Posts Tagged ‘Luke’

A kind of self-oriented religiosity craves a formula.

We want a rule, a predictable sequence, a guaranteed outcome.

Admittedly, the Christian message is, from one angle of view, simple. Its redeeming beauty hides behind no intellectual prerequisite, no gate-keeping aesthetic sensitivity, no necessary spiritual predisposition. It’s the walking wounded, the drooling madman, the self-loathing sinner who seizes its promise before the sophisticate can get past his first reflexive sneer. (more…)


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Rational calculation, as we know it, is of limited value in assessing life’s larger moves.

Take Jesus’ parables about people, animals, and things that have gone missing. He intends to speak, of course, about his Father’s love. Such stories are not permeated by the sentimental, but neither do they hew to the mathematics of evaluation. (more…)

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Jesus rarely made things easy.

He forced upon his hearers choices they would rather have avoided. When he found that a kind of celebrity had attached itself to him, he faced down the crowds with a kind of rhetorical fury that must have been only partially offset by the love in his voice.

The gushing of the masses appears to have represented a kind of threat. In the face of it, he said the damnedest things. (more…)

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Our mind is shaped by a culture that privileges experience and feeling above all other windows into reality.

We no longer even say, with the writers of love songs, ‘It feels so good it must be real’. We are content if it simply feels good, with no further questions asked. (more…)

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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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