Tag Archives: ego

Don’t send me, send him.

Luke chapter 14 verses 7 to 14 and chapter 16 verses 19 to 31

It’s time to wrap up this blog with just two more posts. Already I keep repeating myself too often. That’s because I am not attempting a general commentary on the synoptic gospels. I am trying to recover the message of Jesus the wisdom teacher from Nazareth and it is really a very simple message. The gospel writers use lots of stories to get it across, many of them can be traced back to Jesus himself and they all keep pointing us to the same truth: about ourselves, about the universe and about how to see and hear this truth wherever it pops up.

Poor old Luke is getting a raw deal in this blog. It’s because I have taken the synoptic gospels in the order in which they were written. By the time I get to Luke I have covered all the major themes of Wisdom teaching. In spite of confining myself to passages that appear only in Luke I still find exactly the same message coming up again and again, albeit with Luke’s special concern for women and the poor. Take Luke chapter 14 verses 7 to 14. Jesus is invited to a meal and he notices how the guests jostle for the best seats. Students of the Bible note the way this story reflects the advice in Proverbs chapter 25 verses 6 & 7:

“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here’, than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”

Revisit the post headed ‘No ego. No problem’ (on Mark chapter 9 verses 33 to 37) and there you have my take on the problem of the ego that Luke and the book of Proverbs are alerting us to.

I want to end this whole blog with the story of the prodigal son and his brother in chapter 15 but first I want to jump ahead to chapter 16, verses 19 to 31: the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus – another example of a blind ego. Please – this is not a story about some dreadful thing that might happen to us when we die. It’s about being blind to the truth about who we truly are. The clues are in verses 24 and 27:

Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.

Then father I beg you to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them.

The rich man is trapped in the mindset of being able to give orders to those less fortunate, less powerful, than he is – ‘send Lazarus’. Even when he spares a thought for someone else it is still only to those of his own privileged status (his brothers) and it is still, ‘send Lazarus’. He just doesn’t get it, doesn’t see the truth.

Especially, Luke wants us to understand, he doesn’t get the truth of the Resurrection. It is a truth so beautifully put in the story of the Prodigal Son and his brother. I’ll talk about that in my final post for this blog.

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No ego – no problem

Mark’s Gospel Chapter 9 verses 33 – 37 & 38 – 41

‘No ego – no problem’, goes the Buddhist saying. There is a problem however: we’ve all got an ego! So how do we deal with it? The teaching and life of Jesus give us lots of clues: for example, in the next few sections of chapter nine as Mark builds up to the climax of his gospel.

All three of the synoptic gospel writers give us stories of Jesus and children. Here in verses 33 to 37 we have the disciples’ egos arguing about who is the greatest. Jesus, his arms around a child, tells them:

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

I don’t know about the place where you live, but here in London UK almost all public statues of men demonstrate their powerful egos. I know of only one place in Europe where you will find a statue of a man being gentle. Pestalozzi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Heinrich_Pestalozzi) stands in the centre of Zurich with his arms around a child – surely a reference to the next words in this story of Mark’s:

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Verse 37)

Our egos like to compare themselves with others. They can easily feel threatened by what they see. Either, they feel better than that other person, or they feel worse. Either way, there’s a problem for the ego. Notice, I keep referring to the ego in the third person. That’s because the good news is that fundamentally we are not our egos. We are all human beings in the image of God. That’s the reality underneath all the shinanakins the ego gets up to.

Verses 38 – 41 reveal the disciples’ egos at work again. They say to Jesus:

“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

‘Not one of us’, is a favourite ego attitude. Think of all the pain and suffering caused by, ‘not one of us’!! Nothing strengthens the ego more than being right and making other people wrong. Egos are blind. They cannot see through to the deep reality about every human being on the planet. God is the very ground of our being.

The next section (verses 41 – 49) tells us how seriously Jesus wants us to take the problem of the ego. All right, so the language is over the top for modern readers but maybe that was Jesus’ startling way of saying, wake up; pay attention; this really matters.