Updated: May 17
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,…He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4: 14-21
Jesus, with the Spirit, is proclaiming that Isaiah’s year of the Lord’s favor has come. Some 600 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah was called by God to warn and exhort his people, the nation of Israel, to reject their sinful ways and return to the Lord. He prophesied a savior for the Lord’s beloved children of Zion. Now Jesus announces that he will be that savior anointed by the Lord.
Read the complete chapter of Luke 4.
What does this mean for the world? Isaiah prophesied good news to the poor, provision for those hungry and needy who lack the means and ability to provide the most basic necessities for themselves and their families. He promised freedom for the oppressed and enslaved, who lack personal power to live their lives according to their own desires and beliefs. He spoke of healing for those who are blind, those who are suffering from physical and mental ailments, protection from harm.
Remember the three temptations that Satan used in enticing Jesus? Provision, power, and protection: these three desires are all necessary for mankind when applied righteously. Here, in this year of the Lord’s favor, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, promises to bring to the fallen nation of Israel, righteous healing from its brokenness. Jesus with the power of the Spirit has come to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Will God’s chosen people, Israel, accept Christ’s gift? Or will Israel continue to be tempted by Satan's false promises? Jesus, a mere man, known in the synagogue only as Joseph’s son, is rejected in his hometown very early in his ministry.
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The bible has so much to say about hearing. Jesus repeatedly admonishes his people to hear: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He leaves there and gathers twelve men who would become his best friends and followers as he begins his ministry to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy:
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Mark 3:13-19
Fishermen, a tax collector, followers of John the Baptist, a doubter and a betrayer: these are Christ’s chosen. The gospels give us very little detail about these twelve. We want more. We want to know about their lives, their families and their personalities. Jesus will ask much of them; they will be asked to leave their old lives behind as he takes them with him on an urgent, frightening and supernatural journey to help him save the world:
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. …As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Matthew 4:19-20, 9: 9
“Follow me.” Why does Jesus choose them? Why were these men specifically chosen by the Son of God to help preach, heal, and drive out demons? Why were they worthy of God’s authority and attention? We don't get to know the answer to that question from scripture but only that they left everything and followed him. Why does Christ, the Son of God, need help to accomplish his divine purpose? And why do they choose to follow him?
Although the Holy Spirit has the power to hover over the entire creation for all time, the Son of Man, Jesus, a mere man bound by his body incarnate, his flesh and blood, can only be in one place and time. And he knows that his time is brief. The year of the Lord for Jesus is a mere 3 and a half years.
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. Luke 9: 1-6
Finally, at this time in his life, Jesus is full of the power of the Holy Spirit and authority given to him by his Father, God. Do you remember what Satan had to say regarding his own authority? Satan has admitted that his authority has been given to him from Christ's Father. Jesus, as Christ, throughout the gospels, will make it clearly known that only God, the Father, has authority. Now the time has come for the Father to give his Son that authority. This chapter of Luke is packed with so much that we will cover in later lessons but read what also is recorded:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9: 57-62
What a high price to have to pay to follow Jesus! So much was expected and demanded to accompany the Son of Man as he announces himself as the Son of God. As his ministry grew and his number of followers increased, Jesus sent out more men to carry his gospel to the neighboring towns:
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” …Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” Luke 10: 17-24
In most of the gospels, we read about a heavy hearted Jesus as he is surrounded by hurting people and persecuted on all sides during his frantic ministry. But at this point in his life, Jesus is joyful. He is with the Holy Spirit and is pleasing his Father. He confides in his followers that he himself saw Satan fall from the heavens! This small band of disciples is learning how to save the creation. They are hearing and seeing with the eyes of the Lord; they are experiencing the supernatural wonder of the Trinity. Jesus is no longer just the son of the carpenter, Joseph. Can you imagine how his earthly family must feel?
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3: 20-21
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12: 46-50
Mary, the mother of this supernatural son, must be sick with worry, and his younger brothers’ concern is understandable. Jesus has gathered a new family of believers and has left his old family behind. We don’t get to choose our families but we do get to choose our friends. Why do we need friends? Because we need to be understood. Why did Jesus? Why did Christ? Our God is a social being. We are made in his image and we are social creatures. Jesus saw something in each of the men he chose. He invited others but they could not commit. Many others followed in various other capacities, but only twelve would come to be known as the Twelve Disciples. Why the number twelve? It’s a number signifying completion: three for the holy Trinity and four for the creation.
Have you ever been called by Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Lord? Why? Have you answered?
If you didn’t answer God’s call, did someone else answer God and achieve the purpose for which you were called?
Have you ever taken on something that you didn’t feel called to do? Why did you do it?
Who are your brothers and sisters?
Were you raised in a home that discussed Christ and the Trinity?
Have you ever been poor?
Have you ever been oppressed?
Have you ever been disabled, ill, or mentally unstable?
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark… But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you…Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Genesis 6: 5-8, 11-22
Remember Stephen’s summary of the birth and growth of the child that would become the nation of Israel? God’s beloved daughter, also known as Jerusalem, Judah, and Zion, would in time birth his Son, Christ, as Jesus, the Emmanuel, for a suffering world: God with Us.
Up on the coffee table in the church’s youth gathering room, I pretend again that I am God. I am surrounded down low on all four sides of the creation, high school kids sitting on the four comfortable sofas and I instruct them to argue with each other. All but one who I catch looking up at me. I say, “I am the Lord, so far removed from the creation. But our Holy Spirit is hovering over the earth like a cloud. All the Spirit can see and hear is pain, degradation, and suffering and he, the Spirit, is in grief from witnessing so much pain. I wish we had never made them, these men and women, in our image now so perverted.” But I look down at and into the eyes of that one youth I have locked eyes with, that one man who was looking back up at the Lord. This was Noah who found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
The Lord chose the Old Testament leaders because they agreed to follow him when he called them. Noah did everything just as God commanded him. At the age of 500, Noah built a huge ark, filled it with a pair of all the animals and watched in horror as everyone on the earth perished by drowning.
Isaiah and all the prophets were also called by the Lord and answered him. The Lord will have an intimate relationship with those who hear him and chose to follow him. Here is what is referred to as “the Commission of Isaiah,” it is a wild vision of the Lord that Isaiah is given:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’…Isaiah 6: 1-9
Have you witnessed pain?
Have you witnessed degradation? What does that mean?
Have you despaired? What has caused you to grieve? Have you recovered from your grief?
What have you lost in life that has caused you to change in your very core? What has been your response to that loss?
The 29:11 Story
Of course, the 29:11 Story has all twelve disciples found within the New Testament side on the upswing of humanity’s story. The first is Simon who will be renamed Peter; he is a brown bead that resembles a rock. He is followed by the brother’s James and John, Jesus's sons of thunder. There are six small beads in varying shades of brown representing the lessor known of the men who give their lives and futures to learn about the kingdom of God. Matthew, the socially shunned and despised tax collector is a turquoise colored bead depicting living water for his rebirth with the Holy Spirit. Thomas will be a different bead, black and white, or grey, for his one moment of doubt. And, lastly, Judas, the betrayer, is red, like Satan. His bead follows a bead that represents the Last Supper.
The sequence of beads that represent Noah’s story is beautiful. It begins with a wooden bead for the ark. Next there is a bead that looks like water, turquoise blue, for the forty days of rain that became a flood that wiped the earth free of all the creation save Noah’s small family and the pairs of animals gathered in the ark. A green bead follows for the redeemed earth, cleansed of sin for a short time. And, of course, a rainbow bead for the Lord’s covenant promise to never destroy the earth again with water.
Now follow the beads after Noah’s story as they trace Stephen’s summary again.
“Come, follow me,” I’ve been homesick my entire life. Remember the story in Luke when Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple? He had been missing for three days. Can you imagine their fear? “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Can you hear what he was saying to his parents? Can you understand what he meant? Jesus spent his youth as a child not as God, but he knew in his heart and soul who he was and I think that he was always homesick for his true home and his true father.
We are born in flesh and blood into a family that we don’t chose. Some of us are very blessed to have family, mothers, fathers and siblings, who understand us and really know us. But there are so many dysfunctional families. There is so much generational brokenness.
My family that I was born into was broken. My parents had a hard marriage; both of them were unhappy with the other. And they rejected God in our house. We were well cared for and loved but I knew even as a child that something was missing. My brothers and I had a set of lovely grandparents that brought us great joy and stability. I felt most at home and carefree in their little farmhouse.
When I was in high school with a youth program, I answered an altar call one evening. It felt right and good. I told my parents that night when I got home and they said, “We don’t believe in that; we don’t do that.” So I put that aside and continued my life without it. But I was hungry and thirsty for something that I didn't have.
My parents rejected my marriage and withdrew from me as I grew older. In my 30’s, in a happy marriage, with two little children and a third on the way, but with a hole in my heart from my lack of a parent who understood me, I again felt that hunger and thirst. “I’ll address that once I’ve gotten my planned life in order, after the kids are in school, after we buy a house,”…after whatever excuse I could find not to look into what my heart and soul needed. But God knew exactly what my soul and my family would need. William would be diagnosed with cancer within five years of my turning finally to face God. We would desperately need our Lord’s living water and manna.
I no longer lead high school bible studies. Instead, several years ago, I was called to begin a women’s ministry to make the 29:11 Stories. Anyone is invited to come. Some of my women have been with us for years now; they chose to stay and join in our friendship in our little house. Others ebb and flow with their needs for fellowship and a bit of financial help. I tell the women in my little ministry that they know me better than anyone in my family that I was born into. Sometimes in our little ministry house, we gather and the stress of brokenness is particularly evident. Our young women are struggling with small children, unexpected pregnancies, single parenting and financial impossibilities. Our older women are sometimes battling loneliness. The most fortunate of us are balancing older parents, sometimes difficult spouses, grown but still needy children, and the demands of grandchildren.
When we come into our little house, we are all full of life’s daily worries. We have a lovely huge table in our little house where we gather for bible study and business meetings. There is a spiritual exercise that we often do. I demand that everyone stop whatever they are doing and sit at the table and close their eyes. Then we sit quietly for a moment. We breathe. “This will be uncomfortable. I want you to imagine putting your most difficult problems on the table right in front of you.” We breathe. “Now, I know that you can’t get rid of these problems because they are yours. They belong to you. But let’s imagine that we can pick them up and place them on the floor out of our sight for just a moment.” We breathe. “Come Holy Spirit come… Come Holy Spirit come… come Holy Spirit come.” We breathe.
The kingdom of God is like a necklace…
“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” …
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
We know little about the disciples lives before they began to follow Jesus. What can you glean from: Luke 4: 38-39 and Matthew 20: 20-23?
Read Mark 5: 28-29. What did this say to the disciples? For their futures? What does it say to you?
Read James 1: 2-8. Who wrote the book of James? Now read Matthew 13: 52-58.
What do you know about the book of Esther? It’s a short book about a time in the Jewish nation’s persecution. God, the Lord, is never once mentioned in its entirety. It’s a powerful story about a young Jewish girl who was chosen by the king as his new queen who has a chance to act in her people's behalf. I invite you to take a moment to read it. What does Esther 4: 14 say to you? Why have I included it in this lesson? What does it say about God’s will? What does it say about our part in his will?…for such a time as this?”
Can you find Esther on the 29:11 Story? What color is she? Purple is the color of divinity but it is also the color of royalty. Who else is purple on the 29:11 Story? Where is Esther in Israel’s timeline?
Read about the calling of the Prophets. First of all: Elijah and Elisha: 2 Kings 1-2.
Now read Jeremiah 1.
Read Daniel 9-10
Read Ezekiel 1-3
Can you find these prophets on the 29:11 Story? Where are they in Israel’s timeline?
Read Hebrews 11. This is a beautiful summary of God’s chosen people throughout his story, which is our story. What do the last two verses mean?
Read Revelation 4: 1-6. Where is John? What does he say he is “in”? What does John see? Why do you think I am asking you to read this? Here’s a hint: its echo is in the Noah story.
Can you find a bead on the 29:11 Story that corresponds with this passage? What does that bead look like?
Read Revelation 7. Who are the chosen here? Who choses them and for what purpose?
Who makes up the great multitude in white? What does the number four signify? The number 12,000? The number 144,000? Can you find the bead on the 29:11 Story for the 144,000? What bead does it match in the Old Testament?
Now read Revelation 14: 1-5. Here are the 144,000 again. What do you glean from the passage?