Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #3 (Chapters 5-7)

Bock LukeThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Luke accompanied by Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Darrell L. Bock. Chapters 5-7 begin the section on the Galilean ministry of Jesus as He slowly revealed  His identity to His disciples and to the nation and prepared His followers to take the message of the Gospel to the world. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue. Again, I am not sure why the page numbers in the IVP series do not come up in Logos, but I will reference the quotes with the corresponding scripture reference.

In chapter 5 Jesus begins to connect with and call disciples to follow Him and be trained to do His kingdom work. Luke mixes this call with accounts of Jesus' miracles, which illustrate His authority to call disciples and how His kingdom works. The miraculous catch illustrates to Peter, Andrew, James, and John the need to recognize one's own sin and inadequacy and Jesus' abundant provision (and the danger that He puts you into) to come to Him and follow Him. The healing of the leper demonstrates that Jesus' "touch" heals and makes one acceptable to come into God's presence. The healing of the paralytic shows, to the Jewish leadership especially, that Jesus has the power and authority, that belongs only to God, to forgive sin and overcome its effects. The Jewish leadership questions why Jesus reaches out to sinners instead of withdrawing from them as they did. Jesus responds that His presence means that God is acting in a new way. If one follows Jesus, they cannot go back to their old ways and traditions. Following Jesus is an all-or-nothing proposition.

Simon Peter represents all disciples. His humility and awareness of his sin do not disqualify him from service; they are the prerequisite for service...Jesus does not call those who think they can help God do his work. God does not need or want servants who think they are doing God a favor. Jesus calls those who know they need to be humble before his power and presence. From now on Simon will be casting his nets in a different sea, the sea of humanity’s need for God. Luke 5:1-11

Jesus has just painted a picture that speaks more than a library full of books on Christology. He has backed up his words with action. God is vindicating Jesus’ claims. At crunch time Jesus applies his authority with great skill. As the paralytic walks, the question becomes who will walk with him and share the forgiveness Jesus has pictured. Fence-sitting is no longer possible, given the nature of Jesus’ claims. Luke 5.17-26

Jesus views people in terms of what God could make them into, rather than pigeonholing them into who they currently are. There is no compromise with holiness in his relationships with sinners, because one of the very characteristics of God’s holiness is the way he reaches out in mercy to those in need (1:46–53). God graciously takes the sinner who is responsive to him and begins the work of transformation. Luke 5:27-32

There can be no syncretism between what Jesus brings and the old tradition of Judaism. If it were tried, both would be destroyed...Jesus’ presence requires a new way, new forms and a new spirit. Luke 5:33-39

Luke continues Jesus' preparation for the calling of His disciples in 6.1-16 as He shows them how his kingdom is different than what they were used to or what they expected. The Sabbath controversies show that Jesus' kingdom is more about loving people and meeting their needs, as God does, rather than just keeping rules. Jesus has authority over the laws and institutions ordained by God and can adapt or change them as He decides. Thus, he picks 12 men who will begin this new phase in His kingdom plan that will fulfill what Israel was to do but will be "something new and something parallel to Israel," a "new community is both distinct from and connected to God’s promises for the nation." (6.12)

The battle over the grain becomes yet another discussion of Jesus’ authority. He is not just a teacher, a great example or a moral-religious leader like other greats of history. He claims to possess authority over laws and institutions that God has ordained. Again, the event forces a choice. Is Jesus right or wrong about himself? Does he reveal the way of God or pervert it? It is either one or the other. Luke 6.1-5

Zeal often leads to unrighteousness, as ends are cited to justify questionable means. Sometimes in seeking to prevent murder or unrighteousness, God’s people engage and even justify acts that are just as reprehensible...The pursuit of righteousness should never cause us to resort to tactics that reflect unrighteousness. Luke 6:6-11

The rest of chapter 6 contains Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus here lays out His kingdom values and the danger of rejecting them. God's people have received grace and blessing and are obligated to live in a way that reflects God's character and passes on grace and blessing to others. We do this first by living in a way that adopts God's values of blessing in relationship with Him, rather than the world's value of getting things for ourselves. This means living a life of love that imitates God who gives and loves despite the response to it. Jesus will give His life for the very people that rejected and persecuted Him. Finally, Jesus' disciples build their lives on the teachings of Jesus and God's Word. This provides a solid foundation for a successful and fruitful life before God and other people. 

For those who do not engage God on the divinity’s terms there looms nothing but the terrible expectation of a day of reckoning. One of the dangers of wealth is that it can lead one to believe a life of independence is possible—a view that Jesus teaches is arrogant and misguided (12:13–21). The world’s values are not God’s values. The reversal portrayed in the beatitudes and woes reflects the idea that “the one with the most toys” often loses. God’s blessing can be found in surprising places. It rests on those who rest in him. Luke 6:20-26

Jesus’ formulation of the ("golden") rule, however, is the least self-focused. Jesus is not saying, “Do good deeds for others so they will return the favor.” Instead he is calling for actions of love regardless of how the other responds. Nor is he saying, “Think of what you like, then do that for others.” Rather, we are to be sensitive to the needs, feelings and concerns of others and seek to meet them. Sensitivity in love means listening and serving. Luke 6:27-36

Choose your instructors wisely, since you will become like them. To build solidly on a firm foundation, follow the teaching of those who teach God’s Word, not tradition or feeling (two alternatives often on offer today). Jesus’ message commends itself as worthy of being heard and followed. Those who reflect his message also are worth listening to. In a time when reflection and thought are often given low priority, we ought to give high priority to reflecting on Jesus’ teaching. Luke 6:37-49

Chapter 7 focuses on the desired response of disciples to Jesus and who can be a disciple. First, the offer is open to anyone. A Gentile centurion and a group of women are commended as examples of faith and frame the section. Second, the disciple must recognize the Divine authority of Jesus (He has the power and ability to save and do what He says) and the willingness (love and compassion of God) to make this available to all who trust in Him. The centurion provides the main example with his humble trusting faith that Jesus can heal his servant. At the center of this section Jesus raises a dead man to life. The crowd recognizes that Jesus is a great prophet, yet does not fully understand who He is. Even John the Baptist has doubts about who Jesus is. Jesus responds by focusing John on what God is doing through Him. The kingdom has arrived in Jesus. At the dinner party a Pharisee refuses to recognize even that Jesus is a prophet. It is a sinful woman  that recognizes Jesus and He responds by forgiving her sin, illustrating a main focus of His mission: To forgive all sins and bring people who are far from God back into relationship with Him. The section ends by mentioning that Jesus' ministry is supported by women who have been forgiven and healed by Him. This would have been surprising and scandalous in the Jewish culture of that day.

Here is faith that should be emulated. Here is trust, confidence, rest in the authority of God and awareness of his plan. The Jewish nation, and all others, can learn from this outsider. Aware of Jesus’ authority, the centurion has committed the well-being of his beloved slave into Jesus’ hands. Jesus commends the centurion’s humility and his understanding of Jesus’ authority: such faith is exemplary. Luke 7:1-10

When the crowd fears and recognizes Jesus as a great prophet, they are not wrong; their view of Jesus is merely incomplete. With his account of this miracle Luke is steadily building his portrait of the many-faceted nature of Jesus. God is visiting his people. God’s visitation is a key theme in Luke (1:68, 78; 19:41–44; Acts 15:14). God is active through Jesus. Luke 7:11-17

Even in the midst of doubt, we are called to see what God has done and trust that his way is the path of wisdom. Wisdom’s children see his ways and walk in them. In wisdom’s path is the blessing of sharing in God’s presence beyond even what the best of God’s prophets enjoyed. Even if many of their peers never acknowledge God’s work, those who respond to Jesus are highly privileged. Sometimes the most precious gifts of God are the least appreciated. Luke 7:18-35

Jesus represents the messenger of God who ministers God’s love. As a result, he is open to and conscious of the opportunity that exists when sinners are loved. He does not ignore sin, but he recognizes that sin can be reversed when God’s love is received. The Pharisees’ separatist attitude stands rebuked as an inappropriate model of holiness. The heavenly Father is ready to forgive debts when we turn humbly to him. Luke 7:36-50

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