THIS NOVEMBER CYCLE of lectionary readings encourages our stillness and trust in God in times of persecution (Psalm 46). It also asks us to reconsider the signs and wonders of Jesus’ public ministry as an invitation into his redemptive plan.
In Luke 19, Jesus extends mercy in the form of table fellowship to the wealthy and despised chief tax collector Zacchaeus, setting off alarms. Everyone who saw divine hospitality in motion “began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner’” (verse 7). The taxation system of which Zacchaeus is a part, by profession and association, is no doubt inherently corrupt and socially abusive. Ironically, salvation comes to Zacchaeus with “breaking of bread,” table fellowship, and in the context of divine hospitality.
Luke 20 presents one of several vignettes that raise questions about the nature and origin of Jesus’ authority. Here a dispute pits Sadducees, the keepers of the Torah who do not believe in resurrection, against Jesus, the rabbi who scrambles and puzzles their logic. What is revealed is a strictness of theological imagination on the Sadducees’ part and radical truth-telling grounded in well-timed perception on the part of Jesus. Then in Luke 21, Jesus foretells terror, the kind which we 21st-century, world-redemption seekers would do well to hear: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes ... famines and plagues ... and great signs from heaven” (verses 10-11). You will be hated, Jesus says, but “by your endurance you will gain your souls” (verse 19).