IT'S THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Good morning. I hope you are having a great day. I am glad you could join me as we continue our look at the Gospel of Luke. We have already discovered that Luke mentioned the poor and hungry in his version of the Beatitudes. His was clearly different than Matthew's. Today I want to look more into who was included in the ministry of Jesus and how Jesus reached out to all walks of life. (according to Luke)
According to Luke's Gospel the poor were included in the reign of God. Now, who were the poor of Jesus' day? There are two Greek words for "poor." Penas refers to the working poor. We hear a lot about the working poor now a days. However, when Luke mentions the poor he uses a different word. Luke uses the word patokai which is plural and refers to the absolute down and out. (beggars, homeless, landless, and the sick.) The patokai became more and more numerous during Jesus' time.
It is in Luke's gospel that we get perhaps the most vivid account of patokai. The Gospel of Luke is the only Gospel that tells the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
"There was rich man was who dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side." (Luke 16:19-23)
Luke makes mention on many accounts of someone's economic status. He wants us to know these things. This story is certainly a store of contrasts. The rich man fairs well while Lazarus is starving and longing for scraps. While the rich man is in luxury Lazarus is dumped at his gate. While the rich man is tended to by servants Lazarus is tended to by the dogs. However, both characters died and the one who faired well did not fair so well in the afterlife. Lazarus, on the other hand, did. Did you notice that while the rich man was only known as the rich man, Lazarus was given a name? In fact, this is the only parable that Jesus ever told where a character was given a name.
There is something else that we need to notice about this parable. Why did the rich man end up in torment and Lazarus end up in paradise? "Well, preacher! It's simple! It's because Lazarus believed in Jesus and the rich man did not. Duh!" Umm...sorry, but wrong! You can read this parable frontwards and backwards, or however you want to read it, but it says nothing about the faith or lack of faith of either character. No, the rich man is even told that he is in torment because of the way he treated Lazarus. "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received good things, while Lazarus received bad things..." (Luke 16:25) So, again Luke includes the patokai in the reign of God. Now, we may not like this, but it is evident that Luke wants us to know this. Does this mean that the rich can not enter the kingdom? No, it does not mean that at all. In fact, Luke shows us that there were those who did. It depends, however, on their treatment of others.
Now, we see that Jesus included the poor in the kingdom of God in Luke's Gospel, who else did he include? Well, there is another parable only Luke tells and it is one of the most well known. In fact, there is a term that originates from this parable that is used in everyday life (even by non-believers). What is it? It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable is found in Luke 10:25-37. I would encourage you to read it. Luke presents the Samaritan more favorably then the priest and Levite. The priest and Levite both saw the beaten man, but walked away from him while the Samaritan stopped and helped. This is not the only place where Luke is favorable towards the Samaritans. Luke tells us of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus ((17:11-19) They all waked away from Jesus healed, but one turned to Jesus to give thanks. Who was this one man? A Samaritan. Why was this an issue? The Samaritans and the Jews despised one another. The Jews saw the Samaritans as half-breeds. Jesus included the Samaritans in the reign of God.
Tomorrow we will look at who else had a vital role in the ministry of Jesus according to Luke. See you tomorrow. -Pastor Rick