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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Luke 17 – Sin:Rebuke/Repent:Forgive – Natural Reaction of Worship – Don’t Get Taken

Luke 17

Sin = rebuke

Repent = forgive

How many times do we do this? Every time! This is a hard teaching. On the one hand, we grow tired of rebuking and resort to, “Well that’s just who they are.” On the other hand, after so many times of forgiving someone we adopt a cultural idea of, “Wrong me once, shame on you. Wrong me twice, shame on me.” The focus here is on restoration. When someone is off their mark we need to restore them. Sometimes restoring someone means we have to risk our relationships and our pride. Confronting someone often kills relationship but it can save their soul. We have to decide which we care more about, our relationship with them or their relationship with God. Constantly forgiving someone takes swallowing your pride and taking up your cross for that person.

A question that came to mind from this section, is our forgiveness for a person’s actions dependent on them repenting of it? Another way of asking…Is it possible to forgive too quickly?

In recognizing the sacrifice that comes with this kind of relationship with people, we stand with the apostles and say, “Increase our faith!”

Ten With Leprosy

“When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done.” – N.T. Wright, Simply Christian – Chapter 11

This quote out of the book Simply Christian came to mind as I read the story of the man who returned to worship. In what ways have you been like the other nine, receiving the blessings but not having the natural response of worship? What does it take to become the one whose natural response is to worship?

Don’t Get Taken!

The Kingdom of God is within you (v21). You cannot see it but you can be part of it. You can take it with you. You can share it with others. The Kingdom of God in the end is what will be left when all is taken away. When the Son of Man comes, it will be like the flood taking away the evil from the world. When the Son of Man comes, it will be like the days of Lot, fire and sulfur rained down and took them all. When the Son of Man comes, don’t look back or you will be like Lot’s wife. Whoever tries to keep their lives will be taken but whoever freely gives up their lives will be left. When the Son of Man comes, those who are evil will be taken and those who are good will be left behind to inherit the earth.

The context of this passage says that you want to be “Left Behind.” – Sorry LaHaye and Jenkins!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Bible Blog, Luke

 

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Teaching Conviction

I have been teaching weekly, non-stop, for roughly 8 years now. I’ve had two month long breaks, one in ’06 and the other in ’09. I’m sure if I thought about it hard enough I could think of some other short periods of time where I wasn’t teaching a class. Kent has been teaching full time for basically the same amount of time and Bill has been going much much MUCH longer!

There are a few verses that I keep in my mind when I’m thinking about my role as a teacher.

James 3:1

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Colossians 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach…

2 Thessalonians 2:15

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

Teaching/preaching is a heavy task that all of us take very seriously. The more I’ve taught the more I’ve realized that I can only give answers. I can ask the question, “Where does your hope come from?” and I get the standard answer, “Jesus…” I can even ask for an explanation of why Jesus is where their hope comes from and can receive answers back. What is often lacking in these answers is conviction.

I spent four years working on a degree in Bible, three more years deepening my education with a Masters in Divinity, and I’m looking to take the next step and pursue a PhD in Theology. With all of this education I cannot stand in front of a classroom and teach conviction.

1 Corinthians 13:2-3

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Conviction is taught through love. I can theologically unfold the love of Christ on the cross, showing the love that he had in his care for his mother while on the cross, the compassion he had for those who were crucifying him, and the love spilled out for all of us but all of this is empty if it isn’t demonstrated in our lives.

Kent pointed us to the race struggle that is found in the church. When the world hears us say “Jesus is the answer” but do not show this answer in how we live toward one another, we cover this beautiful message with the message of our actions. When the cross convicts us, we live out it’s teaching with conviction in how we love one another. Even though age, race, economics, gender, nationality, etc. causes divisions between us, we love because Christ closes all of those gaps and makes us one.

John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

My challenge to you is that you help us in our teaching bring about conviction by loving someone this week that you don’t normally take the opportunity to. I’m not sure I’ve seen a congregation that is as loving as Northwest, but lets take this love even deeper.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Hot Topics

 

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Luke 16 – Shrewd Servant, Money and Inclusion

The Shrewd Servant

Welcome to one of the most difficult to understand parables that Jesus gives us.  Is Jesus commending a servant for abusing his position and taking financial advantage of his master?  I don’t think so.  It appears that the master is already carrying out some underhanded business practices.  Under the law, Jews were not to charge interest on loans, but often got around this by lending in kind, collecting extra commodities (oil and wheat) instead of interest.  If that is the case here then it’s possible the servant was reducing the debts to the original amount owed (the principle), so that the master couldn’t complain to anybody about the reduced amounts.

Even then, if the parable is about money then it’s still confusing at best.  Certainly we can assume that Jesus isn’t commending even somewhat shady financial principles or teaching about handling money.  Instead, we should always assume that when Jesus tells us a parable that includes a master and a servant that the master is God and the servant is Israel.  In this case, Israel has been a poor steward of all that God has entrusted to her and is about to be cast out.  The advice is to those listening, that they can either tighten their grip on control and rules and the law, or they can recognize the need for change in the last minute and take a chance by showing kindness to anybody who will accept it.  To aggressively pursue relationship over strict obedience to procedure is a virtue.

Faithfulness

After that parable are teachings about not serving money and divorce.  Much (and I mean much) can be said regarding these things, especially divorce, but in this context I simply want to say that God’s people were to be faithful.  Faithful in their business and financial dealings.  Faithful to God.  Faithful in marriage.

Rich Man and Lazarus

We all know a Lazarus.  He’s the guy with the cardboard sign.  The lady with the backpack.  It’s the orphan with the stomach bloated by hunger.  In our world we come across Lazarus so often that we can become blind to him.  We make excuses for our behavior and place the responsibility on their behavior.  We say we aren’t rich, but Lazarus would trade lives with us any day.

The story that Jesus tells here is a common one, even in Jesus’ time.  It wasn’t unusual to think that fortunes might be reversed in a future life.  What was unusual in Jesus’ story is that the rich man wasn’t allowed to go back and warn others.  Then, he wasn’t even allowed to send Lazarus back to warn his loved ones.  In this story, the rich man is like the older brother in chapter 15, who would like to keep the poor and the sinners outside, unseen, ignored.  But Jesus is inviting them in.  Jesus takes the standard idea that the poor and broken will be blessed in the distant future and brings that time into the present and makes it the responsibility of all of those who would be his followers.

The rich man and the older brother (Lk 15) wanted to keep the poor and sinful out of sight, out of mind. The shrewd servant threw caution to the wind in order to use land and money however he could to build relationships.  The Pharisees needed to let go of their preconceived ideas of money and self-righteousness and open their arms to people who had neither of those and that they should do it now, not at some distant point in the future.

The chapter ends with a powerful note of foreshadowing, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets then they won’t listen to somebody who rose from the dead.”  Oh how true that would prove to be.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Luke

 

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Luke 15 – Who Is Your Younger Brother?

Luke 15

Jesus tells these three parables because he was throwing parties with all the wrong people. All three of these stories are saying the same thing in different ways, “This is why we’re celebrating!! Wouldn’t you have a party if it were you? How could we not?!” Through these parables, we get a clear picture of what Jesus thought he was doing. Jesus was celebrating with the worst people in the eyes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

Here are the responses that Jesus was looking for in regards to these sinners: REJOICE! CELEBRATE! BE GLAD!

When we get to the parable at the end the question is often asked, “Which brother are you?” While I think that can lead to some convicting conversations, I want to ask a different question that I feel like Jesus is getting at. You are the older brother, what group(s) of people have become the “younger brother” for you? Homosexuals? Pedophiles? Muslims? Ex-Convicts? ________Race?

There are groups of people that I am honestly not comfortable around and I look at how Jesus connects with people and if I’m desiring to be like Christ I have to ask him to break down those walls in my heart. We have to love how Christ loves. This does not mean that we accept sinful lifestyles as though they were ok. What it does mean is that we are called to meet these people where they are to then bring them to Christ.

This is honestly a very hard reflection for me, but one that needs to be taken on. Let’s start celebrating some victories!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Bible Blog, Luke

 

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Luke 14 – Two Feasts and the Price

Two Feasts

While at a feast at a Pharisee’s home, Jesus was being carefully watched.  I don’t get the idea that these were protective eyes.  The crowd here is watching every move Jesus makes, waiting for him to slip up so they can condemn him and discredit him.  This is a group who is always jostling for position.  They want to use their self-righteousness and self-proclaimed holiness to show everybody that they are closest to God.

So as Jesus watches everybody jostling for position at the table, seeking seats of honor, he recognizes that this is the perfect metaphor and right opportunity to address their “competitive self-righteousness.”  While Jesus’ instructions about where to sit at a party seem like practical wisdom on social protocol, Luke tells us this is a parable and so the important thing is the deeper meaning.  In God’s Kingdom, his people don’t seek honor and try to manipulate their way to the head of God’s table.  Instead, they see others as more important than themselves and seek to honor others and in doing so receive honor from God.

Then, between two parables about feasts Jesus gives the very literal instruction that instead of inviting friends and family over for dinner you should invite the poor, the disadvantaged, and the broken.  While this instruction was intended for a culture where you would know everybody in your town and regularly walk by one another’s homes with always open doors, it certainly still applies to us today in that we should show hospitality and kindness to people without distinction.  In fact, we should go out of our way to show generosity and kindness to those who others would ignore.

The second story about a feast is the parable of the great banquet.  When the master of the banquet invites in a number of guests who only reply with excuses, he rejects those invited guests and begins to invite the lowly people throughout the town and countryside. This parable really functions on several levels.  First, Jesus has been travelling all over Galilee inviting people to join his Kingdom movement and they have been making nothing but excuses.  And yet, whenever Jesus preaches he finds positive responses among the poor and the broken.  On a second level, as Luke writes this Gospel he is part of the First Century Church that is experiencing thousands of non-Jew Gentiles joining the church.  At the same time, almost all Christian persecution in the book of Acts takes place at the hands of the Jews.  Luke is experiencing an entire nation of God’s people rejecting his invitation while thousands of outsiders accept it eagerly and are welcomed into the banquet.  Finally, this parable gives us an overall snapshot of what Jesus’ Kingdom movement is going to be like.  If you want to be a part of it, you better plan to be around these kinds of people.

The message of these stories needs to be heard and discussed by Christians and churches today.  The Gospel should be taught and lived in such a way that it is good news for the broken, the poor and the disadvantaged.  If our presentation or living out of the Gospel isn’t good news to those on the bottom of the pile and the end of the line, then perhaps we need to reevaluate.

Cost of Discipleship

Can you imagine if a politician today gave this speech?  Want to be part of my kingdom?  Then you better be prepared to lose your job, your family, your house, anything else you value.  Give it up.  I can’t imagine that going well.  But if you instead imagine an explorer about to lead a brave group on an extremely dangerous trip over a dangerous mountain pass to deliver life saving medications to a village on the other side.  “Don’t bring extra supplies because we can’t afford the weight.  Send a letter to your families.  It might be your last chance. Some of us might not survive this, but let’s go.”  It’s a similar message, but we feel completely different about it.  Jesus’ call to discipleship is more like the leader than the politician.  The life he calls his followers to is radical, risky and will require sacrifice, but it will certainly be worth it.

I would like to mention that I am occasionally reading and using N.T. Wright’s Luke for Everyone as we read and discuss this Gospel together.  I occasionally benefit and share with you illustrations and explanations from this book and recommend any of the books in this series for personal Bible study.  

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Luke

 

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Luke 13 – Didn’t Make the Top 10! – Sabbath What? – Did I make it? – Jesus’ Longing

Luke 13

I know Paul was the worst of sinners…but I’m not that bad at all…

#1 – Joseph Stalin

#2 – Adolf Hitler

#3 – Josef Mengele

#4 – Pol Pot

#5 – Ivan IV of Russia

#6 – Leopold II of Belgium

#7 – Ayatollah Khomeini

#8 – Idi Amin Dada

#9 – Osama bin Laden

#10 – Kim Jong Il

What do all of these men have in common? They are worse sinners than probably any of you who are reading this blog. I can safely say that taking a poll of the surrounding community would probably show that I am not nearly as bad as any of these people. The reality is, I need Jesus. I need repentance.

The parable of fig tree is a powerful story and interesting story. This is my take…God is the man who owns the tree and Jesus is the gardener. God has grown impatient with his creation and ready to cut it down. Jesus steps in and asks if he can take care of the tree himself. If he cannot bring the tree to fruition then it is time to cut it down. Christ has provided every means possible for us to produce fruit!

Sabbath

Reminder: Sabbath is about God’s peace reigning, the reality of God’s rest. So…which is better, to let God’s peace and rest reign in this woman’s body or to not work? Jesus reminds them of how they would jump to save one of their animals no matter what day it was but they wouldn’t lift a finger to free this woman from the chaos that entraps her.

Jesus then turns to talk about the Kingdom of God that he is bringing. This is a Kingdom that is big enough for crippled women to find a place, just like the birds in the tree. The Kingdom of God is going to penetrate all aspects of life, like yeast working its way through the dough.

 

 

Am I Saved?

Jesus goes on preaching through the towns and the question is asked of how many will be saved. This is a good question! It’d be nice to know how hard you’re going to have to work to get in! “Make every effort to enter.” If you’re asking how much you need to do or have to do then you are asking the wrong question. Runners don’t get to run in the great races because they merely did enough to get by. They make every effort they can to be the best they can. “Doe’s God really care about when I….” is probably the wrong statement to make. They person asks “how many” and Jesus simply responds, “Will you be one of them?”

Is this narrow door exclusive? Is that offensive?

It seems that sometimes in our culture we want to be rewarded for something we didn’t really do. I could be wrong…but maybe Jesus is reminding us here to take this relationship with God thing as seriously as we need to.

Standing Outside the City

Does it seem like the Pharisees are looking out for Jesus here?

Jesus knows who is in control here…and it isn’t Herod! Can you imagine the emotion Jesus felt looking out at Jerusalem? There is a longing for them to recognize him as their savior and King. Jesus wants to take them in but they refuse. They will welcome him like a king, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and then he will die for them.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Bible Blog, Luke

 

Christianity and Racism

If you haven’t heard a lot about racism and prejudice in our country lately then you haven’t been paying attention.  With the killing of Trayvon Martin, the murders two weeks ago in Tulsa, and an African American President running for re-election for the first time in our country’s history, race is definitely a hot topic.  My fear is that politics of division (from both parties) and a wave of anger and fear will lead to things getting worse before they get better.

How did we ever get here?  The first time we ever see people divided in the Bible is in Genesis 11.  The people have gathered at Babel to build a huge waterproof tower to reach the heavens (see “how to survive a world-wide flood as an act of rebellion against God”).  God says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”  So God scrambled their languages, scattered them across the earth and prejudice and division entered the earth.  Since then, people have congregated with those like them and separated from the others.

Fast forward thousands of years to the Apostle Paul, the man God has called to be a missionary to every people and nation on earth.  He writes in Ephesians 3 that the mystery of the Gospel is this, that every single nation in the world (Gentiles) are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  When Paul talks about the mystery of the Gospel, he doesn’t talk about grace or forgiveness or justification or obedience.  When Paul talks about the mystery of the Gospel he is talking about the end of racism, division and prejudice because of Jesus and his Kingdom.  In Christ, we are members of one body.  Bill has a sermon (my favorite) where he talks about how the church functions as a “third race.”  My identity may have previously been an Oklahoman while Ryan’s was a Texan, but now we are simply Christians.  There is no black or white, there is Christian.  There is no Jew of Gentile, there is Christian.  There is no English-speaking or Hispanic, there is Christian.  We are the end of the curse of Babel, and as such what God said of those at Babel should be true of us, “that as a people speaking one language there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”  In our case, that’s exactly what God wants us to do.

Unfortunately the church has historically struggled to do this.  Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”  In some cases the church has improved dramatically in this regard over the last forty years.  In other cases not.

In a year when race is going to be part of our country’s conversations on a regular basis, I pray that Christians will rise above these divisions.  I pray that we will rise above the politics of race and instead by driven by a Biblical approach to politics.  I pray that Christians will not send emails or make jokes based on race.  Don’t let “It’s only a joke” or “I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true” be excuses.  I pray that as our world seeks to divide people that the church will step up and unite people.  I hope we cling to the mystery of the Gospel and make it a serious part of our personal and communal commitment to Jesus Christ.  I hope that in little ways and in big ways the church of tomorrow will become a light of every kind of unity in Christ Jesus to a world who would recognize Christians by their love.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Hot Topics

 

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Luke 12 Teachings, Worry and a Dark Turn

Warnings and Encouragements

Have you ever been speaking negatively about somebody and then had something happen that made you wonder if they had heard what you said?  I can’t think of a specific time this has happened to me, but I can remember exactly how sick I felt.  Jesus’s suggestion is to not say things in private that you wouldn’t say in public and you never have to experience that feeling.  And not only should you speak well of people in private, but you should speak well of Jesus in public.  If you are willing to take a stand for Jesus in public, then the Spirit will make sure you have the words to say.

The Parable of the Rich Fool

I came across a great blog on this topic today (by my wonderful sister-in-law) and I thought I would share it with you.  http://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/barn-building-and-the-challenge-of-too-much/.

Do Not Worry

Jesus is trying to teach his followers to not be consumed by worry.  This is different than “Do not care.”  This isn’t telling people to put aside all responsibility and simply expect for things to be provided.  If God takes care of the ravens and the flowers, who do nothing to take care of themselves, how much more will he take care of you who does take care of yourself?  Then he says, “For the pagan world runs after these things and your Father knows that you need them.”  There are two important principles in that sentence.  First, the pagans run wild trying to get the stuff they worry about and that’s not good.  But there is nothing wrong with the stuff because Jesus acknowledges that God knows we need them.  The problem isn’t that we need things.  The problem isn’t just the stuff.  It’s that we don’t trust God to provide what we need.  That’s the problem, the chasing stuff and the not trusting God.

A Bit of a Dark Turn

The book of Luke suddenly gets a little dark and this carries over into tomorrow’s reading as well.  Jesus begins talking about watchfulness, division and the signs of the times.  At this point in the Gospel we begin to be clued in to the possibility that this story might not have the neat happy ending everybody is expecting.  The King and the Kingdom won’t be able to fix everything immediately, at least not in a way that we might expect.  Servants are drunk and abusive why the master is gone.  Families are in chaos and conflict.  The people can’t even see that a huge storm is brewing.  But the reader begins to see the storm.  We know that something big is coming. From this point on, we will begin to see more and more references to Jesus’s death and what that means.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Luke

 

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Luke 11 – Prayer, Special Power, Repentance, Self Examination

Luke 11
The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer for me has become a model for my prayer life at times. I’ve used it to springboard into more conversational times of prayer. I’ve allowed it at other times to structure my prayer time and allow each line to translate into what it means in my life.

It is a prayer for people who are on the Kingdom-journey with Jesus. The main thing in Jesus’ teachings on prayer that I feel like is often neglected is that he tells us to ask God for the Holy Spirit because He wants to give it to us!

Jesus and Beelzebub
Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that demons listen to Jesus? I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be standing in the crowed watching this. There are two options here…either Jesus was equipped with a special power from God. Or, he has struck up a deal with the devil. His accusers assume the second. This is a way of rejecting the Kingdom message that Jesus has been preaching, and ever spreading propaganda about him. Jesus basically looks at them and points out their poor logic.

The Sign of Jonah
Jonah walked into Nineveh, much to his chagrin, and told everyone to repent. He didn’t think they would do it. They weren’t even God’s own people. Why would they repent to a God who isn’t their god? Their response…widespread repentance. Jesus, who just so happens to be greater than Jonah, is now there preaching repentance and no one wants to listen.

The Lamp of the Body

The eye is the lamp to the body. Where are you looking? What are you filling yourself with? Examine yourself to see where any darkness might be lingering.

 

Woes on the Pharisees and the Experts on the Law
I love that Jesus has been invited to this guy’s house and then he lets them have it. They want all of Israel to follow the law perfectly so that they can be holy again but they don’t want to do anything to help these people become holy themselves. Do we ever set people out on the Christian walk without giving them the means to actually walk? How could we better prepare them for this journey?

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Bible Blog, Luke

 

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Luke 10 – 72 Followers, Good Terrorist and Martha

Sending of the 72

We all know about the twelve, but in addition to the Apostles there were another 60 disciples who followed Jesus throughout his ministry.  We know at least a couple of them (Matthias and the other guy not chosen in Acts 1, either because he wasn’t chosen or he went by three different names) were with Jesus from the beginning.  We often picture Jesus travelling in a group of 13, but it more often was a group of varying size that often included most or all of these 72 and many others.

In this story, Jesus feels he has taught them enough to send them out.  This establishes in important pattern of disciple-making that Jesus puts into place that is valuable for us to use today as well.  First you identify those with the ability and desire to learn and begin teaching them.  Next, you allow them to do the work alongside you, observing, learning and teaching along the way.  Then you have them start taking leadership roles with you there and then you send them out.  When they return from their mission trips, they report to Jesus and he instructs them even further.  This pattern of making disciples must work.  It’s the only way the church will ever survive after Jesus has ascended, if these men are able to go on doing the work of the Kingdom even while the King is away.

The Good Samaritan

Obviously much has been said about the good Samaritan.  It’s one of the first parables we learn as children in Bible classes.  But we miss an important element because we are so used to the Levites and Priests being bad guys that it doesn’t bother us.  Perhaps a modern twist will make you as uncomfortable and offended as Jesus’s audience would have been:

What does it mean to be a good citizen?  A young man was walking home from school one day.  It was only a couple of miles down a quiet dirt road from his school to his house.  On the way home a group of guys pulled up in a truck, jumped him, took everything he had of value and left him laying motionless and bleeding in the dirt.  A police officer drove by, but when he realized the boy was a farmer and probably got himself into trouble, he kept driving.  A fireman just got off a long shift and as soon as he saw a poor beat up kid he couldn’t imagine helping one more person today.  He was ready to be home.  Finally, a self professing member of al Qaeda came by and actually stopped.  The boy was terrified at first, but then was surprised that the terrorist started to show him compassion and kindness.  He gave much to help the boy recover.  Who is the good citizen?  Clearly, you now understand the parable of the Good Terrorist.

It sounds ridiculous, right?  At one point you probably felt uncomfortable and perhaps offended by it? Well that’s how Jesus’s audience felt when he said to them through this parable, “You’re supposed to be God’s people and yet you ignore your own people in great need.  There are non-believing Gentiles who treat broken people better than you and who are closer to God than you are.”  Jesus better be careful.  Say too many things like that to the wrong people…

Martha and Mary

In Martha’s defense, she was doing the right thing.  So was Mary.  I think the difference is attitude.  If any other person was sitting in Martha’s living room then she would have been the one admired throughout the ages for being the servant while her lazy sister sat listening to a man tell stories.  However, this man was the Son of God and his time was getting short.  Even so, I don’t think Martha would have been criticized if she hadn’t asked Jesus to rebuke her sister for paying attention to him rather than the cooking.  Martha shows a great deal of hospitality here, just a lack of recognizing what her sister sees so clearly.  Mary recognizes that Jesus has more to offer them than they could ever offer him.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Luke

 

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