Thy will be done…
(Understanding God’s Will)
In the Book of Luke, there is a curious statement about God. Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah as saying that through Christ (the Lord) all mankind shall see the “salvation of God”.1 Considering the ham–fisted way that Jesus’s twelve apostles (not to mention the Pharisees and Sadducees) often handled Old Testament scripture, we might be tempted just to pass over this comment from Isaiah. But that would be a mistake.
Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has been inspiring prophets since the beginning of the world. 2 Jewish scripture, like all holy scripture, is capable of profound revelation, and this quote by Isaiah is a jewel of an example—albeit one that is rarely talked about. Our silence surrounds the disturbing question: From what exactly does an all powerful God need to be saved? For mankind, “salvation” means being rescued from the wages of sin, but is God a sinner too?
Some would argue that Jehovah certainly is no saint, considering the peevish, jealous, and wrathful behavior he exhibits in the Old Testament. But when Isaiah refers to God’s salvation, he isn’t talking about liberating Jehovah from his penchant for tormenting servants like Job just to win bets with Satan. He is talking about the justification of God’s will, and the choices he’s made. To illustrate God’s situation, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son. 3
In this parable, a father has two sons. The youngest, anxious to experience the world, asks for his inheritance right away. The father abides by this request and grants him his share, which the boy then dutifully squanders on wine, women, and song in a far off land. The young man eventually crawls back home utterly destitute. Rather than chastise his fallen boy, the father welcomes him back with open arms, kills the fatted calf, and throws a big party.
All the merry–making upsets the older son, who stews over the fact that his father never gave him even a young foal to butcher and barbecue for his friends. The father gently rebukes his eldest, stating that everything he owns has always been available to him.
When this parable is taught today, the emphasis is usually on the prodigal son’s welcome home party. The celebration is used to demonstrate that we shouldn’t be afraid of God’s punishment, if we want to return to his fold after years of dissolute living. The beginning of the parable though is just as important, for it reveals the position in which God has placed himself.
The father in Jesus’s story did not have to advance his son his inheritance. He could have just as easily said: “No way, get out there and work the fields with your brother.” He chose to give the money to his son. And we expect he handed it over knowing full well that his boy wasn’t going to invest it in sheep futures.
Not many fathers today would let their child blow such a fortune. Why does this one? Because this father’s ultimate concern is not for his estate but for respecting his son’s independence. By granting his son the means to live on his own, the father hopes he will make the mistakes he needs to make; learn the lessons he needs to learn; and, when all is said and done, return home realizing that a boundless treasure lay within the bosom of family.
God, in granting us free will, also has given us our…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- Every chasm shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be leveled; the winding ways shall be straightened; the rough roads made smooth, 6 And all mankind shall see the salvation of God. – Luke 3:5-6 [↩]
- “You are not fifty years old yet,” the Jews exclaimed, “and have you seen Abraham?” 58 “In truth I tell you,” replied Jesus, “before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:57-58 [↩]
- A man had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father: ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ So the father divided the property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son got together all that he had, and went away into a distant land; and there he squandered his inheritance by leading a dissolute life. 14 After he has spent all that he had, there was a severe famine through all that country, and he began to be in actual want.” 15 “So he went and hired himself out to one of the people of that country, who sent him into his fields to tend pigs. 16 He longed to satisfy his hunger with even the bean-pods on which the pigs were feeding; and no one gave him anything.” 17 “But, when he came to himself, he said: ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more bread than they can eat, while here am I starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him: ‘Father, I sinned against heaven and against you; 19 I am no longer fit to be called your son; make me one of your hired servants.’” 20 “And he got up and went to his father. But, while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was deeply moved; he ran and threw his arms round his neck and kissed him. 21 ‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son; make me one of your hired servants.’” 22 “But the father turned to his servants and said: ‘Be quick and fetch a robe—the very best—and put it on him; give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet; 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 For here is my son who was dead, and is alive again, was lost, and is found.’ So they began making merry.” 25 “Meanwhile the elder son was out in the fields; but, on coming home, when he got near the house, he heard music and dancing, 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what it all meant. 27 ‘Your brother has come back,’ the servant told him, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 This made him angry, and he would not go in. But his father came out and begged him to do so.” 29 “‘No,’ he said to his father, ‘look at all the years I have been serving you, without ever once disobeying you, and yet you have never given me even a kid, so that I might have a party with my friends. 30 But, no sooner has this son of yours come, who has eaten up your property in the company of prostitutes, than you have killed the fattened calf for him.’” 31 “‘Child,’ the father answered, ‘you are always with me, and everything that I have is yours. 32 How could we do anything else but make merry and rejoice, for here is your brother who was dead, and is alive; who was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:11–32 [↩]
After this, Jesus walked about in Galilee, for he would not walk in Judea, because the Jews were eager to put him to death. 2 When the Jewish festival of tabernacles was near, 3 His brothers said to him: “Leave this part of the country, and go into Judea, so that your disciples, as well as we, may see the work that you are doing. 4 For no one does a thing privately, if he is seeking to be widely known. Since you do these things, you should show yourself publicly to the world.” 5 For even his brothers did not believe in him.
6 “My time,” answered Jesus, “is not come yet, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me, because I testify that its ways are evil. 8 Go yourselves up to the Festival; I am not going to this Festival yet, because my time has not yet come.” 9 After telling them this, he stayed on in Galilee.
10 But, when his brothers had gone up to the festival, Jesus also went up, not publicly, but privately. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the festival and asking ‘Where is he?’ 12 And there were many whispers about him among the people, some saying: ‘He is a good man;’ others: ‘No! he is leading the people astray.’ 13 No one, however, spoke freely about him, for fear of the Jews.
14 About the middle of the festival week, Jesus went up into the temple courts, and began teaching. 15 The Jews were astonished. “How has this man got his learning,” they asked, “when he has never studied?”
16 So, in reply, Jesus said: “My teaching is not my own; it is his who sent me. 17 If anyone has the will to do God’s will, they will find out whether my teaching is from God, or whether I speak on my own authority. 18 Those who speak on their own authority seek honor for themselves; but those who seeks the honor of him that sent them are sincere, and there is nothing false in them. 19 Was not it Moses who gave you the law? Yet not one of you obeys it! Why are you seeking to put me to death?”
20 “You must be possessed by a devil!” the people exclaimed. “Who is seeking to put you to death?”
21 “There was one thing I did,” replied Jesus, “at which you are all still wondering. 22 But that is why Moses has instituted circumcision among you—not, indeed, that it began with him, but with our ancestors—and that is why you circumcise even on a Sabbath. 23 When a man receives circumcision on a Sabbath to prevent the law of Moses from being broken, how can you be angry with me for making someone sound and well on a Sabbath? 24 Do not judge by appearances; judge justly.”
25 At this some of the people of Jerusalem exclaimed: “Is not this the man that they are seeking to put to death? 26 Yet here he is, speaking out boldly, and they say nothing to him! Is it possible that our leading men have really discovered that he is the Christ? 27 Yet we know where this man is from; but, when the Christ comes, no one will be able to tell where he is from.”
28 Therefore, Jesus, as he was teaching in the temple courts, raised his voice and said: “Yes; you know me and you know where I am from. Yet I have not come on my own authority, but he who sent me may be trusted; and him you do not know. 29 I do know him, for it is from him that I have come, and he sent me as his messenger.” 30 So they sought to arrest him; but no one touched him, for his time was not come yet.
31 Many of the people, however, believed in him. “When the Christ comes,” they said, “will he give more signs of his mission than this man has given?” 32 The Pharisees heard the people whispering about him in this way, and so the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to arrest him;
33 On which Jesus said: “I shall be with you but a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will look for me, and you will not find me; and you will not be able to come where I shall be.”
35 “Where is this man going,” the Jews asked one another, “that we shall not find him? Will he go to our countrymen abroad, and teach foreigners? 36 What does he mean by saying: ‘You will look for me, and you will not find me; and you will not be able to come where I shall be’?”
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus, who was standing by, exclaimed: “If anyone thirsts, let them come to me, and drink. 38 You who believe in me, as scripture says, out of your heart shall flow rivers of living water.” 39 By this he meant the spirit, which those who had believed in him were to receive; for the spirit had not yet come, because Jesus had not yet been exalted.
40 Some of the people, when they heard these words, said: “This is certainly ‘the prophet’!” 41 Others said: “This is the Christ!” But some asked: “What! Does the Christ come from Galilee? 42 Is not it said in scripture that it is of the race of David, and from Bethlehem, the village to which David belonged, that the Christ is to come?” 43 So there was a sharp division among the people on account of Jesus. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, and yet no one touched him.
45 When the officers returned to the chief priests and Pharisees, they were asked: “Why have you not brought him?” 46 “No man ever spoke as he speaks!” they answered. 47 “What! Have you been led astray too?” the Pharisees replied. 48 “Have any of our leading men believed in him, or any of the Pharisees? 49 As for these people who do not know the law—they are cursed!”
50 But one of their number, Nicodemus, who before this had been to see Jesus, said to them: 51 “Does our law pass judgment on people without first giving them a hearing, and finding out what they have been doing?” 52 “Are you also from Galilee?” they retorted. “Search and you will find that no prophet is to arise in Galilee!” 53 Then everyone went back to their own houses.
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 8.
This Online New Testament Gospel of John is excerpted from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Century Gospels). Including over 200 bookmarked citations from the canonical Gospels, this Progressive Christian book appeals to the Unitarian spirit at the heart of all faiths.
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Gospel of Mark 14
It was now two days before the festival of the Passover and the unleavened bread. The chief priests and teachers of the law were looking for an opportunity to arrest Jesus by stealth and put him to death; 2 For they said: “Not during the festival, for fear of a riot.”
3 When Jesus was still at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, while he was at table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of choice spikenard perfume of great value. She broke the jar, and poured the perfume on his head. 4 Some of those who were present said to one another indignantly: “Why has the perfume been wasted like this? 5 This perfume could have been sold for more than thirty pounds, and the money given to the poor.”
6 “Let her alone,” said Jesus, as they began to find fault with her, “Why are you troubling her? This is a beautiful deed that she has done for me. 7 You always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has perfumed my body beforehand for my burial. 9 And I tell you, wherever, in the whole world, the gospel is proclaimed, what this woman has done will be told in memory of her.”
10 After this, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were glad to hear what he said, and promised to pay him. So he looked for a convenient way to betray Jesus. 12 On the first day of the festival of the unleavened bread, when it was customary to kill the Passover lambs, his disciples said to Jesus: “Where do you wish us to go and make preparations for your eating the Passover?”
13 Jesus sent forward two of his disciples and said to them: “Go into the city, and there a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him; 14 And, wherever he goes in, say to the owner of the house: ‘The teacher asks, where is my room; where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will himself show you a large upstairs room, set out ready; and there make preparations for us.” 16 So the disciples set out and went into the city, and found everything just as Jesus had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
17 In the evening he went there with the twelve, 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said: “I tell you that one of you is going to betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They were grieved at this, and began to say to him, one after another: “Can it be I?” 20 “It is one of you twelve,” said Jesus, “the one who is dipping his bread beside me into the dish. 21 True, the Son of Man must go, as scripture says of him, yet woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is being betrayed! For that man ‘it would be better never to have been born!’”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and, after saying the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said: “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and, after saying the thanksgiving, gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the new testament,” he said, “which is poured out on behalf of many. 25 I tell you that I shall never again drink of the juice of the grape, until that day when I shall drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 They then sang a hymn, and went out up the Mount of Olives;
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To continue reading Chapter 14 of the Gospel of Mark, please click on page 2 below.