Posts tagged Luke
19 Jun 2012
"But we had hoped," said the downcast travellers, "that he would pay off our debts, get us out of this crisis, and set us free."
The stranger listened patiently. Their disappointment was understandable. A promising young leader, hung up on bankruptcy charges, friendless, penniless, disgraced. But—couldn't they see?
They listened intently. They heard his words, but... It was getting late. They had somewhere to stay, but he did not. "Please, be our guest, no trouble, we insist."
But then—what is this?—their guest, their honoured guest! Should they say something? Did he want them to say something? They could not. Speechless, they looked on as the guest served the bread to them, the hosts.
Into their bewilderment there came a strange sense of familiarity. Almost as if they had seen it before. One who should have expected to be served, serving others. One who should have expected to receive payment from others, instead footing the bill. One who belonged in high society, treating the jobless and disabled as valuable, as equals, as family. One who should have demanded oaths from others, instead making binding commitments to them, to stick with them, whatever the cost.
But what a cost! Had their situation really been so bad, that it took this much to deal with it? Had it really been necessary, for him to give them not just bread—but to die?
But here he was. The stranger. The guest. Finally, they saw. It was as they had hoped—and more. Their real debts had been paid. The greater crisis was already over. They were free.
19 Jan 2012
A substantial commentary on one of the synoptic gospels can easily fill its pages by concentrating on questions about the composition of the text and about the details of the historical events themselves, with constant reference to the other gospel accounts.
Strikingly, and refreshingly, Joel Green in his lengthy (928-page) commentary on Luke's Gospel shows no concern whatsoever with these questions. Rather, his overriding aim is to hear what Luke is trying to communicate, within the context of the Old Testament scriptures, and within his own historical and social context.
I've been reading this commentary very slowly for almost a year, mainly for personal reading, but also for a couple of sermons and a few Bible studies. Sometimes it's felt like a lot of reading, but I've never found myself wading through irrelevant material. Instead, I've been repeatedly struck with how rich Luke's Gospel is in its portrayal of Jesus.
So what, for Green, is the message of Luke's Gospel? Throughout the commentary, our attention is drawn back to Jesus' inaugural speech, in which he stated his own mission, "To bring good news to the poor ... to proclaim release to the captives" (4:18). "Poor" is to be understood not simply in material terms, but as those who are socially poor, marginalised, oppressed, rejected, and weighed down by sickness or the guilt of sin, and "release" is to be understood not just as setting free from whatever might hold someone captive, but in terms of full inclusion in the community of God's people, often demonstrated by a communal meal.
This sets the tone for the rest of the gospel, in which Jesus' mission is seen to be diametrically opposed to the way his society was ordered. Those at the forefront of the culture were concerned simply with their own status, and had no room for someone who preached and lived a message that involved losing one's own status for the sake of those on the margins of society. The climax, of course, is Jesus foregoing any status by dying an ignominious death on the cross, in order to bring release, forgiveness and full inclusion to those who were bound by sin.
While reading the commentary, I've been challenged to think about how Jesus would speak to our society. Is his message as diametrically opposed to the way our society functions as it was to the society in which he lived on earth? I think it is. Our society is built not so much on social greed (status), but on economic and personal greed (money and pleasure). But Jesus' message is just as radical, calling us to a total rethink of our whole value system. Once we have received Jesus' welcome and forgiveness, we are to value our resources (including our money) as opportunities to benefit those in need, and thereby to gain true riches in the economy of the age to come, rather than as opportunities to advance our own position in the economy of the present age.
7 Nov 2011
[Jesus] looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on" (Lk 21:1-4, NRSV).
[J]ust as Jesus indicts the religious leadership for consuming the homes of widows, so now he laments the travesty of a religious system that has as its effect the devouring of this widow's livelihood. Note that in no way does Luke suggest that Jesus finds the widow's action exemplary or praiseworthy. How could he, when the religious system was supposed to care for such as these (cf. Acts 6:1-6), not render them utterly destitute? Jesus' mission is to bring good news to the poor, including this widow, not to impoverish the poor even further (Joel B. Green, "The Gospel of Luke", 728).