Monday, October 10, 2005

Grace on the road : Part 1 of 7

Over the next two months I'll be walking through Luke's gospel each Monday. I'll follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, from Luke 9v51 to Luke 19v27.

This is a journey full of the most familiar stories, but ones that we almost always take out of context. In context they might mean something unexpected for us – but they will be full of life and grace. Luke piles up the stories to teach us, carefully arranging his material.

And he teaches us about Jesus, and about grace.... not about us and not full of guilt-trips that so often come from our study of the gospels. We begin at Luke 9v51 to 10v42...

**Nearby, Ed Goode is on the same road.

This is a big passage to start with. There is lots of stuff in it and one very familiar parable. We don’t have time to explore everything – we need to be disciplined in working through things quickly. This will be rewarding when we see the bigger picture. The question raised at the start of the good Samaritan parable recurs at the end of our journey, with the rich young ruler. This is a key question: how do I get eternal life? The answer is made clear if we will see it.

57-62. The big thing to see here is that following Jesus is costly – but Jesus spells out the cost. Why? Because it is worth it. The costs don’t outweigh the benefits. Hold that thought!

1-20. Here Jesus sends out his disciples. But this is not a mission training manual. You will have to avoid getting bogged down in all the detail here… at least for now. The key place to focus is on what happens when the disciples return from their mission. It’s been an impressive adventure! They’ve achieved great things. And Jesus says – don’t rejoice in these great exploits. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. In other words, “that’s great! But it’s even better that you know Jesus”. The seriousness of needing to know Jesus is spelt out in his words about “the day” when those who reject him will be judged.

21-42. Now we’re getting to the heart of the issue. 21-24 and 38-42 will give us the key. Firstly we see Jesus speak to the disciples – he tells them that is great that they have come to know him. We see Jesus rejoice in the Holy Spirit because he has been revealed to the disciples (21), these little children. The Son reveals himself (22). And now the disciples see what kings and prophets longed to see. Knowing Jesus is the key!

When we come to Mary & Martha we see the same thing. Martha welcomes Jesus but then gets busy. Mary however sits and listens to Jesus teaching – she simply lets Jesus reveal himself to her. She comes to know Jesus, like the disciples. This is better by far.

And in the middle of these we find the lawyer, (25-37). He comes asking how to get eternal life. He knows the law. He’s an expert. Jesus tells him what he already knows. But the man wants to justify himself, justifying his question. So he presses Jesus’ for legal detail – who is his neighbour, who must he love. The parable then sets up the Samaritan and the victim. Jesus pushes the man beyond his limits. The man wants to try to earn eternal life and Jesus says it’ll take love beyond your limits. Love that all the religion in the world can’t do. Love that is outrageous. Here we don’t see the response, though the man’s attitude suggests lack of genuine desire (29). When the question re-surfaces with the rich young ruler we’ll see explicitly that rather than humbling himself and knowing Jesus the proud walk away sad.

So it is for the lawyer – you can’t get eternal life by what you do. No amount of mercy or missionary endeavour can earn you life. You simply have to know Jesus, to have him revealed to you (21, 22), to let him teach you (39). And that is better than anything else! Better by far!

With that established, we are then free and secure to go and be merciful and attempt great things in mission… for our future does not depend on our performance in these things. Luke is determined not ot write about us, but to write about Jesus!

Starter: Imagine a Questionnaire...
what answers would get on the streets to these questions:
What is authentic spirituality? How do you get eternal life?

9v57-62 – What it means to follow Jesus
It costs to follow Jesus, what does this tell us about how good it is to know Jesus?

10v1-20 – Knowing Jesus is the ground for joy
Where are the disciples told to rejoice after their great evangelistic exploits?
What does that say about the value of knowing Jesus?
What are the consequences of not knowing Jesus?

10v21-42 – Knowing Jesus is Primary
What does Jesus teach his disciples about knowing him?
What does the Mary/Martha story teach us about this?
So, what is the point of the good samaritan parable?

What is Authentic Spirituality?
What might be getting in the way of us knowing Jesus?
What might keep us from treasuring Jesus above everything else?
What might we now do, knowing Jesus?

Authentic Spirituality is not about what you do… it’s about knowing Jesus!