Print Version September 16th, 2005
Following Jesus sounds almost straightforward in Luke’s gospel today. He makes his way around the place, doing his stuff, speaking Good News. And we follow. Physically follow after him. In his steps. Not too much to it.
The author of the letter to Timothy paints an altogether messier portrait of what it means to follow Jesus along with issues of church order and orthodoxy, of hypocrisy and dissent, and of the complex lure and corruption of money and power. How do we follow Jesus through that muddled minefield?
Luke makes it look easy. But then Luke likes to pretend to photographic and flawless simplicity—remember his picture of the first Christian community in Acts. His Jesus is a pretty ordinary guy only marked out by the extraordinary mission given him by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit could easily come calling on you or me too.
Mark’s Jesus is an unpredictable enigma, Matthew’s wears with gravity the mantle of Moses, and John’s Jesus floats an inch of the ground in a constant vision of heavenly mysteries. But Luke sees him like you or me—just a touch more compassionate, eloquent and attractive.
Luke’s Jesus though has a hidden edge. Underneath his calm and ordinary charm he’s turning church and state upside down. Here today we see the male enclave of discipleship—which the other evangelists take for granted—punctured and pierced by a band of women. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others who not only followed behind but provided for them all out of their own resources. Resourceful women—there’s a challenge!
Doesn’t the vagrant company of Jesus take on a different, more human, more festive feel when we imagine it in a more assorted glory than TV ever showed it?
Luke’s Jesus is no more a realistic snapshot of its subject than any other—he has his tale to tell, his point to make. A good point for us to hear—about who can be in and who out, who’s up and who’s down.
But beyond all the points to be made I hope there’s a freedom to be found in this array of angles. Everyone who comes to know Jesus comes from a different place and discovers a different person looking out of history and prayer right back at them.
In which case the key question is what story are we telling day to day in our lives about Jesus? Who is he to us? How does he move our hearts? And above all, how has he been a word of good news to our hungry ears?