1 February 2019

Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Luke with you this week.

REFLECTION:

Today, we will look at Luke 11, verses 14-32, focusing on verses 27-28.

In this passage, Jesus first casts out a demon from a person who had been mute. Once the demon leaves their body, they can speak again. Some people see Jesus perform this act and believe he is the Son of God; others accuse him of being a trickster or some sort of magician. When the inevitable argument ensues, Jesus shuts it down by saying something that blows the minds of the audience. As a teacher, I wish that I could respond to a hard question with such an awe-inspiring tour de force just once in my life—hopefully while my lecture was being recorded. Anyhow…

Jesus’ response produces an exclamation of praise from the crowd. One woman cries out that Jesus’ mother is blessed for having brought Jesus into the world and having raised him to be the man that he is. It’s a very nice thing to say.

Jesus has no time for it. Indeed, he corrects the woman. The blessed, Jesus declares, are those who hear the word of God and obey it. That is hardly controversial. Still, why does Jesus feel the need to redirect attention from the very kind sentiment about his mother to this exclamation about attending to God’s message?

Luke’s Jesus has a singular focus for that which builds the kingdom of God. Luke’s Jesus actually runs the risk of being a bit gruff and annoying with this laser focus. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we saw a number of people reminded by Jesus that their focus should be equally locked on what it takes to build the kingdom of God. Nothing else matters to Jesus—to the point that he is rather harsh in telling people so. Perhaps that is a good reminder for us.

I do want you to notice, however, the way that Jesus invites women into this task. Whereas most of the people that appear in chapters 9, 10, and 11 remain anonymous, the few characters that are identified are women. In our passage from Wednesday, we see that Mary and Martha feature prominently. They are the ones who speak to Jesus, hear from Jesus, care for Jesus, and receive the hard lesson Jesus wants to give.

After the Lord’s prayer in our passage yesterday, Jesus tells a story about a hypothetical parent asked for a fish or an egg by their child. The parent remains unidentified, but in the ancient world it is most likely this would be a mother. Jesus explains the way that God responds to our prayers by likening God to a mother.

Finally, in today’s passage, it is another woman who cries out to Jesus and provides the motivation for what he has to say. Yes, Jesus corrects her for expressing a misguided sentiment; still, it is a woman who engages Jesus, and to whom Jesus responds with a helpful lesson.

Luke reminds us time and time again in his Gospel that women play an important role in the kingdom. For all the talk of kings, priests, prophets, and teachers of the law in the New Testament, Jesus builds his kingdom through both women and men. Indeed, for Luke, it is the women who are the best models of what it means to follow Jesus faithfully.

Today, as we end this week, who is one woman in your life that offers you a model of how to follow Jesus? Pray for her. Pray that she would know the impact she has had on your life. Perhaps, go one better than that: tell her or send her a quick message to let her know of that impact. Encourage her by making it clear that she is teaching you how to build God’s kingdom on earth, just as Luke taught so many people in the first century how to follow Jesus through the women he describes to us.

READING: Luke 11:14-32

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.’

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’

He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, ‘This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.