"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." (Romans 12:1, MSG)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - The conclusion of Luke's Gospel (chapters 23 & 24)

Note - If you've been following Bishop Carter's Luke/Acts reading plan with me this year, this week brings us to the conclusion of Luke's Gospel. Even though I'm a bit late with this blog post on the final two chapters (I've been away for some Sabbath time with Lenora and our family, in addition to attending the Florida Annual Conference last week), I wanted to bring some closure to our journey through Luke before beginning our journey through the Acts of the Apostles next week.

Reading Luke's account of Jesus' appearance before Pilate in chapter 23, I was struck by how Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds not once but three times that he found no legal basis for the death penalty in his case (vv. 4, 14, 22). And, not once but three times the crowd protested, ultimately demanding Jesus' crucifixion (vv. 5, 18, 23a). Then, in verse 23b we read, "Their voices won out."

This reminded me of Eugene Peterson's introduction to the Gospel of Luke and its description of Luke as "a most vigorous champion of the outsider." Throughout this Gospel, Luke "shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor." (The MESSAGE, Navpress 2005, p. 1404) 

Brennan Manning may have said it best, "...Jesus hung out with ragamuffins."

So, there Jesus stood...cast out by the religious establishment simply for speaking the truth about Himself, about to be put to death while another who actually was guilty of something (murder, no less!) would walk away free. Jesus had officially become an outsider. How ironic. It also brings to mind something else Manning wrote:
"The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. 'They won't let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.' 'What are you complaining about?' said God. 'They won't let Me in either.'" (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 30)
Of course, we know what happened next. Jesus took up His cross and carried it to "the place called The Skull."

Skull Hill in Jerusalem...one reputed location of Jesus' crucifixion.
There, Jesus was crucified.

There, Jesus died.

And with Jesus' death, yet another "triplet" is reported in Luke's Gospel...a "triplet" of responses by those who witnessed His death. First, the centurion who praised God, acknowledging the truth that Jesus really was righteous (v. 47). Next, "the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what happened (v. 48)." The "beating their chests" signifies that they were deeply sorrowful and penitent for what they had done. More irony. And, finally, the Galileans who had been with Jesus "stood at a distance observing these things (v. 49)." Their witness is important to the final chapter of Luke's Gospel because as one commentator wrote, "Witnessing his death is necessary in order that they be qualified witnesses to his resurrection." (Interpretation, p. 275)

Which brings us now to the final chapter, including the empty tomb, the walk to Emmaus, Jesus' appearance to His disciples, and the Ascension of Jesus. Each of these stories are unique but combine to ultimately communicate one thing...the story doesn't end with the cross. We, ragamuffins that we are, are a people of hope. Great hope. Resurrection hope! 

Fred Craddock's final statement in his Interpretation commentary is both a fitting conclusion and perfect segue as we turn our attention to Acts: "God is at work and something marvelous is about to happen!" (p. 295)

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