Wednesday, 1 October 2008

What must I do? (it's back)

Earlier this year I wrote about Luke 18:18-30 as I thought about what it means to leave everything and follow Jesus. I have I not yet arrived at any firm conclusions and I have left some big questions unanswered (like this one). I do hope to finish this thread sometime (review the thread here).

In the meantime, as I have been reading through Luke in preparation for my contributions to the EQUIP BOOKCLUB discussions for December, I have made some interesting observations which (I believe) shed light on the above passage.

Before Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), an expert in the law asks him, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. This is exactly the same question that the rich ruler asks him in Luke 18:18; and in both a discussion about the requirements of the law follows and both conclude with Jesus saying telling them what they should do. He tells one to go and have mercy even on the foreigner (10:37) and the other to go and sell everything and give to the poor (18:22). I think the idea in each case is about loving the ‘sinner’; the outcast, the poor, even the Samaritan. Jesus is not giving them another rule to obey, he is showing them that while they think they keep the requirements of the law, they do not fulfil the law by loving their neighbour. He is showing them that they also are sinners in need of a saviour.

I also noticed that Jesus has a lot to say in condemnation of Israel’s leaders, and some of the parables are spoken against them. Both the questioners in these passages are ‘leaders’; one an expert in the law and the other a ‘ruler’. Listen to what Jesus says,
“Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. […] But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” (11:39-41)
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone.” (11:42)
“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (11:46)
He condemns their lack of love, both for God and for man. In other places he speaks negatively of their hypocrisy (12:1; 56; 13:15) and their greed (12:15; 16:14).

I also found two passages which I think need to be considered together with 18:29-30. The three passages are;
“Do you think I came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other; three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (12:52-53)
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters- yes even his own life- he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (14:26-27)
“I tell you the truth… no-one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the life to come, eternal life.” (18:29-30)
I’m looking forward to thinking about this some more, especially as I read Luke more carefully over the next few months. Don’t forget to join us over at the EQUIP BOOKCLUB in December!

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