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The Third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 2024

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The Third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 2024

No middle ground.  In Jesus’ ancient Mediterranean society, neutrality was not permitted.  One had to be for or to be against… with Jesus or against Jesus… either “gathering” or “scattering” (vs. 23).  Jesus has become suspect.  He does not speak and act as a carpenter’s son, a lowly profession at best.  He does not speak and act as a product of Nazareth, suspect city of origin.  Because he acts so out of context with his origins, he is accused of receiving power from Beelzebul (vs. 15).  Others demand a sign from him that would ratify his heavenly origins or authority (vs. 16).  Those who bring such accusations and demands against Jesus attempt to tag him with “deviant labeling.”  That is, Jesus’s words and actions run counter to his lowly origins and that means they deviate from the expectations of the cultural milieu.  Jesus, in his words and his actions, demonstrates he is not part of the “in-group.”  Instead, his counter-cultural message and his acts of authority prove that he does indeed “deviate” from the humility of his cultural origins.

Jesus pushes back against the deviant labeling with his rhetorical ripostes (vs. 17-26).  In response, a woman from the crowd speaks, perhaps echoing the sentiments of many, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed” (vs. 27).  Her words give voice to the support Jesus has among the many in the crowd who are not threatened by him but rather heartened by him in his words and his actions.  Jesus, while accepting the support displayed by the woman, presents a life that lies outside of the deviant labeling required for in-group/out-group distinctions.  Jesus speaks of a life given by the Word of God… a Word that comes from outside of oneself and is authoritative in itself without the need for any additional authority such as social status or the honor provided by exalted origins (vs. 28).

Table Talk:  Discuss “deviant labeling,” how it is used today, and how the Word of God delivers a life outside of such labels.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, hold me in your Word and give me its life.  Amen

Luke 11:14-28

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, I will return to my house from which I came. 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed! 28 But he said, Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!