Thursday

27 October 2011

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs on your head are all counted. Do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows." (vv. 6-7

Background

In today's passage Jesus speaks in private to his disciples about the challenges they will face. Conflict with the scribes and Pharisees is growing, and a large disorderly crowd has gathered. Jesus has been arguing with the Pharisees (and others) and now his enemies are getting organised. The situation is getting increasingly tense.

The particular way Jesus speaks in this passage also refers to the situation of its first readers, the early Church. The Church was created through the coming of the Holy Spirit in each believer, recorded in Acts 2. When the text in Luke (written by the same author as Acts) says "whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven" (v. 10), it refers to keeping faith with the community of the Church.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is told in Acts 5. They are examples of the kind of denial Jesus condemned in Luke 12:10. They do not deny God explicitly, but "lie to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3) by withholding proceeds of a sale of private land from the Church. So in today's passage the first readers of the text are being cautioned to be faithful to each other and their community. Jesus does not want them to 'hedge their bets' by holding anything back.

Jesus is not being harsh with his listeners, despite the stern tone. Rather, he is warning them not to give up so easily the strength of their community, built by the Holy Spirit. Overwhelmingly, his words are those of reassurance and comfort that no earthly power can take away their salvation: they are beloved by God who will never abandon them.

To Ponder

Jesus implies here that faithfulness to God requires faithfulness to a church community. How far do you agree? Why?

How would you defend your faith, if you were called to testify in public?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

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