Friday, December 30, 2011

Reflections on the 6th of Luke

Dear friends,

I'm taking a fast-paced read through the book of Luke in the Bible.  I try to read a chapter a day, but sometimes it's so meaty that I have to split it up into smaller passages.   I try to write a little about it each time, even if it is just copying a verse or two.  Sometimes I'm able to focus enough to ponder more and write my reflections in my journal.

I like to share with you some thoughts from the 6th chapter, which you can read first here: Luke 6.  There is so much in this chapter that I didn't write about all of it, especially since my mind was also musing on extensions of these concepts that were not strictly found in this one passage but in other related ones.  

Throughout this post, I excerpt key verses I was thinking about most of all, and then write about them.
On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.  
 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
 10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Jesus "worked" on the Sabbath (in this case, by healing the man with the shriveled hand -- not just the hand, but the whole man) but he also prayed every day.  He was fully into everything that was worthwhile for him to do, no matter what it was or when it was.  He didn't say, "It's not the Sabbath, so I don't need to be religious," nor "It is the Sabbath, so I can't do practical things."

For him, life was whole and integrated, not compartmentalized. Weeping and mourning could go hand in hand with rejoicing.  He could treat an enemy as a friend, and yet say something difficult to a friend.   He could give and receive. He could be discerning and merciful at the same time.  So can we.  What is always required? Love, reverence, wisdom, kindness, obedience to the Word.

Jesus was also bold.  He didn't shy away from doing or saying something which might be unpopular.  He didn't just stumble into healing the man.  He knew what the Pharisees were thinking, and he was proactive about healing.  He took the initiative.  No one pressured him into it.  In fact, he already knew they would be furious with him for breaking their man-made religious rules.

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

In this chapter Jesus healed, prayed, preached the gospel, and chose his 12 apostles from among his many disciples.  These apostles, like all of the disciples, were primarily followers of Jesus. From the overflow of that following, they led and trained others later. 

Perhaps one reason some Christian leaders get into trouble with authoritarian control is that they see themselves primarily as leaders rather than followers, teachers rather than fellow learners, those who want to change others rather than be transformed from within by the precious power and presence of Jesus (through the Holy Spirit), who alone can change a heart.

The Pharisees were more concerned about maintaining their own power than about truly ministering to a needy, hurting, oppressed and confused people.  The Pharisees lost their effectiveness as leaders because their rules were more important to them than the miracles of God. What the people really needed was Jesus and his dynamic power.  So do we.  Jesus used his power for the good of other people, not an end in itself for himself.  He gave them truth, not empty promises and platitudes.

20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Another theme of this chapter is getting past the immediate outer appearance of worth and success instead of seeing "big picture" and "long term."  Popularity and wealth and control are not what matters.  Even being well-treated by others is not the ultimate goal. We can't always control what others do, but we are responsible for ourselves. Who we are inside (the purity and power of  character) and what we do as the fruit of that (love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, generosity, courage) are the true marks of genuine worth and success.  What is in your heart will come out in what you say and do.  That's where the inner meets the outer.


27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Jesus was specific and practical in his teaching, but he also gave broad principles that covered much more. He could talk about lending to the poor, but also about doing to others as we would have them do to us.  That way, he couldn't fall into the opposite ditches of being nitpicky & narrow, or vague & non-committal.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"The Most High is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked." Does that mean he never punishes them in his justice?  No, he still does.  He gives them opportunity to repent.  He is patient.  He sends rain on the just and the unjust -- the "common graces."  Likewise, we should be kind to others, even if they are not kind to us.

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

When the action doesn't match the speech and intention, there is hypocrisy.  You can't truly say Jesus is Lord of your life if you aren't willing to obey him.  It is not enough to hear it and mentally agree with it. We must do it. Some people equate agreement with obedience.  They can pretend, and talk a great talk, and make a few half-hearted gestures of compliance for the sake of reputation, but if it's not authentic from the core, it won't last long. It will crumble like a house on the sand.  Genuine faith follows through even (and especially) when no one else notices.

So those are my notes on parts of Luke 6.

What do you think about all of this?  What stands out to you?  Did you glean something different from this chapter?

What is God teaching you from your Bible reading and prayer time?

Virginia Knowles

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