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Luke 17-18

10.22.2010

Some more spot reactions to Luke:

17:5 | I like that the assumption in this two-verse anecdote is that only God can increase our faith.  Perhaps its a remnant of my overly deterministic past convictions, but I’ve always imagined that both grace and faith are from God.  Imagery of God meeting us halfway with grace where our faith ends always struck me as wrong.  Instead, God gives us the faith to receive His grace.  Where in that formulation does free will fall?  I don’t know, and I’m still figuring it out.  I’ll let you know when I do!

17:21 | ‘The King is dead; long live the King!’  This is the declaration made at the interring of deceased British monarchs (and French ones, too, when they were en vogue*).  The phrase is called an epanalepsis, where two statements are made repeating one term or phrase while changing the meaning.  In this example, the first half refers to the deceased monarch, and the second to the acceding heir.

I bring it up because I think that an epanalepsis can capture the confusion I’ve been having with the Kingdom.  In short, ‘The Kingdom has arrived; the Kingdom is coming.’  In one sense, the Kingdom of God arrived with Jesus and lives on in the hearts of believers.  However, the Kingdom will come some time in the future in fullness and finality.  The gist of  Jesus’ message about this, as I see it, is basically that there will be no announcement or warning when it does come, but you’ll know it when you see it.

18:25 | As a budding capitalist, my first youthful encounter of this verse was marked by indignation.  Doesn’t Jesus know that money is not evil?  Hard work, bootstraps, elbow grease, entrepreneur, risk, Adam Smith, incentive, invisible hand, free markets, efficient equilibrium, America, industry, ingenuity, supply side, can-do?  I took refuge in the interpretations that point out that The Eye of the Needle was a gate into Jerusalem (?) that was just tricky with a camel, like an SUV in a parking garage.  Clearly, Jesus didn’t mean that rich people were bad just because they were rich!

I have since done a slightly better job of choosing between God and Mammon (I hope), and I see here that Jesus is stating a truism that is very real.  There are many applications, but the one that I find the most compelling is that people who are happy in this life are much less likely to recognize their need for Jesus.  They take Pascal’s god-shaped hole and fill it with a good house, plenty of food, gadgets, etc.  They might go their whole life without realizing that the fill is ultimately inadequate. 

But note that Jesus did not say that it is impossible.  He follows up in v. 27 by saying that ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’  God can speak to us through the noise and the haze of the comforts with which we have surrounded ourselves.  God can clear the junk out of His designated space in our hearts that we may recognize the vacancy.  He won’t step in unless invited, but most all of us in the modern West who are believers should be very greatful that God’s voice carried over the din of our affluence and showed us that we were poor.

————

* See what I did there?

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