Luke devotional guide #6 Luke 17:11-20:47

Luke devotional guide #6 Luke 17:11-20:47 April 15, 2022

Monday: Read Luke 17:11-37

Luke 17:11 begins a new section in Luke that runs through 19:27. This section serves as a sort of summary closing the journey to Jerusalem narrative with an invitation to respond.

The passage begins with Jesus cleansing ten lepers. Luke mentions that the cleansing took place “between Samaria and Galilee” (17:11) without identifying if it was Jews or Samaritans that we made well. One of the ten, however, who was a Samaritan, returns to “give glory to God” (18).

The Pharisees then ask Him when the Kingdom of God was coming (20)? Jesus replies, “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (21). Since the kingdom of God is intimately tied to the presence of Jesus, the meaning here must be: “I am standing right here.” The lack of understanding remains because of the failure to recognize that the kingdom was present in Jesus and that His kingdom was based on suffering for the sake of the oppressed so that they may have justice. As long as they were looking for an empire of power that brought them liberation but only served to oppress someone else, they would not be capable of recognizing the presence of the kingdom.

Jesus then instructs the disciples (22-37) and reiterates that the nature of His kingdom is suffering for the sake of the other (25). They must escape by not wishing to save even their own life (30-35).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • How often do we receive grace from Christ and fail to give Him glory? Too often we are either oblivious to His grace or we believe it is the result of our own efforts. How has God made you well? Make an effort to give Him the glory each day.

Tuesday: Read Luke 18:1-17

Because Jesus’ kingdom is one of suffering and it will not be easy the disciples must learn to pray “at all times” and to “not lose heart” (1). In the Parable, Jesus illustrates that if this unjust judge grants such a request because of the persistence of a widow, how much more will God answer our prayers. The parable affirms both the certainty of God’s justice for His people and the need for them to persevere.

Jesus then provides another parable to contrast the religious leaders and the faithful. Note, that in the last section Jesus addresses the Pharisees (17:20-21) and then His disciples (17:22-37). These parables serve to further the contrast between the two groups. It is important to note that Jesus’ parables possess a “surprise” ending for His original audience.

In the parable, as they would likely have heard it, the Pharisee represents the respected and pious Israelite. He thanks God that he is a “swindler, unjust,” and an “adulterer” (11). The tax-gatherer, on the other hand, would have been viewed as one who embodied all these features.

Jesus’ affirmation that that tax-gatherer went home “justified” (14) would have been shocking.

What’s the difference between the two? We might be prone to say that the tax-gatherer was humble. But we can’t leave it at this because “humble” too often has a sense in our culture of an inward-personal trait. For Jesus, the difference was that the tax-gatherer recognized his acts of injustice towards others and repented.

In today’s reading, then, we have an account of a woman who represents the poor and the marginalized asking for justice from her “opponent” (3) and being assured that she will receive it. The Pharisee and the tax-gatherer (9-17) represent her opponents. One repents and the other does not.

The difference is that the Pharisee does not see that his well-being came at the expense of others, and he fails to recognize that he has a responsibility toward them. The tax-gatherer repents of his unjust acts.

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • We must be careful not to read the Bible in light of our personal “spirituality.” We do this when we read these parables as though the goal is to be “humble” as though humility only refers to an attitude. These two parables must be read together. When they are we realize that the tax-gatherer repents of his unjust actions toward people like the widow. His “humility” is not just an attitude of the heart, but a response to the needs of the oppressed. In light of this, what does humility look like in your context?

Wednesday: Read Luke 18:18-19:10

The story of the Rich Young Ruler (18) exemplifies someone who fails to do as Jesus commands. The rich man, in contrast to the tax collector and the children, does not recognize his responsibility toward others and wishes to redeem himself.

As much as we may try to read the Gospels in terms of our personal piety (i.e., having a good attitude, praying, and not swearing), the Gospel of Luke will not allow us to over-simplify Christ’s demands this way. In Luke, following Jesus means to “sell your possessions, distribute them to the poor, . . . and come follow Me” (22). Even here, we are not to understand that our possessions are the problem. The problem is the injustice that means that some have and others do not. And why do they not? Because this rich man stole them. We know this because the only way one could be “extremely rich” (23) was by acts such as lending at high-interest rates and then taking their land when they failed to pay.

The story of blind Bartimaeus is an example of the persistent widow in 18:1-8. The story also illustrates how the people try to keep him from getting the justice he desires. He persists anyways. After he receives his sight, he “began following Him” (43).

The story of Zaccheus exemplifies one who became wealthy at another’s expense and sought to make it right! Thus, he is the tax collector from the parable of 18:9-14.

Note that in the story of blind Bartimaeus and the story of Zaccheus the crowds hinder them (39; 19:3).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • It is easy to read these stories from the perspective that we are the disciples, or Bartimaeus, or Zaccheus. Is it possible that we are the Rich Young Ruler, or the crowds that try to silence Bartimaeus, or that hinder Zaccheus from being able to see?
  • In light of this, what does “selling your possessions and follow Me” mean in your context?

Thursday: Read Luke 19:11-44

The Parable of the Minas presents a problem. As we read the parables, we typically expect that the king/noble person represents God. As such, we assume that Jesus is illustrating for us what the kingdom of God looks like. The problem here is that the king/noble person doesn’t seem to be a very good person. He even demands to reap when he did not sow (22) and requires his enemies to be killed in his presence (27).

Note the context is set in 19:11, “He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” In light of this, it might be wise to understand this parable not as illustrating what the kingdom of God is like by comparison but by contrast. In fact, the “parable” (it doesn’t say that it is a parable) has much in common with a story of Herod’s son Archelaus. Jesus’ kingdom will not advance like Herod’s. Though there is nothing in the story/parable of 19:11-27 to confirm this, the triumphal entry of Jesus (19:28-40) may well serve as the contrast between the two kings. Jesus enters to bring peace.

It is worth mentioning again that the Jewish conviction of the messiah/king included: He was to 1) Defeat the pagans; 2) rebuild or cleanse the Temple; 3) bring true justice and peace to the world. While Jesus, by way of contrast, 1) dies at the hands of the pagans; 2) mounted an attack on the Temple; 3) suffers injustice at the hands of the pagans.

Unfortunately, Jesus’ lament affirms that most “did not recognize the time of your visitation” (44).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • The triumphal entry reminds us that we too are called to proclaim the presence of the kingdom. If we don’t, then the stone will cry out! What hinders you from proclaiming the king as much as you should?—remember, “proclamation” doesn’t have to be with words! Pray for one another. Encourage one another!

Friday: Read Luke 19:45-20:47

Jesus enters Jerusalem and is teaching in the temple (47). Despite the opposition by those in power (48), there are still large groups of people listening (48). The key theme of this section is who has authority? Each of the groups in this section—Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, elders, the rich—all derive their authority from the Temple.

Jesus replies by telling a parable (9-16) against them (19). The parable highlights the rejection and subsequent death of Jesus, and that judgment will fall on those responsible. The consequence is that the ownership of the vineyard is given to others (Jesus and His apostles).

The interrogation of Jesus must be viewed in light of the fact that Jesus was leading a movement that had political and anti-imperial implications. The question of paying taxes is a serious question. People have been killed for leading anti-tax rebellions! Jesus’ reply undermines Rome without being too explicit lest He dies! (see discussion in Mark #3 devotional guide).

The question of remarriage also had anti-imperial implications. Jesus came to bring in the worldwide family of Abraham which transcended national identities (Rev 7:9-17). Because the new creation that Jesus is bringing in will not entail death, there will be no need for remarriage.

Jesus then issues a stern warning, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (46-47). This warning must be read in light of everything we have seen in Luke’s account. His warning (45-47) is not just a warning against those who do such things. It is a warning to His disciples (us) to not do them! Again, we must stress that Jesus is not talking about being humble and not arrogant. In that world, one gained honor at the expense of others.

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • If we read Luke well, we should recognize that God has granted the care of His vineyard to us. What does stewardship of His vineyard look like for you?

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