RAF: We are not called to a “blind faith” as is assumed by some. We believe in a God who is as obvious as the physical universe He created to reveal Himself. And one who inserted Himself into the affairs of men. One who walked among us, and whose history is as documentable as our own, since it is bound up with our own. It is THIS Jesus we are asked to believe in. That we might have certainty.
2 – “And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:18-19, ESV)
RAF: Gabriel’s “I am Gabriel” trumps Zechariah’s “I am an old man.” “I stand in the presence of the Lord” trumps, “my wife is advanced in years.” Some realities truly do transcend others. That Christ is on the throne, and works for us an eternal weight of glory through our suffering, really does trump all the evils of life.
3 – “After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”” (Luke 1:24-25, ESV)
RAF: The sacredness and profundity of some things makes an awed silence more appropriate than loud reveling. See: 2 Cor. 12. We have no record of Paul ever relating these experiences for 14 years.
4 – “And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”” (Luke 1:34, ESV)
RAF: The uniqueness of Mary shows itself here. Zechariah wanted proof “how shall I KNOW this?” Mary wants information, simply “how WILL this be?” Gabriel’s very different responses show how differently these each responded.
5 – “And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called.” (Luke 1:62, ESV)
RAF: The need to make signs indicates he was most likely without hearing at this point as well. He had 9 months in silence to contemplate all that was taking place.
6 – “and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”” (Luke 2:24, ESV)
RAF: See: Leviticus 12:8. This was the sacrifice of the poor.
7 – “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”” (Luke 2:33-35, ESV)
RAF: Most people are not aware of the presence, depth or severity of their enmity with God, until they are confronted with the Exclusivity, Supremacy, Divinity and Lordship of Christ Jesus.
8 – “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38, ESV)
RAF: “Redemption” here carries a complex reality. God had made it clear in the Law that the Jews would be governed by others as a result of rebelling against Him. Here they were, occupied by Rome. Some were only looking for the Roman yoke to be broken. Others knew the sin behind it needed to be dealt with as well. Often, we want God to work in our circumstances, never imagining that we might have sin that is directly tied to the bondage we feel elsewhere.
9 – “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51, ESV)
RAF: How humble our God is. Given the circumstances, the realities of His incarnation, the Lord of glory, the One who created the womb that had given Him birth; The One who at this very moment was sustaining the lives of His own earthly parents; The infinitely holy and perfect God – found it reasonable to remain submissive to His merely human inferiors. And for us, wives find it unimaginable to be submitted to their husbands. Children find it unbearable to be submitted to their parents. Men find it unreasonable to be submitted to ecclesiastical or even civil authorities. We chafe at submission of any kind. Father, give us the Spirit of Christ. Who though God in human flesh, didn’t grasp after His divinity, but humbled Himself. May we find such ease on all your arrangements in life. May we sweetly submit to You, who love us beyond our wildest imaginations.
10 – “And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”” (Luke 3:10-14, ESV)
RAF: One would have thought John would tell the Tax Collectors, they must leave that profession. Or at least the Soldiers. But not so. Christianity is to lead us to live Christ wherever life finds us. It is not the circumstances themselves, but how we live in them. Do we discharge our responsibilities with honor before the Lord? Many recoil at having to work secular jobs, imagining that this is somehow inferior service. But is is in fact letting light shine in the darkness. Shine, bloom, live Christ – where you are.
11 – “As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” (Luke 3:15-17, ESV)
RAF: The picture, (w/v-9) is that judgment is at hand. God’s wrath is about to be poured out. What prevents it? One last, final atonement. Christ WILL come again to carry out that wrath. The next time He appears it will be “not to deal with sin” (Heb. 9:28) but to save us from the wrath He brings on sin. But He has forestalled it while the Gospel goes out. Had He not come, had judgment not been addressed, God could have been accused of injustice. (Rom. 3:25) Christ is sent in part to clear the Father of such a charge – when in His mercy, He has been so amazingly patient. See: Acts 17.30
12 – “ And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”” (Luke 4:42-43, ESV)
RAF: What a priority here is placed upon the Gospel. To those who came with sicknesses, infirmities, or loved ones afflicted or demon possessed, it must have been hard to comprehend why He would make the preaching of this message in other places more important than their immediate or “felt” needs. But one may enter Heaven without a foot, blind, deaf or leprous. One cannot enter Heaven without hearing, believing and obeying the Gospel. He knows, and intends to meet our deepest need above all. Not merely the need we would find most pressing. How good He is to deny us our ways at times, in order to fulfill His own.
13 – “And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”” (Luke 5:5, ESV)
RAF: Here is the clearest and most succinct exposition of faith. It reasons in the face of everything else “but at your word.” It does not groundlessly hope. It does not pluck its expectation from the air. It is not the product of imagination, or a contrived desire. We cannot have faith regarding that which God has not said. No. It roots itself firmly in one place: What God HAS said.
14 – “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:13, ESV)
RAF: There is nothing beyond God’s power. The question to be resolved is only – is He willing? And I believe He is far more willing, more often than any of us dare to believe. Oh that we would trust Him. That we would go to Him with all things. That we would prove Him to see how willing He really is! But that we would do so, first, fully convinced that He is able.
15 – “When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”” (Luke 5:22-24, ESV)
RAF: They could do neither. He could do both.
16 – “ And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20, ESV)
RAF: The point isn’t that there is some inherent blessing in BEING poor, but that poverty is no bar to inheriting and entering the Kingdom of God. It is not a club for social elites. It belongs to all who believe – irrespective of such considerations.
17 – “ “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:27-31, ESV)
RAF: Heavenly Father, that we might truly learn to live so unrestrained, ungoverned by these earthly concerns. That we give away our goods not because the others are worthy to receive them, but because they are not of any real worth to us! That Christ might be our all, in truth, and not just in word. I want to live this freely.