NTiR: Jesus sings, but does he dance? (Luke 13-18)
Thank you for coming back to read more of this series, The New Testament in Review.
I’ve heard it said that people cannot or will not envision Christ as a human, with human interests. Luke hints at Jesus as a drinker, a joker and a singer. I don’t know about you, but I find this depiction of Jesus much more than the idea of a conservative (not in the political sense) goody two shoes who never drinks, never curses, is always clean-shaven and dressed in his Sunday best.
Jesus has lightened up a little bit, and instead of threatening his listeners with an eternity of burning in hell, he tells the listeners how to repent to get back into God’s grace. Jesus tells a parable here, a man wants to cut down a fig tree that hasn’t given fruit in three years. The gardener says “no, give me another year, and let me fertilize it.” Christ is obviously the gardener here, but who is the gardener after his death?
Jesus does have a rebuke for Jerusalem. And to rub it in, he rebukes them in song:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones to death those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you didn’t want to!
Look! Your house is left to you deserted. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘How blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!'”
Luke spent much of the first chapters of his gospel writing about everything except for what Jesus was teaching. In the last few chapters, he has written nothing but what Jesus was teaching. Much of this chapter is new to me. At least compared to the previous two gospels. Luke had a specific part of Christ’s teachings that he wanted to concentrate on or clairfy, and we’re to it now.
For example, regarding the “the greatest among you must become the least” idea that was mentioned in Matthew and Mark.” Luke details a parable that Jesus told to highlight this. If a person is invited to a wedding banquet and sits in one of the seats of honor, that person will probably be asked to get up and take one of the lesser seats. Christ says that this would leave the person in disgrace. However, if the person takes a seat that indicates no honor, the host will tell the person, “come up closer, my friend!” and that person will be honored by those watching.
Luke also highlights Jesus’s parables that charge one with taking care of “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”
I have a big aside here, and this is going to dig deep into politics. A lot of Christian denominations align themselves with the Republican Party. However, it is the Democratic Party that fights for such things as health care and unemployment insurance and food stamps and welfare. It seems clear to me which party most embodies Christ’s call to take care of the poor and ill and homeless. And that party isn’t the Republican Party. So why do so many Christians stick with them? But I digress.
In the remainder of Luke 14, Christ describes what one must do to become a true disciple. And it isn’t pretty. A true disciple must “hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as his own life,” take up their own burdens, give up everything that is important to a person, as well as any possessions they may have. Is there anyone nowadays that can live up to those requirements?
This chapter is a celebration of repentance, a rejoicing in forgiveness. It is at once glorious and joyous. Everyone knows the story of The Prodigal Son. It’s a story of joy and rebirth. Everyone – except for the faithful brother who really does get the short end of the stick – rejoices when the prodigal son returns. The one who was presumed lost is celebrated when found again. As is the stray sheep who is found. The sheep parable is a little odd, because the shepherd risks losing the other 99 just to find the one. I personally would’ve kept the 99 and written the 1 off, but that’s just me.
The chapter opens up with another warning about monetary wealth. This time in parable form: a (financial?) manager who is about to be fired gets his clients to falsify the amount of money they actually owe to the Master. One who owes $100 states that he owes $50, etc. This seemed logical, until the next bit: ” The master praised the dishonest manager for being so clever.” Hmmm… To make things a little more confusing, Jesus then explains the parable with: “I’m telling you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous riches, so that when they’re gone you’ll be welcomed into eternal homes.” That has me totally and completely baffled. Can anyone explain to me exactly what this means?
Luke doesn’t have much respect for the Pharisees either, sneaking in another little dig, “Now the Pharisees, who love money…” Jesus told another parable, this time of Lazarus the leper and an unnamed rich man. Lazarus would go to beg for table scraps at the rich man’s table. Both died; Lazarus ended up in heaven with Abraham, while the rich man ended up in Hades. The rich man begged for help, but Abraham told him it was not allowed, nor was it possible. Abraham said that people have the teachings of Moses and the prophets to help them get to heaven. We just need to listen to those teachings and live our life by these.
Mind you, the Pharisees are well versed in scriptures, and should know the teachings of Moses and the prophets better than most. This is a double-slight on Jesus’s part, telling the Pharisees both that their love for money has pulled them off the path set out by scripture. Needless to say, the Pharisees don’t like being told they are going to hell.
Not much going on here. More teachings on faith and sin (don’t lead anyone to sin, forgive someone whenever they ask for forgiveness). There’s a slight contradiction regarding how to tell when the kingdom of god is coming. On the one hand, Jesus says that “The kingdom of God is not coming with a visible display” and warns his disciples that there will be people claiming to be Christ but actually aren’t. However, Jesus then says “For just as lightning flashes and shines from one end of the sky to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” which one is which?
Jesus also warns that not everyone will be allowed into the kingdom of god (this is a very common theme in the gospels so far, especially in Luke). A wife might be chosen while her husband is left behind. The disciples asks where this will happen, and Jesus gives a grisly answer: “Wherever there’s a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” [shudder]
This is a quick chapter. Jesus finishes up his sermon and gets the disciples ready to travel. He tells the 12 that they are going to make their way to Jerusalem. Jesus also warns that he is going to be tortured and killed, but the disciples don’t understand what he is saying.
Up next: Luke tells a new tale about the death of Christ
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Monday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series will be accessible via http://biffster.org/category/bible If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page.