Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29th

I’ve been reading Kenneth Bailey and it has had a big impact on me and the way I understand the parables and Jesus' actions.

For example:

"It is most probably addressed to the opponents of the gospel. The parable/poem dramatically states that a gracious father always grants good gifts (Holy Spirit) to all who seek him. The poem is stylistically and theologically distinct from the parable that precedes it. There is no reason to doubt that both have equal antiquity in the tradition, and have been brought together by a complier of the Jerusalem Document with no intention that the second should be understood as a commentary on the first. As in the case of Luke 16:9-13, a poem of this quality, with close semantic correspondences uniting the whole, must come from the mind of a single poet. It is theoretically possible that an anonymous poet in the Palestinian community has recast different strands of traditional material into a poem of his own creation. It is much more likely that the author is Jesus of Nazareth."

-Poet and Peasant, by Kenneth Bailey, Chapter 6: Exegesis of Luke 11:5-13


"A part of what we understand Manson to be saying can perhaps best be seen be creating a comparison. In Luke 9:57-58 the text reads, "As they were going along the road a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go.' If Jesus had been a Westerner he might have responded something like this:

'Bold statements are easy to make but you have to consider seriously what it will cost you to follow me. It seems evident that so far you have yet to do so. I must say to you plainly that I can offer you no salary or security. If my point is not yet clear, perhaps an illustration will help. For example, I do not even have a bed of my own to sleep on.'

But Jesus replies,

Foxes have holes,
and the birds of the air have nests:
but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58)

Rather than the abstract statement followed by a clarifying illustration we have a dramatic confrontation, briefly stated in unforgettable terms. A lofty affirmation about the person of Jesus permeates the parabolic answer. An impact is made on the listener/reader that calls for a response. Theological implication oblige the mind to move out from this compact center in a number of directions. The response of the original disciple is missing; the reader must now respond. All of this takes place at once in an intense dramatic confrontation. A parable has been spoken!"

-Through Peasant Eyes, by Kenneth Bailey, Introduction


"With this in mind, we can reconstruct the following. Jesus, the local boy, came to town as an itinerant rabbi and was given a chance to have his say. His audience of settlers understood the text of Isaiah 61 along the lines just indicated. With everyone listening intently, Jesus chose this familiar and deeply beloved passage, but to their shock and amazement he stopped reading at the very point at which judgment and servitude is pronounced...

"It was not, however, simply a case of cutting the reading short. Jesus edited what he read. One phrase is omitted, a second is borrowed from Isaiah 58:6 and the final sentence is cut in half, as noted...

"It is not possible to definitively determine that these precise guidelines were in force at the time of Jesus, but they do indicate that at a very early stage in the rabbinic movement there was a certain freedom in the reading of the Prophets that was not allowed in the reading of the Torah. What is clear is that the editing found in Luke 4:17-19 is within the framework of these rules. It is possible, therefore, to see Jesus as the editor and to affirm that it is Jesus' agenda which Luke records.

"To continue with the story, when Jesus completed the reading he rolled up the scroll, returned it to the synagogue official and sat down to comment on the text. His opening sentence was a lightening bolt. He announced the dawning of the messianic age as an event that was taking place in him before their eyes. As noted above, "they witnessed against him" not "for him" and were offended at how he took a text of judgment and turned it into an affirmation of mercy.

"It is not easy for a young man to invoke a serious hearing in his hometown. The reader fully expects Jesus to attempt to please...

"But no attempt is made to shape his message along the lines of their agenda. In bold and uncompromising terms Jesus announces his ministry of proclamation, justice advocacy and compassion, to be inaugurated by himself, as the anointed one of God. They can join him by imitating the remarkable faith of a Phoenician widow and a Syrian general. He knows his edited version of the text of Isaiah 61 will trigger deep anger, and it is a risk he is willing to take."

-Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, by Kenneth Baily, Chapter 12 The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry: Luke 416-31


(As an aside, I highly recommend these books. They peeled away layers of confusion- different languages, ancient cultures- to provide rich detail and insight into Jesus' words and ministry. Also, I have been reading N.T. Wright and learning a great deal from his work as well.)

When I went inward after reading, Jesus was in the front room and I went to Him but I was feeling uncertain and almost embarrassed. Reading Bailey's carefully constructed and clearly written exegesis of Luke and his cultural studies of the gospels had given me this glimpse of Jesus as serious and intelligent, as well as direct and challenging in a way that was selfless and courageous. I did not realize how deeply Jesus thought through the things He said- how His parables are like art work, until I read these books.

However, all of our conversations now seemed childish and I was sure that I must be boring to Jesus- all we did was wander around outside or laze around inside and talk about unimportant, personal things.

“I have no idea what You’re doing with me,” I admitted, honestly. “I don’t know why You would want to spend any time with me.”

Jesus pulled me in close, as though to gather me up. His words were coming over me in waves, so quickly I was understanding them in layers, so I have written them out the best way I can to try and capture this way of hearing from Him-

How can you say that? How can you think that? Can you forget…Not know? How can you think I would prefer, desire, want only intelligent/wit/brilliance and not the heart, the whole heart, the open, the softened, the loving honest heart? Have you forgotten that I am God? I was never merely a man. My ways and My thoughts have always been so far above your ability to conceive/take in/understand, and yet that has never caused you to stumble/doubt My love/our relationship/how I see you, before.

I was immediately regretful for causing this response, and also in awe that I had evoked it from Him- that Jesus could feel that way.

I tried to believe Him, but I really was having a hard time understanding why Jesus would value me and the time He spent with me. I tried to allow for this possibility- to believe it, but it was difficult to wrap my mind around.

We were walking down to the beach together and again I was struggling. My love for Him was rising up, as it naturally and normally does when I am with Jesus. However, I could not believe that it was possible for me to be so informal, affectionate, and personal with Jesus. Instead of the usual organic, easy flow of love, it was like I was chaining myself down out of fear of offending or bothering Him.

As I struggled with this conflicting feeling, Jesus stopped right where we were and looked down at me.

What is happening? He asked, His voice calm and direct. I knew He wanted me to bring it into the open, which was the very thing I did not want to do.

“Do we have to deal with this right now?” I cried. I felt so embarrassed. I did not want to talk about it. If only I could be elegant and composed around Jesus!

Yes, right now, He replied.

“Let’s work this out later,” I persisted, from the grass where I had fallen. "I'm sure later will be a much better time! It might even work itself out naturally, over the course of time, if we just let it be..."

Now, Jesus repeated, quietly but firmly.

I gave in and let all my emotion go free; I let down my defenses. Jesus crouched down. The outside world became the patch of grass we were on and some vague suggestion of a sky above and green around.

I knew I would see His face if I looked up. I didn't, but it was as though I could still see it, dark and tender and so perceptive, aware- distressingly aware, it seemed to me- knowing always all about me, and still wanting me to confess it to Him. To speak it is to bring it into His light.

What is happening? Jesus asked, again.

“I can’t let myself be present and vulnerable with You,” I admitted.

What did I teach you?

I held myself still and tried to remember it all again. Why must I remember it again and again? But seemingly I must. It's too big to keep hold of all the time. I keep discovering it all over again; it keeps throwing me for a loop.

“That You love me,” I confessed. “That You made me this way- that I was meant for this from before I was born. That You delight in close, authentic and trusting relationship- that is what You delight in and long for- the heart which clings to You completely and trusts in You openly. Like in all the descriptive language and metaphors that You use to describe this- like a marriage. This is not an empty metaphor, because at the heart of that language is a spiritual reality that is precious to You.”

Yes, Jesus affirmed. I am in you and you are in Me, and between us there isn't any distance.


I was thinking about how Jesus had stepped right into the middle of my every day, messy, unready life and had poured His love out for me from the beginning, when I had no idea what was going on. Jesus poured His love out to me right where I was.

Why was that? Jesus asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “It’s almost frightening to consider.”

Jesus did not wait for me to be perfect! He did not wait for me to understand. He did not say, "Do thus and such, and I will come to you."

He just came.

I lead with love, Jesus said to me, right into my wondering thoughts, causing them all to come into focus, because of course that is what Jesus does.

This love Jesus has is not a distant, impersonal love. His love is almost shocking- how can we delight Him so much, mean so much to Him? But we do- you do- right where you are. His love is unwavering. The more we can believe this love and trust in Him, the more our hearts will uncurl before Him, and the more our lives will transform, from the inside out.

We love Jesus because He first loved us.