Jesus is Passing by…


Luke 24: 13-35

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus walks on water. It says

“they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out”…

He meant to pass by them.
Similarly in the Gospel of Luke, it says

“A blind man was sitting by the roadside begging… Hearing the crowds going by, he asked what this meant… They told him ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by’, and he cried out”…

Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.
Similarly in today’s Gospel reading it says

“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly saying, ‘Stay with us’”.

He acted as if he were going farther.

Jesus is meaning to pass by, he is passing by, and he is acting as if he will pass by.
If you think about it, this is all quite strange, Jesus passing by. Jesus is the last one who is supposed to pass by.
Does he not tell us a parable about passing by?
Jesus says,

“By chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side… Likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”

Jesus is meaning to pass by, he is passing by, and he is acting as if he will pass by.
It makes no sense, is he condemning himself?

The New Testament was written from the perspective of a particular culture, and can often only be understood from the perspective of that culture.

It was written by Jews, and draws upon many ideas exclusive to Jews.
‘Talking about Jesus passing by’ has Jewish significance.
In other words there is a deeper reality in the way it is said, in the wording, than in what is said, the plain sense of the text. In the Old Testament there are many written accounts of people having an experience of the divine. The Old Testament is made up of many authors. Many of these authors try to put into words their mystical experiences. One could even define Religion as the attempt to use human words to express the inexpressible. In a way, that is what we do every Sunday, as we try to express the inexpressible in the liturgy. Words always fall short; they are always inadequate when talking about God. As such they express something which is not quite reality, and not quite make-believe.

So now let us consider ‘Passing by’ not from the New Testament, but from the Old. In Exodus 33, Moses asks to see God’s glory. Moses is said to hide in the cleft of a rock while ‘God’s glory passes by’. Similarly Elijah meets the LORD on Mount Horeb, where the writer notes, ‘The Lord passed by’. And similarly again in Job, Job says, ‘God passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him.’

These passages all seem to be groping towards something which cannot be expressed. Job says, God passes by, and yet he is not seen. He moves on, but he cannot be identified (From the Septuagint). Realities and experiences that seem so real in one sense, and yet so unreal in another. So now returning to my original three examples of Jesus passing by; it is interesting to note the context.

In the first, Jesus’ miracle of walking on water. The second, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. The context here is a miraculous healing. And the third, today’s Gospel reading of Jesus appearing to people post-crucifixion. The context of ‘passing by’ is always wrapped up with miraculous accounts, whether that is people experiencing God in the Old Testament, or people experiencing Jesus in the New.

In other words, the phrase, ‘passing by’ is a reminder from the authors, to the Bible’s readers, that words are failing us. A reminder that words are being used in metaphorical and in creative ways. I fear that this exercise of wrestling with words on the edge of meaning, the art of attempting to express the inexpressible, is a dying one. It is a dying one because it is so damn hard. It is so much easier to have a McDonalds style Christianity: neat little packages of pithy sayings that make us feel all warm inside. To this end I hope and pray, that you do not understand everything I am saying. Jesus taught in parables, not that he could be understood easily, but to force his audience to think for themselves. In fact, almost every time Jesus is asked a question, he responds with a question. He never gives simple answers.

As we break bread together this morning, let us bring to mind that saying – Jesus is passing by.

Let us experience Christ in the Mass.

Beyond words, and beyond meaning.

Beyond our understanding.

But present and alive in our hearts.


More – by Peter Lilly


Litter grew around us,
teeth gritted in impatience
for the filthy fruit
of our consumption,
that is transported from beyond
the individualist’s horizon.
Your universe hates you
when the lights are off,
shutting its eyes to your waking,
and all those words
you bring to life as you read
from pages that appear as you turn them.
Anaesthesia dissolves the teeth
leaving you with mysterious bite marks
and bitter amnesia,
it clouds the resolve of your blinkers
and your mirrored walls.
Echoes of outside draw its fingernails
across chalk boards of yet to learn lessons,
coughing up childhood traumas of empathy.
They drain opaque from your worldview
and leave you with the monsters,
and the monstrous landfill skyline
that scowls at your children’s future.
Yet beyond that refuse view
there are leaves with the colours of depth.
There is living matter never to be synthesised,
and mass produced.
There is an oceans of faces,
ever changing and unrepeatable faces.
Individualism is a cage
from freedom of the other,
the freedom of responsibility,
it closes eyes to contrasting perspectives
and the possibility of being wrong.
Written October-November 2013. 
It is mainly a critique of a worldview that, afraid of pain and tragedy, misses out on true friendship, family and altruism by building walls and indulging in merely the self. It is a worldview that can easily seep into our lifestyles, causing a comfortable isolation and keeps us from growing.

Disappearing (Matthew 16:24-26) By Peter Lilly



I am disappearing,

down into the linen

that caresses my body

as my mind criss-crosses,

chasing through meandering crises

of nocturnal fabrication.


I am full of hope,

and dread… and whispers.

Soft chalk runs out

before the lesson is learnt.

I was truant anyway,

day dreaming of summer.


I am disappearing

into something,

yet I still see

my shuffling footprints,

scoring a perforation

through this continuum;


a seam to tear

and a void to feel expanding.

Fields of livestock

and houses of television faces,

all lost in the gap that is left.

It is potential hidden in false humility.


I am disappearing,

if I fight it I sever

the umbilical cord that

attaches me to my Father.

It is an artery,

with flow too fast to cauterise.


I would disappear in the

dirty needles and

forgotten-butt fires.

Lucid, as I feel my significance

hang its head from my skin

in shame.


I am disappearing,

and I can embrace it,

for my portrait is not

the meaning of my art,

my mansions are all made

of someone else’s whispers.


I can disappear within my home

inside walls of emancipation.

Content, as a mole

beneath the tallest mountain,

to blindly fulfil an unseen purpose.


I am disappearing,

and it is okay,

because my name is

a collection of letters,

and my words are

a series of synapse sparks,


and there is much more purpose

to their existence

than merely themselves.

I am disappearing

and that is the best thing

I can think of.  

Matthew 8:1-13 (Commentary and Reflection)

This passage comes directly after the Sermon on the Mount.  Now Matthew the writer of this gospel wants to draw a parallel between Jesus and another.

The previous two verses to our reading says:

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.

And the opening verse

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.

The parallel is between Jesus and Moses.  Jesus like Moses descends from the mountain.  Moses received divine commandments and Jesus interprets them in the Sermon on the Mount and in the healings that follow.

The healing of the leper provides Jesus the opportunity to extend to this ostracized and desperate man the compassion that he had only shortly before commanded of his disciples: to do to others as you would have them do to you.  It is also a miracle in which Jesus is able to demonstrate his fidelity to the Law of Moses.

So the leper comes and asks Jesus to heal him, and Jesus places a hand on him and heals him.  Jesus tells the leper to go and show himself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, this again shows Jesus’ fidelity to the Law of Moses.  Not to bring a new law but to fulfil the law.

Not only was the leaper healed physically but on the instruction of Jesus he will be able to be integrated back with society because Jesus told him to show himself to be clean to the priest and so fulfil the Law of Moses

After the healing of the leaper who was excluded from the congregation because of his illness comes one of the most well known stories of the bible, the faith of the centurion.    The gentile centurion who was excluded from the congregation because of his race.

He comes to Jesus and asks that Jesus heals his servant, and Jesus offers to come to his house and cure him, but the centurion says no.  The centurion understands how authority works, He sees that Jesus has authority,   and therefore like himself can with a word command those under him, Jesus with a word can command that his servant be healed.

How many times do you see in the Gospel that Jesus is shocked or surprised?   It doesn’t happen very often.  In fact the word ‘marvelled’ that is used here only appears once more in all of the gospels and that is in Mark.

Jesus marvelled at the faith of the gentile centurion.

Truly I say to you, I have not seen such great faith in the whole of Israel.

The faith of the gentile and the lack of faith of the Jews are driven home in the next verses:

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven,  while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Powerful words from Jesus, hard words.  In essence Jesus is telling us the criterion for entry into the kingdom of heaven, to gain a seat at the great end time banquet is not a racial one, it is not down to where and to whom you were born or what inherited religion you might have, the only criterion is Faith.  Faith like the centurion.  Faith and faith only will gain you access to the kingdom of heaven.

Three things jump out at me in this passage:

Authority, exclusion and faith.

We saw the crowds astonished at Jesus’ teaching because he taught as one with authority.  And we have seen in His actions that accompany those words of authority, the healing of the leaper and centurion’s servant.  The challenge for us Christians today is to ask: What does it mean to recognize, and submit to, the authority of Jesus.  What does it mean to call him ‘Lord’ and live by that?  One answer is to reach out to those who are excluded in our community today, I will leave it to you to think who that might be.

Authority, exclusion and faith.  Faith is not just an awareness of some supernatural dimension or a  general trust in the goodness of some distant divine being.  But rather faith is in Christian terms, believing precisely that the living God has entrusted his authority to Jesus himself, who is now exercising it for the salvation of the word. (Wright)

Jesus invites us to share in this.

Our faith in him opens up the kingdom not only to us but to those we share it with.

Matthew 18:21-35

So Jesus in response to Peter’s question about how many times should we forgive answers him ‘not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ and then goes on to tell a parable about forgiveness.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents.

10,000 talents is not just a lot of money, its almost unimaginably large amount of money.   A talent was worth about 15000 denarii.  We see from a chapter earlier in Matthew that one denarii was one days wage for a manual labourer.  So for this man to pay of this debt he would have to work for 500,000 years!  The amount of money he owes is totally incompressibley large.   But then, that is the point of the parable,.  Human sin against God is incalculable.

Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

In antiquity individuals and sometimes whole families were sold into slavery in order to repay debts.  Of course this wouldn’t come close to the amount owed but would mean that the king would get something back. 

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

As we know the man would never be able to pay the amount back, but the king had compassion and cancelled the debt.  The parable is not simply about a generous king who forgives his servants large sums, it is about God who forgives people their many sins.  This parable shows us the great mercy that God has on us.  But this is not the end of the parable.

It goes on to tell us that the man who was forgiven then goes demands the 100 denerii (100 days wages) that is owed to him for another servant.  That servant says the same as the other servant: ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything’.  But he shows no mercy or forgiveness and throws him into prison.  The 100 denarii is not a small amount, 100 days wages but compared to the 10,000 tenents is almost nothing.  When the King hears about what has happened he says:

‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Jesus uses this parable to tell Peter something about the magnitude of God’s forgiving love toward sinful man.  Man’s sin is so great that God has to forgive him infinitely more than the numerical count of seventy-seven times.  The depth of God’s mercy simply cannot be measured.  And we are called to do likewise.  Jesus shows us that the forgiven person must reflect God’s mercy and compassion and forgive those that have sinned against us.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us very clearly: ‘For if you forgive someone when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive them their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We are called to forgive as God forgives us.

What are the effects of sin? (In 100 words)

Answers in 100 words, why not give it a go yourself…

The apex of Sin is nihilism. In Jesus’ parable the Levite walked by, not because he did not care but because he was bound by Mosaic Law to not act. Similarly the most nihilistic in this world are those who reject this world, not because they do not care, but because they hold in esteem an eschatological end. The greatest Sin in this world is to be so blinded by your religiosity or ideology that the paining individual before you is passed over: the divorcee, the incapable, the homosexual, the evangelical, the catholic, the heretical and the atheist.

Lewis Connolly

Calvin put forward an idea which he called ‘sensus divinitatis’ or ‘sense of the divine’.  This is an idea that we each are born with the capacity to sense the divine (i.e. God).  ‘Were it not for sin and its effects, God’s presence and glory would be obvious and uncontroversial to us all’.  The effects of sin therefore are to diminish or impair this sense of God’s presence to cloud the stirrings within our hearts and minds.  The most serious consequence of sin then is not to know God at all, perhaps to reject the very idea of the supernatural.

Barney Pimentel

When we were studying at London School of Theology our Church Doctrine lecturer Prof Tony Lane set us some questions with the challenge to answer them in less than 100 words.  The idea being that we should be able to give clear succinct answers to complex questions   (Exploring Christian Doctrine by Tony Lane)

House blessing

Moving house can be (is!) a stressful time and having just moved a week ago I thought I would look at the prayers and blessings that are used in your house.  Here is a flavour of what’s out there; this one is a Catholic prayer for the home:

Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this dwelling, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let Thy holy Angels dwell herein, to preserve us in peace; and let Thy blessing  be upon us forever. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


I really like the Jewish practice, you will find in Jewish homes a ‘Mezuzah’ (see picture) attached to the front door frame.  Within the box is a scroll which has written on it Deut 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.  Deut 11:13-21 talks of the blessings that God will give to you and your family if you faithfully obey, love and serve God with all your soul.  Deut 6:4-9 says:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

You can see in the last line the reason that this is put on the door frames.  It’s all also interesting to note that the Mezuzah is attached at a slant. The reason being the one Rabbi thought that it should be horizontal and another Rabbi thought it should be vertical so as a comprise they are attached at a slant!