Monday, February 8
Week One of 42 Days through the Good News according to Luke
Over the 42 days of Leap of Faith, we will walk together through the entire story of the ministry of Jesus, at least as it is told by Luke. Luke was an outsider, a Gentile in the all–Jewish cast of New Testament writers. He is telling the story for those on the outside….us. He is letting “outsiders” know they are welcomed in by none other than Jesus. He has good news He wants to share
Each day’s guide is broken into three sections:
- THE STORY FOR THE DAY. For your convenience, we’ve included the text of the story in the New Living Translation (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996). For this guide, we’ve found this translation to be in fresh, modern language that has really helped us to do what we most want to do: enter into the story ourselves. As you read the passage, try to read it from the perspective of the disciples and the other people who interact with Jesus. Really get inside the story. What is it like to go through this experience with Jesus?
- POINTS OF INTEREST. This section briefly explores aspects of the day’s story that might be especially interesting or potentially confusing. It offers some historical notes and references that helps interpret the story, frames some of the issues or questions addressed, and gives suggestions of ways to look at the story and what it might mean for us.
- TAKING IT HOME. In this section, we offer some suggestions for how the day’s reading might apply to you, to your Six, and to our church.
Introducing the book of Luke
The book of Luke is one of the four biblical gospels. Gospel is a word from Old English, which simply means “good news.” The gospel writers told their stories in order to share the good news about Jesus’ coming, His life, His teaching, His death, and His resurrection.
The book of Luke is part of a two-volume set with another biblical book, the book of Acts, which goes on to tell the story of the early church after Jesus’ death. The author never gives his own name, but from very early in church history the book of Luke and Acts have been ascribed to (no big surprise here) Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, a famous early follower of Jesus who was largely responsible for spreading the good news of Jesus to Europe. Luke was part of a small company who worked with Paul, sharing the good news and starting churches throughout the Mediterranean world. Luke was a medical doctor by profession, and he was almost certainly the only non-Jewish author of the New Testament (and quite possibly of the entire Bible). The audience for Luke may have been cultured, highly-educated Greeks (Greek was the dominant culture of the eastern Roman empire): he writes in the same formal historical style that was fashionable in Greek society at the time. There is some evidence that Luke intended his writings for wide publication: the Gospel of Luke and Acts are almost exactly the same length, which happens to be the length that was common in scrolls used for publication (IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 187: InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1993).
Luke’s gospel was probably written after Mark’s gospel, another of the four biblical gospels, and is apparently based upon it. Luke follows the same basic storyline as Mark, and about 40 percent of the material is drawn directly from Mark. But Luke also has much material that isn’t found in any of the other gospels. Luke’s unique contributions show up particularly in his stories about Jesus’ birth and the teachings of Jesus he shares with us. Perhaps because he is outside of Jewish society himself, he also shows a particular concern for Jesus’ interaction with people who would be outsiders in ancient Jewish society: non-Jews, women, and the poor.
Monday, February 8
Luke 1:1-25 —The Birth of John the Baptist foretold
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled 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. 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 well advanced in years. 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 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back 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.”
Points of Interest:
- (v.1) “Many have undertaken”—Luke is not the only or the first person to write the stories of Jesus. It seems that one of Luke’s motivations for his own writing is to collect everything he has been taught into a single, orderly history.
- (v. 3) “I myself have carefully investigated everything”—like any good historian today, Luke relies on primary sources and careful research. For instance, the very intimate tone of the stories involving Mary make it probable that Luke heard some of the early stories directly from her, or from someone who knew her well.
- (v.3) “most excellent Theophilus”— The aptly named Theophilus (“god-lover” in Greek) was probably his patron and sponsor. “Most excellent” is a technical title indicating that Theophilus is part of the Roman nobility (IVP Bible Background Commentary 187)
- (v.5) “was also a descendant of Aaron”—Elizabeth is from a priestly family. Jewish priests were all descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. The priests were in charge of the worship ceremonies at the temple in Jerusalem.
- (v.7) “But they were childless”— Elizabeth is part of a small but significant group of devout women in scripture who are not able to have children until long after all natural hope of becoming pregnant is gone. The first among these women is Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who, like Elizabeth, does not have a child until she is beyond child-bearing years. Other members of the club are Rachel (Genesis 29 and 30), Hannah (I Samuel 1 and 2), and the unnamed mother of Samson (Judges 13). The stories of these previous miracle mothers will be referred to numerous times during Luke’s account of the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary.
- (v.15) “He is never to take wine or other fermented drink”—this is just like the instructions given before Samson’s birth (Judges 13:4)
- (v.17) “in the spirit and power of Elijah”—Elijah is a great prophet from Israel’s history, known for calling the people of Israel back to the worship of God when they had turned away to other gods. He will be like Elijah in his calling and in the power he receives from God to pursue it.
- (v.23) “taken away my disgrace”—Elizabeth is quoting her predecessor Rachel (Genesis 30:23). Finally, the stigma has been erased; there will be no more lurking suspicions that she is being punished by God.
Taking it home:
- For you: Luke’s hope for Theophilus was that reading Luke’s history would give Theophilus greater certainty in his belief in Jesus. As you begin your own reading of this history, ask God that it would be a faith-growing experience. Are there particular ways that you need assurance about Jesus? Consider mentioning those things specifically to God. Ask that you would get the assurance you need sometime in the next forty days.
- For your Six: Do any of your Six have a deep desire that has long gone unfulfilled? Ask God to show His care for them by satisfying their longing.
- For our church/ILTJ: Zechariah is performing an old religious ritual when it suddenly and surprisingly takes on new life. Pray for our church to encounter Jesus in our services instead of a religious ritual. Ask that the spiritual practices that we do habitually would come alive with fresh and vibrant new connections with Jesus.
- To Talk About: “Your prayer has been heard” – I wonder how long ago Zachariah prayed the prayer asking God for a child. Zachariah had a hard time believing this prayer was now finally being answered. One of the hardest things to do is trust that God hears our prayers, especially when it seems like they aren’t being answered in the way we want or as fast as we want. But, we can trust that even if our specific prayers aren’t answered in our preferred timing or in the way we think they should be, they have been heard by God. We know for sure they can’t be answered if we don’t ask.
- To Do: For this first day of Leap of Faith, have each person in your family take a piece of paper and write down or draw a picture of a specific prayer request. Tape them up someplace where you can see them and say a prayer every day for 42 days for that request. Start now by saying a prayer together for what you have written on your papers and thank God that, like Zachariah’s, your prayers have been heard.