At the start of the week, this blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Rich Europe wants to keep poor Europe where it is
Luke 18: 31-43
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A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar Near Jericho
35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth* is passing by.’ 38Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ 42Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ 43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
Jesus’ disciples, still expecting glory, didn’t understand his plain announcement that he was walking into opposition that would swallow him up. How could the Messiah fail? There is one man however, who trusts him as Messiah, a blind beggar who calls him by his messianic title, Son of David. Jesus responds to his trust by healing his blindness. Overjoyed the beggar becomes a disciple and “follows Jesus on the road.” This is one of Luke’s “parable-stories”; he means to suggest that this is true discipleship: asking Jesus to cure our blindness so that we can follow him on the way of the cross.
This is the invitation that turns people away from Jesus. Why did he, and even more, why did his followers, even after his resurrection, place the “way of the cross” at the centre of his gospel? How can this be good news? The answer is easy. If people are to follow Jesus’ way of opposing the way of the world without either offensive or defensive force, they’d better be prepared for what the world will do to them. In law-abiding democratic societies the violence of political powers and private interests is restrained, but even here those who stand for truth, justice and compassion will be given a hard time. That sort of commitment in our CV is not the way to success.
This one of the places where the way of Jesus and the way of Mohammed (peace upon them both!) divide. Both expect their disciples to place their security and even their lives at risk for the sake of God’s rule in the world. But Mohammed permits his disciples to use force against the enemy; Jesus insists that they must stand for God’s truth without force but with love. It’s not surprising the Mohammed’s way of sacrifice is much more appealing to young men than Jesus’ way. At least the enemy can be made to suffer even if you have to suffer as well! At the very least, the capacity of the enemy to exercise godless violence may be restrained! Whereas Jesus’ way seems to leave the world in the hands of the wicked.
The old man in a South African hospital, the father of his nation, Nelson Mandela, illustrates both sides of this argument. When it was evident that the vicious upholders of Apartheid would not permit peaceful opposition to their crimes, but would continue torturing and murdering his fellow citizens, Mandela supported armed struggle; a defensive struggle to be sure, but violent none the less. When that struggle, with some help from the outside forces, brought the Apartheid regime to its knees, Mandela insisted there should be no revenge, but rather reconciliation in a multi-ethnic society. His decision for armed struggle speaks in favour of Mohammed’s way; his decision for reconciliation speaks in favour of Jesus’ way. Many Christians, however, would say that both decisions were right.
Luke’s parable-story reminds us that Jesus’ disciples have always failed to grasp the way of the cross, and that the blind beggar by the roadside may know more of the truth than anyone.