Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Experts In The Law (part 7)

In line with the criticism of Jesus’ table fellowship that can be seen in the fifth and fifteenth chapters of Luke, this criticism can also be found taking place in the seventh chapter.  There Luke reports that “the Pharisees and the experts in religious law rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (7:30a).  Immediately thereafter, Jesus launches into a monologue that will conclude with Jesus reciting a regular accusation against Him (which also points out the inseparable connection of His own ministry and that of John the Baptist), saying “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine,” and thus John makes no overt references, by his actions, to the messianic feast (which should ideally accompany a messianic pronouncement that the kingdom of the Creator God is at hand), “and you say, ‘He has a demon!’  The Son of Man has come eating and drinking,” through which He messianic-ly proclaims the kingdom through engaging in regular feasting, “and you say, ‘Look at Him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (7:33-34)   

Returning them to the fifteenth chapter, one can reconsider the regular complaint against Jesus, bearing in mind that the hearers of Luke’s compilation of the life of Jesus have now heard this complaint on several occasions.  As they would now have come to expect, Jesus once again ignores the complaint, which is a veiled accusation by His critics that He cannot possibly be the messiah, and instead launches into a series of parables (the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the compassionate father---sometimes referred to as the parable of the prodigal son, though this gets the focus of the parable wrong).  By doing this (ignoring the complaint and the accusation), Jesus maintains and builds upon his now well-asserted role of rabbinic superiority over His challengers, which has been demonstrated, by Luke’s telling (again, reflecting the stories about Jesus, post-Resurrection, that would have been circulating in a self-correcting oral tradition), through their repeated inability to respond to Him. 

In this honor and shame culture, Jesus has been repeatedly shaming His challengers, accruing honor to Himself while taking honor from them (which ends up being problematic for Him in the long run).  This would have been well understood by one and all, whether they be firsthand observers or hearing the story told in the early days of the church.  With this in mind, Luke’s hearers and readers (throughout history), can fully understand the hostility that is rising against Jesus.  Not only is He de-valuing the institution that they support and from which they receive their support (the Temple), but He is also bringing them into disrepute, diminishing them in the eyes of the populace and severing them from any semblance of power and God-ordained authority. 

Though He has been gaining honor for Himself through the process of shaming His opponents via the rabbinic challenges (whether He is the challenger or the challenged), He will ultimately divest Himself of all of that honor by going to the most shameful place, which would be the cross.  Thereby, He is able to consistently live out His insistence (as heard in the fourteenth chapter) that one should take the lowest place, so as to receive true exaltation.    

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