Friday, March 1

Lenten Bible Study Day 17; Luke 20

Luke, Chapter 20 (NRSV)

Today's reading in Luke has Luke's quote of, what I believe, is the most frequently quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
It's a quote from Psalm 118:22. Jesus uses it to describe himself and his ministry in the Gospel according to Luke, and in the book of Acts we'll soon read of Peter using the same quote to explain who Jesus is to his own people. Clearly there's something here that Luke, the author of both books, wants us to pay attention to, something that the Early Church found very important.

One of the great scandals to the Jewish community was the claim by some of their fellow Jews that the Messiah had come, walked among them, and had been killed. The idea was frankly blasphemous in their minds. The Messiah was God's own anointed and was supposed to live forever.

The only way you can understand the full meaning of Jesus' life is to see him as the personification of the suffering servant theme that runs throughout some of the prophetic writings, and as the personification of the triumphant signal that the Kingdom of God - where there will be no more death, and God's will is fully realized - has begun.

If you don't accept the resurrection, it's hard to recognize the second part of Jesus' identity. If you accept the resurrection, but can't handle the thought of God suffering then it's impossible to recognize the first part. It is exactly as Jesus says next after he quotes Psalm 118. He is the stumbling block to many. There are parts of his teaching and life that are easy to hear and there are parts that are scandalous. And different people are scandalized by different parts. Blessed is the one who finds no offense at all. (I haven't met that person yet by the way. I'm certainly not one.)

The other stories in this chapter illustrate again and again how Jesus' words and actions create scandals to the people who encounter them. The way they respond to the scandal tells whether or not they recognize who Jesus is, and what he is doing on Earth.

Jesus asks his disciples directly, earlier in the Gospel, "Who do you say that I am". The "you" in that question can be either directed to each of us personally or to all of us as those who are trying follow. Who do we say that Jesus is, how do we, do you personally, respond to the scandals of his words and teaching?

That, more than anything else, is the key question for us to ponder in Luke's Gospel. We hear the story of the Messiah who has come, we have read about the signs that he has performed. Now how shall we respond?

Do you remember the words of the father who's son Jesus healed? "Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). I find myself making that prayer as I reflect on my own answer to Jesus' question. "Who do you say I am." Who is Jesus for you? How do you say it?

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