This whole passage begins with Jesus speaking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money, which nothing in the text has anything to do with. However, each topic which Jesus speaks of here does challenge the value system of the world, and this descriptor, "lover of money", is telling us that the religious elites who ridiculing Jesus were motivated and driven by earthly ideals.
Jesus speaks of their heart to justify themselves, according to strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. And he contrasts that with the true nature of the Kingdom of God, which can only be freely received through the empty hands and open heart of faith. Jesus says even as they hear the gospel preached, they're trying to adjust it to fit there self-sufficiency sensibilities. They are trying to earn and deserve what can only be received, and thus rejecting the gift.
Then Jesus puts remarriage to or as a divorced person in the category of adultery. Again, he's challenging earthly mindsets and values, trying to get us to think seriously and biblically. So, while he doesn't speak to divorce directly in this brief word, he's speaking to the permenance of the marriage covenant, and God's design for joining a man and woman together for one lifetime. Worldly values are for personal happiness and therefore, when relationships get difficult, specifically marriage, we look for ways to undo our union. Jesus changes our focus from looking for ways to get out and move on from difficult relationships, to how to make them work.
Than thirdly, in this lengthy parable, Jesus tells the Pharisees that what they value in time will determine where they spend eternity. And there are no do-overs. We get this one mortal life to repent and turn in faith to Christ. Jesus even predicts in a way here, how these same Pharisees will not believe in him even after His resurrection, which you would think would convince everybody. But, because we think in earthly categories, we tend to dismiss even clear evidence for the truth and reliability of the gospel, when it doesn't fit our expectations or existing paradigms.
So Jesus' word to them, and to us, is that no miracle, not even a resurrection will be any persuasive to us than miracle of his Word. We have this miracle accessible and available to us of the Law and the Prophets, sufficient in their own right to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ. Add to that, the apostolic witness to Jesus' life, ministry and work, as well as the NT as a whole, and the Scriptures as a whole are incredibly clear.
In theory, we think, if we could behold a miracle like his resurrection, than we'd believe and follow Jesus. Jesus is saying that we have a miracle in the writing and preserving of his word. If we won't receive His Word to us, we aren't any more likely to receive his work on our behalf. And all this goes back to the beginning of the passage, where Jesus said, God knows the heart...
And that's where the barriers to faith truly lie... in our hearts, which instinctively resist God's word and God's ways, because we love the world's wisdom and the world's ways. For the Pharisees, and for us, we have to repent for our alignment with the world's system to consciously move our hearts and heads in the direction of Kingdom values.
A Prayer for Miracles:
Gracious Father, it is no natural thing to trust in the means of revelation and salvation which you have provided. Everything in my nature, in fact, resists the idea of a divinely inspired Bible, and a resurrected Jesus, whom this Bible promises and bears witness to. There is a streak in me that wants to see the sensational... but would you always let the miracle of your self-revelation in your word; the miracle of your Son's incarnation, perfection, substitution and resurrection; and the miracle of faith awakened in this once dead heart; let these miracles always be enough for this heart to resist the urge to try and earn what you've already freely given through grace. Let me not be fooled by the clamorous part of my heart that cries out for more "proof", but instead, to live in the midst of the miracles you've already performed with awe and wonder. Amen.
Jesus says that temptation is a given. We will be faced with scenarios that prey upon our fleshly appetites. There's no way around it. But, he also says to watch our own hearts and lives, so that we are not the source of temptation for others. In other words, we have a real impact on people. And while their sin is their own responsibility, we must pay close attention to the ways in which we impact others. Are we a source of reassurance, and life, and encouragement, and truth for people. Or are we creating insecurities, preying on weaknesses, provoking anger, offending them needlessly, etc.
We need self-awareness regarding our impact on people or we may find ourselves as those tempting them toward sin. And Jesus says that if we are a contributing cause for people faith wavering and wandering or dissolving altogether, God accounts for that.
The second thing, here, which I'm really intrigued by today, is v. 6. I've read this I don't know how many times in my life... a lot though. And I think about how often we say that Jesus tells us if have faith even the size of a mustard seed we will be able move a mountain (Matthew 17:20) or move a mulberry tree. And we talk about it like it's literal.
But isn't it obvious that Jesus is speaking metaphorically. He's not tellin gus we can actually move mountains or uproot trees. But he is telling us that and shred of faith in Him is able to dislodge the most weighty assumptions and deeply entrenched ideas which oppose the gospel and keep us bound to earthly realities. Jesus is saying that our faith in him is able to dig up those strongholds which have planted themselves in our heads and hearts and which keep us from seeing things as they really are.
The supernatural seeds of faith, planted in the good soil of a humble heart, is strong enough to move the lies of the enemy, the lies of the world, and lies of our own flesh, into the sea of dismissed thoughts and ideas that have no control or influence in our lives... through faith in Jesus, the entire root system of those lies that have formed so much of our lives can be eradicated from our lives so that the word planted in us as room to grow and bear fruit.
A Prayer for Faith:
Sovereign Lord, give me faith in Jesus in greater measure. As I affirm the gospel in my own heart and mind, continue to disolodge the lies on which I have built my life. Let the seed of the gospel take root deep in my heart so that every counter idea or competing version of reality is cast into the sea, never to be heard from again. I want life according to your word. Give me the wisdom to combat every thought and belief and even feeling that opposes you so that faith has room to grow and flourish. I choose Jesus again today, as the source of my life and the basis for my life and the pursuit of my life. Amen.
I love this text because it shows the heart of Jesus, the very heart of God, to draw near to those who are kept at a distance. He is not turned off by or repelled by those things that disgust us. He personally pursues the outcast, the diseased, the rejected, the marginalized, the vulnerable and weak. And he does so, not sentimentally, but powerfully.
Leprosy was such a cruel disease in that not only did it ravage the human body, but it severed the sufferer from human connection. Nobody would come near them. They're suffering was not limited to the physical dimension, but it imposed itself on the social dimension and, there is an inevitable spiritual and internal suffering that sets in as well. Alienation is an unbearable affliction.
So when Jesus does all the work to provide for the healing of 10 lepers, he isn't just ridding them of disease, he is reattaching them to community, and reinvigorating hope within, for personal wholeness and fullness of life. To expel leprosy from their bodies made it possible for them to live again in every other way.
This is what Jesus offers all of us... we all have the disease of sin which functions like leprosy, cutting us off from others, separating us from God, isolating us from others, even alienating us from our own hearts. And Jesus comes to rid us of this disease which robs us of life in every dimension of our humanity, so that we can actually live again.
The trouble for us, is we're prone to being like 9 out of the 10 lepers... we want the healing and hope and renewal that only God can give, but we have very little inclination to acknowledge it's source. Rather than recognize the extent of what has been done for us, and hurl ourselves at Jesus in humble gratitude, we just move on with our lives as though the grace that we're being carried by was just some sign we passed on the side of the road. We diminish the grace of the gospel when we fail to continually see the comprehensiveness of Jesus' healing for what ails us.
I wonder if today you are being formed by a deep gratitude for the way Jesus has powerfully provided for healing at every level of your person... are you walking with an awareness of his mercy lavished on every part of your soul so that you can live again?
A Prayer for Thankfulness:
Jesus, you are truly amazing. Give me eyes to see, a heart to feel, ears to ear... awaken all my senses to the reality of your grace and how powerfully it is to cover every part of my... give me a deeper understanding of how your grace makes a way for me to live fully in every part of my life. Expand my understanding of my need... the pervasiveness of sin and my own brokenness... so that I might have an accurate experience with the massiveness of your grace and power. I want to be thankful in proportion with your provision for my need. And I'm not there yet. So help me to connect, as with this one leper, to how exhaustively your grace remakes everything.
To the Pharisees, Jesus is speaking about the reality of the kingdom, which is surprising and imperceptible by it's nature, and which has come already in himself ("the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you"). He's telling all of us that His Kingdom does not bend to our expectations, but that our expectations should adjust to what is revealed about the Kingdom. It isn't your typical Kingdom, or a geopolitical nation/state... it is bigger than that, yet less obvious than that, at least in this stage of the Kingdom.
There is a day coming, Jesus tells the disciples, when the hiddenness of the Kingdom will be now more. v. 24 tells us the Kingdom of God will come, at his return, in glaringly obvious way. While the Kingdom has taken on certain characteristics in it's inauguration, it will take on some more dramatic shifts in it's consummation.
And that event becomes the focus of this passage... And one of the emphases Jesus makes is the suddenness with which his Kingdom will appear. He refers to two OT events, when God's judgement came on a people in a similar fashion, and says it will be like that. People will be going about their ordinary, everyday occupations and activities, when in the blink of an eye, Christ is revealed in his glory, to the salvation of the redeemed and the judgement of the unredeemed.
And what follow in the text is the reason Jesus wants them to know the suddenness with which the Kingdom will come... and it's for their preparation. We must live in the ordinary, everyday occupations and activities with a sense of anticipation that this moment is coming. We must guard our hearts and watch our lives now. We must live with a sense of readiness and a degree of urgency knowing that Christ is returning at any moment and we must be sure to be found in Him.
There is this tendency in us to put off living for Jesus or seriously surrendering our lives to him. We presume upon the Lord, that we have tomorrow to figure things out... that we have plenty of time to live it up within our earthly kingdoms before taking His Kingdom seriously, and he is graciously warning us against that impulse.
The Kingdom is indeed a future and coming reality, but it is also and here and now present reality. And Jesus is calling us to live right now in the reality of the Kingdom... to submit ourselves right now to his reign and rule. To lose our lives right now, and live moment by moment under his authority, so that at his coming we find the fullness of life that he came to secure for us.
The last thing they ask him is where the kingdom will come in this manner. Where will his return occur? And Jesus says, essentially, the reality of His Kingdom will become fully visible and obvious everywhere that sin and corruption have reigned. He isn't coming again to confront the sin of the Pharisees only, or of Rome, or any other people. He is coming to deal with sin and it's effects in a comprehensive way, and to establish, not a local Kingdom in Jerusalem, but a globalized Kingdom where all people come under his protection or his judgement.
He is pointing forward to a larger picture in order to ground us in the soil of His Kingdom now. After all, as He said earlier to the Pharisees, His Kingdom is already here. It is among us. In all this talk of his coming Kingdom, Jesus is giving us reasons to take him and his Kingdom seriously right now and to enter into the reality of his Kingdom today.
A Prayer for Readiness:
Lord, I confess it is difficult to think ahead about the return of Jesus with a sense of it's urgency. It's easy for my head to think of this as real, but for my heart to consdier it as fanciful or mythologoical. I don't live much with a clear sense of this coming day. I lack urgency. I live for the moment. I get fixated on what's right in front of me. It's hard to see past the next pay cycle, they next vacation, the next deadline, the next big event in my life. And these things obscure the presence of your Kingdom now, and the anticipation of your Kingdom coming. Father, would you cause me to heed Jesus' words in Luke 17... not to live with fearful uncertainty, but to live with constant intentionality, knowing that my life is hidden with Christ. Let me live fully and freely under his reign now, until his reign is fully established. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
I guess we owe Luke a thank you on this one, beause we have two short parables which he interprets for us...
The first one conveys the goodness of God, and his heart to bless and provide for and care for his own children. If the uncaring judge will give a widow justice in his desire to be rid of her, how much more will our loving Lord give us justice in his desire to have relationship with us. Obviously, this is no guarantee of securing everything we want in life if we'll just be persistent. But Jesus is trying to orient our hearts toward persistence and confidence. Persistence in seeking God's merciful and gracious hand because of confidence in God's loving and generous heart.
Even if the earnest desires of our hearts is not given to us, we can know that it is not God being petty or irritable. That which he gives to us flows from his goodness and that which he withholds from us also flows from his goodness. Therefore, we can continually pray, knowing that God loves our coming to him, and regardless of his response, we can know it flows out of his love for us and his kindness to us.
Maybe one side note on this parable... it says of the judge that he neither feared God nor respected man. It's worth pointing out the connection of these two attitudes. A disregard for God will always cause us to dehumanize others. If we have no regard for God we will have no real regard for those who bear his image. And that's why we see a lot of the darkness in our culture today.
The second parable is a personal favorite of mine. It's simple but profound. And it really confronts those of us who are self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-justifying. Jesus, again, is speaking to our realization of our need. The Pharisee and the tax collector are both sinful and needy. But only one of them is aware of it and willing to admit it.
The Pharisee measures himself in comparison to the subjective standard of others. Specifically, he loves to measure his strength against the weakness of others. And this leads to debilitating pride. The tax collector measures himself in comparison to an objective standard of righteousness. He measures his weakness against the holiness of God. And this humbles us into the dust.
I wonder if you're taking on more that Pharisee mentality or tax collector mentality. Our drift is always toward the pride side of things. We have to nurture humility. We have to remind ourselves of our weakness and need, rather than hiding it, masking it, defending it or denying it. We need to own our sinful condition, our sinful hearts, and our sinful choices every day. We pursue humility confessionally and aggressively, or we drift toward pride pathologically.
A Prayer for Mercy:
God, be merciful to me... a sinner. Amen.