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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hosea 5:1-7; Psalm 107:33-43; Acts 22:17-29; Luke 6:27-38

Hosea continues to level charges against the people of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, especially indicting its priests, prophets and king. All are responsible, as all have gone after the god Baal. None of this is hidden from God. Their deeds keep them from returning to the Lord, for the spirit of whoredom dominates and controls their lives. The phrase concluding verse 4 has a powerful pun: the verb for “to know” (yada) can mean sexual intercourse or acquisition of knowledge. In their sexual behavior in the temples of Baal, they are actually depriving themselves of true knowledge of the Lord. Their arrogance witnesses against them, and their stumbling in guilt has even had an impact on Judah. Yet, with the sacrifices of flocks and herds the Israelites will seek the Lord but not find him (the Israelites were not simply whoring after Baal, they were also making sacrifices to the Lord, hedging their bets). Why? Because the Lord has now withdrawn from them. Having dealt falsely with the Lord, their children are illegitimate, just as the children born to Gomer are illegitimate. Their new moon feast shall ultimately devour their children and their fields.

Psalm 107:33-43 continues the theme of extolling and praising the Lord, but now the theme turns from salvation history with the nation to God’s actions with evil doers. The Lord not only creates great rivers and springs in the desert, as the psalm has previously said, but also turns rivers into deserts! Springs of water dry up due to thirsty ground as God’s providence and sovereignty over creation reverses itself in the face of evil. Rich fields are turned into barren land, because of the wickedness of its people. Conversely, God turns wastelands into rich inhabitable places so that the hungry might dwell there. They build cities, sow fields, plant vineyards, and God blesses them with fruitful harvests. But, the Lord brings down princes who abuse their power while lifting up the needy. The righteous see it and are glad while the unrighteous look on with shut mouths. The psalm ends, exhorting us, saying, “Let those who are wise give heed to these things and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Paul continues to make his defense before the crowd as he explains what happened following his baptism. He returned to Jerusalem and, while in the temple, fell into a trance, in which the Lord appeared to him and told him to leave Jerusalem at once, for the people there would not accept his testimony about Jesus. Paul demurred, saying surely they will listen to him, who heretofore was a persecutor of those who believe in Jesus, even standing by with approval as they stoned Stephen, something the crowd would well remember. But when he tells them that Jesus told him, “Go! I will send you far away to the Gentiles,” that is too much for the crowd, and it again erupts in an uproar, people throwing their cloaks and dust in the air. The commander takes Paul to the Barracks where it is determined that they will beat the truth out of Paul in order to discover what is really afoot. Remember, such uprisings occurred in Jerusalem somewhat regularly and were a significant threat to Roman control. The commander has reason to be concerned. As they are stretching Paul out across the beating block, tying him hand and foot with thongs, Paul asks the Centurion if it is lawful for them to beat a Roman Citizen who is not yet condemned. Startled, the Centurion asks if Paul is a Roman citizen and hearing Paul’s answer, goes to his Commander, the tribune, to tell him and ask, “What shall we do?” The Commander rushes to Paul and asks if, indeed, he is a Roman citizen, admitting that he himself had paid a huge sum of money to buy his citizenship. Paul tells him that he is not only a Roman citizen, but was born so. Immediately, everyone assigned to the scourging detail release Paul and step back from him. Even binding him in chains is a violation of his citizenship, something that will trouble the Commander.

Jesus’ sermon on the plain continues: having been through the blessings and woes which challenge the way most people think in the world, Jesus begins a series of new and startling commandments: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, turn the other cheek, give not only your coat to whoever asks for it, but also your shirt, give to all who beg, and when something is taken from you, do not ask for it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. What credit is it that we love those who love us? Even sinners behave that way. And if you lend to someone, expecting to receive more in exchange, what credit is there in that? Again, sinners behave that way. Rather, love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great: you will be children of the most high. As God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, you too must be merciful. If you judge others, you will be judged; if you condemn others you will be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given to you, in measure far beyond what you have given or forgiven. At a minimum, you will be given back what you have given. A people who receive grace must live out of it in grace-filled ways.

Posted October 4, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hosea 4:11-19; Psalm 102; Acts 21:37—22:16; Luke 6:12-26

Hosea continues to describe conditions in the Northern Kingdom of Israel as the people continue to prostitute themselves, participating in other cults of worship; going to diviners, using idols, and sacrificing at places of worship designated for the Canaanite gods. Israel’s daughters have played the whore. Yet, in a flash of unusual gender equality, God announces he will not punish them, because it is the men who have also gone after the Baal prostitutes, sacrificing at their temples. Consequently, none of the people have any understanding, and all will come to ruin. Then there is a plea that this not spread to Judah. “Do not enter Gilgal” is a reference to the ancient sanctuary north of Jericho, from the time of Joshua entering into the land(Joshua 3—5). “Bethaven” means, quite literally, “house of falsehood” and is a reference to Bethel, the site where Jacob, in his flight from his brother Esau, had the dream of the ladder into heaven, and that later became the center for worship in the Northern Kingdom after it split off from Judah (the Southern Kingdom). Israel has become like a stubborn heifer that is beyond anyone’s control. Ephraim, one of the northern tribes, is now a metaphor for the Northern Kingdom, Israel, itself, who worships idols, drinks to excess and then engages in sexual orgies. They love lewdness more than glory. The judgment ends with the plaintive phrase, “A wind has wrapped them in its wings,”—there is no going after them to try and catch them.

Psalm 102 is entitled “A prayer of the afflicted when faint and pouring out his soul to the Lord,” which is precisely what this psalm is about. Pleading for the Lord’s saving and reviving presence, the psalmist laments that God has hidden his face from the supplicant’s distress. He compares himself to a pelican in the wilderness or a lone owl in a waste place, like a single bird perched on a rooftop. He is so bereft and overcome that he has forgotten to eat. His flesh hangs on his bones. His enemies taunt him endlessly. His days pass away like smoke. His heart is withered like grass. Too stricken to even eat, his only food has been the ashes of penance and tears so abundant that they have diluted his wine. All of this is because, in God’s wrath, he has been singled out and cast away. Though his days are but a lengthened shadow, the Lord’s days are forever. And now, the psalm turns the corner from lament to a psalm of trust and intercession. The Lord, who lives forever, will arise and have compassion on Zion and on the Lord’s servants there who hold its stones dear. Perhaps he hopes to be included among those on whom God has compassion. God is called on to act so that nations and generations yet unborn will praise his name. God will regard the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. From here, the psalm takes another turn, this time to praise, declaring for generations to come that God did look down from his high place. God heard the groans of the prisoners and set free those doomed to die, so that the Lord’s name could continue to be declared in Zion when people gather there to worship him. And now, the psalm returns to lament: though God has broken the psalmist’s own strength midcourse, he pleads that God not end his life at its mid-point. Long ago, God established the foundations of the earth and made the heavens. Though they will perish, God will endure. They will all wear out like a garment. God changes them like clothing, yet remains the Lord forever. The psalm ends on a final note of affirmation and hope: the children of the Lord’s servants shall live secure, with their children established in God’s presence.

As Paul is being hauled off to the Roman barracks he asks the commander of the cohort something in Greek. Startled, the commander recognizes Paul is not who he thought he was—an Egyptian who had led a previous insurrection and revolt—and allows Paul to speak to the crowd. Paul does, in Hebrew, and, in the process, stirs up an even greater uproar as he tells his personal story about his past as a persecutor of “the way,” his experience on the Damascus road of meeting the Risen Christ, being struck blind and led by the hand to Damascus. He tells of Ananias coming to him to restore his sight, and deliver a message from God: Paul has been appointed to know “the righteous one,” to hear a word from his mouth, and to be a witness to him among all people. At Ananias’ command, Paul was baptized. Paul continues his speech tomorrow. For now, the crowd listens.

Jesus leaves behind the conflict over his healing on the sabbath and goes to the mountain to pray through the night. Then, Luke recounts the calling of the disciples, naming each—the only place this full list occurs. Twelve are chosen as apostles, one for each of the tribes of Israel, to restore and provide leadership to God’s people. Coming down off the mountain Jesus encounters a huge crowd that has come after him, and, turning to his disciples, he delivers “the sermon on the plain,” essentially Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. And like Matthew, notice, this is preached to the disciples, not to the large crowd. It is the disciple’s marching orders as leaders of the restoration.

Posted October 3, 2014
Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hosea 4:1-10; Psalm 105:1-22; Acts 21:27-36; Luke 6:1-11

Hosea now turns his prophecy directly on the people of Israel, as the Lord formally issues an indictment against them for their own harlotry. There has been no faithfulness and, consequently, no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, murdering, stealing, adultery and bloodshed have been the result—the violation of the Ten Commandments, which they seem to have forgotten. Consequently, the land mourns; all who live in it languish, including all forms of animal life. The indictment includes the priesthood and the guild of prophets, whose job it is to teach the people and speak for God. Their failures have resulted in the people’s ignorance and their turning to idols and pagan gods. The result is God’s judgment: the more they increased, the more they sinned, feeding on the sins and iniquities of one another. Now all of them, people, priests and prophets alike, are to be punished for their ways and repaid for their deeds. They shall eat but not be satisfied; they shall continue to whore after other gods but not increase, because they have forsaken the Lord and devoted themselves to whoredom.

Psalm 105 is a psalm of praise that calls everyone to make known God’s deeds among the people. The reading is divided with the first portion of these first twenty-two verses dominated by the language of praise—“Give thanks,” “call,” “sing,” “glory” and “rejoice.” Sing praise to him and speak of all of his wonders. Seek the Lord and his strength continually. It then recounts the reasons for this praise: God’s faithfulness to Israel. The psalm begins citing God’s initial covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and the children of Israel—a covenant made forever—making them God’s “chosen ones” with the promise of the Land of Canaan as their inheritance. It then remembers their past: few in number and of little account and nomads in the land, often oppressed by the kings of other nations, and how God reproved their kings for his people’s sake. They are, after all, the Lord’s anointed ones—prophets who speak for the Lord. The famine that ultimately sent the children of Israel to Egypt is recalled. But for now, the focus is upon Joseph being sold into slavery, then imprisoned until the time that the Lord’s word was to come to pass. (As the author of Hebrews reminds us, it can be a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Lord, as Joseph well learned! [Hebrews 10:31] How much have we attempted to domesticate the Lord for our own purposes?) But the Lord was faithful and the Pharaoh set Joseph free and made him lord of Pharaoh’s house and ruler over all of his possessions, giving Joseph power to “imprison [Pharaoh’s] princes at will in order to teach the Egyptian elders wisdom.” We stop today at verse 22, prior to the rest of the children of Israel coming to Egypt.

On the seventh day of purification, some Jews from Asia—probably those who have been Paul's adversaries in the various places he had preached and the churches that he had founded—see Paul in the temple and stir up the crowd, naming him as the man teaching everyone everywhere against their people, their teachings, customs and temple. To make matters worse, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple, something that was not true. But, though they were wrong about this latter charge, the entire city erupts and the people rush Paul, drag him out of the temple, whose doors are immediately shut behind them, as they begin to beat Paul and attempt to kill him. Word reached the tribune of the Roman cohort, and soldiers under the command of centurions are dispatched to quiet the mob and bring order. When the people see the tribune and soldiers, they stop beating Paul, who is immediately attested, bound with two chains and examined as to who he is and what he has done. The crowd, of course, cannot be silenced, and soon one is shouting one thing, while others another. Unable to hear in the uproar, the tribune orders Paul brought to the barracks, but the mob is such that Paul cannot walk through it. Rather, he must be carried by the soldiers, while the following crowed keeps shouting, “Away with him!”

It is the sabbath and Jesus and his disciples are headed to the synagogue. What follows is a demonstration of Jesus challenging the new things (the new wine) the Pharisees have added to the Law (old wine skins). Torah is clear: we have six days in which to labor and do our work; the seventh is to be set aside in rest for the Lord. Anyone who works on the sabbath is to be put to death (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:14-15; 35:2). As Jesus and his disciples walk through a grain field, his disciples pluck some heads of grain, rub them in their hands to shuck them and eat the grain. The Pharisees see it and ask what they are doing—this is work, of sorts. Do they not know that it is not lawful to do this kind of thing on the sabbath? Really? Is this really what Moses had in mind? But this is what has happened under Pharisee leadership. Jesus responds by pointing to their legalisms’ distortions of the law and reminds them that even David, when he and his companions were hungry, entered the tent of the meeting and ate the Bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priest to eat, and he gave it to his companions as well. Having earlier identified himself as the Son of Man, Jesus reaffirms that with another connection—he is lord of the sabbath! We are not told of the Pharisees’ and scribes’ response to that, but it is an enormous claim, making Jesus superior to Moses and the Law. Rather, Luke simply tells another sabbath story to continue to illustrate the building tensions. On another sabbath, Jesus enters a synagogue to teach and, therein, encounters a man with a withered right hand. The Pharisees and scribes are watching closely to see if Jesus will cure on the sabbath, in order that they might have an accusation against him. Even though Jesus knows this, or, perhaps better still, because he does know what they are thinking, he heals the man. But first, before doing so, he asks, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath, to save life or destroy it?” Of course it is; it is lawful to do the Lord’s work on the Lord’s day. The commandment to set aside a day to the Lord, free from daily labor in order to rest and be refreshed has been narrowed to a scrupulosity that is all but impossible, becoming a burden rather than a gift. Jesus commands the man to stretch out his hand, the man does, and it is immediately restored. Seeing this, the Pharisees and scribes are filled with fury and begin to consider what they can do to stop Jesus.

Posted October 2, 2014
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hosea 3:1-5; Psalm 101; Acts 21:15-26; Luke 5:27-39

Hosea is now commanded to “Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress,” in the same way that God still loves Israel, who has other lovers and pursues their delicacies. So, Hosea tells us the bridal purchase price and the nature of the marriage covenant. She must remain alone, in seclusion, and not play the whore. It is not only a metaphor for violation of the first commandment, but goes on to foretell a period of aloneness (exile). She is not to have sex with any man, not even he will come to her. For like her, the Israelites will remain many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or the other implements of worship. Only after this will they come to appropriately respect the Lord for his goodness and return. Then the Lord will be their God, and restore the Davidic kingdom, which, of course, was the high-water mark of Israel’s political life in the land. The phrase “goodness in the latter days,” is not a reference to the end of time, though often it has been interpreted so, but rather, is simply an acknowledgement that this will be sometime in coming, but, indeed, will come to be.

Psalm 101 can be read either as a royal psalm, in which the King is making an oath concerning his office and promising to root out the evil and perverse from the community, or it may be read as a wisdom psalm that is a model for instructing the young, warning against attachments to the wrong things—“setting the eye on anything base”—slandering neighbors and abandoning one’s own integrity for the easier way. God looks with favor on the faithful. Those who walk in God’s way not only keep the law, but actually “minister” to the Lord. The language is harsh for effect, and not meant to be taken literally. “Morning by morning” is not a daily call to destroy all the wicked in the land. Soon the land would be desolate! Rather, it is an expression of the need for daily vigilance against the wicked.

The “we section” continues, describing how Paul and his companions got ready to go to Jerusalem, and how they were accompanied from Caesarea to Jerusalem by some of the believers, bringing Paul to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, one of the earliest disciples to become a believer during Paul’s first missionary journey. It is with Mnason that they stay. It is interesting that the Spirit again and again warns Paul against going to Jerusalem, and yet he insists upon going. One wonders how Paul’s ministry might have been changed, extended and borne even more fruit had he listened; a warning about learning to distinguish between faithful obedience and a piety borne of pride or determination. Arriving in Jerusalem brings to an end Paul’s third missionary journey. The next day, Paul goes to see James and all the elders and is warmly received. Paul relates to them the things God had done among the Gentiles through his three missionary journeys. James and the elders respond in praise and thanksgiving but then warn Paul about their dilemma. There are many thousands of Jews in and about Jerusalem who have become believers but who still remain zealous for the Law of Moses. They have heard about Paul and his work and how he has told not only the Gentile but also the Jewish converts living among them not to circumcise theirs sons or be constrained by the law and these men, in and about Jerusalem, are Paul’s enemy. What is to be done? Surely they will hear that Paul has come. The elders suggest that Paul accompany four men among them who have taken a Nazirite vow and are about to complete it. They suggest that Paul go with them, pay for the shaving of their heads (cutting the hair being the visual symbol of ending the vow), and go through the rite of purification with them. Thereby, his critics will know that their accusations about Paul are wrong as far as Jews are concerned. They reiterate what was said in the letter the elders sent throughout the region after their first meeting with Paul on this subject, telling the Gentiles the only constraints of the Law that they must observe is to abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from what had been strangled and from fornication. The next day, Paul accompanies the four men, and after having purified himself, goes to the temple with them for the offering of the final sacrifice that ends the vows, making public his own honoring of the Law. For the moment, it seems to calm the situation, but soon things will change.

As Jesus moves on he comes to Levi, a tax collector, and says, “Follow me.” Immediately, Levi leaves his post and money behind and follows Jesus. Later that day, Levi hosts a large banquet for Jesus, to introduce him to his friends, many of whom are tax collectors. When the Pharisees and their scribes see it, they are critical of Jesus: “Why is it you eat and drink with tax collectors and other sinners?” Jesus tells them that those who are well do not need a physician. He has come, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Not persuaded, the Pharisees continue their complaint: John’s disciples fast and offer prayers, he and his followers eat and drink, how does he explain this? It is quite simple, says Jesus, you cannot constrain members of the wedding party when the groom is among them. The days are coming when the groom will be taken away from them; then they will fast and pray. He then tells them a parable—the first time he uses that term in this gospel. No one sews a new piece of cloth on an old one as a patch, for not only does it not match, but when it is washed, the new will shrink and tear away from and further damage the old garment. No one puts new wine into old wine skins, for when the wine ages and ferments, it will burst the old wine skins. This latter portion of parables is frequently interpreted to mean that Jesus is the new thing. However, including the last verse, “no one who drinks old wine desires the new,” challenges those interpretations of this text. The “new” here is what the Pharisees have been adding to the Law of Moses (the old), which is sufficient unto itself, and which Jesus will later say has foretold his coming. It is the Pharisees and their scribes that have been tearing the fabric of faith with their new patches added onto the Law as they try to pour new wine into old wineskins, doing damage to God’s people. Jesus may seem to them to be something new, but he is really God’s ancient plan at work among them—the old wine, which, once it has truly been tasted, is good and not only sufficient, but far better than the new.

Posted October 1, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hosea 2:16-23; Psalm 95; Acts 21:1-14; Luke 5:12-26

After saying that God will allure Israel into the wilderness, the oracle further describes an ideal time of restoration. Having shamed his people before their false lovers (the Baal), God will restore Israel as his wife. The Valley of Achor—once a sign of God’s judgment (Joshua 7)—will become a door of hope: God will again give her vineyards, grain and oil and she will call God “my husband, and no longer my Baal, “my master.” (The phrase in Hebrew has a wonderful double entendre for the word Baal, which refers to the Canaanite gods that Israel was also worshipping, whereas the Hebrew word “baali” means “my master.”) Then God will make a covenant with the wild animals, the birds and all that creeps on the ground, and will abolish the bow and the sword so that they may all lie down in safety. God’s covenant will bring peace in all regards. God will take Israel as his wife forever in righteousness, justice, steadfast love and mercy—the four dominant qualities that best describe God’s character—and she shall “know” the Lord. Again, the use of the word “to know,” with its sexual double entendre is vivid and intentional and highly ironic. It is a judgment on Baal worship, in which sexual intercourse was central, but from it comes no knowledge of the Lord. The oracle ends reversing the initial judgment: on that day they will call and God will answer, God will have pity on those formerly named “no pity” and they shall again be the Lord’s people and he will be their God.

Psalm 95 begins calling the congregation to worship, singing for joy to the Lord, who is the rock of our salvation, calling worshippers to come before him with joyful psalms (rather than bulls, goats or other sacrificial animals). This may indicate that the psalm was not composed until after the loss of the temple in 587 BCE and the Babylonian exile, when the rabbis began to define prayer and praise as another form of sacrifice to the Lord. The Lord is described as “a great God, and a great King above all gods,” indicating that, though Israel might now be monotheistic in its worship, it still considered there to be other gods over which the Lord is sovereign, rather than the Lord being the only god. Rather, he is the God of gods. Consequently, the Lord’s sovereignty over all creation is described in traditional ways: depths of the earth, heights of the mountains, seas, dry land and so on. Though God is Sovereign over all, God is also Maker and shepherd of the people, who are here called to “bow down” before and listen to, rather than test their maker. Then the Lord speaks, warning, “do not harden your hearts, as the people did at Meribah and Massah, moments in the exodus wilderness wandering (Ex. 17:1-7), that led to God’s judgment, that they would not enter God’s rest. It is a reference to their forty years of wandering and God’s loathing of them, and the consequent loss of the rest that could have come to them by entering the land of promise, as well as to the sabbath rest that is emblematic of sharing in God’s abiding presence.

Leaving the elders of Ephesus behind at Miletus, the text re-enters the “we narrative”, providing the travel Itinerary as Paul and his companions sail south to Cos, then southeast to Rhodes and on eastward to Patara. There they find a ship headed to Phoenicia, sailing south of Cyprus and finally landing at Tyre, an important port on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. There, while the ship unloads its cargo, they look up disciples and stay with them for seven days. During that time, through the Spirit, the disciples tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul will not listen. When the time is ready for them to depart, the people accompany Paul to the ship, and after praying together on the beach, Paul and his travel companion(s) again board the ship and embark to Ptolemais. There, they are greeted by believers and stay with them one day, and from there sail on to Caesarea (travelling by ship along the coast was far easier and faster than traveling on land). At Caesarea they go to the house of Phillip the evangelist and also one of the deacons appointed in Acts 6.5. Philip has four unmarried daughters, each of whom has the gift of prophecy. And while there for several days, another prophet named Agabus comes from Judah, and taking Paul’s belt, Agabus binds his own hands and feet with it and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him to the Gentiles.’” Hearing this, everyone urges Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, but Paul insists it is his duty to go, not only to be bound in Jerusalem for the sake of the Lord Jesus, but also to die for him if necessary. Recognizing that nothing can persuade Paul otherwise, the believers with Phillip fall silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Luke tells us of Jesus being approached by a leper who falls at Jesus’ feet and says, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretches forth his hand and touches the man, saying he chooses to do so, and instantly the leper is healed. Notice that in each of these forms of physical healing, Jesus is rendering himself ritually unclean by touching someone who is unclean. Clearly, that no longer matters to him—those barriers need to come down. But, he does tell the man to go and show himself to the priest, to verify the healing and be permitted back into the community, as well as to make the offering for his healing, prescribed by the Law of Moses. Consequently, word about Jesus began to spread even faster and wider, so that crowds were coming from everywhere both to hear him teach and to be cured. In the midst of these demands, Jesus regularly slips away from the crowds to pray. The next incident occurs while Jesus is in a house, teaching, and the Pharisees and teachers of the law are sitting nearby. We are told they have come from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem—the whole region—and are here to verify for themselves what they have heard. Luke tells us the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. Some men arrive carrying a paralyzed man on a pallet, trying to bring him to Jesus, but because the crowd is such around the house where Jesus is teaching, they cannot get near. Consequently, they carry the paralyzed man up to the roof of the house, remove the floor/roof tiles to open it, and then let the man down in front of Jesus surrounded by the crowd. Seeing the faith of these men, Jesus says to the paralytic, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes and Pharisees hear this and immediately react: “Who is this speaking such blasphemies, since only God alone can forgive sin?” Luke tells us Jesus perceives their questions and answers with one of his own: “Which is it easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven you’, or to say, ‘stand up and walk?’” And then, confronting the religious authorities with an act that will be both an answer to their question and a revelation that he is the Son of Man—the first time the phrase has appeared on Jesus’ lips in this gospel—he turns to the paralyzed man and says, “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately, the man does just that, giving glory to God as he does. The crowd is amazed, and glorifies God along with the man, saying “We have seen strange things today.” They will see even “stranger things” as the days unfold. Notice that the Pharisees are silent.

Posted September 30, 2014
The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson

Author: The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012

The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.

© 2014