Reframing Luke

I don't know about you, but after approximately nine months of reading the Old Testament, it's pretty good to see all of those promises begin to reach their fulfillment in the New Testament. I've been reading my One Year Chronological Bible again this year, but I switched to my standard Bible when I hit the New Testament; wanted to grasp the stories in their book-contexts, as written. So I started with Luke.

I may have written about this before, but I tend to wig out when I hit the New Testament in my reading. I feel like, if I don't end up blown away, I'm some sort of spiritual disappointment. To whom, I don't know, but there it is. So this year when I started reading Luke, I asked God to help me read it well, for the Holy Spirit to open it up to me. As I was in the beginning of Luke, I started to re-imagine the story: what if Jesus hadn't shown up? What would be happening to these people?

Aside: Luke 1:4, Luke writes that Theophilus would know the certainty of the things he's been taught. This book is a non-eyewitness account written for someone who is not an eyewitness. Theophilus is a couple of removes from the walking, talking Jesus, someone who is a believer based on what he's been taught. Much like myself. Luke's gospel, therefore, is a faith-building book, grounding teaching in research and fact. Our faith is not irrational; it is grounded in things that actually happened and can be traced historically.

Luke 1-3, Jesus Doesn't Show:

Zechariah and Elizabeth eventually have a kid in their old age, who grows up to be part of the religious establishment or establishes a crazy messiah cult in the desert. Joseph and Mary get married, have some kids.

Luke 4, Jesus Doesn't Show:

4:16-30 Religious people read the TaNaKh in the synagogue in Nazareth, talk about it.
4:31-37 A demon-possessed man comes into the synagogue in Capernaum, nobody knows what to do. He rails and shouts, and the religious leaders try to hold an exorcism. He becomes violent, is kicked out of the community. Feeds on scraps, dies alone and unaided.
4:38-39 Simon goes home to his sick mother-in-law, watches as his wife feeds her mom, attempts to nurse her back to health. The lady dies, they bury her, wail, beat themselves in mourning. Neighbors stay with them, say insensitive things, send casseroles, eventually drift off to carry on their business.
4:40-41 The sick and demon-possessed of Capernaum remain sick and demon-possessed.

Luke 5, Jesus Doesn't Show:

5:1-11 Simon catches no fish, goes home empty-handed to his wife and sick mother-in-law.
5:12-16 The man full of leprosy spends the day sitting outside the city, alone and untouched. Makes friends with other lepers, maybe. Eventually weakens and dies alone.
5:17-26 The paralyzed man lies in his house, developing bedsores, as his friends watch and eventually go back to their own lives. Gets gangrene, dies in bed, sins unforgiven.
5:27-32 Matthew and his tax-collector friends are universally reviled and considered traitors. Killed in uprisings leading to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem 40 years later.

Luke 6, Jesus Doesn't Show:

6:6-11 The man's withered hand stays withered. Can't hold down a job, resorts to begging. Spirit crushed by the avoidance and false pity of the community. Dies alone.
6:12-16 Simon, Andrew, James, and John stay fishermen; Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus stay with the family businesses. Simon the Zealot gets himself killed trying to sabotage a Roman-owned business. Judas son of James does whatever James is doing; and Judas Iscariot joins a local messiah-cult and lives in the desert with a group of crazies until the Romans crush their movement.
6:17-19 The sick and demon-possessed of Judea, Jerusalem, Tyre, and Sidon remain sick and demon-possessed.

Luke 7, Jesus Doesn't Show:

7:1-10 The centurion's servant dies unaided. The elders of the Jews stand outside his house, because entering would make them unclean, offering condolences.
7:11-17 The widow of Nain loses her son for good, lives off the scant charity of extended family and neighbors, dies alone.
7:18-35 John the Baptist dies unvindicated, the blind stay blind, the lame stay lame, the lepers die of leprosy, the deaf stay deaf, the dead stay dead, and nobody gives poor people good news.
7:36-50 The sinful woman lives the rest of her life unforgiven, despised, and treated like an object. Has no friends, because she lives judged by her self-righteous community. Can find nowhere to turn in her misery. Is eventually tried, convicted, and stoned to death by a court of angry men.

Luke 8, Jesus Doesn't Show:

8:1-3 Mary Magdalene is tormented by seven demons, kills herself. Other women in the community do their thing. Rich women do their thing. Nothing special.
8:26-39 The demon-possessed Gadarene lives and dies alone, in the tombs, a broken and tormented man. People herd swines as usual.
8:40-56 Jairus loses his daughter and his faith in God. The woman with the issue of blood sinks deeper and deeper into poverty, no one will touch her because she is unclean, dies begging, alone.

Luke 9, Jesus Doesn't Show:

9:1-6 Nobody gets healed in all the towns of Galilee.
9:37-42 In a family near the mountain, a little boy throws himself into the cooking fire in the throes of demon-possession, dies of his injuries days later.

Luke 11, Jesus Doesn't Show:

11:14 The man with a demon of muteness stays mute, is treated as a crazy, goes crazy, eventually dies alone.

Luke 13, Jesus Doesn't Show:

13:10-17 A woman bound 18 years by a spirit of infirmity continues to live bent over, develops severe arthritis, becomes bed-ridden, and dies alone.

Luke 14, Jesus Doesn't Show:

14:1-6 The man with edema eventually develops gangrene in his limb after a quack healer attempts to bleed it, dies from the infection.

Luke 15, Jesus Doesn't Show:

Tax collectors never hear that God has a heart for them.

Luke 17, Jesus Doesn't Show:

17:11-19 Ten lepers eventually die outside of the community.

Luke 18, Jesus Doesn't Show:

18:35-43 The blind man keeps begging, eventually dies alone.

Luke 19, Jesus Doesn't Show:

19:1-10 Zacchaeus, despised by his community, continues to accumulate wealth, but dies alone and unforgiven.

And that's it. Jesus doesn't show. Life goes on as usual. The Jews eventually rise up agains the Romans and are scattered once again when the Temple is destroyed. Pockets of Jews maintain their identity, but the faith drifts away. Rome rules the world until barbarian hordes overrun it. No one steps up to save unwanted baby girls. Women remain unwanted and disregarded. Centuries of darkness progress until an army from the east overruns the former Roman empire. Constant warring results in unstable cultures. Universities as we know them are never invented. Science continues along pagan lines and never results in genuine study of a real world with a purpose. Eastern mysticism holds sway, with nothing to curb polytheism, racism, caste systems. European tribes remain isolated. America is eventually discovered, and all of its inhabitants are slaughtered or enslaved. No strong abolition movement arises. Our world remains in a feudal state, ravaged by disease, entrapped by whichever nation's ideas hold most sway.

Nice, isn't it?

Most of the things I've listed are just the physical aspects of Jesus' coming--I didn't even touch the ideas He's responsible for. But it makes me think--because He did show up, all of those people had hope. Did you see how often I mentioned dying alone? Without Jesus, we do die alone. Without Him, we live unchanged, and that is the very worst thing that can happen. But with Him, there is healing, hope, glory, vindication, salvation, community, fellowship, life, resurrection, and peace. I am so grateful that He came.

  • I'm losing my job, but God keeps extending the danged thing. My last day was supposed to be August 16, then my last day was supposed to be yesterday, and now it's possibly that my last day may be October 22. I have to decide whether I'll stay on part time to help one last family. I talk to the Nashville boss about it Monday. 
  • I've started making new friends in Memphis, which gives me a sense that I just might be able to live here.
  • God has been doing some neat things in my heart re: being able to feel like I'm a part of my church.
  • I am very well taken care of, with a space of my own in my parents' house, people who love me, a car, a job(ish), and resources for the future. Not everyone has that.
  • I got to go back to Canada for a week and spend time with my people. God gave me so many amazing freebies in that, just reminding me of His extravagant love for me. I can't tell you how encouraging it was.
Prayer requests:
  • I need wisdom about whether to stay employed. I keep feeling like it's dragging on and on, but it seems like God's hand is in it to keep me with this job.
  • I need wisdom for the future. Do I seek a secular career, do I seek a secular career for tentmaking purposes, or do I try to pursue full-time ministry? I'm at a crossroads.

Thanks for reading this far and for praying for me! I will have more updates in the future.

ETA: Talked with Dad about this blog post, about how Luke's a much shorter book without Jesus, and he said, "Only bad things happen. Actually, good things don't happen. Bad things are always going to happen, but Jesus is the one who intervenes to turn bad things into good things." My paraphrase, obvs., but I thought it was a neat insight.

No comments: