Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Luke 11:29-36

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.

“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

The anti-Jesus leadership seems to have succeeded. Unwilling to accept that his power comes from God, people in Galilee and Judea murmur that his power comes from Satan. Many have chosen the side of the establishment, and many who seem to follow Jesus do so only to seek signs and wonders. From this point on, Jesus' words become more judgmental and confrontational. He still heals and reaches to the hearts of the outcasts, but he concentrates his teaching on his disciples, preparing them for what is to come.

The crowds increase. They are drawn by his miracles and the authority of his teaching. He is the greatest show in Israel. Most religious leaders would see this a a great thing. But Jesus knows their hearts. They are a wicked generation, claiming to seek a sign but ignoring the signs all around them. Compared to our society, we would think these people amazingly pious. Most followed the letter of the law. All would be utterly shocked by the norms in our world today. But despite their outward morality and cleanliness, they were decaying on the inside.  They challenge Jesus to give them a sign to prove his power is not from Satan rather than taking his words about their own sinfulness to heart. In John 15:24 Jesus said, "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sinned." They can't wrap their head around him, so he must be satanic.

He tells them that the only sign the will receive is the sign of Jonah. If you don't know his story, Jonah was a prophet who chose to run from God rather than deliver a message of conviction and repentance to the hated and evil Ninevites. He tried to run away from his mission to the landlocked city by sailing as far away as possible. God sent a massive storm that rocked his shop. When a game of dice reveals him as the reason, the crew agrees to toss him overboard. God provides a large fish to swallow him. But this proves to be his second chance as the fish vomits him onto the land after he repents. He walks through the city of Ninevah, delivering a less than stirring message that they should repent. He gets into a tiff when they repent and are not destroyed. After Jonah. the Ninevites are free from God's wrath and destruction for about 150 years.

Jonah's deliverance from the clutches of death after three days in the fish mirror the three days Jesus will spend in the tomb before his resurrection. Jesus prophesies that on the judgment day, these Ninevites will stand in judgement of his generation. After all, the entire city of Ninevah repented after Jonah's wishy washy preaching, and some people of Israel would not even repent after Jesus comes back from the dead. Instead they spread the rumor that his body was stolen by his disciples. It has to be Satan. It has to be a trick. It can't be that he is actually the Messiah, sent from the one true God.

The Queen of Sheba came to visit from what was considered the ends of the earth when she heard of King Solomon's great wisdom. According to Ethiopian tradition, and possibly legend, during this visit Solomon sired her son, Menelik I, who would become the first Emperor of Ethiopia and later bring the ark of the covenant to Ethiopia. A group of Ethiopian priests guard a replica of the temple today which they claim still contains the ark. In the biblical account, this visit seems more a meeting of heads of state. She brings gifts to Solomon; he sends gifts back with her. The Queen is enamored by Solomon's wisdom, causing her to emote in 1 Kings 10:9, "Praise the LORD your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness." Jesus says that at the day of judgment, this queen would condemn Jesus' generation as well. She traveled far to hear and believe the wisdom of Solomon; they would not believe the far greater wisdom of Jesus.

For any culture throughout history, light is necessary for life and metaphorically signifies understanding. When we finally "get" something we say, "The light went on." When we realize the error of our ways, we say, "I saw the light ". The Light of the world was with them, but the people adamantly stumbled through the darkness. It matters little how much light there is if you cannot see.

My father-in-law had surgery yesterday to remove cataracts and repair his macular degeneration. Imagine his joy when the dark spots in his vision were removed! He kept talking about all the light and bright colors he could see. Now imagine if he decided to walk around with a sleep mask on instead of enjoying his restored sight. We would think he was crazy! Yet people then and now persist in walking in darkness, unhealthy spiritually and suffering in their stubbornness. Many falsely believe themselves to be are "enlightened", but their hearts and minds are full of darkness.

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart... But you did not learn Christ in this way... in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
- Ephesians 4:17-24

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