The Romans were in political control of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, and unsurprisingly there were Jewish rebels who tried to overthrow Roman rule. (The ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus–who lived a generation after Jesus– tells us a lot about these movements.)

I think it’s a fair assumption that Barabbas was a rebel leader, which is why he was imprisoned under Pontius Pilate, awaiting sentencing. Luke also tells us that Barabbas was a murderer. Most likely, he murdered Romans.

Think about the irony: Jesus, the innocent man, dies on behalf of Israel for his enemies, whereas Barabbas, the guilty man, goes free.

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 23:13-25


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One of the themes of Luke’s account of the Passion is that he portrays the Crucifixion as the royal enthronement of Jesus. To be clear, it is an unexpected enthronement: he is being put to death, after all. But, as we read through the Passion account, pay attention to all the ways Jesus is being prepared for a “coronation.”

For example,

Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.

Luke 23:11

Jesus is a prisoner about to be crucified, but Luke wants us to pick up on the irony: Herod thinks he is mocking him, but he is really preparing him for his enthronement.

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 23:1-12


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Jesus refuses to defend himself in the sham trial he’s put through that last night of his life. His silence reminds me of the great Isaiah prophecy of the suffering servant:

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

Isaiah 53 is worth reading in its entirety, by the way. Keep in mind that this prophecy comes centuries before the time of Christ.

53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 22:63-71


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It’s very important that we understand Jesus was not a passive victim. When Judas approaches him in the Garden of Gethsemane in the dark, Jesus permits the guards to capture him, rather than attempting to fight or flee.

Judas and the others think they are in control, but actually Jesus is in control.

The same is true today. The evil powers of the world think they are in control, but in reality God is using their wickedness for his own purposes.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 22:47-62


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Some quick thoughts on the Last Supper account in Luke’s Gospel.

  • Don’t be surprised when someone close to you betrays you–Judas betrayed Jesus. (The Jewish authorities hated Jesus, but because he was popular with the crowds, they couldn’t figure out how to get to him until Judas played into their hands.)
  • Passover was a political event, and not just a religious one. Or, to be more accurate, there was no split between politics and religion in the ancient world: politics was religion, and vice versa. At Passover, Jews celebrated and remembered that when they were enslaved in Egypt, the Lord brought them out into the Promised Land. It’s not a perfect analogy, but celebrating Passover was like our celebrating the Fourth of July–it was a way to defiantly remember how the Children of Israel received their freedom.
  • This, of course, made the Romans nervous, which was why Pontius Pilate was in Jerusalem keeping watch on the crowds during Passover, and not at his opulent palace on the Mediterranean, called Caesarea Maritima.
  • At the Last Supper, Jesus explicitly makes the Passover ritual about him: “this is my body….this is my blood.” He is explaining to the disciples how his sacrificial death will make his people free from slavery to sin and death.

I preached on this passage Sunday, for those who are interested.

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 22:1-23


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More on The End

by Andrew Forrest

Jesus continues to talk about the End of the World, and tells his followers that it will be obvious when it comes. In Luke’s Gospel, “this generation” means the people whose hearts are stubbornly opposed to Jesus. So, when Jesus says”

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Luke 21:32-33

He is saying that there will always be people opposed to him until he returns again.

And he closes with a familiar message: be ready!

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 21:25-38


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I think the best way to think about Jesus’s words about the destruction of the Temple is to understand him talking specifically about the Temple’s last days while at the same time talking about the Last Days themselves. He is going back and forth between the two: he is telling them what to expect when the Temple is destroyed, and telling all of us what to expect then The End begins.

The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

The End? No one knows the day or the hour, so be ready.

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 21:5-24


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Ad Astra

by Andrew Forrest

I rarely find myself in agreement with the message of a Hollywood movie, but I’m all in on this one.

I played hooky today and saw the new movie Ad Astra in an empty, midday theater, which was appropriate, because it is a lonely, expansive film, which asks the perennial human question: What are you looking for? We are all looking for something, and usually that something is something out of reach, far away, ad astra.

The movie is set in “the near future” when humanity has developed the technology for deep space travel. (Not all the physics holds up to even my pedestrian knowledge, but it looks entirely believable all the way through.) Major Roy McBride (played by Brad Pitt) is sent on a top secret mission to find his father, lost near Neptune decades before. Since being left by his father as a boy, Roy has always been looking for something, and his search takes him literally to the stars.

So many of us live lives of quiet dissatisfaction, always looking for the next thing, all the while encouraged in our restlessness by multinational corporations who have learned how to monetize our searching.

If you had this car

If you had this woman

If you had this body

If you had this house

Then you would be satisfied.

But, it’s not true, is it? And so we keep looking ad astra and never think there might be something to the advice of Jesus to “consider the lilies.”

It is a beautiful prayer: “God, thou hast put salt on our lips that we might thirst for thee.” Our searching is, of course, ultimately a search for God. But there is a second order of restlessness that also keeps us from delighting in the simple gifts of God: the people at hand, the water we drink, the daily bread God provides. If we can’t take delight and satisfaction in these things, then no matter where we go, there we’ll be.

Like you, I’ve read the stories about Brad Pitt’s family chaos over the past few years: how he left his first wife, the movie star Jennifer Aniston, for the movie star Angelina Jolie, how they had a total of 6 adopted and natural children together, how his marriage fell apart, how he was charged with and then cleared of child abuse. I wonder, has all of that chaos caused him to reflect on what really matters? He plays his role with a wisdom that suggests he’s learned a lot of this the hard way, and is warning us of the danger of thinking that contentment lies ad astra, elsewhere, and not where we already are.

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

What good is it to go to the stars if you haven’t learned to delight in the gifts of God already at hand?

Ad Astra (2019): recommended.


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[For some reason, I had to rebuild my email list this morning. If you are on my Gospels 2019 list, you should be receiving this, just as you’ve received the other daily emails. If you received this and are NOT on the Gospels 2019 list, please let me know ASAP. –AF]

This is a difficult parable.

Context matters. This entire parable is told by Jesus right after the religious leaders in Jerusalem question him about his authority. Jesus tells this parable the last week of his life, between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

The image of a vineyard was the central image in the Old Testament for Israel as the people of God. God makes a covenant with Israel, but then Israel has responsibilities because of that covenant. The people listening to Jesus understand that he’s talking about Israel, which is why, when tells he them what’s going to happen, namely that the owner of the vineyard will give it to others, they reply the way they do:

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

Luke 20:15b-16

Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118:22:

“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone”

Psalm 118:22

The point is that what the religious leaders have despised will be the foundation of the new thing that God is going to do.

No wonder they crucified Jesus–you can understand how angry this parable would make the religious authorities in Jerusalem.

Jesus tells the leaders of the Jews that, if they reject him, they will lose their role in God’s plan to bless the whole world through them.

And that’s what happened.

Here’s the question for us: are we living productively and faithfully, in response to God’s call on our lives? We are not entitled to be part of God’s plan to save the world–it’s a gracious gift to be involved. But, if we don’t take responsibility to live faithful lives, God will move on to other people who are willing.

How can you say “Yes” to the Lord today?

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 20:1-19

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More On the Minas

by Andrew Forrest

I didn’t post anything on Friday, but because it’s such a difficult parable, I decided to skip today’s reading and comment on Friday’s “Parable of the Ten Minas”. Matthew has a similar parable called “The Parable of the Talents,” with which you might be more familiar. It’s also more straightforward than the parable Luke gives us.

Some historical context: when King Herod the Great died (the one who was king when Jesus was born in Bethlehem), his son Archelaus went to Rome to petition Caesar to permit him to reign in their father’s place. Some Jews followed him to Rome to ask Caesar not to accede to his request. (They were unsuccessful, and Archelaus became king.) So, Jesus seems clearly to be alluding to current events as he begins his parable:

12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

Luke 19:12-14

The point is that Jesus was accusing some of the Jews of rejecting the Messiah’s reign in the same way they rejected Herod’s son.

As far as the rest of the parable, I like how Klyne Snodgrass explains it:

“Whatever else it does, the parable assumes a time when people will need to be faithful before the kingdom arrives….

“Like some Jews who resisted the reign of Achelaus, so some now resist the reign of the Messiah, but they will encounter judgement; further, the adherents of the Messiah will also be judged regarding their faithfulness. Both themes fit well in the last days of Jesus’ ministry. The parable serves as a warning to Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries–both those who followed him and those who did not….

“Jesus’ harsh language is intended to shock so that people take the warning seriously.”

Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus

Oh, and that final command of the king to slaughter his enemies?

Remember who is telling the story!

Jesus is killed on behalf of his enemies. So, why does he add that last line in? My best guess is that he’s just being provocative and alluding to the real-life example of Archelaus.

Friday’s Scripture:

Luke 19:11-27

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