CNS Bible Blog: Teachable moments in Luke, Chapter Four

By Fathers Glen Lewandowski, OSC, and Jerry Schik, OSC
Special to Catholic News Service

Father Jerry Schik, OSC

Father Schik

Father Lewandowski

Father Lewandowski

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is never called rabbi. Instead he is called teacher (didaskalos) and he teaches by proclaiming the Word and by giving witness. We find examples of both in Chapter Four of his Gospel.

First example: the temptations in the desert. When Jesus needed food the devil tempted him to turn the stones into bread. He said no and taught us that we need to look at our need for food in the context of all of our needs. We need food, but our need for the Word of God is a more basic and more important need. When Jesus was thinking about his mission, the devil tempted him to transform his divine mission into a political mission. The devil said, “I will give you authority over all the kingdoms in the world.” Jesus said no and taught us that political power should never be an end in itself. He came from God and so do we.

St. Luke the Evangelist is depicted in this window from Worcester Cathedral in Worcester, England. (CNS/Crosiers)

St. Luke the Evangelist is depicted in this window from Worcester Cathedral in Worcester, England. (CNS/Crosiers)

He used spiritual values to build up the reign of God on earth and so should we. He did not set aside his divine mission and neither should we. When Jesus was thinking about his identity as Messiah, the devil tempted him to jump off the temple and force God to rush in and save him. Jesus said no and thereby taught us not to try to manipulate or control God. Jesus taught us to accept the human condition as he did. (And living with the law of gravity is part of the human condition.) He knew that he could fulfill his mission within the limitations of being human and he taught us that we can do the same. The mission is challenging but we can fulfill it without being superhuman. So what is this mission? The answer is found in the next teachable moment.

Second example: Jesus describes his mission. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus, the teacher, says that he and we have received this mission from God: “To preach Good News to the poor. To proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” This mission statement is a direct quote of Isaiah 61:1-2. Well, almost!

Jesus leaves out the line about divine vengeance. Jesus does not have vengeance on his agenda. Rather his agenda is to bring everyone to the table. He wants everyone in his circle of friendship: the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. He is determined to find ways to free them from the chains that hold them down. He wants everyone at his table. That’s what he means by the year acceptable to the Lord. Everyone has a place at the table.

Closing thought: You will find a number of teachable moments in Chapter Four of the Gospel of Luke. Let Jesus be your teacher and let his message filter down from your head into your heart.

Pope Benedict XVI speaks during the opening meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Synod note: “Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.” Each synod participant — bishops and priests all, professional word-crafters, sometimes thought to be wordy — has a mere five-minute intervention. And then the sound system automatically shuts down. Period. Automatically done.

Jesus, in the synagogue in Capernaum, did not have a mike. He had a scroll that he returned to the synagogue official. He sat down. All eyes were on him. And he said all he had to say — in less than five minutes: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Full stop. End of homily. Done.

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