And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The scene that is set in this passage is one that is conspicuous in light of Jewish practices and expectations. The customary expression “behold” is used to invite the reader to give careful attention to what follows. Jesus is described as “reclining” with “many tax collectors and sinners” (v. 10). This is quite unusual from a Jewish perspective for a respectable rabbi like Jesus. A meal where an honored Jewish guest like Jesus was attending would not be typically filled with company of such disreputable people. Eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (who were considered unclean) was an outrageous occasion from a Pharisee’s perspective. But that is exactly the point that is being made—Jesus is unlike the Pharisees. A Pharisee wouldn’t be caught dead eating with these people, but Jesus is making a statement about the difference in character between him and the Pharisees.
Jesus uses the metaphor of being “sick” as a way to address the tax collectors and sinners (v. 12). The Pharisees were concerned with staying away from those they deemed “sick,” while Jesus demonstrates a deep concern for them. However, his desire to help those who are “sick” is taken as his approval of their lifestyle and condoning of their “sickness.” But this is exactly the opposite of Jesus’ intention. In a sharp rebuke, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Go and learn” what it means when God said through the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (v. 13; cf. Hos 6:6).
The prophet Hosea was seeking to exhort God’s people to show love and kindness. He described the superficial and hypocritical love of God’s people as being like “a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away” (Hos 6:4). Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they were being like the people of Israel that Hosea was criticizing. Jesus was modeling how to show mercy and compassion for the outcasts of society rather than how the Pharisees who were demonstrating outright rejection and criticism of them.
What does Jesus’ actions indicate and how can we too model this love and compassion for sinners? What this passage indicates is that the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and their blatant disregard for those in need of help is completely contrary to the love of God that Jesus is demonstrating by coming into the “sick” and tending to them and helping them. Those who are lost do not receive help by having a finger pointed at them. Rather, they are cared for when the value of their life is acknowledged. Love doesn’t default to protecting one’s self-image or with being concerned with what other people think. Love reaches out and shows how God desires to draw a person close to him and to restore them and heal.
If we truly grasp why Jesus would be helping the “sick” and risking the judgment and harassment from the Pharisees, maybe we can understand a little better how to form a Christ-like mindset for reaching the world the way that Jesus did…starting with showing “mercy.”
In the Old Testament God set up the Jewish religious system through Moses as a way to set them apart. By the time of Jesus the Israelites had turned away from God so many times it gets hard to count, and they had turned the law into something unrecognizable from its original intent and had given into greed, hypocrisy and selfishness. Jesus spent much of his time on earth battling and rebuking the Pharisees who epitomized all of the flaws with the Jewish religious system of the time. Knowing that the church will have a strong Jewish culture with these traditions and tendencies and that they will be persecuted after he is gone, Jesus gives the advice found in Luke 12.
First in Luke 12:1-3 he warns them against hypocrisy because that is the quickest way to errode the witness and testimony of the church. Similarly for us today, if we want to reach those around us for Christ, then we have to be consistent in our actions and words. If you are a different person on Sunday than the rest of the week, or if your friends outside of church are genuinely surprised that you are a Christian because they cannot tell by your actions, then you need to evaluate your heart.
Then in Luke 12:4-12 he warns them to fear God more than the world and the government and people who are persecuting them. We are also given a promise that when we boldly stand up for Jesus despite the physical consequences he will stand up for us before God. As believers in Jesus we cannot stand idly on the sidelines. Now that we have the knowledge of our sin, and the fact that Jesus died for our sins and requires us to live a life set apart we have to make a choice and stand up for it every day.
In Luke 12:13-34 Jesus warns his disciples against greed, and being bad stewards of the things that God has given us. Of those who are given much, much will be required. This is true for riches as well and talents and abilities. If we knowingly put ourselves before the Kingdom and spend all our time and talents on ourselves and buying worldly items and position and popularity then we will be held accountable for those actions. If we are living a truly changed life for the gospel then we should be using our money and talents to further the gospel in any way we can. If we put God first in this then he will take care of our physical needs as well.
Finally in the rest of the chapter he tells them to be watchful for his return, and to not grow complacent. The entire Old Testament led up to the ministry of Jesus and everybody in Israel knew the scriptures and should have known that Jesus was the Messiah, but they did not interpret the events correctly, and their hearts were not ready. Similarly we have been given a promise of the return of Jesus in the future and need to be always ready for his return. We cannot grow complacent in our Christianity. We cannot let sin creep back into our lives and we cannot allow our passion and fire for the gospel to dwindle. We should also be familiar with the prophecies of his return so that when they start to be fulfilled we can be prepared for his return. We do not want to miss out like many of the Israelites of Jesus’ time did.
Tuesday, May 23
Throughout chapter 20, the Pharisees attempt to undermine Jesus with trick questions, and starting at verse 20, they decide that they’re going to try to pose him another unanswerable question. They comment on his lack of favoritism in his teaching, although it seems to imply that they are cynically calling him out on a lack of respect for authority. Following up on this, they ask him another question meant to undermine his teachings.
They ask Jesus whether or not they have an obligation to pay taxes to Caesar. This has an important historical context behind it, because there had been several Jewish revolutions against Roman occupation that had turned out terribly for the Jews. The Pharisees, who were cooperating with the Roman governors much to the expense of their own people, were essentially asking Jesus an impossible question.
Consider this, if Jesus had answered that they were obligated to pay taxes, then he would be implying the relevancy of both Roman authority and the authority of Pharisees and would be undermining the tenacity of his own teachings. However, if he had spoken against the need to pay taxes to Caesar, he would be openly defying Roman authority and so would be putting himself on grounds of treason, and would have been executed as quickly as it could be reported to the Romans. As it was, Jesus’ answer was simple and avoidant, while also proving a much larger point to them. His response is to take a look at whose face is on the coin, which was Caesar’s face. He then tells the Pharisees to give to Cesar what is “his” and give to God what is “God’s”.
Not only did Jesus successfully navigate around their impossible question, but he also gives a stronger context for understanding his teachings as well. This seems to tie into what Jesus meant when he said that his purpose was not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. According to Jesus, the call that we have is a moral one beyond the law or social convention. Neither is he advocating that law is unnecessary. Rather, he invites us to be pragmatic about the circumstances, but understand that the truth he teaches is a way of finding meaning in our lives, rather than how to simply conduct it.
(Photo Credit: https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=and-he-said-unto-them-render-therefore-unto-caesar-the-things-which-be-caesars-and-unto-god-the-things-which-be-gods)
Sunday, May 21
This chapter of Luke opens as such; with Jesus saying, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Jesus often reserved his rebukes and warnings for the Pharisees who sought to undermine him, but here he warns his own followers about not just how they conduct themselves, but warns them about how their conduct is influencing those around them.
An easy way to compare this verse to real life is when a young child behaves badly in public. Often, you’ll hear those nearby make remarks condemning the parents of the child. Well, you could simply leave it at that and go on thinking that Jesus was condemning those who directly influence young ones to behave badly. Like most of Jesus’ teachings, however, it’s not that simple. He follows this line up directly with an analogy of a man who sees a speck of wood in his brother’s eye, but does not see the “plank” in his own.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and so in keeping with the example of a misbehaving child, we should perhaps temper our own knee-jerk criticisms of people whom it is easy to scapegoat issues onto. Perhaps those commenting around the misbehaving child should ask themselves who they’re influencing, and what kind of example they’re setting when concern for someone’s child turns into gossip about their family. This seems to be Jesus’ point in relaying the analogy of the two brothers. On the one hand, he calls us to avoid setting a poor example, but on the other, he warns us against “witch-hunting” others whilst failing to examine ourselves.
(Photo Credit: https://reversingverses.com/2013/03/17/luke-171/)