Fringe Benefits (Day Nineteen)

Welcome to day nineteen in the ninety days of reading through the New Testament. Today’s reading is from Luke 7 through Luke 9.

And again, Jesus’ acceptance of those on the fringes of society takes center stage.

Luke, in trying to construct an incredible factual account of Jesus, and continuing this story in his companion book, constantly insists upon placing the story of Jesus at the intersection of non-Jewish people, and those on the fringe of society.

  • He heals the child of a centurion (not a Jew), and resurrects the son of a widow (a woman, in a male-dominated world), both in Luke 7. And, again, both stories concern children.
  • Jesus is anointed by a “sinful woman” in Luke 7 (again, a woman in a male-dominated world).
  • Jesus performs an exorcism in Luke 8, of a man no longer allowed into the city because of his demon-possession (he was ostracized from the Jewish community).
  • In Luke 8, he again resurrects a young girl (a girl, in a male-dominated Jewish world).
  • Jesus also heals a woman in Luke 8, simply when she touched his clothing (again, a woman in a man’s world).
  • In Luke 9 Jesus heals a young boy (a child, in a man’s world).

In the New Testament book of Acts, Luke spends much time defending Paul’s ministry to the very same people. Paul traveled into the Roman world, to bring the message of freedom to Gentiles. Luke is, after all, making sure we all understand this, and he does so by placing Jesus in the lives of the outcasts in his first volume, so the second volume of his works will make more sense.

There is a change in story in today’s reading though. Luke sets the stage for Jesus’ passion with a statement in Luke 9:51 that Jesus “resolutely” sets out for Jerusalem.

But before everything in this story becomes focused on the climax of human history, Luke records one final statement about Jesus’ very public and controversial life. Here it is:

Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (Luke 9:48)

Luke ends Jesus’ time with the outcasts with this very powerful idea.

Matthew may use this very same story in Matthew 18 to highlight a simple faith, but Luke uses it to highlight Jesus’ acceptance, and protection, for the weakest.

This good news of freedom will be available to the most vulnerable in society.

And while these interactions show us the depth of Jesus’ compassion, we also see the flattening of his expanding kingdom.

Everyone is welcomed.

We should see Jesus defending and empowering those who have lost everything, and who had no more to lose.

It’s a stark contrast to our idea of community, though. We build community based upon similarities. Church attendance is held together by those with similar interests. We’ve assumed that the community of our gatherings is God’s extreme intention.

But our non-involvement, and our silent non-acceptance of those on the fringes of our own society, speak greatly to our own depravity. We’ve built ivory castles, and asked people to come to us.

We’ve built strange structures of silent leadership in these gatherings. We protect our stately buildings. We hold high the public presentations of worship and teaching. But we teach truth, and become content at what we present, by saying that those who do not join us have turned a cold shoulder to God.

Jesus, though, in a startling way, never spent much time teaching these people he healed, and his acceptance of these outcasts was never based upon how much they learned first.

There were no bible studies. No worship leading. No bible classes. No board meetings. And no baptisms.

They were healed. They were accepted. They were loved. And they worshiped.

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