We’re now halfway through the class I am teaching at church about Luke’s gospel. Six weeks. Twelve chapters. A lot of questions. The biggest question of all that I have is “Do we really take this seriously?” For all our talk about the importance of Jesus and the Bible, I’m not sure we really do.
In chapter four of Luke’s gospel, Jesus makes two statements that frame his entire ministry:
And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” –Luke 4:16-21
But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” –Luke 4:43
As we have journeyed through this gospel, we have come back to those statements again and again and again. Jesus is pretty clear on his purpose, his mission, what he is called to do. And twice, when he sends out his 12 disciples and then when he sends out 70, he is pretty clear on what he expects them to do: to preach the kingdom and to heal.
To preach the kingdom and to heal.
What do we preach today? We preach self-help. We preach that we’re the in-crowd because we are the ones that know Jesus (we may want to take a look at what Jesus has to say to the in-crowd). We preach that if we just follow these certain steps that life will improve for us. We preach that going to church on Sunday and being a member of a church is community.
In our class, we’ve learned that the good news isn’t necessarily good news for everyone. Oh, sure, today we say it is–we say God loves everyone (and I believe God does). But if we look at what Jesus is saying and doing and who is threatened by his actions, we see something very different. When the prisoners have freedom and the blind see and the oppressed are released, yes, that is good news for them. But it isn’t good news for those who are keeping people in prison, for those who are causing blindness, and for those who are doing the oppressing of people.
I’ve had people say in class, “why haven’t I ever learned this before?” and “I’ve been in church my whole life and I’ve never been taught this” and “Pastors know all of this; they’ve studied it; why don’t they teach us?”
I don’t know the answers to that for sure, but I can only guess.
We don’t learn this way because it’s harder, and in our entertainment-focused, instant-everything culture that yes, even our churches are attracted to, we don’t often look at or study the big picture that we see. We don’t learn this because it is a threat to those of us who are in power–even if we don’t even realize we are in power. We don’t learn it because it doesn’t really attract people to come to church to hear it.
But if this is the good news that Jesus is preaching, shouldn’t we pay attention?
We’re moving on this week to the costs of discipleship and who gets invited to the banquet and why–more challenging chapters. I only hope we can all be courageous enough to be introspective and ask ourselves how we really can apply this to our lives.