Luke 17-18

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!

Read Luke 17-18.

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!

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