In the first scene we will look at this Sunday, we find Jesus and the disciples in a boat at sea during a terrible storm (Luke 8:22-25). The disciples, among them some who were skilled fishermen, knew it was very bad, life-threatening, and awoke Jesus, who was sleeping on deck, to come help bail. All hands on deck! Jesus wakes, then precedes to rebuke the storm, and all became calm. That is when Jesus asks the disciples, “Where is your faith?” (v. 25). Despite the peril of the storm, it was their imagination, however, that needed bailing, not the boat. They feared the storm; not Jesus. That was the problem. And, that was all about to change.
When Jesus asks the disciples, “Where is you faith?,” we tend to hear “You don’t have enough faith” as if Jesus’ question is about quantity. Quantity of faith. We assume Jesus is questioning the amount of faith that the disciples have—and by extension and application, questioning the amount of our faith. Of course, this “application” more typically is used as a proof text of someone else’s lack of faith (not mine!), “You don’t have enough faith” or “That Christian just doesn’t have enough faith.” The issue of “faith” here, however, is not about amount or size or depth or quantity. Of mine. Or even of yours. Nor is this question about “faith” meant for introspection. Naval gazing. In other words, the question is not about the private, individualized amount of faith that the disciples had . . . nor of yours and mine. The question was all about Him. About Jesus. Who is He?
This scene is the point in the story when the disciples were confronted (as you and I should be even now in reading the story) with who this wandering-teacher-Rabbi actually is: from the disciples’ point of view, Jesus entered the boat as a teacher, master, someone in the boat who can be called upon to grab a bucket and start bailing; then after the rebuke and the winds calm, the disciples fear he is more than a mere teacher. This is the scene that is before us.
Through how he has crafted his narrative, Luke has given a whole other referent concerning “faith.” The disciple's faith. My faith. And, your faith. There are three hints that allow us to infer that Jesus is more concerned about who we believe Jesus is. First, we have the wider context. Earlier we encountered two scenes where Jesus praised someone’s faith: the Centurion when Jesus turns to the crowd, marveling and said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (7:9) and, then, to the prostitute that had crashed the Pharisee’s supper party, wet Jesus’ feet, drying them with her hair—and in front of all the guests— He announces, “Your faith has saved you” (7:50). Thus, we can (and should) read the question “Where is your faith?” as “you all haven’t figured out yet who I actually am, unlike the Gentile Centurion and unlike the prostitute, who both figured out who I am.”
Second, after Jesus calmed (more so, rebuked) the storm, Luke tells us that the disciples “were afraid” (8:25b). They feared. Not a scared kind of fear. But, the fear one has at the sight of a catastrophe happening right in front of you. The fear one has on a boat in the middle of open water during a life threatening storm. Now their fear has the right object: Jesus. (In the next miracle scene, we also encounter “fear,” namely those who had observed the formerly demon-possessed man clothed and in his right mind sitting at Jesus’ feet (vv. 35-37)).
Third, the narrative sets us up to ask the question “Who is this?” as the disciples had done. After Jesus calms the storm, the disciples, rightfully, now in good fear, asks, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”(8:25c). The reader—you and me—already knows from the birth narratives this is no ordinary man. Now we are learning (hearing) what kind of non-ordinary man Jesus is. In the next scene, the question the disciples ask is answered by a demonic-possessed, homeless, naked, man sleeping among the tombs: “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (8:28c).
Amid miracles scenes where Jesus is demonstrating his authority over creation and creation-destroying demonic forces, we are to learn that Jesus is the appropriate object of faith—and fear. We are to be like the Gentile Centurion and the prostitute and not like the disciples. Yes. That’s right. Not like the disciples in that boat. We are to learn from the disciples’ misplaced fear of forces they (we) cannot control (aka, the storm and the demonic-forces). Jesus is the right and appropriate object of fear. The issue here with the question “Where is your faith” is not about some faith we must muster up (that’s makes faith us-centered, you-centered, me-centered); but a faith, that is truly believing and a loyalty (the meaning of the word “faith”) that surrenders to the One who has all authority: Jesus, the Son of the Most High.
This is important, first, to the disciples in the narrative, for soon they will be given the commission to imitate Jesus’ authority and mission (9:1). And, we, who are in front of this text, are also to learn that Jesus is the right—and only—object of our faith, the right object of our fear: Jesus, the Son of the Most High who has the power and authority over creation and over creation-destructive powers (the next miracle scene). For, we, too, are to be his disciples, bearing witness to this Jesus.
Wasted Rough Cut: How the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6) should be heard . . . just imagine who is around that Table
Sermon prep for and thoughts from my study of the last half of Luke's Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6) . . .
Church, imagine a trafficked woman and one who used to enslave women sitting at that Table, after breaking bread, having a supper, and after lifting that fourth cup together to celebrate Jesus as Savior and King . . . imagine a beggar and a wealthy man . . . imagine a wife and her husband, who'd normally have been found with a temple prostitute or at a similar supper using women as entertainment . . . imagine young boys and men who had, until recently, frequented similar suppers where such young boys were entertainment . . . imagine . . . imagine the early church gathered at that Table now ready to listen to someone read the parchments containing Luke's Gospel . . . imagine . . .
Imagine hearing the Sermon on the Plain being read (Luke 6:20-49) . . . imagine they all hear, not only the blessings on the poor and the cursing on the rich (vv. 20-26), but hear “love your enemies,” “do good to those who hate you,” “pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27--29). . . “do not judge” . . . “do not condemn” . . . “forgive to be forgiven” (v. 37) . . . and “give and lend without regard to getting anything in return” nor “demand back what was taken” (vv. 35, 38) . . . imagine those who were around those first Tables, not only hearing these words, but doing them . . .
Sometimes I think we have it way too easy at this church stuff and that has dulled our hearing . . . and flattened our doing . . . and it is no wonder our houses crash when those winds come . . . it is not enough to be hearing His word and, frankly, it is not enough just to do the word where it is easy and socially and culturally safe.
Other Luke 6 Sermon on the Plain thoughts . . .
Wasted Rough Cut: Pastor Chip’s stream of exegetical-consciousness, Luke 6:37–49, and what’s “stop judging” means
First a sermon illustration to start us off: There is an old illustration of Hell that still speaks and I think it sets up my point from Luke 6:37-49:
Hell is like a long banquet table with all sorts of food and delights, but everyone at that table is getting thiner, more gaunt, more haggard from hunger. They are starving with all that food before them. You see, the utensils they were given and had to use were six foot long chopsticks. If they’d only thought unselfishly and fed each other, no one would be starving and all would be enjoying the great banquet. Thus, the Adamic nature of the human-being and why the existence of Hell.
Now, the point of the illustration, here, is the audience of Luke’s Gospel, the listeners/readers before the text, that is, those house-churches (associated with Theophilus) with believers sitting around those tables enjoying a meal (aka breaking bread) and lifting that fourth cup of wine at the end of the supper, celebrating together and acknowledging that Jesus is Savior and King. And us, now . . . Still, for now, imagine those tables with former enemies and individuals of clashing social status all confessing Jesus is Lord, a new fellowship of unequals and strangers. Love your enemies and stop judging makes applicable, narrative sense (Luke 6:27, 37). It makes church sense.
So, let’s take a look at the text and context, beginning with Luke 6:37-38a:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you”
What do we have here? There is an obvious structure that helps us read it properly:
This whole pericope (i.e., set of commands) should be taken as one thing. Yet, still there are questions begged to be asked . . .
➤ Stop judging what? And, what will we be not judged of?
➤ Stop condemning what? And, what will we be not condemned of?
➤ Forgive [others] of what? And, what will we be forgiven of?
These are all left open-ended, unanswered by the command and promise. Most supply don’t judge sin in others and sin will not be judged of you . . . forgive others of sin and sin will be forgiven you. We might infer this, but the sentences do not demand or necessarily imply this reading.
Now, the last command . . .
➤ But . . . the “give” is already in the context and, thus, can be applied to the whole: “Give to everyone who begs [“borrows” is a far better reading] from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back” (Luke 6:30); “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return . . .” (vv. 34-35).
So, how does this help us with reading and applying this element of the Sermon on the Plain? Pretty much most see the judging and condemning related, as I mentioned, to sin--you know, don’t judge the sins in others (i.e., the specs) before you deal with the sins in you (i.e., the logs/beams). Nothing in the text nor the context warrants this reading. However, something else is within range. Let me suggest: there is a social and cultural association/relationship implied that I believe we can reasonably and appropriately infer.
We have the “poor” and the “rich” already referenced in the Beatitudes (vv. 20-26) and there are the references to “enemies” (v. 27b), “those who hate you” (v. 27c), “those who curse you” (v. 28b), “those who abuse you” (v. 28b), “the one who strikes you on the cheek” (v. 29a) and “the one who takes away your cloak” (v. 29b), including “the one who begs from you” (v. 30a) and the “one who takes away from you” (v. 30b), and, especially, there is the patronage giving-lending-for-return (vv. 32-35)–all pointing to social and cultural castes of relationships (very much the poor/rich referents mentioned in the Beatitudes). . . this “giving” et al. idea is drawn into this set of instructions (as already pointed out above), which, based on how the instructions is structured, infers to the whole (all of the commands). Simply: stop judging-stop-condemning-start forgiving-start giving is an extension of “love your enemies . . . do good to those who hate you, which leads to the give/lend expecting nothing in return.”
Seriously, this reading actually solves the “poor” and the “rich” referents . . . and supplies how it is the “poor” and the “rich” are now breaking bread together as members of the family of God (around those tables).
There is a social and cultural shift amid the new community of God in Christ Jesus around those tables—something both attitudinally (i.e., renewed in mind) and concretely (i.e., a behavior, a lifestyle that is) different, wholly distinctive about this community of Jesus followers. There is something missionally different (and imperative) and something intrinsically different (relationally), even something ontologically unalike the social and cultural milieu (the social location, what makes the empire adhere and maintain, the tiers of human hierarchy) that surrounds the church–these congregations, these tables, these local, neighborhood house-churches are a new creation, unlike anything else now or before.
Missionally important because this redemption in Christ is for all people—using Paul’s language in Romans 1, for the elite-Greek, barbarian, Jew, educated and uneducated; using Luke’s (i.e., Jesus’) the poor and the rich, the beggar/borrower and the lender. The message itself (i.e., the gospel), those to whom the message was to be shared (missional importance), and the new relationships at those tables need to match, align. Thus, enemies are also to be loved—out-there among those to whom this gospel would offend and threaten, these cultural enemies. First, all made visible at those tables of gathered Jesus followers (i.e., disciples). And, made outwardly relevant by doing the same among neighbors and in the community.
Can’t reach and minister to those whom you are judging and condemning—and I take this to mean socially and culturally judging and condemning (given the narrative context) . . . and as such among the socially and culturally unacceptable* (read both ways—poor to rich, rich to poor) that we are to love, do good, forgive, lend, give) . . . and this gospel is made visible and real around those tables throughout the local house-churches. It seems, given the diversity at those tables and the new rules (if you will) of who can and should be at the table, there would indeed be a need to stop judging/condemning and a whole lot of forgiveness to go around and new patterns of giving to be had. There is no privilege (or patronage) at that table. There is no cursed at that table. Only new relationships in Christ.
Given that the Sermon on the Plain ends with the house parable, which speaks to the actual house-church-settings (Paul uses the same in Ephesians 2) and is about discipleship, specially listening to (meaning, obeying) Jesus’ words—those who hear and does them—what I have proposed here seems a good, reasonable (exegetically, narratively, and contextually) faithful reading of the Luke text regarding “judging” et al. And, thus easily and significantly applied to our own church fellowships and witness (mission).
*socially and culturally unacceptable are those in castes that are despised, shunned, hated, outside blood-lines, social groups, vocationally loathed, economically reviled, and religiously held in contempt (of which the Christians because of whom they follow and because of this new socially destructive teaching would also find themselves)--this can, nonetheless, be applied (i.e., done) reciprocally from one group/caste to the other and visa versa.
Other Sermon on the Plain Wasted Blog thoughts
*The following is a set of sermon prep-notes and ideas for my sermon on Jesus' Beatitudes as Luke presents them in his Gospel.
I am amazed, and saddened as well, the lengths Christians, even commentators, will go to read out the “poor” in a vast majority of Bible texts that are so clear and should be necessarily inferred as actual poor. This robs this text in Luke 6 of its gospel-transforming-power, especially with regard to Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes.
In Luke 6:20b we read, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Below I offer my own translation of this verse.)
One would think a learned degree is not necessary to hear Luke sets Jesus’ reference to the “poor” in contrast to his equally disturbing reference to the “rich” in what is obviously a paralleled statement in Luke 6:24: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” In fact, it is much harder to spiritualize Jesus’ reference to the “rich” than it is his reference to the “poor.” This can be seen by the fact hardly anyone does.
Luke’s Gospel is filled with such contrasting of the poor and the rich in Jesus’ teachings and in forthcoming parables that we cannot escape something about actual “rich” and actual “poor” is afoot. For example, in Luke 16:20, Jesus compares the poor beggar with the rich man who disregards the beggar only to discover the poor beggar is the one who is blessed in heaven while he was filled (satisfied) on earth: “but now he [the poor beggar] is comforted here [after death], and you [the rich man] are in anguish [after death]” (16:25b). Certainly, given the wider narrative context, there is a link (i.e., a clear and necessary inference) between the “Blessed are . .” and the “But woe to you . . .” contrasted sets in the Luke 6 Beatitudes. This poor/rich contrast is also seen in Luke 21:2, when Luke/Jesus refers to a “poor widow” in contrast to the rich and the pompous pharisees.
Later, in Luke 7:22, the proof that Jesus is the messiah and that the kingdom of God had arrived is given by observing what was happening in Jesus’ ministry:
“And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.’”
Again, in Jesus’ parable of the great feast in Luke 14, the rich are instructed to not invited those who can repay, but invite the poor who cannot repay–again, here is that link to the Luke 6 Beatitudes. (There is also a narrative link to the forthcoming poor beggar/rich man scene in Luke 16 as well.)
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13).
Even when the context and the clear narrative meaning of the text is referencing the actual poor there is a tendency to read out the poor and read in anyone who is “poor of heart.” That certainly keeps the rich satisfied and the poor, well, still poor. This disallows the obvious social/institutional system-contrast Luke has already set up for us in his introduction, that is Mary’s song:
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty (Luke 1:52-53).
Thus, restoring the gospel-transforming-power we have robbed from the Beatitudes by reading out the poor from this text.
Luke 6:20b: Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.
ESV: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
My wooden translation: “Flourishing*, the poor (the marginal and powerless), because allotted to you** is the kingdom of God.”
Smoothed out: “Flourishing is the marginal and powerless, because to you—the marginal and powerless—is allotted the Kingdom of God.”
I try to pay attention to how early church writers render texts of Scripture. Tertullian (155 AD–220 AD) gave Luke 6:20 and this Beatitude the latin beati mendici—“Blessed are the needy,” or “Blessed are the beggars.” He is not the only one who translated the word πτωχοί as “beggar.”
While it (i.e., “πτωχοί,” poor) can and probably does simply mean the “poor” (its detonated meaning), its connotative meaning gives a more powerful nuance. For example: The word we translate “poor,” πτωχοί is vivid: one who crouches (as in shamed to be seen) and cringes (as in cowering in the presence of others), thus it is often used of “beggars.” No doubt it carries the concrete reference to someone who is needy, someone who has no power, someone we typically call “marginal” and powerless in society, and in the ancient world one who would have been called “not-or sub-human.”
The two times Luke uses this word associated with a particular person are the beggar named Lazarus (being contrasted with the rich man who had everything and disregarded Lazarus, 16:20) and the poor widow vs. the rich/the duplicitous scribes (21:2)—can’t you see what Luke is doing between the Beatitude promise/affirmations and the wider story in his Gospel narrative? There are more of these throughout the Gospel (see chapter 14 for example).
The word we typically render the “poor” (πτωχοί) is better understood by how it is used. While it is certainly can be used metaphorically to mean humble,*** or as a Christian virtue, or still better, more simply, as not-arrogant, there is a reason why this word can be used this way. The word has a concrete meaning range of someone without economic means, who is marginal and powerless–again, this is why the word “beggar” isn’t a stretch and certainly fits Luke’s other uses of the word throughout his Gospel. And, it also fits the extremes of the power/powerlessness contrasts that Luke uses to describe the arrival of Messiah and the teachings/parables Jesus uses throughout Luke’s Gospel: beggar (the least and the most without power) vs. the rich (or the mighty, those who have the resources but do not share with the poor, and/or those who do only to/for those who can pay back). You can see how Luke has shaped his Gospel and why it seems a necessary inference to take “the poor” in the Beatitude as exactly that, the poor as in the marginal and powerless.
*”Flourishing” is a far better translation for Μακάριοι than either “blessed” or “happy.”
**The “you” is a bigger word than the simple pronoun σύ (you), but as you can see is the word ὑμετέρα, which carries the idea of “allotted to you” or “possessed by you.” Split hairs which nuance, but since this is God’s action or promise I lean toward the nuance of “allotted.”
***In the Greek world, the nuanced meaning of “humble” or as a Christian virtue is a much later connotative meaning given this word, πτωχοί, and should not be read back in to how Luke is using the “poor” / “rich” contrast and comparison.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (Luke 6:22).
While I agree these words are directed at disciples, who will become Jesus’ representatives (probably the meaning behind “on account of the Son of Man,” v. 22e), the description here plays double-duty. Obviously (because we have the whole of the NT to give us fuller understanding) just because one is “poor” or “hungry” or weeping (probably all three is one group), this does not mean they do not need to be born again or qualifies them as automatically born again (something that needs to happen in order for sins to be forgiven, be justified before God, and gain eternal life). Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that “crowd” who came for healing and exorcism would not have been the ones honored nor socially accepted in either the Greco-Roman world nor the Jewish world for that matter. They'd have been the truly marginalized, rejected, and considered sub-human.
“. . . a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured” (Luke 6:17c–18).
They would have too easily identified with being hated, being excluded (separated, marginalized, rejected, avoided, ostracize), being reviled, and shunned. The dirty, shameful words trigger: diseased and possessed of unclean spirits. This was their lot, their place in the social castes and institutional systems of the world.
The “apostles” that were just chosen (6:13-16), along with the “great crowd of his disciples” (v. 17b), whom the sermon is directed (v. 20), while the larger crowd was listening in—the teaching was very public (and outdoors I might point out!)—they would be as marginalized as the ones who came for healing and who troubled with unclean spirits. Jesus’ appointed representatives (the apostles) and followers (the wider crowd of disciples) would be the poor, the hungry, and those weeping—everything would be turned on its head and the world, its social structure and institutions would hate, marginalize, revile, and spurn those who were truly the blessed, that is the apostles and disciples of Jesus who followed Him and proclaimed this teaching—all on account of being the representatives of the Son of Man, those whom Jesus was reproducing Himself in the world. Yet it would be to them the kingdom belongs, their stomachs would be full (satisfied), and fulled with joy.
The appearance of Messiah Jesus and the proclamation of the Gospel—as Jesus’ inaugural sermon indicated (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6-7)—changes everything about how the systems and structures of this world work (cf. Luke 1:51-53). This is what the beatitudes indicate and mean–and how they should be applied.
However, we have traded this all away by making the church (and by that I mean churches and their institutionalized systems) reproduce the world in everything from measures of success to leadership and training to evangelism and (sadly) in our ways of doing and measuring being missional. Discipleship, too often, mimics how the world works rather than what the Beatitudes display.
Lastly, discipleship is not one size fits all. The way Luke has presented Jesus’ Beatitudes is more to expose the structural and systemic, institutionalized empire (Rome-centered, adamic natured) way of defining who is and who is not blessed, who is and who is not honored, who is and who is not fully (or at all) human. What divides humanity. And, addresses the danger of using the world’s way of addressing the issues of poverty and affluence. Take the poor out of Jesus’ reference to the poor and this is lost. This–that is, the Beatitudes are not about “salvation” (that is getting into the Kingdom of God), but about what the new community of God looks like, how it’s system, if you will, works. And this means applying discipleship somewhat (not entirely, but in some specifics) differently to rich disciples and poor disciples.
The way to blessing (i.e., kingdom flourishing) is not the way of the world–it is a wholly other way (or as the title of a book I am reading puts it, not the way of the dragon, but the way of the Lamb). Christianity, that is our faith in Christ and our relationship to the church, is not a pathway to success (that is being one of the “rich”). And, our present power granted to us by our place or status in the social structure and current institutions no longer defines us and our neighbors. If one is among the “rich” one best rethink their relationship to the poor and adjust appropriately.
Other Sermon on the Plain Wasted Blog thoughts
Sermon prep for this Sunday’s message from 2 Chronicles 18 . . . Ahab, Jehoshaphat, the 400 false-prophets, and Micaiah . . . the dangers of giving the true Word from the Lord . . .
2 Chronicles 18:25-27
And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son, and say, ‘Thus says the king, Put this fellow in prison and feed him with meager rations of bread and water until I return in peace.’” And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”
These words here have always struck me.
Impressed something important on me.
Especially as a preacher.
I have been—in the last 40+ years as a Christian—around those (way too many) who either have been “given a Word from God” or have been the giver of “a Word from God.” Not just preachers either, but also among friends or just one to another. This has always struck me as well—as very arrogant to say the least or very dangerous at the most (probably both). I have never once, however, heard someone “giving that Word” say what Micaiah said at the end of his scene before Ahab. Never. In most cases, the word given has no risks for the giver. None.
Yet, as a giver of a Word—at least on Sunday mornings and also in advise and counsel—I need to approach with caution and a willingness to be at risk in someway and be willing to pay a price if necessary. Some make riches and fame off their preaching. I have not been so privileged. But, I do hope I am closer to Micaiah in my willingness and intention to give of God’s Word to others no matter the cost.
Hey, did you ever notice that there is no mention of Micaiah getting out of that prison cell after the battle and after Ahab was killed and died . . . as far as we know from the story, still in that cell . . . that is the risk of giving a (real, true) Word from God as it should be . . . I pray I am willing and, when presented the opportunity, enduring . . .
Read my previous Wasted Sermon Prep notes on 2 Chronicles 18 . . . >>
Since I started, even as an interim, in 2014, the first two Sundays of the year focused on committing ourselves to reading our Bible's more and being more intentional in our daily prayer lives. This Sunday–the emphasis on reading our Bibles more–I am slightly taking a different tack. I am preaching from one of my favorite OT stories on Sunday, 2 Chronicles 18–the focus is listening to God's Word.
2 Chronicles 18 presents a scene where the kings of Israel (Ahab) and of Judah (Jehoshaphat) are sitting court together in the Northern Kingdom seeking advice from Ahab's advisors, so-called prophets of the king's court. The 400 fake prophet-advisors to king Ahab were all affirming the king would defeat Syria in battle: "Go," they said. Actually, they were sending him to his death. All 400 of them.
The 401st prophet-advisor, Micaiah, is summoned. Ahab knows full well that he’d get the truth, the word from the Lord, but a word he would hate. Micaiah comes before king Ahab, yet, he doesn’t tell him not to go, but simply tells him soon Israel will be without a king, without a shepherd to guide the people. In this way, the true prophet with the true Word foretells what is about to happen when the king does what the 400 fable-prophets all affirm. The Word actually speaks to the issue of Ahab's heart.
What Micaiah was foretelling—aka, the word of the Lord—was that Ahab would listen to his fake-prophets and get killed in Battle. So many of us want a “word” that affirms what we want to do already—not necessarily specifically to a certain thing, but as to our pride, our peer-affirmation, what’s prosperous or safe, what makes us bigger, better, more awesome in the eyes of others. Yet, the Word we need from God is that Word that breaks our sin and causes us to return to the God that makes covenant, that restores our life--other people's lives actually, since it is the people in this story that will be affected by the king's death.
The whole incident with Ahab, the 400 false-prophets and Micaiah was for the benefit of Jehoshaphat and later readers (like us), especially future kings–the story reminded that it is vital to remain faithful to the covenant, listen to the original ten-words and the covenant stipulations, and to not be entangled with foreign affairs (that is, making covenant with ungodly foreign, covenant-breaking nations). In part, the message to Jehoshaphat was clear and understood for the following chapters he enacts reforms to bring the southern kingdom back into conformity to the covenant with YHWH (thus, strengthening what I have proposed here regarding the Chronicler's intention).
So, the questions remains—what do we hear in the story? Do we continue seeking affirmation for actions that will build, sustain, and/or promote our desires, greed, pride, status? Or, do we seek God’s already revealed Word that humbles us and makes for a relationship with God on his terms? Whom do we identify with? Ahab? Jehoshaphat? On the one hand we should recognize we are like Ahab--thus humbling ourselves before God--and on the other hand, we are to be like Jehoshaphat in trusting God and refocusing ourselves on God's covenant so that others would benefit (again, this is in this story and in the following chapters!)
That’s the message for the New Year.
Continued sermon prep stream of Pastor Chip's consciousness . . . >>
It matters with whom you are believing and confessing: there is no believing without confessing together as a local church
Here's the rub: it's not just simply believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confessing that Jesus is Lord, but with whom you are believing with and confessing together with that matters.
There is a remarkable interchange between Aslan and one of the children getting ready to embark on a dangerous, yet important journey. In C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, Aslan, the Christ-like figure in the story, is speaking rather seriously to Jill. It was important, crucial for her to remember these signs that will guide her on her perilous quest to rescue the Prince Rilian. She must cling to Aslan’s words and follow the signs that he gave her:
. . . first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.
Remember the signs.
True, our text, Romans 10:5-13, is not explicitly about signs . . . but it is, actually, in the two marks of faith, signs if you will, that are given: believing and confessing. Signs that signify! My parallel in using Aslan’s words to Jill in Lewis’ The Silver Chair also isn’t apparent . . . so let me explain before we get to the text itself.
First, believing and confessing are indeed the marks (signs) of a believing community and these signs are true and should to be true of the house-churches in Rome:
These are the two signs—they are clear on the mountain top (that is, in theology and, perhaps, in our belief systems), but they won’t be so clear in the thick air of the valley (in the mundane and crises of life). The two signs: believing God raised Jesus from the dead and confessing that Jesus is Lord. Sounds so easy. So simple. Especially living and breathing in a nation and within a place and time when church seems so normal and natural and pretty easily defined. But, actually, not so much. Certainly not so easy in that first setting, the city capital of the world, Rome. Believing that God raised that traitor—that man crucified on that Roman cross. Being raised from the dead was incredibly naïve and ridiculously dangerous in an Empire where people stayed dead once they were declared guilty of treason and put to open shame on a Roman cross. And, confessing this One raised from the dead—confessing out-loud, in public, in the lifting of that fourth cup at that supper meal—that Jesus is Lord is not only scandalous, it was treason against Caesar (for he was to be confessed as Lord). This believing and confessing was dangerous—and if you didn’t see this and hear this believing and confessing happening, well, it wasn’t church. It wasn’t a church.
This is one certain place where the Christian life cannot, biblically, be lived apart from a local, concert, embodied group of believers—a church. A “confessing” Christian simply cannot confess apart from others, others who are seated around that table. In fact, there is no believing without confessing and there is no confessing without being a part of a local, concrete body of believers, a church.
We are believing, not as individuals, not as disembodied, church-less Christians, but as confessing Christians together that Jesus is Lord . . . and who is around this table, that is, who is supposed to be around that table: the elite-Greek, Barbarian, Jew, the educated and the uneducated . . . this is Paul’s point to the house-churches in Rome—this is Paul’s point to us in Romans 10:9-13:
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Why is there no distinction between Jew and Greek? Why is there no distinction between the Jew and the elite-Greek, the barbarian, the educated and the uneducated (cf. Romans 1:14), because God’s solution to our sin is not out of reach for anyone. Why is it found in our believing that God raised Him from the dead and by us confessing that Jesus is Lord . . . why? . . . because “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Everyone—the elite-Greek, barbarian, Jew, educated and uneducated. (Feel free to translate that string into today’s population, social, and cultural, dividing, and separating demographics.)
While we often use this text—and the next regarding sending preachers (10:14ff.)—as witnessing texts, evangelizing texts, they are not used in this way here in Romans 10 nor are they used for the house-churches in Rome to evangelize; but to help promote unity among the house-churches in Rome . . . how so? First, the unwelcomeness (Romans 14-15) among the house-churches in Rome between classes of people (social and cultural), it disavowed, negated what Paul is saying about the “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”
We, too often, gather in worship together like NOT EVERYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved . . . it looks like in our gathering as church, in our supper-room, around the table, that only “our kind,” only our friends and peers, only those in our political party, only those we’d want our children to marry, only those on this side of the rail-road tracks (as it were), this side of town . . . only these are who call upon the name of the Lord who will be saved. This is the context and purpose of Romans, and is a fair and appropriate reading of the significance of Paul’s words concerning “believing” and “confessing.”
The early church would not have had to fence the table and, in fact, we do not see them doing that amid the New Testament testimony. Strangely, most of the supper-rooms where the first Christians gathered would have been public or at least semi-public where outsiders could see what was happening . . . and, thus, to participate in the Lord’s supper, surrounded at that table by fellow-Jesus-followers from differing classes, genders, age groups, slaves and masters would have been crazy unless you actually believed that God raised Jesus from the dead; for you were confessing with these strangers and unequals that Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord.
This crazy mixed company of peoples, believing and confessing together was the sign that it was all true—the gospel and the church were all true.
Significance Before Application (Mark 3:14–15): The Mark 3 Commission and Its Implications for Social Action, Part 7
Significance: Determine Analogous Obedience
The narrative and programmatic significance of both “preaching” and “casting” indicate that the content of the to preach(v. 14c) component of the Mark 3 commission is the authority to cast out the demons (v. 15). This is grammatically and syntactically allowable and is affirmed by how Mark crafted his narrative. Reading the commission in this way challenges a narrowly defined, verbal- and cognitive-based understanding of evangelistic activities. As fisher-followers, the church’s paradigm for evangelism is found in the Mark 3 commission, which indicates that Christians and the Christian community should include evangelistic activities that confront Satan’s dominion over the realms of humankind and that reorient those realms to reflect the inaugural presence of God’s kingdom. Thus, the task of “casting” corresponds to any analogous obedience (i.e., application) that confronts what is contrary to God’s design for living in the land and that demonstrates how God’s rule affects the realms of humankind.
In order to move appropriately from text to application, there should be a correspondence between the meaning of the text, its significance to the readers/listeners, and the action taken that indicates obedience to the text. For the church in front of the text, the significance of the Mark 3 commission is our alignment with and commitment to the mission of Jesus (1:14–15) and to exercise Jesus’ authority through actions that demonstrate, concretely and evidentially, that God’s rule and reign has entered time and space. Certainly, as the whole of the NT indicates, evangelism includes proclamation (i.e., verbal- and cognitive-based activities of communication) that presents the information of the Good News, announcing and explaining that the kingdom is near. Yet, such proclamation is not the end of evangelism. Mark’s Gospel narrative as a whole and the Mark 3 commission specifically indicate there is also to be a resultant consequence of the “preaching,” another viable mode of language, namely the doing of deed-parables. As parables revealed the mysteries of the kingdom, deed-parables evidence (i.e., have outcomes that indicate) the undoing of Satan’s power over the affairs of humankind (Mark 3:27) and, as a result, seek to reorient people and the world back toward God’s rightful dominion (an underlying significance of the Mark 4 parable of the mustard seed, vv. 30–32).
Evangelism is the spread of the gospel, the seed sown (Mark 4), which according to Mark’s narrative is dynamically linked to the end of Satan’s dominion and the inauguration of God’s rule and reign. This is what biblical evangelism looks like: as Jesus’ “casting” action demonstrated the end of the strongman-Satan’s kingdom and the arrival of God’s kingdom—visible and evidential acts that indicate the time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near (1:15a, author’s translation)—so, for the church seeking to obey this text, the significance of the “casting” component of the Mark 3 commission is the continuation of Jesus’ mission to confront the powers that oppose God’s dominion. Therefore, as indicated by the fisher-promise’s association to OT contexts that include the issues of poverty and, as well, the implications of the Mark 12 poor widow episode (12:38–44), applications for “casting” should include advocating for those affected by poverty.
Separating social action from evangelism is an unwarranted dualism
As I demonstrated in chapter 3 (“You Will Appear as Fishers”), the Mark 3 commission is the inaugural fulfillment and premiere application of the Mark 1:17 fisher-promise. The fisher role is related to God’s judgment and action toward people and structures that distort God’s creation from his design and reign over it, which includes advocacy for those affected by the issues of poverty and injustice. This allows evangelism, that is, the sowing of the word/gospel to also include the realm of social action, which demonstrates God’s rule and dominion over the realms of society and people that impact the poor and economically vulnerable. This is supported by antecedent OT material related to the economically vulnerable that is associated with the judgment role of fisher-followers. This implies that the Mark 3 commission (3:14–15), to some extent, should be associated at the application level with social action, which is legitimate obedience for following Jesus Christ and for being faithful to the gospel. Therefore, obedience to the Mark 3 commission includes “applications, activities, and outcomes of social action and justice”[x-ref] that should be an intentional component of a church’s or Christian community’s evangelistic activities, which is, at least in part, the fisher-follower’s task.
The obedience (i.e., application) and the desired outcomes analogous to the purpose and intent of the commission to have authority to cast are those which demonstrate God’s reign and rule. Separating social action from evangelism is an unwarranted dualism that is alien to the gospel as Mark presents it in his narrative and, as well, to the wider biblical record. As proclaiming the kingdom’s arrival was demonstrated by Jesus’ deed-parables (i.e., castings, healings, miracles), the evangelistic task of the church is to include analogous activities that indicate the presence of God’s rule and reign. This also makes redemptive-historical sense of the authority to cast out the demons (Mark 3:15) as a display of the all-encompassing arrival of God’s kingdom: God in Jesus Christ has reconciled all things to Himself (Col 1:20) and with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Eph 1:10).
Social action that reflects God’s design for living in the land—social action, that is, that demonstrates his reign and his righteousness that is to be expressed among people—is the responsibility of faithful fisher-followers of Jesus, God’s Messiah-King. Consequently, evangelistic activities of the church ought to seek to ensure that the economically vulnerable and the poor (i.e., the land-less) are full participants in the benefits of living in the land. In other words, as Mark’s narrative richly portrays the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1), social action outcomes should be included as a component of a church’s task of evangelism.
 The concept of “living in the land” is borrowed from Walter Brueggemann (The Land), who uses the terminology to refer how the Israelites were to live in the land of promise as neighbors, where everyone is to benefit from living in the land; the land-laws and covenant-stipulations governed how they were to live “in the land” together, specifically being mindful of the economically vulnerable and the poor. Although I am using it in a contemporary sense—Americans living in America—I am borrowing the idea that everyone, the rich, the poor, the middle class, all neighbors to some extent are “living in the land.”
 Note the final discussion on this parable (i.e., the mustard bush) in chapter 2, “Wasted Evangelism.”
 Refer back to chapter 1, “Widows in Our Courts,” for a biblical illustration how both people and systems can cause others to live with the effectsof poverty; additionally, review the OT texts that juxtapose idolatry with poverty in chapter 5 (“Idolatry and Poverty”).
 This is the argument of chapter 3, “You will Appear as Fishers.”
Significance Before Application (Mark 3:14–15): The Mark 3 Commission and Its Implications for Social Action, Part 6
The mission summary frames the Mark 3 commission
My syntactical conclusion developed above—the authority to cast out the demons (3:15) is the content of to preach (v. 14c)—is made more evident by the Mark 3 commission’s link to the Mark 1:14–15 mission summary: “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
The geographic identifier--Jesus came into Galilee (1:14b)—indicates that these two verses form a summary for the Galilean ministry that runs from the fisher-promise--And He was going along the Sea of Galilee . . . Jesus said to them, “Come follow (after) Me and I will create you to become fishers . . . ” (1:16–17, author’s translation)—through 9:33–49, a teaching episode set in the Galilean town of Capernaum (9:33). These geographic bookends focus the mission summary at a literary level on Jesus’ Galilean ministry, forming an underlying relationship between “preaching the gospel of God” (1:14c) and Jesus’ teaching and actions emplotted throughout the narrative. Furthermore, the central role of Jesus’ casting-ministry is also clearly established by a casting-event bracket, first at the opening of the Galilean ministry (1:21–27) and, then, at the close (9:38–41) as Jesus begins turning his attention toward Jerusalem and the soon approaching passion. This bracketing affirms the importance of “casting” activities in the Galilean section of the Gospel narrative: the first time Jesus “came preaching the gospel of God” (1:14c) in Galilee involved an exorcism (1:21–28) and at the close of the Galilean ministry even those outside the inner-circle, who acted out the mission of Jesus, are associated with “casting” (9:38–41).
Mark 1:14–15 is clearly a summary and it functions as a programmatic and interpretative lens for his Gospel narrative and for the ministry of Jesus that was carried out through both teaching and miracle that reveal the nature and significance of the kingdom that has come near (1:15). The content of the gospel of God (v.14c) is epexegetically explained in 1:15. The gospel that has come from God (1:14c) is defined by each element in verse 15, clarifying God’s decisive action in the appearance of his Son. The mission summary is composed of two parts: first, an indication that Jesus had preached “the gospel of God” (v. 14); then, the content of that preaching (v. 15). The Mark 3 commission follows the same pattern set by Mark 1:14–15.
The gospel of God (1:14–15) and the Mark 3 commission both are announcement in which the content is the arrival of the kingdom of God and, as well, its implications.
The content of the gospel of God (1:14) that Jesus preached is summarized in declarations (v. 15) that Mark has carefully balanced, forming two pairs of statements “each constructed in synthetic parallelism.”
The first pair are declarative statements, each containing a perfect indicative verb that implies a completed action that continues in effect; the second are present imperatives—commands—that flow from the declarations. The first indicative is the time has been fulfilled, which corresponds to the first imperative “repent.” The second indicative is the kingdom of God has come near, which corresponds to the second imperative “believe.” The meaning is rather straightforward: the time of the old age has been completed (cf. this present evil age, Gal 1:4), that is, the time under Satan’s dominion has come to its eschatological end; and, the time of God’s kingdom has now been inaugurated, reorienting the realms of humankind to reflect his right to reign and rule. The pattern established in 1:14–15 is exactly what happens throughout the Galilean ministry and is reflected in the Mark 3 commission.
Timing and the evangelistic task of fisher-followers
The question of timing is relevant, for the summary (Mark 1:14–15) informs us that both the time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near (author’s translation). Discussions regarding the “time” fulfilled and the “nearness” of the kingdom typically focus on chronology: do these references indicate present or future events? Mark, however, uses the word kairos (time) to indicate a decisive moment (12:2; 13:33) or a span of current time (i.e., a season; 10:30; 11:13). Mark’s use of near (eggizo centers on proximity (11:1; 14:42). These are significant observations, for at the literary level, Mark’s narrative portrait of Jesus’ “preaching of the Gospel of God” (1:14c) and its content (v. 15) parallel his immediate and proximate actions during the Galilean ministry: the end of Satan’s dominion and the inaugural reign of God are demonstrated in Jesus’ authority to cast out demons and through his other miracles as well.
A number of interrelated events follow the mission summary that stress arrival (i.e., the kingdom has come near). This is a function of the following miracle stories, particularly the casting, that demonstrate “God’s rule had entered into history.” The weight of the narrative parts (i.e., the episodes, stories, and events throughout the narrative) indicates the timing is immediate in Jesus’ ministry and, then, will continue through the authority to cast granted to the fisher-followers (3:15; 6:7), who are commissioned to imitate Jesus’ mission. This fits the use of the perfect indicative verbal expressions in the mission summary (peplerotai, has been fulfilled; eggiken, has come near), the subsequent narrative (i.e., the Galilean ministry), and the Mark 3 commission. The kingdom of God is the substance of the created fisher-followers’ evangelistic activities, not solely as proclamation, but primarily their actions (i.e., their deeds), which continuously reveal the kingdom’s nearness. Like the word sowed by the Master Sower in the Mark 4 parables and Jesus’ kingdom-deeds (i.e., deed-parables), this, too, is the evangelistic task of fisher-followers.
The significance of the Mark 3 commission
It is not coincidental that the fisher-promise (1:17) follows the mission summary (1:14–15), for the Mark 3 commission is the inaugural fulfillment of the fisher-promise and echoes the pattern set forth in the mission summary. The “casting” episodes act as indicators that the time has been fulfilled and the kingdom has come near (1:15), for Jesus is already invading Satan’s territory. The role of fisher-followers is to imitate Jesus’ activities: as Jesus was the premier inaugurator of the kingdom of God, thus ending Satan’s dominion, which is demonstrated through casting, so, also, the fisher-followers (3:15). This is the significance of the Mark 3 commission: to be obedient to the commission, then, is to develop authoritative application through analogous deeds that demonstrate the defeat of Satan’s kingdom and that reorient both people and the world toward God’s dominion.
The final interpretive summary (III) below gives a sense of this fuller understanding of the Mark 3 commission and its significance for the reader/listener today:
 The Mark 1:14–15 text here reflects my translation of the Greek, which will be used throughout the remainder of this section, unless otherwise noted.
 Although most limit the Galilean ministry to Mark 1–6 (note for example Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, 41; Witherington, Gospel of Mark, 77), it appears that it continues through to Mark 9, which is indicated by the geographic bookends.
 Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, 43.
 Regarding the phrase to euaggelion tou theou (the gospel of God, Mark 1:14c), the genitive tou theou (of God, Mark 1:14c) is most likely used ambiguously by Mark to mean both the Gospel about God (objective genitive) and the gospel from God (subjective genitive). Nonetheless, here I indicate that the phrase to mean “the gospel from God” emphasizing God’s action in Christ Jesus, his appearance and ministry (e.g. see France, Gospel of Mark, 91).
 Lane, Gospel According to Mark, 63–64; Witherington, Gospel of Mark, 77.
 Along with Mark 1:14–15, the Mark 3:14–15 reference here reflects the author’s translation.
 Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, 41; also Marcus, Mark 1–8, 175.
 See Marcus, Mark 1–8, 175; this gird reflects the author’s translation of Mark 1:15.
 On this I follow Marcus, who has a good discussion on the meaning of the mission summary (Mark 1–8, 173–76).
 Ibid., 46.
From the Greek geek (be patient, it's a rough cut): While most translations of Romans 12:9-13 are just fine, some nuances are lost (as those who speak other than English sometimes say) in translation. Here’s one . . . from verse 9 that’s worth noting.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9, ESV).
There are no verbs. We (even they) had to provide them, but should not be at the expense of hearing how Paul set out his written words. And, in this case (v. 9), the two following participles should be heard as “how” (thus, my “by”) “the love” is “sincere,” that is, the manner in which “love” is shown to be sincere is in abhorring evil, holding fast the good. This gives Christian (or should I should, given the context, church) love content--action. And, also noting that Paul’s consistent use afterward of a specific, repeated grammatical construction (i.e., for other Greek geeks, a string of dative phrases—again with no verbs) probably indicates what “good sincere love acts like”:
This is what church good love looks like: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints” (ESV).
Note: Of course, English versions need to iron or smooth out Greek-to-English renderings to make it more readable . . . most of our English translations, if watching all such linguistic and grammatical nuances of a language (i.e., the koine Greek of the NT) that was written to be heard and not read (so much) would be quite chopping and tiresome to just read . . . but sometimes it’s good to get at the Greek that was to be heard (and not just read).
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.