25 October 2011

"Whle he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!' But he said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!'" (vv. 27-28)


Jesus speaks with real urgency in today's passage. He condemns those who want a special sign to prove his authority. He is frustrated because "this generation" (v. 29) does not know its own history: the city of Nineveh listened to Jonah (Jonah 3-4), and the Queen of Sheba listened to Solomon (1 Kings 10). This crowd has a greater sign than either Jonah or Solomon, but still does not understand. Jesus resists making a magic show with the kingdom of God already at hand.

The passage follows on directly from Jesus' exorcism of a demon as a sign of the kingdom of God. In each section of today's passage, Jesus begs for a response from the people. It is as if they must receive the kingdom of God for it to arrive. Jesus urges the crowd to be vigilant in changing their lives to become engaged with the kingdom of God.

In verses 33 to 36, Jesus uses the popular saying about a lamp being put on a stand, rather than being covered or put in a cellar. This is the second time he uses this saying in the Gospel. But here the sense is different. (In Luke 8:16, he is saying that no secrets will remain hidden from the sight of God in the future. In other words, evil will be uncovered.) Here he uses the same saying to urge vigilance in personal holiness. He urges those who hear to make sure light is allowed to shine.

In each part of today's passage, Jesus begs for response from the people. He wants to engage them in the coming kingdom immediately, not have them watch as a passive audience. This is how they will be saved.

To Ponder

In what ways do we deceive ourselves that we are more Christ-like than we are?

Among the characters and stories of the Old Testament, do any have a message about changes you want to make in your own life? And in the life of our 'generation'? Which are they? And what are the changes?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

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