08 November 2006

Part 7-Luke 5:33-6:11 "controversies"

Here are my responses for this week's Luke study guide. Click the link below to read the rest.

OBSERVE // what does it say?

Does Jesus have an awareness of the conflict leading to ultimate rejection that He will face (v.39)? Yes, Jesus seems to be aware of the fact that some will perceive what was--the Jewish understanding of God and how to live Torah faithfully toward a particular destiny they expected--as better than His redirection of these.

What dilemna is Jesus creating for the religious leaders in His response that centered on David (vv.3-4)? Read 1 Samuel 21:1-9 for the account and Leviticus 24:5-6 for the pertinent law. Jesus created a problem by citing this biblical example because the scriptures, and all of the religious leaders prior to the ones He was dealing with, had not judged David and his actions as unlawful. In creating the parallel between His incident and David's, Jesus forces them to judge both. To find Jesus and His followers guilty would mean overturning centuries of precedence and labeling prior relgious leaders as wrong.

What is revealed about the religious leaders' motivation (vv.6-7, 11)? The religious leaders are now actively keeping tabs on Jesus with the hope of catching Him doing something wrong so that they could discredit or punish Him. They were looking for some way to do harm to Jesus.

What is revealed about Jesus' resolve before these leaders (v.10)? Jesus is not blind to their agenda. He will not, however, seek to elude their scrutiny or hide his actions. Jesus looks around at them and does what He does in a public face-to-face confrontation. He will force them to look Him in the face as they form their judgments and hatch their plots.

INTERPRET // what does it mean?

Is fasting good or bad practice for a Christian (vv.34-45)? Jesus notes that the time will come when He is gone and "in those days they will fast." Fasting had a long history in Jewish religious expression. Of course, so too did sacrifices. So, that's not a conclusive guide. Jesus fasted (e.g. Mat 4:2). He also gave direction on how to fast (e.g. Mat 6:16-19). But, this still doesn't tell us whether this was to remain the normal practice under the new covenant. In the early days of the church, fasting continues (Acts 9:8-11, 13:1-3, 14:22-24). The epistles (or letters) to not address fasting. Since then, Christians of many traditions have affirmed fasting as a biblical and beneficial spiritual discipline.

What did Jesus say in that Matthew passage (Ch. 6) about fasting that might guide our practice?

He connects fasting to prayer (v. 16).
He assumes that fasting will continue (v.17).
He warns that fasting can be misused (vv. 16-17).
He advises fasters to keep their activity between them & God (v.17).

Are there patterns evident in when fasting occurs? In general, it appears that fasting is often appropriate in these situations:

In conjunction with prayer.
When discernment and guidance is needed in humility for a consequential decision.
In moments of great significance & consequence.
In spontaneous response to perceived needs and dramatic events that prompt sorrow.

Beyond these, Christian experience since have testified to fasting as a means of developing willpower to control natural appetites as a means of discipline to live as a disciple. The answer would appear to be that fasting is anticipated to be a good practice of Christians, though great latitude exsists in how and when it may be undertaken.

What do the images of old & new wine & wineskins represent (vv.36-39)? Jesus' comments also include reference to old and new garments. But, the wine and wineskins work together to complete the metaphor. Wine is the content and the wineskins are the form. Jesus is saying that the old content (i.e. the old understanding of how one relates to God and what God is doing with Israel) fit the old form (i.e. circumcision as a mark of being in the covenant community and worship through sacrfices at the temple for Jews). The new content (i.e. the surprise that God only requires circumcision of the heart and has a final sacrifice in Jesus intended for a new temple, the church) requires a new form (i.e. a global community including non-Jews that is the residence of God in the Holy Spirit proclaiming a new message of salvation). These statements are only brief summaries that will be further developed, but they should be adequate to help you identify the form and content that He is speaking about.

What does Jesus mean when He says that He is, "Lord of the Sabbath?" (v.8)? (See Mark 2:27 for elaboration on what else Jesus said). Jesus is claiming the perogative to be the master of the day set aside as uniquely for God. He has the right to determine what is or is not behavior consistent with the intent of a day that expresses worship to God. .

What intent does Jesus see behind the Sabbath (v.9)? How does that truth inform our other religious activities? In short, His guiding principle is that doing good and helping one's fellow man is not at-odds with making the day about God. In fact, God's desire in establishing this day is that man would benefit from it--not be burdened by it. When we think about other activities that engage in (or don't) that we think of under the heading of "spiritual" (or not), the criteria can't be whether or not people benefit from them. Some people will say that a counseling ministry, or financial education class, or mentoring for the children of single working moms isn't really "spiritual" because it isn't primarily about God but about helping people. Jesus seems to say that we've got that backwards. If we who are spiritual are truly worshiping, we will do so best when we are helping people for, by, and to God. Jesus' brother James may have said it best: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (Ja 1:27).

APPLY // how do I respond?

In the eyes of many religious people--then and now--the issue is: do you do the right things before God? Clearly, there are right things that we are to do. There are habits that we are directed to incorporate into our lives such as worshiping together, celebrating the eucharist, baptizing disciples, reading the scriptures, praying, etc.. And, there are behaviors that ar to result such as caring for the needy, giving our resources away joyfully and generously, controlling our tongues, being peacemakers, etc.. There are right things that we are to do before God.

But, these right things are only right if based in a heart with the right motivations--humility before God, gratitude to God, obedience under God, love for God, etc.. And, the right things we do for God are not limited to what others define them to be. The fact is that life is messy and times change. People have opinions and form judgments that may not reflect God's. You and I are to feel the freedom and empowerment to go through life seeking to do the right things, whatever those end-up being, paying attention to the reasons that are motivating us. That's where God's focus and concern is. That's where ours should be.

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