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Posts Tagged ‘Luke’

It is difficult, absent the strong smells and hideous noises that cling to chaos and its victims, to read off the page the full horror of the scene:

When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’ For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) (Luke 8:27–29 ESV)

Yet the deepest terror of the moment lurks neither in the sight nor in the sound of it. Rather, it comes to us in the single word with which this poor man responds to Jesus’ probing question:

Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ for many demons had entered him. (Luke 8:30 ESV) (more…)

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Jesus’ attention is so often drawn to women with no way out of their predicament.

As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ (Luke 7:12–13 NRSV)

The narrative’s description of the unnamed woman, bereft now of a son and perhaps of her last reliable companion and provider, leaves her alone in a crowd. The details are both sparse and stark. The dead man had been her only son. Her husband had preceded their son in death. (more…)

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As Jesus gathers with his disciples for one final dinner ‘before I suffer’, the air is thick with ironies.

One of them involves the status, stature, and deportment of those followers of his who will survive his extra-judicial murder. What is to become of these, disciples of a man who has been proclaimed a king in the manner of David but who has lived and is soon to die as a pauper? Will they be princes? Or slaves?

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

The answer seems clear. They are to be servants of all, for high status and the prerogatives of lords are anathema to those who would follow Jesus. As he has led them by—figuratively and literally—washing their feet, so their lives shall incarnate a servant’s destined humility. (more…)

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Jesus spoke of calamity with an almost chillingly realistic tone. When asked about the destruction that he hinted would fall upon Jerusalem—an event that could be ominously abbreviated as ‘the end’—he located it over the horizon by sketching out the painful normalcy that must precede.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’
‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’
He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them.When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’
Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.’

We fear chaos, as perhaps we should. Humanity’s bloodiest runs tend to occur not under the jackboot of empires but rather during the lawless interludes between them. (more…)

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It requires a peculiar strength to assert one’s will as the penultimate thing.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

In Gethsemane’s anteroom to judicial murder, Jesus knew exactly what he wanted: to live.

If there was glory in the arrest, the beatings, the cross that waited him, there was no pleasure. It came to Jesus’ lips as a most bitter, unwanted cup. He would have done almost anything to escape its venom.

Almost anything. On this the world hinges. (more…)

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Death is turned back on a morning like this one.

If the witch had truly understood the deep magic, we are told in the cinematic paraphrase of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, she might have interpreted the deep magic rather differently.

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24)

Hell’s formidable genius is unable correctly to decipher the meaningful scrawlings of truth. The witch and all who follow her are outwitted on Easter Sunday. Aslan is no longer dead, though his death was most real. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. (more…)

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When Jesus’ disciples ask him for training in prayer, he has just finished praying. Presumably they are moved to pray because the sight of Jesus in conversation with his Father stimulates them to desire the same.

It would seem, then, that the thing Jesus instructs his disciples to ask for is what he himself has been requesting.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’”

We are told to ask the Father that his reputation might be set apart as untouchable and untarnished. As well, we learn to desire that his rule might be realized in our space and time as it is known to prevail even now in heaven. (more…)

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Respectability is an expensive luxury that, in a moment, turns itself into a most damnable vice.

Jesus erstwhile adversaries—the mockable ‘Pharisees and scribes’—seemed incapable of recognizing that the perk of respectability out to have been parked far down on the list of graded priorities. So deep was their confusion that they mistook the stream of sinners to Jesus’ side as an affront to propriety. They should have welcomed it as the best of news:

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Angels, who bear their own glory lightly, see the movement of sinners into Jesus’ company more clearly. They weep and shout with joy over each one who repents. Here below, distracted and numb, we worry over the untied shoelace, the body odor, or the sexual history of such people. We require a respectability before, say, an audience with Jesus is to be granted.

Heaven knows no such quibbles. Angels do not fret at such a time. They dance.

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Jesus taught an ethic of continuity. What a person does with the little stuff is a leading indicator of his conduct when opportunity becomes large.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.

Money is so often the elementary school preparation for responsibility over lives and livelihoods. A checkbook makes for a fine pop quiz. An expense account stands in for a final exam. Bigger things wait upon graduation.

Jesus’ ethics stand over against the performance-based, self-aggrandizing morality that is reported to have characterized the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Having virtually cornered the market on religious respectability, the Pharisees appear to have made hay on their good name.

Jesus had no truck with their hypocrisy. His scathing denunciation of their code boiled down to a call for consistency. He’d have more patience with them, no doubt, if their piety could be taken indoors, their compassion turned towards those whom their religious affection humiliated, their joy motivated by seeing the poor and lonely healed and included.

In ethics, a bit of continuity does a body good.

Godliness in the small stuff, ditto in the big. Muck and slime in the details, hypocrisy and ruin when opportunity knocks loudly, trailing responsibility in its shadow.

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It might not be commonly agreed that a life accompanied by the biblical text is likely to be a life that grows towards a quiet courage. That does not make the observation less true.

The courage that Jesus inspires does not often call attention to itself. For good reason does the apostle refer to it and to other aspects of Christian maturity in terms of fruit. A slow-growing, non-dramatic but eminently harvestable product captures the phenomenon as well as an image could. (more…)

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