So many of Jesus' Commands are interrelated. In these combined passages from Luke, we hear echoes of Love, Give to the poor, Do more than required, Be a servant, Be kind, Do good, Do not demand back what you have given, Serve the least of humanity as you would Jesus.
Two individuals in the Gospels occasionally cause the sensitive heart a pang of empathy. In both instances, at first glance we feel that Jesus is a little harsh.
The passage from Mark 7 concerning the pharisaic worship of the letter of the law, as manifested by an obsession with clean cups and bowls and hands, gives a singularly important teaching in all the Gospels. Jesus here addresses an inevitable tendency in all religions--the susceptibility of truth to degenerate into doctrines and legalisms, defined by what Jesus calls the "traditions of the elders" rather than by constantly renewing reality.
An entire history of Christendom could be written from the perspective of the slow, steady, continuous divergence of Christ's followers from Christ's commands.
Faith is truly one of the most complex attributes of spirituality. It is a word bandied about easily and casually by the unbelieving world as readily as it is used in the believing world.
It is unfortunate, in one sense, that the Lord's parable of the talents is about money and the return gained from its use. This has led to the false idea that God cares about the world of finance. The misappropriation of the truth of this parable has contributed to many foolish prosperity doctrines that are an embarrassment to the church. Because of the deeper meaning in the parable, however, the first century unit of money-weight Jesus spoke of actually became our English word for "talent," which certainly brings us much closer to Jesus' intent.
New Testament scholar William Barclay says plainly about Mark 9:48-50, "These three verses are amongst the most difficult in the New Testament to interpret."
At first I wrote Bring children to me in order to more directly represent Jesus' words. Then I realized that Jesus was addressing a larger principle: The childlikeness required to receive the principles of God's kingdom. There are several huge implications involved.
We continually find that the familiarity of certain of Jesus' words often obscures their astonishing meaning. Here, for example, many images of what it means to take upon oneself the Lord's "yoke" spring to mind, along with his oft-quoted words of comfort, You shall find rest for your souls.
Self-defense is one of the most automatic of human responses. When challenged, threatened, contradicted, or accused, we blurt out a defense before the voice of criticism has even died away. Often we do not wait so long as that to defend ourselves, but interrupt to counter the word against us before it is even finished.