November 25, 2012

Luke Looks Back 23


Study 23- Luke 18: 31–19: 27

Seeing and trusting

There are 4 sections in this study all of which have something to do with seeing and not seeing, understanding and not understanding or just plain hidden. The first section, Luke 18: 31–34 serves as a summary of what is to follow.

Do read Luke 18:31-34.

The disciples had a reasonable excuse for not understanding. What Jesus was saying was so strange and unexpected they could be forgiven for not understanding. But we, in all probability, have some knowledge of how things turned out so we do not have that excuse. v 34 provides a challenge to us, the readers or hearers: will we be blind or deaf, will we see or hear and understand? Blindness and sight are metaphors for no faith and faith. Have you moved from blindness to sight? Remind yourself what the effect of your blindness was and how you first knew that you were seeing or, if you are in a group, share together your journey from blindness to sight, darkness to light.

Question 1: What is the significance of the rising sequence of names given to Jesus by the blind man (named as Bartimaeus, literally ‘son of filth’, in Mk 10: 46). Those names are Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus, son of David; Lord.

Jesus of Nazareth probably meant to him the prophet with power to heal and who would have compassion on him; Jesus, son of David, meant Jesus was the Messiah; Lord that Jesus was worth following. The question and answer in 18: 41 may appear strange but begging was a profession in those days as it still is in some countries, dependant on a visible handicap and providing a good income. If the man was cured of his blindness he would have to find a job with no skills or experience to call on.

Question 2: The emphasis is not on Bartimaeus’ restored sight but his faith (18: 42, 43). What exactly did his faith consist of? What is this miracle saying to us?

The important phrase is ‘he followed Jesus’. He must have known something about Jesus or he would not have made so much noise trying to attract his attention. We, too, are not expected to start from detailed knowledge about what following Jesus means. We, too, are expected to get up (metaphorically speaking) and follow him.

Do read Luke 19: 1–10.

Zacchaeus was not only short of stature; he was a collaborator with the hated Romans. He would not dare to push his way to the front of the crowd for fear of a knife in his back. So he ran ahead! Not what an important man should do. But the crowd saw him go and mocked him so that Jesus learned his name. Jesus was intending to go straight through Jericho so that he would not have to spend time (possibly days?) being entertained with full ceremony. But he is prepared to go to Zacchaeus’ house.

Question 3: Note the significance of seeing in this account. Who does the seeing?

Everybody. Zacchaeus had to take action to see Jesus, Jesus sees him; the crowd sees what is going on and starts to mutter. The servant figure of Is 53 takes hostility meant for others on himself. Statements there like: “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” reflect the costly love that Jesus gives to Zacchaeus?

Question 4: We read earlier in this chapter that the rich man/camel had to go through the eye of the needle! What happened to prove that Zaccheus didn’t dodge round?

The promises of repayment Zacchaeus made are far reaching. If you do the Maths on what he said you will see that if he had cheated just on one eighth of his debtors he would end up with nothing. Perhaps he is saying that he has been a good man and that he has not been cheating in the past?

Do read Luke 19: 11–27.

Luke does not use the parable of the minas to teach successful stewardship as Matthew uses it in Matt 25: 14–30 but to explain the apparent non-appearance of the Kingdom (the people thought the kingdom of God was going to appear at once 19: 11). The parable uses a well-known and well-understood situation. 73 years earlier Herod the Great, second son of the just assassinated king, made a successful journey to Rome to petition Caesar to appoint him the next king of Judea. Later, about 37 years before Luke wrote, Herod’s son Archelaus had made a similar, but unsuccessful, journey seeking the same thing. (A ‘mina’ was about 100 days wages for a working man.)

Queston 5: What would be the likely outcome for a servant of the would-be king if (a) the petitioner who would be king was successful, (b) he was unsuccessful?

By their actions the servants would demonstrate their allegiance or otherwise to the man seeking to be king. Their future livelihoods, or possibly their lives, would be dependant on having chosen the right option. The last phrase of v 15 should perhaps read ‘how much trading have you done’ effectively asking how conspicuous have you been while I was away when it was known that you supported me. If I win, you win. If I lose, you lose.

Question 6: How was this relevant to the developing situation as Jesus travelled to Jerusalem? How is it relevant to us?

If he was indeed the Messiah he claimed to be and they showed their loyalty by open declaration of their support of him they would gain. If he wasn’t, they would be in a very dangerous situation. At least that was the way it looked. Things did not quite work out in that straightforward way. He was indeed the Messiah but they were still in a dangerous situation, humanly speaking. But in the vast story of human history they became very important. The comment of the third servant in 19: 21 must have been meant as a complement! He must have been suggesting that his master was something like a warlord in a country with much internal fighting going on!

Question 7: How can this and the master’s reply (v 21, 22) be related to Jesus, or to God?

Ps 18: 25, 26 relates to this sort of situation. It says of God ‘To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.’ It suggest that, at least in part, our understanding of God will depend on our general attitudes.

Question 8: The final comment in 19: 27 ‘But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me. is realistic in the Judaean kingship, or warlord, scenario. How can it possibly be related to Jesus, or God?

This is another unfinished story. We are told what the enemies deserved, not what actually happened to them. Compare what we deserve and what we actually get from the Lord. After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. So says 19: 28, finally bringing to an end the long account of the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and introducing the last phase of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, death and victory.

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