Line In the SandA Deeper Look
The great composer Ludwig van Beethoven occasionally played a trick on audiences at small parties, especially when he guessed that they weren’t really interested in serious music. The story goes that he would perform a piece on the piano, one of his own slow movements perhaps, which would be so gentle and beautiful that everyone would be lulled into thinking the world was a soft, cozy place where they could think beautiful thoughts and relax into semi-slumber. Then, just as the final notes were dying away Beethoven would bring his whole forearm down with a crash across the keyboard, and laugh at the shock he gave to the assembled company.
Perhaps it was a bit cruel and impolite, but the shock of that crash of notes interrupting the haunting melody is a good image for what Jesus had to say at the end of Luke 12.
Just like Beethoven crashing down on the piano to grab the people’s attention, so Jesus is saying some hard words to his audience so they will understand the implications of his message.
Jesus has come to establish a Kingdom on earth, but it is not a Kingdom like that of Rome or of Babylon or any other great empire of world history. It certainly isn’t like the superpower nations of today.
Jesus’ kingship is not like human kingships—it wins influence through suffering service, not coercive power.
And to be quite honest? His kingdom is divisive. All are welcome, but to those who don’t “settle matters with their accuser” in time? Well… the fire is coming and it will divide. It will even divide families. And there will not be hope for them after that.
Hard words, but not much different than the hard words these people had already heard from the mouths of Moses and their prophets in centuries past.
But Jesus makes it different.
The author of this text of Scripture is very interested in this type of Kingdom, it supersedes anything he has ever known or understood about the God of Israel. For Luke, a well-educated physician, who was a gentile (non-Jewish) this idea of God coming down and wrapping himself in the flesh of mankind didn’t sound like what he had always heard regarding the God of the Jewish people.
Honestly it sounded more Greek or Roman than Jewish.
This God-man named Jesus wasn’t demanding power through his superior strength, he wasn’t enslaving people, nor demanding the praise of men. He didn’t go around with an army, he didn’t wage war on the establishment in militaristic ways.
He won the influence in people’s lives by loving them and accepting them right where they were… and then he demonstrated his love in their lives by refusing to leave them exactly as they were.
This Jesus healed the sick, rescued people from darkness and enslavement; he comforted the broken-hearted, and preached about a Kingdom not of this world. He challenged people not to live in the sin that made them captives to addictions, to things or people that diminished their humanity that in any way made them doubt the love of God for them. He challenged them to live in the freedom of love, grace, and peace.
Luke investigated. And through his investigation we gain a great deal of insight into who Luke believed Jesus to be.
What we did not have time for in Sunday’s Worship service to talk through was this idea of Jesus being the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets; or the accomplishment of the Old Testament.
In Scripture we are given four Gospels. Four re-tellings. Four views, if you will, on the life of Jesus. There are differences among them. There are points where the details of each story aren’t congruent with each other. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit that.
This doesn’t take away from the truth of the stories that are included. I like to think of the four Gospels as if they were one diamond. Depending on the angle that you look at the diamond you see different highlights, different cuts, different colors, different ways the light reflects: it is beautiful in many different dimensions.
- Matthew was an eyewitness for three quarters of the events in his Gospel, the rest gathered of his information gathered from other disciples and Jesus’ family members.
- Mark was an eyewitness for at least some of the events in his Gospel, the rest of his information was gathered from Peter.
- John was an eyewitness for all of the events of his Gospel, but John doesn’t tell the story in a chronological order; he has an entirely different motivation in writing.
- And then there is Luke: a non-Jew, non-disciple. He wasn’t actually present for any of the miracles or any of the parables. He never once even met Jesus as far as we can tell.
And yet in many ways, Luke is the most detailed biographer and the most complex in his theology that he constructs regarding the purpose of the Christ.
Luke spent years following Paul around the known world. However Luke traveled around speaking to eyewitnesses any time Paul was imprisoned. He gained most of his information from the Apostle John, John Mark, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the Apostle Peter.
Luke is interested in a narrative expressing God’s will that “the whole world” should eventually be united in a new Israel that transforms both Jews and gentiles (non-Jew).
Well, aren’t all four writers interested in that?
Sure. But in the Gospel of Luke we see the same theme expressed differently. Instead of Jesus being a new and greater Moses as the Lawgiver who was building a new Israel on the spiritual heart of Jewish Law, Jesus in Luke’s Gospel is:
- a greater Moses as the Deliverer from Bondage (an exodus from the kingdom of sin)
- the suffering servant of Isaiah – representing a new Israel called to servanthood, not to power.
- a new and greater Elijah as “the exalted and universal Christ of heaven and earth.”
How do we know this?
Compare the lives of Moses and Elijah with that of Jesus. In many occasions, the settings are the same, the people say the same things, the illustrations, parables, metaphors and stories are the same… BUT… Jesus responds differently than his forerunners.
Jesus is the true and living Word of God. Jesus is who the Law and Prophets point toward and bow to. Jesus is what the Old Testament was trying to say, but could never fully articulate. Jesus is the perfect Word of God in a human life. God couldn’t say all he wanted to say in the form of a book, so he said it in the form of Jesus. Jesus IS what God has to say!
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan from the very beginning, it was He who all the Bible pointed towards and glorifies… and the fulfillment of this plan opened the door to more than just biological Israel.
For in Jesus, we are all children of Abraham, and therefore children of the promise. Through Jesus we are all invited into the Kingdom of God.
This missional God who came down to us is the same missional God that compels us out to reach our family members, our friends, our neighbors and invite them into the Kingdom of heaven.
For those of you who may be interested in walking through the passages throughout Luke, one-by-one, and getting a deeper grasp on Jesus as the better Moses, the better Elijah, as the final word of God, I’d love to connect with you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A final note: All of theology, all of Scripture, all of Jesus’ words are not meant to be kept inside, locked away in an ivory tower to be studied and poured over; without any mind for application or how our lives can be transformed to live in a missional way. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not what Christ came to accomplish. Theology is incomplete without community.
This is why we do neighborhood ministry at River Run. In community is where we learn and partner together to understand our faith on a deeper level. We share stories and share our dinner tables, all while reaching our neighbors with the good news that Jesus has brought to the table.
If you are interested in connecting to your closest Neighborhood group or gathering, it would be my privilege to help you. click here