Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Lev 19:18
"'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your
people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD" (Lev
In answer to the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal
life?" (Luk 10:25), Jesus cites this verse: "Love your neighbor as yourself"
(Luk 10:27). When this answer elicits the follow-up question, "And who is my
neighbor?" (v 29), Jesus responds by telling the parable of the good Samaritan
(Luk 10:30-37). In his parable Jesus makes it very plain that "neighbor" must
not be restricted to 'fellow believer', but that it includes especially those
with whom we feel we have little in common -- even those whom the most "upright"
Jews despised -- the Samaritans!
In taking this broadly inclusive point of view, Jesus is only
following the context of the Lev 19:18 citation: in Lev 19:33,34 it is clear
that "neighbor" includes the "alien" -- that is, the Gentile: "Love him as
yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt."
The final reminder in this verse, "I am the LORD", has a
two-fold significance here: (1) "I, the LORD your God, am holy" (v 2) --
therefore you must be holy also; and (2) "I am the LORD"... who loved YOU when
you, in Egypt, were no better than "aliens" to ME (v 34): you were worshipers of
idols, and ignorant of My Name and promises; yet nevertheless I still loved
Reading 2 - Psa 119:83
"Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget
your decrees" (Psa 119:83).
This refers to a dried, cracked wineskin, blackened with the
smoke of affliction and suffering: compare Lam 4:8: "Their skin has shriveled on
their bones; it has become as dry as a stick." Skins filled with wine were hung
at the tops of tents, where it was smoky and hot, so that the wine might mature.
This is a beautiful allegory: while the skin (the outward man) ages and grows
less useful and more brittle and unsightly, the wine inside (the inner man!)
matures and develops perfection of character.
In Christ's parable, constructed along similar lines, the skin
symbolizes the "outer man" of the believer, which is but the receptacle for the
"wine" of the teaching and spirit of God: "Neither do men pour new wine into old
wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the
wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both
are preserved" (Mat 9:17).
Reading 3 - Luk 2:1
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census
should be taken of the entire Roman world" (Luk 2:1).
Luke is an inspired historian, who can therefore look into the
heart of things and think on a grand scale. The story he presents is a
fascinating interplay of Roman imperial authority and obscure Jewish compliance.
But even the decrees of mighty Caesar are bent to the Divine purpose. Augustus,
with all his armies and bureaucrats, is no more than a servant of God. For
centuries the religion of freedom was destined to contend against the despotic
power of a great empire, a totalitarian state which never hesitated to make the
lowly masses subservient to its own will. (Such states have not gone out of
style, and will not, as long as man is left to rule his own affairs. They have
changed their names and ideologies, but not their essential characters.) Even in
his birth the founder of the new religion was tossed to and fro at the whim of
When he went to his death thirty-odd years later, it was again
as a mere random piece of humanity, to be "processed" by the same state, one
among many misfits and criminals impaled by Roman nails on Roman crosses.
The state had its purposes, but God had His. Each purpose was
fulfilled, but how different they were! In ordering the enrollment, the state
was seeking to achieve greater control over its subjects, and to lay the
groundwork for taxation. God made use of these materialistic enterprises to
fulfill the prophecy given by Micah, that His Son would be born in the little
town of Bethlehem, thereby becoming governor and shepherd of Israel (Mic 5