Good morning! Happy Halloween! In the last two chapters of our latest gospel (Luke 23-24), we read the trials, crucifixion, burial and resurrection appearances of Jesus. Luke’s gospel gives us some stories essential to the Holy Week tradition and found nowhere else in the gospels.
Good morning! After characteristically lifting up an example from someone on the margins (the widow offering her two coins), the rest of Luke 21-22 focuses on the final words and actions of Jesus as he is arrested. We hear him describe future events and how certain (yet unscheduled) is the coming of the Son of Man. In the Lord’s Supper and what follows, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ awareness of everything that would take place, making all the more surprising his acceptance of imperfect people at the communion table and his healing of attacking foes.
Good morning! As we near the end of our tenth month of Daily Bible, we also approach Jerusalem with Jesus, nearing the end of the third gospel. Today in Luke 19-20, Jesus demonstrates his compassion for those who are social outcasts, exhorts his disciples to not languish in waiting for the Messiah’s return, and enters Jerusalem for his final week, quarreling with other Jewish leaders all along the way.
Good morning! Today’s selected chapters (Luke 17-18) convey—with no strict order—a series of sayings and stories about Jesus. Some of these are familiar passages and others are new accounts. All demonstrate key themes in Jesus’ ministry according to Luke, especially mercy to the outsider, persistence in the struggle for justice, and the imminence of the Day of the Lord.
The first and third of those emphases emerge in Luke 17’s verses. In the story of ten lepers healed, Luke emphasizes that the one who comes back to say thanks is a Samaritan. Luke also helps us see clearly the healed man’s faith playing a role in his healing, and the overall genuineness of his gratitude. The faith of this foreigner does powerful healing; it “has made you well”. We’ll read this same concern for unlikely outsiders in the next chapter, with stories demonstrating Jesus’ favorable impression of humble tax collectors (as opposed to showy Pharisees) and his regard for children. The other theme in this chapter is that one won’t be able to tell the arrival of the kingdom of God. It will be subtle and hidden, then suddenly unmistakable and fearful because of the cataclysm in it.
I dearly love the parable of the widow and the unjust judge that starts Luke 18. I’ve never forgotten a sermon I heard more than ten years ago on this text by United Church of Christ minister Ken Samuel. He described the woman following the judge around to his judge’s chambers, to the grocery store and finally to his own house. Her uncommon persistence seeks to achieve justice by multiple means. When power and inertia thwarts righteousness in the court, the woman finds other areas of leverage over the judge to make sure that she is heard. It’s her equivalent of shutting down highways or setting up a human barricade to stop a pipeline. Just so, every persistent prayer will find an answer, even if it’s not exactly the answer requested.
At the other end of this chapter, we have the by-now-familiar story of Jesus and the man who has kept all the commandments and wonders how else to assure his salvation. Notice that in this telling of the encounter, the questioner is not identified as a young man, we don’t read that “Jesus loved him” in reply to his statement of dedication to the law, and Jesus does not promise the sacrificing disciples a ten-fold return on their commitment, nor use the phrase “with persecutions”. Overall, Luke gives the impression of having trimmed off those “rough edges”, making this a smoother (though slightly less interesting) parable. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Luke 19-20. Thanks for reading!
Good morning! We have several shorter passages today in Luke 15-16. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem continues with reflections on the caustic effect of money and its threat to worship of the one true God. But first, Jesus reflects in three different parables how God considers longtime-righteous versus wretched-but-rescued people in light of divine love.
Good morning! Today in Luke 13-14 we have some of the richest but also most challenging texts in this gospel. The paradox in Jesus’ teachings on God’s realm emerges from the first several verses. On one hand, Jesus emphasize the need for repentance in order to live, yet on the other hand he tells a story about a gardener showing grace and forbearance to an unfruitful fig tree. Jesus’ core teaching throughout these chapters appears to be the consequences of short-sighted living (including by Pharisees) and the divine mercy extended to those who wouldn’t expect to find ourselves in the realm of God to begin with.
Perhaps no topic elicits more heated opinion these days than the question that Jesus addresses directly in 13:24, “will only a few be saved?” Books and careers have been made or lost based on this question. In his puzzling response about the narrow door, Jesus both seems to say that it’s very hard to get into heaven, but also that people will be there from east, west, north and south. It is perhaps the case that one can’t get oneself into heaven (so the Pharisees and all who rely on works-righteousness are mistaken), but that those who least expect to be there will find God’s grace first?
Jesus’ impatience with self-confident assessments of one’s place in heaven comes in the context of his controversy with the Pharisees. Ironically, this is probably the Hebrew group that he had most in common with. Like them, he takes the law of Torah seriously and seeks to uphold its relevance for all times. At the same time, Jesus tells them to keep the big picture in mind. He argues for the fundamental purpose behind the laws of Torah, seeking to uphold the spirit and not just the letter of the law. This leads Jesus to focus on healing people (including on the Sabbath) as a way of serving God. He essentially tells the Pharisees not to lose sight of these fundamental values in their zeal for every minute detail of legal observance.
Table etiquette in Luke 14 reflects the upside-down, last-becoming-first way of God’s realm. Placing oneself in the lowest place opens up the possibility for advancement, and this is where Jesus puts himself. The same goes for the invitation that Jesus advises to those who wouldn’t have a place to eat without the invitation to the banquet. The poor, crippled, lame and blind presume that they have no place at the table, so that’s where Jesus focuses his energies. The parable of the great dinner puts this into story form, suggesting that upstanding folks (like the Pharisees) come up with reasons for not participating fully in kingdom life—they’re zealous instead for property or family, for instance. Therefore, the invitation to God’s party goes out far and wide to everyone, practically compelling to be there those who feel like they have no place at the table. Therefore, Jesus manages to convey both the great cost of discipleship—faithfulness may require giving up family, possessions, even life itself—and the grace which marvelously throws out the welcome mat when one is not relying on the self any longer.
At least, that’s what I make of these chapters, and I look forward to getting your take on these chapters. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Luke 15-16. Thanks for reading!
Good morning! Jesus is teaching the crowds throughout today’s passage, Luke 11-12. He gives pointed critique of Jewish religious leaders, but he generally addresses the crowds who follow him in order to exhort them regarding the life of discipleship. Though these chapters are set as though they occur before Jesus reaches Jerusalem, I believe the gospel writer is channeling what disciples need to hear in the decades after Jesus, adapting to an increasingly fragmented civic life and still expecting Christ’s triumphal return at any moment.