Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

Knowing Jesus

1 May
via flickr user my2cents

via flickr user my2cents

Where do we find Jesus in the post-resurrection time in which we live? For those of us who did not get to know Jesus during his embodiment on earth, how do we now get to know him now? This Sunday’s Gospel, the road to Emmaus story from Luke 24, gives us some important clues to answering these questions.

This Gospel story opens with two of Jesus’ disciples walking toward Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem. Along the way, their conversation, not surprisingly, turns to the events that had recently transpired involving Jesus’ death and the empty tomb found three days later by some women from their group. We are told they were “conversing and debating,” and we can imagine them trying to make sense of these events that defied all of their expectations about who Jesus was. The one who they had hoped would “redeem Israel” was put to death, along with their hopes that Israel would find political and religious freedom apart from their Roman occupiers.

As the disciples are deep in conversation, a fellow traveler joins them, a man the Gospel reader knows is Jesus but who is unrecognizable to the disciples. We are told that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him,” but I do not think we need to look to supernatural explanations for their blindness. Post-resurrection, Jesus is no longer human in the same way that he was during his lifetime on earth. If we expect Jesus to look a certain way, or if we place too much importance on what Jesus’ physical visage would have been, we will miss what is crucial about Jesus’ identity, like these disciples who can’t quite wrap their heads around what has happened now that Jesus has turned out to be someone different than who they thought.

In order to join their conversation, Jesus asks them what they have been discussing, and they tell him about what has happened to “Jesus the Nazarene, a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” They end their story by relating their own visit to Jesus’ tomb, where they saw indeed that Jesus’ body was gone but did not see Jesus himself or a vision of angels announcing that he was alive, as the group of women had. At this, it seems that Jesus gets a bit fed up with the lack of understanding evidenced by the disciples, and he gives them a scripture lesson as they walk, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” interpreting “to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.”

And even having heard this interpretation from the mouth of the resurrected Jesus himself, the disciples still do not know Jesus. Now certainly gaining this perspective, this knowledge, may open them up to being able to recognize Jesus later in the story. But in and of itself, this cognitive knowledge, this knowing about Jesus, is not sufficient for them to recognize their traveling companion as Jesus, as the one whom they had followed and with whom they had had an intimate relationship. Thus we will not come to know Jesus in a personal, life-changing way if we only know about him. We will not meet Jesus by being able to offer a “correct” interpretation of scripture or by reciting an orthodox set of beliefs about him.

As the traveling group approaches Emmaus, Jesus seems as if he will keep traveling, but the two disciples urge him to stay with them since the day is almost over (perhaps demonstrating in this offer of hospitality that they have not completely missed the message of Jesus’ life). Then the dramatic climax of the story occurs: Jesus sits with them at the table and takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. And they recognize him for who he is in this action, just as he disappears again.

There are at least two aspects of this moment of awakening for the disciples that are instructive to us in our post-resurrection time. The first is that it is in a communal moment that this recognition takes place. Knowing Jesus is not only about an individual’s relationship with Jesus or “accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior,” as common evangelical parlance puts it; rather, knowing Jesus demands participation in a community (Matthew 18:20). Second, it is in doing something that Jesus had done in during his life, in imitating this past action, that the disciples finally awaken to the reality that Jesus has been raised. Thus knowing Jesus is never only about head knowledge; it involves imitating the life of Jesus in our own lives. This begins, of course, with participating in the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life. But it also involves imitating other aspects of Jesus’ actions on earth: reaching out to those on the margins, speaking as a prophet, and grounding one’s life in adoration of God.

Gospel Reflection for May 4, 2014, Third Sunday of Easter

29 Apr

Two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and began talking to a stranger about Jesus’ death and all that had transpired since that time.  They did not recognize that the stranger was the risen Jesus.

While Jesus sat with the two disciples, he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.  Their eyes were opened, and they recognized, him but he vanished from their sight.

Luke 24.30-31


The mystery of God’s ways escapes the two disciples, even though Jesus had told his disciples three times that in Jerusalem he would suffer, die, and be raised up.  The disciples’ expect that their journey with Jesus will end in earthly triumph, which blinds them to the presence of God in the unprecedented and bewildering events unfolding around them.  They handle their confusion by retreating to a comfortable place they once came from.

When have your expectations blinded you to the presence of God at work in your life?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for February 2, 2014, Feast of the Presentation

27 Jan
An old man, Simeon, received and blessed Jesus when Mary and Joseph presented him at the temple. “Lord, you can let your servant go in peace; you have fulfilled your word.  My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before all the nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2.29-32

The Old Testament prophets through whom God promises consolation and redemption speak in faith, not in foreknown fact.  They affirm God’s faithfulness to the covenant relationship and threaten God’s judgment on all who worship other gods and take advantage of the poor.  These prophets and their hearers have to wait to see how God’s promises come true.  In Simeon’s eyes Jesus fulfills God’s promises.  His prophetic prayer describes Jesus as both the glory of Israel and a light of revelation to all peoples.

What promises have you inherited from earlier generations in the Church, in your families, in our country?  How do these promises sustain you?  How do you sustain them?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for November 24, Feast of Christ the King

21 Nov

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One belittled Jesus while the second criminal believed.

The second criminal said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus responded, “I assure you this day you will be with me in paradise.”

 Luke 23.42-43

Jesus is no ordinary king. He reigns from the cross, not a throne. He forgives a thief as his final act rather than command an army to his rescue. In this act of forgiveness he completes his mission as the prophet the Spirit anoints to announce a year of God’s favor, a jubilee year.

Whom do you need to forgive? From whom do you need forgiveness?


 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for November 10, 2013, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

5 Nov
Jesus said, “God is not God of the dead but of the living.  All are alive to God.” 

Luke 20.38


In Sunday’s gospel a Sadducee poses a question to Jesus regarding the law of Moses.  The law states a man is to marry his brother’s widow if she is childless.  The Sadducee presents a case in which a widow has married seven brothers but never had children.  Who will be her husband in the afterlife?

Jesus’ statement recognizes the Sadducee’s real issue has nothing to do with the hypothetical case of a woman with seven husbands but focuses on the denial of resurrection.  He dismisses the Sadducee’s assumption that life in the resurrection will be identical to life on earth.  Jesus argues from the book of Exodus that the God who spoke to Moses in the burning bush claimed to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who lived long before Moses.  Thus God is God of the living.

When  do you use the bible to debate points of doctrine?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for November 3, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

29 Oct

Jesus asks, “Today salvation has come to this house for he, too, is a son of Abraham.  The Son of Man has come to seek out and save the lost.”

Luke 19.9-10

Jesus’ final statement in the gospel makes his mission clear: he comes to seek out and save the lost.  Jesus draws Zacchaeus, the marginalized tax collector, into the mystery of God’s unconditional love.  In response Zacchaeus pledges the almsgiving that marks a true Jew, a son of Abraham—half his possessions to people who are poor.  He promises to repay anyone he has defrauded fourfold.  Neither the law nor his greed isolate Zacchaeus any longer.

What is your experience of being an outsider?


 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for October 27, 2013, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

21 Oct

Jesus asks, “All who make little of themselves will be lifted up, but all who make much of themselves will be brought down.”

Luke 18.14

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The Pharisee supposes the very prayer that distanced him from the tax collector brings him near God.  The tax collector, on the other hand, supposes he is unworthy to be anything but distant from God; his openness to God’s mercy brings him close to God.

Jesus creates room for us to assess ourselves in holding up these two contrasting examples of prayer.  Outward signs of piety do not make the Pharisee an insider with God, nor does social inferiority exclude the sinner from relationship with God.

How do I measure what I or others deserve?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for October 20, 2013, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 Oct

Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge who gives in to a widow who persists in seeking her rights.

Jesus asks, “Will God not do justice to those chosen ones who call out day and night?  Will God delay justice for them?”

Luke 18.7

In Luke’s time widows have little place in society but many find a home in Christian communities.  The widow’s voice demanding her rights would perk up the ears of Luke’s original listeners.  The poor widow represents the helpless and abandoned of the world; she has no legal rights without a husband.  She lives at the mercy of those who ought to protect her.

People who are poor today often become victims of the powerful, pawns of the mighty.  The recession, the sequestration, the stall in Congress—all hurt those most in need.  Yet our heritage is one of a hope that comes through faith in the goodness of God and the goodness of those who follow Jesus’ way.

Whose persistence do you admire?


 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for October 13, 2013, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

7 Oct

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus encountered ten people with leprosy who asked for his healing.  He sent them on and they then recognized they had been cured.  One returned to thank Jesus.

Jesus said, “Weren’t ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Did none return to give glory to God but this man who is not of our country?”

Luke 17.17-18


Luke’s miracle story raises questions people who became believers after Jesus’ death and resurrection must have asked.  Is healing more than skin deep for the nine lepers who don’t return to thank Jesus?  Does physical healing lead to faith or require faith?

Luke probes the mystery of why the same sign of God’s presence—healing from leprosy—leads a Samaritan man to believe in Jesus and nine to remain under the law of Moses.

How does attitude affect healing?  How does healing affect attitude?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for September 29, 2013, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

25 Sep

Jesus tells the story of a poor beggar name Lazarus and a rich man.  Both died and their roles reverse.  The rich man suffers while Lazarus rests in the arms of Abraham.  The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him some water.

Abraham replied, “Remember how well you lived when you were alive and how miserable Lazarus was.  Now he has found comfort, but you have found torment.  He cannot help you.  Between you and us is a great abyss that no one can cross.”

Luke 16.25-26


The great abyss that yawns between Lazarus and the rich man in the abode of the dead exists already in the distance between them when they are alive.  The rich man never notices Lazarus begging nor responds to him.  He doesn’t know the other man exists.  The rich man has no idea that his riches are anything but well-deserved blessings from God.  He has no other ethic than spending his money on himself.  He builds no connection between himself and the poor man at his gate.

Who begs at your gate?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,408 other followers

%d bloggers like this: