Sunday, March 28, 2010

Luke's Passion Week

Luke 19.41-22.6

It seems as though that this portion of Luke’s gospel is written in such a manner to rise up our frustrations. We come to what has been called Passion Week, just after Jesus rides into the city triumphantly, and the text reads in such a way to build great anxiety, or drama.

The chief priests, the scribes, and the chief of the people are, per usual, in opposition to Jesus. However, they are seeking more vehemently than ever to destroy Him. The antagonists are announced clearly at the end of chapter 19.

Chapter 20 begins with the antagonists antagonizing. This is frustrating in and of itself, especially to those of us who love Jesus. Luke’s portrayal of the great anxiety of this section of Scripture is only gaining momentum. The first question posed to Jesus is, “by what authority doest thou these things, or who is he that gave thee this authority?”

It is at this point that we need to ask what they are asking this question about. The text points clearly to the fact that they are asking by whom, or what authority are you preaching the gospel?

Now then, it is here we must pause and clarify exactly what the “gospel”, or the “good news” is that Jesus is teaching? Jesus made this very clear: a) in Luke 4.43 Jesus is clear, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also”; b) in Matthew 3.2, “repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”; c) in Mark 1.14-15, “Jesus came preaching the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the gospel.

So it is that Jesus’ gospel, or good news was that of the Kingdom of God.

The opposition’s question becomes clearer to us then. We find that they are asking in a roundabout way if Jesus is the promised Messiah. Moreover, they are not asking to know so that they can believe. Rather, they are asking so that Jesus will indict Himself as one who claims to be the promised King. We understand that this is their hope in how Jesus responds, and/or does not respond.

Our anxiety grows as the story is read because we have the benefit of perspective. By that I assuredly mean that we see who Jesus is because we know the whole story, and most of us have trusted in Him as our Savior and King. When Jesus does not clearly proclaim Himself as King we squirm.

We feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 74:
10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? 11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom. 12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. 14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. 16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. 17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. 18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. 19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. 20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. 21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name. 22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. 23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.

Yes, we most assuredly feel the anxiety of Jesus not hushing their blasphemous mouths, or quieting their taunting jeers.

The text moves forward with more of these types of situations.

When the enemy cannot get a pronunciation from Jesus to be the Christ, or the Messiah, they send in spies to act as though they are rightly inquiring to be His disciples. They ask the age old question, “do we pay our taxes?” More importantly, they ask the pointed question, “do we pay our taxes to Caesar?” Of course we know that He would be in trouble if he said, “yes”, or “no”.

Again, the drama grows with the fact that they are trying Jesus in such a manner. As well, our anxiety is such that we want Jesus to say, “enough”, and read them the right-act. Jesus’ answer is brilliant, that is never in-question. We get some joy from His brilliance, but we are still thinking, “show them that you are King”.

This continues to go on through the Sadducees inquiry of marriage in the resurrection, after which Luke tells us that they stopped asking questions. Now what needs to be appropriately understood here is that there cessation of questioning does not equate to their cessation of seeking to destroy Jesus.

Along the lines of anxiety this text is crafting, we find a very brief moment of “calm” in which Jesus is given some time to offer unadulterated teaching to His disciples about pure desires, pure giving, and the cost of impurity: destruction. However, chapter 22 opens with the week drawing to a close and a disciple of Jesus, Judas, making a covenant with the enemies of Jesus.

If you thought for a moment that there was going to be a real relief, you were absolutely wrong. When Jesus could not be indicted for false teaching, we find the plan of His betrayal. If this were in a movie, I am guessing that there would be a montage flashing to scenes of Jesus teaching, while simultaneously there would be screen shots of Judas’ secret meeting with the opposition. If we were watching this on the Big Screen our stomachs would be tied in knots.

We know exactly how the story goes; however, I would encourage you to read on further for yourselves this week.

Tonight as we feel the anxiety of the story. As questions swirl in our mind about all the opportunities that Christ had to proclaim Himself as King. As we think of this in light of what we discussed this morning with the absolute temptation of Christ to fore-go the Cross. We can discuss several different realities:
-This anxiety/drama that the text portrays was brought about by well-intentioned people who believed God, but did so very divisively and with great fallacy.
-The drama of this narrative plays well with the drama of real life: Jesus is very clearly seen by those who have the right perspective of Him, and He is missed by those who, well-intentioned or not, have a paradigm about who Jesus is, and subsequently about who God is.
-Reminds us that Jesus had opportunities outside of the Cross, but was called to the Cross.
-Reveals to us, again or anew, that the power and truth of the Gospel is grasped by some, and rejected by others; however, we must remain constant in our proclamation, and living out of it.
-Renews the reality that Jesus knows the frustrations (physically and spiritually) of a people that reject Him, and He loves them, or remains sure to the promise, despite it all.

There are certainly other realities to glean from this portion of Luke's gospel account...

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