Posts Tagged With: rescue

Luke 1: A Worshipful Response

Major things happen in this long first chapter.  God starts moving again.  Remember this follows four hundred years of divine silence.  Angels appear.  Temple worship is interrupted.  Signs and miracles occur.  Babies are conceived in unlikely and unnatural ways.  God is on the move and it is BIG!

All of this action has a point:

He [John] will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (1:16)

He [Jesus] will be a great man, and he’ll be called the son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.  His kingdom will never come to an end. (1:32-33)

He [God] has rescued his servant, Israel his child. (1:54a)

Blessed be the Lord, Israel’s God!  He’s come to his people and bought them their freedom.  He’s raised up a horn of salvation for us. . . . Salvation from our enemies, rescue from hatred, mercy to our ancestors. . . . Letting his people know of salvation, through the forgiveness of all their sins. (1:68-69a, 71-72, 77)

God moves so as to save, to bless, to rule, and to redeem.

“Magnificat,” Maulbertsch

So, how do you respond when God starts doing magnificent things in your life?  Just like Elizabeth, Mary, and Zechariah: you worship!

Elizabeth:  Elizabeth was filled with the holy spirit, and shouted at the top of her voice: “Of all women, you’re the blessed one!” (1:41b-42)

Mary:  My soul declares that the Lord is great, My spirit exults in my savior, my God. (1:46-47)

Zechariah: Immediately his mouth and his tongue were unfastened, and he spoke, praising God. . . . “He swore an oath to Abraham our father, to give us deliverance from fear and from foes, so we might worship him.” (1:73-74)

Over what in your life right now can you worship?

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Matthew 10: The Crown & The Cross

How will we know when God’s Kingdom has come?  What will it look like?

Jesus tells us in this passage:

As you go, declare publicly that the kingdom of heaven has arrived.  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse people with skin diseases, cast out demons. (10:7-8)

As we progressively fill out our understanding of the “kingdom” Jesus was talking about, this passage is immensely helpful.  Kingdom has very little to do with what takes place in a church building.  Here we see that “kingdom” describes a state in which a person lives.  Kingdom-life is marked by wholeness.  Kingdom-life is when all is as it should be.  When Kingdom arrives in a person’s life, oppression is ended, provision is present, cleanliness is restored, dead things others had given up on are brought back to life, and hope returns.  Now that sounds like a kind of life to preach about!

But before we can enjoy life under the Crown, we must take up our Cross:

Anyone who doesn’t pick up their cross and follow after me doesn’t deserve me.  If you find your life you’ll lose it, and if you lose your life because of me you’ll find it. (10:38-39)

There is very little in this chapter that makes sense apart from the principle in this passage.  Jesus is sending his disciples out into Judea to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6).  He warns them sternly that their mission is not an easy one.  It will be subsistence living.  Dangerous people will surround them.  They will be dragged into court on trumped-up charges.  Their work will even bring strife in their own families from those who can’t accept their new calling.

God will provide for them.  And there are worse things than suffering physically for the Kingdom.  But if the crowds can’t all accept Jesus, why do they think the crowds will accept them, his servants?

The disciple isn’t greater than the teacher; the slave isn’t greater than the master. (10:24)

Jesus wears the crown of his kingdom today.  But first he had to take up his cross at Calvary.

We his disciples will have to do the same.

What crosses must we take up today? 

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Acts 23: Rescued by Rome

Seemingly insignificant things can end up making a world of difference when God is concerned.

Paul is born in Tarsus in Cilicia making him a Roman citizen.  He is born a Jew, and it clear from today’s passage that it is this Jewish heritage that mattered most to Paul’s family.  These were Pharisees, apparently a long line of them (23:6).  Paul’s father will go to the expense and trouble to get him to Jerusalem to train under Gamaliel the Pharisee (22:3).  This is a good education.  By all of his own accounts scattered throughout Acts and his letters, it is this Jewish background that Paul gloried in.

And yet in today’s reading it is Paul’s Roman citizenship that makes all the difference between life and death.  The Jews are ready to tear him “in pieces” (23:10).  A gang of Jewish extremists have pledged not to eat or drink until they kill Paul (23:12).  An assassination plot is hatched (23:15).  But leave it to the Jews and Paul is as good as dead.

Ancient Roman Citizenship Diploma

It is because of his Roman citizenship that the Roman tribune is involved at this point.  The tribune’s greatest desire is simply to preserve peace, but he ends up protecting Paul nonetheless.  The tribune’s palace guard whisks Paul out of the fomenting Sanhedrin.  The Roman respect for law ensures Paul a fair trial.  An army of two hundred foot soldiers and seventy horsemen escort Paul out of Jerusalem and off to a Caesarean prison, and safety as well.  Ultimately, it is Paul’s Roman citizenship that will bring him to Rome so he can give his “testimony about [Jesus] in . . . Rome” (23:11).  Bottomline:

When I [the tribune] learned that he was a Roman citizen I went with the guard and rescued him. (23:27)

Where one is born is not nearly as important as what one does once one is born.  And yet Paul’s place of birth is what rescues him at this moment.

What seemingly insignificant detail from your life has turned out to have made a world of difference?

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Acts 12: Rescued!

I have never noticed before today how similar this account of the near-death and rescue of Peter is to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

  • Both face one of the Herods
  • Both are arrested around the time of the Passover
  • The arrest of each is preceded by the killing of a previously popular leader: John the Baptist and James
  • Both Herods are motivated by placating the Jewish people
  • Jesus hung between two criminals, while Peter was chained between two soldiers
  • Jesus escaped the tomb; Peter escaped a prison and iron city gate
  • Once freed, both go to a “Mary” first
  • The reunion with friends is incomplete in both accounts: people run off to tell others, and Jesus and Peter both tell someone to tell significant disciples about their return
  • The guards in both accounts are put to death for their perceived negligence

The interesting point is that while both stories are so similar, the fate of each was quite differently: Jesus died but Peter was spared.

Nonetheless, God’s will is done in each story.  It was God’s will for Jesus to die on that day.  Presumably, it was God’s will for Peter to live another day.  Both served God’s greater goals — to die for all and to continue preaching and leading the early church — but in different ways.

We can rest in an assurance that God will bring His will to pass one way or another.  Some times we will be rescued like Peter.  Sometimes we will not, like James.  But, positive or negative outcomes, God’s desires will be done.

What verse struck you in this chapter?

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