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.