Oh, thank God there’s no mention of slaves in this one.
You know Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken?” Sometimes I open up the day’s passage and find it could not be more “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” if it tried. Here, on the one hand, is the healing at the pool in Bethesda, and on the other, there is Jesus’ lengthy exposition of the relationship between the Son and the Father, defending his ministry as backed by the authority of God. But unlike Robert Frost’s existentially-minded traveler, I’m faced with two roads that countless expositors and theologians have trod before me; there is no “road less traveled by” here. Moreover, while the traveler doubts he may ever return to that fork in the road, I may find that I have time to cover both sections of John 5 today. But I have to pick one to begin with, so travel with me down the road to the Bethesda healing, or alternately, close the tab and leave the entry unread–for you as well have two roads before you.
What do you think of when you think of the Newsboys? One of the CCM industry’s long-running Christian rock acts, the Newsboys have been around since 1985, with hundreds of songs and seventeen studio albums to their name. But chances are you don’t know them for their song “Cornelius.” It’s a bouncy, catchy ode to the converted centurion by the same name from Acts 10, but at the end of the day, it goes afield from the text to applaud general integrity, refusal to compromise, and…such bizarre lines as “What rhymes with Cornelius? Helium.” So, having hooked your interest with an introduction only tangentially related to the content of the passage, let’s set aside the Newsboys’ deep cuts and take a look at the tale of the man behind the song.
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.
Some people miss the forest for the trees. In yesterday’s post, focusing on a single verse about one of the few all-nighters Jesus pulled in all his roughly twelve thousand nights spent on earth, I neglected to cover any of the rest of Luke 6. Thus, in an effort to obtain a broader view of the chapter, today we will be considering a single, different tree.
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 try not to miss the forest for one very specific tree in these posts. I try to at least hit an overview of the passage of the day, and today’s passage continues God’s charges against his people, with an accusation that Israel is straight-up robbing God as the centerpiece. But one verse caught my eye: a quick-and-dirty litany of indictments early in the chapter. If God were to put this list to music and then sing it, he might end with the line, “These are a few of my least favorite things.” If it were a Buzzfeed article, they might title it “Six Things God Will Be a Swift Witness Against, Drawing Near to You for Judgment.” But it is not an article, and God–as far as I know–has not performed it as if right out of the Sound of Music. It’s a list.