Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 12
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

If you've ever watched the Tour de France you've seen the crowds. Thousands and thousands of people line the Tour route waiting for hours and hours to catch a glimpse of the riders for just a couple of seconds as they speed by at up to 35 miles an hour. In the cities the crowds will be ten to fifteen deep, especially behind the barriers near the finish line.

In the mountains it's even more amazing. People will climb thousands of feet up the mountainside to see the riders as they make their ascent. Since they're only going 10 to 15 miles per hour on the steep climbs the fans on the mountains get a much better view of the riders. Sometimes the crowds get so large that the motorcycles have to clear a path through the crowd for the cyclists to be able to ride through. I've even seen riders push fans out of their way so they can continue up the mountain.

I'm sure you've heard news reports of crowds getting so large and so unruly at soccer matches that fans have actually been trampled to death. Crowds of fans are pretty much the same no matter what the event might be. I've been to Christian music festivals where the crowds were pressing so hard against the stage that people in the front row were being crushed.

It wasn't any different in Jesus' day, although I was amazed to see it. I know I've read Luke 12 many times, but this morning I was struck by what Luke said about the crowds. "Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples."

Jesus knew how to draw a crowd. But in the days before radio or TV, before newspaper ads or posters on telephone poles, before public address systems and walls of giant speakers, it's pretty amazing to think that crowds of many thousands would gather around Jesus. They were so eager to have access to Him, that people would trample one another to try to get as close as possible to our Lord.

What was the attraction? Grace and truth! John said: "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) When Jesus spoke, people heard the truth. He spoke with authority. He told them truth about themselves and about God. And in Jesus they experienced grace firsthand. He healed the sick, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, and fed the hungry. This was grace in action. No wonder everyone wanted to get as close as possible to Jesus.

It's one thing to press in close in order to see a great cyclist, a great soccer match, or a great singer. But when people pressed in close to see Jesus, they were seeing the real thing. John said: "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (John 1:18) And Jesus himself said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9) Yes, I'd press in as close as possible to be able to see God in the flesh! I'm not sure how Jesus and his disciples handled crowd control.

Yes, Jesus knew how to draw a crowd, but that was not what he was interested in. He was interested in imparting life, eternal life to lost people. He did so by sharing grace and truth. And people found grace and truth attractive. Sometimes, churches are criticized for wanting to draw a crowd. If those churces are sharing grace and truth in order to impart eteranl life through faith in Jesus with lost people, then they are doing exactly what they should be doing.

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 12
Author: Pastor Zach

I know it's obnoxiously expensive, but I splurge. I splurge on bottled water. Yes, I understand that I can purify my own water and fill my own bottle for pennies on the dollar to what I spend on bottled water, but this luxury's convenience makes it worth the money. Granted, I will forgo my pricey bottled water and fill a glass of my own with water when I'm enjoying a leisurely evening supper, but in the morning when I'm racing out the door, the grab and go convenience of bottled water is too alluring for me to pass up.

One of the things which helps assuage my guilt over the price of bottled water is the cases in which I buy it. Most of the time, these cases contain twenty-four bottles. But every once in a while, the manufacturer, in an effort to keep folks like me buying their water, will offer a discount: A twenty-eight pack of water rather than a twenty-four pack for the same price. And just so I am sure to notice this enticing bargain, on the package will be proudly emblazoned: "Buy 24 and get 4 free!"

The promotion of buying one thing and getting something for free is a nearly ubiquitous fixture in our free market society. Hostess does it with its cupcake packages which periodically contain three, rather than the normal two, cupcakes. Old Navy does it with its clothing. If I buy one t-shirt, another awaits me for free. During the low-point of this recession, I even heard a commercial from a car dealer who promised that if you bought one truck, he'd give you another for free! Now that's a bargain!

Although we may think the "buy one, get one free" gimmick is a comparatively recent phenomenon of American capitalism, its origins seem to be much more ancient. In our reading for today from Luke 12, Jesus speaks of the care of his heavenly Father using this analogy: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (verses 6-7). The word which Jesus uses for "pennies" is a Greek form of a Latin loanword: assarion. An assarion was the lowest valued Roman coin, being equal to about half-an-hour's minimum wage. The sparrows which went five for two assaria were the cheapest things sold in the ancient market.

But wait. Something doesn't quite add up here. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus is again teaching on God's care when he uses this same analogy of sparrows, but with a twist: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31). In Matthew, two sparrows are sold for a penny. That means in Luke, four sparrows should be sold for two pennies. But instead, Jesus says that five sparrows are sold for two pennies. It's a cut-rate price for sparrows at the ancient Roman market! Buy four... get one free!

This, then, is the exquisiteness of God's care: Not only does he care for the four sparrows which are valued at an already paltry two for a penny, he even cares for the fifth sparrow which is valued at absolutely nothing. What the world gives away for free is tremendously valued in God's sight.

Perhaps today, you feel somewhat like a fifth sparrow - you feel undervalued if not unvalued. If this is you, take this promise to heart: Jesus cares for and about the fifth sparrow, even when that fifth sparrow is you. Of course, no matter how you might subjectively feel, in objective reality, you are worth much more than any sparrow and even many sparrows, as Jesus himself says: "Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (verse 7). And as the apostle Paul will later write: "You were bought at a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). And this price was very steep indeed. For it was the price of God's only Son. So take heart! You are valuable in God's sight. Rejoice in your value today.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2019-11-22 12:12:05