Sunday, 21 August 2016

Luke 13 v10-17, Pentecost 14, Jesus heals the woman bent double and is criticised

From Luke 12:35 we learnt that the kingdom comes with the "fire" of judgment and divides and disturbs. Luke has reminded us that the only response possible in the face of the coming kingdom of God is to repent or to die!, (13:1-9). Luke now encourages us that although there is a time of test and trial the kingdom of God will inevitably be victorious, 13:10-21. The presence and power of the coming kingdom is proclaimed and shown in the healing miracle of the woman who was bent double. The healing happened while Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues. The woman will have known of Jesus reputation and hoped against hope for a miracle after 18 years of suffering from something psychological or skoliosis, or spondylitis. She couldnt raise her head up at all. 
When Jesus saw her, he said to her you are set free, you have been released from your infirmity and he put his hand on her and immediately she straightened up and she praised God.  

The ruler of the synagogue literally applied Exodus 20:9. He was indignant annoyed/angry because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day. He said to the people there are six days in which it is necessary to work, to come and be healed. 

Jesus answered him, "You hypocrites.Your religion is no more than a facade of conventional piety. Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath loose your donkey and give it a drink!”

Jesus is making the point that, irrespective of it being the Sabbath day, he is bound to "set her loose", given that he is able to do so and she is a daughter of Abraham. If it is ok to untie an animal to give it a drink, then it is ok to "untie", or release from an illness, a woman who is a Jew. 

Satan is Identified as the source of all sickness, He has kept her bound for 18 years. God does the loosing. When he said this all his opponents were humiliated, put to shame. The people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing, saying/debating. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on!
So a synagogue leader in tried to shame Jesus by pointing out that the healing was work -- something that could be done on any of the six days set aside for work instead of the holy Sabbath. Jesus’ response is to use the rabbinic argument of the lesser to the greater. Jesus responds, like his accuser, to the crowd by pointing out that any of them would take care of an animal needing help on the Sabbath -- so how much more should they respond to a human being in need. But the synagogue leader and Jesus are actually saying more here. The synagogue leader uses the Greek verb dei to make his claim about the ought of work. Luke loves this verb because it describes what it is necessary for Jesus to do as God’s agent. This is why Jesus’ response picks up on the synagogue leader’s claim. The ought here is not about a divine necessity to work on the other six days, but based on a divine necessity (dei) to have this woman freed from bondage on the Sabbath (Luke 13:16). To make the point even clearer, he calls her what she really is, a “daughter of Abraham.” Jesus intensifies the theological understanding. God’s purposes is to heal, liberate, and unbind.

When God is up to something, prepare to be unbound: whether from confining diseases, or social norms or holy taboos. Jesus keeps drawing the circle wider. Sometimes we glimpse the great thing that God is doing. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Luke 12v49-53 "Division and a sword"

This passage in Luke is about the kingdom and judgment, and signs of the age – division. There is reference to Micah 7:6 and the "last days".
Although we have the inner peace of God, we do not have peace on earth. We face division at work, with friends and family.
Division is the main theme, but the overarching theme is judgment. There is reference to the "fire" of the coming kingdom, the "fire" of judgment, sharply dividing us.  

Jesus has come on a mission and his coming brings to bring fire in other words judgment.  Fire is a dominant Old Testament image of judgment. 
Jesus says “I have a baptism to undergo”, this word being used in a metaphorical sense. In fact, it is quite possible that most uses of the word in the NT are metaphorical. Here baptized or immersed in suffering, the suffering of the cross. 

Jesus is very distressed until his job, his mission is completed. And there will be no relief for Jesus until this suffering is over. 

Jesus aligns himself with the true prophets when he reminds us that "the good news" has a sting; for many it's bad news! 

Jesus comes to bring division or a sword as in Matt.10:34. The sense is of separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, the repentant from the unrepentant. It is a present social separation.
There will be fractured relationships, families, households will be divided, one against another, but, one generation against another. 

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

Jesus is naming the reality that was around him.  His presence in the world, God’s presence, was unsettling and it was a time of disruption and division.  It was to be a time of upheaval. 

By Jesus connecting his words about fire and division with the issue of reading the signs of the times Jesus is drawing attention to the unrest that was caused by his presence.

The end goal of God’s presence in the world is not in the division but in what the angels sang about and what Jesus declared after his resurrection: Peace. Shalom!  Though he says he did not come to bring peace in the moment of his lifetime, the fulfillment of God’s promise in him is Peace.

The imagery of ‘fire’ is used here by Jesus to hearken back to the Old Testament and the images of ‘fire’.  Some of these images point to a time of purification which was to come.  The image of ‘fire’ is not the hellfire of punishment but the fire of purification; the refiners fire. Like when you heat a metal until it is liquid and take off the impurities that rise to the surface. That’s a bit like our lives. In the worst situations a purification takes place and we remove things that are tarnishing us.

Jesus of course was purified through his death and resurrection.

So Jesus is also speaking of the baptism of suffering that he has to go through, his suffering and death.  His death however was not about division but about reconciliation, of us to God and us to one another. 

Jesus is not affirming family breakdown and the disruption of relationships between children and their parents, nor affirming and encouraging division but naming what he saw around him.

We should not use this passage to condone division between one another, in our families, our congregation, or across the world.  Division is the mark of the ungodly, not us!

We too can read the signs around us. We may experience fire and division but we remember that God’s peace is where we are headed.

Let us live as people of God’s shalom, receiving gratefully forgiveness when we fall short and celebrating and making God’s love where we are. 


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