Sunday, March 17, 2019

Reflection on Luke 13:31-35

You might not have realized that there was a Jane Franklin. Of course, you have heard of her brother, Benjamin Franklin. The well traveled, well respected political dignitary of the early United States, who dabbled in inventing (including inventing bifocals) had a sister who was not as well traveled. In fact, her only travels were those that she imagined as she read her famous brother’s letters. She read about his trips to France and about all of the political shaping of our early nation while she took care of her 12 children, tended to a husband who could not hold down a job, and eventually took care of her parents. She was everything that Benjamin Franklin was not.

Benjamin Franklin writes in “A Private Life,” his autobiography, much about how he was able to go from rags to riches, much in the same way that our young nation did. Benjamin Franklin made himself out to be a self-made man, who poured himself into his work so that he might improve his standing in life. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” was Benjamin’s motto.

But, Benjamin never quite realized that his own success was built upon the neglect of others. Though he loved her dearly, someone was not in the pages of Benjamin’s autobiography: Jane.

Jane was the one who stuck around and did the best for her family that she could. Jane was the one who cared for their parents, though she was poor. Her story was a story of rags to rags, but nowhere in her story did she forget or neglect those around her.

Benjamin Franklin set his mind to be a great businessman and a great statesman, and he certainly accomplished those goals. But, in his ambition, he forgot those around him, seemingly, even his own parents. His accomplishments were not only built on hard work, but also neglect of important work.

Jane probably did not reach any of her major goals in life, if she even had any major goals to begin with, but she never forgot to love and offer her life as a sacrifice for those near her.

Though there seems to be little space between the options of loving others and reaching your goals in the story of Jane and Benjamin Franklin, Jesus somehow navigates both for the sake of the world.

The goal for Jesus, of course, is Jerusalem. It is there that he will enter in glory and leave carrying a cross. It is there, on that cross where Jesus will spread his arms wide open and gather the entire world, as a hen gathers her chicks protectively under her wings. It is there that the salvation of the entire world will be proclaimed through his death and resurrection. It is toward Jerusalem where Jesus’ entire life points.

Jesus’ eyes are, indeed, set toward Jerusalem, yet they do not miss seeing people along his path.

There is a man with dropsy, or as we know it: edema. He has fluid excruciatingly gathering in his body, but Jesus does not pass him by. He is healed along the way to Jerusalem.

He takes the time to sit with sinners and eat with them. The lost will be found, he will not pass them by on his way to Jerusalem.

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus teaches those around him about forgiveness and the importance of showing mercy.

Further down the road he heals 10 lepers; the kingdom of God becoming more real with every step.

He even takes the time to stop all of his healing and teaching in order to bless the little children that were brought to him.

The poor are given good news and the blind receive their sight all along the way to Jerusalem.

In every way, Jesus is the good Samaritan, on the road to somewhere but not forgetting the beaten and bloody along the way.

You can have both. You can reach toward a goal and reach toward those who need you. It is not one or the other.

You cannot believe how important this message is to a world and nation that is so divided. I know of families that have been divided because they have set their sights on political ideals, but in doing so have forgotten to love and care for one another.

I know of individuals who strive to be the best self that they can be, but forget to bring their own children along of the ride.

I know of churches who seek to grow and grow, yet are willing to cut away anyone who does not yet understand the path.

None of this happens with Jesus. Jesus sets his sight on his goal, and is still caring toward those on the path toward his goal. Maybe, that is because, for Jesus, the two are one and the same. His goal in Jerusalem is the forgiveness and salvation of the world. And so, he spreads forgiveness and salvation to all those he encounters along his way.

Jane was not a self-made woman. She did not set out to make a name for herself. But, maybe that was not her goal. Maybe, her goal did not consist of working hard so that she might be rich and famous.

Maybe, her goal was loving those around her who needed loving. Maybe, her goal was caring for those around her who God had given into her care. Maybe, Jane did achieve her goal; it just was not the grand goal of shaping a nation's history. Maybe, instead of following the path to stardom, Jane followed Jesus along the path of mercy and forgiveness.

In a world full of self-made role models, I would like to suggest one that is a little different: Jesus Christ. He is the one who seeks to gather chicks together rather than scatter. He is the one who heals rather than cuts away. He is the one who sits and eats with the sinner rather than chastising and dismissing. He is the one who forgives from the cross rather than condemning the ones who put him there. Jesus Christ is the one who chooses to save rather than condemn.

Jesus Christ is our model and our goal. Jesus is our Lord and our Savior. As the citizens and saints of God's kingdom we will follow Jesus.

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