Saturday, May 26, 2012

Life in the Kingdom of Freedom – Luke 10

(Click here to read Luke 10)


Luke 10:21-24
21  In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

The tenth chapter of Luke begins with Jesus and his disciples firmly on the road toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:53). Jesus has set his face, and he's not looking back (Luke 9:62). In the previous chapters, the question has been raised as to the identity of Jesus. In chapter ten, Jesus levels with the consequences of a wrong conviction on this question.

The chapter begins with Jesus commissioning his disciples to go and share the good news of the kingdom. This time, however, he sends more of them – seventy-two disciples are sent in pairs. There is a sense of urgency and sobriety to the mission. Jesus tells them they are lambs among wolves (v3). He asks them to pray earnestly for more workers (v2). He tells them to go to their cities so quickly that they aren't to even stop to greet someone on the way (v4 – the customary greeting was actually quite long and involved).

Jesus instructs the disciples to stay only as long as they are received. If they are rejected, they are to wipe the dust of the town from their feet – a strong response, indeed (v11).

Luke 10:16 - “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Jesus pronounces woes on the cities that reject him. He warns them of a day of judgment for those who do not change, put their faith in action in the new Kingdom of God. There is no pulling punches here.

When the disciples return, they are excited to share about the Kingdom authority they've demonstrated as they ministered abroad. “Even the demons are subject to us in your name” (v17), they say to Jesus. Jesus' response reminds them and us that such an excitement has an immature perspective. Life lived as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, period, is as powerful and exciting as it gets. The enemy is defeated. The battle is won. The heavy lifting is done. The good news is that the Kingdom is here, and we can live according to its freedom and justice now.

A more personal example of what it means to accept or reject Jesus is found in the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Here, Jesus is in the home of two sisters. Mary is at his feet, listening to his teaching (v39). It is notable that she is described exactly as a disciple would have been. Not every man in Jesus' culture would have believed a woman should be taught, but Jesus teaches Mary willingly (see previous entry on Jesus and women in Luke's gospel). Martha is in the kitchen, preparing food and working hard to give hospitality. From the kitchen, Martha becomes upset, and tells Jesus to get her sister Mary to help her (v40).

Jesus responds by telling Martha that she needn't be anxious over many things (v41). Only one thing is necessary (v42), he says, and it is what Mary has chosen.

The good news being offered to these cities by the seventy-two disciples is not a message of burdens or oppression. Jesus came to set people free, not keep them bound. The world's system keeps us anxious and troubled over many things. The culture of the powers of this world teach us to strive upward for material, power, influence, prestige. But Jesus doesn't require these things. In Jesus, we are free to live outside of the arrogant striving of the world. He is sufficient. In Jesus, we are equal and fully acceptable just as we are.

The unfortunate truth is that we often prefer our rugged individualism to a humble rest in the arms of a holy God. We are offered freedom as a gift, but many of us trip over our pride as we try to earn it ourselves. But such a freedom will never be earned according to the ways of this world. The freedom promised in this world is a carrot designed to keep us enslaved. We believe we are lords of our own destiny, our liberty just over the next bend, but it is an illusion.

The Kingdom of Heaven is in peace. It is at rest. It is at the feet of Jesus.

When asked by a lawyer how he may inherit eternal, Jesus answers by asking him what the Law of Moses records, showing his deep respect for its' authority, as well as the dignity and responsibility of the man who posed the question. The lawyer responds by paraphrasing the Hebrew SHEMA, the undisputed most important law of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Luke 10:27-29 (ESV)
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

He desired to justify himself. He was looking for an affirmation that his life was already enough, a pat on the back and assurance that he was already in the way of the Kingdom. Clearly, the law as stated was more radical than he was willing to accept. As a good lawyer, he asked for a clarification, and hoped for a loophole.

But it was the wrong question. What he wanted to know was who he could exclude. For whom did he not need to live unselfishly.

This seeker was not looking for an answer from Jesus that would challenge the way he lived.

Luke 10:30-37 (ESV)

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The story of the Samaritan turned the lawyer's question back on itself. The right question was “how can I be a neighbour”. In this case, it was, like the Samaritan, to give love and care even to an enemy, to a stranger, and to give as much as was necessary, even more. Jesus' answer required a change of behaviour on the man's part, and it was uncomfortable. Jesus wasn't interested in affirming the man's self-righteousness. He was more interested in making him holy than making him happy.

Like Martha, the lawyer preferred the life the empires of the world offer, with its quantifiable levels of success and accomplishment by which we may judge and be judged. In the world's way, we look upward toward a thousand paths of false power, security, or affirmation.

But there is only one way in the Kingdom, and that way is humble surrender. It is love and compassion for the least of these.


v22 – Jesus reveals the Father.
v27 – Summary of the Law – the Hebrew SHEMA
v33 – today Samaria is part of the West Bank. Today’s “Samaritans” are Palestinians.

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