Jesus is the Chosen One

Luke 9:28-36 (Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99)   I am amazed each and every time I encounter a well-known biblical text and see something I had not seen before – not in a life-time of textual engagement. The same is true of the making of connections (joining of the dots) which help the text come alive. Here are a few examples in Luke’s account of the Transfiguration:
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). The Transfiguration comes a week or so after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah (9:20); and following Jesus’ declaration that “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God: (9:27).  So, Peter is on something of a spiritual “high” at this point. No wonder he gets the wrong end of the stick in this encounter in which he sees not the kingdom but Jesus’ glory! (v. 31)

Mt. Eremos

Just over a week ago, I stood on top of a hill in Israel called Mt. Eremos, on the Korazim Plateau in Galilee. This is the mount upon which, according to an 1600-year-old tradition, Jesus delivered his great sermon (Matthew 5-7). It sits on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Gennesaret.  So, it’s in the heart of Gospel country! In Luke’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount becomes the Sermon on the Plain. And that’s not the only difference: with Luke, we are not only to love those who curse and abuse us, we are to bless them; and we are to be merciful (rather than perfect) just like the Father.
Why the difference? Well, remember the text from a few weeks ago – the one in which Jesus visits the synagogue in Nazareth, reads from the prophet Isaiah, and declares the prophecy fulfilled in him (Luke 4:31-37)? (I visited the remains of that synagogue, too!) I pointed out then, that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that folks expected; nor was he the kind of prophet they were accustomed to. Now we see the great difference! For Luke, Jesus wasn’t the kind of prophet who foretells the future; rather, he was the kind who enacted the future. So, rather than preaching down to folks, he enters into the midst of them. Rather than pointing to a Father who is perfect, he points to one that is merciful. Rather than pointing towards (or demanding) righteousness, Jesus shows what grace in righteousness looks like Read more…


“Then Jesus said to Simon,’ Do not be afraid: from now you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:10-11
The story of Jesus invitation to Simon Peter to “catch people” is a familiar one to many of us in the church.
I hear a story of resistance and mission. Here the resistance comes in contemporary terms as “that is not my experience, but I will comply so you will see for yourself.” The mission comes as a change in paradigm. For Simon Peter, this event was so profound he dropped to his knees, confessed his doubt, then left the life he knew to follow a man he just met. Why?
In a world like the one we live in today, there are many good reasons to just stick with what we think we know. We too are resistant to seeing things from another angle/perspective/viewpoint. Who are we listening to? How are we making room for Jesus to continue to transform us?

“Spiritual Gifts”

Luke 4:21-30 (Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
Folks may be tiring of hearing me say this…when looking at a biblical text, take a moment to look at what comes immediately before and after the text at hand – it can be illuminating! Let’s look at the verses which bookend 1 Corinthians 13:
But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way (12:31)
Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts (14:1)

Clearly, Chapter 13 is related to Paul’s concept of “spiritual gifts.” That’s all the clearer when one looks at the gifts that Paul addresses in Chapter 12, beginning with these familiar words:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one is given through the Spirit…to another…(12:4-8).
These gifts include: speaking in tongues (12:10, 28, 30); prophecy (12:10, 28-29); and knowledge (12:8). Clearly these gifts are…well, gifts. They are good. But in Chapter 13 Paul reveals a “more excellent way” (12:31). And, to doubly reinforce the connection being made here, the more excellent way is contrasted with the very gifts that Paul has just sung the praises of:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

Luke 4:14-21 (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)
Two weeks ago, we read that:
… when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).
In this week’s text we read that
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone (Luke 4:14-15).
We can see why word had spread about him; and we can see clearly that the Holy Spirit remained with him and filled him. Or, as a more literal translation of verse 14 would put it, Jesus was “armed with the Holy Spirit.” Thus armed, Jesus began to teach, and with great initial success. And then he went home….

The First of his Signs

(Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Jesus’ ministry begins “on the third day.” Our minds inevitably go to Jesus saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up… But he was speaking of the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21). But that is not the only reference to Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection in this week’s text. Note the reference to Jesus’ “hour” which “has not yet come” (vs. 4). This is a concept that comes up several times in John’s Gospel, as one scholar points out:

To Tell the Truth

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17)

Many of the readers of this devotion will remember with fondness the old television show To Tell the Truth. During the show, the contestants and the viewers were presented with a several people each of whom claimed to be something/someone interesting – a lion tamer, or some such thing. At the end of the show, the constants were asked to guess who was for real: “Would the real lion tamer please stand up!”

As Luke’s gospel progresses, the issue becomes, “would the real messiah please stand up!” Is it John the baptizer, or is it Jesus? The issue is important, as John himself points out:

I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:16-17). Read more…

My soul magnifies the Lord!

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb (Luke 1:39-41).

There’s a lot going on in this Lukan text. The messenger (John) and the message (Jesus) meet. And, when John (intrauterine) makes a commotion – it’s his very first prophecy! (Remember also, the leaping twin in Rebecca’s womb – Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:20). Read more…

Rejoice in the Lord always

Philippians 4:4-7 (Isaiah 12:2-6, Luke 3:7-18)

Gaudete Sunday, that bright spot in the somewhat penitential season of Advent, is here! Marked by the joyful color of pink (in churches where the third candle and chasuble change for the day), this is a day of rejoicing:

Gaudete in Domino semper/Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4) Read more…