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Week 1 October 2023, Devotion Part 1

He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” Luke 16:31

What are the hard facts of cold death? If someone rises from the so-called clinically dead, the good life on the celebrity circuit may await him. There is a vast public with a voracious appetite for Life After Death tidbits. The allure of living happily ever after appears to be strong. But fairy tales are not the strong suit of the Veteran of death’s coldest embrace, the historical Jesus of Nazareth. He would have us privately ponder this question: What is it like to wake up dead to God and alive to the self that was “laid to rest” on the sentimental laurels of eulogies laced with pomp and presumption?

The foolish bon vivant of Christ’s account finds himself aflame with regret in a fixed place of unending separation. He is not known by name, only by the fleeting perks of fame and fortune. In life poor Lazarus was invisible to him. In death he must gaze on him reclining in Abraham’s bosom. This Hebraism stems from the ancient custom of reclining at table. In close conversation the one person’s head would practically rest on the chest of the one sitting next above him. The expression symbolized paradise, God’s eternal habitation, and the blissfully permanent proximity to Him. (Part 1 of 2)

Comment: This is one of 24 parables in Luke, more than any recorded in the synoptic gospels.. None are found in John, and 18 of Luke’s parables are unique. Jesus loved telling stories and He was clearly on a roll. The parable preceding this one in Luke 16:1-9 is something of a nailbiter. That particular rich man fires his steward who’s been squandering his possessions. “Too ashamed to beg and not strong enough to dig,” he hatches a scheme to cheat the master by enabling his debtors to falsify their bills, thus securing his future on the strength of his favor to them. Here comes the shocker, “And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” Perhaps a linguistic tip might help us identify the point Jesus is making. The word “parable” comes from the Greek parabolee, para meaning beside, and ballo meaning to cast or throw. It’s an illustrative story, by which a familiar idea is cast beside an unfamiliar idea in such a way that the comparison helps people to better grasp the unfamiliar. The master in this story is clearly aware of all of his servant’s actions. Our Master is aware of ours to an even greater extent because He keenly discerns our hidden attitudes and mixed motives. We could spin this teaching in several directions to arrive at the “parabolee” interpretation most acceptable to our intellect. Why don’t I let you do the honors while I go back to grappling with what “shrewdness” would look like among the “sons of light” in today’s church? More realistically still, do my checkbook and tax return reflect the “shrewdness” that honors God and puts His Kingdom first?


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