Lent 2C: Jesus Telling It Like It Is

Lent 2C: Jesus Telling It Like It Is

Luke 13:31-35

By: Mashaun D. Simon

Jesus’ relationship to the Pharisees was contentious. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ relationship with most in the biblical text had some form of friction – he just always seemed to be in the position of having to correct people.

Jesus had a way with words and with his tone.

In this time of political correctness, excessive courtesy and hypersensitivity, I wonder how far the friction of Jesus’ time would mirror the realities of today.

Jesus did not sugarcoat a thing for anyone. Jesus did what many in Black church traditions suggest to the preacher during the sermonic moment, Jesus “made it plain.” Jesus told it like it was, without concern for repercussions, backlash or retaliation; and he did this, I believe, because of his commitment to his purpose, his call, and his destiny.

Jesus had friction, a lot of friction, yet he did not allow that friction to deter him from his mission at hand – to fulfill that which God (his Father in heaven) had ordained for him.

If only we all were able to live into the same kind of authenticity that Jesus operated within.

And I think this text before us in Luke, provides yet another example of Jesus’ way of living into his purpose and “telling it like it is…”

Luke, as scholars suggest, was a historian who wrote from a space of knowing. According to scholars, one of Luke’s major motivations was to provide what he considered an accurate and complete account of the life, ministry and presence of Jesus within the world.

Luke sought to clean up – to clarify what others considered to be the gospel (read truth). New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson argues that Luke used his position of reference, utilizing previous sources and the writings of others, to provide for us what he considered the appropriate accounts of who Jesus was and how Jesus operated in the world.[1]

Johnson adds, one of the things that set Luke’s account apart is that his account is actually more comprehensive than the other gospels. Luke’s account, “tells more than Matthew about Jesus’ birth and childhood, and much more about his resurrection appearances. The things fulfilled do not even stop there. They reach up to Luke’s own day: ‘among us.’”[2]

So for Luke it was about getting the story told and getting it told right.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

We all, I believe, want to get the story right – we want to make sure the report is precise and accurate so that there is no confusion, no lack, no room for questioning and uncertainty. But in reality it is impossible to get it right and get it right all the time.

But I digress.

Here in this passage, Luke is providing for us yet another scenario of Jesus setting the Pharisees straight. This scene follows a series of “Jesus moments” – healings, Seuss-like parables about seeds of faith and the yeastiness of the kingdom of God, and graduate level lectures by Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem.

As Jesus is making his way, he is told to “move along.” Well, actually, what happens is the Pharisees declare to him that he should get away because he’s in danger.

They say, “Get away from here for Herod wants to kill you!”

How curious – here, the people who really do not care for the proclaimed Son of God; the people who feel as though he has pushed back against everything they know and believe, these very same people seem to be rushing him along; and yet, it is not because they want him gone, but rather because he may be in danger.

It is an intriguing act on the part of the privileged traditionalists. But then again, sometimes that which we believe in or consider core to us will lead us to display forms of compassion and care unexpectedly.

But even their warnings are not enough for Jesus. Because for Jesus, what is most important is not that he is in danger but that there is a work for him to fulfill.

What is most important here is “casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way.”

In the face of danger, in the face of setbacks and distractions, in the face of things designed to slow us down, it is our responsibility to press forward. It is our responsibility to focus on what is before us, to complete that assignment and then to be on our way because that which we think could destroy us in the moment will not and cannot as long as we continue along the path at hand.

Engaging this text has been revelatory for me in many ways. Its lesson is one that I have not always done a good job of abiding by. I, like many others, can sometimes get discouraged by the possibilities, by the realities of what is before us and by the fears associated.

Whether on a new job or an old job; whether in church or school; whether because of family and friends who are driven by fear and the unknown; sometimes we can be presented with the warning to let go, to break loose, to run and hide – but we have to be like Jesus, be indignant enough and tell it like it is, “I am here for this moment, to do what I am called to do, and when I am done I will be on my way – but I am not about to allow you and your stuff to stop me.”

In this Lenten season God is telling us to stay focused. As we are struggling to stay focused, when something or someone comes along to deter us and rush us along, we must keep our sights on what is before us, what is presently before us, finish what we started and then be on our way.

Do not be deterred. Do not rush the process. Do not be distracted.

Stay focused and tell it like it is.

[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament 3rd ed., (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010).  

[2] Johnson, pp. 188-189

 

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Mashaun D. Simon

Mashaun D. Simon is a preacher, a teacher, a writer, a strategist and a scholar. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Simon works as a Diversity Specialist at Kennesaw State University, is a contributing writer for NBCNews.com, a teaching assistant at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and a ministry consultant and content developer for ministers and preachers across the country. He holds a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology with a triple focus in preaching, faith and formation, and race and religion, and double certificates in Black Church Studies and religious education. In addition, Simon serves as the Director of Christian Education at House of Mercy Everlasting (HOME) church in College Park, Georgia. Much of his research focuses on race, sexuality, identity and faith.

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