Immanuel Voices
March 27, 2018, 10:39 AM

THE PARDONING WORD, LUKE 23:34A


Theme Verse

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 

Love for Enemies

27“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-36

 

The first reading comes from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain (see Luke 6:17), which functions in Luke much as the Sermon on the Mount functions in Matthew. It introduces the disciples and us to the nature of Christ’s kingdom. After setting up the theme of the great reversal in the Beatitudes and woes, our Lord goes on to show the greatest reversal of all: that in His kingdom, under His reign, those who hear Him (His disciples), are called to do the amazingly unthinkable: to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, to bless those who curse them, to pray for those who abuse them, and to give to those who would steal from them and not demand payment back from those who beg from them.

Christ points out that being kind in return for kindness is no mark of sanctity but a common heathen virtue. The mark of sanctity in His kingdom will be in concrete expressions of love and care for those who treat us poorly.

Everything inside us, in our fallen nature, rebels against this and thinks it is impossible and certainly undesirable. The fear that rises up in the old Adam is that if he does not guard and protect himself and his own rights and turfs, he will lose them. Our Lord is at pains to teach us

what a lie this is—it is BY protecting himself, guarding his rights and turfs that the old Adam is guaranteed to lose them all: “For whoever would save his life will lose it” (Luke 9:24).

The Lord wants to open our eyes to see a whole new way of living—a way of living that He will vindicate by His cross and resurrection. A life where judging and condemning are renounced and replaced by giving and forgiving. A life of love for the enemy that prays for those who persecute. The astonishing revelation is that such a life is indestructible. True, our Lord died upon the cross. But HE LIVES! His trust in the Father’s vindication of such a life of sacrifice and love was totally justified.

 

 

32"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." Luke 23:32-34

 

It is no accident that precisely as the crucifixion is beginning, as the nails are being driven into our Lord’s hands and feet, He prays to the Father for our forgiveness. And curiously, the answer to the prayer is in the pounding of the nails and the raising of the cross. God forgives by providing us a sacrifice of atonement, and that sacrifice is His Son.

That Jesus prays for this forgiveness is significant. He renounces before His Father the right of vengeance for which He could have justly prayed. This renunciation manifests the whole of His life: He will not deal with us by paying out what we have deserved—not unless we insist upon that. He wishes to show mercy, and the mercy takes the form of prayer. So it will be in our lives too. Too often we focus the prayer on ourselves: “Oh God, give me the strength to forgive so and so for what they did to me.” But this is not how Jesus prayed or how He teaches us to pray. Instead, we pray: “Father, forgive. Father, bless. Father, pour out the gifts of heaven upon them.”

To live with Christ and in Him, is to live in a kingdom of forgiveness. There is no more scorekeeping—tallying the wrongs done to us, demanding that they be paid for. Rather, there is the joy of not keeping score on others just as God does not on us. The blood of His Son has blotted out not only our sins, but the sins of the world—including those that we have suffered from. So when we suffer hurt and sorrow, we rejoice that we can walk the way of our Savior and pray for those who wrong us. Forgiven, we become forgivers ourselves. This is to live with Christ.

 

*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource




March 27, 2018, 12:00 AM

THE PROMISING WORD


"And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

 

The Parable of the Lost Son

 13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15: 11-32

 

The connection between the prodigal son and the penitent thief is one that many people miss. Both are about the welcome accorded the penitent who turns to Christ for mercy. The prodigal son wanted freedom. He hated life in the father’s house and imagined that he would be truly free if he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. No doubt he had a good time at first, but he soon discovered where such a life of satisfying every craving leads: to bondage to one’s appetites and finally to poverty and misery. It is a guaranteed way to misery in this world: just give yourself whatever you want.

 

As his life came crashing down around his head, he began to realize something that had been gnawing at him for some time—there were days he felt it more keenly than others, but it never really left him. He missed home. Not just the comforts of home (though those too!), but the people of home. His father. He missed his father after all. And so the moment of repentance, which is always a grace of God.

 

It is when he looked the pig slop in the face and turned away from it that he started heading home. He had no clue how much he had been missed. For the father sees him a great way off and runs, literally runs, to welcome him back home. His beloved child, back from the dead—the dead is the far country away from the Father, trying to have life on our own terms. The child is given many gifts, though perhaps one of the most important is the “ring on his hand.” Many speculate that this was a signet ring. In effect, the father handed over the family credit card to the child who had just wasted half of his fortune!

 

The older brother distances himself: “This son of yours” (not “my brother”). He feels used and abused. But the father is not indignant with him. He is tender. He describes their true treasure: “You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Always with me. That is paradise. That is home. That is the gift the father wants for all his children. Lent is about coming home and finding the Father’s arms waiting to embrace and hold us. To the father it never was about the fortune; it was about living together. Jesus tells the story to help the Pharisees understand something of the joy that goes on in His Father’s heart when a person repents.

 

39"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!'

40"But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don’t you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.'

42"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'

43"Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'" Luke 23:39-43

 

 

When we come to the end of our lives, we become one thief or the other. We will either rail against God and cry out: “Not fair! I shouldn’t be dying! Why can’t you save me from this? What good is a God who can’t get me off the cross?” Or we will admit that we are only getting what our deeds have asked for all along, and in repentant faith look upon our Crucified King and ask Him to remember us in His Kingdom. And then we, too, will hear from His lips that word of incredible grace: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

 

Paradise. The home God made for us at the beginning. Eden. It was a place where there was no fear because there was no death. There was no sin, and so no suffering. It was a place of perfect freedom because God was there. It was home in the deepest and most profound sense of that word. And we lost that home. The ache for it haunts humanity across the centuries. We seem to realize—even those who know nothing of the faith—that there has got to be more than just the years of our earthly pilgrimage. We were meant for more than that. We have a home, but we no longer know where it is or how to get to there.

 

God has had compassion on us, though. He has given His Son to be the way, the truth, and the life, so that we can come to the Father through Him and only through Him. He is the door to home—the entrance to paradise.

 

The thief comes with nothing in his hand to offer. He knows he deserves death and worse, and he can only beg for mercy and confess that the Crucified One really is a King. He confesses that, unlike us, Christ has done nothing wrong. He confesses that Christ has a kingdom and asks only to be remembered. He, and all who pray like this with him, receive the promise. “In My Father’s house there are many rooms.”

 

Jesus had told the disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” That place is the paradise that Scripture hints at so gloriously in Revelation 21 and 22. Whatever else it may be, it is being with Christ, and that is what makes it paradise.

 

Since the day Adam and Eve were shown the door of Paradise, humanity has experienced a profound sense of loss, of yearning, of aching for a home and a place we no longer even fully understand. Like the prodigal son or the thief on the cross, when we stop running from God and by the Holy Spirit’s power turn toward home, we discover that Jesus’ sacrifice has secured for us a Father’s welcome and embrace, a place with Jesus Himself, which is paradise. We have a home after all, and it is waiting for us. Lent is the Church’s call: Arise, let us go to the Father!

 

 

*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource




November 29, 2017, 8:19 AM

DAILY INSPIRATION: GOD IS FOR US, PART 3


Thank you for taking a few important moments to be inspired and grow in your walk with Christ. May these moments take you one step closer to hearing Jesus say to you, "Well done, Good and Faithful Servant."

 


 

 

 

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” -Matthew 6:26 ESV

 

Thought for Today

Have you ever stopped to watch the animals around you? They do not worry about their next meal, they simply look around for where God has chosen to put it, maybe in your bird feeder, and trust that it will be there. Animals seem to have simple faith. Jesus calls us to have that kind of simple trust, too. After all, you are worth much more to God than a sparrow or a squirrel!

 

Prayer

God my Provider, I am so blessed by Your daily care, which I confess I do not often notice. Help me to trust that Your provision is sufficient for me today and in all my tomorrows. Amen.

 

Devotional Quote

"Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you." -–Jesus

 

Quote of the Day

"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears." –-Les Brown

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