August: The journey toward Jerusalem

August: The journey toward Jerusalem

This month and next, the Lectionary Reflections are taken from the passages in Luke’s Gospel. They are all located within the long, extended journey towards Jerusalem that Jesus undertakes with his followers.

7 August: Luke 12:32-40

Together, Jesus and his followers set out from Galilee (Luke 9:51-56). It takes many chapters before they arrive in Jerusalem (19:11, 28, 41-44, 45-46). Many stories fill these chapters. Each story teaches us something about what it means to follow Jesus.

Many of these stories are “hard sayings” which challenge us in our discipleship. Today’s passage emphasises the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.

It’s an unsettling message: we tend to prefer things when they are regular and predictable. But it’s a most suitable message for those who are travelling with Jesus on the road towards Jerusalem because, once they arrive in the city, things turn out in a most unexpected way!

What can you do to be ready for the unexpected and surprising appearance of God in your life?

14 August: Luke 12:49-56

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, smiling serenely with blue eyes and lily-white skin … that is exactly what Jesus was NOT like! His gift to the world was not a placid peacefulness. Speaking in dramatic, exaggerated terms, He warns that He is bringing a fiery presence (v 49), that He will divide opinions and commitments (v 51-52), and that He will require judgement to be made and punishment to be exacted (v 57-59).

Since Jesus proclaims faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we must surely expect that He will hold the world to the standard of justice that was proclaimed by the prophets. These fervent words remind those of us who are travelling with Him, that we must be ready to give Him our complete allegiance — and to live as if the justice of God is a reality for everyone we meet.

How can we live in a way that commits to the standard of justice at the heart of God?

21 August: Luke 13:10-17

Jesus’ opponents “were put to shame” (v 17). He lived in a culture in which honour and shame were central values.

Honour was something like public reputation or esteem; it was status claimed in the community, and the status that others recognised someone to have. Honour would be jealousy guarded. When honour was challenged, an immediate response was demanded. Jesus’s honour was challenged by the leader of the synagogue: when He cured the woman, he was working on the sabbath (v 14). This was against the law.

Jesus’s reply (v 15) was a challenge to the honour of the synagogue leader. So, they debate. Jesus wins the encounter; the synagogue ruler has no come-back to Him. The exchange has followed the pattern expected in that culture — and Jesus’s opponents have been bested in public.

 What is the standard of honorable behaviour that is expected of us, as followers of Jesus?

28 August: Luke 14:1, 7-14

This passage continues the core values of honour and shame. The guests at the banquet “chose the place of honour” (v 7). That is the expected way for people to behave, in the time of Jesus and also in our own day. Yet Jesus turns this on its head. “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled; those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (v 11)

The stories which Jesus told his followers, as they trod the road towards Jerusalem, were intended to disturb them — not placate them. The parables aimed to provoke anxiety and to invite deeper consideration of what was really important. The provocations which Jesus proclaimed were spoken in order to equip His followers for what would lie ahead in Jerusalem: rejection, trauma, and despair.

How can we guard against acting in a way that reinforces our sense of superiority, and opens us up to the possibility of surprise and upheaval?

These reflections for August were prepared by the Rev. Dr John Squires from the Mid North Coast Presbytery

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