Today marks a week after the New England Patriots won their sixth Lombardi trophy and tied the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl victories. I wasn
t surprised that it happened, but I was disgusted by it. And heartbroken! I love the Steelers legacy, and the fact that, at least historically, the team has been known for its blue-collar work ethic, its grit, its resilience, and its discipline. And as far as I know, the Steelers also never cheated at the sport in order to win their Super Bowls. There
s only one thing that makes me more nervous than a Steelers
rival tying them in terms of the amount of Super Bowl victories, and that
s me trying to preach on a Bible passage that is so confusing that even in English it seems like it is written in a foreign language.
This week, we will be looking at a long passage from Luke, in the 11th and 12th chapters. These passages were recommended to me by Pastor Carolyn and Pastor Linda. Those two appealed to the human but very flawed desire to be
by telling me that I was very qualified to preach on the passages. I was the only one who could meet this challenge. I
and then decided it would be a good idea to actually read the verses. Then I realized I
made a very big mistake. Luke 11:14-12:12 may in fact be some of the most difficult passages to interpret in the entire New Testament. The contexts change rapidly, Jesus uses parallels, referencing the Old Testament, but does so in ways different from His other parallels in the Gospels, the Greek either changes rapidly in terms of verb tense, or His meaning has led to dramatic disagreements among scholars and experts, and what makes it worse is that the incredibly large chunk of the Bible is full of multiple points that are important for us to hear as believers, so therefore it
s nearly impossible to narrow it down.
Preach on that passage, they said. It
, they said.
All joking aside, I
m honored and excited to read these words of Jesus, and enjoy the challenge, even if it results in me making a fool of myself. Please do read the passage at home, and study it a bit before arriving on Sunday morning. I truly believe that Scripture is best read and interpreted and applied in a community. "As iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen one another spiritually" (Proverbs 27:17).
In the meantime, I will offer this brief interpretation of the final verses of the passage in Luke, as a sample of some of its richness and depth:
I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned
before the angels of God.
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man
will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.
Jesus is saying that we are called to be public about our acceptance of, and love of, Jesus, who is the Son of Man. Verse 8, then, is a fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture. The targum of Song of Solomon 1:15 states the following:
when the children of Israel do the will of their king, he by his word (Jesus, the Word of God) praises them in the family of the holy angels
ikewise, whomever is embarrassed of Jesus in the public sphere receives the same kind of disowning by Jesus. Ironically, in verse 10, the Son of Man can even be insulted by people and grant forgiveness to those very same humans (
Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing,
Jesus says in Luke 23:34, regarding even the men who are casting lots for his clothing, mocking him, and about to crucify him). But there is one sin that is forgiven neither in this lifetime or the next, and that, my brothers and sisters, is the denial of the Holy Spirit
s tugging on one
s heart to do one simple act. And that act is to believe. "Jesus says that the work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent, Jesus" (John 6:29).
The final verses of this passage are hopeful indeed. We live in a world that, at any point, may turn on us, simply because we love Jesus. And Jesus tells us to have hope, to not worry, and to not be afraid. Because that same Holy Spirit that helps us to believe also gives us the words to say in difficult times. Though pastors and teachers teach, it is really the Holy Spirit who teaches our innermost selves the Word of God, in real time, in practical ways, and in ways that convert our souls and grow our hearts in the love of God.
Blessings to you all, dearly beloved,