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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jesus is not soft, but he is merciful

'I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'" After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

On today's Gospel reading (Luke 19:11-28), Jesus relates a parable that is jarring, as it was likely intended to be. But up front I would say that this is not intended to convey a cruel, bloodthirsty Messiah. I will quickly point out that Jesus proceeds to Jerusalem, to his most merciful act of sacrifice for any who are open to his mercy. As all parables do, this one sticks to particular points and no more. First, the demands of the kingdom are high because the stakes are high. If we who receive gifts as capital did nothing to earn them, then it is only fair to do something with that capital as three fiber expected. Even a modest gain is better than nothing, although the invitation is there to dare more, strive more, and merit more rewards. Nothing unreasonable there. Second, I think the arrogance of the citizens, heading off the king-to-be with a delegation behind his back, is foolish and futile. The reality is that the man is to be made king. It is not a popular election; it is not up to them. Balanced with Jesus heading to Calvary, the brutal disposal of the dissidents is not the self-serving execution that we might think it to be. God takes no pleasure in the death of the sinful man, but prefers his conversion and fidelity. The reality is that they have no place in the kingdom if they want nothing of its eternal king. They made that choice. It seems fitting that the parable is so brutal in the seeming reprisal in contrast to the Cross. There is an otherwise easy tendency to undervalue the grace and mercy of God - to our everlasting detriment. How long should we sit on the fence? It becomes too easy to postpone making a stand if we think that we can get away with it.

The stakes are high. God is merciful but he will not violate our free will. If we reject him, what can he do?

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