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Jul 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 20, 2014 – Luke 13:10-17

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like . . .

And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up a all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by him.
 Luke 13:10-17

What we can learn about Jesus depends on the questions we ask and our goal in asking

If we ask, How was Jesus perceived in his time and culture?
– we find answers such as Rabbi, prophet, miracle-worker, and Messiah
If we ask, How is Jesus perceived today in reference to his own time and culture
– answers include sage (wisdom teacher), mystic, apocalyptic messenger, and revolutionary
• taking these paths, we collect interesting answers
○ but when we reach to the end of them, we do not know Jesus
• the historical approach and the scientific approach do not help us come to know Jesus
○ instead, the objectivity of our inquiry keeps the person of Christ at a distance

If we ask, How can I know this person?
– the answer is, You have to meet him
• that has been the experience of millions of people, both today and in past centuries
• martyrs did not die for an idea or a doctrine
○ and they did not go to sword, lions or flames alone
○ having met and lived with Jesus, they knew he held their hands in death
If we ask, How do I meet Jesus?
• the answer is, you must begin by dropping your objectivity – close the distance
• come to his story with your heart rather than just your head and you will meet him

Luke begins today’s episode with the setting

He doesn’t give us a detailed description, but the general picture
– the synagogue was designed to serve as sacred space
• the Sabbath was structured to be sacred time
• Jesus entered this setting, this sacred environment, and taught
○ later on we’ll get an idea of what he taught
– what made synagogue and Sabbath sacred?
• the sociological answer is “cultural consensus”
○ there had been no scriptural revelation regarding synagogues or their role in Israel’s spiritual life
○ Jewish culture had defined the synagogue as sacred, so it was treated as sacred
• communities can set aside space and time to the worship of God
○ depending on the hearts of those who designate sacred space and time, God may or may not manifest his presence there (cf. 1 Kings 6:11-13 & 9:1-9)

But as we read the gospels and follow Jesus in and out of homes and villages, through fields, along roads, up mountains, and across sea, we learn that any place and time can become sacred, that the sacred can potentially break in everywhere and all the time

Dostoyevsky, in The brothers Karamozov, has Fr. Zosima say, “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.”

This is not unlike Karl Rahner’s thought, that living with the fact that humans can experience God, and experience him in the context of our ordinary lives, everything becomes translucent–that is, transcendence begins to shine through grains of sand, blades of grass, etc.
My friend, Fr. Romuald would say, “Every thing is a door”–a doorway to the eternal.

– I have a suspicion, this is what Jesus was teaching that day — soon I’ll explain the reason
• for now, we realize that Jesus’ presence sanctified (made sacred) space and time
○ every environment he entered and every moment of his life became sacred
• so in Jesus the sacred can penetrate common (ordinary and routine) space and time

The common can also penetrate sacred space and time

“There was a woman there . . .”
– human illness, suffering, and frustration enter the sacred
• they enter because we bring them with us
○ we can only come to the sacred as the people we are
○ and we are broken
– it’s likely that this woman came because she knew Jesus was there
• otherwise, it would unusual for a woman to make her presence known in a public holy place
○ usually in such environments, women would be invisible to men
• she came into synagogue and stood there doubled-over
○ she was used to having people stare, to grimace or look at her pitifully
○ spectacle accompanied her movements similar to the way the sacred accompanied Jesus

I want to make one brief comment about this
– there are millions of people in the world who are physically bound
• but there are billions who are psychologically and spiritually bound
○ but then, some who are physically bound are psychologically unfettered
• when bound, is is usually because we’re clinging to something
• something we carry from the past that we cannot release or escape
○ perhaps a negative view of ourselves implanted in us when we were children
○ or maybe a past we are desperately trying to recover
• and because we cannot let it go, we do not recognize the opportunity for transformation

Joan Chittister, “What I do not let into my world can never stretch my world, can never give it new color, can never fill it with a new kind of air, can never touch the parts of me that I never knew were there.”

– it is right that we should bring this very thing into the sacred and to Jesus

“When Jesus saw her . . .” — this is a textual signal we’ve seen before
– Jesus is not going to ignore this woman and the obvious distraction she creates
• he did not merely “make an announcement” about “our poor sister whose life is hard”
○ nor did he offer her a couple of kind remarks
– Jesus “called her over” — he made her the center of attention
• and then he spoke healing to her

Something else penetrated the sacred that day

Something that was lodged there in the synagogue
– something that tried to harness and control the sacred
– we’ll see it better if we back out of the story a little

The chapter is enclosed in an envelope of government figures
– at the beginning it was reported that Pilate spilled the blood of Galileans (v. 1)
– at the end it was reported that Herod was looking for Jesus to spill his blood (v. 31)
• this is the dark side of human government: defective politics exploited by corrupt politicians
○ it is a darkness that controls or snuffs out human life rather than liberate or preserve it
• this political defect and corruption had also entered the sacred space of the synagogue

The synagogue official was the authorized representative of Religion, Inc.
– Religion, Inc. would be powerless except for its rules
• according to these rules, piety and protocol come before people
• suffering is less a concern than scrupulous attention to trivial details of the law
– Religion, Inc. tends to keep its adherents in weakness
• it leaves them bound and dependent on the organization
– when we come to know Jesus, we begin to recognize what is not Jesus, what is not God
• it may be religious or devout
• it may quote Bible, but still it is not God

A craftsman made it, so it is not God (Hosea 8:6)

That Jesus reasoned from analogy is significant

And I think it was also risky
– but this is the logic of Jesus
• to find justification for his actions in natural and humane thoughtfulness to beasts of burden
• and it is always an argument from the lesser to the greater
– by analogy, God is more reliable than a friend (11:5-10), a father (11:11-13), a judge (18:1-8)
• analogy is the tool our brains use to learn
○ by finding associations with what is new to what we already know
• now look at verses 18-20:

“What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it?”
“To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like . . .”

• Jesus is using analogy again, creating associations
○ this is why I suspect that what he taught that day is what others have reiterated
○ the kingdom of God can enter our awareness through a grain of sand, a mustard seed, a pinch of yeast
– transcendent and splendid, the kingdom of God is something living, hidden, working invisibly
• as we awaken and open ourselves to it, we enter the sacred

Jesus did not use analogy to prove his point but to illustrate the truth

Conc: Jesus won the heart of the crowd (v. 17)

This is the kind of message they had waited for
– the kind of message they needed
• that God was as concerned for them at least as much as they were for their farm animals, their pets, their children
• that it is always appropriate to do good
○ that caring for others never interferes with the sacred, but promotes it

The better we understand Jesus’ analogies, the better we will know him

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