Monday, July 11, 2022

Male and Female in Luke's Gospel

Our adult Sunday School class is taking off the summer months and will resume in the fall. But yesterday morning, on the spur of the moment, I announced that if anyone wanted to get together to discuss the Bible lessons read during worship that day, I would meet with folks in the Mission Outreach Center between services. A few folks showed up and our discussion centered around Luke 10:25-37, yesterday’s Gospel lesson.

In our discussion, I mentioned that Luke, the writer of the Gospel bearing his name, had a habit of pairing women and men in his narration. He does this sometimes to show the faith of a woman in comparison to the skepticism of a man in similar situations. (Mary and Zechariah)

More commonly, he pairs men and women to affirm a truth observed or experienced by the people involved, underscoring God’s faithfulness and that, in God’s Kingdom brought into the world by Jesus, to borrow a phrase from Luke’s mentor, Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Below are some of the male/female pairings found in the Gospel of Luke.



Zechariah and Mary

Both told of birth of children (Zechariah: John the Baptizer; Mary: Jesus, the Son of God. Luke 1:5ff; Luke 1:26ff

Mary and Zechariah

Both respond to their children as gifts from God (Mary: Luke 1:46-55; Luke 1:67-79)

Simeon and Anna

On the day of Jesus’ dedication at the temple, both affirm Jesus’ identity as Messiah (Simeon: Luke 2:23ff; Anna: Luke 2:36ff)

Man filled with unclean demon and Simon Peter’s mother-in-law

(Luke 4:33ff; Luke 4:38-39)

Centurion and widow

Jesus responds to the centurion’s plea on behalf of his sick servant and to the prayer of a widow for her son (Luke 7:1ff; Luke 7:11ff)

Disabled woman and man with dropsy

On different sabbath days, Jesus heals first, a crippled woman and then, a crippled man (Luke 13:10ff; Luke 14:1-6)

The conclusion I think we can draw from this is that God in Jesus, Who created both males and females in His image (Genesis 1:27), came to redeem us all, male and female.

[This is an ancient image of Jesus' dedication at the temple when the Holy Family was met by Simeon and Anna.]

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Our Good Samaritan

[Below you'll find video of the live stream presentations of both the 8:45 AM traditional and 11:00 AM modern worship services of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio, from earlier today. There were some audio issues during at the beginning of the early service, meaning that you may have to turn up the volume to hear it well. You'll also find the text prepared for the message. Have a good week!]

Luke 10:25-37
Near evening on the first Easter Sunday, you’ll recall, two disciples of Jesus headed for a village called Emmaus. They were saddened by Jesus’ crucifixion and baffled by claims from some of Jesus’ female disciples that Jesus was risen. The two disciples encounter a stranger. This stranger, it turns out, is the risen Jesus. Before revealing Himself, Jesus chastises the disciples for not believing that their Lord, once crucified, was now resurrected. Then we’re told: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)

Jesus teaches that the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is about Him. One pastor has said that the Old Testament is about anticipation of Jesus; the Gospels are about the manifestation of Jesus; the book of Acts is the proclamation of Jesus; the letters of the New Testament give us the explanation of Jesus; and Revelation gives us the consummation of life in Jesus’ kingdom.

There are two main ways in which the Bible points us to Jesus. In the Law, we’re confronted by the will of God for human beings to which none of us measures up. In the Gospel–or God’s grace given in Jesus–by which Jesus, through His death, pays the price for our sin, and then rises to open eternity to all who believe in Him. The Law then shows us our need of Jesus, simply because we’re incapable of keeping God’s holy Law, and the Gospel gives us Jesus because Jesus has kept God’s Law perfectly for us. The Gospel assures us that, “ is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So, what to make of today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 10:25-37? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells the story of a man, presumably a Jew who is beaten and robbed by thieves on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Two Jews come upon the wounded man: a Levite–the Levites were charged with taking care of the temple in Jerusalem, and a priest–the priests were in charge of offering sacrifices at the temple. Even though God’s Law commands love for neighbor, both of the men walk away from their wounded countryman. But a foreigner, a Samaritan, happens upon the man, and takes extraordinary measures to save his life and provide for his recovery. At the conclusion of His parable, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

On the face of it, Jesus seems to be saying, “Love your neighbor and you’ll have everlasting life.” We might think that because remember, Jesus told this parable in response to man who asked Him, “[W]hat must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

But if we can be saved by obeying God’s Law of love, by doing good deeds like the Samaritan did, then why did Jesus have to die on a cross for us? Is Jesus rescinding John 3:16? Or is He saying that we don’t need to take up our crosses and follow Him? (Luke 9:23) Is Jesus saying that the Law can save us?

We know none of that is true. So, let’s put our thinking caps on to understand what’s going on in our Gospel lesson. “Let Scripture interpret Scripture” is an important principle for understanding God’s Word. To understand a particular place in the Bible, it’s important to remember what the whole of the Bible tells us. The Bible, taken as a whole, presents us with coherent picture of God and the way to eternal life with God.

So, consider several truths gleaned from the rest of Scripture. First, consider who Jesus was responding to in our lesson. At the beginning, we’re told that an expert in God’s Law stood up to test Jesus. This man knew about every Law of God as given in the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, the Holiness Code–part of which makes up our first lesson today, and all the civic and ritual laws in the Bible. He presumably would have also known the 600+ additional laws recognized by the Jewish Pharisees. Believing that a human being could be saved from sin and death by obedience to the Law, the man asks Jesus what laws he needs to keep to have eternal life. (And by asking who his neighbor is, he wants Jesus to tell him who he can hate or ignore.)

The man clearly doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. He believed, like many do and all of us secretly want to believe, that he could save himself by being a good person. Jesus always told unbelievers like this man, parables, explaining, “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13) Jesus told parables in order to get unbelievers, not yet ready to follow Him, to perceive their need of Him and the salvation only He can bring. Honesty should have compelled the man to say, “If self-sacrificing love like that, the kind of love that looks out for people I hate or of whom I’m suspicious, is what I have to do to be saved, how can I possibly be saved?” The man wasn’t ready to admit, “I am in bondage to sin and cannot free myself.” The Law in Jesus’ parable should have caused the the expert in the Law to cry out to Jesus, “[H]ave mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) Instead, a man of doing, of action, apparently satisfied that he’s done enough good to earn eternal life, says nothing when Jesus tells Him, “Go and do likewise.”

The second thing to consider to understand Jesus’ parable is what comes next in Luke’s gospel. In Luke 10:38-42, we meet another person who thinks that good works and being a good person will gain them eternal life, Jesus’ friend Martha. You know the incident well. Jesus has come to the home of sisters Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus. Jesus is teaching. Mary sits and listens to Jesus as He shares His Word of life. Martha though, is like the expert in the Law, a doer busy serving. Resentful, she asks Jesus to tell Mary to get busy too. But Jesus tells her, “Martha, Martha, are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) Jesus is telling Martha, a believer, directly, what He told the law expert indirectly through the parable of the Good Samaritan: You could never do enough good or be a good enough person to merit eternal life with God. But those who turn to Jesus and receive Him and His Word of love and forgiveness with faith, will be given the gift of eternity with God.

All of this helps us to see Jesus’ parable in a different light. Yes, we’re called to be good neighbors, but not to earn eternal life. That comes to us as pure gift. You don’t deserve a gift. It springs entirely from the undeserved love the giver bears for us. You, friends–you and I–are the man left for dead by the side of the road in Jesus’ parable. The devil, the world, and our sinful selves constantly accost us and tempt us, luring us to death and away from God. We sin, violating God’s Law, even when we resolve to love Him completely and love others as we love ourselves. This past week, I posted on Twitter, “My name is Mark and I’m a recovering sin addict.” A  follower replied, “It’s been 17 seconds since my last sin…” To which another responded, “17 seconds? You’re GOOD!” We are, as Saint Paul puts it, so “dead in our trespasses” that we would have no hope for life with God were it not for our Good Samaritan. This good Samaritan, Jesus, comes to us, heals the wounds caused by the sin within and around us, scoops us up, and freely carries us into the eternal arms of God, kept in God’s grace today despite our sins and faults: forgiven, saved, freed from sin and death. But even more than that, like the good Samaritan of Jesus’ parable who promises to return for the wounded man, Jesus promises ti return for us. Right now, He says, He’s preparing an eternal place with God for His people: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)

Jesus does what you and I cannot do for ourselves. He obeys God’s law of perfect love for God and for neighbor. Then, He takes all our sin into Himself so that He can give all His righteousness–everything that could fit a person for eternity with God–to us. As we turn to Jesus in our desperate helplessness and trust, He gives us an eternity with God we could never earn. Friends, Jesus is your Good Samaritan and He loves you into everlasting life with God. Trust in Him. Amen