Days 277 + 278 “Kingdom Evidence” and “Inner Change” Luke 13 – 16
October 5, 2021, 9:20 AM

Days 277 + 278 “Kingdom Evidence” and “Inner Change” Luke 13 – 16

While Jesus may use parables to teach, and those parables are not always easy to understand, especially from our modern viewpoint, I have to say—Jesus is certainly not subtle! Reading through these gospels, following Jesus on the Way, my new impression of Jesus is that he’s like the piece of sand in the oyster, determined to create a pearl. Jesus is an irritant, he is confrontive and clear about his mission. He is unafraid and creates division simply by teaching about the kingdom of God. His goal is not to be our newest Best Friend (this is kind of a contemporary idea, to be honest); his goal is to rescue us. Rescue attempts can be pretty aggressive in their goal to save a single life. I think of helicopter rescues, firefighters going into burning buildings, lifeguards battling waves to grab someone from drowning. In fact, we know that performing CPR correctly can break someone’s ribs! While the goal behind these rescue methods are life-saving, the need to save those lives is single-minded and focused.

I hope that you are getting this more realistic picture of the Son of Man. I hope that you are hearing his directness when he speaks. His words make me squirm because they are meant to challenge the status quo, and I am all over the idea of being status quo! My old self-talk sounded like this: “Don’t rock the boat. Don’t challenge anyone. Don’t ask too many questions.” I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a household, one of seven children, where children were meant to be seen and not heard. This was literal, not figurative. It wasn’t until college that I found my voice, and not until I turned 50 that I really started to live into newer ideas: “Rock the darn boat! How else will people know how to find their balance?” or “Ask a whole bunch of questions. Who cares if people get annoyed? They don’t have to answer!” And even this “Feel free to disagree, but be prepared to say why you do.”

As a child, disagreement with a parent could equal a beating in my family,  but I have to tell you that I now have a family of boisterous, challenging and interesting brothers and sisters who are no longer afraid of disagreeing. In fact, I think we thrive on it just a little tiny bit. 😊

So Jesus was a purposeful irritant. Twice in chapter 13 we read about healings that took place on the Sabbath, and both times Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing, knows exactly what laws he is breaking, and clearly seems to be setting an example in front of the Pharisees that does two things: it points out their lack of compassion, and it gives them the opportunity to change. The first is the healing of the bent over woman, causing the leader of the synagogue to be indignant—gosh I love that word! It gives you exactly the right picture of someone’s face—annoyed and twisted with disagreement, but ready to verbally duke it out. And the leader was just that, until Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees would be willing to save an animal on the sabbath, but not a human person who was suffering. The leaders were “put to shame” while the crowd rejoiced.

Then, at the beginning of chapter 14, Jesus heals the man with dropsy (an old term for edema, or water retention, usually caused by heart failure) but he basically uses the man as an object lesson. Before healing the man, Jesus looks the Pharisees right in the eyes and asks the sabbath dinner crowd “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” (14:3). Jesus has already gone over this with them. They should know the answer, right? By this time it’s old territory and they are being tested by Jesus. Once gain they remain silent, unsure whether mercy and compassion take precedence over the law. Jesus heals the man, demonstrating by his actions that mercy and compassion do take precedence, and the dinner guests “could not reply”. The reality is that they would not reply. They couldn’t let go of their traditions in order to allow something new to break into their orderly, rigid world. They couldn’t see past the law. Talk about a narrow door, huh?

Which leads me, in a roundabout fashion, to that narrow door Jesus speaks about. We are kind of funny in our modern world, because rather than being adherents to rule and law, we want to do the opposite. We prefer less law and more opportunity to make our own decisions, choose our own pathway, justify our own positions. We trust authority less and our own wandering hearts more. This is the territory of whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. Those who choose not to vaccinate don’t want to be told what to do, and they choose to listen to authorities who support their positions. Ok, actually we ALL do that last part! I’m not passing judgment—we all do things that support our opinions and idea, and this is just one contemporary way to see that in action.

The narrow door Jesus speaks about is narrow. One person at a time. Specific. Infinite. Open. We want it to look like a garage door to a giant warehouse, but Jesus is clear that there is a door, a Way, and that way is through belief in him and a lifestyle that mirrors his teachings.

Uncomfortable. Exclusive. Difficult. Challenging. Scary. Merciless. Judgmental.

Maybe some of these words/feelings come up for you when you read it, and if so, let’s read the parable/story about Lazarus and the rich man to reinforce those feelings. (Luke 16: 19-31). The rich man had an opportunity to show mercy, to provide for Lazarus while they both were alive because Lazarus had laid outside the man’s house, in the street, at the gateway leading to the house. In other words, he could not be missed by the rich man. To his credit, the rich man at least recognized Lazarus faarrrr away in heaven, or “with Abraham”, as it says. And the rich man calls out “Hey! Lazarus! Serve me! I’m roasting down here!” Abraham, with compassion, says to the rich man “Child…a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can pass from there to us,” (16: 25-26) Heartbreak. Suffering. Despair. Loneliness. This is what Jesus is hoping to save us from.

I find myself not wanting to whitewash Jesus’ words because we are supposed to wrestle with them, as Jacob wrestled with the angel long ago in the Old Testament (Genesis 32:22-31—click to read). I find myself seeing Jesus in a new light, and it is challenging me.  I have so consistently been fed a diet of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” that this active, engaging and confrontive Jesus takes me by surprise and makes me nervous. Would I have made it as a disciple? I don’t know. Jesus expected much from the people who surrounded him, and the disciples were the key group of followers who became leaders. I believe it was a narrow door they walked through.

But once again, although it is narrow, the narrowness has purpose. It means we can’t just slip through with another group of people. We have to choose to walk through. Narrow doesn’t mean impossible. Narrow doesn’t mean the number of people who can walk through are limited. Narrow means we have to make a choice, but EVERYONE will be given the choice. Everyone will have a chance to hear the message.

Extravagant. Profligate. Generous. Wildly inclusive. Merciful. Welcoming. Note that these are the counterbalance to the words I listed above.

Somebody explained it to me this way: Jesus is out on the deck of a sinking ship, which represents this world, and Jesus knows the ship is going to go down. In fact, it is going down, and people are in the water drowning. But he can save them. Jesus can throw life preservers out there, heck—he can walk on the water out to the people, right? But he can’t make them hold onto the life preservers. He can’t make people understand that this is the only way they are going to get out of the watery pit they find themselves in, that even if they think they know how to swim, the ocean is nearly impossible to navigate alone and without intervention. Jesus has unlimited life preservers—unlimited life preservers, people!!! UNLIMITED! But he can only throw them out one at a time, and each person has to make the choice to hold on for dear life, for dearest, best, real life. He will save us. He can save us, if we are willing. He came here for exactly that reason.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,


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