jesus and wild animals

•September 25, 2009 • 1 Comment

With my morning cup of coffee today, I took in a short essay by one of my favorite New Testament scholars, Richard Bauckham, titled “Jesus and the Wild Animals.” It’s too good not to share.

At the beginning of Mark’s gospel, the author has a short prologue (1:1-15) that attempts, in shorthand, to lay out who Jesus is and what he’s all about. He wastes no words: the intro is short, quick, and packed with significance.

We’re told that Jesus is the messianic son of God (verse 1), that he embodies Yahweh coming to rescue his people, preceded by a herald (verses 2-8), that he is the anointed king empowered by the Holy Spirit (verse 9-11). No small set of claims.

The next statement is very curious: the Spirit “impells” (literally, “casts”) him into the wilderness, which in Jewish tradition, set in the culture of the ancient Near East, was a place of danger for humans. The key verse is 13, which makes three simple statements about Jesus:

And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

The first and last statements about testing and being sustained by divine emissaries are an intentional connection back to a well known narrative about Elijah the prophet (1Kings 17-19) who was in the desert for 40 days, fed by an angel. Mark is clearly trying to depict Jesus as a ‘greater than Elijah’ kind of prophet.

But wild animals? What does this have to do with anything?

Bauckham traces the background of this image in Jewish tradition, which is rooted in the Hebrew Bible and later Jewish thought.

For an ancient agrarian culture, with farms, domesticated animals, etc. “wild animals” represented first and foremost a threat. Ancient Palestine hosted a number of (now extinct) species like lions, bears, leopards, poisonous snakes that persitently threatened to encroach upon human territory. Areas that humans had cultivated (towns, farmland, river banks, water springs, etc)  were seen in opposition to the ‘wild places’ where threatening animals lived. They were not cute, and there were no zoos(!)

However, in Jewish tradition, there was a sense that this enmity between humans and wild animals was not how things were supposed to be. And, in fact, the ancient Hebrew prophets fostered a dream that when the Creator finally acted to set his world right, through sending a messianic deliverer, that this human/wild animal rift would be healed. The most famous prophetic passage along these lines is Isaiah 11:

First the messianic deliverer will arrive (Isaiah 11:1-5) as a branch of new growth out of an old stump, empowered by the divine Spirit, and he will bring justice and peace to a ravaged world. The following image is amazingly powerful:

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.  Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.  They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.

In the restored creation, the primal rift between humans and wild predatory animals will finally be healed. This is, of course, poetry, and so we should interpret the passage accordingly: the powerful images of reconciliation and shalom speak to the deep sense that something is wrong in the world, not just with humans, but in how we related to the creation itself, animals included.

In Mark 1:13, Jesus is depicted as the anointed messianic deliverer, who walks out into the middle of the desert, a hostile and inhospitable environment, and spends time with the wild animals. For Jewish readers, this significance of this statement and the allusion to Isaiah 11 is absolutely clear: Jesus is, before his ministry to the human world begins, beginning the story of creation’s healing and reconciliation. Jesus’ amiable relationship with the “wild beasts” is part of the package of the messianic deliverance, creating peace where there was once enmity. He is acting on humanity’s behalf, mending the rift between humans and animals. This is utter poetry.

A final word from Bauckham on how this image of Jesus can speak to our day.

The context to which Mark 1:13 originally spoke was on in which wild animals threatened humanity and the wilderness threatened to encroach on the human world… But our context is one in which it is clearly we who threaten the survival of wild animals, and encroach on their habitat. To make the point we need only notice how many of the animals Jesus would have encountered in the Judean wilderness have become extinct in the last century (bears, leopards, lions, gazelles).

Jesus’ companionable presence with the wild animals affirms their independent  value for themselves and for God. He does not adopt them into the human world, but lets them be themselves in peace, as creatures who share the world with us in the community of God’s creation.

[Jesus raises] the possibility of living fraternally with wild creatures, experiencing the grace of their otherness which God gives us in the diversity of the animal creation, and which is missed when animals are reduced to merely usefulness or threat.

Mark 1:13 offers us a small, but very significant image that Jesus’ mission of messianic redemption exceeds the bounds of the human world, and embraces the entire creation. Paul’s words to the Colossians (1:18-19) should not surprise us:

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,  and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

adventures in mylar

•September 18, 2009 • 1 Comment

I had an interesting experience this week. I’m giving a message on Genesis 1 on Sunday, and I had a grand vision of an illustration that would explore the imagery of light of humans reflecting God’s image to each other and the world.

It will feel like an art installation, I told myself, a massive wall of reflective mylar that will reflect the stage lights, and light up the whole room.

With the help of some friends I started to construct this wall. My hopes were high as I started to bring the idea into reality, but it was all downhill from there. The edifice looked less like a luminated, reflective wall, and more like a poorly executed 3rd grade homeroom art project.

Reflective Mylar

Ironic then, that I just received this week in the mail a new book, about making art. Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The book is a lively written exploration of the creative process, and I came across a section that seemed as if it was written right to me and my experience this week.

The materials of art [read: “mylar”] seduce us with their potential, beckoning our fantasies. In the presence of good materials, hopes grow and possibilities multiply…

A finished piece of art is, in effect, a test of correspondence between imagination and execution… It’s altogether too seductive to approach your proposed work believing your materials to be more malleable than they really are, your ideas more compelling, your execution more refined. As Stanley Kunitz one commented, “The poem in the head is always perfect. Resistance begins when you try to convert it into language.”

What artist has not experienced the feverish euphoria of composing the perfect thumbnail sketch, only to run headlong into a stone wall trying to convert that tantalizing hint into the finished piece. The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because she imagines it to be fast.

I got this book to help me think in new ways about crafting verbal art in my teaching. It ended up articulating in words I did not have what I will simply call my ‘mylar experience.’ You creative types have had this experience a million times over, I imagine. But for me it was something of a small milestone, that moment of realizing my mylar wall looked just plain tacky.

Life’s funny that way.

agitated at the gap

•August 26, 2009 • 2 Comments

as I’ve been writing this series of posts on Luke’s Jesus, I’ve been deeply challenged. Disturbed even. Basically every story Luke has told about Jesus involves him crossing some kind of boundary line: social, economic, ethnic, religious. But never simply for novelty’s sake. It is always an act of compassion motivated by love for the other. Somehow Jesus of Nazareth was able embody and express a genuine others-centered-life, a life that was deeply scandalous to many around him.

I found myself drawn towards his critique of the religious elite of his day: they are stingy, petty, legalistic, inward-focused, more concerned about the preservation of social boundary lines than the pain and plight of others. I also enjoyed the depiction of the dim-witted disciples, always jockeying for position and honor in Jesus’ eyes. Never really getting what he was all about.

But my attraction and enjoyment was dismantled today, as I started reading Parker Palmer’s, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life (Don’t read this book if you’re satisfied with your life, it will only shake things up!) Run with me here: It is an exploration of our inner-life, the life of our souls. Most of us, as we get older, become more and more out of touch with who we really are inside, our true identity. A child knows how to be who they really are inside, it’s natural. But as we get older, we all become more and more tempted to play roles for others, ones that get us respect, cash, accomplishment, etc. And so many of us find ourselves in places, vocations, and life situations that are out of sync with who God made us to be, with our truest selves. In fact, as the years go by, many of us simply forget who we really are, we become our public selves. It’s actually easier to forget our true selves because sustaining the hope of an integrated life only reminds us of the painful gap between who we truly are and the role we play in the so-called real world. It’s easier to live as “false selves.”

This creates a unique situation, one that I found myself in as I reflected on Luke’s Jesus. My attraction to Jesus’ critique of the religious elite, is really an act of projection. It’s aimed at others, which feels better, but actually speaks to things rattling around inside my own heart, that is, if I’m willing to go there. Jesus exposes the yawning gap between my public self, and who I really am inside. That hurts, so I find ways to keep it superficial. As John English puts it in his Spiritual Pilgrims.

Those things we cannot accept in ourselves, we project upon others. If I do not admit my shadow side, I will unconsciously find another who will carry my shadow for me. Once this projection is made, then I need not be upset with myself. My problems are now outside and I can fight them out there, rather than within the real arena, myself.

Luke’s Jesus lived a life that was full-on for others, particularly those whom no one else in society wants to be around. People I don’t want to be around.

No resolution yet. This is just how I feel today. Not a bad place to be, I guess.

Still, I liked it better when I didn’t feel like a Pharisee.

the agitator – Luke’s Jesus 7

•August 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

19:1-10 – Zaccheus (see text below)

Well-known story, but full of many more nuances than I ever realized.

Luke highlights the complexity of Zaccheus’s public status: he is Jewish, a ruler, a tax-collector, rich and “short” (or perhaps “young”, see Green, Luke, 669-70).

Thus, he is a complex figure: tax-collectors have been responding positively to Jesus elsewhere in Luke, but the rich have not (see ch. 18). Zaccheus breaks the mold, and this seems to be precisely Luke’s point in including the story: “Luke dismisses the usual, stereotypical categories by which one’s status before God is predetermined… In his characterization of Zaccheus, Luke pulls the rug from under every cliché, every formula by which people’s status before God might be calculated.” [Green, 668]

Thus even though Zaccheus is “rich” he is actually among the “poor” that Jesus mentioned in Luke 4: i.e. those on the margins of society, despised by the majority, like the paralytic, the widow, children, and a blind beggar.

V. 3: Zaccheus is on a quest, “seeking” Jesus, to know who he is; but, ironically, Jesus is “seeking” people like Zaccheus (v. 10). His persistence in seeing Jesus is rewarded.

Jesus mentions that it is “necessary” to “stay at your house” and Zaccheus’s “welcome” is a clear reference to hospitality: Jesus wants to have a banquet with Zaccheus to forge a relationship w/ him.

The crowd’s grumbling response, labeling him a “sinner” shows that Jesus’ mission runs counter to cultural norms, and his constant teaching on issues of status and membership among God’s people have clearly fallen on deaf ears. “Sinner” at its core means the crowd thinks of Zaccheus as one who is marginal to their community, one who doesn’t follow their standards.

Before the crowd, Zaccheus announces that he is from this point forward going to change his ways to be in line with the teachings of Jesus, even going beyond them: half his possessions to the poor, and fourfold restitution for those whom he had defrauded (the Torah legislated only 20% restitution, see Number 5:6-7).

“Giving to the poor” for Jesus means giving with no expectation of return (see Luke 6:35-36; 14:12-14), which, in Greco-Roman culture was seen as social suicide: the poor cannot repay you, and identifying with them will reduce your social status. Zaccheus flaunts these social conventions, creating a huge irony:

Zaccheus is a social outcast who puts his possessions in the service of the needy and of justice; the most unlikely person becomes the poster boy of the ethics and generosity of the kingdom!

Jesus’ pronouncement over Zaccheus solidifies this basic point: contrary to all social expectation, Zaccheus is in fact a “child of Abraham” i.e. a member of God’s people, and it is precisely people like him that Jesus came to seek out, vindicate, and display for all to see.

The take away? The gospel upsets our most basic assumptions about who is “in” and who is “out.” We should expect to find God at work in the lives of even the most unlikely of people, especially those who are on the stereotypical “outside” of any religious community.

Luke 19:1-10  1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town.  2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich.  3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.  4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.  5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”  6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.  7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.  8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”  9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

19:1-10 – Zaccheus

Luke highlights the nuances of Z.’s public status: he is Jewish, a ruler, a tax-collector, rich and “short” (or perhaps “young”, see Green, Luke, 669-70).

Thus, he is a complex figure: tax-collectors have been responding positively to Jesus elsewhere in Luke, but the rich have not (see ch. 18). Z. breaks the mold, and this seems to be precisely Luke’s point in including the story: “Luke dismisses the usual, stereotypical categories by which one’s status before God is predetermined… In his characterization of Zaccheus, Luke pulls the rug from under every cliché, every formula by which people’s status before God might be calculated.” [Green, 668]

Thus even though Z. is “rich” he is actually among the “poor” that Jesus mentioned in Luke 4: i.e. those on the margins of society, despised, disadvantaged, like the paralytic, the widow, children, and a blind beggar.

V. 3: Z. is on a quest, “seeking” Jesus, to know who he is; but, ironically, Jesus is “seeking” people like Z. (v. 10). His persistence in seeing Jesus is rewarded.

Jesus mentions that it is “necessary” to “stay at your house” and Z.’s “welcome” is a clear reference to hospitality: Jesus wants to have a banquet with Z. to forge a relationship w/ him.

The crowd’s grumbling response, labeling him a “sinner” shows that Jesus’ mission runs counter to cultural norms, and he constant teaching on issues of status and membership among God’s people have clearly fallen on deaf ears. “Sinner” at its core means the crowd thinks of Z. as one who is marginal to their community, one who doesn’t follow their standards.

Before the crowd, Z. announces that he is from this point forward going to change his ways to be in line with the teachings of Jesus, even going beyond them: half his possessions to the poor, and fourfold restitution for those whom he had defrauded (the Torah legislated only 20% restitution, see Number 5:6-7).

“Giving to the poor” for Jesus means giving with no expectation of return (see Luke 6:35-36; 14:12-14), which, in Greco-Roman culture was seen as social suicide: the poor cannot repay you, and identifying with them will reduce your social status. Z. flaunts these social conventions, creating a huge irony:

Z. is a social outcast who puts his possessions in the service of the needy and of justice; the most unlikely person becomes the poster boy of the ethics and generosity of the kingdom!

Jesus’ pronouncement over Z. solidifies this basic point: contrary to all social expectation, Z. is in fact a “child of Abraham” i.e. a member of God’s people, and it is precisely people like him that Jesus came to seek out, vindicate, and display for all to see.

The take away? The gospel upsets our most basic assumptions about who is “in” and who is “out.” We should expect to find God at work in the lives of even the most unlikely of people, especially those who are on the stereotypical “outside” of any religious community.

the agitator – Luke’s Jesus 6

•August 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Luke 14:1-6 +7-14 (see text below)

Jesus is present at a banquet in the home of a Pharisee on the Sabbath, and a man suffering from dropsy (body swelling due to excess fluid) wanders in to the banquet scene.
This story  addresses two conflicts with the Pharisees

(1)   They were among the rich elite, and so their meal practices were about promoting their public status.

(2)   It was a Sabbath day: devout practice of the Sabbath was a cultural boundary marker for who was truly Jewish, and therefore part of God’s people.

Jesus challenges the Pharisees on both counts.

First, he disputes their interpretation of the Sabbath regulations in the Torah. They taught that if someone’s life is not immediately threatened, working to help them should not be done on the Sabbath. Jesus counters this with an alternative: the Sabbath—of all days!—should be a day when God’s healing redemption appears. Thus Jesus heals the man.

Second, he challenges the meal etiquette of the Pharisees. Banquets in the ancient world (as today) “were used to advertise and reinforce social hierarchies” [Green, 545], and that is clearly the theme brought to the fore.

Mary’s song of the high brought low, and the rich made poor is ringing in our ears! Jesus is “challenging the social world of his table companions and inviting them to share in the redemption God has made available on the Sabbath” [Green, 544]

Jesus’ parable after the healing brings this theme to the fore: He is not simply giving sage wisdom on the virtues of humility, “he is toppling the familiar world of the ancient Mediterranean, overturning its socially constructed reality and replacing it with a scandalous alternative” [Green, 550]

(1) He is challenging in the first parable (vv. 7-11) the basic social stratification of their society: one’s honor and status was marked by power and authority, and “seating arrangements” were public ways of embodying status and honor. Jesus turns this whole order on its head.

(2) In the second parable (vv. 12-14) he is challenging the “ethics of reciprocity, the gift-obligation system” of Roman culture. Gifts were never “free”, but given w/ the expectation of being repaid and w/ strings attached. The privileged would never think to invite the poor to their banquets because (a) it could endanger their own social status and (b) it would be a wasted invitation, because the poor cannot reciprocate.

Again, it’s important to highlight that Jesus is not just talking about virtue. In his cultural setting he is challenging and subverting the status-quo practices of their entire society. He is offering an alternative reality, where the poor and marginalized have the same status as the rich and powerful: where all are invited to the same “wedding banquet.”

Jesus is portrayed here as someone who looks out at society and spies out the ways in which honor, power, and privilege are reinforced by cultural habits. And upon finding them, he completely turns them upside down.

What are the ways our culture reinforces social boundary lines that exclude some, and include others?

Luke 14:1-14  One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely.  2 There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen.  3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?”  4 When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away.  5 Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?”  6 Again they could not answer.  7 When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice:  8 “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited?  9 The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!  10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.  11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  12 Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.  13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

the agitator – Luke’s Jesus 5

•August 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Luke 4:16-21: Jesus’ announcement at Nazereth

The next major theme in Jesus’ reading from Isaiah 61 is “release” (translated as “freedom” in the NIV):

–         “to announce release/freedom to the captives”

–         “to release the oppressed”

Remember, this final line was actually taken from Isaiah 58:6 and inserted into the quotation of Isaiah 61. The repetition of this word “release” in Jesus’ announcement means that Luke wants to highlight this as a major theme in Jesus’ ministry. What does it mean?

The Greek word “release” (aphesis) has a wider range of meaning than our English word “release”:

(1)   it is the common word for “forgiveness” (see Luke 1:77; 3:3; and 24:47): but this is not just a personal matter, such “release” from sin implies restoration back into the community, and has major social ramifications (see Luke 5:27-32).

(2)   “release” in the quotation from Isaiah 61 renders the Hebrew word “liberation, freedom” (deror), which is the key word used in the Hebrew laws concerning the “Year of Jubilee”, found in Leviticus 25.

The Jubilee year was to take place among the Israelites every 50th year, and involved the following: all servants, or debt-servants were to be freed, all debts were to be cancelled, any family land inheritance that was sold (usually b/c the family could not afford it any longer) was to be returned to the original family owners.

This law was primarily directed to keep any families or clans within Israel from perpetual poverty, or losing their land. The rationale for this law is given three times in Leviticus 25: Yahweh redeemed Israel out of slavery in Egypt, therefore Israel is to make sure that no other Israelite remained in perpetual debt-slavery (see Leviticus 25:38, 42, and 55).

In later Judaism, the Jubilee year, which itself was modeled on the Exodus story, became a symbol identified with ‘liberation from debt, slavery; freedom and restoration,’ and that is what the concept seems to mean in Isaiah 61. In other words, the word “release” came to have wider implications, not just concerning land and slaves, but came to symbolize the New Age, when Yahweh would bring justice and restoration to his world.

Thus Luke wants us to see that freedom from bondage, slavery, debt, both economic and spiritual was a dominant motif and aim of Jesus’ mission. This is played out in chapters 5-9 of Luke, as Jesus encounters all the people I listed in the previous post.

As a side note, remember that Luke is composing his gospel as the first of a two-part work. His presentation of Jesus is not simply a historical memoir, but he present Jesus’ mission as a model for what his followers are to be all about, and he presents that story in his second volume, Acts. It’s important to note that Luke highlights the ongoing liberation mission in robust terms: Jesus followers shared goods to sustain the poor, brought healing and restoration to the same kinds of people Jesus moved towards, etc. (see Acts 2-5).

Luke presents us w/ a full-orbed, holistic mission of Jesus’ followers, modeled upon the mission of the master himself. Challenging stuff.

the agitator – Luke’s Jesus 4

•August 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Luke 4:16-30: Jesus announces his mission in Nazereth

Jesus heads to his hometown and reads from Isaiah in the synagogue. This narrative has been placed by Luke at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. It seems that he wants us to see his announcement as a paradigm for Jesus’ entire ministry. Because Luke has highlighted the importance of this story, I want to spend a few posts on it, exploring the implications of his long quotation from Isaiah 61.

Just to give some context, I’ll put the Isaiah text and Jesus’ quotation of it side by side.

Isaiah 61:1-2

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me

To bring good news to the poor;

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives

And recovery of sight for the blind

2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God;

Luke 4:18-19

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me

to proclaim release for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

A few quick observations: (1) note that at the end of v. 18, an extra phrase has been attached. This line is taken from Isaiah 58:6, and it seems that Jesus (or Luke?) has added it here to highlight the theme of “release” to describe Jesus’ ministry. We’ll talk about this in a future post. (2) at the end of v. 19, the final line of Isaiah 61:2 has been omitted, likely because it highlights the dawn of divine justice, and Jesus’ mission is now characterized as one of liberation and healing. Let’s now start to move through some different aspects of this announcement.

Let’s start with “the poor”. Who are “the poor” in v. 18? In our culture ‘poor’ is defined in primarily economic terms, someone who has few or no financial resources. In ancient Mediterranean culture, one’s public status involved not just financial means but education, gender, family background, vocation, economic status, etc. Thus ‘poor’ has a much wider range of meaning in such cultures, it refers to anyone of low status, living in disadvantaged conditions of any sort.

Jesus is here announcing that his spirit-anointed mission is to move towards the ‘poor’, i.e. those who for any reason have been relegated to a secondary status in their community.

Joel Green is worth quoting here: “Jesus’ mission is directed to the poor. . . in the holistic sense of those who are for any number of reasons relegated to positions outside the boundaries of God’s people. Jesus refuses to recognize those socially determined boundaries, asserting instead that these ‘outsiders’ now can belong to God’s family” [p. 211].

This announcement of Jesus has been placed here by Luke as the beginning of his Galilean mission. In this prominent place, it seems that Luke wants us to filter the next 5 chapters (chs. 4-9) through this lens: Jesus represents God’s grace and generosity moving outside the boundary lines, towards the ‘poor’, i.e. the disadvantaged. This plays itself out in the following chapters as Jesus encounters…

  • a leper: ritually impure and unable to enter the temple (see Leviticus 13-14)
  • a paralyzed man [ch. 5]
  • tax collecters and ‘sinners’ [ch. 5]
  • a Roman centurion [not financially ‘poor’, but definitely outside the boundary lines of the Jewish people, ch. 7]
  • a widow [ch. 7]
  • a prostitute [ch. 7]
  • a demonized gentile [ch. 8]

One can distill a basic principle of Jesus’ mission here as Luke wants us to see it: Holy Spirit empowered Jesus moves toward outsiders. It finds them, and also attracts them.

More anon.