The Apostles’ First Day

Jesus briefs his apostles on their first day at work, based on Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6C)

Introduction

In verses 12-16 Jesus takes his disciples up a mountain, spends all night praying and then selects 12 of them to be apostles (“sent with a special commission”).  In verse 17 they come down the mountain and run into a large crowd, seeking his teaching and healing.  He heals all who need it and then he speaks to his followers. 

Luke 6:17-26

Jesus tells his followers that following him may cost them.  They may be:

  • Poor; Hungry; Weeping;
  • Hated, excluded, insulted and rejected as evil!

But God will reward them because this is how the prophets were always treated. Conversely, the rich, well fed, laughing and admired had better watch out! These things come from humans, not God.

This was not obvious teaching at the time.  Surely people had good things because God blessed them?

Meaning for Today

People still believe this.  On social media I see Christians saying that God is going to bless his people, more and more.  Now Jesus doesn’t say that we will always suffer, or must suffer, but he does encourage us. 

  • If we suffer on Earth for our faith, we should know that this is consistent with being true disciples; 
  • Conversely, being rich and famous is not a sign that God loves us.

Conclusion

The reward for faith is salvation, a restored relationship with God, and all that flows from it: 

  • Love for enemies (vv27-36);
  • Not judging others (vv37-42);
  • Bearing good fruit; and
  • Building wisely (vv46-49).

We will be different, and our differences will equip us for heaven.  Let’s start as we mean to go on!

What is our Response to Suffering?

What is our response to suffering … a sermon on Job 1:1;2:1-10 (Year B, Proper 22)

Introduction

Job’s sufferings are very well known, even outside God’s people.  This book has early Hebrew ideas about how God operates, with Satan working for God, rather than against him. Everybody goes to the same place (Sheol) when they die, there is no judgement after death, so the only punishment is during this life. These ideas changed later in the OT and then dramatically in the NT.

Most of the narrative is about Job’s friends offering him ‘wisdom’ and ‘advice’ but always based on the assumption that Job has sinned, and as soon as repents, he will be healed.  But in this passage, we see how it all begins.

Characters:

  • God – seen here as presiding like a judge in court over the reports of the angels who watch over the earth.
  • Satan (the ‘Accuser’ or Prosecutor) – who seems rather too eager to perform his role.
  • Job – a good and prosperous man, who has lost all his possessions (Chapter 1) and now his health (Chapter 2).
  • Job’s wife – who urges him to curse God and be done with it: die.

Exegesis

  • Is Job truly loyal to God, or is because he wants to hold onto the good things he’s got (an important lesson for rich, western Christians)?
  • Would we remain loyal like Job, when stripped of everything, including our health and vigour?

Application

I don’t know much about suffering, but I see it close by and on the TV; I also know what it is to receive well-meaning advice from ‘friends’ when in difficulties!

You will have varying degrees of direct and indirect experience of suffering. There will be no rhyme or reason to who has experienced what.  But, guess what: we’re still here!

God’s answer to Job is not an argument but a revelation of his overpowering greatness and goodness.  Whatever happens in life God can be relied upon.  We are much better off than Job, as we have Jesus (the Defender) – now ‘we know that our Redeemer liveth’, unlike Job, who was sure that a mediator existed, but could only hope for life after death.  In the face of suffering, we know God, we know salvation and we know that we are going to God after this life.  Hallelujah.