Explorations in Theology

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Big people and small vision

Probably the wrong title

I was involved in hosting a small group on zoom last night where, with our combined wisdom and knowledge of everything important, we took on a look at Luke and his political emphasis, with a ‘so what does this mean?’ kind of tentative conclusions. I enjoyed and benefitted from it, though cannot speak for the others who were involved.

Before my very clever post for today, just a note that when we use the word ‘political’ in the context of above / the Bible we are not thinking of political party, nor of focusing the word into politics as we know it today – national, regional or local. It really is the whole of a contribution to how society is and interrelates. In the context of Luke (and so of Paul) it is seeking to discover the vision they had to see a one-world dominating system be transformed into a society where one and all can prosper in their humanity.

The title of the post? Yes… seems that’s the way round we get it. Only the gifted will prosper, and the vision extends to… but never extends to the whole world being transformed, or at least the whole world being transformed through the honouring of the other, the promotion of ‘love your neighbour’. No I am not talking of the ‘social gospel’ but of the political gospel that proclaims a re-ordering of the whole world, through a core who are living from heaven, those who are ‘like the wind’, unpredictable.

I am convinced the title is wrong. It should be something like crazy, totally unrealistic, are you really out of your mind, level of vision, and who do you think you are. Are you serious? Maybe your much learning has driven you crazy (that was addressed to Paul, not the rest of us!!)…?

I cannot read the NT without thinking, hold on a minute I am not sure I can go there. Certainly I don’t think someone could make it up, or if was made up it would never have legs to travel anywhere. It really blows a hole in the whole pessimism that so often the eschatologies we grew up with / read books on. Seems rather than a message of antiChrist coming in to Christ’s space, we really have Jesus as Messiah came into antiChrist’s space. I think a little better / a lot better approach.

And then it is small people. Now I can breathe. Me / you. And the whole of life is political – I sow where I want the world to go… How I treat the guy I met on the street this morning sleeping in his cardboard box, who does not know where he came from – Russia or Ukraine he told me. What can I do? Small people, like me, feel disempowered as we do not know what to do. But maybe I can start with ‘humanising’ him. Political.

In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

When some [Matthew indicates this at least includes the disciples] were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Luke 20… 21, with comments and emphasis added.

What a passage! Take out the chapter division and here we have a few interesting developments:

  • Religious leaders, who (by default / design) devour widows’ houses.
  • He also saw a poor widow.
  • The impressive temple – occupying around 1/4 of the land that made up the city of Jerusalem, and even among the elite of Rome it was marked as being full of splendour and glory.
  • A remarkable prophecy!

I actually consider that the prophetic was released by what Jesus saw, released by the widow’s act. To prophesy the end of Jerusalem as was might have been expected. John the Baptist was certainly on track with that, the High Priest was worried about that, after the time of Jesus, the historian Josephus was well aware that this was a distinct possibility… but not one stone on another? That really pushed it, but here it is ‘adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God‘ and those beautiful stones were going to be totally dislocated.

We love to be in the know! Making a prophetic act of ‘I will put my 2 coins in here as a sign and then make my declaration’ cos I know what I am doing. Or as per the widow, probably not even thinking for a minute that her act was significant, innocuous, small… Small people, clueless people. Unknowingly political.


A little footnote… these scribes were those were ‘loving honour at the banquets‘ (deipnon: same word Lord’s Supper, also the banquet meals to honour the empire in the Imperial world of Rome, etc) . Banquets were a big part of holding the Empire together. Who one invited and where they were seated was really important. By so doing you were showing your allegiance to the way things were. Contrast, Jesus’ instruction to invite those who cannot invite you back, that instruction was hugely political and disruptive to society’s status quo; or James’ instruction not to give the person with the rich clothes the best seat – no he is not thinking the ‘best pew’, or sit near the elders!!! It is a meal setting. The Lord’s Supper, so political! And when it was not expressing something that was anti-Imperial-order Paul said ‘in the following (your behaviour when you eat together) I can give you no praise at all’. When you eat, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he come… death of all imperial power and a proclamation of one’s non-allegiance to it. Till he come, the true Prince of Peace.

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