Temptations (Lk 17:1-17:1)

“Jesus

Said to his disciples.

‘Occasions

For stumbling

Are bound

To come.

But woe to anyone

By whom

They come!’”

 

Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ Ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν, οὐαὶ δὲ δι’ οὗ ἔρχεται·

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said to his disciples (Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ) that occasions for stumbling are bound to come (Ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν).  However, woe or be cursed to anyone by whom they come (οὐαὶ δὲ δι’ οὗ ἔρχεται).  Jesus admitted that stumbling or sinning might occur, but anyone who brings them should be cursed.  This saying about causing little believing children to sin or stumble can be found in Mark, chapter 9:42, and Matthew, chapter 18:6, with some minor changes, with Matthew closer to Mark.  In Luke, there is no mention of little children until the next verse, since this warning is more generic here.  Do you cause other people to stumble?

Punishment for idolatry (Hos 13:2-13:3)

“Now they keep on sinning.

They make a cast image

For themselves.

They make idols

Of silver,

According to their understanding.

All of them are

The work of artisans.

‘Sacrifice to these!’

They say.

People are kissing calves!

Therefore,

They shall be

Like the morning mist,

Like the dew

That goes early away,

Like the chaff

That swirls

From the threshing floor,

Like smoke

From a window.”

Yahweh, via Hosea, had this main complaint against the northern Israelites that they kept on adoring these idol Baal images. They kept on sinning. They made their own silver idols. They made their own images without any understanding, clearly the work of artisans. When they were finished, they wanted the people to sacrifice to these idols. They wanted people to kiss these idol calves. Yahweh was going to punish them. They were going to become like the morning mist that disappears during the day. They were going to be like chaff that blows in the wind from the threshing floor. They were going to be like smoke from a window. They would disappear before their very own eyes.

Confession of guilt (Bar 2:6-2:10)

“The Lord

Our God,

Is in the right.

However,

There is open shame

On us

With our ancestors.

This very day,

All those calamities,

With which

The Lord threatened us,

Have come upon us.

Yet we have not entreated

The favor of the Lord,

By turning away,

Each of us,

From the thoughts

Of our wicked hearts.

The Lord

Has kept

The calamities ready.

The Lord has brought them

Upon us.

The Lord is just

In all his works

That he has commanded us

To do.

Yet we have not obeyed

His voice,

To walk

In the statutes

Of the Lord

That he set before us.”

Their Lord was right. Thus they and their ancestors were shamed. The Lord’s threatened disasters have come upon them. However, instead of asking for favors and forgiveness, they turned their thoughts and wicked hearts away from God. The Lord kept these calamities ready to use at any time since he was just. They were the people who would not obey the voice of the Lord in following his statutes. They were guilty of sinning against their Lord and God.

Freedom for Jeremiah (Jer 40:2-40:4)

“The captain of the guard

Took Jeremiah.

He said to him.

‘Yahweh your God

Threatened this place

With this disaster.

Now Yahweh

Has brought it about.

He has done

As he said.

Because all of you

Sinned against Yahweh.

You did not obey his voice.

Therefore this thing

Has come upon you.

Now look!

I have just released you today

From the fetters

On your hands.

If you wish

To come with me

To Babylon,

Come!

I will take good care of you.

But if you do not wish

To come with me

To Babylon,

You need not come!

See!

The whole land is before you.

Go wherever

You think it good

Or right to go!’”

Jeremiah is finally recognized by Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who took him aside. He said to Jeremiah that his God Yahweh had threatened this place and made that threat come true. This happened because they were sinning in Jerusalem and Judah. They had not obeyed their God. This Babylonian captain then released Jeremiah from the chains around his hands. Here is where it gets interesting. He offers Jeremiah a choice. He could go to Babylon, where he would be taken care of, or he could stay in Judah, where the whole land would be his. The captain of the guard told Jeremiah to decide on what was right and good for him. The choice was up to Jeremiah, but it seemed obvious that Jeremiah would stay.

Personal responsibility (Jer 31:29-31:30)

“In those days,

They shall no longer say.

‘The parents have eaten

Sour grapes.

The children’s teeth

Are set on edge.’

But all shall die

For their own sins.

The teeth of everyone

Who eats sour grapes,

Shall be set on edge.”

Yahweh talks about personal responsibility rather than suffering for the sins of your father or parents. Instead of the parents eating sour grapes with the affect on the teeth of their children, now it will affect the parents’ teeth. Yahweh says that everyone will die for their own sins, not the sins of their ancestors. Sometimes, sinning persons were putting the blame on their ancestors, rather than themselves, for what was happening to them. Thus whoever eats sour grapes would find his own teeth affected, not their children.

Shame (Sir 20:21-20:23)

“One may be prevented

From sinning

By poverty.

When he rests,

He feels no remorse.

One may lose his life

Through shame.

One may lose his life

Because of his foolish look.

Another out of shame

Make promises to a friend.

Thus he makes an enemy

For nothing.”

If you are in poverty, there is less chance of you sinning. Thus when the poor person rests, he does not feel any remorse. However, you can lose your life through shame or some foolish look.   Another person may make promises to a friend that he is not able to keep. He will do this out of shame. Thus he ends up making an enemy for no good reason.

Invitation to repent (Sir 17:25-17:32)

“Turn back to the Lord!

Forsake your sins!

Pray in his presence!

Lessen your offenses!

Return to the Most High!

Turn away from iniquity!

He will lead you out of darkness

To the light.

Hate intensely

What he abhors!

Who will sing praises

To the Most High

In Hades?

In place of the living,

Who gives thanks?

From the dead,

As from one who does not exist,

Thanksgiving has ceased.

Those who are alive and well

Sing the Lord’s praises.

How great is

The mercy of the Lord!

His forgiveness is

For those who return to him!

Not everything is within human capability.

Since human beings are not immortal.

What is brighter than the sun?

Yet it can be eclipsed.

Flesh and blood devise evil.

He marshals the host of the height of heaven.

But all human beings are dust.

All human beings are ashes.”

Much like the later John the Baptist, Sirach here is calling for all to repent. Turn to the Lord! Give up sinning! Pray to the Lord! Turn to the Most High! Turn away from iniquity! No one can sing the praises of the Lord from Hades, the home of the dead. Only the living can give thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. The Lord is merciful. He will forgive those who return to him. Humans have limited capacities, since they are not immortal. Even the bright sun gets eclipsed. Flesh and blood humans devise evil because they are mere dust and ashes. However, the Lord has his hosts in the high heavens.