Tag Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Luke 16-20

Luke 15:11-12 - The Prodigal Son - Scene 01 - Young son leaves home

Monday, May 26, Chapter 16

Forget the breaks between the Father’s lost sons and this parable about a double-dealing estate manager.  Jesus and Luke intended for them to go together.  Here are five things they have in common.  1) Each has a noble master who demonstrates extraordinary grace to the wayward underling.  2) Both stories contain an ignoble underling who wastes the master’s resources.  3) In each the wayward underling reaches a moment of truth regarding those losses.  4) In both cases the underling throws himself on the mercy of the noble master.  5) Both parables deal with broken trust and the problems resulting from it.  (Adapted from Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.)

This parable does not glorify dishonesty.  It glorifies the Mercy of God.  We should do all that we can to please God so that we can receive his Mercy.

In verse 10 Jesus erases any notion that a thief is a good person.  There is an old Palestinian saying that sin will wedge itself between selling and buying.  1 Timothy 6:9-11:  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

In verses 16-18 Jesus is saying that the Law of God is in full effect.  We cannot change it.  In verse 18 he gives the example of divorce, a law that the Pharisees changed by allowing remarriage.

This is a difficult area for us to try to understand the mind of God.  Divorce is a sin. Killing is a sin.  Having sexual relations with the same sex is a sin.  All of these sins belong to all of us.  Married people often think their lives would be better without the spouse.  That is the same as getting a divorce.  Killing in a war or even thinking bad thoughts about a person is murder.  The fleeting thought that the other person looks pretty good is a sin.

What we do is come closer to the right relationship with God.  We never get there; we continue to violate the Law, to sin.

The Jesus begins the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  First, a word about Lazarus:  This is the only time Jesus names any person in a parable and the name means God Helps.

We are sure most of the listeners would have felt the way Dietrich Bonhoeffer described them.  Look at poor Lazarus, at how he is lying scorned before the rich man’s doorstep, and then look at how he receives God’s consolation with Abraham.  Blessed are you, you poor, for the kingdom of God is yours…. 

But now we must listen to quite a few shocked objections before we continue.

If something in the New Testament really sounds as rough as what we just said, you have to take it and spiritualize it.  We call that “sublimating,” that is, refining, elevating, spiritualizing, moralizing.  It’s not just simply the physically poor who are blessed and the physically rich who would be damned.  But the main thing is always what a person’s attitude is toward his poverty and toward his wealth….

That is precisely the frightening thing about this story—there is no moralizing here at all, but simply talk of poor and rich and of the promise and the threat given to the one and the other….

We must end this audacious, sanctimonious spiritualization of the gospel….

But a look at the Gospels shows us what is different here.  Jesus calls the poor blessed, but he does heal them, too, already here.  Yes, the kingdom of God is at hand, for the blind see and the lame walk.  He takes suffering so seriously that in a moment he must destroy it….

Up until now we have spoken of these two as if they actually had nothing to do with each other.  That is obviously not the case.  Lazarus lies in front of the rich man’s doorstep, and it is the poverty of Lazarus that makes the rich man rich, just as the wealth of the other man makes Lazarus poor….  In death the rich man is no longer rich, and the poor man no longer poor.  There they are one and the same….

Who is Lazarus? You know it yourself:  Your poorer brother or sister who cannot cope with life’s out ward or its spiritual aspects, often foolish, often impudent, often pushy, often godless, but yet endlessly needy and—whether knowing it or not—suffering, who craves the crumbs from under your table.  You may think with a little self-pity that you yourself are Lazarus….  Who is Lazarus?  Always the other one, the crucified Christ himself, who meets you in the form of a thousand people you would look down upon….

And now we must ask again:  Who is Lazarus?  And here at the end, in all humility, the last possibility must be considered, at the limits of all human and divine possibilities:  We are all Lazarus before God.  The rich man, too, is Lazarus.  He is the poor leper before God.  And only when we know that we are all Lazarus, because we all live through the mercy of God, do we see Lazarus in our neighbor.

Tuesday, May 27, Chapter 17

This first verse is one time when the King James is a bit closer to the Greek:  Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It is 100% certain that temptations to sin will occur for every human.  They occurred for Jesus just as often.  Do not be the one to create temptation.

Do not judge but help your fellow Christians.  We are expected to discuss what we believe is sin in the life of a brother or sister in Christ.

The Apostles asked that their faith be increased, made larger, not understanding that faith is either/or, on or off.  We can be stronger in our faith, meaning we will doubt ourselves less, but the faith is sufficient, weak or strong.

The short parable in verse 7 is a caution against acting like the Pharisees.  The short version is that we are servants of God and our work is never done.  We can take no credit for our work; it is our Master who gets all the credit.

This fact is acted out in the account of the Ten Lepers.  Here is part of a sermon by Joseph Novak given on November 20, 2012.

The great 20th century Swiss theologian Karl Barth was fond of saying that the basic human response to God is not fear and trembling, not guilt and dread, but gratitude.  He once wrote, “What else can we say to what God gives us but stammering praise of the gift and its Giver?”

“To be or not to be?”  is life’s ultimate question according to Hamlet, but for Christians, the main question is, “to give thanks or not to give thanks?”  In our relationship to the Holy God, we as humans have one posture, one job, one vocation to live into:  thanksgiving….

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was traveling through the area between Samaria and Galilee. This is already an odd story, since Samaritans and Jews got along about as well as Protestants and Catholics in Ireland….

But here we are, Jesus walking the no-man’s land between Samaria and Galilee. And he enters a village for some unnamed reason. And as he does so, a small leper community, living on the outskirts of the town, away from the clean villagers, sees him with his disciples. And, keeping their distance, they call out to him: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”….

And Jesus, seeing them, calls back: “Go show yourselves to the priest.”….

And as they go, the text says, they were made clean. Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Be healed”, he didn’t touch them and say, “You are clean.” Instead, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”….

Excited about receiving an answer to our prayers, we are often guilty of grabbing the blessing and running. We asked God for help to pay our bills….  And just as soon as the answer was in hand, just as soon as that check came in the mail… We just rush onto the next thing. It’s as if we say, “Well, I guess that prayer-thing works” or “Well, I deserved it, anyway” and we move on….

One of them, noticing his clean skin, turns back, and heads in the opposite direction. Heads away from the priest, away from his triumphant return to society, away from his reunion with family and friends, away from a feast at his father’s home, and instead he goes to Christ, praising God in a loud voice.

Perhaps his eyes are tear-filled, his throat open and singing those words from the thirtieth psalm: “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent! O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”  In any case, he gets to Christ and he falls at his feet, laying down on his belly, extending his arms toward him and the text says, “he thanked him.” And the text goes on to say rather pointedly, “And he was a Samaritan.”

Luke now returns us to the conflict with the Pharisees when one asked about the Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ answer can be disturbing; it is here, now, and in us.  Do not wait for the Kingdom; live in it now by doing the will of God.

To the disciples he adds that we are not to think about the return of the Messiah.  We are to live as though it has already happened.  He adds another prediction of his crucifixion, the fifth of six in Luke:  9:22; 9:44; 12:50; 13:32: 17:25; and 18:32-33.

The problem is that people now are like people in the days of Noah; they were not paying attention to God.  When the bad times come, we cannot worry for ourselves.  We must continue to live the life of love for others.

The disciples ask, “Where will the judgment take place?”  The answer is simple.  “Anyone who is not with God is dead.”

Wednesday, May 28, Chapter 18

The parable of the Persistent Widow is built on the powerful force in the Middle East:  shame.  The woman appears before the judge until she shames him into listening to her plea.  That is the lesser point of the traditional Jewish style of teaching used by Jesus.  The greater point is that God will listen to our prayers

The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is based on Isaiah 65:1-7.  Pharisees had a habit of avoiding anyone who was not a Pharisee so as not to be contaminated by the unclean common people.  They also liked to pray loudly in public so people would be impressed with their piety.

Jesus contrasted the two in prayer and announced the tax collector forgiven.  Kenneth E. Bailey added this detail.  Both the Pharisee and the tax collector are standing in front of the great high altar on which a lamb, without blemish, has just been sacrificed for the sins of Israel.  The tax collector stands far off, apart from the worshipers gathered around the altar, and watches the sacrifice of the lamb.  He listens to the blowing of the silver trumpets and the great clash of the cymbals, hears the reading of the psalm and watches the blood splashed on the sides of the altar.  He sees the priest disappear inside the temple to offer incense before God.  Shortly afterward, the priest reappears announcing that the sacrifice has been accepted and Israel’s sins washed away be the atoning sacrifice of the lamb.  The trumpets blow again, and the incense wafts to heaven.  The great choir sings, and the tax collector, distraught and beating his chest, stands far off and cries out, “O Lord, make an atonement for me, a sinner!”

Jesus emphasized the fact that he has come for everyone even children who cannot be expected to understand what the Kingdom is about.

When the rich ruler asked about inheriting eternal life his question suggested that he was in control; that he simply had to do one thing and he would get his reward.  Jesus did not say it directly, but his comments about being good hint to the fact that Jesus is the only human who deserves to be in the Kingdom of God.  There is nothing you and I can do to deserve the Kingdom.

Jesus gives the man a practical response:  you must love me more than your money.  Then he adds the famous words about needles and camels.  This is a typical Jewish contrast; the largest beast in the region with the smallest opening know to them.  The point is obvious, it will not happen.

In verse 27 Jesus softens the statement a bit; it is possible for God to put a camel through the eye of a needle and He can put us into the Kingdom.  Those who follow Jesus will already be in the Kingdom.

Jesus gives his last prediction of his death.

The chapter closes with the healing of the blind beggar.  Two times in the Gospels, Jesus is called Son of David, the other being by a Phoenician woman in Matthew 15:21.  A gentile and a blind man recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Why, in verse 41, did Jesus ask such an obvious question?  Probably to have the man say to the crowd that he wants to see.  Jesus has been giving difficult lessons.  Now he will heal a man who will see and understand.

Thursday, May 29, Chapter 19

For a fresh look at the account of Zacchaeus, let us read Ambrose (370 AD):  Zacchaeus in the sycamore; the blind man by the wayside.  The Lord waits for the one to have mercy on him and honors the other with the radiance of his visit.  He questions the one before healing him and attends the other’s house as an uninvited guest.  He knew that his host’s reward was to be rich.  Although Christ had not yet heard his voice of invitation, he has heard his good will.

Also Jerome (400 AD):  There certainly is much truth in a certain saying of a philosopher, “Every rich man is either wicked or the heir of wickedness.”  That is why the Lord and Savior says that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Someone may raise the objection, “How did wealthy Zacchaeus enter the kingdom of heaven?”  He gave away his wealth and immediately replaced it with the riches of the heavenly kingdom.

One more, this from Cyril of Alexandria (420 AD):  The story contains a puzzle.  In no other way can a person see Christ and believe in him except by climbing up into the sycamore, by making foolish his earthly members.

The parable of the ten minas describes the return of the Messiah, the Second Coming.  A mina was worth 100 days’ pay and the nobleman left ten of them in the story.  Verse 14 is aimed at those who oppose Jesus.  In the nobleman’s statement, until I come back, the Greek word, enho, can mean either until or because.  It seems likely that Jesus was thinking of because in his own case; Because I will return.

Notice that the servants who did well are rewarded with more work.

The servant who hid his mina is punished, teaching us that we are to work until the Messiah returns.

This parable of a nobleman who became a king is followed by the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  In ancient times throughout the Middle East, a king rode a horse to war and a donkey when coming peacefully.  There are several references in the Old Testament of kings riding donkeys, including Solomon and David.

Jesus came in peace.

In verse 37 Luke makes clear that the disciples were singing and praising Jesus.  They were even rebuked for it.  Jesus’ answer is right out of Habakkuk 2:11; The stones of the wall will cry out.

Check out 1 Kings 8:11; Jeremiah 9:1; Numbers 11:13; Judges 11:37; Deuteronomy 28:36; Isaiah 29:3; Jeremiah 6:6; and Ezekiel 4:2.

The end of the chapter has Jesus clearing the court of the improper activities that clutter up the House of God.  See Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11

Friday, May 30, Chapter 20

This opening battle between the Temple authorities and Jesus gives us great insight into the authority of Jesus.  The learned men of the Temple were correct in believing that Jesus had not been consecrated by the High Priest or trained by a great rabbi.  He did not even live in Jerusalem or Judea, but in Galilee.  None of his credentials would have impressed those men; rather they would have been inclined to stone him at once:  I was consecrated by God, in fact, I am His Son.

Since they were there only to spring a trap, Jesus slid the trap back to them un-sprung, but baited with a different question.

But what is authority?  Is it important?  Think about a baby, totally dependent on others, gradually learning that the dependence is a good thing.  Even as we strike out on our own, we take the information learned with us.  We are attracted to people who wield authority in the way we are used to seeing it.  Humans do not do well without authorities to lead us.

Jesus accepts authority; he rejects invalid authority.  In reality Jesus does answer their question by presenting them with John.  In the words of Paul Tillich:  He tells the leaders of His nation, you see the rise of an authority without ritual or legal foundation.  But you deny the possibility of it.  So you deny both the Baptist and myself.  You deny the possibility of an authority guaranteed by its inner power.  You have forgotten that the only test of the prophets was the power of what they had to say.  Listen to what the people say about us, namely, that we speak with authority and not as you, who are called the “authorities.”  That is what He tells them….

Even the authority of Jesus the Christ is not the consecrated image of the man who rules as a dictator, but it is the authority of him who emptied himself of all authority; it is the authority of the man on the Cross….

And you who are fighting against authorities and you who are searching for authorities, listen to the story in which Jesus fights against them and establishes an authority which cannot be established!  Here is an answer, namely, that no answer can be given except the one that, beyond all preliminary authorities, you must keep yourselves open to the power of Him who is the ground and the negation of everything which is authority on earth and in Heaven!…

The authority of Jesus is of a man who gave up all authority on a Cross.

The Parable of the Tenants is a retelling of Isaiah 5:1-7, the last verse being:

 Do you get it? The vineyard of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    is the country of Israel.
All the men and women of Judah
    are the garden he was so proud of.
He looked for a crop of justice
    and saw them murdering each other.
He looked for a harvest of righteousness
    and heard only the moans of victims.

The Hebrew word for stone is eben.  The Hebrew word for son is ben.  The eben the builders rejected is the ben.  Check out Psalm 118:22-23 and Isaiah 8:14-15.

The authorities returned with another trap.  Assuming the Messiah would oppose paying any taxes to a foreign government, they hoped to get him arrested by the Romans.

Asking them for a coin was a nice touch; it proved they carried foreign currency in violation of strict Jewish rules.  But that was not the main point.  We have to give our governments their due, but much more importantly, we must give everything to God.  Prepare yourselves; the authorities will make one more attempt to trick Jesus.

The attempt by the Sadducees is bizarre because they did not believe in life after death.  They believed only in the Torah, the first five books, and the power of the Temple sacrifices.  Yet, here they were trying to trip Jesus with another impossible question.  This is their only mention in Luke.

Jesus throws a couple of statements at them he knows they do not accept; the worthy will be resurrected and be like angels.  They also rejected the angels.  But Jesus went on with the account of Moses and the burning bush.  Since they believed the Torah, they were more likely to accept Exodus 3:6.

As an aside, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls records that King David wrote 3,600 Psalms and another 450 writings.  There is likely some truth in that.

Psalm 110:1,4 along with 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Malachi 3:1, and Micah 5:2 all promise a descendant of David to be the Messiah, though Samuel speaks first of Solomon.

Using the passage in Psalm 110 Jesus gives his enemies something to chew on.  To his disciples, he says, do not trust any of them.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Luke 11-15

origin_4654599511   Courtesy of Stephen Cuyos

Monday, May 19, Chapter 11

What a way to start the week, with the Lord’s Prayer.  First, forget the prayer most of us memorized; it came from Matthew.

Luke does not even bother with our; just Father will do.  Jesus wants us to think of his Father as our Father.  Jesus even called him Daddy.

Having started on familiar terms, add hallowed.  It means:  holy, sanctified, blessed, consecrated, deified, sacred, revered, respected.  God is our Father, but He is beyond our knowing.  He has created and continues to create a universe that we can see (perhaps others we cannot see) that contains millions of trillions of stars, planets, asteroids, black holes, and at least seven billion humans.  Show Him respect.

Your Kingdom.  That is what we long for, whether we realize it or not.  Every one of the seven billion people want that Kingdom.  Let it come

Give us our daily bread; daily, like the manna.  Bread, as in the Bread of Life.  Give us the Bread and Water of Jesus, daily.  We need it EVERY day.

We sin.  That is a given.  That is who we are; sinners living in a sin filled universe.  If we could travel a million light years to another planet, it would be the same.  As beautiful and awesome as this universe is, it is not perfect, nor are we.  Father, forgive our sins.

But, better yet, forgive all those other eight billion people.  We all need Your forgiveness and Your Love.  Help me to forgive them too.

I am easily tempted.  Things that are bad look so good.  Give me strength to avoid what is hurtful.

That is it.  The ending we remember from Matthew was added centuries later.  It sounds good so do not worry about saying it, but it is not necessary.  In fact, when we pray, ninety percent of the time we say too much.  Most of our prayer time should be spent listening to our Father.

Notice that Luke places this lesson on prayer just after Mary and Martha’s different approaches to working in the Kingdom.  As we know from Acts, taking care of the day-to-day activities in the fellowship of believers involves such chores as taking out the trash.  Martha was doing what she did best.

But Mary was closer to the eternal things.  We cannot allow the business of living to distract us from the eternal.

With the eternal in mind, consider the parable of the friend at midnight.  It is about prayer so we should look to the prayer Jesus just gave as an example.  Go back over the things Jesus suggested we pray for.  Notice the lack of big houses and fancy cars.  When we pray we need to focus on God, on things eternal.

Jesus warns us about failing to replace the bad with the good.  When we make the decision to change our ways we cannot be satisfied to just get rid of the old ways, we must put Jesus’ ways in their places.  Evil will find the empty spots in our lives and take over.  I have to have Christ-like relationships with my spouse, my kids, my co-workers, my friends, my enemies.

This is a wicked generation.  Those words could be spoken of every generation, but Jesus was issuing a warning to his own people in his own time.  Jonah was in the ‘grave’ for three days.  That is the sign his people will get.  Jesus is saying, the Queen of the South (Sheba) believed in God because of Solomon and the Ninevites believed in God because of Jonah, why will you not believe in God because of me?  Notice too that the Queen and the Ninevites were both gentiles.

The eye beholds light.  If the eye is covered with sin, it will not see the light.

The six woes are patterned after the prophets.  See Isaiah 1:10:17.  The key word in all is justice.

Tuesday, May 20, Chapter 12

With the large crowds, Jesus warned his disciples not to become impressed.  They were no doubt smiling and thinking that Jesus was well on his way to taking the throne of David with them as his loyal lieutenants. The prophets were killed, John the Baptizer was killed, do not expect different treatment.  The word in verse 5 for hell is Gehenna, referring to the valley on the east side of the Temple where the garbage was dumped, along with criminals and the unclaimed.

The Parable of the Rich Fool is based on a specific request made to Jesus to act as the judge in a dispute between two brothers.  Most likely their father died without a will and the older brother was not willing to share with his younger brother.  It was normal in the case of two boys for the younger to be given one half to one-third of the estate.

The younger brother is asking for justice.  Jesus responds with a parable.  Your answer, younger brother, do not concentrate on things of this earth.  For Jews of the First Century the body and soul were one; they could not be separated.  What our bodies do affects our souls.

The statement about eating and drinking was not the problem.  That was based on Ecclesiastes 8:15; So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time—the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time—compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth.  The problem was that the rich man never considered other people, never considered, as Augustine wrote, that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns.

We always have to ask ourselves, have I put away the right amount of money for college, for starting that business, for retirement?  It is not easy to know how much is needed.

In verse 22 Jesus states two common concerns, eating and clothing, then responds to the first in verse 24 and the second in verse 27.  Jesus is not telling us not to eat or wear clothes.  He is telling us that what we have is enough, if we are close to God.

We need to willingly share what we have with those who have little.  The only treasure we need to consider storing is Kingdom Treasure.

Verse 35 begins a section on the need to prepare for Christ’s second coming.  To enter the Kingdom of God requires first entering the Kingdom of Service.

Verse 51 is often a stumbling block.  Of course Jesus brings peace to the earth.  The Message puts it this way, Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront!  Jesus demands that people make decisions.  We cannot join the Kingdom if we remain rooted in the world.  The world does not like the peace that Jesus brings.

Wednesday, May 21, Chapter 13

In 1934 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was pastor of a church of German speaking people living in London.  The sermon was delivered just a week after the SS killed several hundred of Hitler’s followers, mostly those leaders of the SA, the Brown Shirts.

He used the first five verses of this chapter as his text.  Perhaps this text frightens you, and you think it sounds only too much like the news of the day—too dangerous for a worship service…. But it can never do any good to fool oneself into ignoring the truth….

Let us take a simple example:  suppose we see an accident happen in the street.  We see someone get run over.  We are unspeakably shocked and stand there stunned for a moment.  But then our first thought is:  Whose fault is it?….  Human beings are moralists through and through.  They want to accuse one person and exonerate the other.  They want to be the judges of what happens….

It is immeasurably valuable for us that Luke—alone among the gospel writers—has preserved for us the report of how Jesus reacted to such news of a catastrophe that had hit his country, a sensation for the newspapers, we might say, and what he had to say about it….

And now Jesus begins by joining them in the idea that in any case one cannot separate God from this terrible event….  But this very thought, that the hand of God is in this, means for Jesus something entirely different from what it means for public opinion.

Jesus does not say which side is right….  Jesus says No to the devout, he says No to their attempt to deal with this dreadful event by judging….  God is at work here….this is God’s holy mystery, and human beings are not meant to presume upon it.

Jesus said, Unless you repent, you too will all parish.

Jesus follows that call for repentance with the fig tree.  The fig is a common image of Israel.  Here, Jesus is saying that this wicked generation has not produced fruit for the Kingdom, but God will give more time to repent.

The crippled woman in the synagogue was just like the fig tree, bent and unable to bear fruit.  Jesus did something that stunned everyone in the room, he called the woman forward.  When a man entered the synagogue, he went to the front while his wife sat in the back.  A Pharisee would not even walk to the synagogue with his wife, nor would he look at her in public.

Jesus called on a woman he did not know and brought her into the men’s section of the synagogue.  He said to her, you have been untied.  And then he touched her.

To the hypocrites he said, you will untie a donkey on the Sabbath, why not untie a woman?

Luke several times has Jesus give pairs of parables, one with a man and the other with a woman.  Here Jesus takes two items so small as to be overlooked, showing how they become huge.  The Kingdom grows from the little things.

The narrow door is a clear teaching that getting into the Kingdom of God is not an easy thing.  In verse 26 he has the people saying, but we listened to you teaching in the streets.  It is not enough, you must respond in repentance.

Jesus is invited to stay away from Jerusalem, probably to avoid upsetting the Romans.  But Jesus points out that a prophet must die in Jerusalem.  Go tell that fox….  Jesus is ready for a fight.  Today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.  I am on my way to die and you cannot stop me.

Thursday, May 22, Chapter 14

Luke seems to go out of his way to record Jesus eating with Pharisees and healing people on the Sabbath.  No doubt it happened, but Luke seemed to see it as significant.  Here, Jesus is probably set up, again, with a man with dropsy, a swelling of the arms and legs from excess fluids.  Without much fanfare he heals the man and sends him on his way.

The lesson comes with the question, would you save your son?  There is only one possible answer and they cannot bring themselves to agree with Jesus, so they remain quiet.  Jesus then points out the seating arrangement and suggests none of us should assume we are the center of attraction.  He concludes the parable by suggesting service to those in need, if only to serve a meal.

One of the Pharisees thought to redirect Jesus’ thinking by referring to the Kingdom of God.  Jesus pulled out another parable about a banquet.  Do you want to eat at the banquet table in the Kingdom of God?  If so, you need to repent your ways.

The teaching of Jesus was in direct conflict with traditional teaching about the banquet of God in the Kingdom of God.  The Targum was the most important commentary on the Scriptures of the time.  In it we read, Yahweh of hosts will make for all the people in this mountain a meal.  And although they supposed it is an honor, it will be a shame for them and great plagues, plagues from which they will be unable to escape, plagues whereby they will come to their end.  The expectation was that only the most devout Jews had any hope of entering heaven.  No one else need apply.

The Book of Enoch, one of the most important books aside from Scripture in the First Century, described a banquet in which gentiles were present only to be slaughtered.  The saved Jews had to wade through their blood.  The writings of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran reject any possibility that a gentile could enter the Kingdom.  God would never allow a sinner or non-Jew into Heaven.

Jesus, in this parable, has God searching the streets for every beggar and thief to come into the Great Banquet.  Jews and Gentiles alike will sit together.

Connected to the theme of the banquet is the section starting at verse 25.  The only way to be a disciple is to love God more than anything or anyone.  Following Jesus involves giving up my personal rights, choices, desires, hopes and dreams.  We must be willing to pay the price.

 

Friday, May 23, Chapter 15

Luke has been leading up to this chapter since chapter 9 and he will provide similar events and lessons from chapter 16-19.  This chapter, then, is the center of a long lesson.  These three parables (stories) share the same four themes: joy, burden of restoration, gracious love, and repentance.

The lost sheep is an easy one for starters and sets the themes.  Nearly everyone in Jesus’ day had some understanding of sheep and shepherds.  Sheep were sacrificed by the thousands every day and provided the bulk of what little meat the average person ate in a week (generally one day a week only).

A young shepherd by the name of Muhammad ed-Deeb counted the goats in his care at 11 in the morning and saw that one was missing.  He left the other 55 goats in the care of his two assistants to search for the missing one.  He noticed the mouth of a cave on the cliff below him and thought the goat might have gotten in it.  Throwing a rock into the cave he heard a hollow thunk.  Investigating, he discovered the first of thousands of Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946.

The lost coin has a woman featured again.  It is the same idea as the lost sheep.  We will search for what is valuable to us.

The two stories are the introduction to the gem.  This parable should be called the two lost sons because the older son is just as lost as the younger.

This story is filled with images that strengthen its meaning.  Normally, a son would receive property only when the father died, so the son is really saying, “I wish you were dead, give me my share.”  The son turned his back on his people and the village would have held a qesasah, a kind of disowning of the young man.  To them he was dead.

To strengthen that image, Jesus has the youth go far away to a gentile country where he ends up feeding the most disgusting animals alive for Jews.  There are two types of carob pods in the Middle East.  One is sweet and sold even today as treats.  The other cannot be digested by humans, even if they could stand to eat it.

Verse 17 does not describe repentance, only a change in strategy.  In verse 18 he designs a crafty opening line sure to please the old man.  In verse 19 he sounds contrite by saying he is willing to give up being a son.  That happened with the qesasah.  He will become a hired man, not a slave, so he can earn enough money to leave again.  The boy is still thinking he is in control.

Now Jesus really throws some curve balls in the story.  The father is standing on the roof of the house (I know it does not say that, but it could be) and he runs to meet the son.  Throughout the Middle East then and now, no male over the age of 12 runs in public (though now it is done for soccer and other sports); un-hurried and dignified at all times, something like the old English stiff upper lip.  To add to the disgrace the father heaps on himself, he has to pull up his gown to run, exposing his lower legs in public.

The father runs to get to the son before the villagers have a chance to stone the boy for daring to return from the dead.  By kissing the boy, in public, he acknowledges him to everyone that the boy is his much loved son.

We can be sure that the father was a man of some wealth in the village just from the list of items given to the son.  Jesus’ listeners would have understood that the robe was the special one that the father wore on occasions of importance; the ring was the signet ring used to mark important documents and the fatted calf was a prize only the wealthy could afford.  All these things told both the villagers in the story and Jesus’ listeners that the son was to be treated as though he were the father.

The calf along announced to the whole village that there was to be a party.  A wealthy man might have a lamb or goat roasted for a special meal for family and a few guests, but a calf would have twenty times as much meat, enough for everyone.

We are not told of the younger son’s response, but it is easy to assume he dropped his pretense and genuinely repented.

The older son now comes into the scene, probably having been in the fields overseeing the work to be done on what was left of his father’s property (probably two-thirds).   He refuses to enter the house, a major insult to his father.  His father embarrasses himself again by going out to his son.  Those were the days when sons obeyed their parents.

The son equates himself to a slave instead of the number one son and builds a case against the rebellious son, possibly thinking of  Deuteronomy 21:18-21:  If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,  his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.  They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”  Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.  He heaps more shame on his father by refusing to do his duty as the elder son, to be the host of the party so his honored father can enjoy his guests.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Luke 6-10

100+ yr Grape Vines. Seppeltsville, Barossa Valley, South Australia.  photo by  Mark A Hewitt

 

Monday, May 12 Chapter 6

The Sabbath when Jesus and his followers were picking and eating grain from a field would have been a week or two after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  They could not have been more than half a mile from a town or there would have been no Pharisees around.  They would not walk that far on a Sabbath.

Jesus does not throw out the Torah teaching, he simply makes it practical.  People get hungry on Saturday just like any other day.  When Jesus says, The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath, he is repeating the common teachings of rabbis of the day.  Those same Pharisees would think nothing of working all day to save one of their animals, yet they condemn people for eating.

Jesus selected Twelve of the disciples for his inner group.  They were also given the rank of Apostles, ambassadors for Jesus.  Most of us are disciples, followers with only a few chosen as Apostles to work in mission fields, near and far.

Starting with verse 17, Jesus gives the blessings and woes, better known as the Beatitudes.  We generally think of chapter 5 in Matthew for them, but we find them here as well.  One scholar has recorded 45 beatitudes in the Old Testament, such as Psalm 1:1-2:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers, 

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

The word, poor, occurs 131 times in the Old Testament (NIV).  Poverty another 15, and love several hundred.  Again, Jesus is hardly breaking new ground.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, The only way to overcome your enemy is to love him.  In the New Testament our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility, for Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility.  Exodus 23:1-9 and Leviticus 19:18 give practical examples of such love.

We find this whole section difficult.  We would rather picture Jesus in the Temple chasing the money changers with a whip.  But that is the duty of God not ours.

If we judge, we cannot love.  By judging, we place ourselves above the other person.

About one-third of all the words of Jesus in the first three Gospels are parables.  Verses 39-45, however are really proverbs.

The Tree and Builders are parables teaching us to watch and take care who we follow.  Look for the fruit; is it hate or love.  Check the foundation; is it set firmly in the Scriptures?

Tuesday, May 13 Chapter 7

Jesus reentered Capernaum, his headquarters and the home of at least four Apostles.  The centurion first sends Jewish elders to request Jesus to heal his servant, then sends friends.  It is clear that the centurion believes Jesus has the power to heal without understanding what it all means.  That is a lesson for us.  We will never fully understand what God is about.  We take it on faith that He knows what He is doing.

The second message is interesting.  It shows that he believes he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his gentile house.  His faith impresses Jesus.

In Nain, Jesus raises a man from death.  The centurion invites Jesus to his house, but now he steps in uninvited.  In both cases, people call him Kyrios, Lord; Luke being the only one to use the term before the crucifixion.

There is an important passage in 1 Kings 17:17-24 that we need to read in the context of the resurrection.

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.  She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.  Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

This is another sign of the Messiah that Jesus had to fulfill.  Yet, in verse 16 the people accept him as a prophet, but not the Messiah.

In Verse 18, John sends his disciples to Jesus without mention of prison.  Luke does seem to assume that he is in prison.  Josephus wrote in his history that John was held at Machaerus, a stronghold and prison east of the Dead Sea.

John is not sure about all the tales he is hearing.  Was I wrong when I baptized you?  Jesus response is to paraphrase Isaiah, leaving out releasing the captives possibly to avoid giving John false hope.

Jesus praises the work of John to the crowds.  He quotes both fables and scripture to show the greatness of John.  Yet, in verse 28 Jesus says that everyone is greater than John.  Why?  It is a common Hebrew style.  It means that as great as John is, others will be at least as great; basically, all will be equally great.

In the next account, Jesus is at a special dinner in the home of a Pharisee.  Many wealthy men liked to have their sumptuous meals out where the neighbors could be envious.  A woman washed Jesus’ feet and cried for him.

In the eyes of the Pharisee, touching any woman not his family defiles Jesus.  But he goes farther in his thinking: a true prophet would have recognized that the woman was a sinner and would have refused her presence.  The Pharisee is gloating in his own superiority.

Jesus lets him know that he knows both the woman’s sin and the Pharisee’s inner thoughts.

On this story, three early Church Fathers wrote:

Ephrem the Syrian (360 AD) Impure lips became holy by kissing his feet.  She was graciously comforting with oil the feet of her Physician, who had graciously brought the treasury of healing to her suffering.  That blind Pharisee, for whom wonders were not enough, discredited the common things he saw because of the wondrous things he failed to see.

Ambrose of Milan (385 AD) The Law does not possess the mystery in which secret sins are cleansed.

Augustine (420 AD, a student of Ambrose) She will not think that she has been forgiven little and so love little.

Isaiah 43:25 is important here:

I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.

Wednesday, May 14 chapter 8

Jesus went from town to town preaching the Good News.  G. Campbell Morgan, writing in 1931, has this to say about that preaching:

The word preaching shows the style, the method….  Preaching is proclaiming as a herald, and when a herald proclaims, he is representing a King, and therefore there is authority in his message….

The word evangelizing reveals the content of the preaching.  What was it?  Telling the good news.  What good news?  The good news of the Kingdom of God.

That is the Gospel.  God reigns, and He has provided a way by which banished ones may return.  He went everywhere, not submitting a Gospel to the consideration of the crowd, but hearlding it, declaring it, God’s message to men, good news.  He went through the cities and the villages, heralding the good news f the Kingdom of God.

Luke includes the women who play an important role in the spreading of the Gospel.  In verse 3 they are said to be deacons, the meaning of the Greek translated helping.

The parable of the sower follows traditional Hebrew story telling style.  It was common to use a noun-verb combination of the same word: the sower will sow the seed.  It was also common to use three negatives with one positive.

This parable could be called the Parable of the Hearers.  It is about receiving the Good News.

Verse 9 is a stumbling block for many.  Why would Jesus hide the truth?  He does not.  He speaks the truth in a way most people can understand, yet they do not grasp the full meanings which even the Apostles will not understand until they become filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The Good News is simple enough for a child to understand, but difficult enough for Peter and Paul to still be confused upon their deaths.  We cannot know God; He is the Great Mystery.

Jesus’ parables are more than stories; they demand decisions.  First, do you believe the truth of the story?  Second, will you repent and turn back to God?

Rabbis from ancient times to today have spoken of students as sponges, funnels, strainers, and sieves.  The sponge takes in everything and is overloaded, so understands little.  The funnel allows everything to flow out the other ear.  The strainer allows the good ideas to flow out and keeps the bad.  Only the sieve saves the best.

On the account of Jesus’ family coming to visit, Luke does not use the harsh expressions of Mark, but the meaning is the same:  Jesus’ family are the brothers and sisters of the Fellowship.

When Jesus and others took a boat on Lake Gennesaret (became the Sea of Galilee in recent times, even though it is fresh water), the Greek word is whirlwind that came up and endangered them.  The fishermen understood the danger better than the others.  They cried to Jesus to save them.  Ephrem the Syrian in 370 AD said it best:  He who was sleeping was awakened and cast the sea into a sleep.

The demon possessed man puts Jesus to the test.  He is in Gentile territory instead of the Holy Land and the demons number in the thousands.  The Greek word for Legion comes directly from the Latin for a Roman Legion of about 8,000 men.  Mark says that there were about 2,000 pigs sent into the lake.  Regardless of the odds, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, won.

The people did not have the proper response though, one of fear instead of faith.

The dead girl and the bleeding woman are one story, not just because one interrupts the other.  We have a 12-year-old girl and a woman bleeding for 12 years.  The girl is just at the age to begin bleeding, to have her bat mitzvah, and be ready for marriage.  The woman has not had a life for those twelve years because uterine hemorrhaging left her unclean and unable to be with family and friends.

On his way to heal the dying girl, the woman touches the tassel on the prayer shawl of Jesus who feels the touch.  He knows the woman touched him and why, but he wants a teaching moment.  So he stops and forces her to tell everyone what she has done.

Notice what happens in verses 48-49.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Jesus, with one word, links the healing of the woman with the resurrection of the dead girl; daughter.

Thursday, May 15 Chapter 9

Sending the Twelve on their first missionary journey was a big step for them and a big risk for Jesus.  Chrysostam, writing about 400 AD, gives us a good description of the importance of the event.

Jesus succeeded in setting the human race free with no force of arms, no expenditure of money, not by starting wars of conquest, nor by inflaming men to battle.  He had only eleven men to start with, men who were undistinguished, without learning, ill-informed, destitute, poorly clad, without weapons, or sandals, men who had but a single tunic to wear.

We can imagine the Twelve returning to Jesus as excited as five-year olds on Christmas morning.  They each vied with the others to tell Jesus what happened.  Jesus had no doubt spent the time in prayer to support them in their efforts, but let them enjoy the moment.

Teaching again, they found themselves near Bethsaida on the north-eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret with thousands of people ready to eat.

An important point often overlooked:  the Apostles have just returned from doing miraculous things, but they have no idea how to feed these people.

So Jesus feeds them, much like Moses and the manna, much like Jesus at Passover.  Unlike with the manna which could not be kept for later, the Apostles picked up 12 baskets full, one for each of them.  They probably did not get the message then; feed people.

Jesus then asks the Twelve, Who do you say I am?  Once we answer with Peter, You are the Christ, the Messiah sent by God, we must respond by taking up our crosses.  We first deny, repudiate, reject, contradict, disagree, rebuff ourselves.  To take up a cross is to cease being the sinful, greedy, self-centered human we really are and become the person who thinks only of others, to become like Jesus.  We must do it daily because we are not strong enough to maintain our faithfulness.  We are of the two steps forward, one back class; and sometimes two or three back.

Eight days later, eight being the number of days old Jesus was when presented at the Temple, Jesus took the inner circle with him to visit with Moses and Elijah.  As Jesus prayed and his trusty inner circle slept, Jesus’ face began to glow like that of Moses returning from the mountain with the tablets.  Moses and Elijah were both forerunners of the Messiah, so here another promise of the Old Testament is kept.

Verse 35 is right out of Deuteronomy 18:15-20:  The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.  I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.

The next day, a man accosts Jesus wanting him to do what the disciples failed to do.  Jesus’ response makes sense in the context of visiting with his old friends, Moses and Elijah.  He is ready to join them in heaven.  How long shall I stay with you?

From the commentary on Luke by F. Godet, a Swiss theologian  (US translation 1881):  After enjoying fellowship with celestial beings, Jesus suddenly finds himself in the midst of a world where unbelief prevails in all its various degrees.  It is therefore the contrast, not between one man and another, but between this entire humanity alienated from God, in the midst of which He finds Himself, and the inhabitants of heaven whom He has just left, which wrings from Him this mournful exclamation….  The holy enjoyment of the night before has, as it were, made Him homesick.

 In verse 45, Jesus is telling the Apostles several things:  the Man Jesus will be betrayed by men; do not take the adulation of the crowd seriously, they will soon turn against me, and you; it is going to happen in a way that will surprise and confound you.

The Twelve respond by arguing over who of them is the greatest.

Verse 37 begins the long journey to resurrection.  As they pass through Samaria, Luke alone records many of the incidents, though John has several of them happening over three years time.

The literal translation is that Jesus set his face for Jerusalem, a common expression of the day.  Samaria was a region settled by a mixture of people after the Great Exile.  They believed only in the Torah, the five books of Moses.  They had no conception of the Messiah and did not worship in Jerusalem but on Mount Gerizim.

At verse 55 most ancient manuscripts read:  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

The chapter ends with another lesson in the cost of discipleship.  The work of the Kingdom always comes first.  On that point, most of us are deficient.

Friday, May 16 Chapter 10

Jesus selects 70 or 72 people (manuscripts are split about in half on the number) from among the disciples, not including the Apostles, to go on a mission trip, preparing the way for Jesus.  He asks them to go into the homes of the dreaded and unclean Samaritans, eat and sleep with them.

The Kingdom of God is near.

The Samaritans responded so well that Jesus mourned for Bethsaida and Capernaum because they did not respond as well.

When the disciples returned saying even the demons responded to them, Jesus quoted Isaiah 14:12, morning star being the name given to the evil one:

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

In verse 21 Jesus gives another lesson in who is great.  The Apostles had to notice that even the “other” followers were able to do what they had done earlier.

If you have to pick one parable as the only explanation of the Gospel, The Good Samaritan is it.  The expert in the Law asks a question and then quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  It is hard to do any better than that, but notice Jesus response, you will live; no mention of eternal life which was the question.

Luke says the lawyer wanted to trick Jesus and he pushed for more.  He got it.

Jesus has a Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  It is in Judea, not Samaria.  The road is 17 miles long, dropping from 2,600 feet to 855 feet below sea level, a total of 3,455 feet down.  Bandits lived along and worked the road like it was their own ATM.

The single most dangerous spot was the Adummim Pass where hundreds were robbed every year and many left for dead.  Everyone who heard the story knew all these details and probably knew someone who had been robbed and/or killed.

Notice that Jesus says they were all going down the road.  That means the priest and Levite did not have to concern themselves so much with ritual purity.  Touching a dead man or a not Jew would require seven days of purification, but they were not headed for the Temple for duty.  In other words, they had no ready excuse.

Most priests and Levites were Sadducees who rejected the teachings of the rabbis and Pharisees while the lawyer who started this parable was most likely a Pharisee.  Their teachings required both the priests and Levites to bury the dead in just such a case as this.  Even stronger, they required all written laws must be violated to preserve life.

All the listeners would have understood that the priest and Levite would have traveled with several servants for protection, but they would not allow any of them to touch the man because touching the servant would then make the priest and Levite unclean also.

In the parable we have the typical balance:

The robber steals and beats the man               the Samaritan pays for his care

The priest does nothing                                   the Samaritan transports the man

The Levite does nothing                                 the Samaritan treats his wounds.

 

The surprise for the listeners is that the man who stops is not a Jew, not even a Galilean.

As to the end of the chapter, Augustine (about 400 AD) wrote:

Martha was busy satisfying the needs of those who were hungry and thirsty.  With deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house.  It was an important but transitory work.  It will not always be necessary to eat and drink, will it?

What was Mary enjoying while she was listening?…  Let’s ask the Lord, who keeps such a splendid table for his own people, let’s ask him.  “Blessed,” he says, “are those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, because they shall be satisfied.”…

What was Mary enjoying?  What was she eating?  I’m persistent on this point, because I’m enjoying it too.  I will venture to say that she was eating the one she was listening to.  I mean, if she was eating truth, didn’t he say himself, “I am the truth?”  What more can I say?  He was being eaten, because he was the Bread.  “I,” he said, “am the bread who came down from heaven.”  This is the bread which nourishes and never diminishes.

Ambrose added a few years earlier:  Virtue does not have a single form.  In the example of Martha and Mary, there is added the busy devotion of the one and the pious attention of the other to the Word of God….

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

You Have Not Seen Him

 

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Acts 2:14a,22-32
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31
Psalm 16

Excerpts of sermon one, The Hands of God by Peter Marshall based on John 20:27.  Dr. Marshall was pastor of the Washington DC New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and Chaplain to the US Senate until his early death in 1947.  I have retained his printed style.

When Thomas returned to join the group, he heard the announcement told breathlessly

with shining eyes

as they gripped him by the arm

that the Master had appeared unto them, and that they knew—beyond any doubt—that He was alive.  Partly because of his overwhelming grief, and partly because he was by nature and disposition a skeptic, Thomas would not believe them.

he was, as it were, from some Palestinean Missouri

he had to be shown

he demanded proof

he insisted that he would not be swept

off his feet by any emotional reaction

he would have to be sure

and he refused to believe until the Lord

should appear before him

and until he could stick his unbelieving finger into the nailprints of the hands of the Son of God.

 

Before very long the disciples were again united in the room, and the door still being closed, and without bothering to knock, Jesus stood before them.

 

It was enough for Thomas, and it drew him to his glorious surrender: “My Lord, and my God!”

….

Here is our infinite comfort and strength—

“Behold My hands,” says Jesus.  That gives us confidence, and by this we know that the hands that today lay bricks

dig ditches

plant flowers

operate street cars

mine coal

wield shovels

hold riveting machines

use typewriters

wrap packages

wash dishes

Shall some day be occupied with the affairs of God in the New Jerusalem.

 

Excerpts of sermon two, The Joy of Ascension, preached in Berlin on Ascension Day, May 25, 1933 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer based on 1 Peter 1:7-9.  He was hanged in 1945 for his opposition to Hitler.

“Jesus, my joy”—is what we have just sung, and to be able to say that honestly, from the heart, is the meaning of a life lived with Christ.  If there is someone to whom it sounds very foreign, or who hears nothing in it but mush enthusiasm, then that person has never yet heard the gospel.  Jesus Christ was made a human being for the sake of humankind in the stable at Bethlehem—rejoice, o Christendom.  Jesus Christ became the companion of sinners and sat among tax collectors and prostitutes—rejoice, o Christendom.  Jesus Christ became a convicted criminal for the sake of convicts, on the cross at Golgotha—rejoice, o Christendom.  Jesus Christ, for the sake of his church, went from this earthly home to his heavenly kingdom—rejoice, o Christendom….  Say it out loud: Christ, my joy….

But how can people rejoice when they have been abandoned?  How can those who are left orphans be comforted?  How can those who are torn by homesickness be cheerful?  You orphaned church, left alone in your homesickness for Jesus Christ and his ascension, your ascension, rejoice!  For we are allowed to love him whom you cannot see; you are allowed to believe in him who is lost to your sight.  And nobody can take your love and your faith from you…. Without rejoicing, there is no church.  Let us talk today about joy in Christ….

Joy in the sermon—how hard that is for us people of today.  That’s because we are listening to the preacher and not to Christ.  We turn our own joy sour because we confuse earthly joy with heavenly joy.  Our poor Protestant church doesn’t offer us much earthly joy.  Don’t come looking for it here.  But heavenly joy Christ can give us, even through his frail church, and we should look for it only from him, not from the preacher.  In the sermon it is Christ who wants to visit us and wants to b himself our heavenly joy.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence