Turn Again and Give Thanks

Jesus met a lot of people on his travels. In chapter 8, we read of the woman with the issue of blood. She’s an old friend of mine, being the reason I first felt really compelled to go forward. Since then, on our journey through Luke’s gospel, we’ve come across a whole host of characters, and a variety of situations.

In chapter seventeen, though, we meet a particular group which is standing some distance from Jesus. There are ten of them, all suffering from leprosy. You might even say that they are practising social distancing. 

Contrast their physical stance, however, with what they have to say. ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us’, they call to him. Their illness causes them to remain separate from the great crowd that seems to attend Jesus wherever he goes. Yet, their eyes are on him, and their hearts reach out to him in faith.

I wonder how many people, in the midst of the current crisis, lifted up their voices to him. Did we – individually and collectively – ask him to have mercy on us, and to help?

Sadly, the fact is that we just don’t see God in the pandemic. All the talk has been of ‘getting though this together’ and of finding a vaccine. No mention of our sovereign Lord

Now that it seems the vaccine may be here, though, the mood has lifted immeasurably. There is talk of light at the end of the tunnel, of a way out and . . . where?

Back to ‘normal’.

That is the highest ambition of mankind right now. Let us conquer the virus so that we can go back to living as we please. We have that much in common with nine of the ten lepers. Although they asked Jesus for mercy, only one returned to thank him when their petition had been answered.

Our problem is that we treat blessings as though they are our due, and we treat hardships as something unnatural and wrong. The fact is, both are part of God’s providence for reasons only he knows. That includes Corona Virus and all the difficulties it continues to bring.

Instead of complaining that we want the ‘natural’ order of life restored, we would do well to be like that tenth leper, the Samaritan, who remembered Jesus – because Jesus had remembered him.

Immanuel

In the second year of Harold Wilson’s second government, the twenty third year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the first year of Comhairle nan Eilean, Catrìona was born. ‘Abair naidheachd’, I hear you say. Nighean Mhurdanaidh Catrìona Dhòmhnaill Iain Ruaidh. ‘So what?’ you add carelessly.

Well, so what indeed. We were all born sometime and we all had parents of some description. It’s part of being human. We take all that for granted.

Why, then, does Luke place a fairly lengthy genealogy of Jesus in the middle of chapter three? Surely, when you are poised for the awe and wonder of the Son of God walking this Earth, such a mundane interlude is simply so much extraneous information. 

Look, though, where it is placed. 

Jesus is baptised, and the Holy Spirit alights upon him. It is then that God’s voice from heaven declares, ‘this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased’.

Extraordinary. Everything about the scene tells us that this is indeed the Son of God, the promised Messiah. This is how we would have him be: exceptional.

No sooner are we growing used to this, however, than Luke intervenes. The genealogy places Jesus firmly where he was of his own free will. It reminds us not only who he was, but what he had come to accomplish.

And, for me this third of December, that is the really outstanding thing about the chapter. We know that Jesus is the Son of God, and it is no surprise to hear the Father praising his perfection. 

What causes wonder every time, though, is the other part of the story: that Jesus set his glory aside to be born into an ordinary human lineage. Then you see his remarkable baptism in a different light too. 

He was not an ordinary man, extraordinarily blessed; he was God with us. The alighting of the Spirit, and the blessing of the Father represent the total alignment of the trinity in a common purpose.

Most awe-inspiring of all is what that purpose was.