So far we have considered that the great theme in Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus brings in a great reversal. We’ve seen the two main ways in which people end up on the wrong side of that reversal- through religious pride and an obsession with wealth. Incidentally it seems to me that both of these are reasons why the Gospel is struggling to have an impact in our present culture- people see themselves as essentially good and, despite the recession, we are obsessed with material things.
But if those things are the marks of those on the wrong side of the reversal then how do you end up on the right side? The key mark is humility. After all God lifts up the humble whilst bringing down the proud according to Mary’s song- which sets the theological agenda for the whole Gospel.
Humility is necessary in many ways- to be a Christian is to acknowledge that we have fallen short of God’s standards and need a Saviour. In particular, though, in Luke’s Gospel humility is seen in being willing to listen to and submit to the words of Jesus. Proud people are those who speak lots because they value their own opinion: it requires humility to listen and be taught.
Consider Jesus’ manifesto in Luke 4. He comes to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. Shortly afterwards in Luke 4:43 Jesus emphasizes that his mission is to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. This means that people will benefit only as they listen to his preaching and proclamation.
Other passages make a similar point. In Luke 8:18 Jesus tells us to be careful how we listen. At the Transfiguration we are told to listen to Jesus. Mary then becomes an example of this as she sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Jesus describes this as the one thing that is necessary.
Of course it is not just the words of Jesus himself that are necessary. Throughout the Gospel we are told that the Old Testament points forward to Jesus- the fact that Jesus’ manifesto comes from Isaiah 61 and Jesus’ Bible Studies with the disciples after the resurrection makes this point. As does the warning given to the family of the rich man who ends up in hell in Luke 16. The rich man wants to go back and warn his family- but Abraham says they have enough in the Law and the Prophets- they should listen to them.
So we see the theme of reversal played out in our attitude to the Old Testament Scriptures and the words of Jesus. If we are proud and ignore them then we are in danger of hell. But if we have the humility to listen and be taught then we hear good news, freedom and we have the one thing that is needed.
One of the pastors that we worked with out in Kenya used to pray frequently ahead of our teaching sessions “Lord Jesus we want to sit at your feet and learn from you.” That’s the attitude that is needed if God is to lift us up.