I don’t know about you, but I am getting fatigued of hard words from Jesus. He has been on a role. But still, I have committed to saying something about every passage on the daily readings schedule, so here I go, like it or not.
Here’s what I’m beginning to think about Luke’s Jesus. This fits in with much of my theology and worldview (if not always my practice), so I hesitate to say it because it looks like I’ve just got an ax to grind. I do, but I also think it’s really there, and that is this: In the most simplest of terms, Luke’s Jesus is very concerned about equality and what those who are on the winning side of inequality should do about it. What does that have to do with this passage?
Well, he first goes through some hard teachings, which we also find in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. These teachings are hard because they deal with our sins against one another, forgiving one another, and reconciling. Then he launches into this strange metaphor about the place of a slave. When you put all that into the context of Luke’s gospel, I think Luke is saying here that we don’t have to like what Jesus expects of us, but you do have to do it. I could be wrong here, but this is what I’m hearing in it: We are Christ’s subjects and we are simply to do what he says and expects. And that means forgiving and seeking forgiveness, but it also means everything he’s been doing throughout the Gospel. Don’t question, don’t wait “until you’re ready”, don’t make excuses, don’t over plan or strategize, just go do this stuff.
Luke’s Jesus is a hard Jesus. We haven’t seen a lot of that “grace”, “love” and “compassion” stuff lately. Luke’s Jesus has expectations for those who claim to follow him, and he’s not wishy-washy about it.
What’s beautiful about it is that his expectations are not random strict codes of inner morality. What Jesus expects has everything to do with how we relate to one another. So often Christianity becomes merely about inner purity (which isn’t a bad thing), but in so doing becomes an oppressive list of nearly arbitrary “do’s and dont’s”. What Jesus is talking about here is how we actually live with and relate to one another. This is about who’s hurt me, who I’ve hurt, who are the “haves”, who are the “have-nots”, and what kind of people we are going to be in this world together. It’s hard stuff, but it’s good. It feels overwhelming but when I stop and think about it, I think, “why wouldn’t I want to be like that?” Why wouldn’t I want to work in advocacy for the poor and overlooked, why wouldn’t I want to live a life of forgiveness of those who have hurt me and of seeking forgiveness from those I’ve hurt, and so on. These are good, inspiring, and noble causes, and not just for those who follow Jesus. These are generally universal goods. In fact many other faith and non-faith expressions do this better than we do. This is is good stuff.
Yes, Luke’s Jesus is hard. But he is good. Very good.