Testing: tempted

temptation_of_christAll three synoptic gospels record an incident of Jesus confronting the devil in the wilderness immediately after his baptismal experience at the Jordan River. Where Mark notes quite simply: “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him” (Mark 1:12-13). Matthew and Luke record a three-part dialogue between Jesus and the devil that is recorded traditionally as a “tempting.” Continue reading

Crucifying the King of the Jews

Copia desde la Crucifixion dibujada hacia 1540...Luke 23:35-43. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 (Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”) They divided his garments by casting lots. [The above is not part of the Sunday reading, but is generally considered within the narrative.] 35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Those Who Mocked. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Luke pictures the majority of the people (laos) don’t mock Jesus (contrary to Mark’s description); they are simply watching. Executions were popular functions and doubtless many attended this one. But it was the rulers, not the people, who mocked (cf. Ps. 22:6–8). The leaders sneer (v. 35; lit. “look down their noses” or “thumbed their noses”) and the soldiers mock (v. 36) and one criminal blasphemes (v. 39). They all say the same thing: “Save yourself” – essentially the same temptations of the devil in Luke 4 – avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. Culpepper notes that “The irony here is that Luke underscores both Jesus’ real identity and the true meaning of his death. Jesus was hailed as the Savior at his birth (2:11); as the Son of Man, he had come to seek and save the lost (19:10). But just as he had taught that those who lost their lives for his sake would save them (9:24), so now he must lost his life so that they might be saved. Continue reading

When salvation comes: the lost

jesus-zacchaeus9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.

Salvation. Jesus’ words in v. 9 are literally: “Today salvation has happened to/in this house(hold), because also this one is a son of Abraham.”

What is the “salvation” that has happened? “Salvation” (soteria) is a rare word in Luke. All the other occurrences are in the Benedictus (Zechariah’s song of praise – 1:69, 71 & 77), which are in references to John the Baptist’s ministry. The related word also translated “salvation” (soterion) occurs in the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s cry of praise in 2:30) and in a quote from Isaiah (3:6). So outside of two songs and an OT quote, the noun “salvation” only occurs this text. (Neither of these words occur in Mt or Mk and only once in John – although we have already encountered a related verb “to heal/save” (sozo) and will again in v. 10 below. Continue reading

When salvation comes: warning

jesus-zacchaeusGrace and Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship) at the advent of WWII wrote famously on “cheap grace.”  I include a long excerpt from his writing as someone who perhaps can be accused of being Pharisaic – yet knowing that he is writing in the shadow of Nazi Germany and the increasingly silent Christian Churches – the words make a case that there is indeed a dark side to “cheap grace.”


Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….[45] Continue reading

When salvation comes:

jesus-zacchaeusZacchaeus’ Speech. Zacchaeus, in spite of his reputation, is an attractive person. In our brief meeting, qualities akin to those of Peter emerge. Zacchaeus is spontaneous and impetuous, given to extravagant statements. But there is a deep genuineness. Though he is a person of some importance, his position does not prevent him from climbing the sycamore tree nor from publicly admitting his guilt and professing his repentance. Jesus says this is a son of Abraham, even if he is a tax collector. He should not be ostracized because of his failings but helped to find his way back to the flock. Continue reading

When salvation comes: today

jesus-zacchaeusAt first glance we might expect this to be another parable challenging the rich. The rich have not fared well in Luke’s gospel. Jesus pronounces woes upon the rich (6:24). God called the rich farmer a fool (12:16, 20) and required his soul of him. The rich man went to Hades while Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham, and Jesus observed how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (18:23, 25).  Zacchaeus is a “wealthy man” (19:2)

Yet, Zacchaeus is like the others in previous stories of Jesus – people faced with obstacles (18:3-4, 15, 39); he is of low social status and esteem as are the widow, the toll collector, children and a blind beggar.  Yet, like the rich ruler (18:18-30), Zacchaeus is a person of power, privilege and position – people not easily ignored.  Whereas the Rich Ruler’s self assessment is that he keeps all the commandments, Zacchaeus, according to popular opinion is a sinner. Zacchaeus is a “Son of Abraham” and yet serves the Roman Imperia to the detriment of this own people and to his financial benefit.  In a way Zacchaeus is a pivotal character whose characteristics straddle the boundaries. Then who can be saved? (18:26).  The story of Zacchaeus answer the question that has flowed in and out of the Jerusalem travel narrative (since 9:51) as Jesus asserts, Today salvation has come to this house (19:9) – all in the unmerited grace of Christ. Continue reading

When salvation comes: context

jesus-zacchaeus1 He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. 2 Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3 was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 7 When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – Responses to Jesus’ Death

Luke 23:47 The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” 48 When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; 49 but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. 50 Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, 51 had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. 54 It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, 56 they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.  Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – The Death of A Savior

jesus_crucifiedIt is a sometimes very difficult pastoral situation, when a person has been truly wronged by the events that have unfolded with in a marriage, and I know that ultimately – in one form or another – I will let the person know that there are no innocent parties.  Indeed some are infinitely more innocent, but in the end there is rarely complete innocence.

Indeed we stand rightly condemned. But this gospel reveals that in the simple act of trust, there is salvation, beyond merit or worth, beyond categories of innocence or guilt. There are no scales. There is only the promise that our Savior remembers those who trust. We stand before complete innocence. Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – Delivered to Prefects and Kings

Jesus_Before_Pilate_smAlan Culpepper commented that reading the arrest and trials of Jesus is, for him, like watching film footage of John Kennedy’s motorcade winding through Dallas in 1963 or the 1986 launch of the Challenger space shuttle.  We know what is coming, we know we have no power to undo them, but are compelled to watch because we honor the loss of great people doing what was theirs to do.

At a more intimate level we know that the encounter of Jesus and Pilate is a scene wherein both face the test of their convictions. Pilate knows and announces the verdict – innocence, but in the face of an unruly crowd does not have the conviction to persevere.  Neither Herod nor Barabbas provide an avenue to resolved the crisis when the leaders of Jewish Jerusalem are ever at work to animate the crowd to bend Pilate’s to their will. Continue reading