Saturday, December 21, 2013

Experts In The Law (part 11 of 11)

Naturally, having heard what was said by Jesus in the fourteenth chapter and the parable that followed, this mention of the burning desire for places of honor at banquets will not be lost on Luke’s hearers.  They, as should any educated and culturally aware observer, make the connections.  The final nail is driven into their figurative coffins as Jesus informs His hearers (and Luke’s hearers), that these experts in the law, “devour widows’ property” (20:47). 

They devour widows’ property?  This is unconscionable!  How do they do this?  Is there evidence of this?  Absolutely there is evidence, and Jesus immediately points His hearers to the evidence as He “looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box.  He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  He said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all offered out of their wealth.  But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.’” (21:1-4) 

For too long this has been looked upon as Jesus offering a commendation to this widow, as she was willing to sacrifice all that she had for the Temple as a sacrifice to the Creator God.  However, in light of all that has led up to it, and in the wake of Jesus’ symbolic judgment against the Temple, it demands to be understood as a rebuke to the Jerusalem Temple, its system, and all associated with it.  Indeed, when understood correctly, it should be concluded that Jesus sees the offering of this widow as a tragedy, as her property was completely devoured by a corrupt system (they devour widows’ property) full of robbers, which He had already condemned.  This becomes especially clear when one rightly incorporates the idea that Jesus is the true Temple. 

This Temple, already “adorned with beautiful stones and offerings” (21:5b), and its functionaries (essentially the powers-that-be of the day) should have been lavishing care upon this poor widow, exercising justice and mercy, rather than taking that which she could not afford to give.  This would have been the proper attitude of those that were supposed to be representing the faithful and gracious God of Israel.  However, with the portrait of the experts in the law that has been painted, there is nobody, reading or hearing, that is surprised at what has just happened, and that this poor widow has had her property devoured. 

It is little wonder then that the remaining mentions of the experts in the law to be found in Luke take the form that they do.  Along with the Temple, Jesus has condemned them, so it is no surprise to hear that “The chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find some way to execute Jesus” (22:2a), that they played a role in an unjust and illegal trial in which “the council of the elders of the people gathered together, both the chief priests and the experts in the law” (22:66), and that “The chief priests and the experts in the law were… vehemently accusing Him” (23:10).  The point, which had begun to be made in the fifth chapter when Jesus takes up the role of the Temple by forgiving sins, adding healing to that role, with this immediately questioned by the experts in the law (their first mention), is that Jesus is the true Temple.  It would seem that Luke wants all to know that Jesus, as the embodiment of Israel’s God, is the place where the Creator God resides.        

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