Monday, December 22, 2008

In Jerusalem: and he was numbered with the transgressors (Luke 20:1-24:53)

Last week, we read about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. We heard Jesus speak clearly about who would enter the Kingdom of God. It will not be the righteous, not the Pharisees or the teachers of the law, not the ‘blessed’ rich. But it will be the sinner, the outcast, the lame, the oppressed, the lost. For,
‘He who exalts himself, will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ (14:11; 18:14).
It is the sinner who throws himself upon the mercy of God, not the ‘righteous’ who thinks he does not need a saviour; this one shall be welcomed by the Son of Man.
Now we turn to the final chapters of Luke’s gospel where a heavy, dramatic atmosphere prevails. There is a showdown in the temple, talk of the destruction of Jerusalem; anguished prayer. They are exhausted from sorrow. Darkness. He is betrayed. There are swords and clubs. They weep bitterly, and mock and beat and shout and mourn and wail. Darkness. And he breathes his last and there is beating of breasts. There are perfumes, spices and… rest, and then, finally, joy.

The narrative speeds up but time slows down. The Passover is approaching, then the ‘day’ arrives, and the ‘hour’ comes; it is the sixth hour, then the ninth hour. From the time Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to the end of the book, only roughly a week passes; only a week, but the week towards which all time has been marching.

A major theme in this section is the different expectations of the Christ. Jesus's understanding of the Christ is so much greater than theirs, and yet, he must suffer, which is the last thing they expect of the Christ. Indeed, his disciples struggle to understand how he could suffer if he were the Christ. Luke’s answer is clear. He suffered because it was written. He suffered because it is God’s triumphant plan for the salvation of his people.

We may believe with certainty that Jesus is God’s anointed one even though he suffered and was killed. We may believe with certainty that Jesus is God’s anointed one because he suffered and was killed, because that is what was written; and because he was raised to life again, just as it was written. Luke finishes his book with these words,
“He told them, ‘this is what was written, The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47)
We have seen in Luke’s gospel that Jesus is the Christ. He suffered and he rose from the dead. Repentance and forgiveness of sins has been preached in his name. But not ‘to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’. Not yet. That’s another story for another time!

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