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The Book of Books Book Club weekly blog

Luke 21-24

As we come to the end of the three gospels known as the Synoptics, for sharing the same perspective and chronology, we've seen differences both minor (e.g., the blind man healed by Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, whom Mark calls Bartimaeus, is unnamed in Luke and is two men in Matthew) and major (which parables are shared by all and which are in Luke alone, for example). Luke's narrative agenda – seeing the gospel story as pointing to and continued in the story of the creation of the early church as described in the Book of Acts – may not lie behind every one of these differences, but it does shape the overall emphasis on Jesus' particular concern for the outsiders and the marginalized.

In fact, it can be seen that Luke draws our attention to what the people of his time, and of our own, might think of as the undeserving, right on through the crucifixion and resurrection: from the tax collector who acknowledges himself as a sinner in the parable, to the ten lepers, to Zaccheus, and even to the criminal crucified with him who is promised Paradise. The high point of this, for me, is the story known as the Supper on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). These two disciples heading to Emmaus are running away from the crucifixion, running away from the one they thought was the Messiah but instead has been executed as a common criminal, running away from the story the women told of the empty tomb – they are no longer devout followers of Jesus, yet they are the ones he chooses to accompany on the road, to teach them what they have failed to understand, to share with them a supper that is meal and eucharist and heavenly banquet. We are reminded, then, that there is no one who is deserving of the kingdom – rather, that we are all sinners and yet salvation is granted to all.

This theme is a most difficult one for us to accept - we work so hard to make ourselves deserving, to earn God's love and favor. As we bring Luke's gospel to a close, perhaps a useful exercise would be to examine the ways we look to make ourselves worthy of God's favor – consciously or unconsciously – and the ways we judge others by whether they are worthy of such grace or not. How do we forget that grace means precisely the unmerited love of God? Can we see faith then as living out a response to God's love, rather than making a desperate attempt to earn it?