“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace’” (Luke 7:48, 50).
Many Pharisees condemned Jesus for blasphemy because He forgave people’s sins. They argued that only God could forgive sins, but they did not know all the facts. Since no one but God can forgive the sins of someone who has wronged others as well as themselves or has disobeyed and neglected God, the Pharisees seemed to be right. Except for the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, and when He came into the world as the Son of Man, God the Father had given Him authority to forgive sins. When Jesus healed a sick man, He wanted people to know that the Son of Man had authority on earth to forgive sins; so, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home” (Luke 5:24).
Radically changed lives prove that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. After Jesus forgave a sinful woman for her sins, she loved Jesus so much that she was not ashamed to wash His feet in the home of a Pharisee who would condemn her very presence. She wept and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with perfume. Jesus explained to the Pharisees that she showed so much love because He had forgiven her for all her sins. Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, throughout subsequent history Jesus has demonstrated His ability and authority to forgive sins, radically change people, and give them eternal life. After Jesus forgives them, the worse of sinners sometimes become the greatest of saints, certainly better than they were as practitioners of sin. Those who have turned in faith to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, have turned from a life of sin, and have confessed their sins to Him, receive and truly experience His lovingkindness and peace. Subsequently, they have expressed much love to Him and have told others about Him and His lovingkindness and mercy toward sinners.
“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’” (Luke 7:9).
Not all the Jewish leaders hated Jesus or wanted Him killed. Some respected Jesus as a teacher and healer. One day some synagogue elders earnestly pleaded for Jesus to heal the servant of a Roman centurion, which surprises us because most of the Jews hated the Roman army that oppressed them and occupied their nation—they eagerly expected the Messiah to come and free them from the shackles of Rome. This Roman centurion surprises us because he loved the Jewish people and had built a synagogue for their worship and study of the Scriptures. Furthermore, this high ranking Roman officer so highly respected Jesus and was so humble that he felt unworthy to come into Jesus’ presence or have Jesus come into his house. He called Jesus “Lord” in a way that meant more than just the title “Sir.” By every measure the centurion appeared to be a good man, but he did not believe his good deeds merited the attention of someone as important as Jesus. Therefore, as Jesus was on His way to his house to heal his servant, the centurion sent some friends to tell Jesus not to bother himself, because he knew that Jesus could heal his servant with a word no matter where Jesus was at the time. As a God-fearing Gentile, this centurion knew God had created the world by using words, and he attributed this same power to Jesus when he told Jesus that he believed Jesus could heal his servant by simply saying the word—Jesus did so, and He commended the faith of a Gentile, Roman, centurion. Today, believers can still trust the words of Jesus.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22).
The persecution of Christians around the world seems to be increasing, but we should never forget that Christians have suffered persecution ever since Jesus’ disciples began to do and teach what He taught them. Jesus foretold at least four ways that His followers would suffer on earth, and the fact that they have so suffered for centuries is additional proof of Jesus’ prophetic ability as the Son of Man, the promised Messiah, the Son of God. The hatred of Christians has led to a variety of ways to persecute them. Some Christians have only been excluded from the benefits others enjoy in society or at work. Other Christians have been reviled and defamed in such a way that those who believe the lies they have been told have come to hate, exclude, and persecute them too. True Christians have a personality that the Holy Spirit transforms; so, whether these Christians ever mention the name of Jesus or not, some will recognize that they are different from the world and they will bully or persecute them for being different.
Despite this world’s persecution of Christians, Jesus declared that those who follow Him will be blessed, and those who suffer for His name’s sake can rejoice and leap for joy. Why should Christians be so happy while suffering persecution? Because they know that Christians have always suffered for their faith in Jesus and their reward is great in heaven. Someday, they will see Jesus face-to-face and receive the fullness of His perfect peace and love for them. They know they will spend eternity with all those who love God the Father and Jesus. They know they will never be troubled again by those who hate God and Jesus’ followers.
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’” (Luke 6:9)
Some people go to church for the wrong reasons. When some of the scribes and Pharisees went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to hear and see Jesus, they went looking for things they could condemn and use against Him. Jesus knew why they came; they had not come to learn more truth or to worship God. He knew He could not teach them anything; they had closed their hearts and minds to Him. Jesus also knew that a man with a withered hand who needed healing had come to the synagogue, but he had not asked Jesus to do anything to help him. Jesus knew that if He helped this man the religious leadership would try to use His good deed against Him. Because they should have come to the synagogue to praise God, Jesus could have lectured those whose intentions were wrong. He could have taught, “It is lawful to do good and save life every day of the week. It is unlawful to do harm and destroy life any day of the week. When you plan to harm me, especially on the Sabbath, you are breaking the law of God.” Rather than say this, Jesus asked a commonsense question that any reasonable person would answer by saying, “It is always lawful to do good and save lives.” After these religious leaders refused to answer Him, Jesus healed the man with four simple words: “Stretch out your hand.” Those who were there for the right reasons witnessed the power of Almighty God; however, the religious leadership left with angry hearts.
“Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country” (Luke 4:14).
Jesus and the Holy Spirit worked closely together. The Holy Spirit indwelt Jesus before He was born, for the Holy Spirit overshadowed Him at His conception in the Virgin Mary, as Luke wrote in Luke 1:35 —“The angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” In chapter four of his gospel, Luke wrote that Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit after He was baptized. Jesus followed the Holy Spirit when He went to John the Baptist for baptism. Jesus also obeyed God and followed the Holy Spirit when the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where Jesus was tested by the devil. After Jesus passed every test, He remained filled with the power of the Spirit and He began His public ministry. Jesus honored His heavenly Father by doing everything the Father wanted Him to do and by living according to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Jesus honored the Holy Spirit and declared that the Holy Spirit worked within Him when He preached from the prophet Isaiah and proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18). Jesus honored His Father, the Holy Spirit, and himself by keeping His focus on doing the will of God according to the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit honored Jesus by working signs, miracles, and wonders through Him. At the conclusion of His public ministry, the Father honored Jesus when He raised Him from the dead and He ascended into heaven. Jesus’ disciples learned from listening to Jesus and from watching Jesus work in the power of the Holy Spirit. They learned the importance of obeying and trusting in God. They obeyed the teachings of Jesus; for Jesus told them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). However, they could not do Jesus’ work effectively until the Holy Spirit came and filled them on the Day of Pentecost. From that day forth they served Jesus as fearless witnesses to Jesus’ words and works.
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too’” (Luke 2:34-35).
When Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple in order to obey God’s law, they heard from God when the Holy Spirit guided Simeon to meet them. Simeon prophesied how people would respond to their child after He began His ministry. God wanted to prepare Mary for Jesus’ rejection and acceptance as the Messiah of God. We know from history that when Simeon foretold Jesus’ parents that many would fall because of Jesus that God did not mean that their Roman conquerors would fall in their lifetime. Rather, many political and religious leaders who opposed Jesus would fall further away from God, and some would lose their prominent places in the world. On the other hand, many of those the world considered poor and insignificant would follow Jesus and rise to places of prominence in the kingdom of God as apostles and prophets.
Many people learned the inner thoughts of priests, scribes, and Pharisees when they opposed Jesus. Their opposition revealed that they were more concerned with their prestige, power, and wealth than prayerfully reading the Scriptures and seeking the truth regarding Jesus’ teachings and miracles. Simeon foretold that opposition to Jesus would lead to Mary’s suffering too; however, the Holy Spirit did not reveal to them that while serving as the Messiah Jesus would suffer and die on the cross in order to save all who would trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’” (Luke 1:46-47).
The Holy Spirit inspired Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, to ask Mary, “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Luke 1:43). Through her inspired question, the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth that the child within Mary was her Lord. Mary’s first words to Elizabeth were, “My soul magnifies the Lord;” the child within her, Jesus the Messiah, was Mary’s Lord too and worthy of adoration. Mary magnified the Lord by proclaiming truths about God that would enable Elizabeth and all who would hear or read her words to see more clearly and understand with greater detail how God, the Mighty One, the holy and merciful God, would work in the world to bless and save people.
When Mary magnified the Lord, the first fact she revealed was how her spirit rejoiced “in God my Savior.” Though she did not know exactly how God would work in the world, she knew that in some way her child, Jesus, would grow up and be involved in saving her and all of His people. She knew that God her Savior would work in and through her Son because the angel Gabriel had said that her son would be the “Son of God” (Luke 1:35). An angel of the Lord had also told Joseph that Jesus would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the days and years ahead, Mary would learn more from others and from Jesus himself about Jesus and how He would accomplish God’s saving work. As her Savior, Mary would follow Jesus to His cross and see Him raised from the dead.
“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
When we know we deserve punishment, we usually ask for mercy. Sometimes people will ask for mercy when an unjust person threatens to hurt them. After Mary learned that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah, she rejoiced that many who deserve God’s just punishment would receive mercy through her Son. She proclaimed that with the conception of Jesus, God “has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:54-55). Furthermore, she declared that God’s mercy is for all who fear God.
Fearing God does not mean the cowering dread that a person might feel if they were facing a hideous, threatening monster. Because Mary knew God, she did not fear God as though God were a tyrant. From the Bible, we learn that those who fear God show forth a loving reverence and obedience toward God; while at the same time, they know that just consequences can follow disobeying or rebelling against God. A person who fears God loves and worships God. They love God so much that they do not want to disobey God or disappoint God by their thoughts or actions. They live in loving submission to the will of God. The Bible teaches that from generation to generation God offers mercy to those who deserve His just punishment, but accept His forgiving love and choose to bow in loving reverence. On Christmas Day, millions celebrate the birth of Jesus because they know they need the saving mercy that God the Father promised He would give to everyone who believes in His Word. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you receive and trust in Him as your personal Savior and Lord according to the Bible?
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
The Bible teaches truths about the universe and us that science cannot discover from inside a test tube, under a microscope, or at the end of a telescope no matter how advanced. Modern science excludes God from its experiments, investigations, and conclusions. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone in the image of God. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone with awesome potential; people such as Moses whom God used to free the Hebrews from slavery. From the Bible, we learn that God can fill a tiny unborn baby with the Holy Spirit and babies can respond to their surroundings, for as an unborn baby John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Then when full grown, the Holy Spirit in John empowered him to preach and prepare people for the coming of God’s Son into the world. From the Bible, we learn that through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit God could conceive a baby in a virgin that would be fully God and fully human before He was born. Then, unlike the false gods and demigods of mythologies and novels that are capricious and immoral, Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfect moral and spiritual life. He taught the truth about God and reality. Because He loved the world, He died a sacrificial death to save believers in Him from Satan and sin. The Bible teaches us the most important truths about God and ourselves; truths that do not change but reveal deeper meaning with study and prayer; truths that will make an eternal difference if we live according to them.
“For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).
After the angel Gabriel told Mary that even though she was a virgin she would conceive Jesus the Messiah after the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, he assured her that what he said was true by saying, “For no word from God will ever fail.” As people read the Bible, they can remind themselves that no word from God has ever failed or will ever fail. Also, they can find a multitude of examples of this fact as they read the Bible. Sarah conceived Isaac in her old age as God said she would. Hannah conceived Samuel in her old age as God said she would. Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist in her old age as God said she would. And though Mary had never known a man, she conceived Jesus the Messiah as God said she would. God has made many promises in the Bible, and His word has never failed. If we were to ask why, a more familiar translation of Luke 1:37 provides the answer, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Both translations accurately represent the ancient Greek text, and both translations emphasize similar truths: “God’s word will never fail, because nothing will be impossible for God.” As we think about the future regarding the promises God has made to us about the future in the Book of Revelation and other books of the Bible, we have very good reasons to believe that based on God’s promises and past performances, His future performances are assured. As we read the Bible, we also have good reasons to say to God as Mary said to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”