Saturday, July 26, 2014

According To Luke: Eternal Life

Luke 10:25-28   (NRSV)
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

From here to the end of Luke's Gospel the message gets more difficult.

For the rest of the Gospel, Luke is going to explain to us, through stories and parables what is required to follow Jesus

Last week --- as Peter identified Jesus as God's Messiah
Jesus began explaining what to the disciples what is expected of them if they want to be disciples of the Messiah

Last week we talked about four things:

1.    We have to ---Take up cross DAILY

Our cross is that difficult thing that we have chosen to do because we are God's people.
We choose a hard place, a difficult relationship, a thankless job. 
We serve on a ministry team, feed the hungry, help a neighbor. 
We do the things we DON'T HAVE TO, because we feel that is God's agenda for our lives.

2.    We have to ---Die to our own agenda

True fulfillment is found not when we indulge in our own ambitions or interests, but when we freely give up our life.

3.    Jesus asks us: What reward is there if you have everything, but you don't have God?

Jesus is reminding us that there are dimensions of life that are essential to happiness and fulfillment that are not satisfied with financial security and material wealth.

4.    Jesus tells us that --- Being a disciple is not just about professing certain words or creeds --- it is all about publicly living the Way of Jesus

We must not only say we follow Jesus --- our lives must demonstrate it.

In our lesson this morning, Jesus continues this theme, but with one significant difference, where before he was having a private conversation with his disciples, this time we are told that "a lawyer stood up to test Jesus."

And the lawyer asks an interesting question.

Once again Luke has deviated from Matthew and Mark, because in both of those parallel passages, the lawyer asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment.

But here in Luke the lawyer asks: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

In first century Judea, there were not secular and religious lawyers.
This lawyer would have been an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures

All kinds of lofty claims had just been made by and about Jesus
And this lawyer seems to want to know if Jesus can answer a rather simple question.
What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Inheritance was the reward promised to those who belonged to the covenant people.

God had promised to make them a great people, to bless them, and to give them a land

Genesis 12:1-3  (The Message)
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.
I’ll make you a great nation
        and bless you.
    I’ll make you famous;
        you’ll be a blessing.
    I’ll bless those who bless you;
        those who curse you I’ll curse.
    All the families of the Earth
        will be blessed through you.”

But this promised inheritance and not yet come to pass --- it seemed to be forever pushed into the future --- and by the time of Jesus it had become associated with the blessings of "the age to come", or God's kingdom.

In this passage, this morning, it is to be understood as life in God's kingdom, but the lawyer is testing Jesus to see how he might answer.

As is so often the case, Jesus responds to the question with one of his own.
In some ways he was challenging the honor of this lawyer.

Jesus seems to be saying:
"Isn't the answer written in the scriptures? 
And aren't you supposed to be an expert in the law? 
So tell me --- How do you read it?
How do you understand what must be done to receive the inheritance of eternal life?"

The way that Jesus asked the lawyer this question reveals to us that Jesus understood that this was not a simple question, with a simple answer.
It was a question open to interpretation ---- HOW DO YOU READ IT?
What is your interpretation?
And it had been debated for generations.

How did this lawyer understand what the scriptures said about eternal life?

The lawyer obviously knew his scripture because he quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
As I have shared with you before. 
These passages become the core --- the center of Jewish life.

In Judaism this becomes known as the Shema --- which is to be repeated twice daily.

Clearly the lawyer was very familiar with these passages.

The lawyer answers Jesus:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

These four phrases, along with the command to love your neighbor are critical to Jewish thought.

But what do they mean?

As I have said --- the rest of the Gospel According to Luke is the attempt to explain to followers of Jesus what is expected.

Thursday at the men's Bible Study we studied a passage from Luke chapter 14
It is really about the same question that the lawyer was asking.

Luke 14:25-33  (The Message)
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’

“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

Do you see the relationship between this passage and our story today?

If you want to be a disciple and thus receive the inheritance of eternal life --- what is required of you?

What do you have to do?

God's claim is over our WHOLE life

God's claim reaches every area of our experience

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind;

·         our innermost being --- heart
·         our daily lives that which makes us unique individuals --- soul
·         our energy, strength, resolve and resources --- might
·         our understanding and intellectual capacities --- mind

No part of ourselves can be withheld from God

God wants to know if we are all in or not.

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

Like I said --- Luke's Gospel gets more difficult and challenging from this point forward.

But that is not how most of us talk about ETERNAL LIFE.

When we hear the word eternal life we think about what is going to happen to us when we die.

But that really wasn't the focus for Jesus --- Jesus was more concerned about how we live NOW.

But why --- Why are we so obsessed with HEAVEN?

Many of us rushed out to see the movie --- or read the book that it was based on this past spring called: HEAVEN IS REAL

We are intrigued by the tale that is told --- of a little boy who has a near death experience and encounters Jesus.

It fills us with the assurance that when we die we will be reunited with our loved ones.
And there is nothing wrong with anticipating that

In my own cynical way, I believe that the church has been enamored with the concept of heaven and its opposite --- hell --- because the church sees itself as the gatekeeper to both heaven and hell.
If you fail to follow our rules we can excommunicate you and keep you from being reunited with your loved ones

But if you do follow our rules --- then you will be rewarded with streets of gold and heavenly mansions.

But when Jesus talked about Heaven or Eternal Life or the Kingdom of God which really are all synonymous he talked about it being a present reality. 

The Kingdom was something that is to dwell within us

But I will be honest --- it is easier --- safer --- and maybe even more satisfying to believe that Heaven or the Kingdom is something external and future --- it removes any responsibility from us.

Jesus wants to free us from those things that keep us from fully experiencing Heaven now.

And what do we have to do to inherit eternal life?

love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Next time we will look at HOW --- How in the world are we supposed to love our neighbor.

Because when we love God completely --- when we are ALL IN --- when we love our neighbor as ourselves THEN we will live.

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