Signpost for Sunday Nov 1st 2013: Dan 7:1-3, 15-18; Ps 149; Eph 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
It’s amazing how much stuff was going on around 536 BC. My very helpful book, ‘Timetables of History’ tells me that while Daniel was dreaming up his narrative Kung Fut-Tse (Confucius) was well into his sayings, Siddhartha was on his way to founding Buddhism and most Greek philosophers were adopting the theory that earth is a disc covered by a dome of sky. This was also the time that the fables of Aesop came into being, Aeschylus put pen to payprus, Pythagoras came up with the idea of the musical octave and the Old Testament was beginning to be written down rather than passed on by word of mouth. The sixth century BC was something of a turning point in human history as well as a turning point in the fortunes of the Jewish nation. Having been exiled to Babylon (modern day Iraq), the Jews were about to be sent home after their captors lost everything to the Persians (today’s Iranians). What this tells us about the coming of Jesus some 470 years later is highly debatable, although it might go some way to explaining why Israel today is, as of old, paranoid about its neighbours.
Which makes Jesus’ sermon on the plain (Luke 6:20-31) sound even more radical to people who are paranoid about their neighbours than it might seem to us. This is clearly another turning point – having just chosen his twelve disciples (significant in itself), Jesus comes down from praying to be surrounded by heaps of other followers and crowds of onlookers. Before all this we are told two stories about how he turns the sabbath rules upside down (Luke 6:1-11). Now Jesus turns the whole world on its head, especially in verses 27-30. Sadly, those changes still haven’t come about, maybe because they seem so hard to carry out to most people. Though surely verse 31 is the place to start, not to end.