Mar. 13 – (Luke 13: 1-9) The first 5 verses are better understood with some background.  Pontius Pilate was frequently cruel and offensive to the Jewish people. There are many historical references to how Pilate crushed rebellions and tried to deter the Jewish practices. The first five verses refer to a group of Galileans on a pilgrimage who were offering sacrifices in the temple when Pilate, perhaps fearing rebellion slaughtered them.  Their blood was mixed with the blood of their sacrifices – polluting the temple on top of the human horror and tragedy of the event. It seems in bringing this news, they are asking Jesus two questions: 1. Does Jesus (as head of the Galilean pilgrimage) really intend to continue His journey?  2. What does it mean? Is this the beginning of something worse? Do their deaths signify their terrible sin (common belief at that time)?

                In the parable of the fruitless fig tree, Jesus is picturing Israel and her need for national repentance.  To what extent could this parable also apply to our nation?

                I heard an explanation about the barren fig tree parable. They were saying the reason Jesus picked the fig tree is because Adam used fig leaves to cover his shame after he sinned. Also, in the OT, a fig tree was often used to symbolize the nation of Israel (ex. Hosea 9:10), something Jesus listeners would have recognized.  How does this information change how you look at these verses?

Mar. 14 – (Luke 13:10-21) Let’s look a little closer to the parables in this passage.  To Jesus’ audience, the mustard seed was the smallest known seed to become a tree.  The mustard “tree” grows to the height of 8-12 feet. The Jews expected the kingdom to come with power, bringing God’s judgment on all evil.  Jesus’ humble beginning did not fit their perception. 

                A tiny amount of yeast can spread throughout the dough to produce a large amount of bread (any bread baker can agree with this). 3 measures would have produced enough bread to feed 100 people! How can one committed Christian with a voice, effect the “dough” he/she touches? Selah!

Mar. 15 – (Luke 13:22-35) In verses 22-30, what is Jesus’ stern warning to Israel?  We should be cautious about lifting these verses out and applying them directly to the larger question of eternal salvation.  Jesus’ urgent warnings to his own contemporaries were aimed at the particular emergency they then faced.  But we should equally be aware of assuming that it is irrelevant to such questions.  What is the warning in this section for us today? 

                In verses 31-35 news of a threat from Herod prompts Jesus to muse on his work and how it will be completed.  The image in verse 34 is of a fire in a farmyard.  Animals have developed ways of protecting their young in situations where they can’t escape.  There are stories of exactly this picture, where a hen will be found dead, scorched from a fire, but here chicks will still be alive under her wings.  How do verses 32-33 and the image of the hen combine to tell us what Jesus thinks his death is all about?  How are you affected by this picture of Jesus as the hen who gives her life for her chicks?

Mar. 16 – (Luke 14: 1-11) Reading an overview of chapter 14 gave me yet another deeper understanding of what the Holy Spirit is teaching me: Luke’s gospel has more mealtime scenes than all the others. His vision of Christian life from one point is a journey, from another point of view it’s a party. Some stories end with a festive meal (like the parable of the prodigal son in the next chapter). These themes come together in the Last Supper and finally, the story of the road to Emmaus in chapter 24. Luke 14 brings together 2 parables about feasting. The first one in verses 7-11 is not always recognized as a parable, because it looks more like a piece of social advice or practical wisdom.  But Jesus didn’t come to offer good advice.  What is He trying to teach you through these verses?

                There was a wider meaning in these verses for the first readers of Luke, who was writing perhaps forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Thousands of non-Jews had become Christians – had entered, that is into the dinner party prepared by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Many Jewish Christians had found this difficult to understand or approve.  They were so eager to maintain their own places at the top table that they could not grasp God’s design and grace for others. How can people in the church today exhibit a jostling for position like the Jewish Christians of Luke’s day did?

                DID YOU KNOW?  Too late for excuses. Planning a banquet was complicated and expensive.  Two invitations were sent.  The first would have included an RSVP so the host could determine how much food to prepare.  The second would have gone out on the day of the banquet, announcing that the meal was ready.  The ungrateful guests in 14:16-24 made their excuses upon receiving the second notice, after the host had already prepared the meal.

Mar. 17 – (Luke 14: 12-24) The parable in verses 15-24 speaks to those around Jesus, to those in the church in Luke’s day and to the church today.  How is the parable a description of what Jesus has been doing up to this point within Galilee? What do you notice about the excuses people are giving for why they cannot attend the banquet? 

                What does it mean for the church today to go out into the “streets and lanes of the town” in order to bring people into the banquet?  Why is this often difficult for us to do?

Mar. 18 – (Luke 14: 25-33) Jesus takes the opportunity to spell out his condition for discipleship: total loyalty to Him.  He challenges two powerful loyalties – to family and to self (vv. 25-33).  What might be an example of Christians “hating” their families? In other words, do you love Jesus more than your family?   Even in that, what does “loving Jesus more than your family” mean?  For many years, I had that wrong.  I have repented. I thought anything involving the church and its responsibilities came first.  WRONG! It’s my relationship with the triune God that must come first. From that relationship and communion, I then know where everything else will fit in. This is a big difference!

                Jesus never sweet-talks anyone into following him.  He makes it clear that following him has a high price tag.  The two mini-parables seem to make the same point about this.  But in the second parable, what twist does he give to the same challenge? For you, what would be the cost of not following Jesus on his terms?

Mar. 19 – (Luke 14:34-35) Most salt in that area came from the Dead Sea and contained impurities.  If not processed properly, it would have a poor taste and be unusable for food.  If the conditions of discipleship (vv. 26,27,33) are not kept, the disciples likewise will become worthless (compare Rev. 3:15-17)

                LET’S PRAY: Sit for a moment in silence and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about what might be keeping you from attending the banquet, or from costly discipleship.   Ask God to forgive you where you have failed.  Ask Him to show how to “do better” in those areas. Then move on to praying about who you can invite to the banquet.