Lawyer Drawing Fire

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.”

Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”  As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. (Luke 11:45, 52-54 ESV)

A soldier on patrol watches his team get chewed up by machine gun fire, and miraculously wasn’t hit.  So he stands up from the cover he was using and says, “Ha! Missed me!” and is promptly shot by the machine gun.  Such genius is this lawyer, this master of minutia, this detail-oriented interpreter of Moses.  He gets the small stuff, the minor stuff, and misses the rather important things by a rather wide margin.  Can’t hit the side of the barn, but seems to be able to hit everyone in front it…

The setting here is like the previous entry, dinner with the Pharisees.  A Pharisee sees that Jesus doesn’t wash His hands and is surprised.  Jesus then takes the opportunity to correct the Pharisee’s entire perspective claiming they are merely exterior believers but interior sinners.  It’s meal time, and Jesus is serving up the guests…again!  There’s Pharisee “woe” all over the floor, they’ve been criticized right to the core, below the surface, and to the heart.  I would think that the “lawyers” in the group would consider themselves in the category Jesus criticizes and be done with it, but no.  This guy has to suggest that Jesus unintentionally came close to criticizing the lawyers.  Not a bright guy.

Do you wonder how many of the other lawyers threw a roll at the guy who made the comment?  The audacious assumption on the part of the lawyer is that Jesus wouldn’t criticize the lawyers. Who would dare do such a thing?  For whatever reason (too important, too “dangerous”, too whatever) Jesus wouldn’t dare such a thing.  Or would He?   In a sense Jesus says, “Oh, wasn’t I being obvious enough? Okay, here’s some specifically for you guys.”  Jesus levels blow after blow (or woe after woe) on these experts in Scripture.  Not the attention the lawyer expected.

The criticisms include loading the people with burdens they refuse carry and participation in the slaughter of the prophets.  That wasn’t bad enough, Jesus then winds up with the charge that these lawyers have taken away the “key of knowledge”, the very thing they were supposed to provide to the people.  They have kept others from knowledge and refused to enter themselves.  These scholars have hindered knowledge rather than inspired it.  Essentially, Jesus describes their complete failure.

So, what’s the lesson?  Where’s the application for us?  What do I need to do in response?  Well, first and most obvious, don’t assume I’m above any lesson of Jesus.  But second, and more important, heed the woe!  Why not receive the criticism, examine my life, and make changes?  Where do I do the minor stuff and miss the greater issues of giving into the lives of others in love?  Where do I hide my weakness from others to gain their respect?  What do I instruct others to do that I don’t follow through on myself?  How do I claim to respect the heroes of faith, but really behave like those who murdered them?  How am I hindering faith and knowledge rather than providing the key?  Unless I’m willing to sit down to the meal with Jesus and hear His words and receive His correction I might as well be eating dust.

I like minutia.  But do I love my neighbor as myself?  Do I want the respect of others and do I hide who I am to get it?  What if I were to love the unlovable and the outcasts?  What do I teach?  Am I willing to live the lesson not just speak it?  Is it enough to confess that I can’t or that I haven’t?  Such a confession may make me more transparent, but does it still burden others with that I refuse to carry?  Do I want the “status quo” more than deeper experiential knowledge of God?  Am I threatened by change?  Do the views of others threaten me?  Personally, I think I hide behind my views so that in trying to be more fringe and “out there” in my views, I protect myself from the radical views of others.  On the other hand I really enjoy discussion at the edges of Scriptural Interpretation and theology.  I don’t know.  This will take some thought and prayer for me to really hear my Master reveal the areas I need to grow.  It’s time for me to have a meal with Jesus.  He says He stands at the door and knocks.  Perhaps I should open it and let the meal commence!

What do you learn from the woes of the lawyers?


Giving = Sanctifying?

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table.  The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner.  And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?  But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.  (Luke 11:37-41 ESV)

I don’t know if it’s every church, but the one’s I’m most familiar with have problems in that the people don’t tithe.  So, the pastor and elders and leaders all work to persuade people to tithe.  We use various means, but typically it boils down to their devotion to God is reflected in their giving (guilting them into it).  But I think I’ve found a different approach in this passage.

As you read through this dinner party where, again Jesus seems to make His host and other guests uncomfortable, He also throws in this strange statement in the middle.  It’s weird so it’s easy to miss: “But if you give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.”  The problem I have with it is that Jesus attaches several elements together that I find difficult to connect.

Giving those things that are within makes some sense, if those things are good.  Of course if I give those things that are within as “alms” I suppose that would necessitate those things be good.  What sort of heart would produce something to give to others as “alms” if it wasn’t good, or striving to be good.  But Jesus connects those things that are within with “alms”.  How do I give what is within as alms?

Those things that are within are what?  My love (as God understands it).  My compassion?  Mercy?  Perhaps the ability to overlook negative judgments of others, what they look like, dress like, or smell like; how they talk.  Maybe what I can give as alms from within is my time, or a smile.  Perhaps a conversation, not trying to fix them, but getting to know them.  I honestly don’t know what it will or should look like, but these are possibilities.

But whatever the interior alms look like, giving them has a very unexpected effect.  The context of this statement has to do with washing the hands before eating a meal.  The statement Jesus makes is that the effect of giving alms from the interior is that “everything is clean for you.”  How does one affect the other?  How does what I give to others from those things that are within have anything to do with the cleanliness of what I eat?  Does Jesus even refer to the cleanliness of what I eat?  The context suggests that, and it would definitely be on the heart and mind of a Pharisee and lawyer (it probably never left their mind).  But how do the two connect?

I honestly don’t know.  I’m wracking my brain to get my head around this concept, and I’m really struggling.  Cleanliness of what the Jews ate is way too often rooted in safety or in health reasons.  I think most of the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus was more defining the Jews as distinct from those around them.  There may have been a practical side to the laws in that code, but there was one common thread that transcended “wisdom”.  It was simple obedience.  What truly made the Jews distinct was their whole devotion to the rules of God.  Sure some of those rules kept them safe from dangerous food and difficult laundering problems, but some were simply inexplicable as pragmatic rules.  I think it was supposed to come down to devotion to God.

In that case, what one eats is less important than devotion to God.  Therefore, perhaps Jesus is prioritizing the law of loving your neighbor over don’t eat certain animals.  Later on in this passage Jesus says, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  I think that also applies here.  The Pharisees and lawyers were focusing on those rules that showed strict adherence to certain laws that made them look good to others.  But avoided adherence to those laws that actually cost them in their dealings with others.  They strove to merely look good to others rather than be good before God.

In that case, we, I, are just like them.  Churches are full of these people.  Superficiality is easier than true devotion.  Devotion to God really is inconvenient and disruptive to our lives, our activities, our work, what we do for fun, and our schedules.  My wife and I made the decision to search for a house that would enable more ministry.  God directed us to one that fit our budget and was more home than we imagined within our budget.  But it requires more work to keep up.  It requires more time to keep it available to ministry.  It means having to sacrifice our personal space.  Hospitality isn’t mine or my wife’s gifting it has become more our “calling”, so it doesn’t come easy.

But really that’s easier than others around me to make even greater decisions to inconvenience themselves for the Kingdom of God. What we’ve done helps us feel better about having a nice house, but truly we benefit tremendously from it.  Others have made decisions to be devoted to God in ways that hurt their business, endanger their work life, and possibly endanger their families.  We haven’t done that.  But we know enough of inconvenient devotion to God to know that we, even as limited as we have been, are weird in church.  We should be on the bottom of the devotion ladder, not near the middle or top.  That’s just embarrassing, or should be.  I believe Jesus is calling these Pharisees and lawyers to be authentic with their beliefs.  But what they heard was Jesus tearing down their practices.  He wanted them to be real Jews, but they heard Him try to remove their distinction from Gentiles.

So I suppose the question for you is, “What do you hear Jesus saying to you?”

Light Your World, Light Your Life

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”  (Luke 11:33-36 ESV)

Light, we’re told, is made up of both particles and waves.  Honestly I don’t really know what that means, and my interest level in quantum physics wanes pretty quick.  For those of you who know me personally, let that be proof that I really don’t know everything.  For those of you who don’t know me that well, this won’t be too surprising.  For me light has always been that something that dispells the nothing that is darkness.

Cold and darkness are the results of the absence of heat or light.  But they are also the natural state of things if nothing changes.  They are the status quo of the universe.  They are what was present when creation suddenly changed everything.  Now we see evidence of light and heat everywhere.  Yet what comes natural is cold and darkness.  Light and heat are the invaders, the trespassers on the face of the universe.  Creation displaced the endless spaces of cold and darkness.

But I am told that there is more “space” than there is “stuff”.  The distance between planets and sub atomic particles is vast.  So there is still lots of space for the dark and cold.  On the other hand, I’m also told, much to my amusement, that there is more stuff than what we can see, more energy than we can detect or account for.  My response is typically, “You don’t say,” or “Go figure.”  Few seem to get my sarcasm.

So what’s my point?  Jesus says that we already understand how to dispel the dark using a lamp.  In this context He uses that analogy to prompt the “generation” He just criticized to do the same with His teaching.  Dispel the darkness of their generation with the light of His teaching.  But wait, there’s more!

He also pushes them further to dispel the darkness of their own souls  as well.  The eye is how they know (the word “to know” means “to have seen” – nice pun, no?), therefore having seen the mute demon come flying out of the man and he begin to speak (verse 14) is the “sign” they were looking for.  So Jesus is simply calling them to apprehend what they have seen.  Get it?  This section makes the harsh criticism preceding somewhat softer.  He’s harsh at first, but then turns and calls them to change.

But why?  Why criticize them in the first place?  What is Jesus trying to accomplish pointing out their faults?  Why then tell them that they know what do with light, do the same with His teaching?  Because He loves them.

The natural state of people is much the same as the rest of the universe.  People tend toward cold and dark if left to themselves.  If nothing changes that’s the natural bent.  People have to choose to do something different to avoid the tendency to be cold and dark.  Illumination has often been used to describe the fight against the cold and dark of the human soul.  That’s really all Jesus is after here.  The thing is though, many things can be used to dispel the cold and dark, but only one thing is truly light:  Jesus.

That way, Jesus is telling them to be careful that what they are using for illumination is truly light and not more darkness.  Think about that.  How could that even be?  How could someone not know they were in darkness?  Well, if we know nothing else because we’ve never seen it, then it’s easy to simply believe we have all the illumination we want, need, or that there is.  We wouldn’t know.

But we do know because we have seen Scripture.  We do know because as we read the Spirit, having inspired the writings, now illuminates our hearts and minds to understand.  We become illuminated by the deeds and teaching of Jesus, and then by Jesus Himself.  So, let’s shine that Light.  He belongs on the stand in our hearts and in our communities!

So, what do you learn from Jesus’ metaphor of light?

Who’s For Dinner?

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table.  The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner.  And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?  But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41 ESV)

I keep telling my fellow believers that Jesus was a most dangerous dinner guest.  They pretty much do the same thing, nodding with a wan smile and roll their eyes.  I’m crazy.  Who wouldn’t want Jesus to come to dinner?  Well, funny thing you should ask.  As it turns out, this passage is an excellent illustration of why we should be very careful to invite Jesus in for a meal.  As He says in Revelation, He stands at the door and knocks, and will come in and eat with anyone who opens the door.  So, should you?  Well, let’s see what you might be in for if you do.

Jesus has just finished castigating the “generation” asking for a sign and, before that, claiming He casts out demons by the power of their prince.  In Mark and Matthew, it seems it was the Pharisees who spawned that particular line of attack.  So, here in Luke it’s somewhat ironic that Pharisees are missing from the preceding events, and are now inviting Jesus in for a meal.  Seems nice enough.  Jesus accepts, just as He says He would later in Revelation.  So here we go, it’s dinner time!

This dinner discussion is broken up into two parts, one for the Pharisees, and a special edition for the lawyers.  But it begins with washing of the hands (literally “baptizing”).  Jesus doesn’t.  The Pharisee host is “astonished”.  He’s not angry, frustrated, patronizing, contemptuous, or other possible negative responses.  He’s surprised that Jesus wouldn’t wash His hands.  Ironically, many today would be scandalized if someone didn’t wash their hands before a meal as well, regardless of religious background.  Jesus’ response to the astonishment is what astonishes me.

Jesus’ response to the astonishment of the Pharisee drives at two layers of Pharisee life.  First their love for and priority of appearance.  Second their assumption that any righteous person would be just like they are and see things from their point of view.  Jesus points out that what’s inside is far more important for determining “cleanliness” before God.  In fact Jesus makes a rather shocking statement to this Pharisee, “But give as alms the things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you” (emphasis mine).

Do you see it?  The way Jesus sort of obliterates this essential difference between the Jew and the Gentile before God, did you catch that?  What? Everything being clean?  That can’t be right.  Of course making clear what Jesus meant by “give as alms the things that are within” isn’t exactly easy, but it isn’t rocket surgery either.  In its simplest form, perhaps it could be called a definition of love.  It doesn’t have to be complex.  It would connect well with much of Paul and 1 John 4:7,8 because between his teaching and John’s we learn that love is the “fruit” and “fingerprint” of God’s sanctifying presence in  a believer’s life.

Invite Jesus in for a meal when He knocks, and you will learn that it’s not a sanctified lifestyle that ushers us into His presence.  Rather His presence sanctifies our lifestyle.  It’s grace, but grace that influences change rather than justifying stasis.  This Pharisee host was challenged by his guest to completely change his paradigm.  Are you ready for that? You see, you and I are blind. And most people are happy and content that way.  Invite Jesus in for a meal, and suddenly He turns the light on (see verses 34-36).  Suddenly we see ourselves and our world as Jesus does.  Don’t think it will be pleasant.

The question for us is, “Are we willing to abandon our paradigm for His?”  On the surface, sure!  But as Jesus begins to assault our assumptions about holiness, acceptance, submission, obedience, change, perhaps our willingness may wane.  See, what happens is we assume we’re in good shape, so dinner with Jesus is the best thing we can imagine.  But the reality is that we more closely resemble one of the seven churches of Revelation, and will be challenged to change.  He influences us, He doesn’t force us to change.  So, will we?  Will I? Will you?

What do you learn from this divine Dinner Guest?  He’s knocking…it’s  decision time.

The Sign of a Grumpy Prophet and Bad Preaching?

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”  (Luke 11:29-32 NASB)

When I think if my favorite prophets or stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, Jonah only makes the list because of he’s so amusing.  I don’t know of anyone who uses him as an example of how to live or as a positive example of any sort.  Yet Jesus uses this prophet as a “sign” of His ministry to this generation.  So, how is this reluctant prophet a sign of anything but “DANGER! Grumpy Preacher!”?

In Matthew 12:40, Jesus says the “sign” of Jonah has to do with Jonah’s time in the fish, and Jesus’ time in the grave being 3 days.  Mark just says Jesus refused to give a sign of any sort.  Luke seems to “split the difference” and refers to the sign of Jonah, but explains it a it differently.  I think that by coupling Jonah with the Queen of the South, Luke redefines the way Jonah is a sign to the generation of the people to whom Jesus ministers.

On a side note, I think that Matthew simply defines the sign one way and Luke another.  I think what happened is Jesus merely says, “No sign will be given to this generation except the sign of Jonah” and Matthew interprets it one way and Luke another.  I don’t think either is wrong, and I think a good case could be made that Jesus meant both ideas in the sign.

Luke seems to understand the sign of Jonah relating to the reception of the Ninevites versus Jesus’ reception by this generation.  Whereas Jonah preaches what has to be the worst sermon in Scripture and the Ninevites repent, Jesus preaches and the people reject Him.  The Ninevites are pagans, and the people to whom Jesus preaches are supposed to be God’s people.  It’s possible that Luke wants his audience to see the inclusion of Gentiles by God, but I think it is more directed at those who should know better but still reject Jesus.

So, the application is really for those of us who should know better but still seem to reject the testimony of God.  In churches today, this happens way too often.  But I don’t think we need to look around to see examples.  Even the church I attend, where it’s mostly healthy, we still have examples of those who seem to be more in love with their own ways than interested in hearing of Jesus’ ways.  Who wouldn’t be more comfortable with the ways they have always addressed and lived in this world versus the ways Jesus taught?  The alternative may require them to reject the ways of their righteous parents, change how they treat certain people-groups, or even what they do with their money.

One of the most difficult things to accept could be the context of this passage where Jesus is casting out a demon of muteness from a man.  The miraculous often makes modern American believers very uncomfortable.  But we don’t even need to go there to find other elements that make us uncomfortable.  Love your neighbor as yourself coupled with turning the other cheek works just as well.  Forgive seventy-time-seven perhaps will drive some to squirm in their seats.  “What, give up my resentments? Why, I’d rather give up my children!”  It’s crazy, but seems sane for those encumbered with resentments.  Been there, have the tee shirt, discovered “denial” isn’t just a river in Egypt. But that’s just me, right?

What do you learn from the sign of Jonah?

Tough Crowd of Stupids

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed.  But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”  Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.  (Luke 11:14-16 NASB)

We’ve all been there.  We go to church, and we either hear obliquely or directly a complaint followed by a challenge or threat.  It could be about the preacher, the music, the pews, chairs, children’s leader, teachers, floors, windows, Bibles, or whatever.  Somethings wrong, and if it doesn’t change I’m going to do something really mean to some unsuspecting person there to either lead worship or worship.

It’s Christian terrorism in the church.  But it’s not evil it’s justified by whatever is wrong.  In fact I’m in the aftermath, the words, “It wasn’t my fault, if they had (or hadn’t)…” will most likely make up the response of the accused.  Let me help you out here.  This is stupid.

If you’re offended by “stupid”, well…you, if you hadn’t…no I’m not going there.  The word fits because it is some what offensive.  Such activity should be considered more offensive, but it’s not.

Of course, it’s not new either.  I have had several people over the years, even some in school, tell me they want to be part of a church like the early church.  People who say that usually mean the church described in Acts 4.  But what they end up with is the church described in the rest of the Christian Scriptures, especially the ones Paul writes to.

But even before Paul wrote to his first church, before Paul was converted to following Jesus, this same Jesus had a crowd of people with loud stupids.  Not the whole crowd, but some were down right silly.  For instance…

Jesus casts a demon causing a man to be mute out of him, and the man finally speaks.  The crowd’s response? Jesus is either doing this by the prince of those He’s casting out (brilliant, you have to admit, of course He is!), or, even more sensibly, the exorcism isn’t really enough, would You please show a sign from heaven to prove Your validity.

Yes, folks, out comes a demon cast away to who knows where (until you read verses 24 through 26), but still, it really doesn’t mean this Jesus fellow is from God.  Of course not.  What’s even more ironic is that those most caustic in their vociferous condemnation of these people will then behave this way in church.  Wait, what?

Oh yes, things that deviate from my “comfort zone” in church worship (Worship of the Almighty God, the Holy Spirit, and the Son, our Creator and Savior) should be condemned for the “sin” they are, because I couldn’t get the sleep, the peace, the tranquility I need from such practice of worship.

There should be no use of passages of Scripture in worship that require me to change my ways to conform to someone else, you know, like God.  What is that about?  There should be no loud music!  There should be no soft music!  We must have pews!  What is a worship center without chairs we can move around?

My church has a lead worshiper who plays guitar barefoot and has tattoos.  Oh the ignominy!  Oh the shamelessness!  Oh wait, aren’t those both qualities of Jesus?  Wasn’t He publicly humiliated, yet felt no shame?  Seriously, how can we be so STUPID?  The very accusations we level at those leading us through this life with our Savior are the very things that prove their validity as leaders!

Okay, let me step down from my soap box for a second.  When we, as affirmed followers of Jesus, behave in ways contrary to the things He taught, and consider ourselves justified in such behavior and attitudes; I believe we have stopped following Jesus and have begun to follow someone, who from behind, merely appears to be Jesus.  The robed creature before such followers will be shown to be the Satan, not the Savior.

Back to the soap box!  You can tell this by the results of such behavior.  The church, instead of enjoying unity of the Holy Spirit, is fractured by the hate and lies of the enemy.  That’s the fruit of such deception.  In Mark 3:28, 29 this same event is described, and Jesus uses it to point to what has become called the “unpardonable sin”.  This is not to be taken lightly.  This is serious. The fruit of such behavior and attitudes of a crowd seeking to denounce their leaders is demonstrated to be divisive, abusive, hurtful, and selfish.  When we see this, and even feel this, we should take it very seriously.  Such feelings are not from God!

Let’s not be the “stupids” in the crowd.

So what do you learn from the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ miracle?


Light Prayer, A Third Less Filling?

And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.'”
(Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

In a study I lead every Thursday, I had someone complain that Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (or Model Prayer if you like) was so short and choppy.  Most in the group preferred Matthew’s version (Matthew 6:9-13).  Several in the group asked which one was right.  Some talked about using it as a model rather than as a rote prayer.

Clearly one of the struggles we face studying this prayer in Luke is the differences between, and the general familiarity and preference for the version in Matthew.  It’s really strange to compare the two.  I remember first doing that on my own while in the Army.  I had a hard time with the differences.  Why was Luke’s so short? What was that all about?  I didn’t know, and commentators explanations seemed more confusing not less (at the time).

But in the study I came up with a slightly different reason.  I suspect that Matthew used the model, and Luke had simply read the prayer model in one of his sources.  So while Luke probably records a more accurate account of what Jesus actually said, I believe Matthew preserves the model as he used it so many years later.  So he had added elements that expanded on the model from his growth in understanding and experience with God in prayer.  Such an interpretation adopts the “model” view of the prayer, which is probably not how the disciples understood it nor what they asked for.  But since we don’t know why, I like to think of Matthew’s version as personal to him.

Yet while the differences are stark, and Luke’s is definitely more choppy, the basic elements are still the same: God’s name is holy (He sanctifies it), His Kingdom comes, request for daily sustenance, forgiveness of sins, and protection from temptation. The elements in Matthew’s version can be assumed, and their absence is missed but not necessary for meaning.  The real problem for me is how much more easily Matthew’s version seems to roll off the tongue.  Luke’s version does seem more choppy.

So, having said all that, the point here is that a model or form for prayer is important, yet using it is more important.  If Matthew’s version is his own from years of loving use, then it shows that this bare bones version in Luke can become a base for greater understanding and experience for us.  Perhaps God will show us something different than Matthew experienced through his use.  Perhaps the elements we add will be focused on different aspects of God and His work in our lives.  For Matthew the point was forgiveness.  For Luke it was persistence in prayer.  What will it be for us?  The only way to find out is to pray.

What do you learn from Luke’s “Readers Digest Condensed Version” of the Lord’s Prayer?

Prayer Interrupted

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 NASB)

Jesus has been leading His disciples for 3 years now? And He’s on His way to die on a cross, when His disciples finally ask to be taught a prayer for their group.  The rabbis teach their disciples prayers, John taught his disciples, and now Jesus’ disciples want one.  I see two really strange things here.

I see that Jesus never really felt the need to provide His disciples with a prayer.  That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but when you consider that the culture would then use this prayer as a method (as opposed to a “model”) it may make more sense.  Jesus didn’t seem interested in providing a “rote prayer”.  He refers to prayer a lot, and in Luke He seems to be always off by Himself praying someplace.  We’re not given a sense Jesus used memorized prayers.  Yet He provides a prayer for His disciples.  We call it a model, but they didn’t.  He provides one so simple, yet so complete it was easy to memorize and effective to use.  So while He didn’t feel the need to suggest one, Jesus acquiesces to their request for one.

Second, Jesus’ prayer, while simple and short, could not have been what He used when they constantly found Him praying alone.  He didn’t give them what He used.  Now, chill out, I know Jesus is God and has a relationship with the Father that is qualitatively different than ours, and all.  But He is also human with human needs, and human physical weakness.  What I mean is that while Jesus may have used a sort of framework like what He provides to His disciples, it’s not certain.  He doesn’t say, “Do like I do in prayer.”  He says, “Pray in this way.”  There is a difference that was probably not lost on His disciples.  Jesus gives them a glimpse into the reality that prayer is a developing experience, not a formula.  I believe this is because prayer drives our relationship with God, which, as it develops and deepens, then informs our prayers.

What do you learn from the disciples question?