This morning I found myself finishing up the last few chapters of Luke and realizing again just how desperately I need Jesus.
I confess that for much of my Christian life I have seen my need of Jesus mainly in a soteriological sense (i.e. I need his vicarious death to accomplish forgiveness of my sins and so that I can be clothed with his righteousness). To be sure, that need is the burden of these chapters in Luke. Jesus himself, we are told, explained to his disciples ‘that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations’. This is why Jesus died, and this is what we need from him, first and foremost. That’s what Scriptures testify, and that’s what I believe.
But there’s more than that, though. I have so much more need of Jesus that I can see even just from these few chapters.
At the beginning of chapter 22 we are told that Satan enters into Judas. Half way through the chapter, Jesus says these words to Peter: ‘Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.’ Wow. God ordained that Jesus would be betrayed by Judas, who gave himself over to Satan, but when Satan wanted Peter, Jesus said no.
What stands between Satan and me? What stops Satan (or one of his workers) from entering me and working in me to do his bidding? What holds Satan back from causing my faith to fail? The will of God and the prayers of Jesus. I have great need of Jesus to pray for me and be merciful to keep me.
In a similar vein, I need Jesus to remember me. This was the request of the thief on the cross, that when Jesus would come into his kingdom, that he would remember–be favourable to, merciful to–this thief who was guilty of sin and crime and deserved nothing but death and punishment. How am I any different than the thief? I need Jesus to remember me, too.
In these chapters is recounted the literal, historic events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As Paul would teach later (Rom 6), we have need of Christ’s death becoming our death to sin (and to the law). In this way, we die to sin and to the law, and are no longer held captive by it, to do its will. Rather, all who have baptized into Christ, having been unified with him in his death, have been made alive with him in his resurrection. I have great need of Christ’s resurrection, which makes me alive to God. Though formerly I was dead in transgressions and sins, now through Christ’s resurrection, I have been made alive to God, that I might do his will.
In the last chapter of Luke we read of the two walking to Emmaus, who meet up with Jesus, but can’t figure out that it’s him. Jesus describes himself as the fulfilment of everything that has come before (Moses and the Prophets), but they still don’t get it. It wasn’t until he broke bread with them that their eyes were opened. I have great need of Jesus to open my eyes to see him for who he is. I am foolish and slow of heart to believe the word of God, but his grace is sufficient to enable me to see with the eyes of faith.
The disciples (and the rest of humanity since!) are no different than the two on the road. When Jesus comes to them they don’t know what to make of him. They think all kinds of wrong thoughts about him (like, ‘Maybe he’s just a spirit or something?’). It wasn’t until Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures that they could understand Jesus.
I have great need of Jesus opening my eyes to understand the Bible, in order for me to know him. Unless Jesus grants that my eyes be opened I can read the Bible till I die (or not read the Bible till I die) and I will never know Jesus. The only way to know him is from his word, and the only way to understand his word is if he opens our minds.
Man, am I needy!
And to think, that’s from only a few chapters…