Jesus often taught off the cuff as people asked questions or made comments. We get several examples of that here in Luke 11. Some of them may be familiar to us.
33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
There are really two lessons here:
1. Don’t hide the light you have.
2. Make your whole self full of light.
Most often, when I’ve heard this passage taught, the focus is on the first lesson. I also cannot read it without hearing a cheerful melody resonating in my head.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
So let’s focus on the second one: Make your whole self full of light.
In other words, we need to beware of what we might call Selective Sanctification.
Let’s read Luke 11:35-36 again.
35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.
Sometimes we can want to be holy, but only in the ways that we like best. Then at the same time, we leave a little room for a few other things – maybe things that are not really holy at all. We can have our favorite (little?) sins. We can have the ones we don’t yet realize we have and maybe don’t really want to even know about.
Leviticus 11:44-45 says,
44 For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy … 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
A few chapters later, in Leviticus 20:26, we read,
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
Then in the New Testament, Peter reminds us, in 1 Peter 1:14-16,
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
We need to be holy all the way through. And if you think you are there yet, think again. Beware of selective sanctification; just be holy.
Father in Heaven,
Thank you for revealing yourself to us even though we are not the great, mighty or wise of this world. If the last will be first, and so on, then we are happy to take the lower place now if it means that we get to know you.
As Jesus tells us, the harvest is large and the laborers are few. We pray earnestly that you would send laborers into your harvest.
Like the seventy-two, we can see that all of us can play a part in the task of mission. Help us to receive you sincerely knowing that we also need to be ready to be sent.
And then help us to be ready to serve our neighbor in need, no matter who that neighbor is.
Finally, make us the kind of people who will listen to and learn from Jesus. Even as we serve, we never want our work to somehow stand in the way of our relationship with him.
The story begins with a lawyer asking about eternal life. When Jesus asks him what is written in the law, he responds with the answer Jesus himself has given in Matthew 22 and Mark 12. My personal opinion is that this was a little bit of a setup. The lawyer wanted to give Jesus an answer he knew he would like, so that he could ask his next question. So in 10:29 he, “desiring to justify himself,” now asks, “And who is my neighbor?” A narrow definition of neighbor can make “Love your neighbor” an easy command to obey, but Jesus was not about to limit his definition.
He now tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A man is attacked by robbers. A priest and a Levite both pass by “on the other side.” A Samaritan comes along and helps. To digest the parable’s full meaning we have to remind ourselves that Samaritans and Jews typically hated each other. They were both ethnic and religious rivals, and the mixed-race Samaritans only appeared in the land after the norther tribes of Israel were dragged off into exile.
If Jesus told the story today in Israel today, he might say “Along came a Palestinian Arab …” When Christ asks his final question (10:36), “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” the lawyer gets it right. “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus delivers his punchline (10:37), “You go, and do likewise.”
To find a proper application for “Go and do likewise,” it might help to think of someone we dislike or someone we believe dislikes us. Who really irritates you? Who do you feel most uncomfortable around? Who do you suspect feels uncomfortable around you? Who is to you an ethnic and/or religious rival? What about the atheist next door? Now go and do likewise. According to Jesus, the “neighbor” we need to love most may come to us dressed as our enemy in need.
Dear heavenly Father,
We believe that Jesus is the Christ, your Son in whom you are well pleased, the Holy One of God. We can see that he exercises authority over nature and the spirit world. We understand that he exercises divine authority because he is God – such as declaring us forgiven of our sins. He has the right to demand our complete loyalty and trust for the same reason. He is God.
We accept that following Jesus means we need to be open to being sent out in various ways to serve him. It means we will have to trust him when that service goes beyond our abilities.
Please help us to see him as fully God as well as one of us, and to see ourselves as no better than others. Please make us willing to give him our complete loyalty and devotion regardless of the sacrifice that requires.