Friday, December 14, 2012

Luke 17

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the pressure on him is increasing. He is preparing his disciples for his imminent demise (and ultimate resurrection). Notice in 1-10 Jesus is giving instructions for living life in community. Mercy, forgiveness, accountability and faithful service are at the heart of the Christian community. We challenge each other to do better and we hold one another accountable when we fail and forgive one another in the midst of those failings. Following the ascension the community of followers of Jesus become the hope of the world in hearing the good news that Jesus came to live out and bring to us.

The healing of the 10 lepers (11-19) raises the question of where are the 9? About 35 years ago Martin
Bell in a little book titled The Way of the Wolf  wrote about this story suggesting a multitude of reasons why only one of the now cleansed lepers came back to thank Jesus. His reasons were both common and extraordinary. The key to the story, for me, is that the 9 simply did what they were told -- Jesus said to go and show yourselves to the priest. Under Hebrew law the priest determined if one had leprosy and only the priest could declare you clean (cured). The 9 were hurrying to the nearest priest, as they were told, so that they could be admitted back into the community and be allowed to return to their families. One extraordinary outsider, a Samaritan, stopped, returned, fell at Jesus feet and thanked Jesus for healing him. Is it better to be obedient or grateful? I have no answer to the question but an insight into Jesus' expectation is he adds a blessing to the one who comes back -- not only is he healed but through his grateful faith he is now "Whole" or "well" one possible translation is "complete".

The coming of the Kingdom (20-37) has two startling little things in it. First, notice verse 21 -- the Kingdom of God is not a location or an event it is an awareness. The kingdom of heaven is "among" or "within" you. The kingdom of God is lived out in the community of Christ followers -- it is not some experience waiting for us after death it is lived out here and now in the Christian community. Second is its suddenness -- no one will know when but when it comes grab on and go. The signs of the end are similar to what is recorded in the other Gospels. Great trials and tribulation will precede the end and then it will come.

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