The first reading is from the book Wisdom (11:22-12:3). This book was written less than a century before the birth of Jesus. It came from someone in the Jewish community in Alexandria in Egypt. Jews at the time where not just in the promised land and we’re quite aware of the ways of thinking in the wider community about life, gods and associated mysteries. The book of Wisdom is in Greek and its ideas are a development of earlier Jewish ideas, absorbing more contemporary notions from this wider community in which they lived. And so wisdom is very important; it is used by them to refer God. Himself and their idea of life now extended to even life after death which is not certainly previously by Jews. Our reading exemplifies the literary quality of the thoughts poetically expressed in a theology of the relationship of God with the failings of humanity and the development of creation.
The second reading is from 2 Thess 1:11-2:2. The two letters to the Thessalonians are the first surviving documents about Jesus that we have – the oldest writings in the New Testament – prior to the gospels that tell of the life of Jesus. Paul was a learned Rabbi in the Jewish community living away from the Jewish enclave in the Roman empire. The story in Acts of him being quite against Jews becoming followers of Jesus is quite reliable. However, this learned man later became a Christian and worked mostly in Roman communities making converts of Jews but especially of Gentiles. He had established a community in Thessalonica but the Jewish synagogue there was not receptive of his message that God was happy with Gentiles, so a mainly Gentile community of followers of Jesus was established away from the synagogue. However after he moved on from his short stay there, he wants and needs to writes to them from prison. It seems from the text we have that he may have given them a wrong idea of God’s present to them even now and this being the time of the fulfilment of God’s plan for creation. Some of them had given up their regular work and way of life and were just waiting for the End-time to come. And someone may have encouraged them with this view. So Paul has to tell them to get back to regular life – as good followers of Jesus – the final End has not yet come. We are reminded by this that Christianity is constantly developing an understanding of life and creation, and we should be warned not to be so certain of what are basically mysteries – a danger the church has always suffered from.
The gospel of Luke that we have been hearing from over many weeks, has a distinctive focus on the reach of Jesus’ concern and dealings – most noticeably Jesus dealings with women. In today’s reading (19:1-10) Luke has this story not elsewhere in the NT, of Jesus’ attitude to a local taxman, who, the story tells us, was small but curious about Jesus. Luke portrays Jesus’ attitude to this man as nothing short of pro-active – “hurry down for I must come to your house tonight.” This tale, assuming it was not purely fiction, would have come to Luke indirectly from some such tale that may have be told again and again, but which either had not come to the attention of the earlier gospel writers or they didn’t consider it worth re-telling. We have to think what it tells us about Jesus that should affect us in some way – as gospel (good news).
See Jeffs Jottings – Why, why, why