Today, with Christ’s own words about the end of all things earthly, we conclude our journey through The Gospel According To St. Luke. (We covered chapters 22-24 during the past Lenten and Easter season).
Charles Dickens once wrote a little-known book for his children entitled The Life Of Our Lord.” In it, as one fellow put it, Jesus comes off as a sweet, Victorian nanny who pats boys and girls on the head and says, “Now children, you must be nice to your mummy and daddy.”
In our generation too, many portray Jesus as a sort of Mr. Rogers – kind, reassuring, no sharp edges. If that picture is true, doesn’t it make you wonder? How could telling people to be nice to each other get a man crucified? What government would execute Mr. Rogers or the cast of Sesame Street?
The agnostic American patriot, Thomas Paine, once said that no religion could be truly divine which has in it any doctrine that offends the sensibilities of a little child. Paine’s definition would rule out Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it? The doctrine that God had to sink so low to save us that He was nailed to a cross for crimes he did not commit certainly offends the sensibilities of children and adults alike.
People have tried to pare the claws of the Lion of Judah for centuries. One might even wonder if the Jesus we have met in our study of Luke’s Gospel would fit in all that well at our fellowship hour some mornings. Jesus was accused of “stirring up the people” and keeping company with the wrong folks. His relentless teaching and preaching had His own family wondering if He should be committed. His Sermon on the Mount, instead of dulling the blade of the law, sharpened it all the more. A woman’s evasion of her sinful lifestyle called forth His blunt summons to repent: “Go call your husband.” Stubborn unbelief angered Him. Condescending self-righteousness infuriated Him. People’s suffering grieved Him. Simple faith thrilled Him.
“Blessed is he who is not offended in Me,” Jesus once said. Like the rich, young ruler who walked away, who of us has not felt the sting of His words on our sinful natures and been tempted to get up and walk away? Like Zacchaeus, called down from his tree by Christ, or Matthew the tax-collector who was stunned that Jesus would come to his house, who of us does not wish to bow down in worship before Him?
Here in this Gospel we have met Him – the clear-eyed Christ of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” There are trendier things preachers are dishing out these days – with charts, diagrams and mission statements that sound like something out of a CEO’s marketing strategy. But when all of the three-ring binders full of fads are carted off to the scrap heap of church history, Luke’s sober, God-breathed account will still stand – as a light on the path – where we have met the God who came down to be our Brother.