A Greek guide for the book of Luke and a FREEBIE too!

How’s your Greek? I’ve got a book review as well as a freebie that might peak your interest.

Christmas will be here before you know it, and taking the effort to work through the Greek text of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke might help kickstart a habit that will bless you and your ministry for years to come. And if you need a recommendation to get you started, look no further than the volume on Luke in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series.

In the interest of full disclosure, I asked Broadman and Holman to bring Christmas to me early this year by sending me a review copy, but that’s because I’ve already invested in a few of the other books in the series.

Luke was written by Alan J. Thompson. He’s got strong academic credentials, having studied under Eckhard Schnabel and D.A. Carson. He also has a few academic books on his resume, including an upcoming volume on Acts in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series.

Like other volumes in the EGGNT series, Luke begins with introductory materials covering authorship, date, audience, and purpose—standard commentary fare—though the extensive outline at the end of the book (five pages, single-spaced) is more of what you would expect from a much larger commentary.

Once you get past the introductory materials, the real fun begins. Because of size limitations (the book is over 400 pages), there’s no full Greek text or English translation. A Greek New Testament or an interlinear necessary to make full use of the book. Thompson works verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke, providing comments on grammar, syntax, textual variants, and translation options. It truly is a comprehensive guide to the Greek text of Luke.

Using this and other volumes in the EGGNT series has brought my Greek back from the brink. It had been a couple years, and I had forgotten so much, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick it up again. When I saw how helpful one book was, I bought another, and another…

It was a little unwieldy for me at first because of all the abbreviations, but a few visits to the section listing abbreviations, and it didn’t take long to adjust.

Now for the freebie! Rob Plummer does a daily video working through a verse in the Greek New Testament on his website Daily Dose of Greek. Starting November 6 he will begin working through Philemon. As a special incentive, you can download Philemon from the EGGNT on My Word Search Bible, a website from Broadman and Holman for FREE. Check out his post for the details here.

Jesus, the Sojourning Savior

Luke 9:57-58 “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.”

My phone rang yesterday and I saw an unfamiliar, out of state number. I answered and a foreign voice was on the other end.

“May I speak to Alan Cross?” The accent seemed Middle Eastern? African? I could not place it.

A bit nervously, I answered, “This is he.”

He told me his name was Charles and someone gave him my phone number and knew I was an Evangelical that worked with immigrants. The referral matched up relationally, so I proceeded with the conversation. He wanted to call to ask for advice, since he too is a Christian and wants to follow the Lord. He said he was from Kenya and is now in New York City going to school, but his visa does not allow him to work and he is completely destitute. He has the opportunity to work “off the books,” but his conscience is troubled and what is he do? He is here legally, but is now penniless and has no way to survive.

I asked him if he did not realize this situation when he applied for the visa and came and he said he did not, and that in other countries, students are allowed to work legally. He asked if it was okay to ignore the law and work anyway, since God would have him care for his family and if he does not he is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8). But, then he brought up Romans 13 and the need to obey the law and authorities. Which truth should he follow? Should he starve? I told him that I understood his dilemma and that I would refer him to a Christian ministry I knew in New York City and I would pray for him. He thanked me. I told him that he should obey the law and that disobeying it would cause further problems, especially since he was here legally on a visa and he agreed to follow the law when he applied for and accepted his visa. He agreed with my advice and said he would trust God. We have spoken a couple of times since and emailed as I am referring him to the other ministry for help.

This morning, I was with my family in a Christmas Eve service and the Christmas story was prominent, obviously. And, I could not help but think that Jesus was with Charles in a significant way. Here is a young man trying to do the right thing and trying to figure out how to live under the requirements of the state, even when they were very difficult, as he tried to honor God. Then, I began to think about the 65 million refugees around the world, and the millions more international and internal migrants.

Over 1 billion people in the world are migrants, or more than 1 in 7 people globally. The figure includes the stock of international migrants – people residing in a country other than their country of birth – whose number reached 244 million in 2015, up by 41 per cent since 2000; and it includes internal migrants – around 740 million, according to 2009 UNDP estimates, of whom over 150 million are rural-urban migrants in China.

One in seven people on the planet are migrants, immigrants, sojourners, and refugees. One in seven people have been forcibly displaced or have moved or traveled from their home for economic, safety, or survival reasons. We live on a planet where people are on the move in a significant way. There are lots of Charles’ out there this Christmas season.

If you step back, the whole Christmas story is one of migration, sojourning, refugees, and immigration. The idea of sojourning is in the background of the whole story and gives the Nativity its context and scope. A brief summary:

  • Mary travels to visit Elizabeth and stay with her for awhile after she is pregnant with child.
  • Joseph migrates with Mary to Bethlehem for the census. When they arrive, they do not have a place to stay just for them and probably stay with distant relatives and bed down among the animals in a stable, which might have been part of a relative’s house.
  • They are attended to and worshiped by shepherds, poor, common workers who were likely illiterate. They might not have been total outcasts, but they were definitely at the lower end of the social hierarchy. This is who the angel announces the birth of Jesus to.
  • Wise Men sojourn from the East to worship Jesus. These would have been gentiles astrologers, likely Persian followers of Zoroaster. They follow the star and come to Bethlehem, meet Herod, and are told to report back to him the whereabouts of the child. They follow the star further, find Jesus, and bring gifts to him fitting for a king. An oft missed part of the story is that God brings pagans from foreign nations to worship Jesus at his birth, prophesying what the result of his life, death, and resurrection would be and fulfilling what was prophesied in Isaiah 60:1-6.
  • Herod hears about the birth of a rival king and orders the murder of all of the boys under two years old in and around Bethlehem. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, warned by an angel, escape the reach of the king who has ordered that they be killed, and they flee to Egypt, becoming refugees.
  • After a time and Herod’s death, they immigrate back to Israel and settle again in Nazareth where Jesus grows up.

Jesus’ ministry was one of sojourning from place to place to minister to people in need and to proclaim and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. He did not have a home. He said he had no place to lay his head of his own. He was the Sojourning Savior, the Migrant King, with no throne room or palace to rule from. Yet, he was the Son of God and the Sovereign King of the Universe – before all things and in whom all things held together (Col. 1:17).

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:17-18

One out of every seven people on the planet – over 1 billion people – the population of the human race in 1800 – are spending this Christmas having migrated away from their homeland and are living in a new place far from home. They are immigrants, migrants, sojourners, and refugees. They are asylum seekers, people who left home for economic reasons, people who are living in regions and areas different from their homeland, people in exile who have lost tribe, home, family, friends, and their place in their society – and who are trying to make a new life for themselves. Some are doing very well. Others are struggling mightily. How can the church be the church for them? How can we make room for them?

It strikes me that the Christmas story is not just about home, family, presents, lights, great food, gift giving, and wonderful celebrations. Christmas is also about the sojourner and the migrant, the wanderer and the refugee. And, Jesus was one of them. Those who came to worship him were sojourners as well. Mary and Joseph were migrants and refugees as well. The whole Nativity Story is one of how God works in the lives of travelers and refugees who leave the land they know and go to the land that God shows them. That is the Christmas story too and Jesus is at the center of it. He was not born in a palace or in safety or prosperity. Jesus, the heart of the Christmas Story, of course, was born to sojourners and lived with his family as a refugee. What does that tell us about God? What does that tell us about His salvation and those He came to save? What does it tell us about God’s heart and work today? Of course, we are all displaced from our true home because of sin – whether we have physically moved or not. Jesus comes for all of us to save the people from their sins. And, I am glad He traveled and came for me and found me.

I am praying for Charles tonight, on Christmas Eve. Away from his homeland and struggling to figure out how to live here – and how to follow God. We’ve emailed again today and I was able to make contact with that ministry in New York City. They have invited him to join them for worship tomorrow – on Christmas Day – and I sent the message on. I am glad. How can we make a home for the sojourner? How can we welcome the stranger in Jesus’ name? When we do, we join in the real Christmas and make room for Jesus in our hearts – and also welcome those He came for.

O Little Town of Bethlehem (a Christmas meditation)

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

The song O Little Town of Bethlehem speaks to the great thing that came out of seeming insignificance. This is the very thing that happened with the birth of Jesus. When God sent his Son into the world to be our Savior-King, he chose insignificance.

Yes, for Jesus to be a descendant of David, he had to be born to one of David’s relatives. We get this in both his birth mother, Mary (the genealogy in Luke), and through his adoptive father, Joseph (the genealogy in Matthew). But, to be a descendant of David didn’t guarantee prosperity or notoriety. Mary was a young virgin, likely from a poor family. Joseph was a common tradesman, probably young in his craft and not well off.

When a census was declared, the couple, with Mary nine-months pregnant, headed back to their ancestral city. Bethlehem had the notoriety of being the town of King David’s birth, but not much else.

The census flooded the small town with travelers. Joseph and Mary were too late to find a room at the local inn, and didn’t seem to know anyone in town to stay with. So, they ended up with cattle where God the Son was born into the world. If not for a chorus of angels sent to display God’s glory to a group of shepherds, the birth would have largely gone unnoticed.

Everything seemed so insignificant. Yet through this, God fulfilled a promise given by the prophet Micah centuries before: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).

God has a way of working through what the world deems as insignificant. Jesus was called the carpenter’s son. The twelve, most were poorly educated fishermen. David was a shepherd boy, the youngest of his warrior brothers. Yet in the small things, God did great things.

So, Christmas reminds us that smallness and insignificance is no hindrance to the work of God. As Paul reminded the church at Corinth:

For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth…. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26, 28-29)

So, let’s not boast in our strength, wisdom, and might this Christmas season. Instead, let us celebrate the God who does great and mighty things through what seems insignificant.

This post first appeared on fbcadrian.com. Tweet Mike @mbergman_1980.

What Child Is This? (an advent meditation)

Christmas in our culture seems a mix of the sacred and the secular. As much as some people lament the idea of a “holiday tree” being sold in stores they frequent, let’s not forget that Santa Claus, songs that have nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, and Christmas movies about family get togethers and little else have been around for decades if not centuries.

No Christian should get uptight when the world fails to see the meaning of Christmas. Instead, our love and our grace, and our return of the greeting Happy Holidays with a Thank you should help others see the greater reality. Quite simply, we as followers of Jesus are to be the heralds of Christ, not the store greeters or the items they sale.

Part of our task is to help people understand that our answer to one particular question is eternally important. In the 1800s, William Dix penned the words to a song with this question in the title: What Child Is This? How we answer this question, frankly, determines: do we belong to God and stand as recipients of salvation, or do we belong to our sin and stand as recipients of condemnation?

Jesus asked the question at hand to his early followers in his own way: “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” His followers replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-14). And so the world says about Jesus today: He is a good example, or a prophet, or a myth, or a story to control people so they behave a certain way.

But then Jesus turned the question around on his followers: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, in a moment of spiritual brilliance granted him by God, replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15-16). Jesus, they realized, was the long expected Savior-King who would judge the enemies of God and set the world right. Jesus went on to say that with this truth he would build his church, his people (16:18).

And then he charged his followers to be the ones to take this message to the nations that others might follow him and become his disciple as well (28:18-20).

Dix’s song asks the same question, gives the same answer, and provides the same charge.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So it is in these words: Who is Jesus?—he is the Savior, the King, and the One worthy of all praise. He is the one whom heavenly choirs praise and exalt. And he is the one that we who have enthroned him within our hearts are to call out to others, “Haste, haste to bring him laud,” or “Hurry, hurry, come and join to worship him!”

What child is this? He is Christ our Savior-King.

(advent) What Child is This