This coming Sunday is the 8th Sunday in Lectionary Cycle C. Again we are considering the “Sermon on the Plains” from the Gospel of Luke. In yesterday’s post we held that this point in the gospel marks a change in which appears a principal call of Luke-Acts: the practical demand of the gospel with emphasis on behavior – not a sole emphasis – but highlighted nonetheless. The issue is one of character and commitments becoming action in the life of the believer.

The Blind Leading the Blind. “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. 

The proverb that a blind person cannot lead a blind person or else they will both fall into the pit is found in Matt 15:14. Its use in Luke however taps into his metaphorical use of the term “blind” to refer to those who lack faith or those who lack insight. Jesus began his ministry announcing the recovery of sight for the blind (4:18), and later he will give sight to the blind (7:21–22; 18:35–43; cf. 14:13, 21). Signs not only of his messianic power, but also the gift of faith.

Luke 6:40 effectively sums up Luke’s understanding of discipleship: When fully prepared, the disciple will be like the teacher. Parallels to the saying occur in Matt 10:24–25 and John 13:16; 15:20. Jesus’ role as teacher has already been juxtaposed with teachers who fail to understand and who question his authority (5:17–22). Jesus asks, in effect, ‘whom will you follow?’

Taken with the preceding saying, about leading the blind, the two sayings establish the appropriate status for a disciple; disciples must be better qualified than those they seek to lead, but a disciple can never be greater than the teacher. The appropriate goal is to strive to be like the teacher. The two verses also underscore the necessity of seeking trustworthy, insightful guidance.

The first part of the sermon has offered a new understanding of the values of heart and action called for by God. Even if the listener decides to choose Jesus as the teacher, to what degree will they follow? Will they act on this new understanding? Will they persevere to become “fully trained” and become like their teacher?

Jesus’ words also establish the measuring rod for discipleship. This is important because the point at which some join Jesus’ circle of influence is not always evident; repeatedly we are introduced for the first time to persons who seem already to have begun to embody the values of Jesus’ message and to manifest them in their practices. Complicating matters further, such persons—for example, a woman from the city (7:36–50), a wealthy toll collector (19:1–10), and a condemned bandit (23:40–43)—are judged according to widely held societal norms as persons living outside the will of God, as sinners. How can we recognize them otherwise? Jesus provides the measure: They are “like the teacher” and have refused the option of blindness. How is this manifest? Their actions and words (see 6:43–45) provide the evidence.

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