The Gospel  -“Do Not Be Afraid Little Flock”

Our verses are part of a larger context of “Readiness for the Coming Judgment” from Luke 12:1-13:9. This section started last week with the parable Fool and will last until Aug 25.

Jesus is in the presence both of his disciples and the large crowds (12:1). He appears to be speaking primarily to the disciples, though within earshot of a large number of people. Even though teaching the disciples, “someone in the crowd” is able to interrupt with a question. Though speaking directly to the inner circle of the movement, Jesus’ teachings are also “overheard” by a large number of people.

This week, he follows the parable of the rich fool (12: 13-21) with exhortations to live without anxiety. Worry about food or clothing is unnecessary in light of God’s providence. “The nations” worry about such things–that is to say, people who think and act in light of the dominant culture’s assumptions will find themselves riven with uncertainty and anxiety.

Basic summary – In the declaration of paragraph one, Jesus puts his hearers at ease. God wants to give you the kingdom where he lives, with pleasure. So you can get rid of  your possessions and give alms to the poor because your investment is in the kingdom of the heavens. Do this because wherever you invest your life is where your attention will be.

The master is coming soon to celebrate his victory and even his slaves will be blessed in this celebration. The master will serve the slaves the only condition is the slaves must be awake and recognize him when he knocks at the door. It might even be in the middle of the night so vigilance is necessary so as not to fall asleep and miss the arrival of the master. Bill Long in 2007 comes with the key focus of this passage

There are three ever-more-difficult commands that Jesus gives his disciples.

(1) Banish Fear (v.32);

The context in which this passage opens is where Jesus is teaching about worry. He knows the human tendency to be concerned with material goods and the shape of our lives, but Jesus resolutely tells us: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you shall wear” (v. 22). Why not? Because the ravens neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them (v. 24). Since we are of much more value than ravens, God will so much more take care of us.

Fear erodes our creativity, occupies our mental space, distracts us from enjoying the true beauties all around us, and ultimately shortchanges us. We tend to be pre-occupied or even obsessed with having “enough” money or resources on which to live. We miss the details around us we don’t recognize the beauty of the lilies of the field, or the arcing flight of a bird. IT grips us

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We are called a “little flock,” a term of endearment also present in Ezek. 34 and other Biblical texts. God’s pleasure is to give us the “kingdom” (i.e., the presence of Jesus), but we are worried about our clothes, our money, our bank account and assuring our future economically

So, how do we get rid of this fear? Find out what your heart says is your true love. Let the sound created by fear (“I need to do X and then Y and then obtain Z and be vigilant on this deal and that investment and that sale”) gradually be subsumed by a greater “sound”–the sound of you listening to the alluring music of love.

What is it that you truly love, that you would give yourself to in a moment if you had the courage to give yourself that moment? Perhaps you don’t even know what this is because you are so wrapped up in the life of fear that you don’t even permit yourself the “luxury” to think of what life would look like without being consumed by “what you should wear” or “what you should eat” (to quote Jesus). But when the noise stops and the glitter fades for the evening, what is it that your heart craves? Does it desire to explore other cultures? To learn a skill? To gain certain knowledge? To serve in some capacity to others? To move to a different region? To put on a different “persona?” Fear keeps us from doing these things

(2) Sell Goods (33-34); It doesn’t say that we should give everything as alms; it just emphasizes the getting rid of the possessions. But the larger point ought to be clear. The disciple’s true treasure trove is in heaven. That is where our “value” is; that is where heart also should be. It also seems quite ironic that we build up a treasure in heaven by giving away money on earth

The proper use of one’s abundance is to give them away or share them (or the money received from selling them) for the common good. in the first century, it was believed that there was a fixed and limited amount of wealth. If someone gained wealth, someone else had to lose it. They didn’t believe that everyone becoming wealthier. Malina and Rohrbaugh (Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels) state: “Acquisition was always considered stealing”. So, if the poor were to escape their poverty, it would have to come from the wealthy sharing their possessions. In essence, the wealthy would have to become poorer if the poor were to gain some wealth.

So this is more than just throwing a donation to the poor, it stems from being merciful to those in need.

Jesus is controversial because he breaks the connection between giving and receiving (that is, you give without expectation of return), so he is controversial here because he suggests that one’s true value in life has little to do with one’s “net worth.”

It is to cut ourselves off from that system of values which dominates the world in which they lived and we live Jesus’ words in v. 34 are memorable–“for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Note that he doesn’t say it the other way around. The actual location of our physical “treasure” is where our heart is. By definition. That is why we need to “sell off” our holdings and give (some of) it away. Because if we keep the treasure, the things that demonstrate our economic wherewithal, that, by definition, will be where our heart is.

(3) Be Alert (v35-40).

The emphasis of the passage is that the master’s coming is certain but the timing of the coming is uncertain. Thus, be always ready.

We are overwhelmed and inundated with loads of information all the time. We are tugged in multiple directions by people and demands on our time and our hearts. But what Jesus’ message about alertness and readiness says to me today is that we need to do all we can to establish and maintain a focus in life. The focus Jesus wants to exhort us to is captured nicely in Matthew’s Gospel: “Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).

As Christians, we have been given a great deal – a lot of it on trust. Our faith is given to us as a treasure for heaven – but we don’t always cherish it as one. We know that our lives – our gifts – our families are all treasures – but, again, we don’t always give them the respect and love they deserve. We don’t spread them to others

Do you enjoy all that you were given? Did you make time for all the good things God wanted you to experience? Did you take it for granted? Did you share the good things I gave you on trust with other people so that they could enjoy them too?

Jesus then used two parables for anticipation: the waiting servants [12:36-38] and the watchful homeowner [12:39]. The parable of waiting servants had two additional images that referred to the heavenly feast. First, the servants waited for the master to return from the wedding banquet. Such a feast had overtones of the Kingdom, when God would dine with his people (see Luke 5:34 and 14:16-24). Second, the master would return to serve the servants a great feast! (The leader as servant model was standard in the Christian movement. After all, Jesus did wash the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper in John 13:1-20.)

Part of our preparation is self-examination — hearing again John’s cry of repentance, to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. Part of our preparation is humility — letting ourselves be served by God — recognizing that we are “seeing God’s salvation, which God has prepared in the presence of all peoples” (2:31). Jesus elevated service to a function of great privilege and honor.

Being prepared for his future coming, means receiving his comings to us through these means in the present. In a sense, being prepared is to let him prepare us for the coming. Refusing these means may be like the Samaritans or the slave in 9:52 and 12:47: Unwilling to receive Jesus on his terms;

Notice, this scenario matched Luke’s world view. After his resurrection, Jesus rose into glory at the Ascension (Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-10). This was his wedding feast.

The early Christian community expected his return at any moment as King and Great Judge. Then, he would reward the faithful (i.e., he would serve the servants). The heavenly wedding feast and the future feast of the Kingdom were glimpsed in the Eucharist, where the Lord is fully present and received by the faithful, but not as yet clearly seen. In this parable, Luke demonstrated the ideal attitude of those who gathered for fellowship on the Lord’s Day: celebrate his presence (the heavenly banquet) and actively await for his coming (the Kingdom feast) by serving each other. Those who celebrated this way were truly blessed!

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