Three weeks ago I began a journey through the Gospel of Luke. Many brave folks joined with me to read 6 chapters per week of Luke before moving on to 7 chapters of Acts. It has been an incredible journey. I’ve loved every interaction with each of you who are reading along, even if we aren’t going at the same pace. The pace I’m setting has us finishing Luke in the coming week.
One observation that stuck out this time through has been the extent of Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation. He is demonstrating the mercy of God by feeding the hungry, welcoming the outcasts, and freeing the oppressed. His day-to-day actions affirm that God sees every human as valuable. By entering into this world, Jesus demonstrates God’s willingness to enter the muck and mire to pursue each and every one of us. We are that loved. You and I can’t fully imagine what it would be like to step out of the perfection of heaven and enter into this fallen world. God is the one living being who knows the beauty and perfection of this world before it was tainted by sin. He chose to enter this broken place for you. That’s how much we are loved.
In the first eighteen chapters, I have not seen Jesus turn His back on a single person. His invitation is always the same…follow me. The invitation is open to the poor and rich alike. Smelly fishermen and corrupt tax collectors. His arms are open to the outcast and unclean. Religious leaders and soldiers. It’s even open to people who will ultimately betray Him. All are welcome. But following Him means trusting Him…not only trust Him with eternity, but with every day of this life, too. Following Him means we trust His plans for today, setting aside our own ambition. He becomes our deepest desire and greatest love. He is our Lord. We’re stubborn, though, and obedience is hard. In these chapters we’ve seen person after person turn from Him. Those people understand the cost and are honest. How many of us say the words necessary to fit in Christian circles but cling to our own stubborn pride on the inside? How many think they trust Jesus’s plan for their eternal destiny and yet aren’t trusting Him with His plan for their life today? What’s interesting is that I’ve not once seen Jesus demand perfection from anyone. But His call to trust Him is not something that can be done halfheartedly. To trust at all, we must trust completely.
Next, I see the ministry of Jesus is one of both reconciliation and liberation. When Luke mentions “the poor,” the term broadly includes not just those with little money, but also the prisoners, disabled, oppressed, hungry, mournful, persecuted, and sick. Not only is there material poverty, but spiritual poverty as well. The rich ruler in Luke 18 has every material thing he could ever need, but turns away from Jesus. He is spiritually empty, but refuses to take a handout.
Following Jesus brings with it the continuation of His ministry of liberation. Every person on earth is either participating in liberation or in need of it. Followers of Jesus commit to participate in this mission. If you think you’re a Christian but aren’t actively participating in both demonstrating the mercy of God and actively working to liberate the poor and oppressed, it is likely you’re spiritually impoverished and in need of your own liberation. Don’t be like the rich young ruler…grab hold of the outstretched hand of Jesus. Follow Him.
While the ministry of liberation is important, when it is not accompanied by the message of reconciliation with God, it is ultimately meaningless. If we solved world hunger, freed all slaves in the world, stopped all wars, and ended racism completely, we would have successfully made this “a better world to go to hell from,” (to quote Adrian Rogers). Jesus has His eye both on today and on eternity and we must as well.
As I reflected on this week, I imagined my two feet on this path of discipleship. One foot is the proclamation of the Gospel. The other is the work of liberation…ending oppression and seeking justice. It takes both feet to follow Jesus. If we only do one or the other, we don’t move. Jesus is always on the move. To follow Him, we must know, grow, seek, and serve.
If you haven’t started reading Luke yet, go ahead and open it up. You can join me in chapter 19 (which is a great place to jump in) or start with chapter 1. See how far you get in 15 minutes. Check in and let me know how it goes.