2011 was a bad year for many of us! We lost jobs, suffered illness, felt betrayed by friends, struggled through financial crisis, were disappointed by leaders, and are hoping that 2012 will be kinder to us. Is that likely? Here are my New Year predictions. The first is brutal reality: The world won’t get better in 2012. As Christ’s return approaches, “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13) So don’t count on the nightly news being your formula for sound sleep. I don’t put much stock in it, but the Mayan calendar actually predicts the end of the world in 2012. So we may be in for another rough ride! But I also have great hope as we face the future, for I’ve put my faith in a Great Savior who says, “In the world you will have tribulation but take heart, I have overcome the world,” “My grace is sufficient for you,” for “as your days, so shall your strength be.” (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 12:9; Deut. 33:25)
Luke’s Portrait of Jesus: Savior (pt 1)
In my last few posts, I’ve described the portraits painted of Jesus by the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew wrote to persuade the Jews that Jesus is their long-awaited King. Mark wrote to the Romans picturing Jesus as the Servant of God endowed with all power from on high. But Luke, whose book is the focus of this post, approaches his subject from a different angle. He was an evangelist to the Greeks offering them a fully human Savior who suffered like we suffer, but also has the power and compassion to save us from the evil of this world. To do that, he gives us 3 reasons why Jesus came to earth:
1) To Partake of Humanity. Ancient Greek history is based on myth. Read Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey and you’ll find gods like Zeus and Apollo empowering heroes like Achilles and Ajax to perform superhuman feats. The problem with his writings is that it’s impossible to tell fact from fiction. Luke doesn’t want us to make that mistake about Jesus. From the opening of his gospel, he assures us of its historical accuracy and the humanity of Jesus. “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus (meaning ‘lover of God’), so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4) In other words, his gospel is no myth. It’s a record we can trust written by one of the first true historians who carefully investigated everything he wrote.
The facts Luke includes also leave no doubt about Jesus’ humanity. He is no god come down from Mt. Olympus pretending to be one of us. Though His Father is God and His mother was a virgin, He is fully human. Luke spells out the details of His birth from the angel’s announcement to Mary and the shepherds to His manger cradle and circumcision in the Temple. (Luke 2:1-24) Luke’s genealogy is also important. Matthew traces His lineage back to Abraham the first Hebrew, but Luke stresses His humanness by tracing his family tree back to Adam the first human. (Luke 3:23-38) Nor does he picture Him as a superhero impervious to pain. Now that He’s risen and ascended to heaven, He’s invincible, but not in His days on earth. He was as vulnerable to suffering as you. This is the hallmark of Luke’s gospel – the weakness of Christ. He hungered, He grew tired, and at one point wasn’t strong enough to carry His cross. (Luke 4:2; 8:23; 23:26). But He was weak for our sake. He became a man in order to live a perfect life in our place, give us His righteousness as a gift, and die on a cross for our sins.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death… he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:14-18)
Let this be your encouragement whatever trials you face in the year ahead. Jesus became a real human being to sympathize with your suffering, to take away your fear in the midst of it, to help you overcome it, and to forgive you when you give up in unbelief. As Charles Spurgeon put it, “You can look and study and weigh the evidence, but Jesus is a greater Savior than you think Him to be when your thoughts are at their greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are to sin, more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your needs than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.” For Jesus is an incomparably great Savior!
(In my next post, I’ll focus on two more reasons Luke gives us for Jesus becoming human – to provide an example and to purchase our salvation.)