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The Bible In A Year: Day 81

Deuteronomy 12-14
Psalm 80
Luke 7:1-35

Deuteronomy 12-14

Moses commands them to tear down any idol or shrine they come across in the land they are about to inherit. They should destroy not just the idol but the whole building and worship location. Then after they finish the conquest, God said he would designate a certain location where all worship and sacrifice will take place.

This is to centralize the worship of the one God in one location to prevent perversions and synchronism from creeping into their religion. If they are in one location it’s less likely the multiple variations of this new system of worship will crop up.

They are also warned to not take on the cultic practices of the Canaanites they’re about to displace. The Canaanite religion was infamous in the ancient world for gods that demanded child sacrifice, and so the Israelites were told to not emulate their practices in any way, even if that worship was directed at the one true God.

They’re also reminded by Moses on the restrictions in their diets and their obligations to tithe. These things are all meant to make them separate and distinct from the pagan nations around them, to preserve them as a set apart people for God.

Luke 7:1-35

Some of the elders approach Jesus with a request that he come to the house of a Roman centurion. This centurion had a servant who was sick and he turned to Jesus because he heard about his healing people. He had built the synagogue for the people in town, and so he wasn’t your typical occupational officer, he actually respected the religious beliefs of the locals and may have been what was called a “God fearer” himself.

When Jesus gets close to his house, the centurion sends out some friends to tell Jesus that he doesn’t have to come inside, because he understands authority he recognizes it in Jesus, and tells him just a word is enough to heal even from a distance. He was honoring Jesus with these words and respecting the cultural norms of the Jews not entering the homes of gentiles.

Jesus marveled at his faith and said he hadn’t seen any so strong in all of Israel. This is just after he schooled the people in the synagogue in Nazareth that God chose to heal gentiles over Israelites in the past because of their lack of faith. So I’d imagine his words of commendation to the centurion would’ve enraged those people again had they heard him.

“I am not worthy that you should enter my house. I am not capable of receiving the Sun of Righteousness in its entirety; a little radiance from it is sufficient for me to remove sickness, as it does for the darkness.” When our Lord heard this, he marveled at him. God marveled at a human being. He said to those who were near him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in anyone among the house of Israel have I found this kind of faith.” … The centurion had brought them, and he came so that they would be advocates on his behalf. He rebuked them because they did not possess his faith. To show that the centurion’s faith was the first of the faith of the Gentiles, he said, “Do not imagine that this faith can be limited to the centurion.”

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Jesus then goes to Nain, a city near Nazareth, and there he raises the only son of a local widow. She was heartbroken that her son had died, but considering how things were for women back then, unless she had a wealthy family member, it was almost like a death sentence for her too. Jesus took pity on her situation, and raised her son to life. Saint Ambrose points out in his commentary on Luke,

The widow signifies Mother Church, weeping for those who are dead in sin and carried beyond the safety of her gates. The multitudes looking on will praise the Lord when sinners rise again from death and are restored to their mother.

Saint Ambrose

Then we come to a part that can seem a bit confusing. John the Baptist sends messengers to ask if Jesus is the messiah or if the should look elsewhere. John the Baptist recognized Jesus twice before; once in the womb and when he came down to be baptized. So with the knowledge that he knew Jesus was the Lamb of God already, there’s two likely explanations.

One is that John wants to push Jesus into action. He sends the messengers to essentially ask Jesus what is he waiting for. ‘Get this ball rolling’ and the like.

The second, and more likely in my opinion, is that John sent the messengers to go become disciples of Jesus because he knew his to,e was short. He may have described Jesus and told them where to find him, but they were just verifying that he was the one that they’d been told about. In this scenario, John has no doubts about Jesus and probably just told them to be careful because of how many false messiahs there were in the late second temple period. Considering John’s blessed role in the coming of the savior, I think this faithful interpretation is much more in keeping with his character and mission.

Jesus then talks about John for a little bit and laments that even though many came to repentance through his ministry there were even more who refused the invitation to repent. He likens them to children who just want to complain no matter what game is suggested. The refused to play a joyful game (hear Jesus preach about the glorious nature of the kingdom) and the refused to weep with John (who’s message was somber and penitential).

They said John had demons because he practiced asceticism and lived very simply, and they called Jesus a drunk a glutton because he feasted with his disciples. The critics will sometimes be critical because that’s all they have and it distracts them from a message they need to hear.

Tomorrow’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 15-17
Psalm 81
Luke 7:36-8:15

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