-beat of my life?
What would I like to be described as from Jesus’ eye?
Written by Allen Leu
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b]
How cool Mary and Joseph were obedient and used the name God had provided to them for Jesus. I am not a parent but I can imagine being able to choose the child’s name is something very special for parents. But names are important – they knew that too – so they did what God asked them.
And then the concept of saying thank you to God – He knew we weren’t great at remembering to say thank you so He made it a requirement for the Jewish nation to say an official thank you at the temple for a new child. Being grateful for your child is probably more obvious than some other things God does in our lives but we still needed to be reminded.
Saying thank you – how important it is. Do we remember? I know I don’t often enough. A great reminder from a fairly simple passage.
Written by Therese Manning
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The angels visit the shepherds, the shepherds visit Jesus, the shepherds tell all, the mother treasures all the events in her heart, it’s a fascinating stream of events.
I find it invigorating that the shepherds response to the ‘terrifying’ announcement, was to seek out the cause of the story and then the shepherds after meeting Jesus tell everyone they can. What a great response to meeting Jesus. Vs. 17 has it.
It wasn’t just that they told everyone about what they had seen and heard but they told it in such an engaging way that all who heard it from them were amazed.
Telling about our meeting with Jesus should leave others with an appetite to meet Him as well – that’s clear to me!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
These first seven verses of Luke 2 tell us about the birth of Jesus – they also properly introduce us to the man who would be his earthly Father, Jospeh. As I’ve read these few verses, I keep hearing the words “humble & wise”. Joseph could have walked away from Mary, but instead he chose to remain with her and raise her unborn child as his own. He chose to put aside what others would have been thinking and saying to him about Mary and the baby. He chose to take Mary as his family, and register her as his family as part of the census. To literally stand up and be counted for what he believed in…
Would I do the same if put into a situation similar to this? To truly put my life on the line for my faith. To partner God, even if I couldn’t see what the outcome would be?
Written by Mandy Miller
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[b]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
God answers their question “What then is this child going to be?” (v66), and this time Zechariah doesn’t doubt. He speaks those words out in a beautiful testimony about John and the authority with which he would testify about Jesus.
The first third is about what God is doing through Jesus. He says God has come, has redeemed, has raised up salvation (all past tense), although Jesus has not been born yet and it is still many years until Jesus will complete the redemption on the cross. God has set his plan in motion so the outcome is certain.
The second part is about God’s demonstrated faithfulness in rescuing his people so that they could serve Him in holiness and righteousness.
The last part is about John’s part in all this: speaking for God, preparing the way, and making His salvation known. And this because Jesus “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us”.
The challenge for me is to make my purpose and significance, my blessing, like John’s: mostly about Jesus and about God’s faithfulness and a bit about the part I will play in what God is doing.
After this fabulous blessing, John had more than a quarter of a century of growing and becoming strong in the spirit before the time was right for him to appear publicly. God’s timing was all important for John’s role to testify about Jesus. God’s timing is vital for me too.
Written by David Cornell
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
As I read this passage I am arrested by the fact that as soon as Zechariah could speak again, he was praising God. I wonder how I would have behaved in a similar situation? If I had been struck dumb a year previously, what would have been the first words out of my mouth? Would I have wanted to take the first opportunity to explain to everyone around me what had happened to me? Would I have wanted to complain about the fact that I hadn’t been able to speak for a year or so? Would I have wanted to tell everyone the destiny of my son that had been foretold by an angelic visitation? I wonder what my first words would have been?
Zechariah’s first words are praises towards God. I imagine some of that is relief at being able to speak again. However, I do believe that Zechariah has had some time to think about Gabriel’s visit and about how everything that had been foretold so far had come true. I think Zechariah would have been experiencing a profound sense of awe and excitement over seeing the rest of the prophecy fulfilled in the life of his son.
“Lord, regardless of my situation, whether good or bad or indifferent, may my first words be ones of praise towards you.”
Written by Jen Irving
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Mary has seen the evidence of the angel’s words to Elizabeth and has moved into a fuller belief of the truth of what God is doing in her life. She is not dismayed by the many possible negative implications – rejection by others for being pregnant out of wedlock – but is overcome by praise for God. She starts with praise for what He’s done in her own life, and moves into praise for His hand over the nations and His promises.
Do I look for the positive in life’s challenges? I am encouraged by this passage to remember God’s promises and recognise his hand in my life more, and to ‘let my hair down’ in praise for Him.
Written by Megan Cornell
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary goes to Elizabeth her cousin’s house.
Both women are pregnant, Elizabeth with John the Baptist, Mary with
Elizabeth, with seemingly no prior knowledge speaks to Mary telling her
of the blessing her child will be.
Her final statement “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord
would do what He said” is a statement of transforming power. Think of
it, blessing comes as a result of obedience. Straight forward, powerful,
principled and essential for us.
Father, help me to live a life of obedience to your Word, for then I am
in the place of blessing.
Written by Richard Botta
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
“For no word from God will ever fail.” Lk 1:37
I remember that I am favoured too because God has shown me grace – His unmerited favour.
Where am I resisting God’s call and holding onto the ideas and plans I have for my life, instead of surrendering to what He wants for me?
What words has he spoken over me? They will not fail. They will prosper.
I am Your servant. May it be to me according to Your word. Lk 1:38
Written by Lyndall Gourlay
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
The story of faithful Zechariah and Elizabeth is a beautiful account of what happened in the lead up to the birth of Jesus. The account of John the Baptist’s parents gives amazing insight into the way that God can relate to children: Verse 15 says that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” even before he is born! What a revelation of God’s presence in the life of a child. It is my prayer that more children would know God the Holy Spirit from even before their birth.
The challenge to me in verse 20, is that Zechariah did not believe the words of the angel Gabriel, even though it is recorded that he is righteous man, and one who has lived in service as a priest. If a man of this calibre doubts such an encouraging promise, will I have the faith to believe God when he calls me?
Written by Justin Ware
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke begins the account of his gospel, not discounting the work of others but rather wanting to add to it. A decision he made to investigate, find eyewitnesses & verify everything so that Theophilus – (whether a friend, employer or Roman official is unsure) – would know the truth about Jesus. Who Jesus was, what He did & why He did it. What an amazing undertaking … the time & lengths Luke went to get this done we’ll never know but Jesus & the Gospel were so important to him that he wanted to make sure he left an accurate record for Theophilus and ultimately for us.
What a challenge to me … Would I be prepared to do the same for those in my life who know only in part or do not know at all about Jesus?
Written by Suzie Hodgson
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
PO Box 2744,
Carlingford NSW 2118
7:00 PM Youth Service
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118
Service times 9:30am & 5:30pm
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118