Click here to read Ted’s introduction to the Lent Encounters series.
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”Jesus, John 8:31, 36
There is a great deal of disappointment expressed today about . . . the Christian faith and its understanding of reality. Most of the disappointment comes from Christians themselves, who find that what they profess ‘just isn’t working’ – not for themselves nor, so far as they can see, for those around them. But there is an obvious great disparity between, on the one hand, the hope for life expressed in Jesus – found real in the Bible and in many shining examples from among his followers – and, on the other hand, the actual day-to-day behavior, inner life, and social presence of most of those who now profess adherence to him.
But here is the problem. Who, among Christians today, is a disciple of Jesus, in any substantive sense of the word ‘disciple’? A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice – a practitioner, even if only a beginner. The Bible is clear. Disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth.
Most problems in contemporary churches, in marriages, in finances, in relationships, in families . . . can be explained by the fact that people have never decided to follow Christ. The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him.
– Dallas Willard, The Great Omission
41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.Luke 2:41-52
Jesus was deeply interested in understanding and learning. He did this by humbly listening and questioning, even though he presumably was wiser than the teachers. In John, Jesus says, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” (7:16). He also says, “. . . the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because what the Father does the Son also does.” (5:19). The relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father is of inseparable love.
Jesus’ priority was being in his Father’s house immersing himself in everything about his Father, learning from teachers and memorizing Scripture. Jesus hints at his deity by referring to “my Father’s house” to the confusion of those around him. This relationship was paramount in his life, beyond his obligation to his parents or earthly family. His desire and preoccupation to be in his Father’s presence made him almost oblivious to other demands and expectations, evidenced here in the distress of Mary and Joseph.
Jesus’ learning allowed him to grow in wisdom to the point where those around him were “amazed.” Jesus also teaches us in John – using the metaphor of a vine and its branches – that we can do nothing apart from him: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (15:5)
As Jesus sought the constant presence and deep knowledge of God the Father, we too must seek to learn everything we can about Jesus; what he did and said, taught, his attributes, how he acted, and how he responded to different situations, questions and people.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to his identity and mission as our Redeemer and Savior – it is how we are justified and reconciled to God. Yet to be conformed to his image, we must learn who Jesus is in practical terms beyond this critically important central element. As Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3), we thus also learn of God the Father’s heart and attributes.
There are 96 “encounters” (specific actions, teachings, responses, behaviors and practices) with Jesus in Luke. We will focus on 40 of those for the FPSF Lent devotional.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”Proverbs 3:5, 6
“You are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift my head. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”Psalm 3:3, 5, 8