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Posts Tagged ‘Luke’

As Jesus’ ministry gathers steam in Luke’s telling, we glimpse the drawing up of battle lines in the three-times-repeated memory that Jesus rebuked a collection of enslaving adversaries.

And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’ And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!’ (Luke 4:33–36 ESV)

The verb that abbreviates Jesus’ belligerent command over the ‘unclean demon’ that holds this unnamed man in bondage is ε͗πιτιμάω (traditionally, to rebuke), supplemented in the people’s astonished after-commentary by ε͗πιτάσσω (usually, to command). As mentioned, Luke deploys ε͗πιτιμάω three times in close proximity, two of them of loud confrontations with demons reluctant to leave their hosts and once of Jesus’ command that an incapacitating fever should leave Simon’s mother-in-law.

And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. (Luke 4:38–41 ESV)

In those who heard Jesus teach and observed his stern command over enslaving powers that is abbreviated by this word, it elicited recognition of Jesus’ authority (ε͗ξουσία; 4.32 of his teaching, 4.37 of his forcing the demon to depart).

By means of this flurry of words, we are meant to understand a powerful confrontation between Jesus, on the one hand, and enslaving tyrants on the other. The latter may be the difficult-to-describe phenomena that the text routinely calls demons or the hot fever whose departure allowed the afflicted woman to resume her customary habit of serving her guests

It is worth noting the uneasy cohabitation of accommodating truth and religion, on the one hand, and madness and religion on the other. Jesus’ teaching on the sabbath astonished by virtue of its authority, in implicit contrast with more customary sabbath instruction that appears to have lacked this. And Luke locates the man with ‘the spirit of an unclean demon’ precisely ‘in the synagogue’ at Capernaum.

Luke describes Jesus as the sworn enemy of those powers that imprison human beings in a cage of madness, destructive self-absorption, and enervating disease. It is possible that his narrative subtly means to include ‘teaching without authority’ among this roster of enslaving enemies of the newly arrived Jesus.

More, Jesus represents the front edge of a campaign to banish these from human experience.

In the passage at hand, such powers simply leave (έξέρχομαι, ἀφίημι), though often with a loud and frightening pout as they go, as though to signal that ‘This is not over …’.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild?

Not so much.

 

 

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In a recent post I’ve noted the resolute anchoring of the events surrounding Jesus’ emergence in identifiable details that are open to debate, dispute, and falsification. The moment’s various layers of government and governance, the geographic and political entities in which these things took place, the calendar’s framing up of chronology and sequence, all these things mattered to Luke. Indeed, they matter twenty centuries later to people whose lives derive their meaning from Jesus himself and the early testimony about him. (more…)

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Perhaps we should give up heaven for Lent.

Like a cleansing diet, it might be a good thing for us to lay aside our notions of an esoteric, heavenly faith. At least long enough to re-root in history, where YHWH’s redemption locates itself and—in its way—turns the world upside down. (more…)

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In Isaiah 56, YHWH comes as close as Hebrew grammar allows to naming himself with a new name.

The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, ‘I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.’ (Isaiah 56:8 ESV)

Indeed, one could almost read the preface to YHWH’s declaration as …

YHWH, the Gatherer of the outcasts of Israel, declares …

Two things stand out. First, on my reading, this gathering impulse is not reported as one registers an event that happened once and may or may not recur. Rather, it seems that the syntax presents this gathering of Israel’s wandering daughters and sons as nearly intrinsic to YHWH’s persona. He not only gathers them. He is their Gatherer. Time and again. (more…)

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We live trapped, surrounded by walls.

We come to understand precisely what falls within our reach and what beyond. We learn early not to push the envelope, not to think beyond reality as it has been served to us with all its hard, claustrophobic barriers.

It’s hard to breathe. But we get enough air to go on, so we do.

For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37 ESV)

Mary the mother of Jesus finds the well-regarded limitations of divine intervention punctured by angels who can’t stop saying crazy things.

Along the way, she finds out that she is not the only woman falling pregnant under the oddest of circumstances. Her relative Elizabeth, sprightly perhaps but unmistakably old, is expecting. Indeed showing, for it is already the sixth month.

What’s more, Elizabeth is one of those unfortunates—everyone knew this—who could not have children.

That’s gone, the angel advises Mary, who has not even been given time to stop reeling from the shock of her own announced pregnancy.

If Mary stands apart from the rest of us, it is perhaps because she could say words like this against the cold breath of impossibility:

And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38 ESV)

She was somehow unscandalized by it all.

Having taken note of this, the angel immediately departs. He’s busy, has work to do.

Impossible stuff.

As I write this, I am terrified, exhilarated by impossible things. They’re at the window, not yet in the house, announcing themselves, tapping insistently on the pane. They raise hope, elicit then ease fear. They remind a man that he still knows nothing about that boundary, that frontier, that line between things that can be.

And those that could never be. Impossible things.

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When evil has become official policy, initial resistance is no less courageous for its quiet beginnings.

Luke narrates how 1st-century Jewish religious officialdom and the humid presence of Rome managed to collaborate in executing Jesus, this despite unsuccessful thrashing around for justifiable reasons to do so.

Not everyone agreed. But against this powerfully convenient coalition, what was one to do?

Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Luke 23:50–52 ESV)

This Joseph of Arimathea is described, as a righteous minority in a conflictive moment that demands silence and cooperation often is, from a variety of angles.

He was ‘a good and righteous man’. One surmises that it was this strength of character that explains his failure to ‘consent to their decision and action’ regarding the swift dispatching of Jesus to the rolls of for-a-while messiahs.

Yet there is more to Joseph. His eyes were among those that scan the landscape fore evidence that the God of Israel is quietly on the move. He was ‘looking’, this Joseph, ‘for the kingdom of God’. Most would imagine that the descriptions of power and the powerful were pretty well complete by the time one had taken the Herods and the Pilates into account.

Joseph did not. He was awaiting something more, something deeper, something enduring, something beyond the self-referential conspiracies of the religious and political elite.

What do you do in such dangerous times?

For Joseph, you do the next, merciful thing. You ask Pilate for the dead man’s body and give it a decent burial.

Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. (Luke 23:53 ESV)

Such is the this-worldly care of men and women who are better than this world, yet in loving it look for its true king.

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By all reckoning, it should have been the end of Peter’s story.

Like Judas, he might have hanged himself. Or turned recluse. Or lurched in his bitterness towards Stockholm Syndrome, throwing in his lot with Jesus’ taunters.

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61–62 ESV)

A text familiar with tears and their descriptors takes special care to characterize Peter’s particular kind of weeping. ‘He went out and wept bitterly.’

Nothing is left for Peter, even if Jesus‘ life might stagger on for a few more hours before the killing is over.

Indeed Luke’s narrative never pauses to allow a polite space for Peter’s grief. Hurrying on from Jesus’ and Peter’s fateful locking of glances, he reports:

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63–65 ESV)

But Peter is ended.

His credibility gone, his soul crushed by his own unforeseen betrayal of this man for whom he had vowed to die, what can possibly become of this once audacious follower of Jesus, whom the text now with increasing frequency calls simply ‘the Lord’?

Yet, stunningly, Peter is not over.

The events unfolding before eyes that have perhaps read them too quickly, too often, would produce more than one resurrection from the dead. Peter, the New Testament will lead us to understand, had a future, indeed a complex, contentious, and fruitful one.

Nor does the resurrection count end at just two.

For we are all Peter ended, capable of the unthinkable and often its very perpetrators, shattered by our own weak hand.

Yet we are all potentially Peter remade, remembering our nadir not as our end, but rather our beginning.

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