During Lent there are some significant jumps in the Gospel text. Last Sunday the text was from Luke 13. This Sunday the text is from Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. This week I thought it might be appropriate to look at the much bigger picture (rather than a look at the word ‘prodigal’, for example).
These jumps happen during Lent because, on the first Sunday, the Gospel text is from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his temptation in the wilderness. And by the fifth Sunday in Lent, Jesus is very close to getting crucified. There have to be some significant jumps in the text for this to happen.
Last week I briefly mentioned that the ‘orderliness’ of the Gospel according to Luke [see 1:3] is, I believe, based not on history, but theology. I would like to show how that might look within a portion of the text.
I would like to look at the text between two times that Jesus is mentioned as heading toward Jerusalem. This is a critical event in the life of Christ. It happens to be mentioned at Luke 13:22 and again at Luke 17:11. Between those two verses is obviously a lot of text. But if you do not mind a somewhat long summary of that text (without a huge number of exact references), you may choose to read on. The main themes seem to be repentance and forgiveness within the context of salvation. Hopefully these topics will be helpful in your own journey.
At Luke 13:22, the question Jesus is asked is regarding the number of the saved. Jesus, as usual, gets to the heart of the issue and speaks to those who are saved and/or to those who are not. Jesus says that things will turn out NOT as expected. This theme continues to the end of chapter 13 with Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, that those people in Jerusalem are not doing too well when it comes to listening to their Lord.
In chapter 14, Jesus puts himself forward as very caring with the healing of a man on the Sabbath. Immediately after, with the parable of the wedding feast, is the exhortation toward humility and, therefore, repentance. The implication is that, instead of a focus on self, a better focal point would be Jesus. Later in the chapter, with the parable of the great banquet, the man in charge shows himself to be very caring, inviting those who have been overlooked by others. As above, some people are not doing too good a job of listening.
At Luke 14:25, a statement is made that ‘great crowds accompanied’ Jesus. Jesus takes what was previously said a step farther, that a person should hate other things—and even his own life. He follows that up by saying one should ‘count the cost’, again showing the seriousness of the situation. This is again reflected when Jesus talks about throwing away salt that is not doing its job.
In chapter 15, Jesus takes the topic of his caring another step even farther, and he shows his true love for ‘sinners’ by eating with them. He clarifies what he is doing by emphasizing the importance of repentance (see verses 7 and 10).
In chapter 16, Jesus starts by talking to his disciples and emphasizes being shrewd (like the ‘dishonest’ manager). In contrast to this, the Pharisees love money (and are, therefore, shrewd in a different way and serve money instead of God), and Jesus gives them some words of Law. He ends by contrasting a rich man with Lazarus.
In chapter 17, Jesus again starts talking to his disciples, and he gives them a few words of advice in dealing with temptations to sin (this is in contrast to the Pharisees’ love of money). The point should be made that he emphasizes forgiving those who repent. And what follows, I think, is a clue that we are getting to the end of the section. Instead of the text saying that ‘The disciples said to Jesus’, the text says that ‘The apostles said to the Lord….’ They are asking for an increase of faith, and that is certainly needed at that time, in the Book of Acts, and also today. With the story of the mustard seed and the unworthy servants, Jesus helps the disciples (and us today) to focus on the Lord’s actions, through seemingly insignificant things. This is meant to change our perspective regarding the things that we do. In the end, we are not to focus on ourselves. And, in the end, may we also say this: ‘…[W]e have only done what was our duty (verse 10).’