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28th Week In Ordinary Time

October 20, 2001 Saturday

    Luke 12:8-12 The Christian In The End Times

Towards the end of the first leg of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, he gives instructions to his disciples about the desired attitude for the end times. The instructions already began in 12:1 and are now continued here. The following sayings are sandwiched between two teachings on trust in God (vv. 6-7, and The Parable of the Rich Fool). The sayings have been so arranged by Luke that these are brought to a climax in the Markan passage on the role of the Holy Spirit in moments of persecution(vv. 11-12).

Verses 8-9 is composed of contrasting sayings that revolve around the words "give witness to" (homologein) and "deny" (argein). "To give witness" to the Lord in moments of persecution is an obligation incumbent upon the disciple, and has its corresponding reward: the disciple's acknowledgment before God. The denial of the Lord before men, will also have its corresponding punishment: the non-acknowledgment of the disciple before God. The profession that a Christian makes during baptism and which one renews during Easter must be reaffirmed in the moment when its opposite is asked. Otherwise, a profession that has not been reaffirmed is useless.

    Verse 10 actually excuses non-disciples from the sin of denying the Lord. Only believers can possibly say something against the Holy Spirit, because it is only to them that the Spirit is revealed. In Luke, the Holy Spirit is the source of Jesus' Divinity; to speak against the Spirit is to speak against that source. This is unforgiveable, since it is similar to not acknowledging the Lord who, in the post-Resurrection era, has become "a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45)."

Verses 11-12 is a Markan verse that Luke places because of the preceding line about the Holy Spirit. Luke will have ample space to give illustration to this in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in the persons of Peter (4:8), Stephen and Paul. For now, the idea that the Holy Spirit will stand as an Advocate for the Christian on the Dock is dropped. John will develop this theme in John 14.

October 19, Friday

    Luke 12:1-7 The Leaven of the Pharisees

To the intensification of the crowd there is a corresponding intensification in what Jesus tells his disciples. The present section can be divided into the following sub-sections:

1 : The Leaven of the Pharisees
2-3: What is private will be made public
4-5: Do Not Fear
6-7: Trust In God

The sayings in verses 2-3 are similar to those found in Lk. 8:16-17. The context of this latter however refers to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the leaven which the disciples have to reject (v. 1). If in 8:16-17, the "making public" of that which is "private" is equivalent to witnessing, here, the idea is about doing something "in hypocritical darkness" (Laverdiere): whatever the disciples do or say in secret will be made manifest -- presumably in the day of Judgment (cf. verses 4-5)--, hence, there is no room for duplicity and deception.

   "Leaven" is something that one puts inside the dough, making it rise and expand. It words from within, but shows its effects outside. In the previous section, the reader has been given a picture of the Pharisee that is "clean" externally, but is "unclean" within. What Jesus says here is that the disciples should not be focused on what is "external" to the point of becoming "hollow" inside. Their religion and witnessing should be such that no force from outside should make them waver from it (cf. verses 8ff). The "interior" basis of the unhypocritical "externalization" of the disciple's profession is that of faith (vv.4-5) in the God who loves them (vv. 6-7).

The saying in verses 4-5 is an instruction on "fear." In this context, "fear of human beings" is a motivation, not only for hypocrisy but also that of shrinking away from professing faith in Jesus (cf. vv.8-12) The command not to fear human beings prepares for the idea to be developed in verses 8ff about Christian attitude in the end times. There is however a certain kind of "fear" that is recommended by the Lord Himself: the fear of the One who can condemn to Gehenna (v.5).

Verses 6-7, a Q saying, is used here to mitigate the harsh sound of verse 5. Those who put their trust in God will be protected.

October 18, 2001 Feast of St. Luke

    Luke 11:47-54 Murderers of the Prophets

Jesus now begins denouncing the attitude the led to the killing of the prophets in Israel. In verse 47, he uses the memorials for the prophets as proof that the "this generation" approved of their murder. In verse 49, he cites the Wisdom of God:

I shall send unto them prophets and apostles
and they shall kill them and persecute them.

Jesus here is markedly distinguishing himself from the teaching of Deuteronomy, according to which true prophets will be known when their words are realized: Deut. 18:21-22. The prophets were killed simply because they spoke. The mention of Abel in the series does not imply a tradition that makes Abel a prophet. The mention of his name is a subtle accussation that "this generation", like their fathers, acted like Cain in murdering the prophets. The mention of the prophet Zechariah is another indication that "this generation" will be held responsible even for the death of the most insignificant of the prophets. The lament that Jesus raises here will be continued in his lament over Jerusalem (13:34-35).

Verses 53-54, continues the idea in verse 46: The experts of the law do not only burden the people, they also make it difficult for them to be at home with the Torah. The experts have taken the keys to the Torah and hid them; and while they themselves would not enter the Torah, they prevent others from going in. Again, passages from the book of the prophet Hosea can be cited here as alluded to since he is the prophet that emphasizes knowledge of Yahweh and mercy as measuring rods of religiosity.

The last verse in this reading shows how the confrontational words precipitate the hardening of the religious leaders towards him. These begin to question him, looking for a reason to have him put in judgment (kategorein). It will be in Jerusalem when the scribes and the Pharisees will begin plotting to kill Jesus (22:1)

   The theme of "this generation's" continuing rejection of the Word of God is peculiar to Luke who was writing for non-Israelites. Like the Israelites, even bad Christians can be like hard-headed Israel in its rejection of the Word of God. To them, the words of Jesus is uttered as a warning.

October 17, 2001 Wednesday

Luke 11:42-46 A Prophetic Lament

Prophetic woes are not so much pronouncements of doom as laments raised over a foreseen disaster. A woe is not a curse. But one utters a woe because of a curse that is seen as inevitable. Like the prophets of old, Jesus sees the consequences of hypocrisy and injustice about to fall upon the religious leaders of his time. But in difference with those prophets, he does not name the consequences (cf. Isaiah 5:8-15.18-24; Jer. 48:1-2; Hos. 7:13; Hab 2:6-19).

Jesus cites the Pharisees for their neglect of the demands of justice and love (42) and their vanity. . (43). With the scribes, the Pharisees are named as sepulchres that are hidden from view, and therefore are occassions of uncleanliness for those who come into contact with them. The expression "whitewashed sepulchres" continues the idea of "clean outside but unclean inside." Instead of enabling people to worship God, they themselves become occassions for exclusion in a very insidious way. They are likened to sepulchres that are placed where people can walk over them, that is, where people can be rendered unclean by them without knowing it. The experts of the Law are cited (these perhaps included both scribes and Pharisees) next on account of their casuistry: instead of helping, they are actually adding more burdens; instead of allowing more people to observe the law, they make observance more difficult.

    The Pharisees, the scribes and the experts of the law were the custodians of Jewish observance. They had the mission of keeping Israel holy for the last days, when God Himself will deliver them. But their emphasis on the externals of the Law has made them lose sight of what is truly needed. Once more, texts like Hosea 6:6, and Micah 6:6-8 can be behind the Lord's pronouncement over these leaders.

    Unlike Matthew, however, Luke uses Pharisees, scribes and experts of the law as stereotypes of "bad" Christians in the Hellenistic communities where he worked. One cannot of course discount the idea however that there were among the early Christians converts from the ranks of the Pharisees, scribes and experts of the law. In fact, in Acts 15:5, we find mention of "believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees." But looking at them as stereotypes of "bad Christians" however makes us realize that bad discipleship is itself antagonistic to Christ, to the Church and to Christian life as a whole. The Pharisees, scribes and experts of the law had an exalted position with respect to the Law of Moses. But this position has made the Law inaccessible to the people of Israel. Their insistence on the externals of observance has robbed religion of its true vitality; that vitality which derives from a real, heart felt experience of God's love mediated through the generosity (=grace) of a neighbor. This was what Christ came to point out.

October 16, 2001 Tuesday

    Luke 11:39-41 Clean The Inside, Too!

The confrontational word of Jesus continues in this section with a rebuke of the Pharisees and the experts of the Law (see following verses). In this first scene, the issue is about what is "outside" and what is "inside (v. 40)" and the occassion is dinner in the house of a Pharisee. The Pharisee's discomfiture at seeing that Jesus did not clean himself ritually got a rebuke from Jesus himself. All the statements uttered in this section should be understood within the context of ritual purity especially as it touches eating utensils. Cups especially have to be cleaned both outside and inside. When the Pharisee balked at Jesus' apparent disregard for the law, he and his ilk is rebuked for keeping, as it were, clean outside but not inside (v.39). In this light also, one should understand the saying in verse 40. The RSV translates it thus:

You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

The rendering is too faithful to the aorist participle poihsaV and indicative forms in this verse. I would translate it as : "Fools! Isn't it that the one who does the outside, should do the inside too?" (With the verb "to do" having the same nuance as in "to do the windows"). This way, the following verse becomes easy to comprehend:

Fools! Isn't it that the one who does the outside should do the inside too?
Rather, give as alms what is inside (cups and plates) and all will be clean to you!

   The whole point of the argument is that ritual cleanliness is worthless unless a person performs acts of mercy (which the Pharisees, evil and rapacious as they are do not, see vv. 37 and 42). The idea echoes that of Hosea 6:6 which is not quoted here but which can have inspired the saying: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. (See Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 for actual citations)

October 15, Monday

    Luke 11:29-32 The One Greater

Luke 11:29-32 continues the preceding the conversation between Jesus and the crowd. Here he responds to those who were asking for a sign. The sign of Jonah that Jesus points out here is quite different from Matthew 12:40 which clearly points to the death and resurrection of the Lord. In Luke's version rather, the sign is that of Jonah's preaching which the Ninevites accepted as an occassion for conversion (cf. Jon. 3:5). Jesus is of course the one greater than Solomon and the one greater than Jonah. And because of this those who accepted them during their time and gave them due hearing -- the Queen of Sheba ( 1 Kgs. 10:1-10) and the Ninevites -- will testify against the people "of this generation," the same people who are asking for a sign.

Underlying verses 31 and 32 is an eschatological scenario where the judgment of peoples will occur. Quite ironically, those who are supposed to be judging -- the Tribes of Israel -- will themselves be on the dock while Gentiles (non-Israelites) will be standing as witnesses.

    Matthew 12:38-42 gives emphasis on the Death and Resurrection of the Lord as the sign that will be given (v. 39) and makes it as the basis for future judgment on the "wicked generation that asks for a sign". In Luke, the prophetic activity itself of Jesus is the basis for the judgment. His words are words of Wisdom and Prophecy that "this generation" rejects, and vindication will be made by those who have known wisdom and prophecy.

   This emphasis on the word of Jesus occurs along the way to Jerusalem, the path that all disciples (actual or would-be) are to follow. In this journey, the words of Jesus are normative. Later on, in Luke 24, two disciples will be enlightened by the words of Jesus interpreting the law, the prophets and all the writings in an atmosphere of friendly discussion and dialogue. Here (the present context), however, Jesus' words can only be confrontational.

   Words of prophecy may console at one time, or inform in another. But it can also be confrontational. Before the gathering crowd, Jesus throws a rebuke to the generation that seeks a sign, the same generation which earlier has been criticized for being like children in the marketplace who wouldn't mourn when a dirge is played, nor dance when a happy tune sung. That kind of generation is not given an excuse; they are closed to prophecy and wisdom because they have chosen to be so.

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