Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.
February 17, 2019
Text: Luke 6:21, Old Testament: Jeremiah 17:5-10, New Testament:
There is a tension in Bible translation between people who believe God is concerned about our material needs and those who believe God is concerned about satisfying our spiritual needs. Where are you in this conversation?
When you read Luke 6: 21, is Jesus talking about people’s physical hunger or is He talking about people’s spiritual hunger?
In Luke 6:20, is Jesus talking about people’s material poverty or is He talking about people’s spiritual poverty?
Is He talking about people in grief who need entertainment to laugh?
How we approach Jesus’ teaching makes all the difference where we end up interpreting His teaching. If we’re more concerned about bending Jesus to our expectations for life, we’ll miss what He wants for us in life.
There are great expectations we have for God. We expect God to be all we want Him to be. Are we concerned about what He expects for us to be?
Join the crowd from Tyre and Sidon and ask yourselves what are the crowds expectations of Jesus. What is it the disciples see in the crowd that brings them to Jesus? What is it Jesus sees in the faces of those coming before Him?
Luke makes it a point to tell us the home of the crowd. They came from two ancient cities on the Lebanese coast which were the major ports of the Phoenician Empire. They were the Canaanites of the First Testament.
They had worshipped Ba-al and his wife Ashteroth in their fertility cult. They had sacrificed children centuries before Jesus’ birth. Archaeological finds suggest that some of these rituals had returned under the Romans.
They had founded Rome’s competitor on the North African coast – Carthage. At one time they had been one of the wealthiest cities on the Mediterranean. By the time of Jesus, their wealth had dissipated. Alexander the Great had destroyed Tyre. Sidon had fallen on hard times.
They remembered the golden days when their gods and goddesses had blessed them. Now they questioned everything about who they were and what they were about. They had a great story in the past.
But they were looking for something more for the future.
Their sense of community was missing. Hardship had crept upon them until the Romans made Sidon a great entertainment center with its Hippodrome.
Roman gods were worshipped that resembled Ba’al and Ashteroth. But it wasn’t the same.
They wanted a better life.
So they came to Jesus. What did He have to offer that Rome couldn’t give them? What appeal did He have that they couldn’t get from being allies with the Romans?
Curiosity was probably the major driver behind them coming to Jesus.
They had about as good a life as anyone could have in that era. They weren’t under siege by the Babylonians or the Persians. They could make their living as fishermen or merchants like their parents had for generations.
But disease crippled them – the cancerous disease of the heart.
Jesus saw them like He sees us.
We are a people with a great story of international prominence. We haven’t been conquered like Tyre. But we’ve had our global challenges that suggest what we once were may not last forever.
We have opportunities for trade and commerce. But our society seems discontented. Gun violence across our nation has killed more of our fellow Americans than all the wars we have fought since the French Revolution.
We hear stories of American teens being trafficked as sex slaves on an international market . An opiod crisis infects homes with its disease. Despite nearly 50 years of teaching teens the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes reason cannot diminish the tremendous wealth made by manufacturing, distributing, and selling drugs.
Young people have left the Church in droves but what community is giving them satisfaction?
A soccer team? A football squad? A dance troupe? A swim club?
Is it a career that will give them what they expect out of life?
They went to college only to come out with debt that in some cases rivals a second home mortgage. They find a job, but become dissatisfied with the repetition, the expectation to perform, to accomplish, to succeed.
Only to find it isn’t enough. You are always being measured by what you have done for someone else now – not what you did before.
We could be from Tyre, or Sidon. But we’re from Bellevue and the North Boroughs in the United States of America.
We’re surrounded by lonely, dissatisfied people, and children being sacrificed on the altar of adult career success or indifference.
Here we are, Jesus disciples. We’ve seen what He can do. We seen what He has done for us. We’ve seen what He has done for other people.
Do you really think He is talking about feeding our stomachs?
Do you really think He is talking about a socialist solution to economic inequality?
If He says the poor will always be with us, what poor is He talking about –
the people under bridges or the woman who believes her career success is her castle against ruin? Is He talking about the single parent eking out a living or the college professor who trusts his intellect to be his salvation?
The poor is everyone – the one who is at the bottom of the socio-economic class system and the one who is at the pinnacle of political power.
The poor is everyone – the one who tries to escape life by diving into entertainment as their form of avoidance and the one who suffers with the helpless every day wondering when will God save this poor soul.
The hungry is the one whose gluttony is never satisfied as well as the one whose health extremism is never enough.
The hungry is the one who craves to be heard in a world saturated with noise as well as the one who is a noise maker who listens only to the sound of his own voice.
Jesus points us to a time when our expectations will be met. God is watching from His heavenly vantage point. He has prepared His answer to our hunger and thirst for a different life – a better life.
The question isn’t whether God will meet our expectations. It’s how long will it take us to realize He is already meeting them.
We share with the people of Sidon and Tyre our dissatisfaction with the world as it is. We have expectations for a better world, despite the wealth and entertainment that surrounds us in America.
But don’t be surprised when the answer God gives strips us from what our expectations are from God.
We expect to be satisfied without social challenges. We expect life to change for the better without a gauntlet to run.
Most of all. The more we make our hope in God known, the more it will draw public derision. Those who trust in human knowledge, human wisdom, human ingenuity without God will do everything they can to discredit us.
When that happens, you know you are on the right track. That’s when you will be free to laugh.
It’s only when we have made others uncomfortable enough in our faith in Jesus Christ that we will get their attention and they will respond as anyone does who trusts in themselves more than God.
So, don’t get caught with unrealistic expectations of God, or of what you want out of life.
Pray for others, not yourselves. Ask God to lift them up to new realizations of His authority over life. And stay close to Jesus.
He will keep you grounded, close to where you need to be to receive God’s blessings.