Have you ever “binged-watched” your favorite TV series? If you have, you probably saw important themes you missed when you watched isolated episodes.
The same applies to our reading of the gospels. Each Sunday we hear snippets of a bigger story. We know these individual Gospel episodes by heart. But sometimes we don’t see the big picture.
Let’s look at the bigger story of the stories from Luke’s Gospel.
A five-month journey to Jerusalem
Do you know today we begin a 5-month journey with Luke as a guide? Over the next 20 Sundays, we hear Luke tells us stories of Jesus traveling through Galilee to Jerusalem… Luke’s Travel Narrative or the Journey to Jerusalem: (9:51–19:27)
But this is no sightseeing journey. Luke wanted to show how the followers of Christ were invited…and challenged by Jesus.
We tag along as Jesus travels through Galilee teaching his followers a new way of thinking about God’s presence in their midst. And how his teaching deepened what had been poorly understood even by those steeped in Jewish traditions.
Stories that made Jesus’ followers think
Luke underlines how Jesus reached out to outsiders, especially the downcast, women, children, the sick, the Gentiles, and even the hated Samaritans.
In each of these stories, Jesus calls his followers to change their usual way of thinking.
Each story highlights some aspect of Jesus’ challenge.
Early Christian culture wars
But something else is happening!
We overlook that Luke was writing to Gentile converts who knew little of Jewish customs but were attracted to the Good News Jesus brought.
The back story
Gentile Christians were not being accepted by the traditionalist Jewish people, especially those in Jerusalem, the ecclesiastical Rome of Luke’s day.
The traditionalists of those days said to people not raised in Jewish ways, “Wait a minute. You have to first learn to live by all the Jewish traditions. You are not real followers of Christ until you accept the 613 rules about how things have been done from the time of Moses.”
Paul was the prototype of those fiercely holding the sacred traditions of Moses.
Luke was a pastor trying to hold his flock together
For the traditionalists, Luke selected stories that pointed out Jesus’ Jewish roots. But he also affirmed the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity being in continuity with what the Jewish people believed.
In the Gospel, he lines up Jesus’ stories and actions to show continuity while at the same time pointing to the new things Jesus is teaching.
We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. What if we read the parable in light of the culture wars of the early church?
That story can be read as a message to the traditionalist. Outsiders, even your fiercest enemies sometimes live the Gospel better than you. It is a strong message. Jesus is calling everyone to think about how God is present in their midst today.
Paul after his conversion writes … “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.” There is one body of Christ… and we are each part of that body.
Luke’s big picture and guiding vision are of a unified humanity in the church that brings all of God’s children together living out of a profound belief that all are brothers and sisters who together pray “Our Father”.
As we journey today…
- Can we see the big bigger picture of our divisive culture wars in the snippets we read on Sundays?
- How can stories like the Good Samaritan speak to today’s issues of cultural polarization?
- Do you recognize “the other” as brother or sister despite differences?
Click below for an early version of this Vincentianian Mindwalk