The Power of Context – Connecting Stories In Luke 18-19

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After that last post about studying contextually, I wanted to give an example of how connecting points bring stories together and are actually used to illustrate the points being made even when the stories are not at first obviously connected.

Luke 18 starts with a parable of a widow who is so persistent in her pleading that the judge, though harsh and bitter, grants her justice. Jesus says she was vindicated of the wrong that was done her. Next, Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who go to the temple to pray. The Pharisee is prideful, bragging and boasting before the Lord about his superiority to the tax collector. Meanwhile, the tax collector is contrite. He is remorseful and repentant. Jesus says it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee.

In the middle of Luke 18 you have the story of the rich man, one who anyone watching would have expected to be found right in the eyes of the Lord, turns away because he couldn’t sell his possessions to follow Jesus. After that story Jesus predicts his death and resurrection but the disciples just don’t get it because, Luke tells us, it was hidden from them. But then you have the story of a blind man in Jericho who cries out to Jesus in faith for Jesus to heal his eyes (who does get it that Jesus is a royal descendant of David).

Last, that story is followed up by another tax collector who also lives in Jericho, like the tax collector at the beginning of Luke 18 is contrite, remorseful and repentant. But unlike the rich young man who one would expect could have been righteous enough to sell it all and follow Jesus, does exactly that. He repays all of his ill-gotten gain and vindicates (like the persistent widow) those who has wronged, justifying all those he cheated.

A – Justice and vindication (widow and tax collector)

B – Contrition vs pride (tax collector vs rich young man)

C – Hidden vs clear vision (disciples vs blind man & the children)

B’ – Contrition and pride (Zacchaeus vs Rich young man)

A’ – Justice and vindication (Zacchaeus)

That forms a really nice looking chiastic structure that focuses us in on C – those who see things clearly are made whole…wrongs are righted and justice and vindication are served.

Where do the children of Luke 18:15-17 fit into all of this? They are the ones who see clearly. As was pointed out in our Bible class last night, it was the widow, tax collector, Zacchaeus and the blind man who all had child-like responses to God & Jesus. They are saying things out loud adults don’t normally say. They are doing “foolish” things because of their childlike trust and faith. The Pharisee and the rich man fail because they don’t act this way. They don’t embrace a childlike faith and trust in the Lord preferring to cling to their idols.

4 Responses

  1. The chiastic structure is not always as informative to the meaning of the text as I would like it to be…but this one really sheds light on the intended meaning of the text. It’s these kinds of studies that continually bring excitement and valuable application to my life. It’s a constant reminder of how inspired the Word of God actually is and how far we have yet to go in our pursuit of transformative knowledge. Thanks for helping to “open my eyes”!

    1. I love how God’s Word is has layers. On the simplest level, someone can read right over that, miss the whole thing, and still come away with transformative truth. Or, someone can catch the subtleties, interpret it slightly differently and also come away with solid truth that can change our lives. If God’s Word is that amazing, just think how amazing the God who spoke these words to us is!

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