This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 31, 2016.
The Bible contains around 500 verses on prayer, 200 verses on faith, and about 2000 verses on money. This fact reveals the importance of money in our lives. Jesus had been teaching a crowd of thousands when a man approached him seeking money. Obviously money and the love of money was an issue in Jesus’ day as it is in our day. Jesus had been teaching and warning people about the coming tribulations when this man interrupted him. This man, like so many, was so distracted by money he did not pay attention to Jesus’ teaching. Obviously this man did not want to learn from Jesus, he only wanted Jesus to do something for him. Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to teach the crowd about what it means to be successful in life. This was a topic vital not only to the crowd but also to his own disciples. At first, Jesus basically told the man “Dude, what does this have to do with me?” Then Jesus used the moment to teach on the importance of making the right choices with money. Money can be as big a threat to faith as persecution.
Jesus addressed the issue of greed. The Greek word he used for greed means the desire to have more. He told the story of a rich man plagued with greed. The fact is a person can struggle with greed even if she does not have a lot of money. Jesus defined success by pointing out it is not achieved by one’s possessions. He emphasized this warning by using the phrases “Watch out” and “Be on your guard.” He did this to reveal the underlying danger of giving in to greed. The world measures a person’s worth by his wealth; God views a person’s worth differently. Jesus used this warning as a segue to a parable concerning a rich man. The big question would be if the man would see himself as the main character in the story or not. Jesus told parables not necessarily to make things easier but to invite the person into the story. Jesus did not tell parables just to illustrate a point; he used them to confront people with truth.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 24, 2016.
“I need you to pray for me.” “How can I pray for you?” “Can you add my friend to your prayer list?” “I don’t know what to pray.” These and other statements on prayer can be heard at any church on any given Sunday. Obviously people believe prayer is important, but why then is praying such a struggle for people? Many of us are, or at least we know people who are, Prayer Warriors. Why do their prayers seem so natural and powerful? Is it a learned skill? Is it a sign of spiritual maturity? Can anyone learn to pray like Jesus? After observing Jesus praying one day, his own followers asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus answered his disciples in Luke 11:2-4, with what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, or the model prayer. Jesus covered a lot of ground in this prayer, from honoring the Father, to asking for God’s forgiveness. Jesus never intended this prayer to be the only way we pray, or that these words should be recited at every prayer. More importantly than the form, he called attention to the importance of praying regularly. He stated, “When you pray,” not if you pray; He had an expectation that his followers would pray. Jesus set the example by being a man of prayer, and by giving instructions on how to pray.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 17, 2016.
Our world is divided into two types of people; the Marys and the Marthas. The Marys of the world are laid back, contemplative, and find energy by being still and quiet. The Marthas of the world are busy, organized, and find enjoyment through serving others. Both are a need in the world. Luke followed up the Story of the Good Samaritan, a story showing the importance of serving others, with an encounter Jesus had at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was an encounter which showed the importance of devotion to Christ.
Luke wrote that it was Martha who invited Jesus to come to her house for a meal. Martha loved to play the host; she had the gift of hospitality and felt the most alive when she served other people. Martha opened her home and Mary opened her heart. Jesus arrived at the home with his disciples to find Martha busy in the kitchen preparing a meal. Mary, Martha’s sister, sat down at Jesus’ feet to be near him and listen to him. When Mary is mentioned in the Bible, she is sitting. Every time Martha is mentioned, she is busy. In John 11, Jesus arrived at the tomb where Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha was buried. He died four days previous. It was Martha who went out to meet Jesus, to let him know if he had arrived earlier, then Lazarus would still be alive. After her conversation with Jesus, Martha went to find Mary to tell her Jesus wanted to see her. John did not record Jesus asking for Mary, but Martha wanted Mary to talk to Jesus. Mary was sitting at home. John also recorded an encounter Jesus had with Mary and Martha at another dinner served by Martha. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet at this dinner, and anointed his feet with expensive perfume. Jesus stated in John 12:7, Mary poured the perfume on his feet to prepare his body for burial. Jewish custom called for dead bodies to be anointed with oil in perfume as a part of the burial ritual. Mary picked up on Jesus’ conversations about his death, because she listened, a fact the disciples did not realize, although they also had been with Jesus. These events reveal the consistency of Mary and Martha’s personalities.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 10, 2016.
Luke recorded Jesus’ telling of the story of the Good Samaritan. The title, Good Samaritan, is today synonymous with a person doing good deeds for another person. Jesus told the story to answer a question posed by a man regarding eternal life. Luke painted the scene for us this way: Jesus was sitting down teaching, a customary position of a Rabbi as he taught. Suddenly, an expert in the Law of God stood up, interrupted the lesson and asked Jesus a question. This man was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a 72 member group consisting of experts who studied, taught, and interpreted Hebrew Semitic law, and were typically antagonistic toward Jesus and his teachings. By standing, the man either showed respect or attempted to show authority over Jesus. The latter seems to best fit the context. He tried to examine Jesus intellectually, but with wrong motives, and test Jesus by asking a potent question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus exposed the man spiritually and reoriented the conversation by answering the man with a question of his own, “What is written in the Law?” The man would know the law, as it was his job. He quoted passages of the law found in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. Basically, he answered his own question. Jesus gave this same answer in Mark 12 when someone asked about the greatest commandment of all the 613 commandments found in the Torah.
The passage he quoted, “Love the Lord your God with all your strength and with all your mind” is known as the Great Shema. It was familiar to every faithful Jew. Devout Jews would write the Great Shema on parchment and secure it in wooden boxes called phylacteries, and wear them on their wrists and foreheads. They would also place the Great Shema in a case and nail it to the right side of every doorpost. It was a type of post-it note that said to everyone entering or leaving the home, that as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Jesus responded to the man by telling him he was right, and if he lived according to the law he would live. Jesus exposed the absurdity of thinking anyone could keep the perfect law. God gave us the law to show how we fall short, it was never designed to save us, but rather point us to God. Jesus used sarcasm to say, if there was something you could do to inherit eternal life, this is it.