Jesus is still on the same stream of consciousness that he has been for several verses now, but it does take a slight turn. We’ve heard hard, hard words from him begging questions for me like “what am I truly giving myself and my heart to?” We’ve seen, here, a Jesus that doesn’t sell well, especially from the pulpit or lectern.
Regardless of our understanding of this Jesus, we need to let him in. We need to throw this Jesus into the hopper of the Jesus we prefer. This is a big part of Luke’s Jesus. He is, at times, hard, narrow, and polarizing. We need to let those pictures into the three-dimensional diorama of who Luke’s Jesus is. And in these passages for today’s reading, we’re still getting some of that Jesus, but perhaps a fuller picture is coming into play.
After all the hard talk suddenly Jesus comes in with the “do not worry…” teaching. These are among my favorite words of Jesus in any Gospel. It’s very similar to its parallel in Matthew, and is (I think) among some of the most important words for our souls in the Gospels. Part of what is in yesterday’s hard questions like “to what am I really giving myself?” is this concept of not worrying. Our energy goes to that to which our heart goes. If my heart is given to my savings account, my career, my own life, or my ability to provide for myself and make me okay with me, then I am going to be a worrisome person; there are simply too many obstacles in this world to those things for me not to be. But if my heart is truly aligned with the presence and provision of God, then worry will diminish and perhaps even disappear.
There is no magic here. That is, it’s not like I can go to a church service once, pray some kind of prescribed prayer, or enter into the right Bible reading regimen, or adopt the right belief system and then my worry just magically fleets away. This takes a lifelong shift of my gaze. On what am I fixing my gaze? What has captured my attention? As Jesus says here, whatever it is that has my gaze is what I am giving myself to.
Jesus then moves into more hard stuff, talking about “being ready,” being caught off guard by the thief, and being the kind of “slave” who is caught “working” by his master. Can we go back to the “don’t worry, God loves you and provides for you” talk, please, Jesus? What’s happening here, however, is really no different than that. Jesus wraps this up with “from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required”. This is essentially telling us, “look, if you’ve been given much, be careful not to turn your gaze onto that and off of the one who gave it to you.”
Jesus is calling us who have been given much to hold it loosely and to use it for Kingdom of God work, not for Kingdom of Me work. This should give us great pause, but remember, it’s still all rooted in, “to what are you giving yourself?” Part of Luke’s Jesus is a call for us to give ourselves fully to the work, way, and rhythm of Jesus. And in Luke, that means going (again) all the way back to the pregnant Mary: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly…” (Luke 1:45-56). “Lifting up the lowly” is nice, but bringing “down the powerful from their thrones” is hard work- the kind of work that could get a guy killed.