Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws
Review posted December 15, 2023.
Abingdon Press, 2022. 155 pages.
Review written April 5, 2023, from my own copy.
My church went through this book in our small groups (including the one I co-lead) as an all-church Lenten study. There are six chapters, one for each week of Lent, and there is a leader's guide and videos to go along with it, as well as the sermons from our pastors on the same topics.
I've grown up in church and know the Bible well, so it's always a challenge to set aside what I think I already know and gain new insights. That wasn't a problem at all with this book. Although I think I'm very familiar with the book of Luke, I had never noticed the theme that Alan Hamilton brings out again and again -- of Jesus lifting up the lowly.
Indeed, there's a chapter on Jesus' interactions with women, and I'd never noticed how very much Luke includes women in his gospel -- much more than the other gospel writers.
Since there are 24 chapters of Luke, but only 6 weeks of Lent, the study is only loosely chronological. We start with a firm foundation of Jesus seeing and paying attention to outsiders, outcasts, and outlaws all through the book before traveling with Jesus to Jerusalem, looking at his final week, and then covering the crucifixion.
Even with the crucifixion, Adam Hamilton points out that the words on the cross that Luke chose to report fit with his theme of lifting up the lowly. This is where we read about Jesus' forgiveness, his promise to the thief, and ultimately committing himself into his Father's hands.
This paragraph is from the first chapter, looking at the Mary's Magnificat:
It is on the lips of Mary that Luke lays out the theme of his Gospel, the theme of this book: God looks with favor on those of low status. God brings down the powerful from their thrones. God lifts up the lowly. God chooses the people others think are washed up or have no value. God values and uses those who have been pushed down, oppressed, or disdained. This one line captures Luke's theme.
And here's a paragraph from the chapter about Jesus' crucifixion:
Regardless of what Luke was seeking to convey about Jesus's death, he clearly sees this as the climax of the story he has been telling. Here, too, Jesus is lifting up the lowly. In Jesus's death, we see his obedience to God ("not my will but thy will be done"), his innocent suffering, and, once again, his ministry with and for the outsiders, outcasts, and outlaws. We see his mercy and grace as he prays for his Father to forgive even those who tortured him. We see him reaching out to "seek and save the lost," even from the cross. We see him as a King suffering for his people -- a picture of selfless love. And we see Jesus absorbing evil, hate, sin, and death. As we will see in the postscript, Jesus ultimately triumphs over those things, and in the process brings salvation to the world.
Studying along with this book gave me a whole new appreciation for the gospel of Luke.