Can I say that this chapter was a challenge? In previous chapters I have noticed an overriding theme that shed light on some things that have been obscure, to me, at least, in the past. That’s probably why I have enjoyed this journey so much, and enjoyed sharing my “Aha!” moments with you. This one was hard to get a handle on.
It starts with Jesus talking about offense. He says they will definitely come. Offending “these little ones” and turning them from the truth by that offense brings deadly consequences to the offender.
Then he talks to his disciples about how to deal with those who offend them: Rebuke them! And if they repent, forgive them—right away, not later. If it happens again, repeat the process. Again and again.
This is what I found interesting. After this, the disciples decide they need a faith upload, or update. “Increase our faith!”
No wonder! That was a big order! It’ll take faith!
What follows could be taken as a description of how faith works. It doesn’t have to be massive, huge, great faith. It just has to be engaged. Put to work, much like a servant who fulfills his mandate by working on behalf of his master. (If we follow Jesus and pay attention, we’ll see how he activates his faith.)
Then Jesus turns to them and says, “So likewise, you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say, “We have done our duty,” (vs 10).
The next event in the chapter is the story of the ten lepers who saw Jesus from afar. They cried out, “Have mercy on us!” He calls back, “Go show yourself to the priests!” They did what he said, and were healed as they went. The one who returned to give thanks and worship was told, “Your faith has made you whole.”
Do you notice that there is something about “hearing and doing” that is key in this chapter? Maybe that’s our theme?
Which brings us to the last, and most challenging part of the reading today. The Pharisees, continuing their attempts to trip him up and find a reason to discredit him in front of the crowds, demanded to know his take on when the kingdom of God should come. He’s been talking about the “kingdom nigh you” for some time, and I imagine that what has been left unsaid, in their opinion, is where they thought his weakness lay.
Jesus answered them, “The kingdom doesn’t come by sight. Don’t look here or there for it. You won’t see it; the kingdom is within you.”
But then he goes on to talk about what they probably were actually asking: “When will we see the Messiah come and establish his rule?” They obviously didn’t think Jesus was the Messiah that was prophesied, so here they might have been hoping this would be his downfall—claiming to be the Messiah. So Jesus talks about the coming “days of the Son of man”—about himself—and when he would be “revealed” to the earth. From verses 24 to 37, he shared what that day would look like, how the earth would be operating at that day, and what his followers should expect and do.
Those who believe in and hope for “that day” will be watchful, and those who don’t believe will be taken by surprise, unprepared. [More detail regarding this event is given in Mathew 18]
Are you thinking, as I am, that as Jesus gets closer to leaving the earth he is giving as much information as he can—or that they can handle—regarding the full reason he came?
Is he letting us know that the salvation mentioned by Simeon in the temple accomplished more than freedom from our enemies in the short span of this life? That the sacrifice born into the earth on Christmas morning had a more magnificent purpose?
As we share the joys of Christmas this year, I pray the immensity of the Gift who came will make us even more thankful.