On a Sabbath day Jesus joins a prominent Pharisee in his home for a meal. Opposition to Jesus continues to mount and “he was being carefully watched” (14:1). Jesus has no fear. A man with an abnormal swelling in his body stands before Jesus, and he asks those assembled, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” It was prohibited to work on the Sabbath. Callous, his opponents say nothing. Jesus takes hold of the man, heals him, and sends him out.
Jesus taught in parables. The word parable means “to throw alongside.” A parable is a story or a saying designed for contemplation and illumination. By making a comparison or offering a narrative Jesus awakens the imagination and helps us begin to grasp the creative possibilities that come with life in the kingdom of God.
Returning to the Gospels and reading the Bible closely means we will have to confront what Jesus reportedly did and said, even the parts that make us uncomfortable. This is good for us, in a way. Think of your relationships. One of the ways you know you are interacting with real, independent persons is that they are able to cross your will, to counter and contradict you, to surprise you and exceed your expectations. They are dynamic and free.
Jesus has plenty to say about wealth and material possessions. Despite what you may have heard, there is nothing inherently evil in money or things. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” This is a more nuanced statement than the common aphorism, “Money is the root of all evil.” In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul adds:
One of the most frequently cited objections to Christianity concerns its particularity and exclusivity, or the claim that salvation comes to humanity through Jesus Christ. In our passage today, Jesus places himself in a central role concerning the final judgment. His words are difficult to accept.
Revisiting the Gospels sobers us up very quickly. Contrary to modern “gospels” promising physical health and material prosperity, Jesus nowhere assures us that we will be free from trouble but rather in facing trouble, we may take heart, for he has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Prayer is a vital discipline for the follower of Jesus. Why? Jesus prayed. The fact that Jesus prayed reveals to us that while he may have been fully God he was also fully a human being and was in need of daily communion with God the Father. Jesus was without sin, yet still he prayed. Jesus came full of grace and truth, yet still he prayed. If Jesus, being conceived by the Holy Spirit and having come to us as God’s Son included the practice of prayer as part of his human life, why then would we assume our human life could reach its fullness without it?
The American television sitcom Seinfeld ran for nine seasons, which is quite an accomplishment for a show about nothing. The two-part series finale, which divided fans and critics alike, featured a trial of the sitcom’s four main characters (Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer), who were arrested after violating a duty to rescue ordinance (or “Good Samaritan Law”) while grounded in the small town of Latham, Massachusetts. The Parable of the Good Samaritan continues to be a story people know and recognize, at least at a surface level.
Pastor and theologian John R. W. Stott once said, “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility your greatest friend.” Success can lead to further success, but it can also lead to hubris and complacency. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
If there is a passage in the Bible that can make the familiar strange and the strange familiar, it is this one. The Transfiguration of Jesus, which we have read today, is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and it is presented in each Gospel at a key juncture in the narrative. In these three Gospels, known as the synoptic accounts because of their similarity, the Transfiguration follows Jesus’ disclosure of messianic identity and a direct word to the disciples concerning the kind of death he would die when he entered Jerusalem.
Francesco Bernardone had it all. He was the son of a wealthy merchant, handsome, well-liked, extravagant, and carefree. But at age twenty four, his life changed. Following a series of remarkable encounters, Francesco, better known as Francis of Assisi, became a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. St. Francis is remembered as a mendicant friar, reformer, and founder of a religious order. His conversion experience included a God given vision to rebuild and restore the crumbling church of St. Damian, located just outside of his hometown.
The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John claim not only that Jesus was a teacher and healer, but that he possessed power over demons and evil spirits. All four evangelists agree. Jesus was an exorcist. As modern people these accounts sound strange. Many have sought scientific explanations or a clinical diagnosis to explain away the supernatural. Such explanations should be considered, but not to eliminate or marginalize the claims found in the Scriptures.
As Jesus travelled throughout Galilee proclaiming “the good news of the kingdom of God,” he was accompanied by the Twelve as well as some influential women, and crowds followed (8:3). People were extremely interested in Jesus. They anticipated every word, and were attentive to the signs and wonders taking place wherever he went. It is as though his words and actions tapped into a deep longing, fulfilling hopes and dreams and ushering in a new era. You might say that wherever Jesus went, a new world was being birthed out of the old one.
Jesus was not immune from expectations. John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, had been confined by a man named Herod Antipas, Tetrarch (a Roman designation of governorship) of Galilee and Perea. Luke 1:19-20 tells us why: John had rebuked Herod because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, “and all the other evil things he had done.” John was thrown in prison, with little hope for release.
In Luke 7:1-10 we find an example that is both compelling and profound. Jesus receives word that a servant of a well-respected centurion is near death, and his presence has been requested in hopes that Jesus can offer healing. The elders urge Jesus to go, for even though this outsider belongs to the Roman occupation, he has shown respect for Jewish customs and even supported construction of their place of worship. Jesus sets out to help.