LUKE 3: PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Often when reading anything in the Creator God’s Handbook for LIFE, one can feel the pull to give up. It’s a library of books compiled from stories dating back more than four millenniums. So, what on earth has it to do with me today?! …Well… if you hang in there with me today, I’m convinced that you’ll see that, what this 1st Century doctor wrote (and what the Creator God has miraculously preserved these 1950+ years) is not just important, it’s actually vital for understanding your future survival.
Today’s chapter is a portion taken from a report written by Luke, for a Roman official with the title “Most Excellent Theophilus”.[a] Luke is writing an accurate account by placing it firmly into a definite time zone, which the Roman governor could easily verify. [v1-2] It was at a time when, arguably the greatest world power, ruled the earth. So, before I’ve read more than two sentences, I’m asking: How on earth did Luke’s private report to a regional bureaucrat, in a back-water province, survive the turbulence of the last two millenniums – when other, apparently more important reports (such as the crucial government documents of the most powerful empire on earth), have been lost to us?
I suggest that the miraculous existence of this report comes to us this morning, by direct divine intervention. Someone thinks its content is vitally important. By Luke’s lifetime, Phase One of the Creator’s project had been going on for close on two millenniums. But, if you’ve been following my Breadcrumbs, you may remember, from 31 August, that the launch of Phase Two of construction had been laid out by the ancient prophet Malachi, 400 years earlier:
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.” [Malachi 3:1]
And so, Luke introduces onto Centre Stage, John – who was later called John the Baptist. John clears the way before Jesus by telling everyone to “get ready”. The reason to “prepare themselves” was part of the project scope, and the remit for the “Messenger of the Creator’s Covenant Contract”, that Malachi had revealed: “…He will be like a refiner’s fire or launderer’s soap…”[b] And what Simeon said in yesterday’s Breadcrumb: “…This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many…”[c]
Now, John uses Isaiah’s 800-year-old prophecy to say that any low points in us will be filled in by Him; any high/haughty points in us will be brought low; and the crooked in us will be made straight. This is only possible by forgiving all our faults – if only we’d just say sorry to our Maker. [v3-5]
With Phase One of the project completed, all people everywhere will now have a chance to see the Creator God’s salvation. [v6]
Although Luke knew that this Roman official was interested in finding out what was being said on the streets, and what this new message was, I wonder if Luke chooses his words differently when addressing a Roman compared to Matthew, who was addressing Jews in his book. Everything that Luke said about John’s message [v7-18] as similar to what Matthew had written.[d] But Luke appears to put things delicately. For example, Theophilus will have come from a very strong hierarchical framework where all leadership is the ultimate authority without question. So, I noticed that Luke doesn’t specifically say that John called the religious leaders a “brood of vipers” – as Matthew had done – but simply that his tough comments fell on the ears of the whole crowd. [v7]
Luke also gently adds in some of the things that John had said about what was going on under Roman governance. Apart from John’s basic message of generosity [v11], local tax collectors – in the pay of the Roman government – were ripping people off [v12-13], and Roman soldiers were extorting money, accusing people falsely, and weren’t content with their pay. [v14-15] Whether Theophilus had known these things (or ignored them), if a righteous man, he would have been prompted now to change and make changes. At the outset of this report, he would have seen that the content of the message was “good”, not divisive, and now something that he’d like to read more about.
Clearly, John was brave. Standing up and speaking out, attracting attention, and risking a beating from the soldiers (for publicly highlighting their crooked ways), would have caught the interest of Theophilus. If this was only the “herald”, then what would this Jesus be like! [v16]
In his report, Luke shows that Jesus isn’t a mystical figure but a tangible human of 30 years, from a long line of humans. [v23-38] Unlike Matthew (a Jew writing to Jews), who showed that Jesus was thoroughly Jewish with a lineage back to Abraham, Luke takes Jesus’ bloodline back to Adam, then to God who made us all. By doing this, Luke shows, in a logical way, how it’s not ridiculous to say that Jesus was the son of God. By using the lineage in that way, we’re all children of the God who created us in His own image to be like Him.[e] The very clear difference, however, is that the Creator God has identified Jesus as His Son (singular) who is not only loved, but also pleasing i.e. He’s 100% fit for the task that He’s been given. [v22]
Whether Theophilus (a Roman) understood what was happening or not, in Jewish religious terms, the priest John – born, as Moses was, from two priestly parents[f] – had just ceremonially washed Jesus. The Creator God Himself then spoke the authoritative commission over Him… the commission for completing Phase Two of the Creator’s Global Project.
The ancient prophet Isaiah foretold this moment 8+ centuries earlier.[g] So, the planning time given for Phase Two in the project, is crazy! In addition, the size and significance of the project, in Luke’s report, is literally global: “…every ravine will be filled, every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, the rough roads smooth; And all humankind will see the salvation of God…” [v4-6] However, just as Phase Two started, John was imprisoned!! [v20]
Allowing this information to just settle on me for a bit, I couldn’t help but see that the management of this “project” was ludicrous from the outset! By the end of Phase One (in the days of Malachi the prophet), the Creator God’s Global Masterplan had been reduced down to two people. Now it’s down to One with a winnowing fork in His hand! [v17] Bizarrely enough, this seems to be the “Gospel” – the Good News of great joy for all people – that the Angel introduced at the start of Luke’s report. It’s the “Good News” that the Creator God isn’t just interested in what’s going on, but He’s actively involved in the management of His own project for humankind…
“‘So then, I will come to put you on trial. I’ll be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘I the Lord don’t change. So you are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you’ve turned away from my decrees and haven’t kept them. Return to me, and I’ll return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” [Malachi 3:5-6]
That being the case, it seems to me that this is all what our Creator God has only ever wanted, for those He made in His own image. It’s been the plot at the back of the storyline ever since the day He sent us away.[h] HIStory, from start to finish, has only ever been about getting the Creator God’s people back into His “barn”. [v17] And, in His own Name[i] and by His own power [v16&22], He seems to be breaking every chain necessary that will hold us back…
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumb”
[a] Luke 1:1-4
[b] Malachi 3:2
[c] Luke 2:34
[d] Matthew 3:7-12
[e] Genesis 1:26
[f] Luke 1:5
[g] Isaiah 40:3-5
[h] Genesis 3:21-24
[i] Exodus 23:21