In yesterday’s chapter, as a consequence of humanity’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, death became a fact of life. Today, we witness the first recorded human death, and not only is it a murder, it’s a fratricide.
On the drive to work Monday morning, I put in my old Revenge of the OC Supertones CD, and there’s a stanza from their track “We Shall Overcome” that’s stuck with me for the fourteen years since its release: “There’s a land of the dead called Planet Earth / Where a race called Man walks dead from birth.” I’d be hard-pressed to give a more succinct and potent statement of the human condition than that. But it wasn’t always that way, here on the blue planet. There was a time when there wasn’t any death here, nor any humanity. There was a time when there wasn’t any here. And that’s where the entire Bible starts.
If yesterday’s chapter had two parts that could each be the subject of an entire blog post, then today’s chapter has…several. Jesus returns to his hometown, leaves, sends out the twelve apostles to preach and perform miracles, causes Herod to think Jesus is John the Baptist back from the dead, feeds a crowd with just five loaves and two fish, and walks on water. What ties the chapter together? It’s not some mere philosophical idea or a particular point of doctrine. It’s the same thing that ties all of Mark together: the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
And what does the chapter tell us about Jesus Christ? Well, among other things, I wonder if it doesn’t tell us that he’s an introvert.
Like the chapter before it, Luke 18 has a lot of stuff happening. There are parables about unjust judges and self-assured Pharisees, there are children and rich men coming to Jesus, there are teachings about sacrifice and predictions of crucifixion, and there’s a blind man who gets his sight back. A single post would only afford me space for a cursory glance at each portion of the text if I attempted to cover it all, so we’re going to zero in on our friend the rich young ruler.
So, what verse does God’s Little Instruction Book have for us today? It’s none other than Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And this is one verse where taking a bird’s-eye view of its context will not lend us any particular insight into its meaning. There do exist passages in Proverbs which are not simply successions of maxims and wise sayings, but chapter 16 is not one of them.
Man, how do I follow Thursday’s act? Real talk, fam: I can’t help feeling like I shot my wad with the previous post on the foundational importance of God’s sacrificial love. If what I said was true, then won’t whatever topic I talk about inevitably fall short in significance of what I had to say in that last post? Maybe so. But I wrote that post because I love God and you guys, so today I’m going to put my love for God and you guys into practice again, this time by writing a post that is not explicitly about love.
At this very moment, I’m looking at the physical page, and dang if that thing isn’t 99% red. Literally the only words in this chapter that aren’t the Words of Our Lord are a “then-Jesus-said” to open the chapter and, later, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him” (14). (Of course it’s a dunk on the Pharisees.) Everything else? Jesus’ teaching.