Psalm 106:1-5; Ruth 1; Luke 23:1-12

Psalm 106:1-5: Like the previous psalm, this one recounts Israel’s history and opens in much the same manner by acknowledging God’s essential benevolence: “Acclaim the LORD, for He is good, for His kindness is forever.”  In keeping with God’s kindness, our response is “Happy those who keep justice, who do righteousness at all times.” (3) Of course, there is some poetic license here since we have all proven again and again that it is impossible to “do righteousness at all times.” As will become apparent after these opening verses.

There is a wistful quality of better times, as it appears to be written from exile, and the poet asks plaintively, “Recall me, O LORD, when You favor Your people, mark me for Your rescue,” (4) A day will come, he writes, when God will return and rescue Israel from its current plight. That once again, God will “see the good of Your chosen ones, to rejoice in the joy of Your nation, to revel with Your estate.” (5) But at the moment, God seems to be absent.

Again, we are reminded that there will be times in our lives when God is nowhere to be found and we pray for rescue, but as the psalmist notes, that does not diminish God’s kindness or His goodness. We pray with the assumption, as the poet does here, that God is listening.

Ruth 1: After the ugliness of Judges, the famous opening chapter of Ruth comes as a fresh, cleansing breeze. Widowed Naomi returns to Israel with her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi gives each the freedom to return to their own people and their own gods, which Orpah does. But Ruth clings to her mother in law and in one of the most beautiful poems in the Bible, she says,

Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
 Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.   (1:16,17)

Ruth is the archetype for all of us in the New Covenant, for we are not God’s original chosen people. But we have become God’s, Israel’s God has become our God through the act of grace of sending His Word, Jesus Christ,  to us. Ruth was willing to give up her former life, indeed her family and her entire heritage to follow Naomi to Bethlehem.

Unlike Naomi, who told her daughters-in-law to return to their homes, Jesus has asked the us to give up our previous lives to follow him. Do we have the dedication of Ruth to do so?

Luke 23:1-12: Jesus is brought before Pilate the first time and after the accusations that Jesus is stirring up trouble for the Romans by his kingly pretensions, “Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” (3). Jesus has the temerity to fling the accusation back at them and the answer makes it clear that they were left speechless.

Pilate has no idea what to do next until he cleverly finds an out for himself: he doesn’t have jurisdiction over Jesus, who as a Galilean, should be Herod’s problem.  Herod is in town and Jesus is delivered to Herod’s court.  Luke tells us that Herod was anxious to see this Jesus because he wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle for him.  Jesus not only doesn’t deliver the miracle on command; he is completely silent. Even mocking and torture have no effect, and putting an “elegant robe” on Jesus, the accused is sent back to Pilate.

One would think that Pilate would be less than thrilled to see a problem he believed he had gotten rid of returned to him, and that he would be pretty angry with Herod. Yet, Luke tells us, “That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.” (12). Why would they become friends? Is it because Herod is culturally Jewish and Pilate is a Gentile and by both rejecting Jesus, Luke is telling us that the entire world has rejected Jesus, not just the Gentiles and not just the Jews?

Or is it that Jesus’ mere presence–and his silence– in both Pilate’s and Herod’s courts has had a healing effect? That the Kingdom of God–where Jesus was indeed king–reached down and touched the two earthly kingdoms? Perhaps Luke is giving us a small hint of what the Kingdom of God was really all about and that it impacts real people in real time.


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