Today’s chapter details Pharaoh’s greatest mistake. The disgusting discomforts of the bloody Nile, the frogs, the gnats, and the swarms weren’t enough. Neither were the livestock diseases, the skin inflammations, the hailstorms, locusts, and darkness. And it looked for a moment like the death of all of Egypt’s firstborn might be enough, but then Pharaoh changed his mind and wanted his slaves back. So, today he and his chariots come after Israel in hot pursuit. Throughout the book of Exodus, but especially here, Pharaoh is the picture of anti-repentance.
In today’s chapter, we’ve got one of my favorite scenes from the gospels, in which Jesus goes to bat on behalf of a woman caught in adultery.
Stephen’s death was a bit of a sucker punch to the early church. Not only did they have to cope with the loss of one of their most devout members, but also Jerusalem turned hostile to the faith. The majority of the new Christians had to disperse to other regions, and Saul spearheaded the persecution efforts, imprisoning many of those who stuck around. But you don’t get diamonds without pressure, you don’t get pearls without irritants, and it takes a lot of (ahem) fertilizer to make a rose.
Around the time we started Luke, in celebration of the Christmas season, we also read through the nativity narrative in Matthew. Now we’re coming back to Matthew to finish what we started, and the third chapter here is basically everything Matthew has to say about John the Baptist’s ministry. We won’t see John the Baptist again until chapter 11, where we find him in prison, and again in chapter 14 for the events leading up to his execution at Herod’s hands. But today it’s the John’s Ministry Chapter, all the time JTB.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree and he said,
Zacchaeus, you come down,
For I’m going to your house today!
For I’m going to your house today!
So goes the Sunday school song. But if the song were all you knew of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, you’d be missing all but the barest bones of the story.
Okay, so last week ended kind of catastrophically. Let’s see if we can get back on our feet. This week we return to the Triad study with Matthew 12:46-50, which the study authors chose to illustrate the theme of “family.” What do you think? Can I go the whole week in this passage without actually addressing the theme of “family?” I kid, but all good jokes have a grain of truth to them.
If the gospel of Luke were a comic book, you’d read the story of twelve-year-old Jesus getting lost in Jerusalem, you’d turn the page, and you’d see a huge establishing shot of the wilderness with John the Baptist. The narrative box would read, “Twenty years later…”, there’d be a bunch of John-the-Baptist stuff, and you wouldn’t see Jesus again for like six pages. I’d love to see how Cartoonist Luke would illustrate the genealogy that concludes the chapter, but the point remains: in the early chapters, Luke’s book about Jesus features Jesus less prominently than you might expect.
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until I was in junior high that I discovered there was more Jonah after Nineveh’s repentance. You may have had a different experience, but it seemed children’s Bible stories always stopped short of the scene where Jonah gets bent out of shape over Nineveh’s non-destruction. Then again, I may be misremembering, or perhaps I somehow never realized that the guy in the picture books grousing about his dead plant was still Jonah. Either way, I’ve got my intro paragraph, so let’s look at the actual text.
You don’t have to ask me twice, as the saying goes. Unless you’re God, and I’m Jonah, and what you’re asking me is to go to Nineveh and deliver your message to them. But after the whole incident with the disobedience and the sea storm and the huge fish, when God tells Jonah it’s time to give Nineveh the prophetic business, Jonah doesn’t have to be told a third time. He gets up and goes.
Today, seeing as we’re studying a Jewish prophetic work from the eighth century BC, let’s talk about the Roman Empire.