Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Active and Contemplative.

From early on in Christian history, Martha and Mary have been understood as signifying the active life and the contemplative life. For contemporary Christians, it is helpful to to emphasize the unity of these two dimensions of their lives; union with God in prayer overflows into all one’s activities, so that they bear fruit. Lydia in Acts makes the right combination, responding like both Mary and Martha. First, she listened to the gospel message preached by Paul and then offered hospitality to Paul and his companions.

Prayer and Almsgiving. Luke 11: 11-13. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray The Lord’s Prayer. What makes such bold and unrelenting prayer possible is an attitude of filial trust in the Father. Jesus illustrates this truth with a comparison: a father, whose son needs food and asks for a fish or an egg, will not give him something harmful. Both the parable and the sayings teach about prayer using a ‘how much more’ argument that goes from lesser to greater. If parents, despite their faults, give good gifts to their children, how much more will the Father in heaven give better gifts, even the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Jesus himself prays in the Spirit to the Father so his disciples, who imitate him in prayer, can similarly share in the life of God.

God’s Kingdom Overcomes Satan’s Kingdom. Jesus expels a demon, healing a mute person. The word Luke uses, “kophos.” can also refer to a deaf person, or to one who is both deaf and mute. There are few miracles in this time; instead there is more attention to the ensuing dispute and the increasing rejection of Jesus as he approaches Jerusalem. Some say that Jesus drives out demons with the help of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. It originally meant “master of the exalted house.” The name was mocked as Baalzebub, “lord of the flies,” in the passage where Elijah called down fire from heaven. Pagan gods were considered to be demons, so Beelzebul refers to chief demon or Satan himself. Jesus points out their faulty reasoning when he asks who drives out demons among their exorcists. Jesus drives out spirits by the finger of God. Pharaoh’s magicians, after the third plague could no longer imitate the signs and wonders of Moses, and said they recognized the power at work was “the finger of God.” Now, too, the kingdom of God has come upon them, and the kingdom of Satan is in retreat.

Jesus sets a choice before his listeners. A person can’t remain neutral but must stand for him or against him. He has come to re-gather the people, but whoever rejects him scatters. Jesus delivers a warning about an unclean spirit. When it is cast out, it wanders around looking for a home. It comes back to its previous home and, find it swept and clean, enters it and brings seven more demons worse than itself. This story recalls the Legion of demons who begged not to be sent into the abyss and were sent into the swine instead. The meaning again is that one cannot remain neutral–as a home cannot remain unoccupied for long. One should pray to the Father to give the Holy Spirit, so that filled with the Holy Spirit like Jesus, one can resist the devil. If the Spirit of God dwells in a person, there will be no room for evil spirits to dwell there.

Hearing God’s Word through Jesus’ Preaching and Wisdom 11:27-36. A woman interrupts Jesus with a beatitude intending to praise him by honoring his mother: Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed. In a sense, she is fulfilling Mary’s own prophecy that “all ages” will call her “blessed.” However, the fundamental reason that she is blessed is Mary’s belief in the Lord’s message through the angel. Jesus replies to the woman with a more basic reason for blessedness: Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it. That’s why Mary is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The crowd is seeking a sign, meaning they want Jesus to work a miracle like bring someone back from the dead. Jesus refuses because its an evil generation and he tells them in no uncertain term that they are evil. He compares them to the evil generation that wandered in the wilderness and couldn’t enter the promised land. He frequently warns this generation about the coming judgment when others will come together and condemn it for failing to hear and repent.

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