Notes on

Luke

2022 Edition

Dr. Thomas L. Constable

Introduction

Writer

Several factors indicate that the writer of this Gospel was the same person who wrote the Book of Acts: First, a man named Theophilus was the recipient of both books (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Second, Acts refers to a previous work by the same writer. Third, both books have several common themes, some of which do not receive the same emphasis elsewhere in the New Testament. Fourth, there are general structural and stylistic similarities, including the use of chiasms and the tendency to focus on specific individuals.[1]

The writer also acquired his knowledge of Jesus' life and ministry from research rather than from eyewitness observations (Luke 1:1-4). Therefore he was not one of the disciples who traveled with Jesus.

The early church identified the writer as Luke (probably a shortened form of Lukios or Lukanos[2]). The heretic Marcion is the earliest witness that we have to Luke's authorship (ca. A.D. 135). The Muratorian Canon (a list of Christian writings that the author considered canonical, ca. A.D. 180) mentioned Luke as the writer too. It described him as the physician who accompanied Paul on his journeys (cf. Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1—28:16; Col. 4:14; Phile. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11). Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 180-185) also believed that Luke wrote this Gospel, and he called him the inseparable companion of Paul.[3] Jerome wrote that Luke died at the age of 84 and was never married.[4] Later church fathers likewise referred to Luke as the writer of this Gospel.

Luke was evidently a Gentile (cf. Col. 4:10-14). However, some scholars believed that Colossians 4:11 and 14 do not necessarily mean that Luke was a Gentile, and that he may have been a Hellenistic Jew.[5] Church tradition identified Antioch of Syria as Luke's hometown,[6] but this has not been validated. Philippi also has some traditional support as being his hometown.[7] J. Sidlow Baxter wrote that we know less about Luke than about any other New Testament writer.[8]

Distinctive Features

"Whereas the emphasis in Matthew is on what Jesus said, and in Mark on what Jesus did, here in Luke it is rather on Jesus Himself."[9]

The main doctrines of systematic theology that Luke stressed were God,[10] Jesus, salvation (especially redemption), the Holy Spirit, angels, and things to come.

"Luke is the only synoptic evangelist to use the noun 'salvation' (soteria four times [1:69, 71, 77, 19:9]; soterion twice [2:30; 3:6]) and 'savior' (soter [1:47; 2:11]), and he used the verb 'save' (sodzo) more than any other book in the New Testament (although this is mainly because of Luke's greater length)."[11]

"In the gospel of Luke the phrase praising God occurs oftener than in all the rest of the New Testament put together."[12]

There is also much emphasis on the glory of God, prayer, miracles, the divine plan that Jesus fulfilled, Israel, believing, discipleship, forgiveness,[13] and God's Word. About 20 of Jesus' parables are unique to this Gospel. Luke also related certain events in Jesus' life to secular history, and he emphasized Jesus' final trip to Jerusalem.[14]

Luke stressed Jesus' concern for all people, especially for individuals that Jewish society of His day despised, such as Gentiles, the poor, women, children, and "sinners." He wrote "the gospel of the underdog."[15] No other Gospel presents Jesus having dinner with someone as often as this one does. Luke used the Greek term nomikos, which means lawyer, rather than the Hebrew term grammateus, meaning scribe. He emphasized Jesus' practical teachings, such as what He taught about money (cf. chs. 12 and 16).

"In terms of its worldview, its theology, and its practical presentation of principles, this Gospel explains how we can serve God better."[16]

Luke used more medical terms than we find in the writings of Hippocrates, the father of medicine.[17] Luke showed interest in purpose, fulfillment, and accomplishment. He documented the joy that resulted from Jesus' saving and healing works. He stressed Jesus' call for people to become His disciples. He portrayed Jesus as dependent on the Holy Spirit and on the Father through prayer. Finally, Luke recorded many examples of Jesus' power.[18]

"Luke's Gospel gives a reader a more comprehensive grasp of the history of the period than the other Gospels. He presented more facts about the earthly life of Jesus than did Matthew, Mark, or John."[19]

Luke is the longest book in the New Testament (1,121 verses), Matthew is second (1,071 verses), and Acts is third (1,007 verses). (John has 879 verses, and Mark has 678 verses.) Luke and Acts combined comprise about 27 percent of the Greek New Testament. Furthermore, Luke wrote more verses in the New Testament than anyone else: 2,128 in Luke and Acts. Paul wrote the second largest number of verses (2,032), then John (1,416), then Matthew (1,071), then Mark (678), and finally the lesser contributors.[20]

"The presentation of the facts is fuller in some respects, but is less topical than Matthew's and is more flowing than Mark's."[21]

"The gospel according to St. Luke has been called the loveliest book in the world. … It would not be far wrong to say that the third gospel is the best life of Christ ever written."[22]

Muslims respect the Gospels, and probably more Muslims have been brought to faith in Christ through Luke's Gospel than any other, because of its emphases.

Purposes

The Gospel of Luke is one of the books of the Bible that states the purpose of the writer. Luke said that he wrote to inform Theophilus about the truthfulness of the gospel that Theophilus had heard (1:4).

In Acts, Luke wrote that he had written previously about the things that Jesus began to do and teach before His ascension (Acts 1:1-2). He then proceeded to narrate the things that Jesus continued to do and teach after His ascension, through His apostles, in Acts. Presumably Luke wrote both his Gospel and Acts with a larger audience than just Theophilus in view.

The distinctive emphases of the Gospel help us to identify secondary purposes. Luke demonstrated a strong desire to convince his readers of the reliability of the facts that he recorded, so that they would believe in Jesus and become Christians. He also emphasized the significance of what God had done in Christ.[23] These concerns are also clear in Acts.[24] Obviously Luke wrote to preserve the record of events that happened during Jesus' earthly ministry, but few ancient writers wrote simply to narrate a chronicle of events.[25] They wrote in order to convince their readers of something, and they used history to do that. Nevertheless, historical accuracy was important to them.[26]

We believe that Luke's Gospel is an accurate account of biblical history that God preserved in Scripture. This Gospel constitutes an apologetic for (defense of) Christianity that would have been of special interest to Greeks because of Luke's selection of material, vocabulary, and style.[27] It would give them a reason for the hope that was in them (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

"Luke's purpose was apparently not to provide an historical foundation for the Christian message. … He has 'ordered' the events of his narrative so as to bring out their significance, to persuade Theophilus—who is not so much concerned with the issue, Did it happen? as with the queries, What happened? and What does it all mean? By providing a more complete accounting of Jesus in his significance, Luke hopes to encourage active faith."[28]

Original Audience

Evidently Theophilus was a real person.[29] His name is Greek and means "Lover of God." We do not know where he lived. He appears to have been a fairly recent convert to Christianity from Greek paganism, though Richard Lenski believed that he was not yet a Christian.[30] Consequently, it appears that Luke wrote for people such as Theophilus originally. Before his conversion, Theophilus may have been one of the Gentile God-fearers to which Luke referred several times in Acts. The God-fearers were Gentiles who had a certain respect for, and who wanted to learn more about, the God of the Jews. They came to the Jewish synagogues and listened to the Jewish Scriptures read there. Luke's orientation of his Gospel to the secular world and his references to Judaism also suggest that he wrote his Gospel with these people in mind.

"Much about Luke-Acts would well suit Cornelius-like readers [cf. Acts 10—11]."[31]

Luke's use of the Septuagint version and his interest in the God-fearers suggest this too.[32] The God-fearers had turned from Greek polytheism to Jewish monotheism, but many of them were not familiar with Palestinian geography and culture. Luke clarified these matters for his readers when necessary. The God-fearers were the Gentiles whom Paul found to be the most receptive soil for the gospel seed. Luke himself may have been one of this group, though there is no way to prove or to disprove that possibility.

"[Luke] writes to reassure the Christians of his day that their faith in Jesus is no aberration, but the authentic goal towards which God's ancient dealings with Israel were driving."[33]

By the first century, most of the pagan Greeks had stopped believing in the gods and goddesses of their mythology, and had abandoned fatalism. Many of them were following Eastern "mystery religions" (religions that professed to offer insight into the unseen world to their initiates) that competed with Christianity for their allegiance. Both beliefs offered saviors, but the Savior of Christianity was a personal resurrected Lord, whereas the savior of the mystery religions was impersonal and ideal. Luke evidently wrote to persuade these people to believe in Jesus and to give them a solid factual basis for their faith.

"That he wrote for an urban church community in the Hellenistic world is fairly certain."[34]

Literary Characteristics

Experts in Greek literary styles acknowledge Luke's style and structure as superb.[35] No one knows Luke's educational background, but clearly he had training in Greek composition as well as medicine, and a talent for writing. Luke used many words that the other Gospel writers did not, and many of them show a wide literary background. He also used several medical and theological terms that are unique. Luke's use of Semitisms shows that he knew the Hebrew Old Testament well. However, his preference for the Septuagint suggests that it was the version that his reader(s) used most. Perhaps Luke was a Gentile who had much exposure to Semitic idioms and theology from Paul and other Jews. He was a skillful enough writer to use chiasms as a major structural device.[36] As previously noted, a chiasmus was a literary device, used by both Jews and Greeks, that gave unity to a composition or section of text. Acts also contains chiasms.

Luke also repeated similar stories with variations (cf. 1:80; 2:40; 2:52). This literary device aids learning by repetition while giving additional new insights. He also tended to use a particular term frequently in one or more passages, and then rarely or never after that. This makes the term stand out and calls attention to it where it occurs.[37]

Genre

Luke identified the genre of his work as a narrative (an orderly "account," 1:1).[38] It is a historical narrative in that it relates events that happened in the past in story form.[39]

Date

Practically all biblical scholars believe that Luke wrote his Gospel before he wrote Acts. Many conservative scholars hold that he wrote Acts during Paul's first Roman imprisonment, during which the book's timeline ends (A.D. 60-62), or shortly thereafter. Luke accompanied Paul during much of that apostle's missionary ministry. At times Luke was not with Paul, but he was ministering as Paul's representative in one or another of the churches that Paul had founded, including the one in Philippi. Evidently Paul was Luke's primary source of information for his Gospel and Acts, as Peter was Mark's primary source for the second Gospel.

Luke may have written his Gospel during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome, along with Acts. However, it seems more likely, in view of how Luke introduced these two books, that he wrote the Gospel some time earlier than Acts. Luke had the most time to write this Gospel during Paul's Caesarean imprisonment (A.D. 57-59, cf. Acts 24:1—26:32). This seems to me and some other writers to be a possible date of writing.[40] Another possibility is that Luke wrote this Gospel after Paul's death.[41]

"There is nothing to contradict the old tradition that the Gospels were written in the order in which we now have them in the New Testament, specifically that Luke was the third to write. This is the testimony of Irenaeus in the Church History of Eusebius (5, 8, 2), and likewise of Origen (6, 25, 3), and of the first sixteen lines of the Muratorian canon."[42]

Outline

I.       Introduction 1:1-4

II.       The birth and childhood of Jesus 1:5—2:52

A.      The announcement of John the Baptist's birth 1:5-25

1.      The introduction of John's parents 1:5-7

2.      The angel's announcement to Zechariah 1:8-23

3.      The pregnancy of Elizabeth 1:24-25

B.      The announcement of Jesus' birth 1:26-56

1.      The introduction of Mary and Joseph 1:26-27

2.      The angel's announcement to Mary 1:28-38

3.      Mary's visit to Elizabeth 1:39-56

C.      The birth and early life of John the Baptist 1:57-80

1.      The naming of John 1:57-66

2.      Zechariah's song of praise 1:67-79

3.      The preparation of John 1:80

D.      The birth and early life of Jesus ch. 2

1.      The setting of Jesus' birth 2:1-7

2.      The announcement to the shepherds 2:8-20

3.      Jesus' circumcision 2:21

4.      Jesus' presentation in the temple 2:22-38

5.      Jesus' development in Nazareth 2:39-40

6.      Jesus' visit to the temple as a boy 2:41-50

7.      Jesus' continuing growth 2:51-52

III.      The preparation for Jesus' ministry 3:1—4:13

A.      The ministry of John the Baptist 3:1-20

1.      The beginning of John's ministry 3:1-6

2.      John's preaching 3:7-18

3.      The end of John's ministry 3:19-20

B.      The baptism of Jesus 3:21-22

C.      The genealogy of Jesus 3:23-38

D.      The temptation of Jesus 4:1-13

IV.     Jesus' ministry in and around Galilee 4:14—9:50

A.      Jesus' teaching ministry and the response to it 4:14—5:11

1.      An introduction to Jesus' Galilean ministry 4:14-15

2.      Jesus' teaching in Nazareth 4:16-30

3.      Jesus' ministry in and around Capernaum 4:31-44

4.      The call of Peter, James, and John 5:1-11

B.      The beginning of controversy with the Pharisees 5:12—6:11

1.      Jesus' cleansing of a leprous Jew 5:12-16

2.      Jesus' authority to forgive sins 5:17-26

3.      Jesus' attitude toward sinners 5:27-32

4.      Jesus' attitude toward fasting 5:33-39

5.      Jesus' authority over the Sabbath 6:1-5

6.      Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath 6:6-11

C.      Jesus' teaching of His disciples 6:12-49

1.      The selection of 12 disciples 6:12-16

2.      The assembling of the people 6:17-19

3.      The Sermon on the Mount 6:20-49

D.      Jesus' compassion for people ch. 7

1.      The healing of a centurion's servant 7:1-10

2.      The raising of a widow's son 7:11-17

3.      The confusion about Jesus' identity 7:18-35

4.      The anointing by a sinful woman 7:36-50

E.      Jesus' teaching in parables 8:1-21

1.      The companions and supporters of Jesus 8:1-3

2.      The parable of the soils 8:4-15

3.      The parable of the lamp 8:16-18

4.      The true family of Jesus 8:19-21

F.       Jesus' mighty works 8:22-56

1.      The stilling of the storm 8:22-25

2.      The deliverance of a demoniac in Gadara 8:26-39

3.      The healing of a woman with a hemorrhage and the raising of Jairus' daughter 8:40-56

G.      Jesus' preparation of the Twelve 9:1-50

1.      The mission of the Twelve to Israel 9:1-6

2.      Herod's question about Jesus' identity 9:7-9

3.      The feeding of the 5000 9:10-17

4.      Peter's confession of faith 9:18-27

5.      The Transfiguration 9:28-36

6.      The exorcism of an epileptic boy 9:37-43a

7.      Jesus' announcement of His betrayal 9:43b-45

8.      The pride of the disciples 9:46-50

V.      Jesus' ministry on the way to Jerusalem 9:51—19:27

A.      The responsibilities and rewards of discipleship 9:51—10:24

1.      The importance of toleration 9:51-56

2.      The importance of self-denial 9:57-62

3.      The importance of participation 10:1-16

4.      The joy of participation 10:17-20

5.      The joy of comprehension 10:21-24

B.      The relationships of disciples 10:25—11:13

1.      The relation of disciples to their neighbors 10:25-37

2.      The relation of disciples to Jesus 10:38-42

3.      The relation of disciples to God the Father 11:1-13

C.      The results of popular opposition 11:14-54

1.      The Beelzebul controversy 11:14-26

2.      The importance of observing God's Word 11:27-28

3.      The sign of Jonah 11:29-32

4.      The importance of responding to the light 11:33-36

5.      The climax of Pharisaic opposition 11:37-54

D.      The instruction of the disciples in view of Jesus' rejection 12:1—13:17

1.      The importance of fearless confession 12:1-12

2.      The importance of the eternal perspective 12:13-21

3.      God's provisions for disciples 12:22-34

4.      The coming of the Son of Man 12:35-48

5.      The coming crisis 12:49-59

6.      A call to repentance 13:1-9

7.      A sign of Jesus' ability to effect change 13:10-17

E.      Instruction about the kingdom 13:18—14:35

1.      Parables of the kingdom 13:18-21

2.      Entrance into the kingdom 13:22-30

3.      Jesus' postponement of the kingdom 13:31-35

4.      Participants in the kingdom 14:1-24

5.      The cost of discipleship 14:25-35

F.       God's attitude toward sinners ch. 15

1.      The setting for Jesus' teaching 15:1-2

2.      The parable of the lost sheep 15:3-7

3.      The parable of the lost coin 15:8-10

4.      The parable of the lost son 15:11-32

G.      Jesus' warnings about riches ch. 16

1.      Discipleship as stewardship 16:1-13

2.      Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees for their greed 16:14-31

H.      Jesus' warning about disciples' actions and attitudes 17:1-19

1.      The prevention of sin and the restoration of sinners 17:1-4

2.      The disciples' attitude toward their duty 17:5-10

3.      The importance of gratitude 17:11-19

I.       Jesus' teaching about His return 17:20—18:8

1.      A short lesson for the Pharisees 17:20-21

2.      A longer explanation for the disciples 17:22-37

3.      The parable of the persistent widow 18:1-8

J.       The recipients of salvation 18:9—19:27

1.      The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector 18:9-14

2.      An illustration of humility 18:15-17

3.      The handicap of wealth 18:18-30

4.      Jesus' passion announcement and the disciples' lack of perception 18:31-34

5.      The healing of a blind man near Jericho 18:35-43

6.      Zaccheus' ideal response to Jesus 19:1-10

7.      The parable of the minas 19:11-27

VI.     Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem 19:28—21:38

A.      The Triumphal Entry 19:28-40

B.      The beginning of Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem 19:41-48

1.      Jesus' sorrow over Jerusalem 19:41-44

2.      Jesus' cleansing of the temple 19:45-46

3.      A synopsis of Jesus' teaching in the temple 19:47-48

C.      Jesus' teachings in the temple 20:1—21:4

1.      The controversy over authority 20:1-8

2.      The parable of the wicked tenant farmers 20:9-19

3.      The question of tribute to Caesar 20:20-26

4.      The problem of the resurrection 20:27-40

5.      Jesus' question about David's son 20:41-44

6.      Jesus' condemnation of the scribes 20:45-47

7.      Jesus' commendation of a widow 21:1-4

D.      Jesus' teaching about the destruction of the temple 21:5-36

1.      The setting and the warning about being misled 21:5-9

2.      The need for faithful perseverance 21:10-19

3.      The judgment coming on Jerusalem 21:20-24

4.      The second coming of the Son of Man 21:25-28

5.      The certainty of these events 21:29-33

6.      The concluding exhortation to watchfulness 21:34-36

E.      A summary of Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem 21:37-38

VII.     Jesus' passion, resurrection, and ascension chs. 22—24

A.      The plot to arrest Jesus 22:1-6

1.      The leaders' desire 22:1-2

2.      Judas' offer 22:3-6

B.      The preparations for the Passover 22:7-13

C.      Events in the upstairs room 22:14-38

1.      The Passover meal 22:14-18

2.      The institution of the Lord's Supper 22:19-20

3.      Jesus' announcement of His betrayal 22:21-23

4.      Teaching about the disciples' service 22:24-30

5.      Jesus' announcement of Peter's denial 22:31-34

6.      The opposition to come 22:35-38

D.      The arrest of Jesus 22:39-53

1.      Jesus' preparation in Gethsemane 22:39-46

2.      Judas' betrayal 22:47-53

E.      The trials of Jesus 22:54—23:25

1.      Peter's denial of Jesus 22:54-62

2.      The mockery of the soldiers 22:63-65

3.      Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin 22:66-71

4.      Jesus' first appearance before Pilate 23:1-7

5.      Jesus' appearance before Herod 23:8-12

6.      Jesus' second appearance before Pilate 23:13-25

F.       The crucifixion of Jesus 23:26-49

1.      Events on the way to Golgotha 23:26-32

2.      Jesus' death 23:33-49

G.      The burial of Jesus 23:50-56

H.      The resurrection of Jesus 24:1-12

I.       The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus 24:13-49

1.      The appearance to the disciples walking to Emmaus 24:13-35

2.      The appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem 24:36-49

J.       The ascension of Jesus 24:50-53

Message

The first Gospel presented Jesus as the King.[43] The second Gospel presented Him as the Servant. The third Gospel presents Him as the perfect Man. Matthew wrote to Jews about their King. Mark wrote to Romans about a Servant. Luke wrote to Greeks about the ideal Man. The title "Messiah" is most fitting for Jesus in Matthew. The title "Suffering Servant" is most appropriate in Mark. "Son of Man" is the title most characteristic of Luke's presentation of Jesus. G. Campbell Morgan believed that Matthew presented Jesus as the King, Mark presented Him as the Priest, and Luke presented Him as the Prophet.[44]

Luke stressed the saving work of Jesus in his Gospel. He presented Jesus as the Savior of humankind. He also proclaimed Jesus' work of providing salvation for humankind. Observe, first, the Savior that Luke presents, and then the salvation that the Savior came to provide:

Luke presented Jesus as the Savior in three different relationships: He presented Him as the firstborn of a new race. Second, he presented Him as the older brother in a new family. Third, he presented Him as the redeemer of a lost humanity.

We will consider first Luke's concept of Jesus as the firstborn of a new race. Luke's genealogy (3:23-38) reveals how the writer wanted the reader to regard Jesus. Matthew traced Jesus' lineage back to David and Abraham, in his genealogy, in order to show His right to rule as Israel's Messiah. Luke traced Jesus' ancestry back to Adam. He did this in order to show Jesus' true humanity.

However, Luke went back even further than Adam to God. This indicates that Jesus was not just like other human beings who descended from Adam. He was, as the Apostle Paul called Him, the "last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). The first Adam that God placed on this earth failed and plunged his race into sin and death. The last Adam that God placed on the earth did not fail, but saved His race from sin and brought it new life. The first man begins the Old Testament, but the "second man," to use another Pauline title (1 Cor. 15:47), begins the New Testament. As Adam headed one race, so Jesus heads a new race. Both "Adams" were real men. Thus, both men head real races of humankind. Luke viewed Jesus as succeeding where Adam failed, as atoning for Adam's transgression.

For Jesus to undo the consequences of Adam's fall, He had to be more than just a good man. He had to be a perfect man, a sinless man. Therefore Luke stressed Jesus' sinlessness. He did this primarily in his account of Jesus' birth. Luke stressed the virgin conception of Jesus. The Holy Spirit, not a sinful human, fathered Jesus. God regards the male as responsible in the human family. Husbands are responsible for their wives (Eph. 5:23-24). Fathers are responsible for their children (Eph. 6:4). God held Adam, not Eve, responsible for his descendants (Gen. 3:17-19).

Human beings are sinners for three separate reasons: First, we are sinners because we commit acts of sin. Second, even if we never committed one act of sin, we would still be sinners because we inherited a sinful human nature. This nature apparently comes through our fathers (cf. Heb. 7:9-10).[45] Third, we are sinners because God has imputed the guilt of Adam's sin to us because he is the head of the race and we are his descendants. As an illustration of this three-fold influence, consider a child. He is what he is for three reasons: his personal actions, his parents, and his citizenship (the country in which he was born). These all make him what he is, not just his actions.

Jesus was not a sinner. He did not commit any acts of sin. Second, He did not inherit a sinful nature from His human father because God was His real Father. Third, God did not impute Adam's sin to Jesus because Jesus was the direct descendant of God, the Son of God, and therefore the head of a new race. God gave the first Adam life by breathing the breath of life into the body that He had created. Likewise, God gave the second Adam life by implanting His divine life into a body that He had created, namely, Mary's body.

The doctrine of the virgin birth is extremely important because it establishes the sinlessness of Jesus in two of the three ways whereby people become sinners: an inherited sinful nature, and the imputation of Adam's sin. If a virgin did not conceive Jesus, then He was a sinner. If Jesus was a sinner, then He cannot be the Savior of sinners.

One way that a person becomes a sinner is by committing acts of sin. Luke showed that Jesus did not commit sins in his account of Jesus' temptations (4:1-13). In the wilderness, Satan subjected Jesus to the strongest temptations that humans face. Satan directed Jesus' three tests at the three areas of human personality that constitute the totality of human existence. These areas are doing (the lust of the flesh), having (the lust of the eyes), and being (the pride of life). These are the same three areas in which Satan attacked Eve (cf. Gen. 3:1-7).

The first man fell in a garden, which was a good environment conducive to withstanding temptation. The Second Man overcame temptation in a wilderness, which was a bad environment conducive to yielding to temptation. Rather than showing at every turn in Jesus' life that He did not sin, Luke showed that in the supreme test of His life Jesus did not sin. However, he continued to note Jesus' conflicts with Satan, demons, and sin throughout His life. Luke's record of these encounters also demonstrates Jesus' sinlessness.

At the Transfiguration (9:28-36), God declared His Son acceptable to Him. This meant that He was sinless.

Second, not only did Luke present Jesus as the head of a new race, but he also presented Jesus as the older brother in a new family. Since Jesus was the head of a new race, we might think that Luke would have presented Jesus as a father. Jesus was the first and, therefore, the source of all that follow in the race that He established. But Luke stressed Jesus' likeness with those in the new race. He is like an older brother to us who have new life through Him. This is not to deny His deity. In one sense, Jesus is completely different from us, since He is God. However, Luke stressed the sense in which He is like us, namely, in His humanity. He is one of us—fully human.

Luke presented Jesus as a man among men. He, of all the Gospel writers, wanted his readers to appreciate the fact that Jesus was a real person. There are many small indications of this throughout this Gospel that I have tried to point out in the exposition that follows. Luke did this because he was evidently writing to Greeks. Greeks had a background in polytheism and mythology. Because of their cultural background, they tended to think of gods as superhumans. These gods were not real people, but they had the characteristics of people expanded into superhuman proportions—faults and all. Luke wanted his readers to realize that Jesus was not that type of god. He was fully human, but He was also sinless. He had superhuman powers, but He was not the type of superman that the Greeks envisioned.

Jesus was a fellow human being, albeit sinless. This is very hard for us to imagine. Therefore, Luke put much in his Gospel that helps us understand Jesus, from His birth announcements, to His ascension into heaven. For example, Luke emphasized Jesus praying more than the other Gospel evangelists. As a man, Jesus was dependent on, and drew His strength from, His Father. We must not be too quick to ascribe Jesus' superior powers to His being God. He laid aside the use of many of His powers in the Incarnation and usually operated as a Spirit-empowered man. Luke helps us appreciate this about Jesus. He stressed the Holy Spirit's enablement of Jesus. Luke alone recorded, "Now the Child continued to grow and to become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him" (2:40), and "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people" (2:52).[46]

Third, Luke presented Jesus as the redeemer of a lost humanity, as well as the head of a new race, and the elder brother of believers. Since he was writing to Greeks, Luke did not identify many allusions to the Old Testament or to Jewish life and history. These allusions are in the text, but Luke did not draw attention to them. One of God's provisions for Israelite life that Luke did not identify as such, but which overshadows his portrait of Jesus, is the kinsman-redeemer. His presentation of Jesus fits the image of the Jewish kinsman-redeemer remarkably.

The kinsman-redeemer had to be the next of kin to the person that he redeemed. Luke presented Jesus as qualifying as our redeemer in this respect. He was a human being, as we are. Therefore He could provide redemption for His needy brothers.

The kinsman-redeemer also had to accept personal responsibility for those that he purposed to save from their miserable estate. Luke presented Jesus as taking personal responsibility for lost sinners. He recorded Jesus saying that He had to go to the Cross. He viewed the salvation of humankind as something that He needed to accomplish, because He had made a personal commitment to do so. That commitment began in heaven, before the Incarnation (Acts 2:23), but continued on earth throughout Jesus' life.

The kinsman-redeemer had to overcome those who opposed his brethren. Luke presented Jesus as in conflict with Satan and his hosts. He showed Him interceding for the Father's help for His tempted brethren—Peter, for example (22:32). Jesus won the victory over humankind's great enemy for His brethren.

The kinsman-redeemer had to create an opportunity for his brother's redemption. Luke presented Jesus as doing this. Luke's distinctive presentation of Jerusalem as Jesus' city of destiny contributes to this theme. Jesus deliberately advanced toward Jerusalem and the Cross, because He was creating an opportunity for humankind's redemption. (Similarly, Luke presented the Apostle Paul deliberately advancing toward Rome, his city of destiny, in the Book of Acts.)

The kinsman-redeemer turned his back on his personal rights and privileges in order to provide redemption for his brother. Luke presented Jesus doing this as well. Jesus modeled this strongly for His disciples, as we see in this Gospel. He also taught the importance of disciples doing this so that we can bring salvation to our brothers and sisters.

These major themes are very strong in Luke's Gospel. Jesus is the head of an entirely new race of people: the redeemed. He is the elder brother who provides an example for His brethren to follow, including depending on the Father and relying on the Spirit. He is the Savior who has come "to seek and to save that which was lost" (19:10).

We have observed how Luke presents Jesus as the Savior. Now let us turn to what he revealed about salvation. The key verse in the Gospel is, I believe, 19:10: "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." We have been looking at "the Son of Man." Now let us look at "to seek and to save that which was lost." I would say that the key verse in Matthew is 27:37: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews," and the key verse in Mark is 10:45: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." I would say the key verse in John is 20:31: "These [things] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name."

Luke reveals that the Son of Man has redeemed humankind. This Gospel is a record of God's redeeming work through Jesus Christ. Jesus' work on the Cross is the climax of this Gospel, as it is the climax of all the Gospels and of history itself. Jesus was born to die. By His death, Jesus purchased humankind's freedom from sin at the cost of His own life. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper so that His disciples would always keep the memory of the significance of His death freshly before them. The Christian mission is to tell the world about this redemption (24:46-47).

Through redemption, God regenerates those who are dead in sin. This is the second step in God's plan of seeking and saving the lost, after providing redemption. Believers receive new life when they believe on Jesus. Comprehending what this new life involves, learning how to live in view of its reality, and appreciating its great potential, are all things that Luke stressed in this Gospel. Jesus' disciples struggled with learning this, as all Christians do. Luke recorded many of Jesus' teachings that are helpful in understanding and appreciating regeneration.

Through regeneration, God brings believers into relationship with Himself. This is the third step in this great salvation process. Luke helps the reader to understand the difference between trusting for salvation and working for rewards. What is our relationship to Jesus as His followers? What are our privileges and our responsibilities? How does prayer enter into our relationship? Luke has more to say to disciples about the Christian's relationship to the Father and the Son than any other Gospel evangelist.

Then, through relationship with Himself, God prepares believers for life after death as members of a new race. Luke recorded much that is of great help for us as readers on this subject as well. What is the next phase of our life with God going to be like? How should we prepare for it? What is ahead in the future? Luke teaches us what it means to be a member of the new redeemed race of humanity.

In addition to the central teaching of this Gospel, let me also point out what I believe are the reasons for its abiding appeal. These are two: the personality of Jesus, and the presentation of discipleship.

The personality of Jesus, as Luke presents Him in this Gospel, is very appealing. Three things make Him so:

First, we feel that we can identify with the Jesus of Luke's Gospel. This is probably because Luke presented Him as a real man. It may be harder to identify with a King or with a Suffering Servant, to say nothing about God, which is John's emphasis. Even though He is perfect, He is someone with whom we feel a natural kinship, because we share humanity together. Jesus faced what we face, yet He was pleasing to God. This is very encouraging.

Second, the Jesus of Luke's Gospel is attractive because He is different from us. Even though we are of the same kind, He holds a fascination for us because He was the personification of ideal humanity. He was everything that God intended human beings to be. It is thrilling to view someone like that, since we all fall so far short of what we should be.

Third, this Jesus is attractive because He was so compassionate. One of the characteristic features of Luke's Gospel is the many stories that it contains that feature Jesus' concern for the needy, including women, the poor, the sick, and outcasts of society. We read of the social outcasts of Jesus' day flocking to Him and feeling at home in His presence. We see Him welcoming children, and we feel drawn to Him. We see Jesus' compassion in Matthew and in Mark, but Luke stresses Jesus' compassion even more than they do.

Another reason for the appeal of this book is its presentation of discipleship. It contains some of the straightest talk and most challenging demands for followers of Jesus that the New Testament records. We read Jesus telling us that unless we hate our family members, we cannot be His disciples (14:26). He taught that we have to deny ourselves (14:27). We have to renounce all that we have (14:33). Interestingly, these three conditions correspond to the three things that I mentioned earlier that Luke pointed out about Jesus. He did not call His disciples to do anything that He had not done. Let me explain further:

Jesus calls Christians to view our connections with our old race differently, because we have become members of a new race. Jesus taught that our spiritual relations are really closer than our physical relations. Therefore, we should let these old relations go—if they interfere with our participation in the calling of our new race. We should not break contact with unbelievers, of course, any more than Jesus did. But we should put our allegiance to Jesus and our spiritual brethren before our ties to our unbelieving brethren.

Jesus calls us to accept the same responsibility that He accepted, since we are now brothers. He denied Himself and took up His cross for us. Now we are brothers, so we need to do the same for Him. Brothers sacrifice for each other.

Jesus also calls us to give up everything for Him. Having received the benefits of redemption, because of the work of our Kinsman-Redeemer, who paid a great price for us, we need to pay a great price too. The price He calls us to pay is not to earn redemption. He has given that to us as a gift. It is to express our gratitude to Him for His grace, and to advance the mission that He has given us to fulfill. He had a mission from God, and He gave up everything to fulfill it. We, too, have a mission from God, and we need to give up everything to fulfill it.

Finally, this Gospel has a two-fold application: to the church and to the world.

To the church, Luke says: Be witnesses! "You are witnesses of these things" (24:48). We are to be so in view of the relationship that we now enjoy with the Son of Man. We should be witnesses for three reasons: We have experienced redemption, we enjoy His fellowship, and we have a future as members of a new race. We are also to be His witnesses in view of the lost condition of humankind. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Our fellowship with Jesus requires participation in His mission to seek and to save the lost. We can do this for three reasons: He has transformed our lives, He will open people's eyes with His Word, and He has empowered us with His Spirit (cf. ch. 24).

To the world Luke says: You are lost, but the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost. A Redeemer has come. A Brother is available. A new life is possible. Behold the Man! He understands you. Yet He is different from you. And He will receive you.[47]


Exposition

I.      Introduction 1:1-4

Luke introduced his Gospel in a classical literary fashion.

"It was customary among the great Greek and Hellenistic historians, including the first-century Jewish writer Josephus, to explain and justify their work in a preface. Their object was to assure the reader of their capability, thorough research, and reliability."[48]

Luke's introduction contrasts with Matthew's genealogy, Mark's title statement, and John's theological prologue. It would have been what a cultured Greek would have expected to find at the beginning of a reputable historical work. Verses 1-4 are all one sentence in Greek.

1:1             The first Greek word, epeideper (lit. because), occurs only here in the New Testament, though other major Greek writers, such as Thucydides, Philo, and Josephus used it.[49] Luke tells us that when he wrote his Gospel there were already several written accounts of Jesus' ministry, perhaps including the Gospels of Matthew (A.D. 40-70) and Mark (A.D. 63-70). I think it is most probable that Matthew wrote in the late 40s, Mark in the late 60s, and Luke in the late 50s.

There were probably also some uninspired accounts of Jesus' life and ministry that were circulating when Luke wrote his Gospel. Luke's statement here does not imply that the existing accounts were necessarily deficient. He simply wanted to write one that was orderly and based on reliable research (v. 3). "The things accomplished" or fulfilled refer to God's purposes for Jesus' life and ministry.

1:2             The writer wanted to assure Theophilus (v. 3) that the information that he and other writers had included in their accounts was valid. It had come from the eyewitness testimony of people who had accompanied Jesus from the beginning of His public ministry and who were "servants of the word," namely, servants of the gospel message. These people were the apostles and other eyewitnesses, such as Jesus' mother (cf. Acts 10:39-42). The Greek word autoptes ("eyewitnesses") occurs only here in the Greek New Testament.

"It is a medical term which means to make an autopsy. In fact, what Dr. Luke is trying to say is, 'We are eyewitnesses who made an autopsy, and I am writing to you about what we found.'"[50]

"… we typically associate the word 'eyewitness' with a person who has personally observed an event, but this is not always the case in antiquity. … Rather the historian examined relevant sites of historical incidents, gaining firsthand experience of them. … 'Eyewitnesses' and 'ministers of the word' are parallel descriptions of the same group of people."[51]

William Arndt argued that Luke's sources did not include the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.[52] However, no one knows for sure what sources Luke used.

Luke used the Greek word logos, "word," often in his Gospel, especially in the sections that are unique to it.[53] Some have taken this first occurrence of "word" as a reference to Christ, the living Word of God.[54] The NEB translators interpreted it as the gospel message.[55] Paul also claimed to communicate faithfully what others had handed down to him (1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3).[56] This verse is a claim to using reliable sources of information.

1:3             Until now Luke had described the work of previous writers. Now he referred to his own Gospel. He, too, had done careful research and proceeded to write an orderly account. Significantly, Luke did not describe himself as an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry but as a researcher of it. This is the only Synoptic Gospel in which the writer spoke in the first person.[57]

"In an orderly sequence" (Gr. kathexes) does not necessarily imply chronological order (cf. Acts 11:4; 18:23). It probably means that Luke wrote according to a plan that God had led him to adopt.[58] All the Gospel writers seem to have departed from a strictly chronological arrangement of events occasionally for thematic purposes.[59]

This verse is one of the clearest proofs in the Bible that God did not always dictate the words of Scripture to the writers who simply copied them down. That view is the dictation theory of inspiration. He did this with some passages (e.g., Exod. 20:1-17; et al.) but not most.

Theophilus' name means "Lover of God." This fact has led to some speculation about whether Theophilus was really a substitute for the real name of Luke's addressee, or perhaps Luke wrote generally to all lovers of God. The use of "most excellent" (Gr. kratiste) suggests that Theophilus was a real person of some distinction (cf. Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). Luke elsewhere reserved the use of this title for Roman officials in his writings (Acts 24:3; 26:25). Norval Geldenhuys speculated that Theophilus may have been "a procurator or governor in some province or other of the Roman Empire."[60] A few scholars have believed that Theophilus was King Agrippa II (Acts 26).[61] Most interpreters believe that Theophilus was a real person who is otherwise unknown to us. Theophilus' name was common in the Greek world. He may have been Luke's patron or publisher.[62]

Flavius Josephus, another first-century writer, similarly prefaced his Antiquities of the Jews (c. A.D. 93), and his Against Apion (c. A.D. 100), with a similar statement of purpose addressed to a certain Epaphroditus, whom he described as: "a lover of all kind[s] of learning."[63]

1:4             Luke did not address Theophilus in a way that enables us to know if he was a believer in Jesus when Luke penned these words. Theophilus had received some information about Christianity, specifically reports of the words and works of Jesus Christ. We do not know, either, if Theophilus was in danger of abandoning the faith, or if he just needed a strong foundation for immature faith. Luke's introduction promised a factual foundation.[64]

The Christian faith does not require believing things that are contrary to the facts but believing things that are true. Luke wrote his introduction in order to assure his readers that there was a factual basis for their faith. He claimed that his Gospel account was reliable. Luke was not the only Gospel writer who stated his purpose at the beginning of his book (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).

"Reassurance is the key motive for this Gospel."[65]

II.     The birth and childhood of Jesus 1:5—2:52

Chronologically, Luke began his Gospel before either of the other synoptic writers (Matthew and Mark) began theirs. Matthew began with Jesus' birth, and Mark began with the commencement of Jesus' public ministry. But Luke began with the predictions of the births of John the Baptist and then Jesus. John, of course, began his Gospel in eternity past.

This section of the book contains material unique in Luke. The only repeated statement occurs in Luke 2:39 and Matthew 2:23. Other unique features are the way in which Luke alternated the reader's attention between John and Jesus, and the joy that several individuals expressed (1:46-55, 68-79; 2:14, 29-32).[66] This section of Luke's narrative contains three intertwining stories of promise leading to fulfillment leading to praise:[67]

Character

Promise

Evidence of Fulfillment

Response

Zechariah

His wife would bear a son.

John is born.

Song of Zechariah

Mary

She would conceive a son.

Unborn John bears witness to unborn Jesus, and Elizabeth blesses Mary.

Song of Mary

Simeon

He would see the Messiah.

He sees Jesus.

Song of Simeon

 

This section has a decidedly Semitic style that suits the connections that it has with the Old Testament. Matthew used fulfillment formulas to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah, but Luke was less direct. He showed that Old Testament predictions lay behind these events by describing them in the style and vocabulary of the Old Testament.

"Luke regards his opening chapters as though they were the continuation of the story rooted in the Abrahamic covenant."[68]

Luke also featured Jerusalem and the temple in this section, which provide added connections to the Old Testament. References to the temple form an inclusio (i.e., brackets) around this section of text (1:5-23 and 2:41-51).

The alternation between John and Jesus compares and contrasts them (cf. 1 Sam. 1—3).[69] Luke presented them both as prophets in the Old Testament mold, but Jesus was infinitely superior to John: Note the uses of the title "Most High" (1:32, 35, 76).[70]

First, Luke recorded the announcements of John's, and then Jesus' birth (1:5-38). This is a section of comparison primarily. Then he told of Elizabeth blessing Mary and Mary blessing God, a section of predominant contrast (1:39-56). Finally we have the births of John and Jesus, a section of both comparison and contrast (1:57—2:52).

Luke recorded the appearance of angels in this section. Apparently he did so to strengthen the point that Jesus was God's provision for humankind's need. Angels bridge the gap between God and people, and here they rejoiced in God's provision of a Savior for humankind. Frequent references to the Holy Spirit validating and empowering Jesus' ministry increase this emphasis (1:15, 35, 41, 67, 80; 2:25-27).

The theme of joy is present explicitly—in the songs and words of praise and thanksgiving—as well as implicitly in the mood of the whole section. Yet there is a warning of coming pain as well as deliverance (2:35).

Note the similarity of structure that encourages and facilitates comparison of John and Jesus.

 

 

John

 

Jesus

The introduction of the parents

1:5-7

1:26-27

The annunciation by an angel

1:8-23

1:28-38

 The giving of a sign

 1:18-20

 1:34-38

The mother's response

1:24-25

1:39-56

 The pregnancy of a childless woman

 1:24

 1:42

The birth

1:57-58

2:1-20

The circumcision and naming

1:59-66

2:21-24

The prophetic response

1:67-79

2:25-39

The growth of the child

1:80

2:40-52

 

This first part of this section (1:5-56) deals with promise, while the rest of the birth and childhood narrative concerns fulfillment (1:57—2:52).

A.     The announcement of John the Baptist's birth 1:5-25

The entire announcement of John the Baptist's birth is unique to Luke's Gospel. There is a strong emphasis in this pericope (section) on the fact that angels visited John's parents and announced the birth of John. This would have impressed Greek readers with the supernatural character of John as Jesus' forerunner (cf. Mercury and Zeus at Lystra in Acts 14:11-13). The announcement by angels impresses the modern reader with God's intervention in the lives of these two godly people, and it causes us to anticipate something great coming from this supernatural birth. There are striking parallels to this account in the Old Testament: Zechariah and Elizabeth were similar to Abraham and Sarah, to Jacob and Rachel, to Elkanah and Hannah, and to Samson's parents. In each case, there was a divine announcement of the birth of an unusual child.

1.     The introduction of John's parents 1:5-7

1:5             Herod the Great ruled over Judea, the large Roman province that included all of Israel, from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.[71] Luke sometimes used "Judea" to refer to the land of the Jews (cf. 23:5).

"From the opening verse it is apparent that Luke is concerned with the balance of power."[72]

Luke pointed out that both of John's parents had a priestly heritage. The priests in Israel had the great privilege of intimate association with God through their worship and service in the sanctuary. Zechariah's name means "Yahweh Remembers" and is significant here because the birth of John, whose name means "Yahweh Is [or Has Been] Gracious," was the fulfillment of a prophecy that God would send a forerunner to prepare the way for Israel's Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6). The etymological derivation of Elizabeth's name is unclear, but it may mean "God's Covenant."[73] The combined names of this couple, therefore, highlight the fact that Yahweh remembers His covenant. Normally John would have become a priest and served in the temple, like his father did.

David had divided the priesthood into 24 divisions and had placed the leader of one priestly family at the head of each group (1 Chron. 24:10; 2 Chron. 8:14).

"Actually only four divisions returned from the Exile (Ezr. 2:36-39), but the four were subdivided to make up twenty-four again with the old names."[74]

Abijah was the leader of the division to which Zechariah belonged (1 Chron. 24:10). The Babylonian Exile had interrupted these divisions, but Israel's leaders established them again, after many Jews returned to the Promised Land, as best they could. In Zechariah's day, each division served for one week, twice a year, plus during the major festivals (cf. 1 Chron. 23:6; 28:13).[75] Joachim Jeremias estimated the number of priests in Palestine at about 8,000.[76] Josephus gave the number as closer to 20,000.[77]

"On Sabbaths the whole 'course' [division] was on duty; on feast-days any priest might come up and join in the ministrations of the sanctuary; and at the Feast of Tabernacles all the twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate."[78]

1:6             This verse shows that Elizabeth's childless condition was not the result of sin. In the Old Testament, God normally blessed the godly with children (cf. Gen. 1:28; Ps. 127; 128). She and her husband were right with God and followed Him faithfully. Blameless (Gr. amemptos) means that they dealt with sin in their lives quickly and as God required, not that they were sinless (cf. Phil. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Thess. 3:13; Heb. 8:7). This Greek word is the equivalent of the Hebrew tam, which describes Noah (Gen. 6:9) and Job (Job 1:8). The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was typically superficial and hypocritical, but Zechariah and Elizabeth were truly godly.

"Sometimes we are deprived of something because God has better things awaiting us down the road. When we wait patiently on the Lord, he often gives us more than we imagined possible. Zechariah and Elizabeth wanted a child; what they got was a prophet."[79]

1:7             Elizabeth's condition was identical to Sarai's (Gen. 17:16-17; cf. Gen. 16:4, 11; 29:32; 30:1, 23; 1 Sam. 1:5-11; 2:5-8). Her childless state embarrassed her (cf. v. 25), and her advanced age removed the hope of bearing children from her. Whenever the Old Testament said that a woman had no child, it also recorded that God gave her one later.[80] Therefore this statement prepares the reader for a miracle.

Priests were not disqualified from serving in the temple by age, but only by infirmity.[81]

2.     The angel's announcement to Zechariah 1:8-23

"It seems indeed most fitting that the Evangelic story should have taken its beginning within the Sanctuary, and at the time of sacrifice."[82]

Note the chiastic structure of this section, which highlights the good news:

A       Service, sanctuary, and people (vv. 8-10)

B       Gabriel's appearance and Zechariah's response (vv. 11-12)

C       The announcement of good news (vv. 13-17; cf. v. 19)

B'      Zechariah's objection and Gabriel's response (vv. 18-20)

A'      People, sanctuary, and service (vv. 21-23)[83]

1:8-9          Zechariah was serving God faithfully by discharging some temple function as a member of his priestly division. According to Josephus, there were four courses (divisions) of the priests, and each one had more than 5,000 priests in it.[84] Evidently these courses were broken down into 24 smaller sections, each of which would serve in the temple on rotation during two separate weeks each year.[85] When a section was on duty, all of its members were responsible to appear in the temple.[86] There were so many priests in Zechariah's day that the great privilege of offering incense on the golden incense altar in the temple fell to a priest only once in his lifetime.[87]

It was a great privilege to stand before the incense altar in the holy place, because this was as close to the holy of holies as any non-high priest could get. The priests decided who would offer incense at the daily sacrifice, morning and evening, by casting lots. Obviously God providentially arranged for Zechariah's selection (cf. Esth. 3:7; Prov. 16:33). This occasion was undoubtedly a high point in his life and the greatest honor of his priestly career.[88]

"It was the most solemn moment of his life …"[89]

"… in the Temple of Herod there was neither Shechinah nor ark—all was empty …"[90]

1:10           Many godly "people" (Gr. laos) assembled in the temple courtyards for this daily offering, as was customary. Laos occurs 36 times in Luke, but only 14 times in Matthew and two times in Mark. Luke used this word as a virtual synonym for ochlos, "crowd" or "multitude." This was probably the evening incense offering that was typically offered at about 3:00 p.m. (cf. Dan. 9:21; Acts 3:1). This verse heightens the suspense and prepares the reader for verses 21 and 22. Incense symbolized the ascending prayers of God's people that rise like a sweet fragrance to Him (cf. Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). Luke stressed prayer more than any of the Gospel writers, and this is his first reference to it.[91]

"Here, as elsewhere in Luke-Acts, prayer is a prelude to divine revelation; hearing, God speaks and acts (cf. 3:21-22; 9:28-36; 22:39-46; Acts 4:23-31; 10:3-5, 9-16, 30-32; 13:2; 22:17-21)."[92]

1:11-12      This is also Luke's first reference to an angel appearing. He evidently appeared beside the altar as Zechariah performed his duties of burning incense on the altar and prostrating himself in prayer.[93] Obviously God took the initiative, at the time He chose, to reveal what He was about to do. This was an angel from the Lord, not the pre-incarnate Christ (cf. v. 19). The right side of the altar may indicate the side of favor and honor, implying that the angel was bringing good news. Angelic appearances always indicated important events in the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 16:10-11; Judg. 13:3-21). As far as Scripture records, this was the only time that an angel appeared in the temple.

Zechariah's reaction was one of shock, because for the first time, presumably, he met a supernatural person face to face. This was the typical reaction of people in such situations (cf. v. 29; 5:8-10; et al.).

1:13           The angel appeared in order to announce God's answer to Zechariah's prayer (cf. Judg. 13:3-5). He told Zechariah not to fear, which is a fairly common command in Luke's Gospel (cf. v. 30; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50; 12:7, 32). Zechariah's prayer may have been a petition (Gr. deesis) for a son, which the priest and his barren wife probably offered many times in previous years. But it was probably the petition that Zechariah had just offered as he presented the incense, presumably as he prayed for Israel's salvation (cf. Dan. 9:20). In either case, God's provision of a son, John, was the answer. God named John (a shortened form of Jehochanan or Jochanan) indicating His sovereign authority (cf. v. 31). As already noted, John's name means, "Yahweh Is [or Has Been] Gracious."

"Heaven-given names always have etymological significance."[94]

1:14-15      Joy would replace fear in Zechariah's heart, and it would spread to his wife, and then to all Israel. The coming of Israel's predicted Messiah would be a joyous event, according to the Old Testament. The theme of joy is prominent in Luke's Gospel.

The cause of joy would be John's spiritual greatness ("great in the sight of the Lord"). The same angel also announced that Jesus would be great, without qualification (v. 32). Thus there was a connection between the roles of John and Jesus. The phrase "in the sight of" the Lord indicates God's choice and approval. It translates the Greek word enopion, which only Luke among the synoptic writers used. It appears 35 times in Luke and Acts.[95] John used this word once, in John 20:30.

"Filling [with the Holy Spirit] is a general Lucan term for presence and enablement."[96]

The contrast between control by drink and control by the Holy Spirit occurs elsewhere in Scripture (Eph. 5:18). It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine if John was to be a Nazirite (Num. 6:1-12) or simply devoted to God. The priests were to refrain from strong drink before serving in the sanctuary (Lev. 10:1-4, 9-11). There are no other specific indications that John was a Nazirite, though he may have been.[97] His ascetic, self-denying lifestyle was similar to that of many prophets, particularly Elijah (v. 17; 2 Kings 1:8; Matt. 3:4).

"John's greatness is not found in his choice of lifestyle, but in the fact that in understanding his calling, he pursues it fully and carries out God's will faithfully. John's style will be different from that of Jesus. God does not make all people to minister in the same way. That diversity allows different types of ministry to impact different kinds of people."[98]

The Holy Spirit's influence in John's life was unusual for someone living in Old Testament times. Normally the Holy Spirit empowered people selectively and temporarily then. Luke had a special interest in the Holy Spirit's enabling ministry, which surfaces frequently in his writings (cf. vv. 35, 41, 67; 2:25-27; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 14, 18; 10:21; 11:13; 12:10, 12; and many times in Acts).

1:16-17      John would turn the hearts of many Israelites back to God, like the prophets had sought to do in Old Testament times. None of them was more successful or important than Elijah had been. He led the people back to Yahweh after Ahab and Jezebel had pushed Israel's apostasy (departure from God) further than it had ever gone, by instituting Baal worship as Israel's official religion. John would possess the same spirit and power that Elijah had possessed. Moreover, John would be the predicted predecessor of Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6; cf. Mal. 3:1). Jesus later explained that John fulfilled the prophecy of Messiah's forerunner (Mal. 3:1). He would have completely fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah's return if the Jews had accepted Jesus (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:10, 14).

"… according to Jewish notions, he [Elijah] was to appear personally, and not merely 'in spirit and power.'"[99]

The term "turn back" (Gr. epistrepho) became a technical term for Christian conversion (cf. Acts 9:35; 2 Cor. 3:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:25). Essentially it means to turn from idols to the true God. Turning people to God was the responsibility of every true priest (Mal. 2:6). The Malachi quotation probably means that when this restoration back to God comes, there will be human reconciliation and love, rather than estrangement and selfishness.[100] People would clean up their interpersonal relationships in preparation for Messiah's appearing.

Luke spoke often of the "people" (Gr. laos) that God was preparing for Himself. These people prepared for the Lord included Jewish hearers, but also those who formerly were not "a people" (1 Pet. 2:10), namely, the Gentiles. They are the elect who would compose the church. With this term (people prepared for the Lord), Luke constantly reminded his original Greek readers that God's plan included Gentiles who responded to the gospel, as well as Jews.

1:18-20      When Abraham received the angelic announcement that God would give him the Promised Land, he, too, requested a confirming sign (Gen. 15:8), which God provided. However, Zechariah should have simply believed the angel's announcement and given God thanks for it, as Abraham later did (Gen. 17:17-18), and as Manoah and his wife did (Judg. 13:2-21). Instead he asked for some verification of the promise, which was probably a sign (cf. 11:29).

The angel gave Zechariah a sign, sure enough, but it cost Zechariah inconvenience and embarrassment for nine months (cf. vv. 34, 45). Perhaps Zechariah's request for a sign received a rebuke, and Abraham's did not, because Zechariah had the advantage of the Old Testament record, whereas Abraham did not. The angel helped Zechariah understand the seriousness of his mistake by explaining who he was: "Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God".

"… Gabriel was regarded in tradition as inferior to Michael; and, though both were connected with Israel, Gabriel was represented as chiefly the minister of justice, and Michael of mercy; while, thirdly, Gabriel was supposed to stand on the left, and not (as in the Evangelic narrative) on the right, side of the throne of glory."[101]

Gabriel (lit. "Man of God" or "Mighty One of God") had appeared twice to Daniel to give him information and understanding (Dan. 8:16; 9:21). He did the same for Zechariah here (cf. vv. 67-79).

Gabriel could have been harder on Zechariah than he was, but he was not, probably because Zechariah believed for the most part, and only wanted confirmation of what Gabriel had said (cf. Judg. 6:36-40; 13:2-21). He was not asking for a sign in order to help him believe.

The sign that God gave, Zechariah's muteness, served to heighten the wonder of what God would reveal and to conceal Gabriel's revelation from the people until the proper time.

"In Luke, God may of his own initiative give a sign (1:36; 2:12), but requests for signs are consistently interpreted negatively (11:16, 29-30; 23:8)."[102]

1:21-22      Zechariah's delay in the temple, and then his inability to speak, impressed the worshippers in the temple courtyard that something supernatural had occurred (cf. Dan. 10:15-17). Normally Zechariah would have pronounced the Aaronic blessing over them (Num. 6:24-26).[103] The people assumed incorrectly that he had seen a vision. Zechariah was unable to communicate to them what had really happened. Luke recorded their reaction in order to impress his readers with the importance of this event.

1:23           Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a town in the hill country of Judah where Zechariah probably pursued another occupation when not involved in priestly duties (v. 39).

3.     The pregnancy of Elizabeth 1:24-25

The angel's announcement of John's birth occurred even before Elizabeth conceived him (cf. Matt. 1:18-25). This is further evidence that John was a special provision from the Lord. Elizabeth's self-imposed, five-month period of seclusion, may have been in order to safeguard the arrival of her child and to preserve her own health as an older woman. Elizabeth gratefully acknowledged God's grace in removing the shame of her childless condition (cf. Gen. 21:6; 30:23; 1 Sam. 1:19-20; 2:1-10; Ps. 113:9).

"… Zechariah and Elizabeth represent two different kinds of righteous people. Zechariah raises doubts about the angel's message, for the prospective parents are now beyond normal childbearing age (v. 18). Sometimes even good people have doubts about God's promise. … Elizabeth pictures the righteous saint who takes her burden to God and rejoices when that burden is lifted."[104]

"Hardly for the last time in Luke-Acts, a woman is put forward as a recipient of God's favor and as a model of faithfulness to God's purpose."[105]

B.     The announcement of Jesus' birth 1:26-56

This section parallels the one immediately preceding it (vv. 5-25). Their forms are so similar that Luke must have arranged them in order to bring out the similarities between them. Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus like he had announced John's birth. Again, the fact of a divinely initiated birth announcement shows the unique significance of the individual to be born. In the preceding section the father was the main figure, but in this one the mother is.

"The birth of the Baptist is parallel to the birth of Isaac; that of the Messiah to the creation of Adam. Jesus is the second Adam."[106]

"Luke presents the theology of the Incarnation in a way so holy and congruent with OT sacred history that any comparisons with pagan mythology [that the original readers may have made] seem utterly incongruous. Instead of the carnal union of a pagan god with a woman, producing some kind of semidivine offspring, Luke speaks of a spiritual overshadowing by God himself that will produce the 'holy one' within Mary."[107]

"The names of blasphemy bestowed by the Papacy on Mary have not one shadow of foundation in the Bible, but are all to be found in the Babylonian idolatry [of the woman and child cult]."[108]

Luke may have obtained some of the intimate information that appears in this section directly from Mary. In this section, Luke stressed Jesus' divine sonship (vv. 32, 35), and His messianic role as Ruler over God's kingdom on earth (vv. 32-33). He also stressed God as the Most High (vv. 32, 35; cf. v. 76), the Holy Spirit's power (v. 35), and God's grace (vv. 29-30, 34-35, 38).

1.     The introduction of Mary and Joseph 1:26-27

The time reference and the same angel, Gabriel, connect this incident directly with what precedes (v. 24). "The sixth month" refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Luke presented God as taking direct action, not only here, but throughout his Gospel and Acts. He may have generously called Nazareth a city (Gr. polis), in order to give it status in the eyes of his readers. The Greek language had no word for town, and the alternative would have been to call it a village. Nazareth would have been unknown to almost everyone outside Palestine, so Luke described it as being in Galilee.[109] Gabriel now visited a small town in Galilee, on the northern border of the tribal territory of Zebulun, contrasted with the big city of Jerusalem in Judea, where he had met Zechariah.[110] Because of Gentile influence, the Galilean Jews were not as strict in their observance of the Law and Pharisaic tradition as their southern brethren were.[111]

"Where the story of John's origins starts in the temple and moves out, the story of Jesus' origins starts in Galilee and moves to climax in the temple."[112]

Young Mary also contrasts with old Zechariah and Elizabeth. Mary's name, the equivalent of Miriam in the Old Testament, apparently meant "Exalted One."[113] The Greek word parthenos ("virgin") refers to a young, unmarried girl, and it implies virginity.[114] It clearly means virgin here (cf. v. 34).[115] In this culture betrothal often took place shortly after puberty.[116] Consequently Mary may have been a young teenager at this time, even as young as 12 years old.[117]

"That the birth of the Great Deliverer was to be miraculous, was widely known long before the Christian era. For centuries, some say for thousands of years before that event, the Buddhist priests had a tradition that a Virgin was to bring forth a child to bless the world. … The highest titles were accordingly bestowed upon her. She was called the 'queen of heaven.' (Jeremiah xliv. 17, 18, 19, 25.) In Egypt she was styled Athor—i.e., 'the Habitation of God,' to signify that in her dwelt all the 'fulness of the godhead.' … In Greece she had the name of Hestia, and amongst the Romans, Vesta, which is just a modification of the same name …"[118]

"In Jewish tradition a girl was normally betrothed in the thirteenth year and for legal but not domestic purposes was from that point on considered to be married. Around a year later the girl was taken to the bridegroom's home for normal married life to begin."[119]

During betrothal, a man and a woman were considered as husband and wife, even though they lived apart and did not have sexual relations.[120] If the wife proved unfaithful to her husband during that period, she could be stoned (Deut. 23:24-25). Only divorce or death could terminate the betrothal, and from then on society considered the surviving spouse a widow and/or a widower.

Luke identified Joseph as a descendant of David. He evidently considered Jesus a legitimate heir to David's throne, since Joseph was Jesus' legal father or guardian (cf. 3:23). In Semitic society, it was not necessary to be a blood descendant in order to possess family inheritance privileges (Gen. 15:3; 17:12-13; cf. Gen. 48:5; Exod. 2:10; 1 Kings 11:20; Esth. 2:7). Since Joseph was Jesus' legal guardian, Jesus thereby qualified to inherit from Joseph as a legitimate son of Joseph. This fact has important bearing on the promise in verse 32b.

2.     The angel's announcement to Mary 1:28-38

1:28           The fact that Gabriel greeted Mary as he did, and did not greet Zechariah the same way, shows Mary's favored position. Gabriel's greeting was customary: Greetings! (Gr. chaire, or Hail!). Mary was highly favored (Gr. kecharitomene) because God chose to bestow special grace (favor, Gr. charis) on her (cf. Eph. 1:6, the only other New Testament occurrence of kecharitomene). She would be the mother of the Messiah, which was an honor that most Jewish mothers prayed would be theirs. God gave this honor to Mary without any special merit of her own (cf. v. 47). Roman Catholic commentators dispute this point, but competent scholars have refuted their arguments.[121] The Lord's presence with Mary guaranteed His help in the assignment from Him that she would have to fulfill (cf. Judg. 6:12; Ruth 2:14-16).

1:29-30      The angel's unexpected appearance in the temple sanctuary had unnerved Zechariah (v. 12), but it was his unusual greeting that upset and puzzled Mary. Perhaps he appeared at her door and she mistook him for an ordinary visitor. Gabriel calmed the fears that he had aroused with the announcement of a special divine blessing (cf. v. 13) by assuring Mary that God was happy with (favored) her (cf. Gen. 6:8; 1 John 4:17-18). Gabriel had come to announce a blessing, not punishment.

"It is necessary here to recall our general impression of Rabbinism: its conception of God, and of the highest good and ultimate object of all things, as concentrated in learned study, pursued in Academies; and then to think of the unmitigated contempt with which they were wont to speak of Galilee, and of the Galileans, whose very patois [dialect] was an offence; of the utter abhorrence with which they regarded the unlettered country-people, in order to realize, how such an household as that of Joseph and Mary would be regarded by the leaders of Israel."[122]

1:31           These words would have come as good news indeed to Mary. Not only would she bear a son, but her son would obviously be someone special, in view of the angelic announcement of His birth. Only five other children had been named before their births in Old Testament times: Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Solomon, and Josiah. John the Baptist was the sixth (v. 13). The words Gabriel used are very similar to the wording of Isaiah 7:14 in the Septuagint (cf. Gen. 16:11-12). "Jesus" was a common name.[123] It came from Joshua (lit. "Yahweh Saves" or "Yahweh Is Salvation"; cf. Matt. 1:21). As with John the Baptist, God exercised His sovereign prerogative by naming Jesus. Both names were significant in the light of salvation history.

1:32-33      Like John, Jesus would be great (v. 15). Even more, He would be the Son of the Most High—a clear statement of His deity (Ps. 2:7-9; 89:26-29; cf. v. 35). And He would be recognized as such.[124] "The Most High" is a common designation of God in the Old Testament (Heb. El Elyon, Gen. 14:18; et al.), and it carried over into the New Testament (vv. 35, 76; 6:35; 8:28; Acts 7:48; 16:17; Heb. 7:1-3). The Greeks also used the title Most High in order to describe their gods.[125]

"In Semitic thought a son was a 'carbon copy' of his father, and the phrase 'son of' was often used to refer to one who possessed his 'father's' qualities (e.g., the Heb. trans. 'son of wickedness' in Ps. 89:22 [AV] means a wicked person)."[126]

Jesus would also be the long-expected Messiah, since God would give Him the throne of His father David (2 Sam. 7:12-14; Ps. 89:3-4, 28-29). Jesus' divine sonship qualified Him for His messianic role. The messianic rule of the Son would continue forever after it began (Isa. 9:7; Dan. 7:14; Mic. 4:7; et al.).[127]

"Today, Jesus is enthroned in heaven (Acts 2:29-36), but it is not on David's throne."[128]

David's throne was an earthly throne. The throne that Jesus occupies today is a heavenly throne. One day He will return and sit on David's earthy throne.

"When the angel Gabriel came to this earth to announce the birth of John the Baptist, he came to Zacharias, the FATHER of the child. Six months later, when he came to announce the birth of Jesus, he came to Mary the MOTHER of the babe. The question as to the consistency of Gabriel's action is explained only by the Virgin Birth. Had Joseph been the father of Jesus, doubtless Gabriel would have come to him as he did to the father of John, but Jesus, having no earthly father, the announcement of necessity was made to His mother."[129]

1:34           Mary, unlike Zechariah, did not ask for a sign that what the angel had predicted would happen. The idea that the Messiah would appear soon did not surprise her either. Instead, she asked how it would happen. This was not an expression of weak faith but of confusion. Consequently Gabriel did not rebuke her as he had Zechariah. She was unmarried and a virgin. She had not had sexual relations with any man.[130] Evidently Mary assumed that Gabriel meant that she would conceive before she and Joseph consummated their marriage.[131] "Am a virgin" is literally in Greek "do not know a man." The euphemism of "knowing" someone sexually comes from the Old Testament (Gen. 4:1; 19:8; et al.).

1:35           Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit would be God's enabling agent who would make Jesus' supernatural birth possible (cf. vv. 41, 67, 80; 2:25-27). He would "overshadow" Mary with His personal presence (cf. Exod. 40:38). Beyond this Gabriel was not specific.

"This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a 'mating' of the Holy Spirit with Mary."[132]

God settled upon the tabernacle in the wilderness similarly, filling it with His presence (Exod. 40:35; cf. Ps. 91:4). It is interesting that the same Greek word, episkiazo, translated "overshadow" here, occurs in all three accounts of the Transfiguration where the cloud overshadowed those present (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). Then the voice came out of heaven identifying God's Son, but here an angel identified Him as such. The Holy Spirit would produce a holy offspring ("Child") through Mary. The deity and preexistence of the Son of God required a miraculous conception. His virgin birth resulted in His assuming a human nature, without giving up His divine nature.[133]

1:36-37      Even though Mary had not requested a sign, God gave her one, namely, the pregnancy of Elizabeth. The exact relationship between Mary and Elizabeth is unknown, but they obviously knew that they were relatives.

Gabriel also reassured Mary with one of the greatest statements of God's power that God has recorded in the Bible (v. 37). This statement undoubtedly comforted Mary in the following months, as it has comforted countless believers faced with difficult ministries ever since. God can do the seemingly impossible (cf. Jer. 32:17, 27). Gabriel was alluding to the angel's words to Sarai, when he announced that she would bear a son in spite of apparently impossible obstacles (cf. Gen. 18:14). Verse 37 should also encourage readers of this story, who doubt the possibility of a virgin birth, to believe that God can do even this.

"Anything God determines to do He can accomplish, because there is nothing impossible with God. But that does not mean He will do everything believers want Him to do, because some things are not included in His plan."[134]

"No word of God must be incredible to us, as long as no work of God is impossible to him."[135]

1:38           Mary responded submissively to God's will, like Hannah had done (1 Sam. 1:11, where the same Greek word, doule, translated here "bond-servant," occurs in the Septuagint).

"Mary had learned to forget the world's commonest prayer—'Thy will be changed'—and to pray the world's greatest prayer—'Thy will be done.'"[136]

Even though Gabriel's announcement was good news, it was also bad news. Mary would bear the Messiah, but her premarital pregnancy would bring misunderstanding and undeserved shame on her for the rest of her life (cf. Deut. 22:23-24). Therefore her humble attitude is especially admirable (cf. Gen. 21:1, 7, 12; 30:34). Unfortunately, she did not always maintain it (cf. John 2:3-5). In this she was only human.

"There were three miracles of the Nativity [according to Martin Luther]: that God became man, that a virgin conceived, and that Mary believed. And the greatest of these was the last."[137]

"This passage suggests four other important lessons: (1) the certainty that God will perform his promise, since nothing is impossible with him, (2) Mary's example as one chosen to serve God, an example that extends even beyond the willingness to be used to trust God to take us beyond our limitations, (3) the significance of the Virgin Birth of our Savior, and (4) the importance of sexual faithfulness throughout our lives."[138]

3.     Mary's visit to Elizabeth 1:39-56

This pericope brings the parallel stories of John's birth and Jesus' birth together. The two sons had their own identities and individual greatness, but Jesus was superior. John began his ministry of exalting Jesus in his mother's womb. The conception of Jesus took place between verses 38 and 39.

1:39-40      Apparently Mary left Nazareth shortly after Gabriel's announcement to her. Her trip south to Elizabeth's home, somewhere in the hill country of Judah, would probably have covered 50 to 70 miles, and it would have taken three or four days.

1:41-42      When Mary arrived, Elizabeth was at least six months pregnant (v. 36). She regarded the fact that John leaped in her womb as an indication of his joy that Mary, who would bear the Messiah, had come for a visit (v. 44). The Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth, prompting her to greet Mary as the mother of Messiah. The Spirit evidently gave her intuitive or revelatory understanding of Mary's role. She proclaimed her benedictions loudly, in joyful praise to God, and because of the Spirit's impelling. "Blessed" means specially privileged because of God's favor. Elizabeth evidently meant that Mary was the most blessed among women. Mary was most blessed because her Son would be most blessed among all people. Fruit of the womb is an old figure of speech for a child (cf. Gen. 30:2; Deut. 28:4).

1:43           By "Lord" Elizabeth meant Jesus, not the entire Godhead. The Bible never ascribes the title "Mother of God" to Mary. She was the mother of Jesus, who was Elizabeth's Lord, since He was God.

Luke used the title "Lord" 95 times out of its 166 occurrences in the synoptic Gospels.[139]

"The use of kurios in narrative to refer to Jesus is distinctive of Luke."[140]

This title has a double meaning. It is the word the Septuagint used to translate the Hebrew "Yahweh," and the New Testament writers used it the same way. As such, it implies deity. It also means "master" in the sense of a superior person, specifically the Messiah. This usage does not necessarily imply that the person using it believed that Jesus was God. Elizabeth apparently meant that Jesus was the Messiah at least. Luke evidently used the term "Lord" frequently because for Greek readers "Christ" or "Messiah" had little meaning. The pagan Gentiles referred to Caesar as Lord Caesar, meaning that he was their divine sovereign. "Lord" had the same connotation for Luke's original readers: Jesus is the divine sovereign for Christians.

Elizabeth considered herself unworthy that the mother of Messiah should visit her (2 Sam. 24:21; cf. 2 Sam. 6:2-11). John the Baptist did not understand that Jesus was the Messiah until Jesus' baptism (John 1:32-33). Elizabeth had done nothing to deserve this honor. Her inspired words reflect the superiority of Mary's child over her own son.

1:44-45      Elizabeth related to Mary what Luke had already told the reader about John leaping in her womb (v. 41). She then announced Mary's privileged condition: It was not just that she would bear the Messiah, but that she believed that she would bear Him when God announced that to her through Gabriel (cf. Acts 27:25).

The structure of verses 41-45 focuses attention on the fact that Mary would be the mother of the Messiah:

A       John's leaping in Elizabeth's womb v. 41

B       Elizabeth's blessing of Mary v. 42

C       Elizabeth's acknowledgment that Mary's child was Messiah v. 43

A'      John's leaping in Elizabeth's womb v. 44

B'      Elizabeth's blessing of Mary v. 45

1:46-47      Mary's reply to Elizabeth was also an inspired utterance. This so-called "Magnificat" has strong similarities with Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. However, it also alludes to at least 12 other Old Testament passages.[141] Mary's familiarity with the Old Testament shows her love for God and His Word. A striking feature of this poem is the fact that Mary viewed God as overthrowing established authorities (v. 52). This would have been of special interest to Luke's original readers. She also viewed herself as occupying an important role in the history of salvation (v. 48).

Structurally the song divides into four strophes (stanzas, sections): verses 46-48, 49-50, 51-53, and 54-55. Mary did not necessarily compose this song on the spot. She was a reflective person (2:51) who may have given it much thought before the Holy Spirit enabled her to share it with Elizabeth. Some students of this passage have concluded that Luke really composed it, but this is unlikely since he gave Mary the credit for it (v. 46).

In the first strophe (vv. 46-48), Mary praised God for what He had done for her.

Verses 46 and 47 are synonymous parallelism in which the second line restates the idea of the first line. The term "Magnificat" comes from the first word in the Latin translation of this song, which in English is "exalts" or "glorifies."

"Mary 'was found with child' (Matt. 1:18). An older member of the family is always indignant in such a case, but Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, cried, 'Blessed art thou among women.' [Luke 1:42] Such a girl always wants to remain in hiding. They never rejoice. But in rapturous joy, Mary cried, 'My soul doth magnify the Lord' (Luke 1:46)."[142]

Mary focused on God, in whom she rejoiced because He had saved her (Hab. 3:18; cf. 1 Sam. 2:1; Ps. 35:9). The phrase "God my Savior" (v. 27) is the equivalent of "God of my salvation" (Deut. 32:15; Ps. 24:5; 25:5; 95:1; Mic. 7:7; Hab. 3:18).

"Note that in beginning the Magnificat by praising 'God my Savior,' Mary answered the Roman Catholic dogma of the immaculate conception, which holds that from the moment of her conception Mary was by God's grace 'kept free from all taint of Original Sin.' Only sinners need a Savior."[143]

As an Old Testament believer, Mary's hope of salvation rested in God and His promises. Her hope was not in her own ability to make herself acceptable to God.

1:48           Mary's "humble state" probably refers to her lowly social and personal position. She was only the young bride of a humble carpenter in a small village. Again she referred to herself as the Lord's bond-servant (v. 38). She believed that all generations of people would regard her as specially favored by God, because He chose her to give birth to His Son. Verses 46-48 give the reasons that Mary exalted and rejoiced in God. With Mary, God had begun to exalt the lowly (cf. Gen. 30:13; 1 Sam. 1:11). This exaltation would find full expression in Jesus' messianic reign on the earth.

1:49           The second strophe (vv. 49-50) glorifies God for His power, holiness, and mercy. Here are more reasons that future generations would call Mary blessed: "The Mighty One" had done great things for her (cf. Ps. 24:8; Zeph. 3:17). Furthermore, His name (i.e., His person) is holy. God is holy, or different from humans, in that He is superior to all others, especially in His moral and ethical perfection (cf. Ps. 99:3; 103:1; 111:9; Isa. 57:15).

1:50           God's mercy (Gr. eleos) balances His power and holiness (Ps. 103:17; cf. Matt. 23:23). The Greek word eleos translates the Hebrew hesed (meaning "loyal love," "faithfulness," or "lovingkindness") in the Septuagint. God's mercy refers to His compassion, specifically on those with whom He has entered into covenant relationship. Those who "fear" God reverence and trust in Him.

1:51-53      The third strophe (vv. 51-53) reflects on God's power in reversing certain social conditions. His favor to Israel is especially in view here. God had dealt with Mary like He had dealt with His people (Ps. 89:13; 118:16). God had reversed their conditions politically (v. 52) and socially (v. 53). Jesus' appearance and eventual messianic reign would continue these divine works on a universal scale.

"In the ancient world it was accepted that the rich would be well cared for. Poor people must expect to be hungry. But Mary sings of a God who is not bound by what men do. He turns human attitudes and orders of society upside down."[144]

"Luke wrote more on the topic of wealth than any other New Testament writer."[145]

1:54-55      The last strophe (vv. 54-55) recalls God's mercy to Israel and to Mary (cf. Isa. 41:8-9; 42:1; 44:21). He had been consistently faithful to His covenant promises with His people, having tempered judgment with mercy (cf. Mic. 7:20). God's past faithfulness gives hope for the future, because He has promised that He will bring many good things to pass.

"One of the important functions of the Magnificat is to provide an initial characterization of the God whose purpose shapes the following story."[146]

1:56           This verse resumes the narrative interrupted in verse 46. Mary remained with Elizabeth for the duration of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Then she returned to her home in Nazareth. She and Joseph were not yet married, so they did not live together until after Jesus was born.

C.     The birth and early life of John the Baptist 1:57-80

As in the first part of this major section of the Gospel (1:5-56), Luke arranged his material in this one in order to compare and contrast John the Baptist and Jesus (1:57—2:52). In that section there was prediction, but in this one there is fulfillment. Luke's emphasis in his record of John's birth was his naming and his father's prediction of his future ministry.

1.     The naming of John 1:57-66

1:57-58      Luke passed over the birth of John quickly (cf. Gen. 25:24). It occasioned great joy for his parents and for all who knew them. Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives shared in the joy of John's birth, like the shepherds did later when they announced Jesus' birth.

1:59-61      As godly Israelites, Zechariah and Elizabeth were careful to circumcise John eight days after his birth (Gen. 17:9-14; cf. Luke 2:21). Normally the head of the household performed this operation.[147] Both parents also faithfully followed Gabriel's instructions and named their son as God had directed, despite opposition from well-meaning friends who attended this special occasion (cf. Ruth 4:17). The Jews customarily named their children when they were circumcised.[148] This custom followed the example of Abraham and Sarah, whose names God changed when He instituted circumcision (Gen. 17:5, 15).[149] Zechariah and Elizabeth named John at his circumcision. Jesus, too, received His name at His circumcision (2:21).

"… the child [John] was not to be named after any relative, for he was not to pattern after even the greatest and best of them; he was to have a decidedly new and individual name, one that matched his great career."[150]

"Only a name outside the range of all expectation can do justice to the decisive discontinuity in human affairs marked by John's coming."[151]

1:62-63      Apparently Zechariah could not hear or speak as the result of his earlier unbelief (cf. v. 20). The visitors had to communicate with him in sign language. The Greek word used to describe his condition, kophos, can mean deaf as well as dumb (cf. 7:22). Zechariah authoritatively settled the argument about his son's name by writing on a tablet: "His name is John." God had, of course, named John before his conception (v. 13). Apparently the neighbors expressed astonishment because no other family member had that name.

"One of the major lessons is that even if all his neighbors do not understand why Zechariah does not do things the way they have been done, he will walk where God tells him to walk."[152]

"… How do we define life? Is it in power and in the ability to 'take control,' or is it in following the one who is in control?"[153]

1:64-66      God rewarded Zechariah's obedience by removing his temporary disability. His first words were in praise of God (cf. Acts 2:4, 11).

"The first evidence of his dumbness had been, that his tongue refused to speak the benediction to the people; and the first evidence of his restored power was, that he spoke the benediction of God in a rapturous burst of praise and thanksgiving."[154]

Luke stressed the widespread effect that this incident had in the whole hill country of Judea. Everyone concluded that John would be an unusual child because God's hand was with him (i.e., God's power was evident in connection with his life). It was also Luke's purpose in emphasizing the naming of John to elicit the same conclusion in his readers. When John began his public ministry, there must have been some Jews who submitted to his baptism because they had noted God's hand on him from this event onward (cf. 2:19, 51).

2.     Zechariah's song of praise 1:67-79

This is the second major song of praise in Luke: the so called Benedictus. This title comes from the first word in the Latin version of Luke's Gospel, which is translated "blessed" (Gr. eulogetos). The first part of the song praises God for messianic deliverance (vv. 68-75), and the second part rejoices in John's significant role in this deliverance and contains prophecy (vv. 76-79). The chiastic structure of the song emphasizes the words "covenant" and "oath" (vv. 72-73). God's faithfulness to His covenant is a dominant theme in the Benedictus. There are at least 16 Old Testament allusions or quotations in this song.[155] Its style and content are similar to Mary's Magnificat (vv. 46-55).

"Where the angel Gabriel's words (vv 15-17) have attributed a preliminary eschatological [end times] role as preparer to John, and the Magnificat (vv 46-55) has hymned the coming of Jesus as the fulfillment of all eschatological hopes, it is left to the Benedictus to speak of both together and to establish the nature of their partnership in the bringing of salvation."[156]

1:67           The Holy Spirit now filled (i.e., controlled) Zechariah, as He had Elizabeth (v. 41) and John (v. 15). He enabled the priest to prophesy. Zechariah proceeded to utter a psalm of praise, in which he gave God's explanation of the significance of the events that had begun to happen in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

"Observe that Zechariah's previous doubt and his discipline through loss of speech did not mean the end of his spiritual ministry. So when a believer today has submitted to God's discipline, he may go on in Christ's service."[157]

Zechariah's failure had been relatively minor, so major discipline was unnecessary.

1:68           Earlier Mary rejoiced that she was blessed (v. 48). Now Zechariah blessed Yahweh, the God of Israel. When God is the person blessed (Gr. eulogetos), this word has the virtual meaning of "praise." Zechariah first praised God for visiting His people Israel (Gen. 21:1; Exod. 4:31; Zech. 10:3; cf. Acts 15:14). He had done this most recently by sending Messiah's forerunner. Second, Zechariah praised God for redeeming His people. The great historical demonstration of this had been the Exodus, but now God was moving again to provide ultimate redemption, nationally and personally, through Messiah.

1:69-70      Zechariah alluded to God's promise to raise up a horn (symbolic of strength) of salvation from David's descendants (i.e., a mighty Savior, Ps. 132:17; cf. Ps. 18:2). He was not speaking of John but Jesus. Zechariah knew of Jesus' coming birth because of Mary's three-month visit (v. 56). The other prophets in view, "His holy prophets from of ancient times," are all those who spoke of the coming Messiah.

1:71-73      Zechariah alluded to salvation, mercy, and covenant fulfillment. Messiah's salvation would be both political and spiritual (cf. Ps. 106:10). God would be merciful to the fathers by fulfilling His promises to them (cf. Mal. 4:6). The oath that God swore to Abraham refers to Genesis 22:16-18, which included promises of victory over enemies and universal blessing (cf. Gen. 26:3; Ps. 106:45). The words "covenant" and "oath" are central in the chiasm, as mentioned earlier. Note the repetition of other key words or phrases in the chiasm in the surrounding verses. These are: "visit" (vv. 68, 78), "His people" (vv. 68, 77), "salvation" (vv. 69, 71, 77), "prophets" (vv. 70, 76), and "enemies" (vv. 71, 74).

1:74-75      God's deliverance through Messiah did not mean that Israel could become passive but active, albeit in another form of His service. They could do so without fear of enemy persecution, negatively, and in holiness toward God and righteousness toward man, positively—forever.

1:76-77      These verses focus on John and his ministry. This description of John clearly links him with Elijah (cf. Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5). Even though Luke omitted the conversation about Elijah that followed the Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13), he undoubtedly recognized John's role as the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy in Malachi 3:1.[158] It is difficult to say if Zechariah used the title "Lord" here of Jesus only in the sense of Messiah, or also in the sense of God, but he probably meant Messiah.

"… although 'Lord' in its transcendent sense appears in the Gospel as a title for Jesus, it occurs thus only in the words of the narrator, who thus gives us his own assessment of Jesus' identity and reveals his own status as a believer. [Footnote 44:] See 7:19; 10:1, 39, 41; 11:39; 12:42; 17:5, 6; 18:6; 19:8a; 22:61 (some mss [manuscripts])."[159]

John would prepare the way (path) for the Lord by giving His people the knowledge (experience) of salvation (cf. 3:3; Acts 4:10-12; 5:31-32; 13:38). Salvation, Zechariah explained, involves the forgiveness of sins. In other words, John would point the way to spiritual salvation, not just physical deliverance, that would come through the Lord.

"We might have expected that Zechariah's song would be all about his little boy. He surprised us by beginning with the Messiah whom God was about to send. But he was very pleased about John, and in this part of his song he prophesies the child's future."[160]

1:78-79      God's loving compassion ("tender mercy," v. 78) motivated Him to provide "salvation" (v. 77). The reference to God's tender mercy occurs in the exact middle of this part of Zechariah's song (vv. 76-79), highlighting what moved God to provide salvation.[161] The Greek word anatole, translated "visit" (v. 28), can describe the rising of a heavenly body or the growing of a plant shoot. The reference to "Sunrise" or "Dayspring" (AV, v. 78) is perhaps a double reference to messianic prophecies about the Star arising out of Jacob (Num. 24:17) and the Shoot growing out of Jesse (Isa. 11:1-2).[162] Verse 79 continues the first allusion (cf. Isa. 9:1-2; 59:9).

"Within the Third Gospel, 'peace' [v. 79] is metonymic for 'salvation,' …"[163]

"'Peace' is far more than the feeling of calmness, security, and rest, which as such would be deceptive, it is the condition of real harmony and friendship between God and us, which was established by Christ and made ours through him. Where this condition exists the feeling has the proper basis, and whether it is always present or not will always return and grow more and more."[164]

"The story [of Zechariah and Elizabeth] is shaped to attract our sympathy to devoted men and women who have waited long for the fulfillment of Israel's hopes and who now are told that the time of fulfillment has come."[165]

3.     The preparation of John 1:80

Luke's comment about John's personal development shows his interest in human beings, which characterizes this Gospel (cf. 2:40, 52). John's "spirit" here corresponds roughly to his character and personality (cf. 1 Sam. 2:21).

There has been considerable speculation about whether John became a member of the ascetic Essene community at Qumran, because "he lived in the deserts."[166] There is no way to prove or to disprove this theory presently. The factors in its favor of his being an Essene are their common eschatological expectations, their use of Isaiah 40:3, and their use of ritual washings. Against his being an Essene is John's connection with the Jerusalem temple through his father, which the Essenes repudiated.[167] Probably John was not an Essene but simply a prophet who went into the deserts in order to commune with God so that he could be free of the distractions of ordinary life.[168]

"If in any of the towns of Judaea one had met the strange apparition of a man dressed wholly in white, whose sandals and garments perhaps bore signs of age—for they might not be put away till quite worn out—but who was scrupulously clean, this man was an Essene."[169]

At this point in Luke's narrative, John gives way to Jesus. Similarly, in his ministry John gave way to Jesus.

D.     The birth and early life of Jesus ch. 2

Luke followed the same pattern of events in telling about Jesus' birth and early life as he did when he narrated those of John. His purpose was to compare and contrast these two important individuals side by side. All of chapter 2 is unique material that appears only in Luke's Gospel.

1.     The setting of Jesus' birth 2:1-7

In narrating John's birth, Luke stressed his naming, but in his account of Jesus' birth, he concentrated on its setting.

Luke's brief account of Jesus' birth emphasizes three things: First, he described the political situation in order to explain why Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This set Jesus' birth in a context of world history and anticipated His worldwide significance. Second, Luke connected Bethlehem with David in order to show that Jesus qualified as to be the Messiah. Finally, he presented Jesus' humble beginnings and so introduced the themes of Jesus' identification with the poor and His rejection.

Luke paralleled John and Jesus' births as he did the announcements of their births, and he stressed Jesus' superiority again. No one special announced John's birth, but angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus.

2:1-3          "Those days" refer to the time of John's birth (1:57-79). Augustus was Caesar from 44 B.C. to A.D. 14.[170] His other name was Gaius Octavius, and he was called in antiquity "the divine savior who has brought peace to the world."[171] Luke presented a superior Savior.

The purpose of a Roman census was to provide statistical data so the government could levy taxes.[172] "All the inhabited earth" means throughout "the entire Roman world" (NIV) or empire.[173] This may have been the first census taken of the whole Roman provincial system, though it was not the first census that the Romans took within the empire.[174] Alternatively, it has been claimed that:

"No single census embraced the whole Roman world, but each particular census was an expression of a consistent policy of the emperor for the whole of his empire."[175]

Quirinius served as governor of the Roman province of Syria twice (3-2 B.C. and A.D. 6-7).[176] However, Herod the Great was still alive when Augustus issued his decree (Matt. 2), and Herod died in 4 B.C.[177] This incongruity has cast doubt on Luke's reliability as a historian.[178] There is evidence that Augustus issued the type of decree that Luke described in A.D. 6 (cf. Acts 5:37).[179] However, there is presently no evidence that he did so earlier.

One solution to this problem is that the decree went out in 3 or 2 B.C., but we have no other record of it.[180] This solves the problem of a census occurring during the governorship of Quirinius, but it does not solve the problem of Herod being alive then. Another possibility is that the word "first" (v. 2, Gr. prote) means prior or former here (cf. John 15:18).[181] Luke's meaning would then be that the census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem was the one that Augustus made prior to the one he took when Quirinius was governor of Syria (in A.D. 6).[182] This seems to be the best solution. All the evidence points to the birth of Jesus in late 5 or early 4 B.C.[183]

Customarily people returned to their own hometowns to register for these censuses.[184] Bethlehem is where the family registers of Joseph and Mary were kept.[185]

By citing Caesar's decree, Luke helped his readers to see that human decrees, however powerful, fall under and within the divine decree, which ordered the birth of Jesus (1:37).

2:4-5          It may seem unusual that Joseph took Mary with him to his ancestral home in Bethlehem, which lay some 85 miles south of Nazareth, since she was pregnant. Apparently the Romans required that every adult appear to make a proper assessment of his property.[186] In Syria, which included Israel, a poll (head) tax was levied on women as well as on men.[187] Perhaps Joseph also did this in order to remove Mary from local gossip and emotional stress in Nazareth.[188] In addition, the couple probably knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).

One writer suggested that Joseph and Mary lived together as husband and wife, though they did not have sexual relations before Jesus' birth (cf. 1:25). He believed that it is unlikely that Mary would have traveled with Joseph as she did if they were only betrothed.[189] However, they could have traveled together without having lived together previously, since their culture regarded engaged couples as virtually married.

Most readers assume that the couple arrived in Bethlehem just before Jesus' birth. However, the text neither requires nor rules out this reading. They may have been there for some time before Mary went into labor.

"Hillel, the great Pharisee, was of the royal line, like Mary, and would perhaps be there that day; [sic .] He was over a hundred years old. His son, Simeon, would also be there. So perhaps would his grandson, Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul. Did this considerable party arrive first and fill the innkeeper's accommodations?"[190]

2:6-7          "Firstborn son" implies that Mary had other children. Jesus did have brothers and sisters who were undoubtedly born to Mary after Jesus' birth (cf. Matt. 1:25; 13:55; Mark 3:31-35). Normally in this culture mothers wrapped their newborn babies in wide strips of cloth to keep them warm and to keep their legs straight (cf. 23:53; Ezek. 16:4).[191] Today, those assisting mothers at birth do the wrapping of the newborn, but here Mary did it herself, possibly suggesting that there was no one there to help her.[192] Traditionally, Christians have believed that the manger, or feeding trough, in which Mary laid the baby Jesus, was in a cave.[193] However, most homes in Israel had two parts: one for the family and another for the household's animals. It is possible that this other section was the location of the manger.[194] An inn (Gr. katalyma) could have been a guest room in a house (cf. 22:11-12), or any place of lodging. This Greek word has a wider range of meanings than pandocheion, which refers specifically to an inn for travelers (cf. 10:34).

"Mary and Joseph, then, would have been the guests of family or friends, but their home would have been so overcrowded that the baby was placed in a feeding trough."[195]

One commentator wrote that a katalyma was often simply an enclosure with walls—into which travelers could drive their cattle for the night—and water but no food.[196] The so-called innkeeper has become a villain figure in the Christmas story, but Luke did not present him as such. The writer's contrast was between the royal birthplace that this Son of David deserved, and the humble one that He received. His exclusion from human society at birth anticipated the rejection that He would continue to experience throughout His ministry.

"There is no room for God, and that which is of God, in this world."[197]

We may never know the exact day of Jesus' birth until we get to heaven. However, a day in late December or early January is unlikely.

"… it was not the custom for the shepherds of Judea to watch their flocks in the open fields later than about the end of October. It is in the last degree incredible, then, that the birth of Christ could have taken place at the end of December."[198]

The traditional date of December 25 goes back at least as far as Hippolytus (ca. A.D. 165-235).[199] Probably Jesus was born in the fall of 5 or 4 B.C.[200] Some scholars place the time of Jesus' birth at April 5.[201]

"… the date of the Feast of the Dedication [of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 164 B.C.]—the 25th of Chislev—seems to have been adopted by the ancient Church as that of the birth of our blessed Lord—Christmas—the Dedication of the true Temple, which was the body of Jesus (John 2:19)."[202]

Jesus' birthplace was evidently very close to the location of the present Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

"The church that now stands over the cave of the nativity was built by the Emperor Justinian upon the site of that built by the Empress Helena, A.D. 330."[203]

2.     The announcement to the shepherds 2:8-20

There is great theological significance in this familiar passage. It comes through mainly in the angel's words and in the symbolism of what happened.

"In 2:8-14 we have a third annunciation scene, which follows the same pattern as the previous two: the appearance of an angel, a response of fear, the command not to fear, the announcement of a birth that brings joy. In this case, however, the announcement is not to a parent of the child to be born, for this birth is not just a family affair. Indeed, the angel stresses that he brings a message of 'great joy which shall be for all the people' (2:10)."[204]

2:8             Shepherds were looked down upon socially in Jesus' day. Their work made them ceremonially unclean, and they had a reputation for being untrustworthy.[205] Thus God first sent the gospel (good news) to the lowly. Luke had a special interest in the lower elements of society. David, of course, had been a shepherd, but God had elevated him to be the ruler of His people (2 Sam. 7:8). Jesus' career would follow the pattern of his ancestor generally. Throughout the Old Testament God used shepherds as symbols of those who cared for His people (Ps. 23:1; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 23:1-4; et al.). Consequently, these shepherds represent all people of lowly origin and reputation, who receive the gospel by God's grace and proclaim it joyfully to others.

The idea that these shepherds were raising sheep that the people would offer as Passover sacrifices in a few months is possible but not verifiable.[206] There is evidence in the Mishnah, however, that sheep pastured there were destined for temple sacrifice.[207] The shepherds would have been out in the fields with their sheep at night if the weather was mild, as it apparently was.

2:9             A single angel appeared to the shepherds first—"suddenly." Luke did not identify him by name, perhaps to focus attention on his message. Later a multitude of other angels joined him (v. 13). The sudden appearance of the angel, plus the accompanying manifestation of God's glory, terrified the shepherds (cf. 1:12; 9:34; Ezek. 1; Acts 12:7).

2:10-11      The angel reassured the frightened shepherds (cf. 1:13, 30). His appearing signaled an occasion for rejoicing, not fearing.

Significant terms characteristic of Luke's Gospel occur in the angel's announcement, which indicates its importance. These include: "bring good news" (Gr. euangelizomai), "joy" (Gr. chara), "people" (Gr. laos), "today" (Gr. semeron), "Savior" (Gr. soter), "Lord" (Gr. kyrios), and "glory" (Gr. doxa). This angelic announcement, then, is a seedbed for important ideas that Luke traced throughout the rest of this book. The time had come for the fulfillment of Messiah's predicted coming. A similarly worded birth announcement of Caesar Augustus that archaeologists have discovered shows that such terminology was not uncommon.[208] However in Jesus' case, it was a cause for true joy.

The unusual phrase "Christ the Lord," which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, probably means "Messiah God." "Savior" occurs only here in Luke's Gospel in reference to Jesus.

2:12           The sign that Messiah God had indeed come to save the people would be the baby that the shepherds would find wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. This was an unusual place for any baby to lie, but especially the divine Messiah. In this case the sign was not an unusual demonstration of divine power, as were the cases of Zechariah's muteness and Elizabeth's conception, but a confirmation of the truth of the angel's message.[209] The term "swaddling clothes" (AV) translates the Greek word spargano, meaning "to swathe" or "to wrap." The Jews also wrapped their dead in strips of cloth, just as they did their infants. Thus a birth was a reminder of the death that would inevitably follow one day.

2:13           Frequently God waits a long time before He acts, but then He acts suddenly, as He did here (cf. Mark 13:36; Acts 2:2; 9:3; 1 Thess. 5:3). The sudden appearance of the other angels parallels God's sudden action in providing a Savior. The term "heavenly army" derives from the Old Testament, and here it refers to a large number of angels (cf. 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron. 33:3, 5; Ps. 148:2; Jer. 8:2; 19:13; Zeph. 1:5). This army of angels, ironically, announced peace.

"… when a child was born the local musicians congregated at the house to greet him with simple music."[210]

2:14           Only once before had a human heard angelic praise, according to biblical revelation (Isa. 6:3). Now the angels' praise explained the benefits of Jesus' birth. These angels first ascribed "glory" to God in heaven, where He dwells. God revealed His glory by sending His Son. Consequently it is appropriate to ascribe glory or praise to God. The effect of Jesus' coming on humankind is "peace." The biblical concept of peace, rooted in the Hebrew word shalom, includes the sum of God's blessings, not just the absence of hostility.

Did the angels mean that peace would come through Jesus to all people or only to those with whom He is pleased? The AV translation "good will toward men" can be misunderstood. The reader could infer that God will be gracious to people who show good will to others, which would suggest the idea that human merit is the basis of God's favor. The NIV translation "peace to men on whom His favor rests" is better. Those on whom God bestows His favor are those who experience His peace: "people with whom He is pleased."[211] Probably the angels meant that peace would come through Jesus to all people. If they had meant that it would come only to those with whom God is pleased, their statement would be redundant: People with whom God is already well pleased have no need of peace, because they already have it.

"The angels are speaking objectively of the peace that has been won for the whole earth and is intended for all men."[212]

2:15-16      The angels went away "into heaven," their dwelling place and God's. Luke showed interest in spatial relationships in his Gospel (cf. 24:51) and in Acts (cf. Acts 1:11). The shepherds, on the other hand, hurried off to Bethlehem (cf. 1:39). This has been called "the first Christmas rush." They realized that the angels' message came from the Lord. Contrast the attitude of the religious leaders who, though they heard of Messiah's birth in Bethlehem, did not bother to check it out (Matt. 2:5). Luke did not break the feeling of excitement and swift action in the narrative by describing how the shepherds located the manger. In Luke's account there is no mention of the star that appeared to the wise men.

"It is most likely that these shepherds were in charge of the flocks from which the Temple offerings were chosen. It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."[213]

2:17-18      After the shepherds saw Jesus, they spread the word as evangelists (i.e., reporters of good news)—the first evangelists in Luke-Acts. The response of those who heard their eyewitness testimony was amazement (Gr. ethaumasan), not unbelief or belief. They probably thought: I wonder if the Messiah really has arrived. The theme of amazement runs through this Gospel (cf. vv. 33, 47; 4:22; 8:25; 9:43; 11:14, 38; 20:26; 24:12, 41).

2:19-20      In contrast to the shepherds' public proclamation, Mary meditated inwardly on the significance of these events (cf. vv. 19, 51; Gen. 37:11). The shepherds returned to their flocks, glorifying God (cf. vv. 13-14; 10:17). Luke also stressed praising God as the appropriate response to God's mighty works (cf. 5:25-26; 7:16; 13:13; 17:15; 18:43; 23:47).

3.     Jesus' circumcision 2:21

The record of this incident, similar as it is to the account of John's circumcision and naming (1:59-66), shows Jesus' identification with John specifically, and with humankind generally.

"The contrast with the circumcision of the Baptist is marked. Here there is no family gathering of rejoicing neighbours and kinsfolk. Joseph and Mary are strangers in a village far from home."[214]

"… since 'he that is circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law' (Gal. 5:3), Jesus thus bore about with Him in His very flesh the seal of a voluntary obligation to do the whole law—by Him only possible in the flesh since the fall."[215]

Jesus' name is very significant, meaning "Yahweh Is Salvation" or "Yahweh Saves." God specified it before His conception, as He had done for John, but on this day Jesus' parents officially gave Jesus His name. Prophecies about John's future followed his circumcision immediately, but they occurred later for Jesus, namely, at His presentation in the temple (vv. 22-24).

4.     Jesus' presentation in the temple 2:22-38

The emphasis in this section of text is Simeon's prediction of Jesus' ministry (cf. 1:67-79). He pointed out the universal extent of the salvation that Jesus would bring and the rejection that He would experience.

2:22-24      Under Mosaic Law, a woman became ritually unclean when she gave birth to a child (Lev. 12:2).

"In the worship of the Old Testament, where everything was symbolical, that is, where spiritual realities were conveyed through outward signs, every physical defilement would point to, and carry with it, as it were, a spiritual counterpart. But especially was this the case with reference to birth and death, which were so closely connected with sin and the second death, with redemption and the second birth. Hence, all connected with the origin of life and with death, implied defilement, and required Levitical purification [cf. Num. 19]."[216]

The Mosaic Law directed that the parents of a male child were to circumcise him on the eighth day after his birth (Lev. 12:3; cf. Gen. 17:12). The mother of a male offspring was unclean for 33 days following her son's circumcision (Lev. 12:4; cf. Lev. 12:5). On the fortieth day after her son's birth, the mother was to present a sin offering to the priest at the sanctuary to atone for her uncleanness (Lev. 12:6-7). Normally this offering was to be a lamb, but if the woman was poor she could bring two doves or two pigeons (Lev. 12:8). In the case of a firstborn son, the parents were to present him to the Lord (Exod. 13:2, 12; Num. 18:16; cf. 1 Sam. 1:24-28). The parents would normally redeem the son (buy him back from the Lord) by paying five shekels for him (Num. 18:16).

"It could be paid to a priest anywhere (M. Ex. 13:2 (22b)). The facts that the scene of the present incident is the temple, no ransom price is mentioned, and the child is present, show that Jesus is not here being redeemed but consecrated to the Lord."[217]

"In the Court of the Women there were thirteen trumpet-shaped chests for pecuniary [money] contributions, called 'trumpets.' Into the third of these they who brought the poor's offering, like the Virgin-Mother, were to drop the price of the sacrifices which were needed for their purification."[218]

Mary and Joseph complied with these regulations like observant Israelites. Mary apparently offered two birds, suggesting that Mary and Joseph could not afford the more expensive lamb sacrifice.[219] Luke may have mentioned this in order to help his readers understand the Jewish regulations. He did not stress the economic condition of Mary and Joseph.

Ritual uncleanness was not the same as sinfulness. All sin resulted in uncleanness in Israel, but uncleanness was not always the result of sin. Mary's uncleanness was not due to her sinfulness, but because she had borne a child. The fact that she became unclean when she bore Jesus testifies to the reality of the Incarnation.[220] Jesus was a real human being.

"Festive seasons were not the only occasions which brought worshippers to Jerusalem. Every trespass and sin, every special vow and offering, and every defilement called them to the Temple."[221]

2:25-26      Simeon was a godly individual who testified publicly to Jesus' significance under divine inspiration. This was part of Luke's purpose of assuring his readers that Jesus was indeed the Lord. Luke used the testimony of credible people to do this. Simeon possessed the three essential characteristics of Old Testament piety: first, he was "righteous and devout"; second, he was one of the believing remnant in Israel who was looking for Messiah's appearing: "the consolation of Israel."[222] Third, the Holy Spirit was upon him.[223] Many readers have assumed that Simeon was an old man, but the text does not say that, though he may have been.

"Hillel was the father of Simeon, and Simeon the father of Gamaliel. It has been imagined by some that Simeon was the same old man who took the infant Saviour in his arms, and pronounced the Nunc Dimittis."[224]

2:27-28      The Holy Spirit led Simeon to be present in the temple courtyard when Mary and Joseph arrived to consecrate Jesus to God (cf. 4:1). Again, the presence of Jesus became an occasion for joy and praise of God (1:46-55; 2:14, 20). This was consistently the response of the godly to Jesus in Luke's Gospel.

2:29-32      As with the Magnificat and the Benedictus, this hymn also has a Latin name: the Nunc Dimittis. This is the Latin rendering of the opening words of this song of Simeon: "Now you let depart." Simeon acknowledged that Messiah had come. He felt ready to die since God had fulfilled His promise to him (v. 26). This statement may imply that he was an old man, but it may just be a way of saying that Simeon felt that this was the greatest experience in his life. Simeon properly regarded God as his sovereign, and himself as God's "bond-servant" (Gr. doulos). He equated the Messiah with God's salvation. He also viewed the salvation that Jesus would provide as being worldwide, not just for Israel (cf. Ps. 98:3; Isa. 52:10).

Luke mentioned the fact that Jesus would provide salvation for Gentiles as well as Jews many times. The word Gentile is from the Latin gens, meaning "tribe" or "nation." For Israel, Messiah's coming spelled glory (Isa. 45:25; 46:13). That glory has yet to appear, but it will come with Jesus' second coming and the establishment of His earthly kingdom.

"Simeon's words echo the universalism of Isaiah (see esp. Isa 42:6; 49:6; 52:10; 60:1-2) and the role of the Servant of the Lord in this universal salvation.[225]

If we only had Matthew's and Mark's Gospels, we might wonder if there were any Jews besides Jesus who understood the Old Testament correctly. Luke presented two so far who did, namely, Zechariah and Simeon.

2:33           Mary and Joseph understood that Jesus was the Messiah. However, they had evidently not connected some of the Old Testament revelation about Messiah, to which Simeon referred, with Jesus' ministry. Perhaps they understood Messiah to be mainly a political leader, as was the view of most of their contemporaries. God used a stranger to inform or remind them of their Son's significance for the Gentiles.

"If one wonders why they marveled at Simeon's words after what they had heard from Gabriel, Elisabeth, and the Shepherds, he should bear in mind that every parent is astonished and pleased at the fine things others see in the child."[226]

"… we can … in some measure, understand why the mystery of His Divinity had to be kept while He was on earth. Had it been otherwise, the thought of His Divinity would have proved so all-absorbing, as to render impossible that of His Humanity, with all its lessons."[227]

2:34-35      Simeon now prayed for God's blessing on Mary and Joseph, or perhaps declared them blessed by God (cf. v. 28)—especially Mary, who would suffer more than Joseph (cf. 1 Sam. 2:20-21). He revealed to Mary that Jesus would be responsible for bringing many people in Israel to the point of making an important moral decision. Some of them would reject Him, and so fall spiritually, while others would accept Him, and therefore rise spiritually. He would be a sign in the sense that He would be a demonstration that God was at work.

"In himself, therefore, Jesus is the one through whom God points to his salvation and offers proof of its reality."[228]

As the predicted Stone, Jesus would be a source of stumbling to some, but a means of reaching heaven for others (cf. Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16). He would be the instrument of salvation for some but condemnation for others. However, He would pay a price, namely, suffering the antagonism of those who would reject Him. This rejection would wound Mary. The Greek word for the sword that would pierce Mary's soul is rhomphaia, which describes a long Thracian javelin (cf. Ps. 22:20).

"Jesus is the magnet of the ages. He draws some, he repels others. This is true of all epoch-making men to some extent."[229]

2:36-38      Anna, whose name is equivalent to the Hebrew Hannah, was a female prophetess (cf. Exod. 15:20; Judg. 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Neh. 6:14; Isa. 8:3; Acts 2:17; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5). Her mention reflects Luke's interest in the renewal of prophecy at this time (cf. 1:67; 2:34-35). Perhaps Luke referred to Anna's ancestors in order to validate her Jewishness.

"Curiously enough, the tribe of Asher alone is celebrated in tradition for the beauty of its women, and their fitness to be wedded to High-Priest or King."[230]

"I cannot refrain from saying that there are those who say there are ten lost tribes of Israel (that is, that the ten tribes which went into Assyrian captivity in the eighth century B.C. migrated north rather than returning to the land of Israel). If you search through the Bible from the time Israel returned to the land after the captivity, you can pick up practically all of the tribes. Here Anna is mentioned as a member of the tribe of Asher. Evidently Anna did not get lost!"[231]

Anna's husband had died seven years after their marriage, and she had remained a widow from that time to her present age of 84. Another interpretation is that she had been a widow for 84 years, which would have made her over 100 years old.[232] Luke contains about 43 references to women, four of whom were widows (vv. 36-40; 7:11-15; 18:1-8; 21:1-4). Anna was a widow who had devoted herself to the worship and service of God in the temple (cf. 1 Tim. 5:5). Luke again recorded God's providential timing in bringing this godly woman to Jesus at this time (cf. v. 27).

Like Simeon, Anna was anticipating God's deliverance of Israel through Messiah (cf. v. 25). The references to Simeon looking forward to the consolation of Israel, in verse 25, and Anna looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem, in verse 38, act as a pair of bookends (inclusio) holding the Simeon and Anna episodes together. Luke used "Jerusalem" figuratively (i.e., metonymy) for Israel (cf. Isa. 52:9). God gave Anna prophetic insight into Jesus' identity. The godly in Jerusalem undoubtedly learned about Messiah's birth from reliable Simeon and Anna (cf. 1:68)—two more witnesses (cf. v. 17), this time a male and a female.

"They represent the long history of an expectant people, nourished by God's promise. Zechariah and Elizabeth also fit this character type. They, too, are righteous, careful observers of the law (1:6), old (1:7), and filled with the prophetic Spirit when they recognize the fulfillment of God's promise (1:41, 67). These people represent their faith at its best, according to the values of the implied author, even though Zechariah has temporary doubts. To them the coming of the long awaited salvation is revealed."[233]

5.     Jesus' development in Nazareth 2:39-40

2:39           Luke again noted Mary's and Joseph's careful obedience to God's will as revealed in the Mosaic Law. He omitted their flight to Egypt, which Matthew recorded. Jesus' family's return to Nazareth was another fulfillment of messianic prophecy (cf. Matt. 2:23). However, the fulfillment of prophecy was not as important to Luke as it was to Matthew, so he did not mention that here.

"There was a general contempt in Rabbinic circles for all that was Galilean."[234]

"Making every allowance for exaggeration, we cannot wholly ignore the account of Josephus about the 240 towns and villages of Galilee, each with not less than 15,000 inhabitants."[235]

2:40           Luke also noted Jesus' normal development as a human being (v. 40; cf. 1:80; 2:52). He was the object of God's grace (help, divine enablement). Luke mentioned Jesus' wisdom perhaps in anticipation of the following pericope. Verse 40 describes what happened to Jesus between His presentation in the temple and His return there when He was 12 years old (vv. 41-51).

6.     Jesus' visit to the temple as a boy 2:41-50

This is the only inspired incident that God has given us that took place during Jesus' boyhood. Luke stressed Jesus' youthful wisdom here, and His conscious awareness that He was the Son of God, so that his readers would have confidence in Jesus' deity. There is a strong contrast between Jesus' earthly parents and His heavenly Father in this story. Stories of the precocious condition of a great person in his or her youth were and are common. They demonstrate the uniqueness of the individual and his or her superiority over others. Yet Jesus was far more than precocious.

"An episode from the in-between years of Jesus' life is a fitting transition to the main Gospel account which will begin in chap. 3. Here Jesus as a preadolescent for the first time takes an active part. And here that unique relatedness to God which marks his adult life comes into clear focus."[236]

2:41-42      Again Luke pointed out the godly characters of Mary and Joseph. Jewish males were to go to Jerusalem three times a year: at the feasts of Passover/Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. In Jesus' day, women usually attended with their husbands or fathers (cf. 1 Sam. 1:7).[237] Those who could not attend all three festivals tried to attend Passover at least. Customarily, Jewish parents took their young sons with them for a year or two before the boy became a "son of the covenant" usually at age 13.[238] Luke called Jesus a boy (v. 43; Gr. pais, also used of servants) here rather than a child (Gr. paidion), which was the term he used of Jesus in verse 40.

"Jewish boys became responsible for their actions at thirteen (m[ishnah]. Niddah 5.6; m[ishnah]. Megillah 4.6). At the age of twelve the instruction of boys became more intensive in preparation of the recognition of adulthood (m[ishnah]. 'Abot 5.21). The Bar Mitzvah of modern times, however, postdates the time of Jesus by five hundred years …"[239]

"Supposing the Lord to have been born in 749 [Roman year; 5 B.C.], the year when He went up with His parents to the Passover was 761 [A.D. 8], and the feast began on the 8th of April."[240]

2:43-45      Luke noted that Mary and Joseph stayed for the duration of the eight-day festival, which is another tribute to their piety.

"This was not absolutely incumbent; some went home after the first two days, but such people as Joseph and Mary would do their duty thoroughly."[241]

Mary and Joseph probably did not miss Jesus for a whole day because each may have supposed that He was with the other, since men often traveled with men and women with women.[242] Perhaps they assumed that He was with the other boys, or the other adults, in their caravan of pilgrims going back home.

One of my professor colleagues once left his children at the church where he was the guest preacher and only became aware of their absence when he arrived back home. It seems unlikely that Mary and Joseph would have been this absentminded, however.

2:46-47      On the second day, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem (v. 45), which evidently took the whole day. Then on the third day they began searching for Jesus and found Him in the temple. He was sitting among the rabbis, listening to their teaching, and asking them questions. This is not where most boys His age would go or what they would do. One might wonder if first Mary and Joseph searched for Him in the theaters, circuses, parks, sports complexes, shops, and streets of Jerusalem.[243]

The Jews encouraged their children to ask questions of the rabbis.[244] Luke's reference to Jesus being in the midst of the teachers suggests His centrality in this august group, though He was then a learner and not a teacher (cf. Ps. 119:99-100).

"Already early in life Jesus values the pursuit of comprehending God, as he increases 'in wisdom and stature' (2:52). His approach to knowing God and seeking understanding pictures how we should pursue the same, even at a young age."[245]

"It is possible that Gamaliel may have been one of those doctors with whom Jesus was found conversing in the Temple."[246]

Jesus' understanding and His answers amazed (Gr. existanto) everyone who was present (cf. 4:32; 9:43). One suspects that some of these rabbis later remembered this incident, when Jesus became a popular teacher Himself. Obviously Jesus already had unusual wisdom and insight into the Scriptures, which were the center of these discussions.[247]

"… whether or not Jesus had attended such a [synagogue] school, His mind was so thoroughly imbued with the Sacred Scriptures—He was so familiar with them in their every detail—that we cannot fail to infer that the home of Nazareth possessed a precious copy of its own of the entire Sacred Volume, which from earliest childhood formed, so to speak, the meat and drink of the God-Man. More than that, there is clear evidence that He was familiar with the art of writing, which was by no means so common in those days as reading."[248]

2:48           Mary and Joseph were understandably anxious (Gr. edynomenoi) about their Son's safety (cf. v. 35; 16:24-25; Acts 20:38; Rom. 9:2). When they found Jesus, His participation in conversation with the rabbis astounded (Gr. exeplagesan) them.

"It is one of the characteristics of Luke to observe the various responses of awe at the words and deeds of Jesus, which is also consistent with ancient narratives touching on the observation of wonders."[249]

Mary's question had the force of scolding. It revealed an unwarranted but understandable attitude.[250]

2:49-50      Mary and Joseph's anxiety contrasts with Jesus' calmness. Mary's reference to Jesus' earthly father also contrasts with Jesus' reference to His heavenly Father. Jesus' first question prepared His parents for His significant statement that followed in His second question. Jesus' response to Mary and Joseph showed that He regarded His duty to His heavenly Father, and His house (the temple) as taking precedence over His duty to His earthly father and his house. It has been suggested that Jesus may have been hinting that Joseph was not His real father.[251]

"Jesus' point is that his career must be about instruction on the way of God, for the temple was not only a place of worship, but was also a place of teaching. Jesus has a call to instruct the nation. Though he is twelve now, a day is coming when this will be his priority."[252]

"Jesus' question should, then, be seen as reflecting genuine surprise and not reproach."[253]

Even as a boy Jesus placed great importance on worshipping God and learning from and about God. However, Jesus' obedience to God did not involve disobedience to Joseph and Mary. Jesus implied that His parents should have understood His priorities, but they did not grasp the true significance of His words.

Did Jesus not owe it to His parents to tell them beforehand that He planned to linger in the temple so that they would not worry about Him? He may have done so, and they may have forgotten, but this was not something that Luke chose to explain. Luke's purpose was to record Jesus' response to Mary and Joseph, which expressed Jesus' awareness of His unique relationship to God and His duty to God.[254]

"Jesus' reply, though gentle in manner, suggests the establishment of a break between himself and his parents, although this will be modified in v. 51. There is thus a tension between the necessity felt by Jesus to enter into closer relationship with his Father and the obedience which he continued to render to his parents."[255]

All committed young believers who live under their parents' authority have struggled with this tension.

These are the first words that Luke recorded Jesus saying in his Gospel, and they set the tone for what follows.

"It is remarkable that the first words of Jesus quoted in the Gospel narrative are these words in which He so clearly refers to His divine Sonship, and in which He points to His life's vocation to be about His Father's business—to serve and glorify Him in all things and at all times."[256]

All of Jesus' words and works testified to the priority that He gave to the will of His heavenly Father. "Had to" (v. 49; Gr. dei) reflects a key theme in Luke's Gospel that highlights divine design. This Greek word occurs 99 times in the New Testament and 40 times in Luke-Acts.[257]

7.     Jesus' continuing growth 2:51-52

Jesus' obedience to His heavenly Father included obedience to His earthly parents (Exod. 20:12; cf. Col. 3:20). Luke balanced the former revelation of Jesus' deity with this indication of His humanity. His second reference to Mary meditating on "these things" continues the implication that his record of these events came from her or from someone close to her (cf. v. 19; Gen. 37:11).

Usually young people who give God His proper place in their lives develop into normal adults, people of whom God and other people approve (cf. Prov. 3:1-12). This was true of Jesus (cf. 1 Sam. 2:26). Jesus' mental, social, and spiritual powers developed along with His physical powers. He was fully man as well as fully God. But He voluntarily set aside some of His divine prerogatives temporarily in the Incarnation (Phil. 2:7). The Greek word translated "increased" or "grew" (NIV, v. 52, prokopto) literally means to make one's way forward by chopping down obstacles, which is a vivid description of the maturation process (cf. v. 40).

Luke's original Greek readers were familiar with the concept of gods visiting humans. This was common in their mythology. However, those gods did not become humans; they remained different from mortals. Luke probably recorded so much information about Jesus' birth and early life in order to help his readers—especially his Greek readers—believe that Jesus became a real man at the Incarnation.

"The [Greco-Roman] biographical tradition used a combination of birth, family, and boyhood stories to give anticipations about the future life of the hero. … All of these components functioned also as prophecies of the character of the public career of the subject of the biography. If this was their purpose in the Greco-Roman biographies, then this is how a reader/hearer of Luke would most probably have taken the material of a similar nature in Luke 1:5—4:15. Virtually the totality of the material about Jesus in Luke 1:5—4:15 would have been regarded as an anticipation of his later public greatness. … [This material] would combine to foretell/foreshadow the type of person Jesus would be in his public ministry which began at Luke 4:16-30."[258]

The main point of everything in chapter 2 is to present Jesus as the unique God-man.

"The levels of insight achieved by participants in the infancy events will not recur until after the resurrection, when the fact of the cross enables these vistas to take on quite new meaning. The infancy narratives have created a privileged insiders' status for the readers, but now Luke's actual story begins."[259]

III.     The preparation for Jesus' ministry 3:1—4:13

Luke next narrated events that paved the way for Jesus' public ministry in Galilee and Judea.

"… whereas 1:5—2:52 establishes the possibility of Jesus' mission as Son of God, 3:1—4:13 establishes its probability before that ministry actually commences with Luke 4:14."[260]

A.     The ministry of John the Baptist 3:1-20

John's ministry, like Jesus' ministry, did not begin until he was a mature man. This section of the third Gospel shows the vital role that John played as Messiah's forerunner.

1.     The beginning of John's ministry 3:1-6 (cf. Matt. 3:1-6; Mark 1:1-6)

3:1-2          Luke made detailed reference to the time when John began his ministry in order to document the reliability of his Gospel.[261] Only the reference to the fifteenth year of Tiberius' reign is necessary to date the beginning of John's ministry, which shortly preceded the commencement of Jesus' ministry. The other references in these verses place these events in a broader historical context.

Pontius Pilate was governor (prefect) of Judea from A.D. 26 to late 36 or early 37. He was ordered to Rome to answer charges against him, but before he arrived, Tiberius died, and soon after that Pilate committed suicide.[262] Herod Antipas ended his reign as "tetrarch"—meaning ruler of a fourth part, specifically a fourth part of Herod the Great's former domain—of Galilee, which began in 4 B.C., by deposition in A.D. 39. His brother, Herod Philip, who ruled territories to the northeast of Galilee from 4 B.C., died in A.D. 34.[263] Ituraea was evidently north and east of Galilee, and Trachonitis was an area south of Damascus. Present historical evidence does not enable scholars to date Lysanias, the tetrarch of Abilene, an area west of Damascus. Annas was Israel's high priest from A.D. 6 to 15, until the Roman authorities deposed him. However, some of the Jews continued to regard him as the high priest, and he retained his title.[264] His son-in-law, Caiaphas, served as the official high priest from A.D. 18 to the spring of 37.[265]

Thus the general timeframe when John began his ministry was between A.D. 26 and 37. The specific date, "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar," is harder to pinpoint, but it was probably A.D. 29.[266] Then "the word of God came to John … in the wilderness" where he lived (cf. 1:80), and he began his ministry as a prophet (cf. Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1-3; et al.). A distinct particular message ("word," Gr. rhema) came upon (Gr. epi) John from God that he was to deliver.

"The ancients did not have our modern system of chronology, the names of rulers as here being the common way."[267]

"The sentence [vv. 1-2] as a whole is reminiscent of numerous prophetic texts—including those that also situate the prophet in an historical context with reference to national leaders, those that declare the coming of the divine word to the messenger, and, as in Luke 3:1-2, those combining both of these elements."[268]

3:3             Luke mentioned John's itinerant ministry in the region around the Jordan River, whereas Matthew described it as in the wilderness of Judea (Matt. 3:1). These are two descriptions of the same area.

The thing that characterized John's ministry in the minds of his contemporaries was his "baptism of repentance." What marked his baptism distinctively was that it expressed repentance that led to divine forgiveness of sins. When people came to John for baptism, they were saying, by coming, that they had repented of their sins. John's different king of baptism prefigured Jesus' different kind of baptism (cf. v. 16). Luke said little about John's baptizing but stressed his preaching.

"The task of 'proclaiming … repentance for release of sins' (3:3) remains central throughout Luke-Acts [cf. 4:18; 5:17-32; 24:47]."[269]

One sacramentalist (a person who believes that the Christian sacraments—baptism and the Lord's Supper—play a part in obtaining salvation) wrote that "every such baptism bestowed remission upon the person baptized."[270] In other words, the sacrament of baptism removes sins. Non-sacramentalists believe that water baptism does not remove (remit) sins but is a rite of identification.[271] In the case of Jewish proselyte baptism, it signified the identification of the proselyte with Judaism. In the case of John's baptism, it expressed identification with the company of the repentant. In the case of Jesus' baptism, it indicated His identification with humankind. In the case of Christian baptism, it represents identification with Jesus Christ and His Church.

Is it possible that John meant that his baptism provided forgiveness of sins apart from eternal salvation? The expiatory sacrifices of the Mosaic Law (those that dealt with forgiveness) provided forgiveness of this kind for redeemed Israelites. (The whole Mosaic Law was given to a redeemed people.) John's promise of forgiveness for those who underwent his baptism was not another way for them to obtain forgiveness. It was a way for them to demonstrate that they repented of their sins in anticipation of the coming messianic kingdom of God, specifically, in anticipation of the salvation that the coming King would provide. "Who can forgive sins, except God alone?" (5:21). Not even John the Baptist could.

By the way, in these notes I make a distinction between the messianic kingdom of God and the earthly kingdom of God. I understand the messianic kingdom to be Messiah's rule, which began with Jesus' ministry on earth at His first coming and will continue as long as this earth exists. The last part of the messianic kingdom is the future earthly rule of Messiah, which will begin when He returns to the earth at His second coming and will continue for 1,000 years (the Millennium).

3:4-6          All three synoptic writers quoted Isaiah 40:3 as the prophecy that John fulfilled, and John the evangelist recorded John the Baptist quoting it of himself (cf. John 1:23). However, Luke alone also quoted Isaiah 40:4-5. These verses contained the preparations made for a royal visitor that were common in the Greco-Roman world.[272] They also included the fact that the salvation that God would provide would be for all people. One of Luke's main themes was the universal scope of salvation (cf. 2:30; Acts 28:28; et al.).[273] Typically Luke quoted from the Septuagint, as he did here. John's ministry consisted of preparing people by getting them right with God, so that when Messiah appeared, they would believe on Him.

"This quotation from Isaiah not only interprets John's special mission but reveals the purpose of God which underlies the whole narrative of Luke-Acts."[274]

In Luke, John is a "prototype of the Christian evangelist."[275]

"'The whole man was a sermon.'"[276]

"The section on John's ministry begins with a rather lengthy scriptural quotation and ends with an arrest that will lead to death. Jesus' ministry will begin and end in the same way."[277]

2.     John's preaching 3:7-18 (cf. Matt. 3:7-12; Mark 1:7-8)

Essentially John called his hearers to change their minds about their relationship to God—to get right with God—and to demonstrate the genuineness of their repentance with righteous conduct (vv. 7-14). He also promoted Jesus (vv. 15-17). Only Luke included John's enumeration of selected specific changes the people needed to make in order to demonstrate true repentance (vv. 10-14).

3:7-9          Luke's introduction of John's message is more general than Matthew's, but his summary of John's preaching is almost identical to Matthew's. However, Luke never reported that John said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). Luke waited to introduce the messianic kingdom theme until Jesus began His ministry (4:43).

Like vipers (poisonous desert snakes) try to escape before an approaching brush fire, so many Jews of John's day were trying to escape God's coming judgment by fleeing to John for baptism.[278] However, John sensed that their reason for coming to him was just their safety, not genuine repentance. Righteous behavior would prove true repentance.

"John is as skeptical of their readiness for repentance as Jeremiah had been before him (Jer 13:23)."[279]

"I do not recommend using John's unusual introduction for a sermon ["You brood of vipers"], but I do think it would be appropriate in many churches."[280]

Many of the Jews believed that Abraham's righteousness benefited his descendants.[281] John warned them that: like God had cut Israel out of Abraham, who was a rock spiritually, so He could produce children for Himself from the stones in the wilderness (cf. 19:40).[282] There is a play on words here in Aramaic, the language that the Jews spoke, involving "stones," abnayya, and "children," benayya. People commonly cut down and burn fruit trees that do not produce good fruit. Likewise, God would judge Israel like a fruitless tree, unless the Jews repented and started bearing the fruits of repentance (cf. 6:43-45; 13:6-9; Isa. 5:1-7; 10:33-34; 66:24; Mal. 4:1).

"The Greek verb [metanoeo, translated "to repent"] means 'to change one's mind,' but in its Lucan usage it comes very close to the Hebrew verb for repent which literally means 'to turn or turn around' (sub). … A change of perspective, involving the total person's point of view, is called for by this term. In fact, John called for the Israelites to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance (3:8). This passage is significant for it separates repentance from what it produces, and also expresses a link between repentance and fruit. One leads to the other."[283]

"In summary, Luke saw repentance as a change of perspective that transforms a person's thinking and approach to life."[284]

3:10-11      Luke's unique inclusion of the specific fruits of repentance (vv. 10-14) demonstrates his concern for social justice. To the sincere in the crowd, John recommended generously sharing their possessions with the needy (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). The tunic (Gr. chiton) was the short undergarment worn under a robe. The Jews often wore two of them at once, if they had two. These undergarments were not what we think of as underwear. They were simply an under layer of clothing. The important question "Then what are we to do?" (v. 10) is repeated later by several others in Luke-Acts (vv. 12, 14; 3:12, 14; 10:25; 18:18; Acts 2:37; 16:30; 22:10). It demonstrates a sincere desire to bring forth fruits of repentance.

3:12-13      John counseled sincere tax collectors to refrain from extorting more money than they had a right to receive (cf. 5:27-32). (Every mention of tax collectors in Luke is negative, by the way; cf. 5:30; 7:34; 15:1; 18:13.) John advocated honesty and freedom from greed. He did not suggest overthrowing a system that allowed for abuses, but he prescribed personal morality that would eliminate the abuses. The Apostle Paul followed the same procedure.

"… it is their reputation for involvement in a kind of institutionalized scheme of extortion or robbery that is in view in this context."[285]

3:14           Soldiers were capable, because of their position, of threatening people with reprisal in order to extort money from them. Exactly who these soldiers were is unclear, but it is also unimportant. Most of the soldiers in Israel were Roman soldiers. Thus it appears that Gentiles were also responding to John's call to repentance. Greed appears to have been a special temptation for soldiers, since the wages of soldiers were low. Therefore John called on them to demonstrate contentment.

Verses 12-14 help us see that certain temptations are more prominent in certain occupations than others. However, material possessions were a source of temptation to all these people, as they still are today.

3:15-17      Luke's account of John's preaching about Jesus is the longest in the three synoptic Gospels (cf. John 1:19-25). John distinguished between his baptism and Messiah's baptism in order to show that he was not the Messiah.

Matthew's account of these words stressed the importance of Jesus' Jewish hearers repenting personally and nationally. Luke tailored his account to Gentiles and stressed the judgment that Jesus would bring (cf. Isa. 4:4). The presence of only one article before "Holy Spirit" and "fire" in the Greek text suggests that John was referring to one baptism. This is probably the baptism that Jesus will initiate when He returns to the earth as King, but which He previewed from heaven—as a foreview of that event—on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:3-4; cf. Isa. 44:3; Joel 2:28-32). Another view is that these are two separate baptisms that relate to Jesus' first and second comings.[286] John's water baptism prefigured Jesus' Holy Spirit baptism.

Jesus will be the stronger One ("mightier than" John, v. 16) who will judge (cf. John 5:22). John's reference to "unquenchable fire"(v. 17) implies eternal judgment.

3:18           John's preaching was also positive. He preached good news (the gospel) to the people (Gr. laos, a potentially responsive group), as well as warning them of coming judgment. The good news that he preached with that the messianic kingdom was at hand.

"John illustrates how the proclaimer of the Word should perform his task. The preacher must bear good news as well as news that exposes sin. Some preachers in the past tended to emphasize sin so much that one wondered where grace might be found. Today our problem is the opposite: being able to confront people with their accountability and culpability before God."[287]

3.     The end of John's ministry 3:19-20

Luke concluded his account of John's ministry before he began to narrate Jesus' ministry. This arrangement of material allowed Luke to continue comparing and contrasting the ministries of the two men.[288] One writer argued that Luke took John out of the scene before introducing Jesus in order to minimize John's importance for the Baptist's followers of Luke's day (cf. Acts 19:1-7).[289]

"John's prophetic call, his ministry in fulfillment of Scripture, his preaching to all classes in society, his falling foul of Herod, and his ultimate fate all have their counterparts in the career of Jesus."[290]

John's stern words about sin led to his arrest and imprisonment by Herod Antipas. Matthew and Mark recorded a longer account of what happened to him (Matt. 14:4-12; Mark 6:17-29). Luke recorded references to John's death later (9:7-9, 19-20). Here he stressed John's boldness and the sickness of the society that he confronted.[291] John probably began his ministry in A.D. 29 and remained free for about one year. The next two years he was in prison, and he died in A.D. 32.[292]

B.     The baptism of Jesus 3:21-22 (cf. Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34)

Luke's account of this significant event is shorter than the parallel passages in the other Gospels. At His baptism Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit for His ministry. It was also the occasion for His heavenly Father to authenticate Jesus as His Son. Luke stressed these two features and did not describe Jesus' actual baptism fully, though he recorded some information that the other evangelists omitted.

"For Luke, Jesus' participation in baptism is his participation in the stage of preparation initiated by John and his identification with the imperatives and expectations of John's ministry."[293]

3:21           Evidently John baptized Jesus after he had baptized many other people. Luke may have wanted to imply by this that Jesus' baptism was the climax of John's ministry.[294] According to Luke, this is the first of many important events that happened while Jesus was praying (cf. 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 11:1; 22:32, 40-44; 23:46). Only Luke recorded that the heavens opened while Jesus was praying. The implication is clear that the revelation from God that followed was a direct response to Jesus' prayer.

"Prayer is an ordinance that opens heaven: Knock, and it shall be opened unto you."[295]

Luke had a special interest in Jesus' prayer life. It showed His conscious dependence on His Father as a human being.

"Jesus' baptism, like that of the people, was a single event in time; but his praying continued for his lifetime."[296]

Perhaps this explanation accounts for the different tenses of the Greek verb and the participle in this verse. Luke also may have mentioned Jesus' praying in order to encourage his readers to do the same thing. The opening of the heavens indicated divine intervention into human history with revelation. God Himself had not intervened this way for many centuries. Luke's original readers, with their background in Greek mythology, would have had a special interest in this intervention. The Greek gods supposedly intervened in human affairs occasionally. Moreover, Luke's frequent references to Jesus praying would have helped his original readers realize that Jesus was truly human, and not only a god who had visited humans.

"In Luke-Acts times of prayer and worship are frequently the occasions for divine revelations to characters in the story. This is true of Zechariah (Luke 1:9-11), Anna (2:37-38), Cornelius (Acts 10:2-6), Peter (10:9-16), Paul (9:11-12; 22:17-21), and the prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch (13:2). This is true also of Jesus. Jesus' choice of the twelve is preceded by prayer, indeed, prayer through the whole night (dif. Matthew, Mark), in which Jesus is evidently seeking divine guidance for the choice (6:12). The transfiguration also takes place while Jesus is praying (dif. Matthew, Mark). … In 22:40-46 also, if vv. 43-44 are an original part of the text, Jesus prays concerning his mission and receives a response through a vision of a strengthening angel."[297]

3:22           This was a theophany: God appearing in corporeal ("bodily") form. All three synoptic evangelists compared God's appearance to a dove. Matthew recorded that Jesus saw the Spirit descending and settling on Him (Matt. 3:16). Later, John the Baptist said that he too saw the Spirit descending and remaining on Jesus (John 1:32-33). A dove did not descend on Jesus, like some paintings portray, but God's Spirit descended on Him "in bodily form." Only Luke wrote that the Spirit came down "in bodily form," thereby giving the theophany more substance. God's Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus. We do not know what the bodily form of God's Spirit that descended on Jesus looked like.

"The Spirit is not a dove, but descends like one in some type of bodily representation."[298]

The dove is a biblical symbol of peace, and the herald or bearer of good news (Gen. 8:8-12; cf. Gen. 1:2). Primarily, the comparison of God's Spirit to a dove signified the coming of God's peaceful Spirit in order to empower Jesus for His ministry (Isa. 42:1; cf. Isa. 64:1). Secondarily, the dove comparison suggested the peace that Jesus would impart to those who believed on Him.[299]

The voice from (out of) heaven identified Jesus as God the Father's beloved Son (cf. 1:32; Exod. 20:1; Ps. 2:7; Isa. 42:1). God was announcing that His favor rested on Jesus, not that He as the Father felt delight in His Son, though that was undoubtedly true too.[300] With this guarantee of divine enablement, Jesus was ready to begin His ministry.

"The risen Jesus connects the beginning of the apostles' mission with the coming of the Spirit upon them (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8), and the Pentecost scene shows that the coming of the Spirit leads immediately to the first preaching and expansion of the community. Thus in both Luke and Acts the descent of the Spirit initiates the central sequences of events which dominate these writings."[301]

"The primary application of this text comes in its Christology. Many in our culture respect Jesus, regarding him as a religious teacher of great significance and even placing him among the top religious teachers of all time. Others even acknowledge him as a prophet, giving him a seat in a rather limited club of divine revealers. But as high as these notes of respect are, they pale in comparison to the biblical portrait. Luke shows that Jesus is not like anyone who came before him or anyone since. The Hall of Religious Fame into which he is placed has only one portrait in it—his. There have been other great teachers, prophets, and kings, but there is only one who has combined all of those roles as God's Son."[302]

C.     The genealogy of Jesus 3:23-38 (cf. Matt. 1:1-17)

Why did Luke place his genealogy of Jesus at this point in his Gospel? Probably he did so because this was the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Specifically, it is where Jesus' role as Son of God empowered by the Holy Spirit begins.[303] Matthew recorded Jesus' genealogy to show that He had a legitimate right by birth to occupy the Davidic throne. Consequently he placed his genealogy at the very beginning of his Gospel. Luke wanted to show the ancestry of Jesus who now began His ministry as the authenticated Son of God.

"Genealogies serve as indicators of (inherited) status …"[304]

There are several other distinct differences between the two genealogies in Matthew and Luke: They proceed in different directions, Matthew's starting with Abraham and ending in Jesus, and Luke's beginning with Jesus and working back to Adam and God. Matthew's list stressed Jesus' place in the Jewish race, by recording Jesus' ancestry back to Abraham, the father of the Jews. Luke's perspective was broader, tracing Jesus all the way back to Adam, and showing Him to be a member of the human race.

Matthew grouped his names into three groups of 14 names each, whereas Luke simply listed 78 ancestors. It is possible to divide Luke's list into 11 groups of 7 names each, plus God's name.[305] But Luke did not draw attention to his divisions like Matthew did. Matthew recorded Jesus' descent from Joseph through Solomon, but Luke traced other ancestors from Joseph to David's other son Nathan. Matthew apparently gives Jesus' legal line of descent from David by naming the heirs to his throne, but Luke gave another branch of David's family tree that some have felt was Joseph's bloodline.[306] A similar possibility follows:

"The most credible harmonization is based on Jewish customs in the case of the marriage of heiresses: it may well be that Mary had no brothers and that, therefore, on her marriage to Joseph, her husband was adopted by Mary's father, whose genealogy is thus reflected in the Lukan text (cf. Ezra 2:61; Num 32:41 cf. 1 Chr 2:21-22, etc.)."[307]

Matthew mentioned several women in his genealogy, but Luke mentioned none. Finally, Luke's list is considerably longer than Matthew's.[308]

"That the genealogy is recorded at all shows Him to be a real man, not a demi-god like those in Greek and Roman mythology. That it goes back to David points to an essential element in His messianic qualifications. That it goes back to Adam brings out His kinship not only with Israel but with the whole human race. That it goes back to God relates Him to the Creator of all. He was the Son of God."[309]

"By extending the genealogy in this way, Luke makes his most important point in this section. Adam as son of God comes after the baptismal address of Jesus as Son of God (Luke 3:22) and before the tempter's beguiling suggestions to Jesus as Son of God (4:1-13, and esp. vv 3, 9)."[310]

"The concatenation, or chain of causes, represented by the repetition of 'son of,' is rare in biblical genealogies (though cf. 1 Chr 3:10-24; 6:16-30), but serves an important function. It not only links together these members of Jesus' family line, but especially provides for a kind of crescendo culminating in the acknowledgment of God as the originator of Jesus' ancestral line."[311]

3:23           Luke probably mentioned the rounded number "about 30" to describe Jesus' age when He launched His ministry because many significant Old Testament characters began their service of God when they were 30 (cf. Gen. 41:46; Num. 4:3, 23; 2 Sam. 5:4; Ezek. 1:1). This included Israel's priests (Num. 4). Some people regard 30 as the age at which a person reaches maturity.[312] Evidently Jesus was 32 years old when He began His ministry.[313] Luke also clarified that Jesus was commonly believed to be the son of Joseph. But, of course, He was not really Joseph's physical son (1:35).

3:24-38      Matthew traced Joseph's line back to David through Joseph's father Jacob and David's son Solomon. Luke traced Joseph's line back to David through Joseph's father Eli (or Heli, NIV) and David's son Nathan. Is there a mistake in the text? Is one of these genealogies really the genealogy of Mary rather than Joseph, or did Joseph have two fathers?

The two lines of Joseph proceed back through two entirely different sets of names. Therefore there does not seem to be an error in the text regarding the name of Joseph's father. Luke did not even mention Mary in his genealogy, and Matthew seems clearly to have been describing Joseph's ancestors (Matt. 1:16). Consequently it appears unlikely that one of the genealogies is Mary's. As strange as it may seem, Joseph appears to have had two fathers.

One solution to this problem is that the custom of levirate marriage in the ancient Near East permitted the widow of a childless man to marry his (unmarried) brother. It was common to consider the child of the second marriage as the legal son of the deceased man, in order to perpetuate that man's name. In genealogies, the ancients sometimes listed such a child as the son of his real father, but at other times he was listed as the son of his legal father. This may be the solution to the problem of Joseph's fathers. This is a very old explanation that the third-century church father Africanus advocated.[314]

Evidently either Jacob or Eli (Heli) was Joseph's real father, and the other man was his legal father. This may also be the solution to the problem of Shealtiel's two fathers (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). This is only an adequate explanation, however, if Jacob and Eli were half-brothers, specifically the sons of the same mother but not the same father. Jacob's father was Matthan and his grandfather was Eleazar, whereas Eli's father was Matthat and his grandfather was Levi.

Another solution to this problem is that Matthew provided a list of heirs (actual or potential) to the Davidic throne, and Luke listed Joseph's physical father and forefathers.[315] According to this view, Matthew showed that Jesus had a legitimate right to rule as Messiah, since He was in the royal line through His legal guardian Joseph. Luke showed that Jesus was a real blood descendant of David. A problem with this view is that Luke had already showed in chapters 1 and 2 that Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph.

Advocates of this view point out that Luke was careful to state that Jesus was only commonly believed to be the son of Joseph (v. 23). However, if He was not the physical son of Joseph, what is the point of tracing Joseph's ancestors to prove Jesus' humanity? This criticism applies to the former view as well. One proposed answer is that probably in the eyes of the Greeks Jesus' connection with Adam through Joseph would have been adequately convincing.

Another view is that the genealogy is Joseph's, but Luke did not mean that Joseph was Jesus' physical father.

"In the eye of the law Jesus was the heir of Joseph; and therefore it is Joseph's descent which is of importance."[316]

Yet the purpose of the genealogy seems to be to trace Jesus back to the first man in order to prove that He was a real son of Adam.

"… it is added for the sake of Gentile readers, to remind them of the Divine origin of the human race,—an origin which they share with the Messiah. It is a correction of the myths respecting the origin of man, which were current among the heathen."[317]

The obvious problem with the view that Luke recorded Mary's genealogy, a fourth view, is that he did not refer to Mary but wrote that his genealogy was Joseph's. Advocates of this view explain the lack of reference to Mary this way: It was not customary among the Romans or the Jews to include the name of a woman in such a list.[318] However, Matthew listed four women in his genealogy, and Luke showed more interest in women than any of the other evangelists.[319] It seems unlikely that he would have refrained from using Mary's name if he meant that this genealogy was hers.

"… while the early Church generally ascribed both tables to Joseph, many since the Reformation have strenuously maintained that Luke gives the genealogy of Mary. And this view has not a little in its favor."[320]

Most of the scholars are not dogmatic about the solution to this problem.

"It is only right, therefore, to admit that the problem caused by the existence of the two genealogies is insoluble with the evidence presently at our disposal."[321]

My tentative opinion is that Luke gave this particular line of Joseph's ancestors because, even though Joseph was not Jesus' blood father, he was His earthly father. And since Joseph was commonly regarded as Jesus' father, this genealogy shows the human, as opposed to the regal, ancestry of Jesus.

From David to Abraham (vv. 32-34) Luke's list parallels Matthew's quite closely (Matt. 1:2-6). The list from Abraham to Adam (vv. 34-38) is very similar to the one in Genesis 11:10-26 (cf. Gen. 5:1-32; 1 Chron. 1:1-26).[322]

The presence of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in the lists of both Solomon's and Nathan's descendants is another problem (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). King Jeconiah, a descendant of Solomon, may have adopted Shealtiel, a descendant of Nathan who was Zerubbabel's father, into his line (cf. 1 Chron. 3:17; Jer. 22:30). Then Zerubbabel's descendants continued the two lines of Solomon and Nathan, one branch of the family perpetuating the legal line of Solomon and the other the bloodline of Nathan.[323] Another possibility is that there were two sets of fathers and sons named Shealtiel and Zerubbabel: one set in Joseph's legal line, and the other in his bloodline.

"Jesus is only the apparent son of Joseph; in fact his identity as Son of God need not be traced back through Joseph to Adam at all, but rests on his miraculous conception. Thus, the genealogy provides Jesus with the legitimation needed in the world in which he will carry out his mission."[324]

D.     The temptation of Jesus 4:1-13 (cf. Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13)

Luke stressed how the Spirit who had come upon Jesus at His baptism guided and empowered Him in His temptation, and how Jesus, God's approved Son, pleased His Father by His obedience. Jesus overcame the devil, who opposed God's plans. This story is also edifying because it helps believers to understand how to recognize and overcome Satan's attacks. We do so as Jesus did: by obeying God's will as revealed in Scripture. Jesus drew His responses to Satan from Old Testament passages that relate to Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 8:3; 6:13, 16).[325] Jesus succeeded, in the wilderness no less, where Israel had failed.[326]

"In the final analysis Jesus is tempted neither as second Adam, nor as true Israel, but as Son. There is a touch of Adamic typology and considerable exodus typology, but that is because the experiences of Adam and Israel are paradigmatic cases of the testing of God's Son."[327]

It is generally assumed that Jesus was alone during his 40 days in the wilderness, mainly because there are no references to anyone else being with Him. Martin Luther wrote the following:

"'Eve got into trouble when she walked in the garden alone. I have my worst temptations when I am by myself.'"[328]

Luke recorded the same three temptations as Matthew did, but he reversed the order of the second and third incidents. Apparently Luke arranged the order to stress Jesus' victory in Jerusalem. Luke viewed Jerusalem as the center toward which Jesus moved in this Gospel, and the center from which the gospel radiated to the uttermost part of the earth in Acts (Acts 1:8). Matthew, on the other hand, concluded his account of the temptation with a reference to the messianic kingdom, which was his particular interest.

"Matthew presents the three temptations in their historical order; Luke makes a climax of the places: desert—mountain—Jerusalem and the Temple. The fact that Matthew has the historical order appears from the command that is issued after the third temptation which orders Satan to leave."[329]

This rearrangement of incidents illustrates the fact that the Gospel writers sometimes changed the order of events in their narratives in order to emphasize particular points in harmony with their purposes and messages.

Another view is that since Luke stressed Jesus' humanity, he presented the temptations so that they correspond to the nature of man: body, soul, and spirit.[330] These temptations affected Jesus personally, socially, and spiritually.[331]

"The temptations man has to go through in life are clearly seen here. In youth it is the lust of the flesh; in manhood the lust of the eyes, to possess and to enjoy; in old age the pride of life."[332]

Greek readers had an interest in the idea of the Son of God, which is explicitly present in two of the temptations. They also had an interest in miracles, which appear in one if not two of them, and Satan, who appears in all three.

4:1-2          Reference to Jesus' being "full of the Holy Spirit" links this incident with Jesus' baptism (3:22). There seems to be a deliberate comparison between Israel as God's son (Exod. 4:22-23; Hos. 11:1) and Jesus as God's Son in this story. Both sons experienced temptation in the wilderness for 40 periods of time: Israel for 40 years and Jesus for 40 days (cf. Gen. 7:4; Exod. 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8; Jon. 3:4; Mark 1:13). Perhaps God regarded a period of days as the appropriate counterpart for a man, compared to years for a nation.[333] Moses also went without food for 40 days in the wilderness (Deut. 9:9). Israel failed, but Jesus succeeded. God's Spirit led both sons around in the wilderness (cf. Deut. 8:2). God tested Israel there, and God allowed the devil to test Jesus there. Note that the temptation lasted 40 days, not just one day at the end of the 40 days.

Satan tempts people to depart from God's will, but God never does this (James 1:13). People tempt God by making unreasonable demands on Him (Num. 14:22; Deut. 6:16; Ps. 106:14). God tests, but does not tempt, people (Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2; 13:1-3; Judg. 2:22; 3:4; 2 Chron. 32:31). All three types of testing occurred in Israel's temptation in the wilderness and in Jesus' temptation there: the tempting of people, the tempting of God, and the testing of people.[334]

Jesus proved to be completely pleasing to God in His trials, but Satan was displeasing to Him. Jesus, filled with the Spirit, sided with God, whereas Satan, not filled with the Spirit, opposed Him.[335] Jesus was physically hungry, but He was full of the Spirit. Thus the importance of Spirit control is obvious in this passage, as is the importance of familiarity with and fidelity to the Scriptures. Jesus had been fasting (Matt. 4:2; cf. Exod. 34:28; Deut. 9:9). The text does not say whether He went without food completely or whether He fasted only during the daylight hours. Evidently Jesus experienced temptation all 40 days, but the three instances that Luke recorded happened at the end of that period (cf. Mark 1:13).

4:3-4          All three of the tests recorded enticed Jesus to abandon His dependence on God. The first one was a temptation to gratify Himself, but not by doing something wicked, since eating is necessary. The devil attacked Jesus where (and when) He was vulnerable, since He was then (after 40 days) hungry. To continue to exist in the wilderness, Jesus, and the Israelites before Him, had to believe that God's word was trustworthy (Deut. 8:3). God had revealed a plan for both that assured them that they would not die in the wilderness. Satan assumed that Jesus was the Son of God, as is clear from the first class condition in the Greek text ("If [meaning Since] You are," v. 3; cf. 3:22). This title, without the definite article preceding, as here, emphasizes Jesus' relationship to God, not His office of Messiah.[336]

"The Devil suggests that Sonship is a privilege to be exploited. Jesus is tempted to order his own affairs and provide for his own needs, rather than being nourished in filial dependence on God."[337]

Human welfare does not depend primarily on food or even physical provisions. It depends mainly on obedience to God's will, even though that may mean physical deprivation. By applying this passage to Himself, Jesus put Himself in the category of a genuine man (Gr. anthropos). Luke had special interest in the testing of Jesus' humanity, and he presented Jesus as the example for the Christian to follow.

"This is the first word recorded as spoken by Christ after his instalment in his prophetical office; and it is a quotation out of the Old Testament. The word of God is our sword, and faith in that word is our shield; we should therefore be mighty in the scriptures."[338]

4:5-8          The devil also took Jesus up on a mountain (Matt. 4:8; cf. Deut. 32:49; 34:1-3). Evidently he showed Jesus the kingdoms in a vision, since He saw them all in a moment of time. This was a temptation to exalt Himself. Satan was, in effect, asking Jesus to renounce His identity as God's Son and to become Satan's son.[339] Jesus could not enter into His glory without suffering first, according to God's will (24:26). Jesus' response was that of the perfect Man, the second Adam (cf. Rom. 5:19). He worshipped and served God alone (Deut. 6:13).

"It is likely … that the worship of Satan to which Jesus is enticed is the temptation to pursue his task in the ways of the world … to gain glory for himself in this world by compromise with the forces that control it … and to become indebted to Satan in the manner that every successful man of the world is."[340]

4:9-12        Next, Satan tempted Jesus to glorify Himself. Jesus refused to repeat Israel's sin in the wilderness: the sin of putting God to the test by forcing His hand. The Israelites had wondered if God was still with them (Exod. 17:7). Jesus, on the other hand, committed Himself to simply following God's will in God's time. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12, and Jesus responded with Deuteronomy 6:16. The Deuteronomy passage applied to Satan as well as to Jesus.

"… the faithful man does not seek to dictate to God how he must express his covenant loyalty and fulfill his promises. That would be to put God to the test and a failure to believe that God will do well by his son."[341]

"… it is never right to do anything just in order to see whether God will keep His Word or not."[342]

"The central motif [feature or dominant idea] of this temptation is the facing of death in Jerusalem. This temptation occupies the climactic third position because just such a facing of death in Jerusalem represents the climax of Jesus' ministry (Luke 9:51; 13:32-33)."[343]

"Satan questioned the Father's love when he tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. He questioned His hope when he offered Jesus the world's kingdoms this side of the Cross (see Heb. 12:1-3). Satan questioned the Father's faithfulness when he asked Jesus to jump from the temple and prove that the Father would keep His promise (Ps. 91:11-12). Thus, the enemy attacked the three basic virtues of the Christian life—faith, hope, and love."[344]

Notice also the parallels between Satan's temptation of the first Adam and his temptation of the second Adam (Christ): The first Adam failed in a garden and brought sin and death on humanity. The Second Adam succeeded in a wilderness and brought forgiveness and life to humanity.

 

The First Adam

 

The Second Adam

 

The Appeal

"The tree was good for food." (Gen. 3:6)

"Tell this stone to become bread." (Luke 4:3)

"The lust of the flesh" (1 John 2:16)

"It was a delight to the eyes." (Gen. 3:6)

"He (Satan) … showed Him (Jesus) all the kingdoms of the world." (Luke 4:5)

"The lust of the eyes" (1 John 2:16)

"The tree was desirable to make one wise." (Gen. 3:6)

"Cast yourself down from here." (Luke 4:9)

"The pride of life" (1 John 2:6)

 

4:13           The devil only left Jesus temporarily; he continued to tempt Him later. However, Luke viewed Jesus' victory here as significant. His lack of reference to the fact that angels then ministered to Jesus (Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13) impresses the reader with Jesus' personal victory over Satan.

"The temptations are important evidence of the true humanity of Jesus, for, as James tells us, 'God cannot be tempted with evil' (Jas. i. 13). The fact that He was subjected to real temptations shows that the incarnation was a real assumption of manhood, and not a playing with the human frame."[345]

"Moses fasted in the middle, Elijah at the end, Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. Moses fasted in the Presence of God; Elijah alone; Jesus assaulted by the Devil. Moses had been called up by God; Elijah had gone forth in the bitterness of his own spirit; Jesus was driven by the Spirit. Moses failed after his forty day's fast, when in indignation he cast the Tables of the Law from him; Elijah failed before his forty day's fast; Jesus was assailed for forty days and endured the trial. Moses was angry against Israel; Elijah despaired of Israel; Jesus overcame for Israel."[346]

IV.    Jesus' ministry in and around Galilee 4:14—9:50

Luke began his account of Jesus' public ministry with His return to Galilee following His temptation, which evidently took place in the wilderness of Judea. This section of his Gospel ends with Jesus' decision to leave Galilee and to travel to Jerusalem and the Cross (9:51). Luke did not give as much information about Jesus' Galilean ministry as the other synoptic writers did (cf. Matt. 4:12—16:12; Mark 1:14—8:26). He chose, rather, to emphasize Jesus' ministry as He traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem (9:51—19:27), which the other synoptic evangelists did not highlight as much.

The name Galilee comes from the Hebrew galil, meaning a "Circle." It was apparently so called because, originally, non-Jewish nations encircled the area.[347]

A.     Jesus' teaching ministry 4:14—5:11

This section of the third Gospel records some of Jesus' initial preaching and various responses to it. Much of the material appears only in Luke. Interspersed are instances of Jesus performing mighty works. Luke, like the other evangelists, stressed the essential message that Jesus proclaimed. Green saw 4:14-15 and 4:42-44 as forming an inclusio around 4:16-41.[348]

1.     An introduction to Jesus' Galilean ministry 4:14-15 (cf. Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14-15)

Luke again drew his readers' attention to the fact that Jesus was under the control of the Holy Spirit as He began His public ministry (cf. 1:35; 3:22; 4:1). The Spirit empowered and enabled Jesus in His words and deeds. Luke would stress His teaching ministry. He attributed Jesus' success to His orientation to the Spirit, not His essential deity. Consequently, Jesus is a model that all believers can and should copy. Luke continued to stress the Holy Spirit's ministry in Acts.

Everyone who had contact with Jesus praised Him, not just the Jews. This was the initial popular response to Him, and it is the normal initial response that Spirit-directed believers experience.

"First a rumour [Gr. pheme] of Him began to spread everywhere; in a little time a rumour became a roar [Gr. echos], the whole countryside was moved; and at last the thing became intelligent; it became a logos, a word, a distinct message."[349]

2.     Jesus' teaching in Nazareth 4:16-30

In contrast to most people, the inhabitants of Jesus' hometown did not praise Him. When Jesus began to speak of God extending salvation to the Gentiles, which was a particular interest of Luke's, the Jews in Nazareth opposed Him violently. Perhaps Luke meant this incident to represent a classic case of rejection, in which Nazareth symbolized all of Israel.[350] If so, this is another instance of metonymy. He may have also intended that it become a model for the church's ministry, as well as a typical example Jesus' ministry.[351]

Many students of the Synoptics take this pericope as parallel to Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6. However, the differences between Luke's account and the account in Matthew and Mark seem to indicate two separate incidents. Luke's incident probably occurred early in Jesus' Galilean ministry, whereas the one that Matthew and Mark recorded happened later.

4:16-17      Luke reminded his readers that Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, where this incident took place.

"It is quite wrong to think of Jesus as being brought up in a backwater; He was brought up in a town in the sight of history and with the traffic of the world almost at its doors."[352]

Luke also drew attention to Jesus' piety by noting His regular habit of attending synagogue services, where He likely both worshipped and taught. Synagogues were primarily places where people went for instruction (cf. 13:10; John 18:20; Acts 13:27; 15:21; et al.). Jesus probably attended the synagogue that the Roman centurion, whose beloved servant Jesus later healed, had built for the Jews of Capernaum (cf. 7:2-10).

"It was our Lord's custom to attend public worship, a custom His followers should imitate today (Heb. 10:24-25). He might have argued that the 'religious system' was corrupt, or that He didn't need the instruction; but instead, He made His way on the Sabbath to the place of prayer."[353]

"From the start of His public ministry, the Lord made a habit of attending the synagogue worship (Luke 4:16), and he continued that practice to the end of his earthly life. His example speaks to individuals who excuse themselves from attending corporate worship because they 'get nothing out of the service.' No defender of public worship should ever try to make his case on the basis of the ability of the preacher. We worship to meet God."[354]

One of the synagogue rulers (Jairus? cf. Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41) may have asked Jesus to read the Scriptures, since Jesus was a popular teacher. Customarily Jewish teachers stood up to read the Scriptures, out of respect for them, and then sat down to expound them.[355] No one knows for sure if someone asked Him to read this particular passage or if He chose to do so, but the context favors the second alternative by stressing Jesus' initiative.

"This is the only occasion on which we are told that Jesus read."[356]

4:18-19      The passage Jesus read was Isaiah 61:1-2a (cf. Isa. 58:6). This passage prophesied the mission of Messiah. It is appropriate that Jesus should have read it at the beginning of His ministry, and that Luke should have recorded it here. Isaiah predicted that, as the Servant of the LORD (Yahweh), which the context of the Isaiah passage contributes, Messiah would possess the Spirit. He would also be the bearer of good news (1:19; cf. Deut. 18:18; Isa. 40:9; 41:27; 52:7). Luke highlighted Jesus' prophetic ministry of proclamation (v. 24; 7:16, 39; 9:8, 19; 13:33; 24:19). Moreover, Messiah would bring release to the oppressed (cf. 7:22).

The poor to whom He was sent were not just the economically poor, or the spiritually impoverished, but people of low status in society: "for those excluded according to normal canons of status honor in [the] Mediterranean world."[357] Likewise, the blind refers to those who need to receive revelation and experience salvation.

The reference to the favorable year of the LORD is an allusion to the year of jubilee, when all the enslaved in Israel received their freedom (Lev. 25). It points to the earthly messianic kingdom, but is more general, and includes God's favor on individual Gentiles, as well as on Israel nationally.

Jesus stopped reading before He read the words "And the day of vengeance of our God" in Isaiah 61:2b. This is a reference to the Tribulation, among other judgments. The omission highlights the gracious nature of Messiah's ministry at that time, compared with its judgmental character in the future.[358] One writer listed many passages, in addition to Isaiah 61:1-2, that contain prophecies with a nearer fulfillment of some statements, and a more distant fulfillment of others.[359]

4:20           Probably Luke narrated these events step by step because most of his Gentile readers would have been unfamiliar with synagogue worship. His description also heightens the sense of anticipation in the story. The people present were alert and expectant, waiting to hear Jesus' comments on the passage.

4:21           When He announced the fulfillment of this passage, Jesus revealed that He Himself was the predicted Messiah, and that the time for God's gracious deliverance had arrived.[360] This is one of only two instances in which Luke recorded the fulfillment of Scripture by Messiah, the other being in 24:44. These occurred at the beginning and at the end of Jesus' ministry. They constitute an inclusio, implying that the whole of Jesus' ministry was a fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Jesus began preaching the gospel that enriches the poor (the marginalized), releases bound people, enlightens the spiritually blind, and gives the downtrodden freedom. He also announced that the messianic kingdom was at hand (cf. Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15).

4:22           Jesus' words about God's grace (cf. Acts 14:3; 20:24) evoked a positive response from Jesus' hearers and amazed them (Gr. ethaumazon). They were glad to hear these things. However, they balked at Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. They did not understand how He could be the Messiah, since He had grown up with them and seemed so similar to them.

4:23           Evidently Jesus had been ministering in Capernaum before this incident (cf. vv. 14-15). The accounts of Jesus in Nazareth, in Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6, also follow instances of His doing miracles in Capernaum (Matt. 4:13; Mark 1:21-28).[361] This has convinced some interpreters to regard this passage in Luke as parallel to the others in Matthew and Mark, but this is probably incorrect. Jesus' decision to refrain from doing miracles in Nazareth apparently led some of the Nazarenes to question His ability to do them at all. This cast further doubt on His messiahship in their minds. They thought that if He was the Messiah, then He should bring blessing to Nazareth and demonstrate signs there too.

Both at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and at the end, people mocked Jesus by calling on Him to deliver ("heal," "save") Himself (cf. 23:35; Matt. 27:40; Mark 15:30).

4:24           Luke recorded Jesus saying "Truly I say to you" six times (4:24; 12:37; 18:17, 29; 21:32; 23:43).[362] This phrase always introduces a significant and authoritative comment, as it also does in the other Gospels. The Greek word dektos, translated "welcome," is the same one that occurs in verse 19. Perhaps Jesus used this word in verse 24 in order to indicate that even though God wanted to accept the people, they would not accept the Prophet whom He had sent to tell them of His grace.[363] Prophets were not welcome in their hometowns, because hometown folks hardly ever fully trust one of their own, who leaves town, becomes famous, and then returns home. In saying what He did, Jesus was again claiming to be a prophet.

"People are always more ready to see greatness in strangers than in those they know well."[364]

4:25-27      Jesus did not say that Elijah and Elisha went to Gentiles because the Jews rejected them, but because God sent them there to Gentiles. God sent them there, to Gentile territory, even though there were many needy people in Israel. This happened because Israel at that time was in an apostate condition; they had forsaken Yahweh and were worshipping Baal. The three and one-half years of drought was a period of divine judgment on Israel (cf. Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).

"The period of three years and a half, = 42 months or 1260 days, had an ominous sound in the ears of an Israelite, being the time of this famine, and of the duration of the desolation of the temple under Antiochus."[365]

The reason for these two illustrations, of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman, was to show that God had sent Jesus to Gentiles as well as to Jews. The Nazarenes, therefore, should not expect preferential treatment. Jesus ministered to Jews first, but He also ministered to Gentiles. These examples would have encouraged Luke's original Gentile readers, since they had a similar mission.

"This remark [of Jesus'] is strong for two reasons: (a) It compares the current era to one of the least spiritual periods in Israel's history, and (b) it suggests that Gentiles, who were intensely disliked among the Jews, were more worthy of ministry than they were."[366]

Kenneth Yates pointed out that Luke mentioned two military men, at the beginning and at the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. This is in harmony with Luke's interest in military people and Gentiles. These two references—the first being to Naaman the Syrian (v. 27; cf. 2 Kings 5:1-27) and the second being to Julius the centurion (23:47)—form an inclusio around the ministry of Jesus. They show that God reaches out to Gentiles within their pagan backgrounds, and they imply that Luke's readers should do the same.[367]

"Elsewhere in the Third Gospel, Jesus conducts his ministry in the synagogues … but nowhere else does Luke include a report of the content of his teaching. Hence, here we have an exemplar of the sort of message Jesus proclaimed in synagogues throughout his public ministry."[368]

4:28-30      Jesus allowed the crowd to drive Him out of town and to the crest of the hill on which Nazareth stood. Later, He allowed another crowd to drive Him out of Jerusalem and nail Him to a cross. However, this was not the time for Him to die, and Nazareth was not the place. Luke did not give the details that explain how Jesus escaped His neighbors' wrath. We need not suppose that His deliverance came through some supernatural act or intervention. The description of His escape does picture Jesus in sovereign control of the situation, however.[369]

There were two forms of punishment for religious offenses that were common in the Judaism of Jesus' day, in addition to punishments that came directly from God. People could be whipped with 39 stripes (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24), or they could experience what the rabbis referred to as a rebel's beating. It was the latter of these two that Jesus almost experienced here (cf. John 8:59; 10:31; Acts 7:58; 21:31). If anyone were caught in supposed open defiance of some positive precept, either of the Mosaic Law or the traditions of the elders, the observers were allowed to punish him or her on the spot, without a trial.[370]

This pattern of violent Jewish rejection continued, and mounted, throughout Jesus' ministry. One writer referred to Jesus' rejection at Nazareth as a "dress-rehearsal" for His passion.[371] It is significant that rejection began at the start of Jesus' ministry because of a revelation of God's desire to bless His people. Ironically, when Jesus announced the arrival of the year of God's favor (v. 19), He received no favor from His townspeople.[372]

"Thus in the first scene in the narrative of Jesus' mission, Jesus announces 'words of grace' but encounters the violent rejection which prophets can expect in their homeland. The good news which Jesus preaches is already shadowed by a conflict that will persist to the end of Acts."[373]

"The visit to Nazareth was in many respects decisive. It presented by anticipation an epitome [embodiment] of the history of the Christ. Jesus came to His own, and His own received Him not. The first time He taught in the Synagogue, as the first time He taught in the Temple, they cast Him out. On the one and the other occasion, they questioned His authority, and they asked for a 'sign.' In both instances, the power which they challenged was, indeed, claimed by Christ, but its display, in the manner which they expected, refused. The analogy seems to extend even farther—and if a misrepresentation of what Jesus had said when purifying the Temple formed the ground of the final false charge against Him (Matt. 26:60-61), the taunt of the Nazarenes: 'Physician, heal thyself!' found an echo in the mocking cry, as He hung on the Cross: 'He saved others, Himself He cannot save.' (Matt. 27:40-42)"[374]

"In all this we have a commentary on the third temptation. The people tried to put Jesus into the position Satan had suggested. But He did not let them."[375]

"It is important to appreciate how central good teaching is to ministry. In an era when feelings and interpersonal relationships are high on the agenda, it is wise to reflect on why Jesus spent so much time instructing people."[376]

Kenneth Hanna pointed out that the following sections of narrative alternate between miraculous events and disciple preparation.[377] However, all of Jesus' miracles were in a sense disciple preparation.

Miracles
4:31-44

 

Miracles
5:12-26

 

Miracles
6:1-11

 

 

Disciples
5:1-11

 

Disciples
5:27-39

 

Disciples
6:12-16

 

3.     Jesus' ministry in and around Capernaum 4:31-44

"As the Nazareth-account was a programmatic instance of Jesus' activity in Galilee, so the narration of his Capernaum ministry illustrates and develops the nature of his ministry."[378]

The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because they did not believe that He was the Messiah or the Son of God. Luke next gave many proofs of Jesus' messiahship and deity. He chose incidents from Jesus' ministry in and around Galilee in order to demonstrate this.

Jesus followed a pattern of ministering in Capernaum, then traveling away from Capernaum for ministry, returning to Capernaum to minister, etc.[379] The first four incidents happened in Capernaum and its environs. Even though these incidents involved miracles, they occurred in a broader context of teaching.

The exorcism of a demoniac in the Capernaum synagogue 4:31-37 (cf. Mark 1:21-28)

4:31-32      Jesus had to go down from Nazareth, which stood approximately 1,200 feet above sea level, to Capernaum, that lay almost 700 feet below sea level. This notation, and the mention that Capernaum was a city of Galilee, were undoubtedly for Luke's original readers' benefit, many of whom were unfamiliar with Israel's geography. Again, Luke recorded that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue (cf. v. 16).[380] There He demonstrated the liberating work that Isaiah wrote that Messiah would do (v. 18).

"Teaching [Gr. didache] in Luke-Acts is seen as a broad term encompassing much more than the offer of the gospel, whereas preaching [kerygma] in Luke-Acts [only in Luke 11:32] tends to be limited to the salvation message."[381]

Jesus' unusual authority amazed (Gr. exeplessonto) those present (cf. Deut. 18:18). Later Jesus' works drew the same response (9:43). It was particularly Jesus' word or message (Gr. logos, cf. 1:1-4) that impressed them here. As a prophet, Jesus spoke directly from God and for God. The people of Capernaum recognized Jesus' authority, but the Nazarenes did not.

"… the very thing that the devil promised to give Jesus, 'authority,' has come to Jesus as a consequence of his resisting the devil …"[382]

4:33           Messiah's appearance served notice on the demon world that He purposed to destroy their work. Consequently the demons began to oppose Jesus immediately. Jesus continued this holy war throughout His ministry, and His disciples extended it after His departure (9:1-2; 10:9-10, 17). The Gospel writers used the adjectives "evil" and "unclean" interchangeably, combined with "spirit," in order to describe these demons. They were evil in their intent, and they produced uncleanness, in contrast to the goodness and holiness that the Holy Spirit produces in those whom He inhabits.[383] Possibly Luke specified that this was an unclean demon because the Greeks thought there were good and evil demons.[384]

"The Scriptures distinguish clearly between all forms of ordinary disease and the peculiar affliction of demoniacal possession."[385]

4:34-35      "Leave us alone!" translates an expression of indignant surprise.[386] "What business do You have with us?" means something like: Why this interference?[387] The demon testified to Jesus' messianic and divine character. He was "the Holy One of God," in contrast to the unclean demon. The demon probably spoke for the forces of evil when he said: "What business do You have with us?" Jesus may have silenced the demon in order to prevent a premature movement to recognize Him as simply a political Messiah. Another reason follows:

"Our Lord ever refused testimony from devils, for the very reason why they were eager to give it, because He and they would thus seem to be one interest, as His enemies actually alleged."[388]

Jesus' authority is obvious in His command here to "Be quiet!" Jesus also expelled the demon on His own authority, not by invoking the name of some other power. Luke, who consistently showed interest in people's physical conditions, noted that even though the demon exited violently, he did not hurt the man. Jesus caused the release of one whom Satan had held captive, and He did it completely (v. 18).

4:36-37      Again Luke noted the amazement of the observers (Gr. thambos, wonder mixed with fear). The people questioned, out of curiosity and wonder, the powerful word (Gr. logos, v. 32) of Jesus, marked as it was by authority (Gr. exousia) and power (Gr. dynamei) over unclean spirits. Perhaps Luke stressed the word of Jesus because the Greeks put much stock in the power of a great person's words, people such as the great Greek orators. The reports of this miracle spread Jesus' fame farther into the surrounding areas.

This incident established the authority that Jesus had claimed in Nazareth. Testimony to His deity from the spirit world should have convinced many of Jesus' hearers. Luke probably recorded the incident in order to heighten Jesus' greatness in the minds of his readers.

The healing of Peter's mother-in-law 4:38-39 (cf. Matt. 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31)

Luke's account does not include some details that Matthew and Mark recorded, but it stresses the immediacy of Jesus' healing. Luke did not introduce Peter to his readers, perhaps because they knew about him before reading this Gospel.

"Undoubtedly, the key disciple in Luke's writings is Peter. He was the representative disciple, as well as the leading apostle.[389]

Doctor Luke (cf. Col. 4:14) alone wrote that the woman had a high fever. He described Jesus as standing over Peter's mother-in-law like a doctor would, perhaps suggesting Jesus' role as the Great Physician. He also wrote that Jesus rebuked the fever. We need not infer that a demon had produced it and that Jesus was rebuking the demon. Luke may have just been personifying the fever to show the power of Jesus' words. Peter's mother-in-law's ability to serve others testified to the complete recovery that Jesus accomplished (cf. v. 35). Luke showed special interest in women in his Gospel, and this is another indication of that (cf. Elizabeth, Mary, Anna, et al.). He apparently wanted his Greek readers, who held women in high esteem, to realize that Jesus also honored them.

Luke's emphasis in this healing was the miraculous element in Jesus' great power and authority over sickness.

Jesus' healing of many Galileans after sundown 4:40-41 (cf. Matt. 8:16-17; Mark 1:32-34)

Having recorded two individual healings, Luke now mentioned a group of people that Jesus healed. Again Luke omitted some details that the other synoptic writers included, but added others in order to stress other points for his particular readers.

4:40           The Jewish crowds waited to come to Jesus until the Sabbath ended at sundown. Luke did not draw attention to the Sabbath, but he noted that the sun was setting as the background for what followed. Luke distinguished between the sick and the demon-possessed. He did not think demons were responsible for all disease, as some Greeks did. However, he would have acknowledged that sin is responsible for all sickness ultimately. Luke alone also mentioned Jesus laying His hands on those who came to Him for healing. This demonstrates Jesus' compassion for the afflicted and the fact that the healing came from Him. It was common in pagan Hellenistic accounts of supposedly miraculous healings for healers to lay their hands on the sick.[390] The "hand of God" is an Old Testament metaphor for God's power (cf. 1 Sam. 5:11; 2 Chron. 30:12; Job 19:21; Eccles. 2:24; 9:1).

"Jesus did not heal en masse, but one by one, tender sympathy going out from Him in each case."[391]

4:41           Only Luke recorded that the demons called Jesus "the Son of God." This was another testimony to His true identity. Again Jesus told the demons to keep quiet (cf. v. 35). He wanted people, not just demons, to believe that He was the Son of God. Yet the testimony of demons could appear suspect to the people present, since evil spirits are known to serve the "father of lies." Note that Luke equated "Son of God" and "Christ (Messiah)," which many of Jesus' followers had difficulty comprehending and acknowledging.

The demons' witness to Jesus' identity seems to be the point of this story.

Jesus' first preaching tour of Galilee 4:42-44 (cf. Mark 1:35-39)

Luke again stressed the wide ministry that Jesus purposely carried on. This pericope records what happened on the morning following the previous incident (cf. v. 40). The people of Nazareth had wanted Jesus to leave, but the people of Capernaum begged Him to stay. Jesus wanted to reach as many people as possible with His message. The words "must," "kingdom of God," and "sent" are all unique to Luke's narrative here. Luke's concept of the kingdom of God is the same as that of the other Gospel writers, namely, the rule of God through David's descendant: Messiah.

"Along with 'preach,' these words constitute a programmatic statement of Jesus' mission and also of Luke's understanding of it."[392]

"Christ is the great Apostle of God to men."[393]

"Judea" (v. 44) evidently refers to the whole Roman province that included Galilee, not just to southern Israel.

This section (4:31-44) contains representative incidents from Jesus' Galilean ministry that illustrate what He did and the reactions of people to Him (cf. Acts 10:38). Note that Jesus' teaching ministry was primary and His healings were secondary. His miracles served to authenticate His message. This was true of the apostles' preaching and miracles in Acts too.

4.     The call of Peter, James, and John 5:1-11 (cf. Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20)

"The sharp Christological focus of 4:14-44 now broadens; in this section [5:1—6:16] the individual people who personally respond to Jesus become important. Sinners find a new life; apostles are called to join Jesus in his task; Pharisees prefer to stay with their old but false righteousness."[394]

John Nolland noted a structural unity to 5:1—6:16, and I have retitled his seven sections as follows, though I have not adopted his categories in the notes below:

·      The call of Peter, James, and John 5:1-11

·      The cleansing of a leper 5:12-16

·      The healing of a paralytic 5:17-26

·      The call of Levi and his banquet 5:27-32

·      The Sabbath controversy over eating 6:1-5

·      The Sabbath controversy over healing 6:6-11

·      The call of the Twelve 6:12-16

Luke's account of the call of Peter, James, and John is the longest of the three. Some scholars believe that this was a calling prior to the one recorded in Matthew and Mark.[395] Luke drew attention to Peter and omitted any reference to Andrew, his brother (Matt. 4:18; Mark 1:16). (In Luke's Gospel, the disciples have little role to play.[396]) Luke characteristically focused on single individuals that Jesus touched wherever possible, in order to draw attention to Jesus. He also stressed the sovereignty and holiness of Jesus, as well as these disciples' total abandonment of their possessions to follow Jesus. Jesus repeated the lesson of this incident after His resurrection (John 21:1-14).

Luke placed this account in his Gospel after the Capernaum incidents rather than before them, as Mark did (Mark 1:14-28). He probably arranged his material this way in order to stress Jesus' sovereignty over people, having already established the general program of Jesus' ministry.[397] The emphasis on Jesus' sovereignty continues through chapter 5. This was not the first time that Jesus had talked with Peter and the other disciples mentioned. Andrew had told his brother Peter that he had found the Messiah (cf. John 1:41). However, these disciples thought of the Messiah as their contemporaries did: They expected a political deliverer who was less than God. Jesus had to teach them that He was God as well as Messiah. This lesson and its implications took all of Jesus' ministry to communicate.

5:1-3          These verses give the setting for the incident. Luke pointed out again that the crowd was listening to the word of God that Jesus was proclaiming (v. 1; cf. 4:32, 36). The people were so interested that they pressed upon Jesus. Jesus put some distance between them and Himself by teaching from a boat not far off shore.

Luke described the Sea of Galilee as a "lake," as most of His readers would have thought of it. Gennesaret was the town and the plain on the lake's northwest coast, from which the lake of Galilee received its other name.

Luke's characteristic attention to detail is obvious in that he referred to two boats, thus setting the stage for verse 7. Evidently the fishermen had used large dragnets (Gr. diktau) when they had fished all night, which Zebedee, James, and John were now washing and mending (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19; Luke 5:2). These nets were made of linen, and were therefore visible to fish during the day, so they were used at night only, and they needed washing each morning.[398] Peter and Andrew were using a smaller round casting net (Gr. amphibleston), throwing it into the water from close to shore (Matt. 4:18; Mark 1:16).

"It was a busy scene; for, among the many industries by the Lake of Galilee, that of fishing was not only the most generally pursued, but perhaps the most lucrative."[399]

"… Jesus is fishing from the boat to catch men …"[400]

5:4-5          Luke alone specified that Simon and his companions were fishermen (Gr. halieus, v. 2). Consequently Jesus' command to launch out into the deep water for another try at fishing contrasts Jesus' authority with the authority of these men.

"Success was doubly improbable: it was day, and in deep water; fish were got at night, and near shore. The order, contrary to probability, tempts to symbolic interpretation: the deep sea the Gentile world; Peter's indirect objection symbol of his reluctance to enter on the Gentile mission, overcome by a special revelation (Acts x.)."[401]

Peter's compliance shows his great respect for Jesus, which led to his obedience, and ultimately to a large catch of fish. "Master" (Gr. epistata) is Luke's equivalent for "teacher" or "rabbi." Luke never used the term rabbi, probably because it would have held little interest or  significance for most Greek readers. "Master" is a term that disciples or near disciples used of Jesus (8:24, 45; 9:33, 49; 17:13), and it indicates submission to authority. Luke is the only Gospel evangelist who used this term, and wherever it appears it refers to Jesus.

5:6-7          Luke first stressed the gathering of very many fish (cf. Ps. 8:6, 8; John 21:6). The details give the narrative the ring of truth. "Partners" (Gr. metochois) probably refers to partners in business (cf. Heb. 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4; 12:8). A similar word (Gr. koinonos, v. 10b) also means partners.

"Both terms are here employed of the two pairs of brothers [Peter and Andrew, and James and John] who have a business company under Simon's lead."[402]

5:8-10a      Luke's other emphasis was Peter's response to this miracle. The catch so amazed (Gr. thambos) Peter that he knelt before Jesus, evidently in the boat. Peter now addressed Jesus as "Lord" (Gr. kyrios) instead of "Master." "Lord" expressed more respect than "Master." In view of later developments in Peter's life, it is difficult to say that Peter viewed Jesus as God when he called Him "Lord" here. He may have done so and then relapsed into thinking of Him as only a mortal later.

In either case, Peter expressed conviction of sin in Jesus' presence, indicating that he realized that Jesus was a holy Man, very different from himself (cf. Isa. 6:5). Peter's confession of his sinfulness was essential, not only for his salvation, but also for his becoming a disciple and servant of Jesus (cf. Exod. 4:10-17; Judg. 6:11-23; Isa. 6; Jer. i:4-10; Ezek. 1—3; Dan. 10; Acts 9:3-9; Rev. 1:13-20). "Go away from me" expresses Peter's feeling of uncleanness in Jesus' presence. Jesus' superior ability to catch fish caused Peter to sense that he was a sinner, one who fell short. Sinner or "sinful man" (Gr. hamartolos) is one of Luke's characteristic words. Of the 22 occurrences of this word in the Synoptics, 15 are in Luke.

"Luke does not use the term pejoratively [expressing contempt or disapproval] but compassionately, as a common term applied to those who were isolated from Jewish religious circles because of their open sin, their unacceptable occupation or lifestyle, or their paganism. Luke shows that these sinners are the objects of God's grace through the ministry of Jesus."[403]

"We observe in Peter at this time that mixture of good and evil, of grace and nature, which so frequently reappears in his character in the subsequent history."[404]

"What Peter does not realize is that admitting one's inability and sin is the best prerequisite for service, since then one can depend on God. Peter's confession becomes his résumé for service. Humility is the elevator to spiritual greatness."[405]

Some have felt that Peter's confession here was a result of his having gone back to fishing after Jesus had called him to be His disciple, as recorded in Matthew 4:18-20 and Mark 1:16-18.[406] However, it seems more probable that this incident is Luke's account of the same calling that Matthew and Mark recorded.

5:10b-11    Jesus does not depart from nor reject sinners who feel conviction because of their sin. He draws them to Himself and sends them out to serve Him. Jesus used the fish to represent people that Peter would draw into the messianic kingdom of God and into the church (cf. Acts 2; 10:9-48). This seems to be a reference to "catching" in the sense of saving, rather than in the sense of judging and destroying.

"Fishermen caught live fish to kill them, but the disciples would be catching people who were dead to give them life."[407]

"It is not for nothing that the promise here clothes itself in language drawn from the occupation of the fisher, rather, for instance, than in that borrowed from the nearly allied pursuits of the hunter. The fisher more often take his pray alive; he draws it to him, does not drive it from him; and not merely to himself, but draws all which he has taken to one another; even as the Church brings together the divided hearts, the fathers to the children, gathers into one fellowship the scattered tribes of men. Again, the work of the fisher is one of art and skill, not of force and violence …"[408]

Peter and his three companions immediately abandoned their life as fishermen to become Jesus' disciples full-time (cf. 14:33; 18:22). Only Luke recorded that Jesus had contact with Peter before He called Peter to follow Him (cf. 4:38). These fishermen left the greatest catch of their career, perhaps, because of what it showed them of Jesus.[409]

"But at the time of their call they were exceedingly ignorant, narrow-minded, superstitious, full of Jewish prejudices, misconceptions, and animosities."[410]

This catch of fish probably enabled Peter and his fellow fishermen to provide at least partially for their dependents before beginning their lives as itinerate disciples of Jesus.[411]

"Luke did not lay particular stress on the thought of giving up all to follow Jesus (Mk. 1:18, 20): the accent is on v. 10 with its call to mission."[412]

"The likelihood is that the married disciples, like married soldiers, took their wives with them or left them at home, as circumstances might require or admit. Women, even married women, did sometimes follow Jesus; and the wife of Simon, or of any other married disciple, may occasionally have been among the number. At an advanced period in the history we find the mother of James and John in Christ's company far from home; and where mothers were, wives, if they wished, might also be."[413]

The general emphasis in this incident is on the authority of Jesus. His words had powerful effects. The only proper response to them was submission to Jesus. Blessing would follow in the form of participation in Jesus' mission. There are parallels between this section and that of Isaiah's commission (Isa. 6:1-10): both contain an epiphany, a reaction, reassurance, and a commission.[414]

"The major application in the miracle of the catch of fish centers around Jesus' instructions and Peter's responses. In the midst of teaching many, Jesus calls a few people to more focused service. Peter is one example of such a call. Everyone has a ministry, and all are equal before God, but some are called to serve him directly. Peter has the three necessary qualities Jesus is looking for. He is willing to go where Jesus leads, he is humble, and he is fully committed."[415]

This whole first section that describes Jesus' teaching mission (4:14—5:11) focuses on Jesus' authority and the proper response to it.

B.     The beginning of controversy with the Pharisees 5:12—6:11

One of Luke's purposes in his Gospel, and in Acts, appears to have been to show why God stopped working particularly with Israel and began working with Jews and Gentiles equally.[416] The Jewish leaders' rejection of Jesus was a major reason for this change. The conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders is an important feature of this Gospel.

This section of the Gospel includes six incidents. In the first one, Jesus served notice to the religious leaders in Jerusalem that the Messiah had arrived. In the remaining five incidents, the Pharisees found fault with Jesus or His disciples. Mark stressed the conflict that was mounting, but Luke emphasized the positive aspects of Jesus' ministry that led to the opposition.[417]

1.     Jesus' cleansing of a leprous Jew 5:12-16 (cf. Matt. 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45)

This miracle was to be a testimony to the religious leaders about Jesus' person (v. 14). It authenticated His person and His teaching. It also shows the blessings that Jesus brought to people, specifically the spiritual cleansing of those whom sin had polluted (cf. 4:18). It alerted the religious leaders to Messiah's presence in Galilee.

"Like sin, leprosy ["a defiling skin disease" TNIV] is deeper than the skin (Lev. 13:3) and cannot be helped by mere 'surface' measures (see Jer. 6:14). Like sin, leprosy spreads (Lev. 13:7-8); and as it spreads, it defiles (Lev. 13:44-45). Because of his defilement, a leprous person had to be isolated outside the camp (Lev. 13:46), and lost sinners one day will be isolated in hell. People with leprosy were looked on as 'dead' (Num. 12:12), and garments infected with leprosy were fit only for the fire (Lev. 13:52)."[418]

5:12           "One of the cities" refers to one of the cities of Galilee, in view of the context. Luke revealed his particular interest in medical matters again by noting that leprosy covered this man completely. There could be no doubt that he was a leper. As Peter had done, this man fell before Jesus (cf. v. 8). Like Peter, he also appealed to Jesus as "Lord" (v. 8). This address was respectful and appropriate when addressing someone with special power from God.[419] The leper was very bold in coming to Jesus, since his leprosy separated him from normal social contacts. His conditional request cast doubt on Jesus' willingness to heal him, not His ability to do so. It may express his sense of unworthiness to receive such a blessing.

5:13           By stretching out His hand and touching the leper, Jesus was doing the unthinkable (Lev. 13). He probably did this in order to express His compassion for the man, as well as to identify Himself, beyond any possible doubt, as the source of his healing (cf. Exod. 4:4; 6:6; 14:16; 15:12; Jer. 17:5; Acts 4:30). Jesus' words offered him reassurance (cf. v. 10). Jesus' authority extended to power over disease and ceremonial uncleanness. Doctor Luke again noted an immediate cure (cf. 4:35, 39).

"Since the uncleanness of leprosy was communicable, it is especially significant that Jesus responds by touching the man: not that Jesus violates the rules of cultic cleanliness; rather, the uncleanness retreats before the touch and command of Jesus (cf. at 4:40, 41). The touch of Jesus represents a 'welcome back' to the isolated leper."[420]

"The most significant lesson from the cleansing of the leper story is that even outsiders can experience God's healing grace."[421]

5:14           The healing of lepers was a messianic act (cf. 7:22). Therefore the man's testimony about his cleansing amounted to an announcement of Messiah's arrival. Jesus did not want this man to fail to go to Jerusalem and present the required offering for the healing of leprosy (Lev. 14:1-32). If the man had broadcast his healing, he may never have reached the priests there, and the crowds may have mobbed Jesus even worse than they were already doing. Furthermore, it was inappropriate for the man to announce his healing before a priest examined him and made an official announcement that he was clean (Lev. 14:57). Jesus was careful not to usurp this priestly authority.

5:15-16      Luke omitted the fact that the man disobeyed Jesus (cf. Mark 1:45), perhaps because this would have undermined his emphasis on Jesus' authority. Instead he stressed the spread of the story (lit. "word," Gr. logos) concerning Jesus. The spread of the good news concerning Jesus is a major theme of both this Gospel and the Book of Acts. This healing increased Jesus' popularity. However, His response was not to rest on popular approval but to renew His dependence on His Father by praying in a deserted place.

"… the mainspring of his life was his communion with God, and in such communion he found both strength and guidance to avoid submitting to temptation."[422]

"… honour is like a shadow, which flees from those that pursue it, but follows those that decline it."[423]

Luke did not mention the fact that increased popularity hampered Jesus' activities (cf. Mark 1:45). But he wrote that Jesus' fame was spreading and that large crowds were gathering to hear Him teach and to be healed (v. 15). The order of Luke's words "hear Him and to be healed" reflects the priority of Jesus' preaching over His miracles.

2.     Jesus' authority to forgive sins 5:17-26 (cf. Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12)

Luke documented Jesus' authority, in yet another area of life, by showing His power to forgive sins. In this incident the miracle is secondary, and the issue of Jesus' authority is primary. Jesus claimed to be God by forgiving a paralyzed man's sins. Forgiving sins is something that only God can do.

5:17           Again Luke stressed the priority of Jesus' teaching ministry. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law (the scribes) had come to hear what He was teaching. These men, first appearing in Luke in this chapter, were the guardians of Israel's orthodoxy. The Pharisees were a political party in Israel—noted for their strict observance of the Mosaic Law as traditionally interpreted by the rabbis. Some of these teachers of the law were probably Pharisees, but perhaps not all of them were.

The phrase "Pharisees and teachers of the Law" is a literary figure called a hendiadys. A hendiadys is a figure of speech in which someone expresses a single idea by naming two entities and linking them with "and." Thus "scribes and Pharisees" or "Pharisees and teachers of the Law" means religious leaders, but does not mean that other religious leaders such as the Sadducees were absent.[424]

"In the past an unduly negative portrait of the Pharisees of the NT period has been produced by an almost exclusive concentration on the criticisms found in the synoptic record. At best this produces a caricature, at worst it produces anti-Semitism and serious misunderstanding of the NT criticisms themselves, which in many cases gain their proper force only when it is recognized that they are directed at what was probably the most highly respected group in Jewish society."[425]

"Only one intimately acquainted with the state of matters at the time would, with the Rabbis, have distinguished Jerusalem as a district separate from all the rest of Judaea, as St. Luke markedly does on several occasions (Luke v. 17; Acts i. 8; x. 39)."[426]

Luke viewed the power of God as extrinsic to Jesus (cf. John 5:1-19). Jesus did not perform miracles out of His divine nature. He laid those powers aside at the Incarnation. Instead, He did His miracles in the power of God's Spirit—who was on Him and in Him—as a prophet.

"Why would Luke say that 'the power of the Lord was present for him to heal' if Jesus could heal at any time, under any condition, and solely at his own discretion? This statement only makes sense if we view healing as the sovereign prerogative of God the Father, who sometimes dispenses his power to heal and at other times withholds it."[427]

In Acts, Luke stressed that the same Spirit is on and in every believer today, and He is the source of the Christian's power as He was the source of Jesus' power.

5:18-19      This incident happened in Capernaum (Mark 2:1), though that fact was irrelevant for Luke. Other details in his account add the touch of reality to it.

"The roof is only a few feet high, and by stooping down, and holding the corners of the couch—merely a thickly-padded quilt, as at present in this region—they could let down the sick man without any apparatus of ropes or cords to assist them. … They had merely to scrape back the earth from a portion of the roof over the lewan [porch], take up the thorns and short sticks, and let down the couch between the beams at the very feet of Jesus. The end achieved, they could speedily restore the roof as it was before. I have the impression, however, that the covering, at least of the lewan, was not made of earth, but of materials more easily taken up. It may have been merely of coarse matting, like the walls and roofs of Turkman huts, or it may have been made of boards, or even stone slabs (and such I have seen), that could be quickly removed."[428]

5:20           The zeal with which the four friends of the paralytic sought to bring him into Jesus' presence demonstrated their faith, namely, their belief that Jesus could heal him. However, the sick man also appears to have had faith in Jesus, or he would not have permitted his friends to do what they did. Perhaps Luke did not mention the paralytic's faith explicitly because to do so might have detracted from his emphasis on Jesus' power. God responds to the faith of others, when they bring their needy friends to Him, in prayer as well as in person.

"… it is impossible to think that the man's sins were forgiven if he had no faith of his own."[429]

We should not regard physical healing and spiritual forgiveness as an "either or" proposition. Rather, true forgiveness includes full restoration in every area of life. Jesus graciously did "both and" for this man, though often God does not restore people to complete physical health until after death.

"In many traditional, non-Western societies, the domain of biological medicine is not differentiated from that of religion, politics, and broader social life, with the result that healing may include or require the resolution of spiritual and social disorder. Hence, we should not be surprised that Jesus refers to the man's new psychosocial state and spiritual condition rather than to his physiological presentation, nor should we imagine that forgiveness was in some way (only) preparatory to the cure that would come."[430]

"Miracle becomes a metaphor for salvation. All Jesus' miracles should be seen in this light."[431]

5:21           The religious leaders were correct. Only God can forgive sins. However, they were unwilling to draw the conclusion that Jesus was God.

"Whenever Luke reports what someone is thinking, instruction from Jesus usually follows."[432]

"Luke, incidentally, is rather fond of questions which begin with 'Who?' and refer to Jesus (7:49; 8:25; 9:9, 18, 20; 19:3)."[433]

"Blasphemy against another human being means to speak evil of him (see 1 Corinthians 4:13; Titus 3:2; 2 Peter 2:2; Jude 8). But blasphemy against God involves not merely cursing his name, but also attempting to usurp the rights that belong only to the creator."[434]

"What is expressed here is an objection in the strongest terms to Jesus' act of making that declaration of the forgiveness of God which in their understanding God had reserved as his own prerogative for the final day."[435]

5:22-23      As a prophet Jesus may have had special insight into what His critics were thinking (cf. Matt. 9:3; Mark 2:6). It was easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven you," because no one could disprove that claim. In another sense, of course, both claims were equally difficult, because healing and forgiving both required supernatural power.

5:24           Jesus did the apparently more difficult thing in order to prove that He could also do the apparently easier thing. This is the first time that Luke recorded Jesus calling Himself the Son of Man. Luke used this title 26 times, and in every case Jesus used it to describe Himself (except in Acts 7:56 where Stephen used it of Him). This was a messianic title with clear implications of deity (Dan. 7:13-14). Since the Son of Man is the divine Judge and Ruler, it is only natural that He would have the power to forgive. It was only consistent for Jesus to claim deity, since He had just demonstrated His deity by forgiving the man's sins. He would prove it by healing him.

5:25-26      The paralyzed man responded in faith immediately (Gr. parachrema) to Jesus' command. The stretcher had carried the man, and now the man carried the stretcher.

"The ability of the paralyzed man to resume his walk of life is a picture of what Jesus does when he saves. His message is a liberating one."[436]

Everyone present glorified God because of what Jesus had done. One of Luke's objectives was to glorify God, and to encourage his readers to do the same, in this Gospel and in Acts (cf. 2:20). The amazed reaction of the crowd recalls the same response of the people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11-12; cf. Luke 7:16; 13:17; 18:43; Acts 3:9; 8:8). Perhaps Luke meant to draw the reader's attention to "today," the last word that is also the first word that Jesus spoke when He announced the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2a (4:21). The day of the Messiah's appearing had arrived, and the witnesses of this miracle testified to it, albeit unknowingly.

Luke's emphasis in his account of this incident was on Jesus' authority and the people's acknowledgment of it. They said, "We have seen remarkable [Gr. paradoxia, paradoxical] things today." They meant that they had witnessed events that led them to an apparently illogical conclusion: that Jesus was different from an ordinary human being. Luke also stressed Jesus' ongoing mission (cf. Acts).

"Three quest stories appear early in the narrative of Jesus' ministry, in Luke 5 and 7. Three reappear toward the end of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, in Luke 17, 18, and 19. Thus they appear early and late in the narrative of Jesus' ministry prior to his arrival in Jerusalem. The tendency to bracket Jesus' ministry with this type of story suggests the importance of these encounters in Jesus' total activity."[437]

A "quest story" is one in which someone approaches Jesus in search of something very important to human well-being. Of the nine quest stories in the Synoptics, seven are in Luke, and four of these are unique to Luke.

3.     Jesus' attitude toward sinners 5:27-32 (cf. Matt. 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17)

Luke painted Jesus bestowing messianic grace on a variety of people: a demoniac, a leper, a paralytic, and now a tax collector. He liberated these captives from a malign spirit, lifelong uncleanness, a physical handicap, and now social ostracism and materialism. The Pharisees were again present. In Levi's case, Jesus not only provided forgiveness but fellowship with Himself. The incident shows the type of people whom Jesus called to Himself, and it justifies His calling of them. Jesus' attitude toward sinners was positive and contrasts with the religious leaders' negative attitude toward them.

5:27-28      Levi (Matthew) was a tax collector ("publican," AV). However, he was not a chief tax collector, as Zaccheus was (19:2), nor does the text say that he was rich, though he appears to have been. Nevertheless the Pharisees, and most of the ordinary Jews, despised him because of his profession. He collected taxes from the Jews for the unpopular Roman government, and many of his fellow tax collectors were corrupt. Tax collectors were the social equivalent of "pimps and informants."[438]

"The tolls collected by Levi may have been either on highway traffic, or on the traffic across the lake."[439]

"It is of importance to notice, that the Talmud distinguishes two classes of 'publicans': the tax-gatherer in general (Gabbai), and the Mokhes, or Mokhsa, who was specially the douanier or custom-house official. Although both classes fall under the Rabbinic ban, the douanier—such as Matthew was—is the object of chief execration [loathing]."[440]

Jesus' authority is apparent in Levi's immediate and unconditional abandonment of his profession in order to follow Jesus. Levi obeyed Jesus, as he should have, and in so doing gave Luke's readers a positive example to follow (cf. 5:11). Luke's terminology stresses Levi's decisive break with his former vocation ("left everything behind"), and his new life of continuous discipleship. This decision undoubtedly involved making financial and career sacrifices.

"He had grown weary of collecting revenue from a reluctant population, and was glad to follow One who had come to take burdens off instead of laying them on, to remit debts instead of exacting them with rigor."[441]

5:29-30      The joy of Levi and his outcast guests contrasts with the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes. Shared meals, in the Mediterranean world, symbolized shared lives.[442] The religious leaders objected to Jesus and His disciples' eating and drinking with these tax collectors and sinners, because of the supposed risk of ceremonial defilement that they ran by doing so.[443] They focused their criticism on Jesus' disciples rather than on Jesus, perhaps because Jesus was so popular. "Sinners," to the Pharisees, were those who lived unfaithful to God: irreligious people.

"In effect, Jesus is being cited for a breach of convention, when it is the Pharisees and their scribes whose behavior—raising an unseemly point of discussion—is out of bounds."[444]

5:31-32      Jesus used a proverb to summarize His mission (cf. ch. 15). He used the word righteous in a relative sense, and perhaps a bit sarcastically, since no one is truly righteous—though the Pharisees considered themselves especially righteous. A person must acknowledge his or her need for Jesus, and His righteousness, before that one will benefit from the Great Physician's powers. This acknowledgment of need is what Jesus meant by repentance. Repentance leads to joy in Luke, as well as to life (cf. 15:7, 10, 22-27, 32). Luke stressed the positive call of sinners to repentance both in this Gospel and in Acts. Luke referred to repentance more than Matthew or Mark did (cf. 3:3, 8; 10:13; 11:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10; 16:30; 17:3-4; 24:47).

"The connection between 5:32 and 19:10 suggests that they form an inclusion. That is, we have similar general statements about Jesus' mission early and late in his ministry, statements which serve to interpret the whole ministry which lies between them."[445]

4.     Jesus' attitude toward fasting 5:33-39 (cf. Matt. 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22)

The setting of this controversy is the same as the previous one: Levi's banquet. Jesus' attitude toward fasting stressed that His presence anticipated the day of earthly messianic kingdom rejoicing.

5:33           The religious leaders (v. 30; Mark 2:18) and John's disciples (Matt. 9:14; Mark 2:18) raised the question of fasting. They did so because it was another practice, besides eating with sinners, that marked Jesus and His disciples as unusual (cf. 7:34). Since Jesus preached repentance (v. 32), why did He not expect His followers to demonstrate the accepted signs that indicated it? These questioners made Jesus and His disciples appear to be out of step, by negatively contrasting their behavior with that of John the Baptist's and the Pharisees' disciples.

The Old Testament required only one day of fasting, namely, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29), but over the years additional fasts had become traditional. Evidently John and his disciples fasted periodically. The Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday (cf. 18:12), as well as on four other days in memory of Jerusalem's destruction (Zech. 7:3, 5; 8:19).[446] Jesus did not oppose fasting, but He criticized its abuse (4:2; 22:16, 18; Matt. 6:16-18).

Luke alone mentioned Jesus' questioners' reference to prayer. He probably did this in order to clarify the circumstances in which fasting happened for his readers. The questioners implied that Jesus' disciples neglected prayer as well as fasting.

5:34-35      Jesus compared the situation to a wedding, which calls for joy. He meant that He was the bridegroom, who had come to claim His bride, Israel (cf. Isa. 54:5-8; 62:5; Jer. 2:2; Hos. 2:19-20, 23; Ezek. 16). His disciples were His friends ("attendants") who rejoiced at this prospect with Him. Therefore to compel them to fast was inappropriate. Thus Jesus rebuked His questioners. However, Jesus implied that the bridegroom would die (be "taken away from them"). This was one of Jesus' early hints at His death, perhaps the first.[447] When He died, His disciples would fast. They probably did this after His crucifixion but before His resurrection. They also do it after His ascension and before His return to the earth (cf. John 16:16-24).

5:36           Jesus next illustrated with parables the fact that His coming introduced a radical break with former religious customs. He did not come to patch Judaism up but to inaugurate a new order. Had Israel accepted Jesus, this new order would have been the earthly kingdom, but since the Jews rejected Him, it became the church. Eventually it will become the earthly kingdom. Simply adding His new order to Judaism would have two detrimental effects: It would have damaged the new order, and it would not preserve the old order. It would also appear incongruous. Only Luke's account includes the first effect: that it would damage the new order. Luke evidently included this to help his Christian readers see that Israel and the church are distinct.

"The real point is the incompatibility of the two pieces of cloth, and the contrast of new and old is implicit. … Whereas in Mk. the deficiencies of Judaism cannot be mended simply by a Christian 'patch', in Lk. the emphasis is on the impossibility of trying to graft something Christian onto Judaism."[448]

Another less popular interpretation understands the old to represent Jesus' conduct as the fulfillment of God's desire, and the new as the Pharisees' deviant position.

"In effect then, Jesus interprets his behaviors, which are questionable and innovative to some onlookers, as manifestations of God's ancient purpose coming to fruition, while the concerns of the Pharisees are rejected not only as innovative but also as quite inconsistent with God's program."[449]

5:37-38      The second illustration adds the fact that the new order, which Jesus had come to bring, has an inherently expanding and potentially explosive quality. The gospel and Christianity would expand to the whole world. Judaism simply could not contain what Jesus was bringing, since it had become too rigid due to centuries of accumulated tradition. Here Luke's account is very close to Mark's.

5:39           Only Luke included this statement. Jesus' point was that most people who have grown accustomed to the old order are content with it, and do not prefer the new. They tend to assume that the old is better because it is old. This was particularly true of the Jewish religious leaders, who regarded Jesus' teaching as new and inferior to what was old.

"There is in religious people a kind of passion for the old. Nothing moves more slowly than a Church.[450]

"We should never be afraid of new methods. That a thing has always been done may very well be the best reason for stopping doing it. That a thing has never been done may very well be the best reason for trying it. … Let us have a care that in thought and in action we are not hidebound reactionaries when we ought, as Christians, to be gallant adventurers."[451]

Jesus contrasted four pairs of things that do not mix in this pericope. They are: feasting and fasting, a new patch and an old garment, new wine and old wineskins, and new wine and old wine. His point was that His new way, and the old way that the Jewish leaders followed and promoted, were unmixable. The religious leaders refused to even try Jesus' way, believing that their old way was better.

5.     Jesus' authority over the Sabbath 6:1-5 (cf. Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28)

The final two instances of confrontation with the Pharisees that Luke recorded involved Sabbath observance. The Sabbath was one of Judaism's main institutions, and Jesus' violation of traditional views on Sabbath observance brought the religious leaders' antagonism toward Him to a climax. Here was a case in point that Jesus' new way could not exist with Judaism's old way. Sabbath observance had its roots not only in the Mosaic Law but in creation. Furthermore its recurrence every seventh day made it a subject of constant attention. Jesus' authority over the Sabbath showed that He was "Lord of the Sabbath," and therefore God.

"The interesting thing about Jesus' approach is that He was not simply arguing that repressive regulations should be relaxed and a more liberal attitude adopted: He was saying that His opponents had missed the whole point of this holy day. Had they understood it they would have seen that deeds of mercy such as His were not merely permitted—they were obligatory (cf. Jn. 7:23f.)."[452]

6:1-2          Mark recorded that the Pharisees directed their question to Jesus, but Luke wrote that they asked Jesus and His disciples (plural "you" in the Greek text). Jesus responded to their question (v. 3). Thus Luke showed his readers Jesus' position as the Master who comes to the defense of His disciples. Luke alone also mentioned the disciples "rubbing" the ears of grain "in their hands," probably in order to give his readers a more vivid picture of what really happened.

The Mosaic Law permitted people to glean from the fields as they passed through them (Deut. 23:25). However, the Pharisees chose to view the disciples' gleaning as harvesting, and their rubbing the grain in their hands as threshing and winnowing, and thus preparing a meal. The Pharisees considered all these practices inappropriate for the Sabbath.

6:3-4          Jesus drew an analogy from Scripture (cf. 1 Sam. 21:1-9). The Pharisees had obviously read the story of David, but they had not seen what it meant.

"It is possible to read scripture meticulously, to know the Bible inside out from cover to cover, to be able to quote it verbatim and to pass any examination on it—and yet completely to miss its real meaning. Why did the Pharisees miss the meaning—and why do we so often miss it? … When we read God's book we must bring to it the open mind and the needy heart—and then to us also it will be the greatest book in the world."[453]

Jesus' point was twofold: first, that ceremonial traditions are secondary to divine service. What David did was contrary to the Pharisees' understanding of what the Mosaic Law required (Lev. 24:9), yet Scripture did not condemn him for what he did (cf. 2 Chron. 30:18-20). What Jesus' disciples did was not contrary to the divine intent of the Mosaic Law, so the Pharisees should not have condemned them for what they did.

Why did the Scriptures not condemn David for what he did? They did not because David was meeting a human need. God permitted him to violate what, to the Pharisees, appeared to be the letter of the law, but not the true intent of the law, without condemnation. Therefore the Son of Man (v. 5), who is superior to David, had the right to set aside a Pharisaic tradition, not a divine law, in the service of God.

"Just as, when David acted in this way, it is to be understood that he interpreted the true intention of the enscripturated will of God, so also it should be understood that when the Son of Man makes provision for his disciples on the Sabbath, he is not violating the Sabbath but as Lord of the Sabbath revealing its true significance."[454]

Suppose you are sitting in your vehicle at a stoplight waiting for it to change from red to green. As you glance in your rearview mirror, you notice a large truck bearing down on you from behind. It seems inevitable that the driver cannot stop in time to avoid plowing into you and pushing you into the unoccupied intersection. You have to make a quick decision: will you simply sit there and wait for the inevitable collision, or will you drive ahead, through the red light, and avoid an accident. The Pharisees would say you should stay where you are, because you must not drive through a red light—it's the law. Jesus would say you should drive through and get out of the way of the oncoming truck, because human welfare is more important than obeying a stoplight—if you have to choose between one or the other.

"The point the Lord Jesus was emphasizing is this that man is more important in the eyes of God than any ritual observance."[455]

"God cares more for the proper spiritual condition of the heart than for the outward observance of his own ceremonial regulations."[456]

6:5             Jesus' second point was that the Son of Man (cf. 5:24), because of who He is ("Lord of the Sabbath"), has the right to violate the Sabbath. Jesus was not violating the Sabbath by doing what He did, but He had the right to do so. This was another claim to divine authority, an emphasis that we have seen running through this part of Luke's Gospel. God is greater than the laws that He has imposed, and He can change them when He chooses to do so.

"David did not allow cultic regulations to stand in the way of fulfilling his divine calling of becoming king of Israel. Jesus has a similar mission which makes him 'Lord of the Sabbath,' one who is authorized to decide when Sabbath regulations must be set aside to fulfill a greater divine purpose."[457]

This incident should elevate the readers' appreciation of Jesus' authority to new heights in Luke.

This is the first of seven incidents that the Gospel evangelists recorded in which Jesus came into conflict with the Jewish religious leaders over Sabbath observance. The chart below lists them in probable chronological order:

 

Sabbath Controversies

Event

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

The disciples plucked ears of grain in Galilee.

12:1-8

2:23-28

6:1-5

 

Jesus healed a paralytic at the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.

 

 

 

5:1-18

Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in Capernaum.

12:9-14

3:1-6

6:6-11

 

Jesus referred to the Jews circumcising on the Sabbath.

 

 

 

7:22-23

Jesus healed a man born blind in Jerusalem.

 

 

 

9:1-34

Jesus healed a woman bent over in Judea.

 

 

13:10-17

 

Jesus healed a man with dropsy in Perea.

 

 

14:1-6

 

 

6.     Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath 6:6-11 (cf. Matt. 12: 9-14; Mark 3:1-6)

This incident happened on a different Sabbath from the one in the preceding pericope (v. 6). Note the similar terms that Luke used to introduce both events. He evidently placed it here in his narrative because it builds on the idea of Jesus' authority over the Sabbath, and it advances it even further than the previous pericope does. As the authoritative Son of Man, Jesus declared that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Both incidents involved a controversy about the question: What is more important, ceremonial law or human need?

The Pharisees believed that it was unlawful to do virtually anything on the Sabbath, though they hypocritically did good for themselves but not for others. They did, however, permit life-saving measures, midwifery, and circumcision on the Sabbath.[458] Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath showed that the attitude of the religious leaders was wrong. They really had little compassion for needy people. They did not love their neighbors as themselves.

6:6-8          Luke again noted the primacy of Jesus' teaching over His performing miracles (cf. 4:15-16, 31-33). He also mentioned that it was the right hand of the man that was useless, which was a detail of particular interest to a doctor. This detail shows the seriousness of the man's case. Most people are right-handed. By now the religious leaders (cf. v. 7) were looking for an occasion to criticize Jesus publicly, believing that they had a case against Him. Jesus probably "knew what they were thinking" (v. 8) at least because their intentions were now clear (cf. 5:22). Or He could have known their thoughts because He was a prophet. Morris believed that Luke was emphasizing Jesus' deity by writing that He knew their thoughts.[459] Jesus consciously provoked conflict by calling the man forward for healing. His initiative demonstrates His authority and His sovereignty.

6:9             Jesus' question had two parts: He first asked if it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or if it was lawful to do evil. The obvious answer was that doing good was lawful but doing evil was not lawful. God had instituted the Sabbath for the welfare of humankind. God's attitude of love should have characterized the scribes and Pharisees as they observed the day. They, too, should have made it a special day for the blessing of people. The second part of Jesus' question particularized it and pointed to its ultimate consequences. Obviously Jesus was speaking about saving a life (Gr. psyche) from physical destruction, not saving a soul from eternal damnation.

"Jesus' approach to Sabbath keeping is governed by the conviction that love of God is inseparably linked to love of neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). Therefore, that which dishonors my neighbor cannot honor God, and that which leaves my neighbor in his suffering can only be evil."[460]

6:10           There was only one answer that the religious leaders could give. It was lawful to do good and unlawful to do evil on the Sabbath. However, they refused to answer because their answer virtually would have given Jesus their approval to heal the man. They did not want to do that because they wanted to maintain their traditional abstinence from Sabbath activities. Jesus proceeded to do good and healed the man's hand, but He did so without performing any physical work. There was nothing that the critics could point to, as an act that Jesus performed, for which they could condemn Him. This method of healing pointed to Jesus being a prophet sent from God, at least, and to His being God, at most.

Even though most Christians do not observe the Sabbath the way the Jews did, most Christians do set aside a day, or a portion of a day, in which they worship the Lord. Jesus' practices on the Sabbath should help Christians understand how we should observe a special day of worship and rest.

"Jesus' words and actions teach us quite plainly that we should every Lord's day (and indeed on every other day) place ourselves wholly at His disposal to perform works of love and mercy wherever and in whatever way it may be possible. We may not consecrate the day of rest in a merely passive manner, but must be active in His service and thus through Him be of use to those who suffer and need help, spiritually as well as physically."[461]

6:11           Understandably, the response of Jesus' critics was violent. "Senseless rage" translates the Greek word anoia, which refers to want of understanding, folly (cf. 2 Tim. 3:9).

"He humiliated the religious leaders and healed the man all at the same time without even breaking the Pharisees' law. It is no wonder that the religious establishment was furious and sought a way to get rid of Him."[462]

Verse 11 is the climax of Luke's section that describes the beginning of Jesus' controversy with the religious leaders (5:12—6:11). This event occurred nearly two years before Jesus' crucifixion.[463] Luke did not say that this incident led the religious leaders to plot Jesus' death, as Matthew and Mark did. The intensity of the conflict did not interest Luke as much as Jesus' sovereign authority over His enemies.

C.     Jesus' teaching of His disciples 6:12-49

Luke gave his readers an overview of Jesus' ministry (4:14—5:11), and then presented Jesus' relationship to His opponents (5:12—6:11). Next Luke described Jesus' relationship with His disciples (6:12-49). He arranged his material in order to identify the disciples first, and then he summarized what Jesus taught them.

There is some similarity between Luke's narrative and the account of Moses ascending Mt. Sinai, when he received the law from God, and then descending and teaching it to the people (Exod. 19; 32; 34).[464] Perhaps Luke intended the reader to recognize the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:18 in this similarity.

1.     The selection of 12 disciples 6:12-16 (cf. Mark 3:13-19)

Luke prefaced Jesus' teaching of His followers with an introduction of His most intimate disciples.

"It is clear that for Luke an important stage in the founding of the church is to be seen here, the choice of those from among the company of Jesus' companions from the beginning of his ministry who were to be in a special sense the witnesses to his resurrection and the messengers of the gospel."[465]

6:12           Jesus' choice of the Twelve followed His conflict with the Jewish leaders. Luke implied that that hostility played a part in Jesus' decision to spend the night in prayer before selecting these apostles. In view of mounting hostility, it was imperative that He receive direction from His Father in this choice. A mountain (or hill) was a traditional place to pray, since it provided seclusion, and its elevation gave the person praying a special sense of nearness to God. Luke alone mentioned Jesus' all-night prayer vigil. It shows Jesus' conscious dependence on God, which is a special emphasis in the third Gospel. The early church followed Jesus' example of praying (Acts 13:2; 14:23; cf. Acts 1:2, 24-26; 6:6).

"Nowhere else is such a sustained period of prayer attributed to Jesus. Acts 1:2 establishes an equivalence between prayer here and the guidance of the Spirit."[466]

6:13-16      Jesus selected the Twelve from the larger group of learners who followed Him around (cf. Matt. 10:2-4; Acts 1:13).

"It is probable that the selection of a limited number to be His close and constant companions had become a necessity to Christ, in consequence of His very success in gaining disciples."[467]

Only Luke mentioned that Jesus called the Twelve "apostles" (lit. sent ones, i.e., authorized representatives), though Matthew and Mark both referred to the Twelve as apostles. Luke used this term six times in this Gospel (6:13; 9:10; 11:49; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10) and 28 times in Acts. Each of the other synoptic evangelists used it only once. This fact reflects Luke's continuing interest in the mission that Jesus began and continued through these apostles and the whole church (Acts 1:1-2). The fact that Jesus chose 12 apostles at this time, probably suggests continuity in God's plan of salvation, because the 12 apostles in one sense replaced the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob). However, I believe the many points of discontinuity with Israel are just as important and make the equating of Israel and the church impossible (cf. Eph. 2).

Luke's list contains the same individuals as those that Matthew and Mark have given us, with some variation in the order. Also, some men evidently had two names (Simon/Peter; Thaddaeus/Judas, the son or brother of James; and Simon the Cananaean/Simon the Zealot). Only Luke called Judas Iscariot "a traitor."

 

 

Matt. 10:2-4

 

Mark 3:16-19

 

Luke 6:14-16

 

Acts 1:13

1.

Simon Peter

Simon Peter

Simon Peter

Peter

2.

Andrew

James

Andrew

John

3.

James

John

James

James

4.

John

Andrew

John

Andrew

5.

Philip

Philip

Philip

Philip

6.

Bartholomew

Bartholomew

Bartholomew

Thomas

7.

Thomas

Matthew

Matthew

Bartholomew

8.

Matthew

Thomas

Thomas

Matthew

9.

James, son of Alphaeus

James, son of Alphaeus

James, son of Alphaeus

James, son of Alphaeus

10.

Thaddaeus

Thaddaeus

Judas, son or brother of James

Judas, son or brother of James

11.

Simon the Cananaean

Simon the Cananaean

Simon the Zealot

Simon the Zealot

12.

Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot

 

 

"It does not take a great man to make a good witness, and to be witnesses of Christian facts was the main business of the apostles.[468]

"Far from regretting that all were not Peters and Johns, it is rather a matter to be thankful for, that there were diversities of gifts among the first preachers of the gospel. As a general rule, it is not good when all are leaders. Little men are needed as well as great men; for human nature is one-sided, and little men have their peculiar virtues and gifts, and can do some things better than their more celebrated brethren."[469]

2.     The assembling of the people 6:17-19 (cf. Matt. 5:1-2)

The similarities between the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5—7, and what Luke recorded in 6:20-49, seem to suggest that Luke condensed that Sermon. However, the introductions to the two sections have led many students of these passages to conclude that Jesus gave two different addresses on two separate occasions. Harmonization of the introductions is possible, and this would point to one sermon that Luke edited more severely than Matthew did.[470] Matthew wrote that Jesus was on a mountainside when He delivered this address (Matt. 5:1), but Luke said that He was on a level place (v. 17). Some prefer to call this teaching the Sermon on the Plain. Judea here refers to the whole Roman province (cf. 3:1; 4:44). The place where Jesus gave this sermon is the major problem in harmonizing the two accounts.[471]

Apparently Jesus went up on a mountain near Capernaum to pray all night (v. 12). There, in the morning, He selected the Twelve (v. 13; cf. Mark 3:13-14). Then He descended to a level place where He met a large crowd that had come to hear Him and to receive healing (vv. 17-19). Luke tells us that they came from all Judea and from as far away as Jerusalem to the south, and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon to the north (v. 17). Such a site as Luke described exists near Capernaum.[472] Next Jesus apparently went back up the mountainside to get away from the huge crowd (Matt. 5:1a). There His disciples came to Him and He taught them (Matt. 5:1b-2).

As the sermon progressed, more people made their way up the mountainside and began listening to what Jesus was teaching (Matt. 7:28; Luke 7:1; cf. Matt. 7:24; Luke 6:46-47).[473] Another possibility is that the place where Jesus preached may have been a level place in a mountainous region (cf. Isa. 13:2; Jer. 21:13).[474] I believe the two sermons were really one and that Luke provided a condensed version of it.

Power was coming from Jesus (v. 19) refers to the power of the Holy Spirit that was manifested in Jesus' ministry.

Luke's emphasis in this section was on Jesus' widespread appeal, together with His willingness to give of Himself freely to help those who came to Him in need.

3.     The Sermon on the Mount 6:20-49

Luke's version of this important address, which was primarily aimed at Jesus' disciples, is much shorter than Matthew's (Matt. 5:3—7:29). Luke presented Jesus' instruction of His disciples (6:20-49) as immediately following His selection of the Twelve (6:12-16), verses 17 through 19 being transitional. Matthew's account contains 137 verses, whereas Luke's has only 30. Both accounts begin with beatitudes, contain the same general content, and end with the same parables. However, Luke edited out the teachings that have distinctively Jewish appeal, specifically Jesus' interpretations of the Mosaic Law, which were legal matters. These parts had less significance for an audience of predominantly Gentile Christians.

"Luke's including the Sermon in a form that relates to Gentiles shows the message is timeless."[475]

"The sermon on the mount sets forth the principles that should control the disciples during the time of His absence, while still rejected by the world. It would be foolish to say that it only applies to the millennium, because it predicates conditions which will not prevail then."[476]

The choices of disciples 6:20-26

Matthew recorded nine beatitudes, but Luke included only four. Matthew gave no woes, but Luke recorded four. The four beatitudes precede the four woes, and the beatitudes parallel the woes in thought. The beatitudes are positive and the woes are correspondingly negative (cf. Ps. 1; Isa. 5:8-23).

Two types of disciples are in view throughout this section of the sermon: the poor and oppressed, and the rich and popular. The first type can anticipate God satisfying their needs, but the second type should expect divine judgment. The comparisons call on the disciples to consider which group that they want to be in. Matthew's beatitudes are more ethical in principle, and they describe what a disciple of Jesus ought to be. Luke's beatitudes describe the actual condition of the two types of disciples, and the consequences of those conditions. A beatitude is an acknowledgment of a fortunate state of being (cf. Ps. 1:1; Prov. 14:21; 16:20; 29:18). They depreciate the world's values by exalting what the world despises and rejecting what the world admires.[477]

The Beatitudes 6:20-23 (cf. Matt. 5:3-10)

6:20           Clearly Jesus' disciples were the primary objects of His instruction in this sermon (cf. vv. 13-19).

"Blessed" (Gr. makarios) in this context describes the happy contented condition of someone whom God has granted His special favor.[478] Luke's original Greek readers would have been familiar with the word.

"Originally in Greek usage the word described the happy estate of the gods above earthly sufferings and labors."[479]

Poor disciples are those who have given up what the world offers in order to follow Jesus faithfully (cf. Deut. 33:29; Ps. 2:12; 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; 112:1). Some of Jesus' disciples had already done this (cf. 5:11, 28). Such disciples characteristically look to God for their needs, rather than to themselves or the world. The parallel passage in Matthew clarifies that spiritual poverty, namely, a recognition of one's spiritual need, is at the root of this physically poor disciple's thinking ("poor in spirit"; Matt. 5:3).

"They rely on God and they must rely on Him, for they have nothing of their own on which to rely … The rich of this world often are self-reliant"[480]

The second part of each beatitude explains why the person in view is blessed (or happy). Disciples who forego the wealth of the present world order, in order to follow Jesus faithfully, have Jesus' promise that they will enjoy the benefits of the coming world order, namely, the earthly messianic kingdom. Jesus' disciples are better off poor now, yet having a part in the coming earthly kingdom, than being rich now and having no part in that future kingdom.

"Human society perpetuates structures of injustice and exclusion, but God intervenes on the side of the oppressed. The disruptive effect of this intervention is often presented in Luke as a reversal of the structures of society: those with power, status, and riches are put down and those without them are exalted. This reversal was proclaimed in the Magnificat (1:51-53). A similar overturn of the established order was anticipated in Simeon's prophecy that Jesus 'is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel' (2:34)."[481]

"At face value, it appears that Jesus was making a blanket promise of salvation and blessing to anyone and everyone below the poverty line (6:20). Some have adopted just such an interpretation and have felt a special call to aim their ministries at the downtrodden. In this view, the poor are seen as God's chosen people. Though they suffer in this world, and perhaps because they suffer now, they can expect glorious blessing in the world to come. And the adherents of this view believe that while in this world the people of God should do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In this way the kingdom of God is extended."[482]

6:21           Following Jesus as His disciple also involved feeling hungry occasionally. However, Jesus promised ultimate satisfaction to those who chose discipleship. To those less fortunate, discipleship then and now sometimes involved and involves giving away some money that one might use for food or other necessities. Sometimes students preparing for ministry have to live on meager rations in order to pay other bills associated with their commitment to study God's Word and serve Him.

Likewise discipleship involves weeping and sorrow, but laughter will come eventually. Messianic kingdom conditions are again in view. In one sense, a disciple is to rejoice always (1 Thess. 5:16). However, in another sense the sin that surrounds us, and the hardness of the hearts of people with whom we share the gospel, are constant sources of sorrow. Hunger and weeping often accompany poverty (v. 20).

6:22-23      Various forms of persecution will give way to ultimate reward and consequent joy. Note the logical progression in verse 22: from hatred, to ostracism (i.e., excommunication and social exclusion[483]), to insults, and finally to character assassination. Luke recorded in Acts that all these forms of persecution overtook the early Christians. The New Testament epistles also warn Christians about them (e.g., 1 John 3:13; 1 Pet. 4:14; James 2:7). Not just the prophets of old, but also Jesus Himself experienced these persecutions. Disciples can expect the same. God will vindicate them eventually and reward them for their faithfulness (cf. 12:37, 42-44; 18:1-8).

The use of the title Son of Man here is significant, since it combines the ideas of Jesus as God and as man. Discipleship involves commitment to Jesus as the God-man. The disciples who first heard this beatitude had not yet experienced much persecution for Jesus' sake, but they would shortly. "In heaven" (v. 23) focuses on the ultimate destiny of the disciple. "Heaven" is an alternative expression for "God," which Luke and Jesus used frequently. To be in heaven is to be with God.

The Woes 6:24-26

6:24           The woes contrast with the beatitudes, both in content and in the structure of the passage (cf. 1:53). They address those disciples who refuse to give up all in order to follow Jesus, or who face the temptation to draw back from following Him faithfully (cf. vv. 46-49). This section of the sermon begins with a word of strong contrast: But (Gr. plen). "Woe" means "Alas," (NEB) or "How terrible," (TEV) and it introduces an expression of pity for those who are under divine judgment.[484]

Disciples who choose present riches over identification with the Son of Man are pitiable, because they can expect no greater riches from His hand in the future. The context clarifies that Jesus was not condemning the rich simply for being rich. He was warning those who were choosing present riches at the expense of total commitment to Him as His disciples. Wealth tempts people to think that they need nothing beyond money (cf. 12:19).

"Riches almost inescapably (18:25) ensnare those who possess them in a false set of values and loyalties which involve a foreshortened perspective in which love for the things of this world proves to be greater than desire for the kingdom of God (18:23)."[485]

6:25           Similarly, eating well and laughing are not wrong in themselves. However, if a person decides not to follow Jesus because he prefers a fuller stomach, and greater happiness, than he believes that he would have if he followed Jesus, he makes a bad choice. He is a fool for giving up what he cannot lose, to get what he cannot keep (cf. Isa. 65:13-14; James 4:9).

6:26           The opposite of experiencing persecution (vv. 22-23) is having everyone speak well of you. Disciples who discover that everyone thinks that all they are doing is just fine, need to examine their commitment to Jesus Christ. Unbelievers naturally disagree with and oppose, to some extent, those who follow God's will faithfully, because they hold different values. Jesus' experience (rejection, opposition, persecution, deprivation) is what all of His disciples can expect to relive to some extent. False prophets often win wide acclaim (cf. Jer. 5:31).

The conduct of disciples 6:27-38 (cf. Matt. 5:43-48; 7:1-2)

Jesus' explanation of the importance of true righteousness was the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, as Matthew narrated it (Matt. 5:17—7:12). The need of love is the heart of this sermon according to Luke. Matthew reported that Jesus spoke of true righteousness in relation to three things: the Scriptures (Matt. 5:17-48), the Father (Matt. 6:1-18), and the world (Matt. 6:19—7:12). Luke omitted Jesus' teaching on the relationship of true righteousness to the Father, which included instruction about ostentation (Matt. 6:1), alms-giving (Matt. 6:2-4), praying (Matt. 6:5-15), and fasting (6:16-18). The first of these sections laid down a basic principle, and the last three dealt with the so-called "three pillars of Jewish piety."[486] Luke recorded some of Jesus' teachings on these subjects elsewhere in his Gospel.

In the section dealing with the relationship of true righteousness to the Scriptures, Luke recorded only one of Jesus' revelations. He combined Jesus' teaching about God's will concerning love (Matt. 5:43-47), and the importance of loving the brethren (Matt. 7:1-5). At this point, Luke passed over Jesus' explanation of His view of the Old Testament, and His revelations about God's will concerning murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and His summary of the disciple's duty.

As we have noted previously, one of Luke's main concerns, as is clear from his selection of material, was his concern for people. He did not present Jesus' teaching about love contrasted with rabbinic distortions of the Old Testament, as Matthew did (Matt. 5:43-44). Rather he stressed Jesus' positive command, the Golden Rule, which Matthew included later in his version of the sermon (Matt. 7:12). Luke recorded Jesus identifying seven actions that reveal true love in a disciple. These are all impossible to produce naturally; they require supernatural enablement. Demonstration of this kind of love reveals true righteousness in a disciple: righteousness imparted by God and enlivened by His Spirit.

"Verses 27-31 identify behaviors becoming those who have fully embraced Jesus' message, while vv 31-38 summarize those behaviors and develop their motivational bases."[487]

6:27-28      Love (Gr. agape) involves demonstrating genuine concern for the welfare of another person, regardless of that one's attractiveness or ability to return love (cf. Rom. 12:14-21). The enemies in view would be people who oppose disciples because of their commitment to Jesus. To bless (Gr. eulogeite) here means to wish someone well, contrasted with cursing or wishing someone evil. Pray (Gr. proseuchesthe, the general word for prayer) in this context means asking God to do them good when they do you evil.

"The call for love of enemy is in itself not as uniquely Christian as is sometimes maintained."[488]

Nolland and Barclay cited numerous examples of this call to love one's enemies in the Old Testament and in secular sources before the time of Jesus.[489]

6:29-30      Disciples should not resist the violent attacks of their opponents. The attack may be an insult (cf. Matt. 5:39) or a violent punch on the jaw (Gr. siagon).[490] In either case, this is an attack on the disciple's person. An attack against his family members might require their defense, though not with more than defensive action against the attacker. Disciples need to guard themselves against pride, which sometimes masquerades as chivalry, while at the same time defending those in their care and trying not to overreact against the attacker.

Taking the outer cloak (Gr. himation) implies that the setting is a street robbery. In legal disputes, the undergarment (Gr. chiton, cf. Matt. 5:40) more often went to the victor. Luke pictured a robber taking an outer garment. The person being attacked should offer the robber his undergarment (undershirt) also. Matthew conversely pictured a lawsuit, in which an enemy sues the disciple for his undergarment, and the disciple offers his outer garment. In this whole section, Luke described what was more typical in the Gentile world, and Matthew what was more common among Jews.

"The Christian should never refrain from giving out of a love for his possessions."[491]

"The teaching of the passage as a whole relates not so much to passivity in the face of evil as to concern for the other person."[492]

In refraining from doing evil, the disciple may suffer evil. This is how Jesus behaved and what He experienced (23:34; cf. 1 Pet. 2:20-24). It is what He taught His disciples to do, and to expect as well.

6:31           This hyperbolic command summarizes the duty of a disciple regarding love of enemies—and all people for that matter. We should be willing and ready to sacrifice ourselves, and what we have, for the welfare of others. This "Golden Rule" was not original with Jesus, though He made it positive and strengthened it (cf. Tobit 4:15; Lev. 19:18).[493]

"In Hellenistic discussion of ethics, it [the Golden Rule] was ordinarily contextualized within an ethic of consistency and reciprocity: act in such-and-such a way so that you will be treated analogously [the same way]."[494]

6:32-34      Jesus next compared the courtesies that non-disciples extend to others with those that His disciples should extend. He proceeded from the general concept of loving (v. 32), to the more concrete expression of it, as doing good (v. 33), to the specific example of lending (v. 34). His point was that disciples should not only love their enemies, but also love and express their love to their friends—more than other people do.

The seven actions that Jesus commanded in verses 27-31 are the following: (1) Love your enemies; (2) do good to those who hate you; (3) bless those who curse you; and (4) pray for those who mistreat you; (5) do not retaliate when others attack you; (6) give freely to those who ask of you; and (7) treat others the way you would want them to treat you. This type of love makes a disciple stand out as distinctive (vv. 32-34), and it is the type of love that God shows and enables the disciple to demonstrate (v. 35).

6:35-36      But (Gr. plen) introduces another strong contrast (cf. v. 23). Rather than loving, doing good, and lending, as other people do with a desire to receive in return, the disciple should do these things with no thought of receiving back. That is how God gives, and it is therefore how His children should give. Jesus promised a great reward for disciples who do this.

"Within Luke's world, the question of making a bargain with God would hardly have been in the foreground in discourse about the ethic outlined here. Of much greater significance would be the way Jesus has just subverted a key organizing factor of the Roman Empire—namely, patronal ethics. The Empire was an intrusive, suffocating web of obligation, with resources deployed so as to maintain social equilibrium, with the elite in every village, town, city, and region, and of the Empire as a whole given esteem due them in light of their role as benefactors. If God, and not the emperor, is identified as the Great Benefactor, the Patron, and if people are to act without regard to cycles of obligation, then the politics (legitimation, distribution, and exercise of power) of the Empire is sabotaged."[495]

The children of God can demonstrate their relationship to "the Most High" by behaving as He behaves. The use of this name for God highlights the disciple's exalted position. Mercy toward all people should typify disciples' attitudes and actions—despite the ingratitude, wickedness, and enmity of the recipients—just as it typifies God's, who continually gives rain to the unjust, not only to the just. This emphasis accords with Luke's concern for people in need (cf. 10:25-37). Matthew's interest, on the other hand, was in God's perfect righteousness (cf. Matt. 5:48; 19:21).

6:37-38      These verses explain what it means to "be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (v. 36). The first two examples are negative and the second two are positive. A judgmental attitude is not merciful. However, some judging is necessary, so Jesus clarified that He specifically meant condemning other people. Judgment and condemnation are essentially God's functions, not man's. In contrast to condemning, a merciful person pardons others. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was addressing interpersonal behavior, not the judicial system. Giving to others is also merciful behavior. What a person sows, he or she will normally reap—for evil or for good (cf. Gal. 6:7). Disciples will discover that they will receive back the same treatment that they have dispensed abundantly, from God if not from other people.

"The saying here may appear to speak in terms of strict retribution, but the thought is rather that human generosity is rewarded with divine generosity, not with a precisely equivalent gift from God."[496]

"Jesus' followers give freely, without dragging others and especially those in need into the quagmire of never-ending cycles of repayment and liability."[497]

The character of disciples 6:39-49

In the previous sections of the sermon, Jesus addressed the choices that disciples make and their conduct. In this section spoke of the character from which those things spring. He used five parables (comparisons) in order to teach these lessons.

The parable of the blind guide 6:39-42 (cf. Matt. 7:3-5)

6:39           In this parable, the leader evidently represents a disciple, and the person led is someone whom the disciple is seeking to guide into the way of life. If the disciple is blind, he will not be able to help other blind non-disciples find their way. Both disciple and non-disciple will stumble tragically. On another occasion, Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides (Matt. 15:14). However, here He compared His disciples to blind guides. The disciples could become blind guides if they did not follow Jesus' instructions about loving (vv. 27-38).

"This is the only use of the term parable concerning the metaphors in the Sermon on the Mount. But in both Matthew and Luke's report of the discourse there are some sixteen possible applications of the word."[498]

6:40           Changing the figure momentarily, Jesus compared a disciple of His to a teacher. It is proverbial that a pupil cannot rise above his teacher in knowledge. The fact that some pupils do excel their teachers is an exception to the rule. The people whom the disciples would instruct in the truth that Jesus taught them would normally advance no further than the disciples. This was especially true before the widespread availability of books.[499] Therefore it was imperative that the disciples pay careful attention to Jesus' teachings about love and apply them. The progress of the disciples' learners depended on it.

6:41-42      Jesus returned to the figure of limited perception (v. 39). It would be easy for a disciple to criticize those that he was instructing, and fail to realize his own faults, since he was in the position of a teacher (v. 40). It would be not only dangerous but hypocritical to try to help a learner overcome his deficiencies, without first dealing with one's own failings. If a disciple tried to teach his learner the importance of loving as Jesus taught, but did not practice that kind of love himself, he could not remove his learner's knowledge deficiency. His sin would be greater than his learner's ignorance.

"That simply means that we have no right to criticize at all, because 'there is so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us that it ill becomes any of us to find fault with the rest of us.'"[500]

Thus Jesus stressed the importance of His disciples applying the truths that He had taught them before they tried to teach them to other people. Their failure to do so would make them the spiritual equivalent of blind eye surgeons. They would be judging others but not themselves (v. 37; cf. Rom. 2:1-3).

The parable of the two trees 6:43-44 (cf. Matt. 7:15-20)

Jesus' point in this parable was that a person of bad character cannot normally produce good conduct (cf. Matt. 12:33-35). Therefore His disciples needed to clean up their lives before they could minister for Him effectively. Like a pupil follows the example of his teacher (v. 40), so fruit from a tree follows the nature of that tree. In the Matthew parallel, Jesus applied the parable to false teachers, but here it stands by itself and applies in this context to disciples of His. Conduct follows character as surely as fruit follows root, for good and for bad (cf. James 3:12). The conduct of Christians is sometimes bad, rather than good, because their character is still sinful. Disciples are not totally good or totally bad.

"The text indicates that although fruit may not be a certain indicator, it can be a suggestive one."[501]

"In Luke's (pre-Freudian) world, a person's 'inside' is accessible not through his or her psychology but through his or her social interactions."[502]

The parable of the two men 6:45 (cf. Matt. 12:35)

This short parable makes more explicit the same point about human conduct that Jesus had just made about trees (cf. Matt. 12:35). The conduct of people typically follows from their character, for good or for bad (cf. 3:7-9). The man's treasure is his heart. What makes the heart good is proper orientation to Jesus as a disciple. The good man has chosen to follow Jesus faithfully as His disciple, but the evil man has decided to pursue worldly wealth and happiness. A person's speech normally expresses what fills his heart.

The parable of the two claims 6:46 (cf. Matt. 7:21-23)

This is a very brief condensation of a parable that Matthew recorded more fully. Matthew's interest in it connects with the mention of false teachers that occurs in the context of his account of the sermon. Luke simply lifted the main point of the teaching out and inserted it in his account. His interest was primarily Jesus' warning to disciples to apply His teaching to their lives. Profession of discipleship is one thing, but what identifies a true disciple of Jesus is actually doing God's will (cf. James 1:22-25).

A disciple cannot legitimately refer to Jesus as his or her Lord and ignore what He teaches. The double title ("Lord, Lord") was common in Judaism to strengthen the form of the address (cf. Gen. 22:11; 46:2; Exod. 3:4; 1 Sam. 3:10). Here it implies great honor. "Lord" was a respectful address, as we have noted, but in view of who Jesus was it came to imply the highest respect. Used intelligently it implied deity, messiahship, and sovereignty. However, everyone who used this title, even Jesus' disciples, did not always imply all of this when they used it, especially before Jesus' resurrection and ascension.

The parable of the two builders 6:47-49 (cf. Matt. 7:24-27)

This final parable is an appeal to the hearers, who were primarily Jesus' disciples (v. 20), to obey the teaching that they had heard (cf. James 1:21-25; Ezek. 13:10-16). As such, it is a conclusion to the whole sermon. Luke omitted the response of the people, which Matthew mentioned.

Jesus compared a disciple who heard His teachings, and then put them into practice, to a house built on a solid foundation ("rock"). Luke stressed the digging of a proper foundation. Perhaps he had Hellenistic houses with basements in mind.[503] The floodwaters represent the forces of enemies and temptations that threaten to move the disciple away from these moorings, perhaps even divine testing. The disciple who does not both hear and apply Jesus' teachings, specifically what He had just taught about commitment choices and loving conduct, could anticipate ruin. It is as foolish to hear Jesus' teachings without obeying Him as it is to build a house without first laying a solid foundation.

"… in Matthew the difference between the two men is that they chose different sites on which to build; here they differ in what they do on the sites."[504]

"In every decision in life there is a short view and a long view. Happy is the man who never barters future good for present pleasure. Happy is the man who sees things, not in the light of the moment, but in the light of eternity."[505]

Throughout this sermon, Jesus was not contrasting believers and unbelievers, but disciples who followed Him and those who did not. The Gospel writers were not too concerned about identifying the moment when a person placed saving faith in Jesus and passed from death to life. This became a greater concern to the writers of the New Testament epistles. However, even they were not as interested in nailing down the moment of regeneration as some Christians sometimes are. Jesus and the Gospel writers put more emphasis on the importance of people making decisions to follow Jesus, to learn from Him, and to become wholehearted participants with Him in His mission. That was particularly Luke's interest in relating what Jesus taught His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. I am not depreciating the vital importance of trusting in Jesus in a moment of saving faith. But normally learning from Jesus precedes that moment. In view of the disciples' backgrounds they needed to be prepared to recognize and acknowledge Jesus for who He was and to place saving faith in Him. The same is true of most people.

D.     Jesus' compassion for people ch. 7

This section of Luke's Gospel records Jesus revealing Himself further to people. Luke presented Him as the fulfillment of prophecies about God's gracious intervention into earthly life (e.g., Isa. 61:1-2a; cf. Luke 4:18). Jesus met many needs of people, both physical and spiritual. Luke pictured Jesus showing compassion on a Gentile, a widow, and a sinful woman. The multitudes generally regarded these gracious acts as evidences of a divine visitation. However, the Pharisees viewed them with suspicion. The unifying theme of this chapter is Jesus' compassion for people.

"In his ministry Jesus intervenes on the side of the oppressed and excluded, assuring them that they share in God's salvation and defending them against others who want to maintain their own superiority at the expense of such people. The groups for whom Jesus intervenes are not sharply defined and delimited. They include a number of partly overlapping groups. In his ministry Jesus helps the poor, sinners, tax collectors, women, Samaritans, and Gentiles. Each of these groups was excluded or subordinated in the society to which Jesus spoke, and the Lukan narrator seems to be especially interested in Jesus' ministry to these people."[506]

1.     The healing of a centurion's servant 7:1-10 (cf. Matt. 8:5-13)

This incident shows Jesus extending grace to a Gentile through Jewish intermediaries. This story would have helped Luke's original Gentile readers appreciate that Jesus' mission included them as well as the Jews. It is another case in which Jesus commended the faith of someone (cf. 1:45; 5:20). Luke continued to stress Jesus' authority and the power of His word (cf. 4:32, 36). The similarities between this incident and the conversion of Cornelius are striking (cf. Acts 10).

"His story is thus an example of the fact that God is willing to accept all men alike and that everyone who fears him and performs righteousness is acceptable to him ( Acts 10:34f.)."[507]

The good relations between the Jews and this Gentile show their compatibility, which was an important lesson for early Christians, since there were Jewish-Gentile tensions within the early church. Jesus also noted the unbelief that characterized the Jews generally, which is another important reality that the early church had to deal with. In his account of this healing, Matthew, writing to Jews, stressed the inclusion of Gentiles in God's plan, but Luke, writing to Gentiles, emphasized the importance of Gentiles loving Jews.[508]

7:1             This verse is transitional. It helps us appreciate the fact that people generally (Gr. laos), not just disciples, were listening to the Sermon on the Mount—at least the last part of it (cf. Matt. 7:28). The Greek word that Luke used to describe the completion of Jesus' teaching on that occasion is eplerosen, which means "fulfilled." He thus implied that this teaching was a fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah, perhaps that He would preach good news to the poor (4:18; 6:20; Isa. 61:1). The centurion illustrates the proper response to Jesus' authoritative words.

7:2-3          These verses are unique to Luke's account. They give detail about the character of the centurion, who would normally have commanded about 100 soldiers.[509] He had a personal concern for his slave whom he honored and respected (Gr. entimos), which was unusual and commendable. This affectionate regard is also clear in his use of the Greek word pais to describe the servant (v. 7). This word elsewhere sometimes describes a son (John 4:51). The centurion also enjoyed the respect of the Jews in Capernaum, so much so that he felt free to ask some of the local Jewish elders to approach Jesus for him (cf. 1 Tim. 3:7).

"This is a very ancient and common custom. Everything is done by mediation [cf. Num. 22:15-16]."[510]

Normally the Jews did not like the Roman soldiers who occupied their towns.[511] The slave was evidently too sick to bring to Jesus. Luke described him as about to die. Matthew described him as paralyzed and in great pain (Matt. 8:6).

"Likely the centurion was a proselyte of the gate, which meant that he had not yet been baptized and circumcised, nor could he yet offer a sacrifice. Had he been a full proselyte to Judaism he would not have sent the Jewish elders to plead his case."[512]

7:4-5          The village leaders explained to Jesus why they were interceding for the centurion. Their affection for him is obvious and quite untypical, as was a Roman soldier's affection for the Jews. Any person in this centurion's position could have enriched himself honestly.[513] Consequently the fact that he was so generous with the Jewish residents of Capernaum shows his selfless concern for their welfare. Of course, by building their synagogue, the centurion had placed the Jewish residents in his debt, which in that society was expected to require repayment in some form.[514] Early Jewish Christian readers should have concluded that, since Jews thought this Gentile worthy of Jesus' help, they should see no problem with accepting similar people into the church.

The New Testament writers referred to nine centurions all together, and they all appear in a favorable light. They are: (1) this one, (2) the centurion at Jesus' crucifixion (Matt. 27:54), (3) Cornelius (Acts 10), (4) the centurion to whom Paul revealed his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25-26), (5) the centurion to whom Paul spoke about his nephew (Acts 23:17-18), (6 and 7) the two centurions who prepared for Paul's transfer from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Acts 23:23-24), (8) the centurion whom Felix charged to keep Paul in custody in Caesarea (Acts 24:23), and (9) Julius, who treated Paul kindly on his way to Rome (Acts 27:1, 3, 43).

7:6-8          It seems unusual that the centurion would send for Jesus, and then tell Him not to come. Apparently his humility moved him to do so (cf. 3:16). He felt unworthy that Jesus should enter his house. He understood that Jews customarily avoided entering the homes of Gentiles because they considered them ritually unclean. He may also have wished to spare Jesus the embarrassment of entering a Gentile's house, since many Jews would have criticized Jesus for doing so.[515] He even felt unfit (spiritually, morally, religiously) to meet Jesus outside his house.

However, the main point of the centurion's words was his recognition of Jesus' authority. He viewed Jesus' relationship to sickness as similar to his own relationship to his subordinates. He saw both men as operating in a chain of command—under the authority of others, but also in authority over others. Jesus could therefore bid sickness to come, to go, and to behave ("Do this!") like this soldier ordered other people around. Jesus therefore only needed to issue an authoritative command, like the centurion gave orders, and the sickness would depart. All these men had to do was say the word ,and things happened. This man not only viewed Jesus as having authority over sickness, but he even believed that Jesus' spoken word would be sufficient to heal.

7:9-10        Jesus' comment did not slander the faith of the Jews. One would expect them to have faith, since they had the prophecies about Messiah in Scripture, but the Gentiles did not have that light. The centurion believed that Jesus could heal his servant, not that He would heal him. The only two instances of Jesus marveling at people are here, on account of faith, and at Nazareth, because of unbelief (Mark 6:6). The centurion's belief in Jesus' authority was unusual, apparently because it rested on reports, and perhaps personal observation, of Jesus' previous ministry. Jesus rewarded his faith by healing his servant.

"Here was one, who was in the state described in the first clauses of the 'Beatitudes,' and to whom came the promise of the second clauses; because Christ is the connecting link between the two, and because He consciously was such to the Centurion, and, indeed, the only possible connecting link between them."[516]

Jesus did not limit His healing ministry to people who believed that He was the divine Son of God. He evidently healed some people who expressed no understanding of His true identity, simply because He felt compassion for them and chose to bless them (cf. vv. 11-17; John 9:11; Acts 10:38). Even the Twelve did not understand that Jesus was both God and man until God revealed that to Peter and he confessed it at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:16). It may therefore be incorrect to conclude that this centurion became a believer in Jesus' deity here, though he may have. He did believe that Jesus was at least a prophet of God, and probably he believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah (cf. 2 Kings 5:1-14). Jesus rewarded his faith, because he responded, as he should have, to the information about Jesus that he had. That is essentially what Jesus had been teaching His disciples to do in the Sermon on the Mount. And that is what Luke wanted his readers to do too.[517]

"Faith is always cultivated by looking at its object; faith is always weakened by looking at itself. When we come to Christ for salvation, we are told to believe him. We are exhorted to live the Christian life by walking by faith in him. If we look at our faith, we will be discouraged; if we look at him, our faith will be strengthened."[518]

2.     The raising of a widow's son 7:11-17

This miracle lifted the popular appreciation of Jesus' authority to new heights. Luke also continued to stress Jesus' compassion for people, in this case a widow whose son had died, by including this incident in his Gospel. She is the epitome of the "poor" to whom Jesus came to bring good news (cf. 4:18). The importance of faith in Jesus is not strong in this pericope. However, the motif of the joy that Jesus brings recurs. The incident also sets the stage for Jesus' interview by John the Baptist's disciples that follows (vv. 18-23).

7:11           Jesus may have gone directly from Capernaum (7:1-11) to Nain (meaning "Pleasant"). Nain was only about 20 miles southwest of Capernaum. It lay on the northern slope of the Hill of Moreh, which stood at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley. It was six miles south and a little east of Nazareth, and was easily visible across the valley from Nazareth. The Hill of Moreh was a significant site, because on its south side stood Shunem, where Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:18-37). Luke distinguished two groups of people who accompanied Jesus, namely, His disciples, and a large multitude of presumably non-disciples.

"Near the eastern gate of Nain, along the road to Capernaum, are rock tombs. Jesus, approaching from Capernaum, may have met the funeral procession coming out of the city on the way to these tombs."[519]

7:12           Friends were carrying the corpse out through the city gate in orer to bury it outside the town, as was customary.

"As the funeral procession passed, every one was expected, if possible, to join the convoy."[520]

"Cremation was denounced as a purely heathen practice, contrary to the whole spirit of Old Testament teaching."[521]

The fact that the widow now had no surviving husband or son meant that she was in desperate circumstances, economically as well as emotionally (cf. 1 Kings 17:10). She would probably have become destitute without someone to provide for her needs. The large retinue of mourners was common, though it suggests that she had friends.[522]

7:13           This is Luke's first narrative use of the term "the Lord" for Jesus (cf. v. 19; 10:1, 39, 41; 11:39; 12:42; 13:15; 17:5, 6; 18:6; 19:8; 22:61; 24:3, 34). It anticipates the title that the early Christians gave Him (e.g., Acts 2:36), and in this story it anticipates the remarkable demonstration of His sovereignty that follows.

Luke noted Jesus' compassion for the woman, which was one of his characteristic emphases. The Lord's words expressed His compassion, but they proved to be far from merely hollow words of encouragement. He would shortly give her a reason not to weep but to rejoice.

7:14           The coffin (Gr. sorou) was a litter that carried the shrouded corpse. The Jews did not bury their dead in wooden coffins but wrapped them in cloth.[523] By touching this bier (a movable frame on which a coffin or a corpse is placed before burial), Jesus expressed His compassion (Num. 19:11, 16). Probably His action told the bearers that He wanted to do something. So they stopped walking. Undoubtedly the residents of Nain knew Jesus, and His reputation was probably another reason they stopped. This was the first time Jesus restored to life someone who had died, according to the Gospel records. Again, the simple but powerful word of the Lord proved sufficient to affect the miracle.

A testimony to the fact that people continue to exist as themselves after death is that, on each of the three occasions in which Jesus raised the dead (here, Jairus' daughter, and Lazarus), Jesus spoke to the dead as though they could hear Him. He did not recreate them but called them back from where they were to life on earth as they had previously known it.

7:15           Luke probably wrote that the dead young man sat up and spoke in order to authenticate the resuscitation. Luke drew additional attention to the parallel incident of Elijah raising a widow's son by noting that Jesus gave the young man back to his mother (cf. 1 Kings 17:23). He had given him to her once at birth, but now He gave him to her again. This act further illustrates Jesus' compassion for the widow and His grace.

7:16           Again Luke noted that the result of Jesus' ministry was that fear (Gr. phobos) gripped the people (cf. 1:12; 5:26). This is a natural human reaction to a demonstration of supernatural power. They also praised God that this act of power had such a beneficial effect (cf. 2:20; 5:25-26; 18:43; 23:47).

The people remembered the life-restoring miracles of Elijah and Elisha in that very neighborhood centuries earlier. But no one in the Old Testament had raised the dead simply with a word. The people quickly concluded that God had sent them another prophet similar to Elijah and Elisha (cf. 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37). However, calling Jesus a great prophet was not the same as acknowledging Him as Messiah, much less God. Their second exclamation, "God has visited His people," did not necessarily mean that they acknowledged Jesus as God. This is an Old Testament expression meaning that God had sent help to His people (Ruth 1:6; cf. Luke 1:68). Some of the people may have concluded that Jesus was Immanuel, "God with us" (Isa. 7:14), but their words allow a broader meaning.

7:17           Luke concluded this pericope with a notation that the news (Gr. logos, word) about this incident radiated over that entire area of Galilee (cf. 4:14, 37). The "surrounding region" probably refers to the area beyond Judea, which included Perea, where John the Baptist heard of Jesus' mighty works (v. 18).

"Jesus' amazing healings and exorcisms contribute to the very rapid spread of his fame. Comparison of the following statements shows how the narrator conveys an impression of rapidly growing fame: After the exorcism in the synagogue of Capernaum, 'a report about him was going out to every place of the neighboring area' (4:37). After the healing of the leper, 'the word about him was spreading more' (5:15). In the next scene Pharisees and teachers of the law are present 'from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem' (5:17). This is surpassed in 6:17-18, where we hear of 'a great multitude of the people from all the Jewish land and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and be healed.' We reach the climax of this development in 7:17: 'And this statement about him went out in the whole Jewish country and all the neighboring region.'"[524]

In Acts the spread of the news about Jesus would go from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

What were some of Luke's purposes in including the raising of the widow of Nain's son? They appear to include the power of Jesus' word (as in the previous pericope), the life and joy that Jesus provides, and Jesus' ability to do what only the greatest prophets and God can do.

This incident doubtless became the basis for many people concluding that Jesus was either the fulfillment of the prophecy about Elijah's return (Mal. 4:5-6), or Elijah himself (9:8). Hopefully it brought others to saving faith in Him.

"It is worth noting that nearly all recorded instances of raising the dead were performed for women (1 Kings xvii. 23; 2 Kings iv. 36; Jn. xi. 22, 32; Acts ix. 41; Heb. xi. 35)."[525]

3.     The confusion about Jesus' identity 7:18-35

It was only natural that these people had questions about who Jesus really was. Was He a prophet? Was He Elijah? Was He another former prophet? Was He "the Prophet" that Moses had predicted (Deut. 18:18)? Was He the Messiah? Was He Immanuel, "God with us" (Isa. 7:14)? Even John the Baptist began to have questions. On the one hand, Jesus was fulfilling prophecy that indicated that He was the Messiah. He was preaching righteousness, healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead. However, He was not fulfilling other Messianic prophecies, such as freeing the captives (John the Baptist was one), judging Israel's enemies, and restoring the Davidic dynasty to power.

Luke included much about the controversy over Jesus' identity because it authenticates Jesus' identity and strengthens the confidence of disciples in their Savior. As witnesses of Jesus Christ, Luke's readers faced many hostile challengers of Jesus' identity. This section enables disciples to counter these challenges more effectively.

Jesus' response to John the Baptist's inquiry 7:18-23 (cf. Matt. 11:2-6)

7:18-20      "These things" probably refer to the activities of Jesus that Luke had recorded, including the healing of the centurion's servant and the raising of the widow's son. John the Baptist evidently had second thoughts about Jesus, because Messiah was supposed to release prisoners (Isa. 61:1), and Jesus claimed to fulfill that prophecy. However, He had not released John who was in prison (Matt. 11:2; cf. Luke 3:20). Moreover, the fact that Jesus was apparently fulfilling the prophecies about Elijah's coming may have made John wonder if Jesus was the Messiah or Elijah. Luke apparently reported John's question twice, in these verses, in order to emphasize that this was the issue at stake.

"Disappointment often calls us to a deeper, less self-focused walk with God."[526]

7:21-23      Luke recorded, and Jesus listed, several messianic works that Jesus just finished doing (cf. Isa. 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:7; 61:1). Isaiah did not predict that Messiah would cleanse lepers. Perhaps Jesus mentioned that because His ministry fulfilled Elisha's ministry, and Elisha cleansed a leper (cf. 2 Kings 5).

Acts of judgment are conspicuously absent from this list, since this was not the time for Jesus to bring judgment. Apparently in Jesus' day, the Jews believed that Messiah would not claim to be the Messiah before He performed many messianic works.[527] Jesus pronounced "blessed" (v. 23) those who accepted the evidence that He presented, and concluded that He was the Messiah, rather than stumbling over it. John was in danger of stumbling, that is, drawing the wrong conclusion and thereby falling into a trap (Gr. skandalisthe, cf. Isa. 8:13-14). Stumbling (taking "offense") is the opposite of believing here.

"There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is a matter of the mind: we cannot understand what God is doing or why He is doing it. Unbelief is a matter of the will: we refuse to believe God's Word and obey what He tells us to do."[528]

Luke probably made much of the question of Jesus' identity, which John the Baptist's question raised, in order to highlight the seriousness of rejecting Jesus.

Jesus' testimony to John's identity 7:24-28 (cf. Matt. 11:7-11)

Evidently Jesus spoke these words, praising John, because John's question about Jesus' identity made John look like a vacillator, a reed blowing in the wind. Jesus assured His hearers that that was not what John was. John's testimony to Jesus' messiahship was reliable.

7:24-26      John was not reed-like, nor was he soft or effeminate. John did not serve an earthly king but the heavenly King, and his clothing identified him as a prophet of God. Jesus said that John was not only a prophet but even more than a prophet.

7:27-28      These verses are almost identical to Matthew 11:10-11. Jesus identified John as the forerunner of Messiah who was predicted in Malachi 3:1.

"Thee [AV; "you", NASB, NIV, et al.] in the original of the quoted text reads 'me,' and refers to God, who speaks these words, adding, 'and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.' By implication, then, Jesus is identified with the Lord of Malachi, and his deity is affirmed."[529]

As Messiah's forerunner, John enjoyed a role greater than any other prophet, even those who gave messianic prophecies. However, even the most insignificant participant in the messianic kingdom is superior to ("greater than") John, because John only anticipated Messiah's kingdom.

"Being least in the kingdom is better than being the best anywhere else."[530]

Jesus' condemnation of His unbelieving generation 7:29-35 (cf. Matt. 11:16-19)

John had questioned Jesus' identity, and Jesus had defended John's identity. Jesus now warned His hearers who rejected John's identity and Jesus' identity.

7:29           Verses 29 and 30 do not appear in the Matthew parallel account. They reveal a deep division among the people, and they set the scene for Jesus' comments that follow (vv. 31-35).

Many of the common people, even tax collectors, had responded to John's message and had undergone his baptism (3:12, 21). When they heard Jesus' preaching, these people responded positively. They acknowledged God's justice when they heard Jesus speaking highly of John. That is, they accepted God's ways as they were and did not try to force Him to behave as they might have preferred. Jesus' words about John vindicated their earlier decision to submit to John's baptism.

7:30           However, the Pharisees and lawyers (experts in the Mosaic Law) did not submit to John's baptism. This showed that they had rejected God's purpose, namely, that they should humble themselves and be baptized.

7:31-32      The present generation of unbelievers was similar to faithless Israel in the past (cf. Deut. 32:5, 20; Judg. 2:10; Ps. 78:8; 95:10; Jer. 2:31; 7:29). They, too, were subject to God's wrath. They were behaving no better than fickle children who become upset when their peers refuse to cooperate with them. Jesus pictured the religious leaders as children sitting down in the market place and calling out to others to march to their tune. However, their believing peers would not cooperate, so the religious leaders criticized them.

7:33           These unbelieving religious leaders did not like John because he was too much of an ascetic. He would not "dance" (v. 32) to their tune. Because John ate locusts and wild honey, instead of bread and wine, the unbelieving Pharisees and lawyers accused him of having a demon.

7:34           Jesus, on the other hand, took part in feasts, eating and drinking freely. So the hypocrites accused Him of gluttony and drunkenness. The Old Testament described an Israelite who was a gluttonous man and a heavy drinker as deserving of stoning (cf. Deut. 21:20). Furthermore, Jesus ate and drank with people whom the Jewish leaders regarded as apostates.

"People who want to avoid the truth about themselves can always find something in the preacher to criticize."[531]

John and Jesus were both living parables. John taught the importance of repentance, and Jesus modeled grace, joy, and blessing. However, the Jewish religious leaders missed the points of both their messages, because John and Jesus did not dance to their tunes. Jesus probably referred to Himself as the Son of Man here because this title always stresses His deity (Dan. 7:13-14). This would heighten the seriousness of the religious leaders' rejection of Him.

7:35           Despite the rejection of the Jewish leaders, those who accepted God's purpose for themselves (v. 30), as John and Jesus announced it, demonstrated its rightness. Their lives were testimonies to the truthfulness of what they had believed, which John and Jesus had proclaimed. Jesus stated this truth as a principle. The behavior of good "children" (i.e., disciples) normally points to their having wise parents (i.e., John and Jesus). John and Jesus had also behaved like good "children" of God, and had vindicated His wisdom by their behavior.

Luke's account of these condemning words is fuller than Matthew's. Luke focused on the religious leaders' rejection, whereas Matthew applied Jesus' words to all the unbelieving Israelites that He faced more generally.

4.     The anointing by a sinful woman 7:36-50

This incident, which appears only in Luke's Gospel, illustrates the truth just expressed in verse 35. It may have taken place in Nain (cf. vv. 11, 37). Here is a case in point of what Jesus had just described happening (v. 34). Jesus reached out to a sinful woman only to receive criticism from an inconsiderate Pharisee. The love that the woman lavished on Jesus contrasts with Simon the Pharisee's lack of love for Him. How ironic and paradoxical that a sinner lavished love on Jesus, but a religious leader treated Him with no special consideration. Again Luke featured a woman in his narrative, which shows Jesus' concern for women. There are some similarities between this story and the one about Mary anointing Jesus' feet in Simon the leper's house, but that was a different incident (cf. Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8).

"… the story of the sinful woman in the Pharisee's house reminds us of the previous conflict over Jesus' authority to release sins, suggesting that this is a continuing conflict. This reminder may also help readers to recall Jesus' basic claim of authority to release sins in 5:24."[532]

"The touching display of affectionate gratitude shown to Jesus by this woman off the street well illustrates the claim of v 35 that Wisdom is justified by her children."[533]

7:36           We should not overlook the fact that Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner from a Pharisee. He did not cut all the religious leaders off simply because most of them rejected Him. He dealt with people as individuals. Simon, perhaps, had not yet formed an opinion about Jesus. If so, in this he was like Nicodemus (John 3). The story presents Simon as insensitive, but not hostile or antagonistic.

7:37           Social custom allowed needy people to visit such meals and to partake of some of the leftovers.[534] Moreover it was not unusual for people to drop in when a rabbi was visiting.[535] Luke gallantly omitted describing why the woman was a sinner, though the commentators love to guess. One writer called her "a prostitute by vocation, a whore by social status."[536] Some have assumed that the woman was Mary Magdalene, but this is pure speculation. The point was that she was a member of the social class called sinners (irreligious people), whom the Pharisees regarded as treating the law loosely. The liquid perfume that the woman brought with her was in an expensive alabaster vial. Jewish women frequently wore such vials suspended from a cord around their necks.[537]

7:38           Jesus was probably reclining on a mat as He ate, with His head and arms close to the table and His feet stretched out away from it, as was customary at important meals. The woman's sacrificial gift, and her tears, raise questions that the text does not answer. Was she grateful to Jesus for some act of kindness that He had showed her, or was she seeking His help? By constantly kissing (Gr. katephilei, the imperfect tense in Greek) Jesus' feet the woman was expressing her affection, respect, and submission to Jesus (cf. 1 Sam. 10:1).

"Kissing the feet was a common mark of deep reverence, especially to leading Rabbis …"[538]

Normally people anointed a person's head, not the feet.

"Letting her hair down in this setting would have been on a par with appearing topless in public, for example. She would have appeared to be fondling Jesus' feet, like a prostitute or a slave girl accustomed to providing sexual favors."[539]

7:39           Simon deduced that Jesus could not be a prophet, since if He were, He would not permit a sinful woman to do what this woman was doing. The touch of a "sinner" brought ceremonial defilement, in the overly scrupulous minds of the Pharisees.

"See how apt proud and narrow souls are to think that others should be as haughty and censorious as themselves."[540]

7:40           Simon had no reason to expect Jesus' words to him to have anything to do with what he had been thinking. He had concluded that Jesus could not tell sinners from non-sinners. Simon would now learn that Jesus knew exactly what was in his heart (cf. 5:22). He politely addressed Jesus as Teacher (Gr. didaskale, Luke's equivalent of Rabbi, cf. 9:38; 20:21, 38; 21:7; 22:11)—less than even a prophet.

7:41-42      Jesus proceeded to tell His host a parable about two debtors.[541] A denarius was worth one day's wage for an agricultural laborer. Regardless of the buying power of the money in view, obviously both men owed considerable debts, but one man's debt was 10 times greater than the other's. Jesus regarded love as being evidenced by the debtor's expression of gratitude implied in Jesus' question.

7:43           The answer to Jesus' question may have been obvious to Simon, though he seems to have known very little about forgiveness and love. However, he apparently knew that Jesus sometimes used questions to lure His critics into a trap. So he replied with uneasy reluctance, allowing the possibility that the answer might not be as obvious as it appeared to be.

7:44-46      Jesus probably surprised Simon by making the woman the focus of His parable, and by contrasting her with Simon. Even worse, Jesus made her the heroine and Simon the villain, the opposite of what Simon thought. The woman was guilty of sins of commission, but Simon was guilty of sins of omission. All the things that Simon had failed to do for Jesus were common courtesies that hosts frequently extended to their guests. However, Simon had probably not acted discourteously. He had just not performed any special acts of hospitality on Jesus.[542] The scented oil in view would have been olive oil, which was both plentiful and inexpensive. The woman, however, had gone far beyond courtesy and had made unusual sacrifices for Jesus out of love. Simon appears in the incident as the greater sinner of the two.

"… Christ does notice neglect, and He does appreciate devotion."[543]

7:47           Jesus next drew a conclusion from what He had just said. The woman's great love showed that she had appreciated being forgiven greatly. Jesus did not mean that she had earned great forgiveness with her great love. Her love was the result of, not the reason for, her forgiveness.[544] This is clear from the parable (vv. 42-43) as well as from Jesus' later statement that it was her faith, not her love, that had saved her (v. 50). The intensity of one's love tends to be proportionate to his or her perception of the greatness of his or her forgiveness rather than to the actual amount forgiven.

"Because he [Simon] trivialized his sin, he misunderstood what God's forgiveness meant."[545]

7:48           Jesus now confirmed to the woman what had already taken place. This was a word of assurance. Jesus used the perfect tense in Greek (sosoken). We could translate it: Your sins have been forgiven and remain forgiven. This was true in spite of the Pharisee's slur (v. 39). She had evidently obtained God's forgiveness sometime before she entered Simon's house. Jesus was not now imparting forgiveness to her for the first time. He was commenting on her forgiven condition. This is clear because throughout the story Jesus consistently regarded the woman as a forgiven person.

The sinful woman's acts of love sprang from her sense of gratitude for having received forgiveness. Jesus had earlier forgiven the sins of the paralytic man in Capernaum (5:20). But in this story, He was not actively forgiving the sins of the sinful woman, but He announced authoritatively that they had in fact already been, and were still, forgiven.

7:49           Some of the people present mistakenly assumed that Jesus was forgiving the woman's sins. This again raised the question of who He was (cf. v. 39; 5:21). Jesus did not answer it, nor did Luke. Those present, and the readers, could and can draw their own conclusion, which should have been and should be obvious by now.

7:50           Jesus concluded the incident by giving the woman a further word of encouragement and clarification. It was her faith, not her love, that had resulted in her salvation, of which her forgiveness was a part. Consequently she could depart in peace about her condition, even though others might continue to regard her as a sinner (cf. 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). Here salvation has the larger meaning of spiritual deliverance. This is clear because of Jesus' previous comments about forgiveness and the lack of reference to physical deliverance (i.e., healing).

Likewise, the common Jewish farewell, "go in peace" (Judg. 18:6; 1 Sam. 1:17; 2 Sam. 15:9; 1 Kings 22:17; Acts 16:36; James 2:16), assumes a larger meaning when connected with spiritual salvation. This woman was able to go into a lasting condition of peace because of her faith (cf. Rom. 5:1).

"… 7:36-50 is the first of three reported occasions (see 11:37-54; 14:1-24) on which Jesus is invited to dine at a Pharisee's house, and each of the three is a comparatively lengthy scene. This type-scene repetition suggests that this is a characteristic situation during Jesus' ministry and one of special interest to the narrator. Each of these scenes is an occasion of conflict."[546]

"Jesus' parable of the two debtors and His comments to Simon and the woman teach a number of lessons: (a) Salvation is the result of God's gracious work received by faith. (b) God graciously forgives the debt of sin that no one can repay. (c) Peace with God is possible because of the forgiveness of sins. (d) The more one understands forgiveness, the more love he will have for Christ. (e) Humble service stems from a heart of gratitude for God's grace."[547]

E.     Jesus' teaching in parables 8:1-21

The present section of Luke follows the same basic pattern as the former one: There is a block of teaching (8:1-21; cf. 6:12-49) followed by another account of Jesus' mighty works (8:22-56; cf. ch. 7). This sequence is common in Luke and in Matthew.

1.     The companions and supporters of Jesus 8:1-3

Luke's account emphasizes that concern for the multitudes motivated Jesus' mission. Mark, on the other hand, presented opposition from the Jewish religious leaders as a reason for His activities. Matthew stressed Jesus' desire to present Himself as the Messiah to the Jews. All of these were factors that directed Jesus in His ministry.

8:1             This verse is Luke's summary of Jesus' next preaching tour. Like the first summary statement (4:43-44), this one also states Jesus' ministry as consisting of itinerant preaching primarily. Luke noted the presence of the Twelve with Jesus in order to qualify them as reliable witnesses of His teaching, death, and resurrection. This is the first occurrence in Luke of the term "the Twelve."

8:2-3          Luke's mention of the women in this section anticipates his citing them as witnesses of Jesus' resurrection later (cf. 23:49, 55; 24:6, 10; Acts 1:14). This is Luke's third recent reference to women who benefited from Jesus' ministry to them, several of whom responded by ministering to Him (cf. 7:12-15, 36-50). Their example provides a positive example for female, as well as male, readers of Luke's Gospel.

"This is the first woman's missionary society for the support of missionaries of the Gospel."[548]

"… traveling around with a religious teacher conflicts strongly with traditional female roles in Jewish society. [Footnote 55:] B. Witherington III, Women in the Ministry of Jesus, p. 117. [End of footnote.] Such behavior neglects a husband's rights and a wife's responsibilities to her family. It would probably arouse suspicion of illicit sexual relationships. In his later teaching Jesus will repeatedly tell his disciples that his call requires a break with the family (Luke 9:57-62; 12:51-53; 14:26; 18:28-30). The last two of these passages speak of leaving 'house' and 'children,' which could apply to either a man or a woman, but these statements are male-oriented in that they also speak of leaving 'wife' but not husband. [Footnote 56:] However, 12:53 indicates that the division in the family caused by someone becoming a disciple will involve women as well as men. [End of footnote.] Nevertheless, 8:2-3 refers to women who have evidently taken a drastic step of leaving home and family in order to share in the wandering ministry of Jesus. The discipleship of women is conceived as radically as for men—perhaps even more radically, since women of that time were very closely bound to the family—involving a sharp break with social expectations and normal responsibilities."[549]

Many people have concluded that Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute. However, the text gives no basis for this idea. It simply says that seven demons had indwelt her. In other cases of demon possession in the Gospels, the results were typically mental disorders rather than immoral conduct. "Magdalene" evidently refers to her hometown of Magdala (lit. Tower). It stood on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, south of Gennesaret and north of Tiberius. (Though Tiberius was one of the greatest cities of Galilee,[550] the Gospel writers never mentioned it. Herod Antipas I built this city and named it in honor of Tiberius Caesar.[551])

Joanna, the wife of Chuza, who was Herod's "steward", was present at Jesus' crucifixion and empty tomb (23:55-56; 24:1, 10). She is the first of Jesus' disciples identified as connected with Herod Antipas' household. Chuza ("Little Pitcher") was evidently Herod's manager or foreman: some high-ranking official who was employed by Herod (cf. Matt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2). He may or may not have been the royal official who came to Jesus in Cana and requested that Jesus come to Capernaum to heal his son (John 4:46-53).

"It may be that the special knowledge of Herod and his court reflected in Lk. came through him [Chuza]; he and his wife [Joanna] are no doubt named as well-known personalities in the church and are evidence for the existence of Christian disciples among the aristocracy."[552]

"It is an amazing thing to find Mary Magdalene, with the dark past, and Joanna, the lady of the court, in one company. It is one of the supreme achievements of Jesus that He can enable the most diverse people to live together without in the least losing their own personalities or qualities."[553]

Susanna ("Lily"), otherwise unknown to us, may also have been of special interest to Luke's original readers. The support of these and other similar unnamed disciples explains how Jesus was able to continue His ministry financially. These women, and probably some men, provided money by giving sacrificially out of love for Jesus and what He had done for them (cf. 7:36-50). It was apparently unusual for Jesus to have female followers (cf. John 4:27), though this was more common in the Hellenistic world than in the land of Israel.[554] However, there is no indication in the Gospels that these women were the target of the religious leaders' criticism of Jesus.

"Luke establishes a deliberate parallel between the apostles and the women (his gospel is marked by such paralleling of men and women: Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1—2; the woman of Zarephath and Naaman in 4:25-27; perhaps the demoniac and Simon's mother-in-law in 4:31-39; the centurion and the widow of Nain in 7:1-17; the man with sheep and the woman with coins in 15:3-10; perhaps the vindicated widow and the justified tax-collector in 18:1-14)."[555]

"It is a fact in which women might take deep satisfaction that, although in the four Gospels there are references enough to the ministrations and loyalty of the women, there appears no single example of a woman hostile to Christ."[556]

2.     The parable of the soils 8:4-15

Luke's account of Jesus' parables by the sea is the shortest of the three, and Matthew's is the longest. Luke limited himself to recording only two parables, namely, the parable of the soils, and the parable of the lamp. He thereby stressed the importance of hearing, obeying, and proclaiming the Word of God.

"Unlike Mark 4 and Matthew 13, where entire chapters are devoted to kingdom teaching via parables, Luke concentrates on the one theme of faith both here and in the two short passages that follow (8:16-21)."[557]

"The present phase of the kingdom is the sphere of Christian profession—that which we call Christendom."[558]

The giving of the parable 8:4-8 (cf. Matt. 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9)

As in the other Synoptics, Jesus gave the first parable to the crowds and then interpreted it for His disciples.

8:4             Luke omitted reference to the setting for this teaching. It was the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Instead, he mentioned the large and diverse crowd that Jesus addressed. Perhaps he wanted to picture the crowd as the various types of soil that Jesus referred to in this parable.

8:5-8          The main focus of this parable—in all the Synoptics—is not on the sower (Jesus and His disciples) or the seed (the Word of God), as important as these are. The focus is on the soils on which the seed falls. Evidently in Jesus' day, at least in some situations, sowing preceded plowing.[559] Consequently it is not unusual that the sower scattered his seed where he did. The presence of thorn seeds would not discourage the sower from sowing good seed among them if he knew that they were there. Rocks under the surface would only become visible when the farmer plowed the seed under.

Luke probably omitted the smaller harvests, and mentioned the largest yield, in order to encourage Jesus' disciples with the ultimate predicted result of His and their work. A tenfold yield was typical in Canaan.[560] Only Luke mentioned that people trampled the seed underfoot (v. 5), perhaps in order to highlight people's contempt for God's Word (cf. Heb. 10:29). His unique reference to lack of moisture (v. 6, cf. Jer. 17:8) explains why some plants had no root (Matt. 13:6; Mark 4:6). Jesus' final appeal urged careful listening.

The reason for using parables 8:9-10 (cf. Matt. 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12)

Luke focused the disciples' question on the one parable that he recorded so far. Matthew and Mark had the disciples asking Jesus why He was speaking to the people in parables (plural). "Mysteries" (v. 10) were secrets previously unknown about the messianic kingdom (cf. Dan. 2:20-23, 28-30). The Greeks had their mystery religions, the secrets of which only the initiated knew. Consequently Luke's original readers would have had no trouble understanding Jesus' meaning. The parables intentionally revealed some truth to everyone who heard them, but only Jesus' disciples, who took a serious interest in their meaning, could understand the deeper significance of what they taught.

One of the principles of spiritual growth is that when a person studies revelation (scriptural truth), God gives him or her the ability to understand more truth. However, when one does not seek to understand it, God hides further truth from him or her (v. 18; Isa. 6:9; cf. Exod. 8:32; 9:12; Rom. 9:17-18). "So that" (v. 10) indicates divine purpose more than result (v. 10).

The meaning of the parable 8:11-15 (Matt. 13:18-23; Mark 4:13-20)

Jesus now gave His disciples information that enabled them to understand the deeper teaching of the parable. The proclaimed Word of God does not in itself yield a uniform response of faith. Human response to it is all-important.

8:11-12      Luke alone wrote, "So that they will not believe and be saved" (v. 12). This phrase reflects his intense interest in salvation. Luke viewed the preaching mission of Jesus and His disciples as essentially calling people to salvation. Satan's purpose is the exact opposite of God's purpose (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). In Jesus' ministry, the word (Gr. logos) of God that saved people was the message that Jesus was the God-man. When people trusted in Him as such, they experienced salvation.

8:13-14      In both of these cases, in rocky soil and among thorns, there was some initial faith in Jesus, and later a turning away from Him in unbelief. Jesus said that they believed: they were saved. Jesus did not say they lost their salvation. That is impossible (cf. John 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). He said they turned away in unbelief, that is, they believed for a while and then stopped believing.

"Believers are held by the promise of God, not by their own faithfulness or by the endurance of their faith. … Eternal salvation occurs the moment that a person believes the promise of the gospel. Thus it cannot and does not depend on continuing to believe the gospel."[561]

In Jesus' day, some people genuinely believed on Him and then had doubts (e.g., John the Baptist). Jesus used the phrase "fall away" (Gr. skandalizomai) of "anyone" in 7:23: Anyone is capable of doing this. Luke used a different Greek word here (8:13, aphisteme), but only because he preferred it, not because it has a different meaning.[562] Today, true believers sometimes stop believing what they previously believed because of information they receive that convinces them their former faith was wrong (e.g., youths who abandon their faith in college; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3). Luke's treatment of this passage shows his concern about apostasy (i.e., departure from the truth) under persecution.

Those of us who have grown up in "Christian" countries sometimes fail to appreciate the fact that genuine Christians have renounced their faith in Jesus under severe persecution (e.g., Peter, though his failure was short-lived). We may tend to think that people who do this were never genuine believers. That may be true in some cases. However, we need to remember that for every Christian martyr who died refusing to renounce his faith—there were other believers who escaped death by renouncing it. To say that their behavior showed that they never truly believed is naive and unbiblical (cf. 19:11-27; 2 Tim. 2:12-13; 4:10a).

The people in view in verse 13 stop believing because of adversity, but those in verse 14 do so because of distractions (cf. Matt. 6:19-34; Luke 11:34-36; 12:22-32; 16:13). Notice that Jesus said that these believers (v. 13) produce no mature fruit (cf. John 15:2). In the light of this statement, we need to examine the idea that every true believer produces fruit, and that if there is no fruit the person must be lost. Fruit here is what appears on the outside that other people see. It is what normally, but not always, manifests life on the inside. It is possible for a fruit tree to produce no fruit and still be a fruit tree. Most fruit trees bear no fruit for the first few years after their planting, some stop bearing fruit after a while, and others never bear fruit. Olive trees sometimes that 20 or so years to bear olives.

In today's world, the testimony of many Christians would lead onlookers to conclude that they are not believers, because they do not produce much external evidence of the divine life within them. However, Jesus allowed for the possibility of true believers bearing no mature fruit because they allow the distractions of the world to divert them from God's Word (cf. John 15:2; Heb. 2:1). Worries and riches are two things at the opposite ends of the spectrum of experience that tend to hinder fruitfulness. The poor have worries that other people do not, and the wealthy have riches that others do not have. However, most people struggle with these temptations. Luke alone mentioned the "pleasures of this life," which were a special problem for his Greek readers and are, perhaps, even more so today.

8:15           Luke described this believer ("good soil") as having a good and virtuous heart, thereby stressing the character of the individual. He adapted an ancient Greek phrase that denotes singleness of purpose.[563] Richard Trench described such a person as follows:

"… one [like Nathanael; John 1:47]  of a simple, truthful, and earnest nature; who had been faithful to the light which he had, diligent in the performance of the duties which he knew, who had not been resisting God's preparation in him for imparting to him at the last his best gift, even the knowledge of his Son; who with all this, knowing himself a sinner, did not affirm that he was just."[564]

Matthew described this person as understanding, in keeping with his emphasis on comprehending the mysteries of the messianic kingdom (cf. Matt. 13:11, 14-15, 19, 23, 25). The kind of person Luke describes will follow Jesus faithfully, and produce fruit with perseverance.

"Jesus' emphasis here is not so much on whether a person perseveres but on the kind of person who does persevere."[565]

In summary, verse 12 seems to view the lost, verses 13 and 14 both the lost and the saved, and verse 15 the saved. However, in each case the emphasis is on their present response to the Word of God, be that belief or unbelief—not the ultimate outcome of their response, namely, their eternal salvation. Jesus encountered all four types of responses during His ministry, and so do modern disciples of Jesus. Some people refuse to believe at all (cf. most of the Pharisees). Others follow Jesus temporarily, but because of persecution or love for other things, they stop following Him (cf. John 6:66; Luke 18:18-30). The salvation of these people is the most difficult to evaluate. Still others believe and continue following faithfully (cf. vv. 1-3).

3.     The parable of the lamp 8:16-18 (cf. Mark 4:21-25)

Jesus continued to speak to His disciples.

8:16           This was evidently a favorite saying of Jesus', because He repeated it several times (cf. Matt. 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 11:33). In view of the context here, the lamp refers to a person who has the light of God's Word within him or her. Such a person has a responsibility to let the light illuminate those around him, rather than concealing it from them.

8:17           Jesus next commented on the parable of the lamp and explained its significance: Disciples should not assume that because God had previously kept the truth secret, which truth Jesus was now revealing to them, that God therefore wanted it to remain hidden. He wanted it declared publicly now.

8:18           Jesus concluded by urging His disciples to listen carefully to what He taught them. If they believed what He told them, God would give them more truth. However if they disbelieved, God would remove from them the truth that they had once thought that they understood.

4.     The true family of Jesus 8:19-21 (cf. Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35)

Apparently Luke moved this incident to this place in his narrative—from Jesus' earlier controversy with the Pharisees over His authority teaching (cf. Matt. 12:22-50; Mark 3:19-35)—in order to provide a conclusion for this section of His teaching. It continues the theme of the importance of obedience that has been dominant in the preceding context.

Jesus was not dishonoring His human family members, but He was honoring those who obey God. Some people feel close to God when they read the Bible, pray, hear a certain type of music, contemplate nature, or sit in a great cathedral. However, Jesus taught that the way to get close to God is to listen to and obey God's Word (cf. 6:46-49; James 1:22-23). Obedience brings the believer into an intimate relationship with Jesus (cf. John 15:14). This saying would have helped Luke's original readers understand that Jewish blood did not bring believers into a closer relationship to Jesus than Gentile blood did. Probably Luke omitted "and sister" (v. 21), which Matthew and Mark included, simply for brevity. His account of the incident is the most concise of the Synoptics.

F.     Jesus' mighty works 8:22-56

This section is quite similar to Mark's account. Luke chose miracles that demonstrated Jesus' power over nature, demons, and illness and death, in order to show Jesus' authority as the divine Savior. Again he stressed the powerful word of Jesus. These miracles also revealed Jesus' compassion and willingness to save people in need.

1.     The stilling of a storm 8:22-25 (cf. Matt. 8:18, 23-27; Mark 4:35-41)

"The remainder of the section 8:1—9:20 is strongly oriented to the question: Who is Jesus? (esp. 8:25; 9:9, 18-20; but also 8:28, 37, 39, 56)."[566]

This story pictures Jesus in complete control of Himself and His environment. Its climax is not the stilling of the storm, but the disciples' question about Jesus' identity (v. 25). This is the first miracle that Luke recorded that did not involve a person. It showed that Jesus had the same power of God over nature that God demonstrated in the Exodus (Exod. 14; cf. Ps. 89:8-9; 93:3-4; 106:8-9; 107:23-30; Isa. 51:9-10). The disciples turned to Jesus for deliverance at sea, just as many people have called on God for salvation in similar situations.

"This is the first of a series of four mighty works (8:22—9:17), the first and fourth of which are especially focused on the question of Jesus' identity, while the middle two also provide a pattern for the activity of the Twelve (9:1-2)."[567]

8:22-23      Evidently Jesus mentioned crossing the lake to His disciples both before and after He entered the boat (cf. Matt. 8:18; Mark 4:35). Jesus' command to cross constituted a guarantee that they would arrive safely. The other side was the east side (cf. v. 26). Luke introduced the fact that Jesus fell asleep before he referred to the storm breaking, perhaps in order to heighten the contrast between Jesus' peaceful condition and the storm. This is the only passage in which we read that Jesus slept. Luke stressed the severity of the storm by mentioning the wind three times (vv. 23, 24, 25), as well as by describing it's effects.

8:24-25      This time of testing was a challenge to the disciples' faith in Jesus' word (cf. v. 13). They stopped believing momentarily. Their double address, "Master, Master," showed their urgency. Jesus reminded them of their unbelief with His question. Luke recorded a milder rebuke than Mark did (Mark 4:40), perhaps to demonstrate that faith is a dynamic quality that grows and shrinks (cf. vv. 13-15). The disciples' question showed their lack of perception of Jesus' true identity (cf. 9:20). They had believed that He was the Messiah, but they had thought of Him only as their contemporaries did, at least on this occasion. Now they saw that He could perform works that only God could do (cf. Ps. 107:23-30; cf. Acts 27:13-14, 25, 34). The disciples should have trusted in Jesus' word and remembered Psalm 107, which is a psalm that describes Yahweh rescuing people from many troubles.

"Assuredly, no narrative could be more consistent with the fundamental assumption that He is the God-Man."[568]

Christians have often seen this storm as typical of the storms of life that we encounter that test our faith (cf. James 1:6).

"The point of connection is not in the precise situation the disciples face in the boat, but in the feelings of helplessness they have about where Jesus has led them. Events in our lives sometimes leave us feeling at risk, whether it be in a job situation that calls us to take a stand, in the severe illness of a loved one, in an unexpected tragedy, or in the breakdown of a relationship. Any of these can be a storm in which we doubt God's goodness. We may feel God has left us to fend for ourselves."[569]

Experiencing deliverance in such situations should expand our appreciation for Jesus.

2.     The deliverance of a demoniac in Gadara 8:26-39 (cf. Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20)

The raging of this demoniac was even worse than the raging of the waters of the Sea of Galilee (cf. Ps. 65:7). Demonic power was evident in the Hellenistic world of Luke's original readers. The fact that this incident happened in predominantly Gentile territory suggests that Luke may have seen in it a preview of the church's ministry to Gentiles (cf. Acts 26:18). In his account of this incident, Luke stressed the saving of the man (v. 36), the fear of the spectators (v. 37), and the Abyss as the temporary destiny of the demons (v. 31). As Jesus had calmed the sea, He now calmed this demon-afflicted man.

8:26-29      Mark and Luke called this area the country of the Gerasenes, but Matthew called it the country of the Gadarenes. Gergesa (also referred to as Gersa, Kersa, and Kursi) was a small village about midway, north to south, on the eastern shore of the lake. Gadara, one of the Decapolis cities, was a larger town six miles southeast of the lake's southern end.[570] This incident apparently happened somewhere near both towns, on the southeast coast of the lake. A third town with a similar name, Geresa, was probably the same as Jarash, which was farther to the south and east.[571] As Luke described the situation, the demoniac met Jesus and His disciples as they arrived at the shore. He was one of two demoniacs, but Luke and Mark only mentioned one of them (cf. Matt. 8:28-34).

Doctor Luke mentioned several symptoms of this man's demon possession. These included disregard for his personal dignity (nakedness), social isolation, retreat to an unclean shelter, recognition of Jesus' identity, control of speech, shouting, and great strength (vv. 27, 29). This man was under the control of spiritual powers totally opposed to Jesus and God's will.

The demons in the man acknowledged that Jesus was the "Son of the Most High God" (cf. 1:32, 35; Gen. 14:18-22; Num. 24:16; Isa. 14:14; Dan. 3:26; 4:2; Acts 16:17). They were not worshipping Jesus as God, but were appealing to Him as their Judge for mercy. They wanted to escape premature torture in the abyss (v. 31; cf. Matt. 8:29; Rev. 20:1-3, 10).

"Note how the very presence of Jesus is already much more effective in restraining the man than all the efforts of his fellow countrymen."[572]

8:30-31      Jesus probably asked for the name of the demon who indwelt the man for His disciples' benefit. "Legion" was not a proper name but the designation of a Roman military unit that consisted of about 6,000 soldiers. The improvised name Legion communicated that thousands of demons indwelt the man (cf. 8:2; Mark 5:13). The "abyss" refers to the final confinement place of the devil and his angels (demons; cf. Rom. 10:7; Rev. 9:1-3; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1-3). The Jews thought of it as a watery pit deep below the earth (cf. 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). Only God can send demons to the abyss. This is another indication that the demons recognized Jesus as God. The disciples should have learned from them.

8:32-33      Jesus granted the request of the unclean demons to go into unclean pigs, which was only fitting. This involved a temporary stay of execution for the demons, thus demonstrating Jesus' mercy. We do not know what happened to the demons after the pigs drowned. Probably they sought other people to afflict. There is no evidence that demons live in water or that they are capable of dying. Their final judgment is still future (Rev. 20:1-3).

"Jesus' agreement to the request has troubled modern readers of the text, especially in light of the fate of the animals. In the (Jewish) perspective of the story, the pigs are of no value: to put the demons there is to put them safely out of the way, at least for the moment."[573]

If the pig-farmers were Jews, Jesus was punishing the farmers for raising pigs by sending the demons into the pigs.[574] Pigs were unclean to the Jews, and the fact that there were about 2,000 pigs (Mark 5:13) indicates that raising pigs was big business in this region. However, the larger segment of the population of the Decapolis was Gentile.

8:34-37      The latter condition of the man contrasts with his former state. He now sat at Jesus' feet like a disciple, clothed and in his right mind. The power that Jesus possessed to affect such a transformation terrified the people. Luke's use of the Greek word sozo (v. 36, "made well," lit. saved), suggests that the man became a believer and a disciple of Jesus. Fear of Jesus led the residents to reject Him, unfortunately.

"Their fear may have been a superstitious reaction to the supernatural power that had so evidently been in operation. It may also have been associated with the material loss involved in the destruction of the pigs. If so, they saw Jesus as a disturbing person, more interested in saving men than in material prosperity. It was more comfortable to ask Him to go."[575]

"This scene is thus proleptic in its anticipation of both the power of the gospel and the opposition it will attract in the Gentile world."[576]

"The world beseeches Jesus to depart, desiring their own ease, which is more disturbed by the presence and power of God than by a legion of devils."[577]

Thus Luke showed his reader-disciples that such were the results that they could expect.

8:38-39      The man begged Jesus to allow him to follow Him. His desire was admirable, but Jesus ordered this disciple to remain where he was, as a witness to Jesus' person and power, at least temporarily. The man responded as an obedient disciple, and spread the gospel in this Gentile area. Luke probably intended the reader to identify what Jesus had done with what God had done (v. 39). Luke's words, "what great things Jesus had done for him" are a restating of Jesus' words, "what great things God has done for you," making Jesus and God one and the same. The man more than obeyed Jesus by proclaiming what Jesus had done for him throughout the nearby city. He is, therefore, a good model for Gentile converts to emulate. Witness should start where we are, then God will cause it to expand (cf. Acts).

"The story is a paradigm of what conversion involves: the responsibility to evangelize."[578]

"A more transparent anticipation of the ministry of Jesus' followers in Acts could hardly be found at this early stage in the Lukan narrative."[579]

3.     The healing of a woman with a hemorrhage and the raising of Jairus' daughter 8:40-56

Luke, like the other synoptic evangelists, recorded this double miracle in its historical sequence. These are the only intertwined miracles in the Gospels. One miracle involved providing deliverance from disease, and the other involved providing deliverance from death. Both of them demonstrated the power and compassion of Jesus, and the importance of putting one's faith in Him. The tension created in the Jairus story, by the interruption of the woman, challenged the faith of Jairus and the disciples, on the one hand, and their compassion on the other.

Both incidents also deal with females for whom the number 12 was important. This number was important in each of the female's lives for reasons explained below, but it probably has no typological significance. Jesus' willingness to cleanse unclean people at the risk of His own ceremonial defilement also recurs (cf. 7:11-17). This showed His superior power compared to the defiling power of sin, sin being at the root of all conditions that resulted in defilement. These two miracles, as the preceding two, revealed the identity of Jesus primarily.

Jairus' request 8:40-42a (cf. Matt. 9:18-19; Mark 5:21-23)

Jesus returned from the southeast side of the lake of Galilee to its northwest side, where this incident took place. Multitudes welcomed Jesus, because He had become popular in that area as an authoritative teacher and by working many miracles. Jairus' position as a synagogue ruler proves that some influential Jewish leaders had believed on Him. At least they believed in His miracle-working power. Jairus' name, interestingly, means "He [i.e., God] Will Awaken." He may have been one of the Jewish elders whom the centurion had previously sent to ask the Lord to heal his servant (7:3). Luke alone wrote that the girl was Jairus' only (Gr. monogenes, cf. John 3:16) daughter. This detail adds to the pathos of the story. At about 12 years of age, a Jewish girl was on the brink of becoming a young lady of marriageable age.[580] She was apparently going to die just as she was about to begin to live as an adult, which was a further tragedy. Jairus invited Jesus to his house.

"More and more, then, Jesus will be found in homes rather than in synagogues, a condition that will be recapitulated in the mission of the early church according to Acts."[581]

The healing of the woman with a hemorrhage 8:42b-48 (cf. Matt. 9:20-22; Mark 5:24-34)

8:42b-43    The crowd, which Luke described graphically as pressing against Jesus and almost crushing Him, created the scene in which the woman approached Jesus. The exact reason for her continual bleeding ("a chronic flow of blood") is unknown and irrelevant. This condition resulted in her discomfort, inconvenience, ritual uncleanness, and embarrassment (shame). She was, therefore, one of the "poor" (marginalized) to whom Jesus had come with good news (cf. 4:18-19; 7:22; 8:1-2, 10).

Some commentators believe that Luke's omission of the fact that she had spent all her money on doctors who could not cure her was his attempt to guard the reputation of his profession. However, it may have been a simple omission of a detail that he felt was unimportant in view of his purpose. The point is that no other doctor had been able to heal the woman for 12 years, but Jesus both could and did heal her—in an instant.

8:44           The woman touched the tassel (Gr. kraspedon, cf. Num. 15:38-40) on one of the four corners of Jesus' tallith, the shawl that He wore over His outer garment. Her superstition, that touching Jesus' clothing would heal her, has created problems for some readers. However, God honored even stranger expressions of faith than hers (cf. Acts 5:15; 19:11-12). Even though her knowledge was imperfect, she believed that Jesus could heal her, and Jesus honored that faith.

"She sought it [healing], though in error, yet in faith. And she obtained it, because this faith was known and recognized by the Lord."[582]

8:45-46      Jesus' question did not reveal lack of knowledge but the desire to identify the woman so that He could strengthen and encourage her faith. It was for the woman's sake, not His own sake, that He asked the question. Occasionally Jesus chose to heal people who expressed no faith in Him. Here, though, someone with faith drew on His power without His conscious selection of her. Evidently God healed the woman through Jesus without Jesus' awareness. The Holy Spirit was the power at work (cf. 5:17-19; 6:19). Similarly, God sometimes brings blessing to individuals through His other children (believers), without those "conduit" believers even being aware of it, by His Spirit.

In saying "I was aware that power had left Me" Jesus meant that some of God's power had proceeded from Him to another person, not that He consequently suffered a deficit of power. Luke alone identified Peter as the spokesman of the disciples on this occasion, perhaps in order to make the narrative more concrete and vivid.

"It is evermore thus in his [Christ's] Church. Many 'throng' Christ; with the sacraments and ordinances of his Church; yet not touching Him, because not drawing nigh in faith, not looking for, and therefore not obtaining, life and healing from Him, and through these."[583]

"It was good for her, indeed it was necessary for her that her cure be widely known. All her acquaintances must have been aware of her permanent state of ceremonial uncleanness. If she was to be received back into normal religious and social intercourse, it was necessary that her cure become a matter of public knowledge. So Jesus took steps to see that people knew what had happened."[584]

8:47-48      The woman's fearful reaction upon being discovered was undoubtedly due to her illness and to her impropriety in mingling with a crowd while being ritually unclean. Her falling at Jesus' feet recalls the sinful woman in Simon the Pharisee's house (7:36-50) who had a kindred spirit of thankfulness. Another reason that Jesus insisted on identifying the woman was to secure her public confession of faith in Him. Perhaps Luke included this public confession that followed a private deliverance in order to provide a good example for his readers to follow (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). Jesus then prevented a possible misunderstanding—that her healing might have been the result of magic—by ascribing it to her faith.

"It was the grasp of her faith, not of her hand, that wrought the cure."[585]

Jesus' benediction also ties this story in with the earlier one involving the sinful woman (cf. 7:50). By calling her "daughter," Jesus affirmed her new position in the family of God.

"'Go in peace;' this is not merely, 'Go with a blessing,' but, 'Enter into peace, as the element in which thy future life shall move …'"[586]

The raising of Jairus' daughter 8:49-56 (cf. Matt. 9:23-26; Mark 5:35-43)

8:49-50      Jesus' words of encouragement, as well as His recent demonstration of power, prepared Jairus for what followed. He had just witnessed Jesus overcome ceremonial defilement and disease. He needed to believe that Jesus could overcome ceremonial defilement and death. Luke stressed the sad finality of the occasion by using the perfect tense Greek verb translated "has died," and by placing the verb in the emphatic first position in the sentence. The messenger's command also implied that there was no hope, but Jesus immediately fortified Jairus' faith.

"Whereas the woman's faith needed bolstering because it was shy, Jairus's faith needs to be calmed, persistent, and trusting."[587]

"We often struggle to understand God's timing. In fact, much of faith is related to accepting God's timing for events."[588]

8:51-53      Jairus' faith is evident in his continuing on with Jesus and allowing Him to enter his house. Perhaps Jesus allowed only Peter, John, and James (cf. 9:28; Acts 1:13) to accompany Him and the girl's parents because the girl's room was probably small. Another reason Jesus admitted only these few people may have been to make the little girl feel less conspicuous when she awoke.[589] Perhaps Luke used this order for these disciples' names because of Peter and John's prominence and partnership in the leadership of the early church.

More significantly, Jesus' command to keep this incident a secret (v. 56) indicates that He did not want the unnecessary publicity that would inevitably accompany a second resuscitation (cf. 7:11-17). By saying, euphemistically, that the girl was "asleep" (Gr. katheudei), Jesus was implying that her death was only temporary (cf. John 11:11; 1 Thess. 4:13-14). Jesus was expressing God's view of death, not man's.

"Jesus' remark is directed toward the future and not the past. It is prognosis, not diagnosis. Her state is sleep and not death because of what Jesus intends to do for her."[590]

Obviously the girl had died because her spirit had departed from her body (v. 55). It is interesting that these mourners, who knew of Jesus' prophetic powers and gift of healing, refused to allow the possibility that He might be right. This attitude shows their lack of faith.

This miracle was originally for the primary benefit of Jairus' family and Jesus' disciples. It was a strong proof of Jesus' deity, because Daniel had written that God would raise the dead in the future (Dan. 12:2), and here was Jesus raising the dead. Jesus even described the dead as Daniel did: as asleep—in order to help these witnesses make the connection.

8:54-56      Jesus called the girl's spirit back to her body (cf. 1 Kings 17:21; Acts 9:41). Evidently He extended His hand in order to assist her in sitting up, not to transfer divine power to her. Luke wrote that the girl got up off her deathbed immediately, and was able to eat—actions that preclude a gradual, or only spiritual, restoration (cf. 4:39). Her parents' amazement (Gr. exestesan) also witnessed to the reality of this miracle.

"The Gospels record three such resurrections, though Jesus probably performed more. In each instance, the person raised gave evidence of life. The widow's son began to speak (Luke 7:15), Jairus' daughter walked and ate food, and Lazarus was loosed from the graveclothes (John 11:44). When a lost sinner is raised from the dead, you can tell it by his speech, his walk, his appetite, and his 'change of clothes' (Col. 3:1ff). You cannot hide life!"[591]

This double miracle brings this section on Jesus' mighty works to a climax. The point that Luke was emphasizing throughout was the identity of Jesus, whom he presented as exercising the prerogatives of deity (cf. Ps. 146:7-9).

"The most fundamental lesson in this passage is the combination of characteristics tied to faith. Faith should seize the initiative to act in dependence on God and speak about him, yet sometimes it must be patient. In one sense faith is full speed ahead, while in another it is waiting on the Lord. Our lives require a vibrant faith applied to the affairs of life, but it also requires a patient waiting on the Lord, for the Father does know best."[592]

G.     Jesus' preparation of the Twelve 9:1-50

In this last major section that describes Jesus' ministry in and around Galilee (4:14—9:50), Luke stressed Jesus' preparation of His disciples for the opposition that lay before them. This was the climax of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, and these events formed a bridge to Luke's unique major section on Jesus' journey to Jerusalem (9:51—19:10).

Previously, Luke recorded Jesus teaching and authenticating His teaching with miracles, mainly among and to the Jews generally. Jesus did so with power and compassion. During that time, the Twelve appeared in the text as Jesus' companions. Now, Jesus began to minister to the Twelve more specifically. The focus of this training was initially and predominantly the identity of His person. Two other themes dominate this section: the sufferings that Jesus would endure, and the necessity of His disciples' following the same path of service that would result in suffering for them too.

1.     The mission of the Twelve to Israel 9:1-6 (cf. Matt. 9:35—11:1; Mark 6:6b-13)

This is another "sandwich" or chiastic section in design (cf. 8:40-56). This structural device usually gives unity to a whole section and focuses attention on the central part of it. First, Jesus sent the Twelve on an evangelistic mission throughout Galilee. Second, Luke filled in the period of their mission proper with information about how Herod Antipas and the people perceived Jesus. Third, the writer recorded the return of the Twelve to their Master. The whole mission prefigured the later mission of these and other disciples to the ends of the earth, which Acts records.

"As the rejection in Nazareth is a kind of dress rehearsal for the passion of Jesus, so this mission is something of a dress rehearsal for the post-Pentecost role of the Twelve."[593]

The lessons that Jesus taught about dependence on God and rejection by men apply directly to the church's mission in the present dispensation. Jesus' instructions to His missionaries, rather than the activities of the missionaries, are the core of this pericope. However, the reader must carefully distinguish the basic principles that Jesus taught from the specific directions that He meant for this particular mission and no other.

9:1-2          Luke alone recorded that Jesus gave the Twelve both power (Gr. dynamis, ability) and authority (Gr. exousia, the right to exercise power). These are the same two qualities that Luke earlier wrote about that the people of Nazareth attributed to Jesus (4:36). The parallel Gospel accounts refer only to authority. In both his Gospel and in Acts, Luke emphasized the validation of gospel preaching with signs and wonders.

No prophet was ever able to bestow the power to do miracles on someone else, but Jesus did. Only God can give people this power. Therefore, Jesus must be God.

Since false teachers could do powerful miracles as well, presumably by Satan's power (cf. Acts 13:6-10; 19:13), it was consequently necessary that Jesus' disciples could validate their preaching with powerful miracles, as Jesus did. The Twelve received authority over all the demons. None would prove too powerful for them. The disciples' primary duty was to preach the messianic kingdom of God, and their way of showing the Jews that God was behind their preaching was by performing miracles. Thus they followed Jesus' precedent (cf. 8:26-56; 9:11). They, like He, were to demonstrate concern for people's souls, but also their bodies.

9:3             The Twelve were to trust God to provide their food, protection, and shelter daily (cf. 8:14). They were not even to take a walking staff (Gr. hrabdos), which was commonly used on a long journey by foot (cf. Matt. 10:10). Mark, on the other hand, wrote that Jesus commanded the Twelve to take a staff (Gr. hrabdos, Mark 6:8). The solution to this apparent contradiction may be that Jesus originally either permitted or prohibited the taking of a staff and later did the opposite. The prohibition suggests a mission of relatively short duration, and the permission was a concession for comfort.

Jesus also forbade taking a bag (Gr. pera, a beggar's bag[594]) for their necessities, food, money, or an extra undergarment (Gr. chiton). In view of these restrictions it appears that Jesus anticipated a brief mission for the Twelve (v. 10). They could live like this temporarily but not permanently. Furthermore, their simple lifestyle suggested the immanency of the messianic kingdom that they announced. Jesus did not want them to go out as beggars, like the promoters of other religions behaved, but as His representatives.[595]

“The orders which Jesus issues to the apostles are to teach them absolute dependence upon their Lord who sends them out. They are to take nothing along for the road because Jesus will see that they are provided for. After this lesson had once been thoroughly learned, they would be ready for their world-wide mission so that whether they had something with them or not, their dependence on their Lord would always be the same.”[596]

9:4             The disciples were to accept the hospitality that others offered them, but they were not to move from house to house unnecessarily. Moving from house to house would probably imply that they were seeking better accommodations, and this would insult their hosts. People who entertained the Twelve would be demonstrating support for Jesus, since His disciples were representing Him (cf. 3 John 5-7).

9:5             Jewish travelers often shook the dust off their feet when they returned from a journey in Gentile territory in order to reject, symbolically, the Gentiles' uncleanness.[597] When the Twelve did this, it represented rejection of the unbelievers who had not received them and their message (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6). It symbolically stated that Israelites who rejected the disciples' preaching were no better than unbelieving Gentiles. Evidently Jesus meant this not only as a sign of individual, but primarily citywide, rejection (cf. Matt. 10:14-15).

“This act is sometimes, however, misinterpreted. It is unsatisfactory to call it an act of contempt for the city and the people; or to speak of the dust as defiling the apostles as that of heathen places did; or to say that the apostles will have absolutely nothing to do with the place; or to regard the act as equal to exclusion from the kingdom.”[598]

9:6             Luke summarized the mission of the Twelve briefly. "Everywhere" means everywhere in that region of Galilee (cf. Matt. 10:5-6). Luke probably used this word so that his Christian readers would see the parallel with the Great Commission.

Thus Jesus' disciples made a tour of Galilee two by two (Mark 6:7) like Jesus had made a tour of Galilee with them. They did the same work as He had done: preaching and healing (cf. Acts).

2.     Herod's question about Jesus' identity 9:7-9 (cf. Matt. 14:1-3; Mark 6:14-16)

The crucial issue in the preaching of Jesus and the Twelve, during their mission in Galilee, was the identity of Jesus. Luke showed the centrality of this issue by placing the present pericope in the center of his account of the Twelve's mission. It highlights the controversy over Jesus' identity. Herod Antipas voiced the crucial question in verse 9: "who is this man?" This section also prepares the way for Peter's confession (vv. 18-20) and Jesus' instruction of His disciples on this subject that followed. Moreover, it introduces Jesus' contacts with Herod that Luke referred to later (13:31-32; 23:6-12).

Evidently everyone in Galilee was talking about Jesus, including the highest Roman government official. However, people were concluding different things about Jesus' identity, which Luke recorded. Mark wrote that Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead (Mark 6:16). However, Luke said that Herod questioned who Jesus might be (v. 9). It may be that Herod deliberated first and then decided that Jesus was John. By including Herod's question in his narrative Luke implied that the answers that people were giving to Herod's question were inadequate. Herod appeared unable to make up his mind, like many others. Obviously many of the Jews believed in the possibility of physical resurrection (v. 7).

Only Luke included that Herod kept trying to get to know Jesus (v. 9). As later incidents revealed, curiosity and animosity motivated him rather than faith.

3.     The feeding of the 5,000 9:10-17 (cf. Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; John 6:1-13)

This is the only miracle that all four Gospel evangelists recorded. It is important because it is the climax of Jesus' miracles that authenticated His person as divine (cf. Ps. 146:7).[599] It was perhaps the most forceful demonstration of Jesus' deity to the disciples.

"Framed as it is by Herod's puzzlement and Peter's confident assertion, the feeding account is intended by Luke to make a special contribution to the disciple's insight into the identity of Jesus."[600]

Jesus performed this miracle primarily for the benefit of His disciples, though also out of compassion for the people. Luke recorded no crowd reaction to it. His account contrasts the inadequacy of the disciples with Jesus' ability to help the crowd.[601]

9:10           This transitional verse marks the end of the special mission of the Twelve (vv. 1-6). Luke now called them apostles (missionaries) again (cf. 6:13), probably in anticipation of their ministry in Acts as Jesus' authorized representatives. They reported to Jesus as their authority (cf. Acts 14:26-28).

"What a wonderful thing it would be if the Church returned to this apostolic method. If it would say: We are not going to publish any report of what we are doing; all reports shall be given to Jesus, and not to the world."[602]

Jesus then took the Twelve privately to the region of Bethsaida for rest (Mark 6:31) and for further instruction. This town stood near the northeast shore of Lake Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.

"As the popular speaker Vance Havner used to say, 'If we don't come apart and rest, we'll just come apart.'"[603]

9:11           Luke is the only evangelist who wrote that Jesus welcomed the crowds that came to Him. By doing so he pictured Jesus as the ever-available Savior who was ready and willing to help those who came to Him (cf. Heb. 13:8).

9:12-13      Jesus undoubtedly ordered the Twelve to give the multitude something to eat as a teaching device: in order to confront the Twelve with the inadequacy of their resources, so that they would turn to Him for help (cf. 2 Kings 4:42-44). They failed this test and only thought instead of buying food. The non-local people would need lodging for the night, a detail that only Luke recorded.

9:14-17      Luke's account here does not differ from the others significantly. The miracle shows that when believers become partners with Jesus in the execution of His mission, He can enable them to provide greater blessing for others than they can by themselves. And He takes good care of His servants: each disciple received a basket of left over broken pieces.

“Twelve baskets: one for each of the Twelve, none for Jesus, which means that he who had created all this bounty made an opportunity of the Twelve to share their abundant portions with him. From all that he gives to you, you are privileged to give a little back to him.”[604]

The absence of reference to the crowd's reaction to the miracle in the synoptic accounts focuses attention on the results of the miracle. It must have elicited another question: Who is Jesus?

"In a remarkable way, that feeding is a parabolic illustration of the method by which those who serve Him are to reach the needs of humanity. Their duty is to yield all they have to Him, and then to obey Him, no matter how mere prudence and worldly wisdom may question the method."[605]

4.     Peter's confession of faith 9:18-27

Luke alone recorded Peter's confession of faith right after Jesus' feeding of the 5,000. This arrangement of the material emphasizes Jesus' identity. Herod explicitly (9:9), and the 5,000 implicitly (9:10-17), had questioned Jesus' identity. This identity motif is very prominent in Luke because Jesus is the central character.

The story is told of a very old woman who used to sit in the front row of her church. She believed that every preacher should exalt Jesus when he preached. So she would talk to whoever was preaching during his sermon. At the very beginning of his message, she would shout out, "Get Him up!" meaning, "Lift up Jesus!" If he failed to do so, she would call out again, "Get Him up!" If the preacher did not have too much to say about Jesus, he was in for a long, hard time from this sister, because she would continue to call out, "Get Him up!" That is pretty good advice for any preacher. We need to make sure that we make Him the main thing.

"The section 8:1—9:20 now reaches its final goal: now at last for the first time there is a human response that corresponds to the presentation God had made of his envoy ahead of time in the infancy gospel (1:4—2:52). This is to be the platform on which Luke will erect the remainder of his narrative, with its new focus from this point on the coming suffering in Jerusalem."[606]

Luke's account contains three parts: Jesus' question and Peter's reply; Jesus' prediction of His passion; and Jesus' explanation of the implications for the disciples.

Jesus' question and Peter's reply 9:18-20 (cf. Matt. 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29)

Luke omitted several incidents here that the other evangelists included (Matt. 14:22—16:12; Mark 6:45—8:26; John 6:16-66). By doing so, he connected the questions by Herod and the multitude, about Jesus' identity, with Peter's answer to that question. This selection of material helps the reader see that the question of Jesus' identity was very important to Luke. It should be to every evangelist.

9:18-19      The fact that this incident happened near Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13; Mark 8:27) was insignificant to Luke. He may have viewed it as a distracting detail, even though the event transpired in Gentile territory.

However, Luke alone mentioned that Jesus was praying. Luke may have done so in order to tie this incident to the feeding of the 5,000, when Jesus also prayed (v. 16). Thus he presented the feeding and the revelation to Peter as coming in answer to prayer. Jesus' exemplary dependence on His Father is one of Luke's unique emphases (cf. 3:21; 6:12; 11:1; et al.). He showed Jesus praying before many important events in His ministry. He was evidently praying privately on this occasion, though the disciples were with Him (cf. 11:1).

Jesus focused attention on the crucial issue of His identity with His question: "Who do the people say that I am?" He wanted the disciples to tell Him who the crowds (Gr. ochloi, the uncommitted masses) believed Him to be. He meant: What role do the crowds believe that I fulfill? The disciples responded with the views that Luke had already revealed (cf. vv. 7-8).

9:20           Then Jesus asked: "But who do you say that I am?" Speaking for the other disciples, Peter answered that Jesus was the Messiah ("Christ"), whom God had sent (Ps. 2:2; Dan. 9:26; cf. Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-16). In saying this, Peter rejected the notion that Jesus was just a prophet, even one of the greatest prophets. The latter is how the Moslems view Jesus today. Peter, however, believed that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.

It is not difficult to know just what Peter's concept of the Messiah was when he made this confession of faith. When Peter's brother first invited him to come and see Jesus, Andrew referred to Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:41). However, most of the Jews of Peter's day believed that the Messiah would be a descendant of David who would overthrow the Romans and establish the kingdom of God on earth. They did not view Him as deity.

Matthew recorded Peter's full confession including, "the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). This is a clear statement of Jesus' deity. Why did Luke not include that phrase, since it would have clarified what Peter meant? Probably he did not see that as necessary, since the title "Christ" had become synonymous with a divine Messiah among the Gentiles, to whom Luke (and Mark) wrote (cf. 1 John 5:1). Thus Luke appears to have assumed that his readers would understand Peter's confession of Jesus, as the Messiah, as a confession of His deity.

Jesus' prediction of His passion 9:21-22 (cf. Matt. 16:17-23; Mark 8:30-33)

Luke omitted Jesus' prediction of the church (Matt. 16:17-19), Peter's rebuke of Jesus (Matt. 16:22; Mark 8:32), and Jesus' counter-rebuke of Peter (Matt. 16:23; Mark 8:33). These omissions enabled him to focus on Jesus' prediction of His sufferings, and His call to the disciples to take up their cross and follow Him. The fate of Jesus is primary in this short pericope.

Evidently Jesus urged the disciples not to publicize His true identity because this would have resulted in unnecessary pressure from the Jewish multitudes. He would publicly proclaim His messiahship at the proper time, namely, in the Triumphal Entry.

"… Jesus never proclaimed Himself openly to the multitude as the Messiah; and here, when He does to the Twelve, He explains the nature of His Kingdom, and strictly forbids them to make His Messiahship known. The nearest approach to exceptions to this practice are the Samaritan woman (Jn. iv. 26), and the outcast from the synagogue (Jn. ix. 37)."[607]

Jesus gave His first clear prediction of His passion on this occasion (cf. 2:35; 5:35). In view of what Jesus needed to teach the disciples, they needed to hear that rejection, death, and resurrection lay ahead for Him. Every time Jesus told His disciples that He would die, He also told them that He would be raised up again. He added hope to each announcement of His death. Yet the disciples consistently failed to understand what He meant.

Jesus' use of the divine title Son of Man (v. 22) supports the fact that Peter recognized Jesus' deity. It was appropriate to use this title when speaking of His rejection, because the Old Testament predicted the Son of Man's glorious reign (Dan. 7:13-14). The disciples had seen Jesus raise two people from the dead: the widow of Nain's son, and Jairus' daughter. Their failure to understand that Jesus would die and rise from the dead was, therefore, not due to its actual impossibility, but to its improbability—from their viewpoint—since Jesus was the Son of Man.

The implications for the disciples 9:23-27 (cf. Matt. 16:24-28; Mark 8:34—9:1)

Jesus proceeded to explain the consequences of His rejection for disciples who choose to follow Him faithfully.

9:23           The "all" in this verse must be the disciples, in view of the context (v. 18). "Come after Me" means becoming a disciple (follower) of Jesus. Denying self is more fundamental than denying things. It involves forsaking one's personal ambitions and desires in order to fulfill the will of God. It means living for His sake rather than for oneself. Criminals going to crucifixion normally carried the crosspiece (Gr. patibulum) of their own cross.[608] Carrying one's own cross, therefore, implied bearing the reproach and burden associated with one's chosen way of life. To do this daily (Gr. arato, aorist tense) meant enduring these things as a disciple of Jesus, day after day, having no prospect of release in this life. Jesus meant that His disciples had to bear a particular burden that non-disciples did not have to bear.

“The wicked have many sorrows (Ps. 32:10) but no crosses. The cross is that suffering alone which results from our faithful connection with Christ (6:22).”[609]

"It represents, therefore, not so much a burden as an instrument of death, and it was mentioned because of its familiar associations."[610]

It is particularly the consequences associated with choosing to follow Jesus wholeheartedly that are in view. Jesus' disciples must keep following Him daily (Gr. akoloutheito, present tense), and bear the consequences of their choice, which will involve loss (vv. 24-25) and shame (v. 26) for them. The implication is that disciples need to do this with the real possibility of laying down one's life clearly in view (cf. Gen. 22:6).

"Now 'to follow him' is not just a Jewish way of talking about being a disciple of a master, but a challenge to have one's whole existence determined by and patterned after a crucified messiah."[611]

9:24-26      These verses expand the ideas of loss and shame that are implied in the illustration of bearing one's cross (v. 23). The contrast is, first, giving up what the world can provide in order to gain what God can provide. It involves going without, now, with the faith that God will abundantly reward any sacrifice that a disciple makes to follow Him faithfully. In addition, it involves giving up oneself (one's earthly ambitions, glory, honor) now, in order to gain something for oneself, either now or later. The second contrast is between glory (a good reputation) now, in the eyes of the world, versus glory (a good reputation) in the future, in God's eyes.[612] Jesus glorified the glory available to faithful disciples in the future by associating it with the glory of the Father and the holy angels.

"Not long before this the disciples had been actively engaged in telling the nation about the Messiah and His kingdom program. No doubt many thought the disciples were throwing their lives away. They had given up their sources of income and were in danger because they associated with Jesus. Jesus assured His disciples that they were doing the right thing. They had chosen the proper values …"[613]

"What is gained in Christ far outweighs all that is lost for Christ."[614]

9:27           In view of the following incident, the Transfiguration, the "some of you" in this verse appears to refer to some of the disciples, namely, Peter, John, and James (cf. v. 28). The Transfiguration was a preview of the earthly kingdom of God, in which three disciples saw Jesus in the glorified state that will be His in the earthly kingdom (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16-18). Jesus' reference to tasting death here connects with what He had just implied about the disciples possibly having to die for their testimonies (vv. 23-25). The introductory "but" implied that many disciples would die before they saw the earthly kingdom. Jesus was anticipating His rejection (v. 22) and the consequent postponement (or delay) of the earthly kingdom.

Other views of what Jesus meant by "some … will … see the kingdom of God" include, first, His resurrection. However, most of the disciples present probably saw Jesus after His resurrection, and that event did not initiate the earthly kingdom. Others, secondly, believe that Jesus referred to Pentecost (Acts 2). Yet most of the disciples present saw Pentecost, and Pentecost did not begin the earthly kingdom. A third view is that Jesus meant the destruction of Jerusalem,[615] but that event did not initiate the earthly kingdom either. A fourth view is that Jesus meant that the disciples would simply live to see the inauguration of the earthly kingdom. Yet the earthly kingdom did not begin within the lifetime of any of those disciples.

Another, fifth, view is that "some of you" refers to the people present who believed in Jesus, and the rest are unbelievers, who will not see the earthly kingdom. The problem with this view is that unbelievers are not in view in the context, and the earthly kingdom did not begin during the lifetime of any of those disciples. People who hold these views have to redefine the earthly kingdom as God's present rule over His own.

5.     The Transfiguration 9:28-36 (cf. Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8)

This event is a climax of the identity of Jesus motif in all the Synoptics. John's Gospel does not include it. Here three disciples saw and heard who Jesus really was. Luke's particular emphasis was the sufferings of Jesus that lay ahead. This comes through in his description of Jesus' conversation with Moses and Elijah (vv. 30-31), and his interpretation of what the heavenly voice said (v. 35). The whole scene recalls God's appearance to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 24), and it anticipates the second coming of Christ. There is a recurrence of the three themes of Jesus' identity (v. 20), His passion (v. 22), and glory (v. 26) from the previous pericope, but in reverse order (vv. 29, 30, 35). These are the main points that the reader should identify as significant in Luke's narrative. The Transfiguration previewed, for the inner circle of disciples, the future glorified state of the Messiah whom they had now confessed as the God-man.

"The transfiguration narrative confirms the importance of listening to Jesus, as he sets for himself and his followers a suffering fate; but it also confirms his anticipation of the glorious outcome of traveling this difficult road."[616]

9:28           Matthew and Mark wrote that the Transfiguration happened after six days (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2), but Luke wrote that it happened "about eight days after these sayings." Luke's reference is less precise and may reflect a Hellenistic way of referring to a week. Again Luke reversed the normal order of the three primary apostles, perhaps to link Peter with John as the leaders of the apostolic church in the Roman province of Judea (cf. 8:51).

Luke's use of the definite article "the" with "mountain" suggests a specific mountain, but he did not identify it. Perhaps the Mount of Transfiguration was so well known when he wrote that he did not need to identify it, but only mentioned it as the mountain on which this event happened. Another idea is that he referred to the mountain this way in order to identify it in some special symbolic way: as similar to Mt. Sinai and/or Mt. Olivet.[617] Playing down the specific identity of the mountain has the effect of magnifying Jesus.

In view of Jesus' geographical movements with His disciples, it seems to me that the mountain was probably Mt. Hermon, which was just north of Caesarea Philippi.[618] Other possibilities are Mt. Tabor, Mt. Arbel, and Mt. Meron.[619] Mt. Tabor is the traditional site, but it is too far from Caesarea Philippi, and its summit appears to have been occupied by a group of people at this time.[620]

Again Luke referred to Jesus praying. The implication is that the Transfiguration was an answer to His prayer. Frequently in Old Testament times revelations came to people after they prayed (e.g., Dan. 9; et al.; cf. Acts 22:6; 26:13), though this one came to the disciples, not to Jesus who was praying.

"The Transfiguration does not set forth the deity of Christ, but the humanity of Christ. Transfiguration is the goal of humanity. When you see the Lord Jesus Christ transfigured there on the mount, you are seeing exactly what is going to take place in that day when we are translated. The dead shall be raised, and those who are alive shall be changed; that is, they shall undergo metamorphosis. Then they will all be translated and brought into the presence of God."[621]

Whereas the Transfiguration does give us a foreview of believers' glorified state, it was primarily a revelation of Jesus in His glorified state.

9:29           The fact that Jesus experienced a change "while He was praying" also implies the subjective effect that prayer can have on people. It can transform them as surely as it did Him. Luke avoided the term "transfigured," which Matthew and Mark used, probably in order to avoid giving his Greek readers, who were familiar with stories about gods appearing to men, the idea that this change in Jesus was the same as what the Greeks were familiar with. Jesus was much more than a Greek god. Instead, Luke simply described the change in Jesus that suggests a metamorphosis into a glorified condition (cf. Exod. 34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3:7, 13). The vision is of a Righteous One who has come through suffering and has entered into His glory (Dan. 3:12-25; cf. Rev. 3:5).[622] The three disciples evidently saw Jesus as He will appear in His glorified state at His second coming.

"In OT and Jewish tradition, one's countenance is a mirror of one's heart and a manifestation of one's relationship to God (cf. Exod. 34:29-30; 1 Sam. 1:9-18; Ps. 34:5-6; Dan. 10:6; Acts 6:15; …). Throughout Luke-Acts, clothes are a signifier of status, dazzling clothes denoting heavenly glory ( cf. 24:4; Acts 1:10). Luke's point, then, is not that Jesus experienced an internal adjustment of some sort that led to his transformed appearance, but that his inner being was made transparent to those who accompanied him."[623]

"Some people ask the silly question, 'Are we going to wear clothes in heaven?' I think we will, but I do not believe we will need them because we will be clothed in this glory-light such as clothed our Lord."[624]

9:30           Jesus' association with Moses and Elijah probably should have suggested to the disciples Jesus' continuation of the redemptive work of the Exodus to its eschatological consummation. Moses was the original redeemer of God's people. Elijah was the prophet whom God predicted would turn the hearts of the people back to Himself—in the future—as he had in the past (Mal. 4:4-6; cf. Deut. 18:18). These men were the only two individuals in Scripture who met with God on Mt. Sinai (Mt. Horeb; Exod. 24; 1 Kings 19). The facts that no one could find Moses' corpse (Deut. 34:5-6), and that Elijah ascended into heaven while still alive (2 Kings 2:11-12, 15-18), prefigured Jesus' resurrection and ascension.

However, Moses and Elijah had not undergone transfiguration as Jesus had. Luke described them as men (Gr. andres). This fact suggests Jesus' superiority to the two greatest men in Israel's spiritual history. Moses established Yahweh worship in Israel by giving the Law, and Elijah preserved Yahweh worship in Israel when the nation was closest to abandoning it. Moses was also the foreview of Jesus, and Elijah was His forerunner. Even though John the Baptist was in one sense the greatest prophet, he did not have the lasting effect on Israel that Moses and Elijah did.

How did the disciples know who Moses and Elijah were? Evidently God gave them this insight. Even though the saints in heaven do not have bodies, God apparently made them visible, as He did when He sent angels to appear to people living on the earth.

9:31           Luke described Moses and Elijah as appearing "in glory" or "glorious splendor" (NIV). They evidently basked in the reflected glory of Jesus.

The disciples observed them speaking with Jesus about His upcoming departure (Gr. exodos). Luke alone mentioned the subject of their conversation. The use of exodos points to a larger significance of Jesus' death: It was more than just His departure from the earth. It would involve a journey through rejection and death to exaltation. It would be unusual, like Moses' and Elijah's departures had been. However, it would accomplish redemption, like the Exodus from Egypt had done, but on a cosmic scale.[625] Jesus' exodus would open up a whole new wilderness experience—for the church to trek across—like Moses' Exodus did for the Israelites (cf. Acts 13:24).

Luke also recorded that this exodus would happen at Jerusalem. This is the first of his several references to that city as the place to which Jesus now began to look as His city of destiny (cf. v. 51, 53; 13:33; 17:11; 18:31). Referring to Jesus' departure as an accomplishment suggests that it was the fulfillment of Jesus' destiny as the Suffering Servant, which Scripture predicted.

"Much of Luke's Gospel from here through chapter 19 concerns preparation of the disciples for ministry in light of his [Jesus'] departure."[626]

"The purpose of the Transfiguration was to strengthen the heart of Jesus as he was praying long about his approaching death and to give these chosen three disciples a glimpse of his glory for the hour of darkness coming. No one on earth understood the heart of Jesus and so Moses and Elijah came. The poor disciples utterly failed to grasp the significance of it all."[627]

9:32           The information In this verse is also unique to the third Gospel. Evidently the three disciples, "overcome with sleep," had either been sleeping or had almost fallen asleep while Jesus was praying (v. 29; cf. 22:45). Obviously they were awake or they could not have heard the discussion between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But they were not spiritually ready for what they experienced. Perhaps the Transfiguration happened at night.[628] If Jesus found it necessary to pray then, they should have followed His example. Their improper response comes out in the next verse. They apparently did not understand the significance of the discussion about Jesus' exodus. The vision before them, however, awakened them fully.

9:33           Peter appears to have wanted to prolong this great experience, but his suggestion was inappropriate. By offering to build three shelters, Peter put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. Even worse, by suggesting their construction, Peter was inadvertently—though nonetheless effectively—proposing something that would delay Jesus' departure to Jerusalem. He naturally viewed Jerusalem as a place to avoid, knowing the possibility of danger there. Peter may have thought that the earthly kingdom had arrived, and there was no reason for Jesus and His disciples to go to Jerusalem.

The "tabernacles (sacred tents)" that Peter suggested building were probably the same kind that the Jews erected at the yearly Feast of Tabernacles in order to commemorate the wilderness wanderings and to anticipate the earthly kingdom (Lev. 23:42-43; Neh. 8:14-17; Zech. 14:16-21).

"Peter suggested that they build three booths probably because of the prophecy in Zechariah 14:16 that the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) would be celebrated when Christ reigns on the earth. Apparently Peter thought that with Moses, Elijah, the three disciples, and Christ all present, this must be the beginning of the earthly kingdom."[629]

9:34           The cloud that formed and began to overshadow Jesus, Moses, and Elijah was undoubtedly the shekinah: the visible vehicle for God's localized presence during the wilderness wanderings (Exod. 13:21-22; 16:10; 24:16; 40:34-38). It was predicted to accompany the Son of Man's coming (Isa. 4:5; Dan. 7:13). Its presence is another indication that the Second Coming is in view. The Greek word episkiazo ("overshadow") translates the Hebrew word shakan in the Septuagint, from which the term "shekinah" comes. Thus the reader has two hints that God was drawing near: the bright (Gr. photeine) cloud and its overshadowing (Gr. episkiazo) presence. Evidently the cloud enshrouded ("enveloped," NIV) Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, and the disciples became very fearful (cf. Matt. 17:5-7).

9:35           For a second time, God spoke from heaven identifying Jesus as His Son (cf. 3:22). Previously, God had identified Jesus to Jesus as His beloved Son. This time He identified Him to the disciples as: "My Son, My chosen One." God's words of official approval here show that Jesus was God the Father's obedient Son, and that He possessed divine authority. Therefore the disciples were to listen to what Jesus was telling them about His and their future. The words recall Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, and Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. Thus this divine vindication identified Jesus as the Son of God, God's chosen Servant, and the eschatological Prophet.

"Our culture desires to assemble a religious hall of honor from as many religious traditions as possible, all in honor of our commitment to religious toleration. But Jesus does not ask for a booth alongside the others."[630]

Many students of this verse have seen in it a divine warning against giving human wisdom precedence over divine revelation.

"The heavenly voice which declares that Jesus is God's Son recalls the scene of Jesus praying after his baptism in 3:22. In that scene Jesus was preparing for his ministry. In the transfiguration scene he is preparing for the crisis in Jerusalem. To prepare him, Jesus is given an anticipatory experience of the goal of his life and death, the heavenly glory which he will enter when exalted to the right hand of God (see Luke 24:26; Acts 7:55-56)."[631]

9:36           The scene ends with Jesus alone—the center of the disciples' attention. The disciples told no one what they had seen, because Jesus told them to keep it quiet (Matt. 17:9; Mark 9:9). Luke simply recorded this fact and omitted the discussion about Elijah that followed (Matt. 17:10-13; Mark 9:10-13), thus highlighting Jesus' authority.

The major emphasis in Luke's account of the Transfiguration is that the glorious Son of God must suffer, but that glory lies farther ahead.

6.     The exorcism of an epileptic boy 9:37-43a (cf. Matt. 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29)

The effect of Luke's omission of the conversation that Jesus had with the disciples about Elijah is clear. This healing (by exorcism) appears as the work of the Son of God, whom the Transfiguration presented.

"It is the Jesus who has been transfigured who now appears to help men at the foot of the mountain; what the disciples cannot do, he can do. He appears like a visitor from another world who has to put up with the unbelief of men."[632]

Luke also omitted Jesus' teaching on the importance of faith that He gave His disciples at the end of this story (cf. Matt. 17:19-20; Mark 9:28-29). All of Luke's emphasis falls on Jesus' authority. This is the first of four incidents that show, respectively: the disciples' lack of faith, slowness to learn, pride, and intolerance.

9:37           Luke is the only Gospel writer who mentioned that the descent happened on the day following the Transfiguration. This notation has the effect of contrasting the glorious manifestation on the mountain with the mundane world of sin and unbelief below. Some commentators thought that Luke's comment implies that the Transfiguration happened at night, but that is only supposition.

9:38-40      Luke did not refer to the boy's condition as epilepsy, as Matthew did (Matt. 17:15). He probably wanted his readers to understand clearly that it resulted from demonic influence (v. 42). A demon produced the symptoms of epilepsy in this boy, though not every case of epilepsy is the result of demon affliction. Unfortunately, throughout history, some people have equated epilepsy with demon possession because of the similar symptoms.

Doctor Luke described this boy's symptoms more fully than the other Gospel writers, and he alone mentioned that the boy was the only (Gr. monogenes, cf. 8:42; John 3:16) son of his father (v. 38). The failure of the disciples (v. 40, cf. Gehazi's failure in 2 Kings 4:31) set the stage for a great demonstration of Jesus' unique power and authority (v. 42). In this instance they were no better than the physicians who failed to help the woman who suffered from chronic bleeding (8:43).[633]

9:41-42      Jesus' statement to the father and the crowd (v. 41) recalls Deuteronomy 32:20, where God rebuked the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus went on to express disappointment with these people's lack of faith. By omitting the further conversation between Jesus and the father—in which Jesus stressed the importance of faith in Him (cf. Mark 9:21-24)—Luke focused attention on Jesus' power. Luke also stressed Jesus' compassion by noting that He gave the boy back to his father (v. 42, cf. 7:15).

“’Generation’ applies to the people of Jesus’ time as a whole.”[634]

9:43a          In conclusion, Luke drew attention to the reaction of the crowd. Jesus' miracle amazed (Gr. exeplesonto, cf. 4:32) the people. They recognized it as a demonstration of God's great power (cf. 5:25; 7:16, 18; Acts 2:11; 19:17; 2 Pet. 1:16).

This sign should have convinced the crowd that Jesus was God, because only God can overcome Satan and his demons. There is no record of any prophet casting out demons in the Old Testament. Even though the disciples could cast out demons, it was only in connection with Jesus that they could do that.

7.     Jesus' announcement of His betrayal 9:43b-45 (cf. Matt. 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32)

Luke's narrative joins this event with the preceding one thematically. However, the other Synoptics indicate that this conversation took place sometime later (Matt. 17:22; Mark 9:31). Luke's construction has the effect of contrasting the wonder of the people with their rejection, which resulted in Jesus' sufferings and death. Luke also stressed the fulfillment of God's purpose in Jesus' passion.

"Luke establishes a sharp contrast between the all-powerful exorcist of the previous episode and the Son of Man who is soon to find himself subject to the hostile wills of men. The contrast is much the same as that which we have seen between the glorified Christ of the transfiguration and the one who must be heard when he talks of going to suffering and death, and when he defines a discipleship path which leads to the same. The Man of Destiny goes to his destiny in a way that defies human comprehension. Here Jesus underlines the importance of this path of destiny and seeks in vain to make his disciples accept his teaching."[635]

9:43b-44    The reaction of the crowd to Jesus' exorcism (v. 43a) was typical of the reaction of the multitudes as He continued to minister (v. 43b). In the context of this popular approval, Jesus revealed again to His disciples that He would not continue to be popular. He prefaced His announcement with a demand for attention, which highlights the disciples' incomprehension more strikingly. This announcement contained new information about His passion, namely, that someone—a human being, but ultimately God—would hand Jesus over to His enemies (cf. Rom. 4:25; 8:31-32). Jesus' use of the title Son of Man (v. 44) intensified the horror of such a prospect.

9:45           However, this announcement did not make sense to the disciples. This was probably because of the popular view of the Messiah that still influenced them, the glorious prophecies about the Son of Man in the Old Testament, and Jesus' great popularity. They did not understand because their conventional thinking blocked this revelation off from them (cf. 18:34; 24:16; Mark 9:32). That is, they understood the words but could not understand how this would happen, partly because of their limited faith. They remembered Jesus' words, but they only understood the prediction after Jesus' resurrection. Perhaps they were afraid to ask Jesus to clarify what He said because they feared hearing what they suspected: that Jesus would indeed die soon.

"Some interpreters understand the statement, 'It was hid from them that they might not understand it,' as indication that God prevented the disciples from understanding. [Footnote 39:] See, e.g., R. J. Dillon, "Previewing Luke's Project from His Prologue (Luke 1:1-4)," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43 (1981):216. While the passive formulation may hint at divine involvement, I would caution against the assumption that human resistance is not an important factor at this point in the narrative. If a divine purpose is involved, it is a purpose which works in and through human resistance, for which humans remain responsible."[636]

Thus there was a "suffering secret" as well as a "messianic secret" in Jesus' ministry.[637] The "messianic secret" was the fact that Jesus was the divine Messiah, which He revealed only gradually before the Triumphal Entry. He withheld this information to preclude superficial and premature acceptance of Himself by the multitudes. The "suffering secret" was the information about Jesus' passion, which God revealed to the disciples only gradually before the Resurrection.

8.     The pride of the disciples 9:46-50

In contrast to the humble attitude of Jesus, demonstrated in His willingness to submit to betrayal and death in God's will, the disciples manifested pride. They had their own ideas about the coming earthly kingdom, and they wanted to secure their own futures in it. This spirit of self-seeking was also obvious after Jesus made His first revelation of His death (Mark 8:32-33). Now the disciples showed a greedy desire, first for position, and then for prestige, in the earthly kingdom. Their inappropriate attitudes are instructive for all Christian disciples.

"The disciples who were intoxicated with the anticipation of the glory that was to be theirs through their link to the Christ of glory were as little ready to find glory in the service of the humble as they had been to see the point in Jesus' talk of the Son of Man's betrayal."[638]

The glorification of self 9:46-48 (cf. Matt. 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37)

Luke again omitted several historical details and thereby focused the reader's attention on the essential issues and the contrast with the previous pericope. Since the disciples did not understand Jesus' role as the Suffering Servant, they could not see its implications for them as His disciples.

9:46           The Twelve were thinking about rank in the earthly kingdom. They wondered which of them would have the highest position and the most prestige.

"Ambition of honour, and strife for superiority and precedency, are sins that most easily beset the disciples of our Lord Jesus."[639]

9:47-48      Jesus used little children on different occasions as object lessons in order to teach different lessons. Once He used a child to teach that no act of kindness for one of His suffering disciples, whom the child represented, will pass without God's reward (Matt. 10:40-42). On the present occasion, Jesus used a child to illustrate two lessons. By standing the child—possibly the child He had just restored to health—beside Him, Jesus gave the child honor. Mark wrote that Jesus took the child in His arms (Mark 9:36). Evidently Jesus did both things.

The first lesson that Jesus used this child to illustrate was that His disciples should be as humble as little children (Matt. 18:4, 6). Luke did not mention that lesson. The second lesson was that acceptable service involves caring about people, even insignificant people such as children (Matt. 18:5; Mark 9:37). That is the lesson Luke included in his account of this teaching (v. 48). It reflects his interest in neglected people. A child was the least significant person in Jewish and in Greco-Roman culture.[640] A woman or one of the servants dealt with the children; the men could not be bothered with them.[641]

"'To welcome' people would be to extend to them the honor of hospitality, to regard them as guests (cf. 7:44-46), but one would only welcome a social equal or one whose honor was above one's own. Children, whose place of social residence was defined at the bottom of the ladder of esteem, might be called upon to perform acts of hospitality (e.g., washing the feet of a guest), but normally they would not themselves be the recipients of honorable behavior. Jesus thus turns the social pyramid upside down, undermining the very conventions that led the disciples to deliberate over relative greatness within the company of disciples and, indeed, that had led the disciples away from any proper understanding of Jesus' status."[642]

Jesus meant that instead of seeking status for themselves, His disciples should give their attention to the needs of people who have no status—people like children. The disciple who ministers to a person with no status, as though he or she was ministering to Jesus, does in fact minister to Jesus and to God the Father, because that person has status with God. The principle here is that the disciple who is willing to sacrifice personal advancement in order to serve insignificant people, as the world evaluates people, is truly great in God's estimation (cf. Matt. 25:35-40; Mark 9:41).[643]

The exclusion of others 9:49-50 (cf. Mark 9:38-40)

Disciples need to be aware of their attitude toward believers who are outside their circle of fellowship, as well as their attitude toward those within that circle. As in previous cases, Luke's account of this incident omits details in order to cut through to the heart of the matter.

This incident exposed an attitude of rivalry among the Twelve that existed toward other disciples of Jesus. This was not a problem of orthodoxy; the exorcist believed in Jesus. It was rather a problem of fellowship or association: he was not one of the Twelve. He appears to have been on the fringe of Jesus' followers. The Twelve wanted to exclude him, but Jesus wanted to include him. The disciples had set up a boundary on the basis of conventional notions of perceived honor.[644] Jesus' reply was proverbial. He had stated the reverse truth earlier (Matt. 12:30). Disciples should regard people who do not oppose them as associates rather than as enemies.

This incident concludes the section of Luke's Gospel that records Jesus' ministry in and around Galilee (4:14—9:50). Its major emphasis has been the identity of Jesus.

V.     Jesus' ministry on the way to Jerusalem 9:51—19:27

This large section of the Book of Luke has no counterpart in the other Gospels, but some of the material in it occurs in other parts of the Gospels (cf. Matt. 19—20; Mark 10).

"In contrast with only two chapters in Matthew and one in Mark, it [the record of Jesus' ministry on the way to Jerusalem] extends through no less than ten chapters in Luke, thereby forming the longest part of the story (ix. 51—xix. 44)."[645]

Like a good teacher, Jesus repeated some of His lessons on different occasions. This section consists largely of instruction that Jesus gave His disciples with only brief references to geographic movements. Luke de-emphasized the topographical data in this section, except those relating to Jerusalem.[646] We have already noticed that Luke had more interest in lessons than in details of geography and chronology.

The skeletal references to Jesus' movements show a general shift from Galilee toward Jerusalem (e.g., 9:52; 10:38; 13:22, 32-33; 17:11; 18:31, 35; 19:1, 28-29). However, His journey was not direct (cf. 10:38; 17:11). Jesus visited Jerusalem more than once, but this section records Jesus leaving Galilee and arriving in Jerusalem for the last time before His passion. Luke presented what were really three trips to Jerusalem as one.[647] John told us more about those three trips.

The ministry of Jesus during this journey was not just different because of where it took place. It took on new characteristics. His ministry to the disciples seems to have occupied His primary attention, though Luke featured this less than Mark. We have noted a strong emphasis on Jesus' identity (Christology) in the previous chapters. Now the disciples' mission becomes the dominant theme. There are many words of warning to the rich and the complacent, as well as to the Pharisees, in this section. Many students of Luke and Acts have noticed the common emphasis on travel that characterizes both books, and have pointed out some significant comparisons. Jerusalem was for Jesus the destination toward which He pressed, as Rome was for Paul.

The literary structure of this section is a chiasm (inverted parallelism). The framing sections both deal with rejection (9:51-56 and 19:41-44). The central, focal sections, where the emphasis falls, are the growth of the messianic kingdom to include Gentiles as well as Jews (13:18-21) and the judgment coming on Israel for the Jews' rejection of Jesus (13:22-35).[648]

Luke gave us a total of 37 parables of Jesus (cf. Matthew's 34; Mark's 12; and John's 0).[649] There are 23 parables in 9:51—19:27. This is over half of all the parables in Luke's Gospel. Jesus gave most of the parables in this section to His disciples, but other non-disciples, who were following Him to Jerusalem to get help of various kinds from Him, were also present. Jesus used parables to teach His disciples and to hide it from the unresponsive: to reveal and to conceal truth.[650]

 

Parables in Luke 9:51—19:27

The good Samaritan

10:30-37

The shameless friend

11:5-8

The strong man's house

11:21-22 (cf. Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27)

The rich fool

12:16-21

The faithful servants

12:36-38

The two servants

12:42-42 (cf. Matt. 24:45-51)

The barren fig tree

13:6-9

The mustard seed

13:18-19 (cf. Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32)

The yeast hidden in meal

13:20-21 (cf. Matt. 13:33)

The seats at the wedding feast

14:7-11

The great banquet

14:15-24

The tower builder

14:28-30

The king going to battle

14:31-33

The lost sheep

15:4-7 (cf. Matt. 18:12-14)

The lost coin

15:8-10

The prodigal son

15:11-32

The shrewd manager

16:1-9

The rich man and Lazarus

16:19-31

The unworthy servant

17:7-10

The one taken and the one left

17:34-35 (cf. Matt. 24:40-42)

The persistent widow

18:1-8

The Pharisee and the tax collector

18:9-14

The minas

19:11-27

 

A.     The responsibilities and rewards of discipleship 9:51—10:24

This part of the new section continues to focus attention on Jesus' disciples (cf. vv. 1-50). The problem of their attitude toward other people also continues (cf. vv. 46-50). There is also further instruction on the cost of discipleship (vv. 57-62; cf. 6:20-49). The heart of this part of the Gospel is Jesus' preparation of the disciples for their second mission. The contrast between disciples and non-disciples becomes stronger, and the duties and privileges of discipleship emerge more clearly.

Whereas the Gospel writers used the term disciple (lit. learner) to describe a wide variety of people who sought to learn from Jesus—believers and unbelievers alike—as Jesus moved toward the Cross, His discipleship training focused increasingly on His believing disciples.

1.     The importance of toleration 9:51-56

The first verse of this section of text sets the agenda for all that follows until Jesus' Triumphal Entry. It was now time for Jesus to begin moving toward Jerusalem and the Cross. As He did so, He immediately encountered opposition (cf. Acts 20:3; 21:4, 11-14), but He accepted it and refused to retaliate against His opponents. Jesus' attitude here recalls His reaction to the opposition that He encountered in Nazareth at the beginning of His Galilean ministry (4:16-30), and it previews His attitude in His passion. It also contrasts with the disciples' attitude toward others, and it provides a positive example for reader disciples who sometimes encounter antagonists similar to the Samaritans.

"Jesus' resolution is writ large in this episode, and there is a prefiguring of the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, but also of the spirit in which he will receive that final rejection."[651]

It is difficult to make this incident fit into its Lukan context chronologically. Probably our writer was not following a strict sequence of events here, but inserted this incident where he did for thematic purposes.

9:51           The time had come for Jesus to begin moving toward Jerusalem for His final visit before the Cross (cf. Gen. 31:21; Jer. 21:10; 44:12). Luke looked beyond His passion there to His ascension. In this Gospel, Luke presented the ministry of Jesus before His ascension, and in Acts He reported what Jesus did after His ascension through His disciples (cf. Acts 1:2). By focusing on the ascension, Luke reminded his readers of the glorious outcome of the passion and the continuing ministry of Jesus' disciples. Jesus' resoluteness, in spite of the suffering that lay ahead of Him, also gives a positive example to readers.

9:52           The messengers that Jesus sent ahead were apparently to arrange overnight accommodations for Jesus and the rest of His disciples. They were not on a preaching mission. These messengers were to prepare people for Jesus' arrival, which had been John the Baptist's mission earlier (7:24, 27). Normally Jewish pilgrims on their way from Galilee to Jerusalem passed through Samaria.[652] But they were unwelcome visitors. A trip directly from Galilee to Jerusalem would have taken about three days.

The Jews had regarded the Samaritans as apostates and half-pagans since the Babylonian Exile. The Samaritans were descendants of the poor Israelites who remained in the land when the Assyrians captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. The Jews believed that the Samaritans were the descendants of Israelites who intermarried with the non-Jews that the Assyrian kings imported into the land (2 Kings 17:6, 24-26). However, they may have been the pure-blooded descendants of the Israelites who remained in the land.[653] After the Exile the Samaritans rejected the Jewish Scriptures—except for the Pentateuch. The two groups of people were still mutually hostile in Jesus' day (cf. John 4:9).[654]

9:53-54      The Samaritans whom the messengers contacted refused to accept Jesus and His followers, because they were on their way to Jerusalem, evidently to worship there. The Samaritans rejected Jerusalem as a legitimate site of worship (cf. John 4:20). Evidently they did not reject Jesus because He claimed to be the Messiah, but simply because He was a Jew.

"The Samaritans did not object to people going north away from Jerusalem, but did not like to see them going south towards the city …"[655]

The attitude of James and John was typically hostile. They may have been thinking that Jesus would react to the Samaritans like Elijah had reacted to his opponents (2 Kings 1:9-12). Their question suggests that Jesus' disciples saw strong similarities between Jesus' ministry and Elijah's (cf. v. 19). However, they were willing to play Elijah's part by calling down judgment. They were not asking Jesus to do so.

"How startling, again, to think of this same John, a year or two after the date of this savage suggestion, going down from Jerusalem and preaching the gospel of Jesus the crucified in 'many of the villages of the Samaritans,' [Acts 8:25] possibly in this very village which he desired to see destroyed!"[656]

It seems unlikely that Jesus gave James and John their nickname Boanerges ("Sons of Thunder) because of this incident (Mark 3:17). All the other disciples' nicknames were positive rather than derogatory, and this one probably was too. The nickname probably reflected their volatile personalities.

9:55-56      Jesus strongly disapproved of James and John's attitude, and He rebuked them (Gr. epetimesen, cf. 4:35, 41; 8:24). Jesus' mission did not call for Him to bring judgment yet. The group, therefore, proceeded to another presumably Samaritan village where they found lodging.

The point of the story is Jesus' toleration of rejection without retaliation (cf. 6:36). His attitude contrasts with the disciples' attitude, which did not grow out of righteous indignation, but because the Samaritans were rejecting the Messiah.

2.     The importance of self-denial 9:57-62 (cf. Matt. 8:19-22)

Luke turned from a presentation of people who rejected Jesus to one in which three individuals wanted to become His disciples. Each of them underestimated the degree of commitment that Jesus required. Jesus' words clarify the cost of discipleship (cf. vv. 23-26). Note the recurrence of the key word "follow" in verses 57, 59, and 61. The first two incidents evidently happened during Jesus' ministry in Galilee (cf. Matt. 8:18), and perhaps the third one did too. Luke probably grouped them here because they all deal with the same issue that Luke developed in this context, namely, discipleship.

9:57-58      Matthew wrote that this man was a scribe (Matt. 8:19), but Luke generalized the reference, probably so every reader could identify with the man. The man professed willingness to follow Jesus anywhere as His intimate disciple. Jesus did not rebuke him, but He clarified for him what that would involve so he could count the cost intelligently. He would need to be willing to accept homelessness, physical discomfort, other sacrifices, and rejection. Jesus' disciples had experienced these things traveling through Samaria (vv. 51-56). By using the title Son of Man, Jesus heightened the irony of His sufferings. If the Son of Man experienced these things, how much more would His disciples.

9:59-60      The first man came to Jesus requesting permission to follow Him. The second one received a command from Jesus to follow Him—in exactly the same words as Jesus used to call the Twelve (e.g., 5:27).

"The expression 'to follow' a Teacher would, in those days, be universally understood as implying discipleship."[657]

Matthew's account has this man approaching Jesus, but this was evidently after Jesus called him. Was the man's father dead already, or was he in danger of dying? The text is not clear, and an answer to this question is not important. Clearly the man wanted Jesus to approve his postponement of obedience in either case. Perhaps the man's father was still living, since in Israel people were usually buried on the same day that they died.[658]

"But the words have an even greater urgency if the father was dead. The Jews counted proper burial as most important. The duty of burial [according to Jewish tradition] took precedence over the study of the Law, the Temple service, the killing of the Passover sacrifice, the observance of circumcision and the reading of the Megillah (Megillah 3b)."[659]

Elijah allowed Elisha to return to his home to say farewell to his parents before following him as his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21). By not allowing this man to honor his father in a traditional way, Jesus was probably emphasizing the comparatively more important mission that He was on, compared to that of Elisha. God did not allow Ezekiel to mourn the death of his wife (Ezek. 24:15-24). That was very unusual and also reflected a high calling.

The dead whom Jesus said should bury the dead probably were the spiritually dead who did not believe in Jesus. Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead, but let the spiritually alive follow Jesus.

"Contemporary Jewish funerary customs make possible another reading. The practice of primary burial (in which the corpse is placed in a sealed tomb) followed by secondary burial (following a twelve-month period of decomposition the bones were collected and reburied in an ossuary or 'bone box') is well attested, with the additional twelve months between burial and reburial providing for the completion of the work of mourning. According to this reckoning, Jesus' proverbial saying would refer to the physically dead in both instances: 'Let those already dead in the family tomb rebury their own dead.' In either case, Jesus' disrespect for such a venerable practice rooted in OT law is matched only by the authority he manifests by asserting the priority of the claims of discipleship in the kingdom of God."[660]

The mission of believers was even more important than discharging customary family obligations, when these conflicted with discipleship responsibilities. It is hard to imagine how Jesus could have set forth more forcefully the importance of immediate and wholehearted participation in God's program.

9:61-62      Luke alone recorded this third conversation. It appears anticlimactic at first, but it is not, because the man was asking Jesus for a lesser concession than his predecessor (vv. 59-60). A "good-bye" would only take a few minutes, whereas burying a father would take an much longer time. Perhaps this man thought that if Elijah permitted Elisha to say farewell to his parents before he followed Elijah, Jesus would surely permit him to do the same (1 Kings 19:19-21). Yet even this concession was not one that Jesus would grant. Jesus' mission was more important than Elijah's. Jesus' answer was again proverbial (cf. v. 50). It may also by hyperbolic. That is, Jesus may have been overstating the demands of discipleship in order to emphasize their importance.

Discipleship involves hard work and sacrifice, like plowing. A farmer who does not concentrate on his plowing is not a fit farmer. Likewise, a disciple who allows life to distract him from his duties as a disciple is unfit for the messianic kingdom (cf. Phil. 3:13; Heb. 6:7; 12:1-2). The disciple of Jesus must continue to follow Him faithfully, single-mindedly.

These "hard sayings" clarify the demands of discipleship. Jesus' followers must be willing to share His homelessness, to place participation in God's program above the claims that family and duty impose, and to persevere in their calling. Luke probably recorded the responses of these three individuals so the reader would see himself or herself in the story, and realize the importance of making the proper response personally.

"Mr. Too Hasty was too concerned with the comforts of this life, Mr. Too Hesitant was too concerned with the cares of this life, and Mr. Too Homesick was too involved with the companions of this life. Those three kinds of people can't be used effectively for Jesus Christ."[661]

3.     The importance of participation 10:1-16

The theme of discipleship training continues in this section of verses. The 70 disciples that Jesus sent out contrast with the three men Luke just finished presenting (9:57-62). This was a second mission on which Jesus sent a group of His disciples, the first being the mission of the Twelve (9:1-6, 10). Only Luke referred to it, though there are similarities with other Gospel passages (cf. Matt. 9:37-38; 10:7-16; 11:21-23). It is not surprising to find this incident in this Gospel, because Luke had an interest in showing the development of God's mission from a small beginning. He presented it as growing to a worldwide enterprise in Acts. His emphasis was again the instruction that Jesus gave these disciples in preparation for their ministry (cf. 9:1-6).

10:1           "After this" shows Luke's basic chronological progression, but he deviated from it often, as did the other Gospel writers. Luke's use of "Lord" here stresses Jesus' authority, which is an important emphasis in a section dealing with His directions to His followers.

The number of the messengers is a problem. Both 72 (NASB, NIV, TNIV, NET2, ESV, NEB, JB, CEV) and 70 (AV, NJKV, RSV, NRSV, HCSB) have good textual support.[662] Commentators usually favor one or the other based on the reason they believe Jesus selected 70 or 72 disciples, since the textual evidence is so equal. Those who favor 70 usually do so because they believe that Jesus was following an Old Testament precedent: There were 70 descendants of Jacob who went to Egypt with him (Exod. 1:1-5). There were also 70 elders in Israel (Exod. 24:1; Num. 11:16-17, 24-25) and in the Sanhedrin. People in Jesus' day viewed the world as having 70 nations in it (Gen. 10).[663] Some scholars believe that one or more of these factors influenced Jesus.

Other scholars, who favor 72, think that the table of nations in the Septuagint version of Genesis 10 that lists 72 nations influenced Jesus.[664] Another view is that the 72 translators of the Septuagint influenced Him.[665] Bock wrote that there is "slightly better" textual evidence for 72.[666] I prefer 70 mainly because I think it is likely that Jesus was prefiguring a mission to the whole world here. However, this problem has no significant bearing on the meaning of the rest of the story.

The scope of this mission was broader than the mission of the Twelve. The Seventy were to go to all the towns that Jesus planned to visit, apparently not just Jewish towns but also those in the Samaritan and Gentile areas of Israel. Evidently these disciples were to do what John the Baptist had done through his verbal witness, namely, prepare the people for the coming and preaching of Messiah (cf. 7:27). Their task was not just to arrange accommodations for Jesus, as had been the task of the messengers in the preceding pericope (cf. 9:52). Sending messengers two by two was a common practice (cf. 7:18-19; Mark 6:7; Acts 13:2; 15:27, 39-40; 17:14; 19:22). It assured companionship, protection, and the double witness that the Jews required (Deut. 17:6; 19:15).[667]

10:2           Jesus' first instruction to the Seventy was that they pray (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-8). Jesus gave His disciples the same instructions on another occasion (cf. Matt. 9:37-38). The harvest figure is common in Scripture, and it pictures God gathering His elect to Himself (cf. Matt. 13:37-43; et al.). In this context, it referred to gathering believers in Jesus out from the mass of unbelievers to whom the Seventy would go.

When Jesus said that the harvest was plentiful, He meant that there was much work to do in order to bring the gospel of the messianic kingdom to everyone. His disciple messengers were few in proportion to the large task. Therefore the disciples needed to pray ("plead with") the Lord of the harvest to send every qualified messenger out into the harvest, and that none would fail to participate in this mission. Thus this verse expressed Jesus' desire for more workers and for full participation by the workers who were available.

"This may sound strange to you, but I do not consider it my business to harvest. My business is sowing. If you have ever been a farmer, you know there is a vast difference between sowing seed and harvesting the crop after the seed has matured. Someone counters, 'But the Lord said that the harvest is great and the laborers few.' We must remember where Jesus was when He made that statement. He was on the other side of the cross at the time, and an age was coming to an end. At the end of every age is judgment. The judgment that ends an age is a harvest, and the age itself is for the sowing of seed. I believe that we are sowing seed today, and that at the end of this age there will be a harvest [cf. Matt. 13:30]."[668]

10:3           The importance of participation in the harvest continues in Jesus' imperative command to the Seventy to go (Gr. hypagete, cf. Matt. 28:19). The lambs among wolves figure was evidently a favorite one for Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:16). It pictures the dependent and vulnerable position of His disciples among hostile adversaries. They needed to trust in and pray to God, therefore, as they ministered. Jesus sent them out (Gr. apostello) as apostles, in the general sense of that word: they were to serve as missionaries. Jesus was speaking as the Shepherd of His sheep.

10:4           The mission of the Seventy would be relatively brief, so these apostles needed to travel lightly (cf. 9:3; Mark 6:8). The implication of their not carrying a purse was that they should depend on the hospitality and gifts of believers to sustain them, but most importantly they should depend on God. In view of the hostility of the world (v. 3) the disciples might have expected Jesus to prepare them to be self-sufficient, but He did the opposite. He instructed them, instead, to follow His own example of vulnerable dependence on the Father.

In ancient Near Eastern culture, people often gave very long greetings and extended hospitality that tied them up sometimes for days (cf. Judg. 19:4-9; 2 Kings 4:29). Jesus did not mean that His disciples should be unfriendly or unsociable but that they should not allow these greetings to divert them from their mission. They were to pursue their work and not waste their time on lesser things.

10:5-6        The Seventy were to pronounce a benediction (a spoken blessing; good words of divine favor, as from God) on any household that offered them hospitality. "Peace" (Heb. shalom) was a common Jewish blessing that wished the fullness of Yahweh's blessing on the recipient (cf. John 14:27). One could almost consider it a metonym for "salvation" (cf. 1:79; 2:14, 29; 7:50; 8:48; 19:38, 42; 24:36).[669]

As the disciples ministered, it would become clear whether the host really believed their message or not. If the host turned out to be a man of peace (cf. 5:34; 16:8; 20:34, 36; Acts 4:36), namely, a man marked by the fullness of God's blessing on his life, the disciple's benediction would result in God's further blessing on the host. If the host proved unbelieving, God would not bring the fullness of His blessing on him, but the host would forfeit it (cf. Matt. 10:11-13; Mark 6:10-11). Alford described "a man of peace" as someone who received the disciples' message of peace.[670]

10:7           The Seventy, like the Twelve (cf. 9:4), were normally to remain with their hosts and not move around in one neighborhood trying to find better accommodations (cf. Matt. 10:11; Mark 6:10). This would result in their wasting time and possibly insulting their hosts. Going "from house to house" also implied engaging in a social round of activity and being entertained long after they had done their work.[671]

"The reason is very obvious to one acquainted with Oriental customs. When a stranger arrives in a village or an encampment, the neighbors, one after another, must invite him to eat with them. There is a strict etiquette about it, involving much ostentation and hypocrisy, and a failure in the due observance of this system of hospitality is violently resented, and often leads to alienations and feuds among neighbors; it also consumes much time, causes unusual distraction of mind, leads to levity, and every way counteracts the success of a spiritual mission. On these accounts the evangelists were to avoid these feasts …"[672]

As servants of the Lord, they were to eat and drink what their hosts provided. They could expect sustenance, and they needed to be content with what they were offered, even though it might not necessarily be what they would prefer. The principle of the laborer being "deserving of his wages" goes back to creation, where God blessed Adam and Eve by allowing them to eat of the fruit of the garden that they had been charged to rule over (Gen. 1:28-30). Jesus and the apostles reaffirmed this principle for the present inter-advent age (cf. Matt. 10:10; 1 Cor. 9:3-18; 1 Tim. 5:18; 3 John 5-8).

10:8           Taken broadly, the food set before the disciples, in whatever town they might visit, could possibly include ceremonially unclean food. Jesus was already dispensing with the clean-unclean distinction in foods (cf. 11:41; Mark 7:19; Rom. 10:4). Peter's scrupulous observance of the Jewish dietary laws may not have characterized all the disciples (cf. Acts 10:14). The practice of eating what the Jews regarded as unclean food continued to disturb the early church (cf. 1 Cor. 8). Undoubtedly Luke included this reference with his original Gentile readers in mind.

10:9           The Seventy were to continue the ministry of Jesus (7:21-22; 9:11; Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; 6:12) and the Twelve (9:1-2). This verse gives the positive content of these messengers' ministry. Healing the sick here amounts to restoring any who needed restoration.[673] The order of healing before preaching suggests that the miracles provided an opportunity for the preaching, as well as validating it. Their message was that the Messiah had appeared and, therefore, the messianic kingdom had come near to them (cf. Matt. 3:2). If the people had believed in Jesus, the earthly kingdom would have begun shortly.

"In truth, the long-awaited Kingdom of Old Testament prophecy had come so near to the men of that generation that they had actually seen the face of the King and also had witnessed the supernatural works, which were the predicted harbingers of His Kingdom."[674]

10:10-11    The Seventy were to declare publicly two things to the towns (i.e., the people of the towns) that rejected them and their message: They were to pronounce a symbolic rejection for their unbelief (cf. 9:5; Matt. 10:14; Mark 6:11), and they were to remind the rejecters of the reality of the messianic kingdom offer that they had spurned. This second action was a virtual sentence of judgment.

10:12         The common characteristic of Sodom and these Christ-rejecting cities was failure to repent when given a warning by God (cf. Gen. 19:24-29; Matt. 10:15; 11:20-24; Rom. 9:29; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). The fate of the people of Sodom had become proverbial (cf. Isa. 1:9-10). The Sodomites had the witness of Lot, but these cities had the witness of forerunners and eyewitnesses of the Messiah. The Sodomites could have saved their city by repenting, but the residents of these cities could have entered the messianic kingdom. Therefore, their guilt was greater than that of the people of Sodom.

"The association of the Sodomites with inhospitality is also in view in the current co-text [i.e., "the string of linguistic data within which a text is set"]: They are symbolic of any town that refuses welcome to Jesus' agents, and are thus guilty of refusing hospitality to God's emissaries."[675]

10:13-14    The traditional site of Chorazin (the name of which may be the name of a fish[676]) is at the north end of the Sea of Galilee.[677] Bethsaida ("Fish Town") was its neighbor (cf. 9:10). Thus the contrast that Jesus presented was between two villages at the north end of the Sea of Galilee and two towns at the south end of the Dead Sea: Sodom and Gomorrah. Both Chorazin and Bethsaida, used here as representatives for many other similar towns, had received much of Jesus' ministry.

Tyre and Sidon, two Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast, had suffered severe judgment for rejecting God and His people (cf. Isa. 23:1-18; Jer. 25:22; 47:4; Ezek. 26:1—28:23; Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10). But they had also welcomed Elijah and Jesus (cf. 1 Kings 17:8-24; Mark 7:24-30). The responsiveness of these rebellious Gentile towns, in comparison to the unresponsive Jewish towns named, would have encouraged readers of Luke's Gospel who were witnessing to Gentiles. However, Jesus' point was the dire fate that would come on people who spurned His offer of salvation (cf. Matt. 11:21-22). Sitting in ashes while wearing sackcloth made of goat hair, or sitting on sackcloth, expressed great sorrow connected with sin in the ancient Near East (cf. 1 Kings 21:27; Job 2:8; 42:6; Esth. 4:2-3; Isa. 58:5; Jon. 3:6-8).

These verses show that there will be degrees of suffering in hell.

“The greater the grace spurned, the more terrible the damnation incurred.”[678]

10:15         Capernaum had been the center of Jesus' ministry in Galilee. While it was more responsive than Nazareth (4:23), it was still less responsive than it should have been in view of the witness that it had received. Jesus' words of judgment undoubtedly stemmed from God's condemnation of the king of Babylon's pride (Isa. 14:13-15; cf. Matt. 11:23). Evidently the people of Capernaum expected that God to treat them with special favor because Jesus had done many miracles there (cf. 13:26). Jesus pictured Hades (i.e., Old Testament "Sheol," the place of departed spirits) as opposite to heaven spatially. Hades was a place associated with humiliation and punishment, whereas heaven was the place of joy and blessing. Jesus was contrasting the height of glory and the depth of degradation.

Verses 13-15 constitute a condemnation of the rejection of the ministry of the Seventy. These strong statements helped the disciples appreciate the importance of their mission as they went out. The contrast between Sodom and Gomorrah to the south of where Jesus spoke these words, and Tyre and Sidon to the north, with Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in the middle, pictures Galilee as worse than both its southern and northern neighbors. These comparisons form something of an inclusio indicating that all Israel was worse than the Gentiles.

10:16         Jesus added further importance to the mission of these missionaries by explaining that acceptance or rejection of the Seventy amounted to acceptance or rejection of Himself and God the Father: the One who had sent Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:40; Mark 9:37). Jesus was authorizing these disciples to act for Him (cf. John 20:21).

Prayer walks have become popular in some parts of Christianity in recent years.[679] This is the practice of praying as one walks around a town, usually, asking God to bring salvation to its people. Undoubtedly the Seventy prayed as they conducted their mission trip, but they also preached. Jesus did not only tell them to pray for God to make the people responsive but also to preach the gospel to them. Neither did He tell them simply to go out and do good works. Praying for the lost and preaching to the lost should go hand in hand whenever possible.

This ends Jesus' briefing of the Seventy for their unique mission. Luke recorded nothing about the mission itself. His concern was Jesus' instructions and their applicability to his readers in view of their mission (Acts 1:8).

4.     The joy of participation 10:17-20

Luke stressed the joy that the Seventy experienced from participating in God's program (cf. Phil. 1:3-5). As we have noted before, Luke often referred to the joy that Jesus brought to people (cf. 1:14, 46; 24:52; et al.). In view of Jesus' preparatory instructions (vv. 1-16), we might have expected the Seventy to feel miserable and glad that the experience was over. However, that is not normally the result of serving Jesus, regardless of the hardships involved. As he did in the preceding pericope, Luke focused on Jesus' words to the messengers in this one.

10:17         These disciples undoubtedly experienced the same opposition and rejection that Jesus did, but their overwhelming feeling was joy (Gr. charas). They had experienced supernatural enablement and power because they trusted and obeyed the Lord (cf. 9:1; Matt. 10:8). They quite naturally rejoiced, especially in the spectacular display of God's power that was evident in their control of demons. Jesus exorcized demons with a command, but His disciples had to command demons in Jesus' name, namely, on the basis of His authority.

10:18         Jesus described the humiliation of Satan's demons as though it was a repetition of Satan's actual fall from heaven that happened before Creation. Isaiah's description of the king of Babylon's fall was similar (Isa. 14:12). Many Bible students believe that Isaiah was describing the fall of Satan, but the context argues for a human king. Jesus may have been alluding to this passage.[680] However, He appears to have been describing a current fall or humiliation that had resulted from the subjection of the demons to His authority. This is also more probable than that He described a vision that He had. Satan will experience similar humiliations in the future during the Tribulation (Rev. 12:7-10, 13), at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 20:2), and at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:10). Jesus' victory over Satan gave Him, as well as His disciples, cause for rejoicing.

"To the casual observer all that had happened was that a few mendicant preachers had spoken in a few small towns and healed a few sick folk. But in the gospel triumph Satan had suffered a notable defeat."[681]

"To the extent that Christ's Kingdom is upbuilt, Satan with his power falls …"[682]

10:19         The power that Jesus had given the Seventy—to escape injury physically—paralleled their ability to overcome Satan and his demons spiritually (cf. Rev. 12:13-17). Thus the connection with the previous verse is clear. Jesus may have referred to snakes and scorpions here because they represented these spiritual foes (cf. Gen. 3:15). So perhaps He was speaking figuratively rather than literally.

But this may have been a special protection that Jesus gave His disciples during this mission. Jesus may have given it again to His disciples following His resurrection (cf. Mark 16:18. This verse is in the debated long ending of Mark's Gospel: 16:9-20). This protection apparently lasted only a fairly short period of time (cf. Acts 28:1-6). Jesus' disciples since that period ended have experienced injury, so it was evidently a limited provision in view of the unique ministry of Jesus' original disciples and apostles. Even during the apostolic age, many disciples did not escape injury or death (Acts 7:60; 12:2; 2 Tim. 4:20).

10:20         As great as victory over injury and demons was, a greater cause for rejoicing was the Seventy's assurance that God would reward them with heaven itself. In other words, the greater cause of the disciples' rejoicing was not to be the power manifested by their use of Jesus' name but the presence of their names in God's book of life. God makes note of those who commit themselves to participating in His mission. Jesus' comparison helps all disciples to keep His blessings in proper perspective.

There appear to be several records that God keeps in heaven: There is the book of the living, namely, those who are presently alive on the earth (Exod. 32:32-33; Deut. 29:20; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3). There is also a book containing the names of the lost and their deeds (Rev. 20:12). There is a book with the names of the elect in it (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27). A fourth book evidently contains the names of faithful followers of the Lord (Mal. 3:16; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 3:5). In view of the context, it was apparently to the third record that Jesus referred here. Obviously God needs no literal ledgers to write records in, since He knows everything. "Recorded in heaven" is a figurative way of saying that He remembers.

This whole pericope deals with the joy that disciples who participate in God's mission for them experience. The greatest and most fundamental reason for rejoicing, for any disciple, is his or her personal salvation (v. 20). Yet there is additional joy for disciples who take part in God's program and advance His will in the world. It involves seeing a preview of the final victory over the forces of evil (cf. Matt. 16:18). This joy more than compensates for the sacrifices and rejection that discipleship entails. Non-participating disciples know nothing of this joy.

5.     The joy of comprehension 10:21-24

This incident followed the preceding one immediately (v. 21). The subject of joy continues, and the section on the responsibilities and rewards of discipleship reaches its climax here. Jesus expressed His joy to His Father, in prayer, for revealing to His as yet immature disciples what they had learned, particularly Jesus' victory over Satan. This understanding constituted a unique privilege that Jesus pointed out to them.

The two parts of this section occur elsewhere in Jesus' ministry (vv. 21-22 in Matt. 11:25-27, and vv. 23-24 in Matt. 13:16-17). This suggests that Jesus said these things on more than one occasion.

10:21         The Holy Spirit's role in Jesus' ministry was another special interest of Luke's. The record of Jesus' similar prayer in Matthew 11:25-26 lacks the references to joy and the Holy Spirit.

"Nowhere else in the New Testament is it said that Jesus rejoiced, but that He did so on more occasions cannot be doubted (cf., e.g., His words where He speaks of His joy in John xvii. 13)."[683]

The phrase "rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit" probably means that the Holy Spirit was the source of Jesus' joy (cf. Acts 13:52). He gave it to Jesus. This notation strengthens the force of what Jesus proceeded to say. All three members of the Trinity appear in this verse. The Son empowered by the Spirit addressed His Father. This, too, points to a very significant statement to follow.

Jesus praised God for something that the Father had done. He addressed God intimately as "Father" (Gr. pater, the equivalent of the Aramaic abba, cf. 11:2). The title "Lord of heaven and earth" was a common one for Jews to use. It came from Genesis 14:19 and 22, and it draws attention to God's sovereignty. This allusion was appropriate in view of what Jesus thanked God for. Jesus probably meant that He praised God that, although He had hidden the gospel of the messianic kingdom from the humanly wise and intelligent, He had, nevertheless, revealed it to infants, namely, the poor, uneducated, and/or humble (cf. 1:48-55; 8:10; 1 Cor. 1:18-31). The wise and understanding people that Jesus had in mind were probably the Jewish religious leaders, and the babes were His disciples. Jesus rejoiced in the privilege that these disciples had received of understanding God's ways as they participated in His mission.

10:22         This verse at first glance appears to be a statement to the disciples rather than a continuation of Jesus' prayer, but verse 23 specifically identifies the beginning of His words as "to the disciples." Therefore we should probably understand verse 22 as part of His prayer. Apparently Jesus spoke these words for the disciples' benefit as much as for His Father's.

The "all things" in view probably include divine revelation and divine power, in view of the context. The second and third clauses indicate that the Father and the Son know each other intimately. Consequently only the Son can reveal the Father. There are only two incidents that the synoptic evangelists recorded in which Jesus referred to Himself as "the Son" (Matt. 11:27, the parallel passage to this one, and Mark 13:32), but John recorded many such incidents. Jesus concluded by saying that the Son bestows knowledge of the Father according to the Son's will. By saying these things Jesus was claiming to have an exclusive relationship with God and to be the sole mediator of the knowledge of God to humankind (cf. 4:32; 1 Tim. 2:5).

10:23         Now Jesus addressed the Seventy directly. He congratulated them on having received this revelation. The blessings that humble disciples experience contrast with the judgment that proud people who disregard the knowledge and power that Jesus revealed will experience (cf. 13-15; 1:52-55; 6:20-26; 1 Cor. 2:9-10). Those who saw the things that these disciples saw were "blessed" or fortunate. What they saw were the signs that the Messiah had arrived and the messianic kingdom was at hand (v. 17).

10:24         The  Old Testament prophets typically looked forward to the fulfillment of the things that they predicted (1 Pet. 1:10-12). "Kings" probably represent the most important people of their day. Even they, with all their advantages, could not see and hear what Jesus' humble disciples could. What they saw were the signs of the advent of Messiah, and what they heard was the good news that the messianic kingdom was at hand.

Jesus' teaching in this pericope glorified the privilege of being a disciple of His. Too often the responsibilities of discipleship make following Jesus appear very threatening and unattractive, but the rewards of discipleship far outweigh its costs (cf. Rom. 8:18). In view of this revelation, disciples of Jesus should feel encouraged to participate wholeheartedly and fully in God's mission for them. For Christians that means participation in the execution of the Great Commission, which all four of the Gospels writers recorded (24:44-49; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8).

B.     The relationships of disciples 10:25—11:13

The three incidents that compose this section of Luke's Gospel all concern various aspects of the life of disciples. Luke continued to focus Jesus' teaching on discipleship by his selection of material. All three incidents are unique to Luke's Gospel, though again there is evidence that Jesus taught similar lessons, and made similar statements, at other times, which the other evangelists recorded in other contexts.

1.     The relation of disciples to their neighbors 10:25-37

The question that a lawyer put to Jesus provided the opportunity for this lesson. Jesus answered the question, but then He followed up His answer with a parable that illustrated the point of His teaching on the subject. The parable amplified the second great commandment (v. 27). It is not just enough to know the right thing to do. One must then do it. The teaching that followed the parable (10:38—11:13), while not addressed to the lawyer, expounded the first great commandment (v. 27). The present section also reminds the reader of Jesus' allegiance to the Old Testament Scriptures, which He viewed as authoritative. Thus it balances Jesus' former words about Him revealing the Father (v. 22), with the importance of Scripture in that process.

The lawyer's question and Jesus' answer 10:25-29

The incident that Mark recorded in Mark 12:28-34 is quite similar to this one, but the differences in the accounts point to two separate situations. In view of the question, it is easy to see how people might have asked it of Jesus many different times. Furthermore this particular question was of great concern to the scribes, who studied Jewish law professionally. The fact that the Holy Spirit recorded the same lesson twice in Scripture is a testimony to His greatness as a Teacher, since great teachers deliberately repeat themselves. And the duplication stresses the importance of the lesson.

"… in the first century A.D. in Palestine the only way of publishing great thoughts was to go on repeating them in talk or sermons."[684]

10:25         Lawyers (scribes) were experts in the Mosaic Law. The Greek word translated test (ekpeirazon) does not necessarily imply hostility (cf. 4:12). The man simply could have been wanting Jesus' opinion. He addressed Jesus as a teacher or rabbi. This title tells us nothing about his motivation, only that he viewed Jesus as less than a prophet, the Messiah, or God. He assumed that people had to do something to obtain eternal life (cf. 18:18). The term "inherit" had a particular significance for Jewish readers because for them it distinguished a special way of receiving eternal life (cf. Matt. 5:5; 19:29; 25:34). However, Gentiles readers for whom Luke wrote would have regarded it as synonymous with obtaining eternal life (cf. Mark 10:17). "Eternal life" is the equivalent of spiritual salvation, and it included entrance into the messianic kingdom.

10:26         Rather than answering the lawyer's question outright, Jesus directed him to the authority that they both accepted: the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Moreover by asking this counter-question Jesus put Himself in the position of evaluating the lawyer's answer, rather than having the lawyer evaluate His answer.

"Many ask good questions with a design rather to justify themselves than to inform themselves, rather proudly to show what is good in them than humbly to see what is bad in them."[685]

10:27-28    This lawyer gave virtually the same answer that Jesus Himself gave to the same question on another occasion (Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31).

"To love the neighbor as oneself does not mean to love the other as much as you love yourself, but it does mean to love the neighbor in the way you would love yourself. The call is to behave toward the other with the same consideration and concern that one naturally (and properly under most circumstances) shows about one's own welfare (as Eph 5:29)."[686]

“… we could not possibly like everyone with whom we come in contact. We could not embrace and kiss some vicious individual, but we can love (agapan) him with the intelligence that comprehends his evil state and with the noble and true purpose of altering that state.”[687]

Jesus affirmed that the lawyer had answered correctly (Gr. orthos, from which we get the word orthodox). However, He proceeded to caution the lawyer that he needed wholehearted compliance with the Law in order to gain eternal life, and that, of course, is impossible. Jesus quoted the Law in order to drive this point home (Lev. 18:5).

10:29         The lawyer realized that the only way he could possibly fulfill the Law's demand was to limit its demand. He should have acknowledged his inability to keep these commands and asked Jesus what he should do. Instead, he tried to justify himself (i.e., to declare himself righteous) by limiting, by redefining, the demand of the Law, and then showing that he had fulfilled that limited demand.

His question set up a distinction between neighbors and non-neighbors. The word neighbor (Gr. plesion) means one who is near (cf. Acts 7:27). The Hebrew word that it translates, rea, means a person with whom one has something to do. The Jews interpreted the word in a limited sense to mean a fellow Jew or someone in the same religious community. They specifically excluded Samaritans and Gentiles from this category.[688]

"If there is a neighbor I must love, is there also a non-neighbor I do not need to love? Do I have to love everyone? Where do I draw the line? … These are hardly irrelevant questions in a world where 'compassion fatigue' has reached epidemic proportions."[689]

The parable of the good Samaritan 10:30-37

Jesus told this parable in order to correct the lawyer's false understanding of who his neighbor was and to clarify his duty to his neighbor.[690] Beyond that, Jesus wanted this lawyer to see how far short he fell of keeping the Law so that he would realize his need of righteousness.

"This parable episode takes up the neighbor half of the command to love of God and neighbor of vv 25-28. Vv 38-42 will take up, more indirectly, the God half."[691]

10:30         The "man" in view may have been a real person, and the incident Jesus described could have really happened. Yet the fact that Jesus told this story as He did, similar to other parables, has led most students of the passage to conclude that He invented it in order to teach a lesson.

Jesus left the man's race and occupation unspecified, though His hearers would have assumed that he was a Jew. The 17-mile desert road that descended about 3,300 feet from Jerusalem to Jericho was treacherous, winding, and a favorite haunt of robbers.[692] Clothing was a valuable commodity in Jesus' society, and this fact probably explains why the bandits took the man's clothes. Perhaps the man resisted his attackers, which would have been a common reaction, and so suffered a near fatal beating.

10:31         Jesus described the priest as happening by coincidence to take the journey that brought him into contact with the unfortunate victim of robbery. The fact that this was a coincidental meeting in no way excused the priest's failure to show love, but it may suggest that from the priest's viewpoint his discovery was accidental. Jesus simply recounted the priest's unloving act of passed by on the other side of the road without complicating the story with his motivation. For whatever reason, and the reason is unimportant, the priest failed to act in love, even though common courtesy demanded that he stop and render aid. However a priest, of all people, should have shown compassion. He served in a "helping occupation," and he had frequent contact with the Scriptures and their demands. Moreover, this priest had recently been in Jerusalem, the center of worship and spiritual influence.

"According to Jewish tradition, half of each of the twenty-four 'courses,' into which the priesthood were divided, were permanently resident in Jerusalem; the rest scattered over the land. It is added, that about one half of the latter had settled in Jericho, and were in the habit of supplying the needful support to their brethren while officiating in Jerusalem."[693]

"Jericho, the second city of Judea, was a city of the priests and Levites, and thousands of them lived there."[694]

Since Jewish lawyers were often priests, this lawyer may have seen himself in this character in Jesus' parable.[695]

10:32         The Levite repeated the priest's act. He was a less likely person to offer help since his duty, assuming he fulfilled it, involved just assisting the priests in the mundane affairs involved in Jewish worship. By omitting his motives, Jesus again focused attention on the man's unloving act.

"… the Levites … had no clerical dress at all [when they assisted the priests in temple service], but only wore the white linen (2 Chron. 5:12) …"[696]

"Involvement with 'problem people' often entangles us in embarrassing, difficult, and even dangerous situations.[697]

"Was it fear for his own safety (the robbers may still be in the vicinity), a fear of defilement, a fear of entanglement? For whatever reason, he too 'passed by on the other side.'"[698]

10:33-35    The Samaritan was the least likely of the three travelers to offer help, yet he did so (cf. 9:52). By placing "Samaritan" in the emphatic first position in the Greek sentence, Jesus stressed the contrast between him and the other two travelers. The compassion that the Samaritan felt overcame any racial prejudice that he may have had against Jews. Jesus explained his attitude, but not his other motives, which again were irrelevant. The Samaritan's compassion contrasts with the callousness of the priest and the Levite toward one of their own neighbors. His compassion led the Samaritan to take action to help the sufferer. Oil soothed the victim's wounds, and wine disinfected them.[699] Combined, these were household remedies for wounds,[700] though they were not cheap.[701]

The Samaritan's love was obvious in his willingness to inconvenience himself and in his making generous and costly sacrifices for the other man's good (cf. 2 Chron. 28:8-15). The genuineness of his love is clear from his provision of further care the next day (v. 35). It cost about one twelfth of a denarius to live for a day, so the Samaritan's gift exceeded the man's need many times.[702]

10:36         Jesus then applied the teaching of the parable to the lawyer by asking him which of the three passersby behaved like a neighbor. He reversed the lawyer's original question (v. 29) and focused attention where it should have been: on the person showing love rather than the person receiving it. The priest and the Levite had avoided contamination and ritual uncleanness, while the Samaritan had contracted it. Yet the two Jews had not shown compassion, whereas the true neighbor had.

10:37         The answer to Jesus' question was simple and obvious. The lawyer seems to have understood the point of the parable, because he did not describe the true neighbor as the Samaritan but as the one who showed mercy. On the other hand, he may have avoided the use of the word Samaritan out of disdain. Showing mercy was the key issue, not the nationality of the neighbor. Racial and religious considerations were irrelevant.

Jesus ended the encounter by commanding the lawyer to begin to follow the Samaritan's example. This is what he needed to do if he wanted to earn eternal life (cf. v. 25). If he treated everyone with whom he had any dealings with compassion and mercy, he would be loving his neighbor in the sense that God commanded (v. 27; Lev. 19:18). Thus Jesus showed that the real test of love is action, not just profession (cf. James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17-18). He also faced the lawyer with a humanly impossible obligation. Hopefully the man finally realized that and turned to Jesus for salvation (v. 29).

This parable obviously teaches that people should help other people who are in need when they encounter them, even though they may not have anything in common but their humanity. It is also a powerful polemic (argument) against prejudice and for compassion. Jesus Himself was the great example of the attitudes and actions that He advocated in this parable. The parallels between Jesus and the Samaritan are striking.[703] However, it seems clear that Jesus did not give this parable to draw attention to Himself, but to teach His disciples and the lawyer what it means to love one's neighbor as oneself.

"Love is not a sentimental feeling. Rather it is sacrificial action. It means interrupting my schedule, expending my money, risking my reputation, ruining my property, even for a stranger, so that I can do what is best for him."[704]

The disciples also learned that, properly understood, God's demands are impossible to keep perfectly, so one must cast oneself on God's mercy if he hopes to obtain eternal life.

"The Parable implies not a mere enlargement of the Jewish ideas, but a complete change of them. It is truly a Gospel-Parable, for the whole old relationship of mere duty is changed into one of love. Thus, matters are placed on an entirely different basis from that of Judaism. The question now is not 'Who is my neighbour?' but 'Whose neighbour am I?'"[705]

"This parable of the Good Samaritan has built the world's hospitals and, if understood and practiced, will remove race prejudice, national hatred and war, class jealousy."[706]

"With the Samaritan, we were given a model of compassionate behavior to imitate. With the priest and the Levite, we were warned against allowing religious duty to make us unloving. From the man in the ditch, we learn the lesson of our need to be willing to receive help."[707]

A popular definition of a parable is "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." This is a good descriptive definition, but the Greek word parabole, translated "parable," means something placed alongside something else for the sake of comparison. Consequently, the word parable has both a general and a technical meaning. Generally, it means any comparison, including illustrations, likenesses, similes, and metaphors. Technically, "parable" usually refers to a story that makes a comparison. These two uses of the word account for the fact that some students of the Gospels view some of Jesus' comparisons as parables while others do not. Some define parables differently than others and so come up with different lists of them. Usually these differences involve the length of the comparison.

2.     The relation of disciples to Jesus 10:38-42

This is another incident involving women who became disciples of Jesus (cf. 8:1-3; et al.). Like the parable of the Good Samaritan, it shows Jesus overcoming prejudice. As the former parable illustrated the meaning of the second commandment, this one clarifies the first commandment. Jesus had claimed to be the revealer of God to humankind (v. 22). Now the disciples learned again the importance of listening to Him (cf. 8:1-21; et al.).

"He [Luke] may have placed it immediately after the preceding parable as a safeguard against any of his readers coming under the misapprehension that salvation is by works. He makes the point that waiting quietly on the Lord is more important than bustling busy-ness."[708]

10:38         Luke's reference to travel keeps the travel theme in view. We continue to see Jesus moving toward Jerusalem and the fulfillment of His mission. It also explains the reason for Martha's and Mary's hospitality. Luke did not mention it, but this incident happened in Bethany (cf. John 11:1; 12:1). He probably omitted this detail in order to keep his readers from becoming too preoccupied with Jesus' exact movements, which Luke viewed as relatively unimportant.

Luke presented Martha as the primary hostess. Her name derives from the Aramaic mar meaning "mistress," which is appropriate since she appears to have been the head of her household. Her eagerness to receive Jesus contrasts with the Samaritans, who had not welcomed Him (9:53).

10:39         Mary (or Miriam, cf. 1:27; et al.) took the traditional place of a disciple, seating herself at Jesus' feet in order to listen and learn (cf. Acts 22:3). Normally rabbis did not permit women to do this in Jesus' day.[709] The title Lord further stresses the authority of Jesus, to which Mary symbolically submitted by sitting at His feet.

Notice how Luke described Mary: She "was also seated at His feet, and was listening to His word." Mary served as well as Martha, but she also sat at Jesus' feet in order to listen to Him. She combined service with worship.[710] This seems to be a better interpretation than that Martha sat at Jesus' feet, and Mary also sat at His feet, in view of the context.

10:40         Martha's duties as a hostess drew her attention away from Jesus, whom she evidently wanted to sit near and listen to also (cf. 1 Cor. 7:35).[711] She expressed concern that Jesus did not discourage Mary from sitting at His feet. She wanted Him to tell Mary to help her with her hostess duties. Martha reproached Jesus for monopolizing Mary to her own (Martha's) inconvenience.[712] Though she addressed Jesus as Lord, Martha wanted Him to assist her in her plans, rather to learn of His plans from Him, like Mary was doing.

10:41-42    Jesus showed concern for Martha's anxiety (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-35), but He did not do what she asked. The many things that worried and distracted Martha were her excessive preparations for the meal (cf. 12:29). She had allowed her duties as hostess to become too burdensome (cf. 8:14; 12:22, 26). Apparently she wished to honor Jesus with an elaborate meal, but a simpler one that would have allowed her some time to listen to her Guest would have been better. The one indispensable thing was listening to Jesus' teachings, which reflects an attitude of dependence on Him.

"For the Third Gospel, to listen to the word is to have joined the road of discipleship (e.g., 6:47; 8:11, 21; 11:28) …"[713]

Jesus was telling Martha that the one thing that Mary had chosen was more important than the many things that Martha had chosen to do. The implication was that Martha should listen to Jesus more and labor for Him less. The good part that Mary would not lose was the blessing that comes to those who pay attention to the teachings of Jesus with an attitude of dependence on Him (i.e., disciples).

"Few things are as damaging to the Christian life as trying to work for Christ without taking time to commune with Christ."[714]

"So often we want to be kind to people—but we want to be kind to them in our way; and should it happen that our way is not the necessary way, we sometimes take offence and think that we are not appreciated. If we are trying to be kind the first necessity is to try to see into the heart of the person we desire to help—and then to forget all our own plans and to think only of what he or she needs."[715]

"If serving Christ makes us difficult to live with, then something is terribly wrong with our service!"[716]

"The episode is concerned to show that even when domestic service has been harnessed to the purposes of the kingdom of God, the danger remains that its concerns will take possession of us."[717]

This then was a lesson in priorities for Martha and all Jesus' disciples. Jesus' point was not that a contemplative life is better than an active life, or that scholarship is preferable to domesticity. Giving humble attention to Jesus' words is of primary importance. This is the better way to serve Him. This passage should be a warning to disciples who tend to be too active in Christian service and neglect the Word of God. It should also remind us that busyness, even with legitimate pursuits, can hinder our relationship with Christ. Disciples must make time to listen to and learn from Jesus. Everything that He says is important.

"This passage is also a key discipleship text—not in the comparison between Martha and Mary's tasks, but in how Martha has wrongly judged Mary's inaction and worries too much about what others are doing [cf. John 21:21]. The text has two distinct emphases: Martha's consumption with assessing others as she performs what she is called to do, and Mary's wisdom in seeking some time at the feet of Jesus. Both qualities, one negative and the other positive, are at the heart of discipleship."[718]

"A Church full of Marys would perhaps be as great an evil as a Church full of Marthas. Both are needed, each to be the complement of the other."[719]

Some time ago I received a letter from a former student who wrote the following: "Although I had lived overseas before, when I was in the Army—I was stationed in Korea for two years—the culture shock here [in India] was great. I found myself at first very discouraged and defeated, and spent almost two months very spiritually low. I was really even questioning God's guidance in my life. I felt useless here, not knowing the language and just tagging along with other Christian workers. I began to equate happiness with the comfortable life in the U.S., and I'd catch myself daydreaming about my return there this June. However, one needs to find joy, no matter what the circumstances, where God has him. I remember how, in the Gospels class, you told us that our hearts have to be set, not on doing God's work or sharing God's Word, but on loving God. Otherwise it would be easy to leave this physically and spiritually harsh environment quickly. Loving God deeply is hard here, for me, but it's what I'm aiming to do. I must love God more than the easy American life. That was a good point that you made, and I just thought you'd like to hear some feedback on it." I did indeed.

3.     The relation of disciples to God the Father 11:1-13

Jesus continued to point out the disciples' proper relationships. Having explained their relation to their neighbors (10:25-37) and to Himself (10:38-42), He now instructed them on their relation to their heavenly Father. This pericope, like the former one, clarifies the meaning of the first commandment (10:27).

This whole section consists of teaching on prayer. Luke presented prayer as a major subject on which Jesus instructed His disciples, whereas in Matthew, prayer instruction is incidental to other themes. The teaching in the present section of this Gospel gives help to disciples who need to learn how to pray plus encouragement that God will hear and answer their prayers. The disciples' request for instruction on how to pray (v. 1) resulted in Jesus giving them a pattern prayer (vv. 2-4). He then gave them a parable that illustrates God's willingness to answer (vv. 5-8), a promise that God would answer (v. 9), and further assurance showing God's readiness to answer their prayers (vv. 10-13). Prayer is a discipline of dependence on God, and as such, it is the life breath of every disciple of Jesus.

The Lord's Prayer 11:1-4 (cf. Matt. 6:9-13)

Luke's record of Jesus' teaching of the Lord's Prayer differs significantly enough from Matthew's account that we can safely conclude that Jesus gave similar teaching on separate occasions. This repetition illustrates the importance that Jesus attached to the subject of prayer.

11:1           This verse gives the setting for the teaching that follows. This is the fifth time that Luke referred to Jesus praying (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; cf. 22:32, 40-44; 23:46). It was apparently Jesus' frequent praying that alerted His disciples to its importance and made them feel their need for His help in their praying. This is the only time that the Gospel writers recorded that someone asked Jesus to teach them something, which is another indication of the importance of this instruction.

The disciples seem to have felt a greater need for help in learning how to pray than in learning how to preach. But the disciples were not asking for instruction on the subject of prayer theoretically. They wanted help in their actual praying. Evidently they wanted Jesus to give them a prayer that they could use that would be appropriate in view of their distinctive relationship to God as believers in Jesus. Other Jewish groups, such as John's disciples, had their own distinctive prayers.[720] Perhaps being in the area of John's former ministry brought him to the disciples' minds. And some of Jesus' disciples had been John's disciples.

"Prayer is a necessity of spiritual life, and all who earnestly try to pray soon feel the need of teaching how to do it."[721]

11:2           Jesus' introduction to this prayer implied that He intended the disciples to repeat it verbatim. His introduction to the teaching that Matthew reported implied that He was giving them a model or sample prayer (Matt. 6:9). "When" (Gr. hoten) implies that they would pray this prayer frequently.

"In the 'Lord's Prayer' our Saviour gave us not merely an inexhaustible source of enlightenment in prayer, but also a perfect prayer which we must often address to God."[722]

Jesus first focused attention on the person of God. The term Father (Gr. pater, Aramaic abba) is both an intimate and a respectful title. By using it, the disciples were expressing the relationship that they enjoyed with God because of their relationship with Jesus (cf. John 20:17; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6). The closeness of their relationship with Jesus is apparent in that they could now address God as their Father, just like Jesus addressed God as His Father (cf. 10:21). This does not mean, of course, that disciples enjoy exactly the same relationship that the Son of God enjoys with the Father.

"The use of the intimate form was the amazing new thing that Jesus wished to teach his disciples, initiating them into the same close relationship with the father that he enjoyed …"[723]

The concept of God as the Father of the believer does appear in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 68:5; 89:26; 103:13).

Two sets of petitions follow. Two petitions relate to God's cosmic purposes, and three relate to the disciples' personal needs.

The clause "hallowed be Your name" means: may everyone regard your name as holy (cf. Lev. 22:32; Ps. 79:9; 111:9; Isa. 29:23). God's name is essentially the sum of His attributes, and effectively it is His reputation among people. This petition is as much an expression of worship as it is a petition. It asks God to act so that people will regard Him as holy—to cause situations in which they will reverence and obey Him rather than blaspheming and sinning against Him.

"The aorist tense here suggests that a specific time of fulfillment is in mind. This may be the coming of the kingdom."[724]

This view finds support in the recurrence of the Greek aorist tense and a specific reference to God's kingdom in the second petition. However, the first petition is also a prayer for the honor of God's name generally. The coming of the earthly kingdom is a desirable condition, because it will result in universal blessing as well as great honor for God. This second petition addresses God's program.

"Thus, in harmony with all Old Testament prophecy, the prayer taught by our Lord suggests not only that His kingdom is to be prayed for, but also that its coming to the 'earth' will be a definite crisis in history, not a long and gradual process of evolution. This is in sharp contrast with the Universal Kingdom which has always been present in the world, on earth as well as in heaven."[725]

This was a typically Jewish prayer so far, except for the addition of "Father." Both petitions were concerns of the Jews as they anticipated the arrival of the messianic kingdom.

11:3           The third petition—the first one in the second group of petitions—deals with the disciples' provisions. The parallel request in Matthew has the Greek aorist tense indicating a simple act of giving (Matt. 6:11), but this one has the present tense suggesting a continuing daily provision. The ideas are complementary rather than contradictory.

Matthew's prayer also has "give us this day," stressing the present need, whereas Luke's prayer has "give us each day," pointing to the disciples' continuing need for God's supply. "Each day" (Gr. epiousion) not only means day by day but also carries the connotation of sufficient or necessary.[726]

Bread (Gr. artos) frequently represents food in general, and it probably does here too (cf. 7:33; John 13:18; 2 Thess. 3:8). Thus it is improbable that Jesus meant that disciples should only request the barest necessities of life. The Jews in the wilderness learned to trust God for their food day by day (Exod. 16:4; Deut. 8:6-10). People in Jesus' day normally received their pay daily, so they understood this need too. It may be harder for us to remember that we are dependent on God for our daily sustenance, since most of us do not live from hand to mouth so literally. Nevertheless we live in a state of continual dependence on God (cf. John 15:5). This petition should remind us of that.

11:4           The fourth petition requests God's pardon. Luke used the simple word sins (Gr. hamartia), rather than the Jewish idiom debts (Gr. opheilemata), which Matthew employed. The believer in Jesus has already received eternal forgiveness for the legal guilt of his or her sins (cf. 5:20; 7:47; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; Eph. 1:7). Therefore the forgiveness that Jesus spoke of here is the forgiveness that is necessary for the maintenance of fellowship with the Father (cf. 1 John 1:5-10). A person's unwillingness to forgive others who have wronged him or her may indicate that he or she knows nothing of God's forgiveness (cf. 7:47). Conversely one's willingness to forgive other people shows that one recognizes his or her own need for forgiveness (cf. Eph. 4:32).

"The prayer Jesus teaches his followers embodies the urgency of giving without expectation of return—that is, of ripping the fabric of the patronage system by treating others as (fictive [i.e., imagined]) kin rather than as greater or lesser than oneself (cf. 6:27-38)."[727]

The fifth petition requests divine protection. This request does not imply that God might entice us into sin, which He never does (cf. James 1:1-15). Nevertheless God does allow people to undergo temptation (Gr. peirasmos) in order to test their faithfulness and strengthen their faith (4:1-12; cf. Deut. 6—8; Job). This petition expresses the disciple's awareness of his or her need for God's help in avoiding excessive temptation and enduring all temptation. It is essentially a request for help in remaining faithful to God (cf. 22:40).

"That is, recognizing our weakness, we pray not to be exposed to a test too great for us."[728]

"He who sincerely seeks and entreats forgiveness of sins, longs to be able to sin no more."[729]

The unusual reverse form of this petition is due to its being a figure of speech (i.e., litotes), in which the writer expressed a positive idea by stating its negative opposite. Luke made frequent use of litotes in the narrative portions of Acts (cf. Acts 12:18; 15:2; 17:4, 12; 19:24; 27:20). This construction accentuates the contrast with the preceding fourth petition.[730]

Note that these petitions cover all of our earthly life: the present (the need for daily bread), the past (forgiveness for previous sins), and the future (protection from coming trials).

The parable of the shameless friend 11:5-8

Having helped His disciples to pray, Jesus now gave them an incentive to pray. He contrasted the character of God and the character of the reluctant neighbor in His story (cf. v. 13; 18:1-8). This parable contains a very helpful and encouraging revelation of God's character (cf. 10:22). Understanding the character of God removes many of the problems that most people have with prayer.[731] This parable also encourages disciples to pray in spite of receiving no immediate answers. It addresses the common feeling that prayer may be useless since God does not grant answers as one might expect Him to.

"The point of the parable is clearly not: Go on praying because God will eventually respond to importunity [persistence]; rather it is: Go on praying because God responds graciously to the needs of his children."[732]

"This is not an illustration of perseverance in prayer; that is presented in 18:1, etc. … This illustration is a strong encouragement to prayer, to let nothing deter us from praying; and the encouragement lies in the implied promise that our praying will receive its answer even as Jesus states explicitly in v. 9."[733]

11:5-6        Hospitality was a sacred duty in the ancient Near East. When visitors arrived, the host would normally provide lodging under his roof and food to eat. The host in this parable did not have enough bread for his guest, so he shamelessly appealed to his neighbor for some. The fact that he came knocking on his friend's door at such a late hour as midnight indicates the extent of his shamelessness. He was not too proud to ask his neighbor for help.

"In hot climates travelling was largely done during night …"[734]

"In the east no one would knock on a shut door unless the need was imperative. In the morning the door was opened and remained open all day, for there was little privacy; but if the door was shut, that was a definite sign that the householder was not to be disturbed."[735]

The host was willing to admit that he needed his neighbor's help, even though this caused the host some embarrassment. Jesus did not explain why the man came so late, and the reason is immaterial.

11:7-8        In the typical one-room Israelite home, the whole family, and often even the household animals, all slept near each other. In the parable, the man who came knocking was willing to suffer shame in the eyes of his neighbor—and probably in the eyes of all his neighbors, once his potentially inhospitable behavior became known. The fact that the man was willing to humble himself and ask for help moved the neighbor to get up and give his friend some bread.

But friendship alone was not enough to move the neighbor to action. It was the fact that the man was willing to shamelessly admit his need and ask for help—at such an inconvenient hour—that moved the neighbor to give him what he needed. The Greek word anaideia means shameless, or avoidance of shame, not persistence (cf. Gen. 18:13-33; Matt. 15:22-28).[736] Green interpreted the phrase "because of his shamelessness": "in order to avoid dishonor."[737]

"Persistence here [in the NKJV, NRSV, and HCSB] refers to shameless boldness more than to tenacity."[738]

Jesus was contrasting, not comparing, God's attitude with the neighbor's attitude (vv. 9-13).[739] God's attitude toward His children is the opposite of the attitude of the neighbor toward his knocking friend. God will grant answers to prayer if we will simply ask Him for help. But His disciples have to humble themselves and ask for His help. Often we think that we can handle a particular situation on our own, and thus we do not pray for God's help. In these cases, we will receive no special help from our Father. But if we humble ourselves and ask Him for help, He will help us.

Some time ago I noticed that the door on our kitchen pantry was beginning to pull away from its frame, because I had mounted a rack on the inside of the door that we use to store heavy jars and cans. The door was not latching properly, and I saw that it would not be long before we would be unable to close it. Being a do-it-yourselfer, I planned to fix it. It seemed to me that I would have to take the door off the hinges and plane it. I might also have had to remove the frame, repair it, reinstall it, and re-plaster and repaint around it. Then I remembered my friend Merton, who has built and repaired houses most of his long life. I humbled myself and gave him a call, asking for his help. He fixed the problem with one screw in five minutes. That is what praying shamelessly looks like. It is admitting that we need God's help and asking for it. The alternative is to try to get something done on our own.

Encouragements to pray 11:9-13

Jesus continued His instruction by providing further encouragement to ask of God for what we need in prayer.

A promise from Jesus 11:9-10

11:9           Jesus introduced this promise with a phrase that underlined its reliability and gave His personal guarantee. Everyone who asks of God will receive from Him, not just the persistent (cf. Matt. 7:7-8). In the context, "everyone" is every one of the Father's children (vv. 10, 13). God is more than a friend of believing disciples; He is their Father.

Jesus urged His disciples to pray. He probably meant that we must ask in order to receive (cf. James 4:2). Those who seek God's attention and response in prayer will find it (cf. Jer. 29:12-13). Those who knock on the door of God's heavenly house will find that He will open to them, and give them what is best (cf. v. 7).

"In other words, don't come to God only in the midnight emergencies, but keep in constant communion with your Father."[740]

The tense of the three verbs ask, seek, and knock, in Greek, is the present tense, implying continuing action. Some interpreters have understood this to mean that Jesus was teaching the disciples to be persistent: Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. I tend to think that He meant: Don't give up asking, seeking, and knocking, when answers to your prayers are not forthcoming. Rather than the present tense being a condition for answered prayer, it was probably intended to be an encouragement not to give up praying. We should not lose heart, but keep on praying.

"Ask for what you do not possess; seek for what is not apparent; knock that obstacles may be removed."[741]

11:10         Verse 10 gives the justification for the promise in verse 9. It sets forth the absolute certainty of what Jesus just said. God will definitely respond to the prayers of His children. A stronger promise is difficult to imagine (cf. Isa. 65:24).

"Using language from everyday life, he [Jesus] teaches that, because God will arise and act on behalf of those in need, they ought to bring their requests to him."[742]

The response of many Christians to this promise is: I asked but did not receive. I sought God but did not feel that I got through to Him. I knocked at His door, but He did not admit me. However, the unusual strength with which Jesus gave this promise should encourage us to believe Him in spite of appearances. We may not have received yet. We may not feel that we got through to God, but Jesus said we did. We may feel that we are knocking on doors of iron, but Jesus promised that God let us into His presence.

An argument from logic 11:11-13

11:11-12    Two examples further enforce the point that God will respond to our prayers, and they stress that He will do so kindly (cf. Matt. 7:9-10). Since God is our heavenly Father, He will certainly do no less than a normal earthly father would do. Even a good earthly father would not give his son who asked for a fish or an egg, a snake or a scorpion. A snake can look like a fish, and scorpions sometimes breed in eggs.[743] Scorpions are known to pierce an egg, eat what is inside, and then use the shell as their home. A small white scorpion, with its tail folded up, would look like a small egg.[744] Such a response from and earthly father would be cruel, rather than loving, since the substitution would involve no real giving but deception—and even danger.

These verses help us to see that when God does not give us what we ask for in prayer it is because it is better for us not to have it—then or ever.

11:13         Jesus drew His climactic conclusion (cf. Matt. 7:11). Since God is the perfect Father of His children, He will do much more than a sinful earthly father would do for his children. When Jesus gave this teaching, the Holy Spirit did not yet indwell every believer (Acts 2:33; cf. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). The greatest blessing that God could give a believer at that time was the possession of His Spirit. Thus the gift of the Holy Spirit was God's greatest possible gift for the disciples who first heard this teaching. In effect, Jesus was saying that the heavenly Father would give the very best gifts to those who ask Him (cf. Matt. 7:11). Believers today do not need to ask God to give them the Holy Spirit, because He does this when they trust in His Son (Rom. 8:9).

The fact that God gives only good gifts to His children explains why He does not give us everything we ask for, even things that look good to us. Thus we need to understand Jesus' promise—that God will give us what we ask (vv. 9-10)—as referring only to things that are good for us. God will without fail give only what is best to His children who request of Him in prayer.

"There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. The answer given may not be the answer we desired or expected. Even when it is a refusal of our wishes it is the answer of the love and the wisdom of God."[745]

In this important teaching on prayer, Jesus gave His disciples a distinctive prayer to pray that expressed appropriate concerns for them based on their unique relationship to God. Then He showed how eager and ready God was to answer their prayers. Finally, He promised that God would definitely respond to their prayers, but only by giving them what was truly best for them. Throughout, He stressed the character of God and the disciples' privileged relationship to Him.[746]

C.     The results of popular opposition 11:14-54

Luke recorded the climax of the rejection of Jesus and His message, and then narrated Jesus' instructions to His disciples about how they should live in view of that rejection.

1.     The Beelzebul controversy 11:14-26 (cf. Matt. 12:22-37; Mark 3:19-30)

The placement of these events in Luke's Gospel again raises the question of whether Luke recorded the same incident as Matthew and Mark did, or if this was a similar but different one. I, along with many other students of the passages, believe that it was probably a different occasion in view of the differences in the accounts.

The connecting idea with what precedes is the Holy Spirit (v. 13). Luke had stressed the Spirit's influence in Jesus' life and ministry, but the religious leaders rejected that possibility, concluding rather that Satan controlled Jesus.

"To understand the significance of Jesus' miraculous work, especially his exorcisms, one must understand 11:14-23."[747]

11:14-16    Luke again first presented the setting for the confrontation that followed. Jesus cast a demon out of a man whom it had made mute. This sign of His power amazed the multitudes that observed it (cf. 4:36; 9:42-43; et al.). Some of them attributed Jesus' power to the head demon: Satan (v. 18). The spelling "Beelzebul" is most common in the Greek text. "Beelzebub" (NIV) has come down to us from the Latin manuscript tradition. Beelzebul probably came from the Hebrew baal zebul meaning "prince Baal." Baal was the chief Canaanite deity, and the Jews regarded him as the personification of all that was evil and Satanic (cf. Matt. 10:25). Another possible meaning is "lord of the dwelling."

Other observers demanded from Jesus an even more powerful sign than demon exorcism to validate His messianic claim. This unwarranted request constituted a test or provocation of Jesus.

"The narrator previously distinguished between the attitudes of the scribes/Pharisees and the crowd or people (7:29-30). Now the opposition to Jesus characteristic of the former is emerging in the latter."[748]

11:17-20    Jesus at least knew the thoughts of his critics by their request for a greater sign (v. 16), if not by prophetic insight.

"Luke shows a specific interest in Jesus' uncanny awareness of what goes on in people's minds …"[749]

Jesus argued, first, that the head of an army would hardly work with his enemy against his own troops. Second, if Satan was behind Jesus' exorcisms, it was logical to assume that he was behind the exorcisms that some recognized Jewish exorcists performed. Jewish exorcists practiced incantations against demons effectively (cf. Acts 19:13-14). Jesus' antagonists would have been unwilling to concede that Satan was behind these Jewish exorcisms. They wanted to maintain a double standard, believing that their approved exorcists operated with God's power, but Jesus used Satan's power. God gave the Jewish exorcists their power too. Satan would not empower them to cast out his own agents. Jesus believed in a real devil who heads a kingdom that is strong and united (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; 6:10-18).

Jesus' allusion to the finger of God (v. 20) goes back to Moses' miracles in Pharaoh's court (Exod. 8:19). There the Egyptians confessed that "the finger (i.e., active power) of God" was at work when they could no longer reproduce Moses' miracles. Jesus claimed the same divine source of power for His miracles. His miracles indicated the coming of the Messiah and the presence of His kingdom. This was Jesus' third argument.

"'The kingdom of God is come upon you' means that it was among them in the presence of the person of Jesus who had the credentials of the King."[750]

11:21-22    The strong man in this parable is Satan, and the stronger man is Jesus. Satan had amassed much booty in terms of human captives, and he had kept these people imprisoned under his power. Jesus had come, had attacked Satan in the instances of His exorcisms, and had overpowered him. He had removed Satan's armor, namely, his demons, and had set free those whom he had taken captive.

11:23         Continuing the figure of battle, Jesus reminded His hearers that whoever was not on Jesus' side was on His enemy's side. Changing the figure to reaping and herding, He made the same point again. Laborers in God's field, and among God's flock, who do not gather people—like sheaves and sheep into the barn and fold of His messianic kingdom—with Jesus, scatter them abroad. There is no neutral ground. People either support Jesus or oppose Him.

11:24-26    These verses were probably a word of warning to Jesus' critics who were scattering without Him rather than gathering with Him (v. 23).[751] If so, they climax Jesus' argument. They warn against casting out demons, which some of these critics were evidently doing, without replacing them with something stronger, namely, the life of God that entered those who believed in Jesus (cf. John 3:16). A formerly demon-possessed person who did not believe on Jesus was in greater danger after his exorcism than he was before it. The expelled demon could return to inhabit his or her spiritually empty spirit with additional demons.

These final words then carried Jesus' warning further. Not only was it bad to oppose Jesus and attribute His works to Satan, but it was worse to exercise God's expulsive power without also preaching the gospel to people.

"Reformation is no good, friends. If everyone in the world would quit sinning right now, there would not be more Christians. To stop sinning does not make a Christian. Reformation is not what is needed. Regeneration is what is needed."[752]

2.     The importance of observing God's Word 11:27-28

Instead of attacking Jesus' works, His critics should have received and obeyed His words. A woman's comment, shouted out from the crowd, triggered this response from Jesus that provides a fitting conclusion to the previous incident.

"Apparently this refers to the parable about the demons. Perhaps the woman, who doubtless was a mother, had had experience of a lapsed penitent in her own family."[753]

The woman expressed how wonderful it must have been for Mary to have given birth to such a son as Jesus. This was an indirect way of complimenting Jesus. His response did not reflect unfavorably on Mary, nor did it bestow special status on her. Her privilege as the mother of the Messiah was great indeed (cf. 1:45). However, those who heard God's word of salvation through Jesus and His disciples, believed it, and acted upon it, had an even greater position. The implication that His hearers should do this was obvious. In the immediate context, the word of God was the teaching that Jesus had been giving. Jesus' words here should also warn us against venerating Mary too highly.

"Such praise must have been peculiarly unwelcome to Christ, as being the exaltation of only His Human Personal excellence, intellectual or moral. It quite looked away from that which He would present: His Work and Mission as the Saviour. Hence it was, although from the opposite direction, as great a misunderstanding as the Personal depreciation of the Pharisees."[754]

"Something very impressive is present in Jesus, but to be impressed is not enough. What counts is committed response to the message that Jesus brings."[755]

3.     The sign of Jonah 11:29-32 (cf. Matt. 12:38-42; Mark 8:11-12)

This teaching responded to the request of Jesus' critics for a sign (v. 16; cf. Matt. 16:1-4). It is the second main part of His answer to these opponents.

11:29-30    Luke's reference to the crowds increasing ties this verse in with the previous incident involving the criticism of His miracles (vv. 14-26). Jonah himself was the sign of impending judgment to the Ninevites. His supernatural appearance and preaching triggered widespread repentance. Likewise the supernatural appearance and preaching of Jesus and the repentance that accompanied it signified impending judgment. The difference was that the positive response to Jonah's ministry, by Gentiles no less, postponed God's judgment.

The negative response to Jesus' ministry did nothing to postpone God's judgment on Israel. This judgment consisted of the postponement (delay) of both the earthly kingdom and the destruction of Jerusalem. The rejection of Jesus' preaching was even more serious because miracles accompanied it. The title Son of Man presents Jesus as superior to Jonah.

Luke did not mention Jesus' reference to Jonah's three days and nights in the great fish, though that would be a sign that Jesus had come from God after the Resurrection (cf. Matt. 12:40).

"The sign of Jonah here refers to his prophetic call to repentance rather than to the resurrection foreshadowed by Jonah's return from the belly of the great fish."[756]

Another view follows.

"Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, because he appeared there as one sent by God after having been miraculously saved from the great fish (as it were raised from the dead) as a proof that he was really sent by God. So also Jesus will by His resurrection prove conclusively that he has been sent by God as the Christ, the promised Redeemer."[757]

11:31-32    The Queen of the South (i.e., the Queen of Sheba) traveled a great distance to hear Solomon's wisdom (1 Kings 10:1-13), yet the people of Israel ("men of this generation") paid little attention to Jesus' wisdom. This was true even though the Son of Man was a greater king than Solomon. Therefore their judgment was inevitable. Similarly, the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, yet Jesus' hearers did not repent at His preaching despite His superiority to Jonah as a prophet. Furthermore, the Queen and the Ninevites both responded to spoken messages without any authenticating signs.

The neuter "something" greater may refer generally to the authority of the Son of Man, but it may also refer specifically to His superior wisdom, in the first comparison, and to His preaching, in the second. Another view is that the "something" refers to God's action in Christ.[758] Significantly for Luke's original readers, the people who responded so admirably to the two Old Testament characters that Jesus cited were Gentiles. By comparing Himself to the most wise and glorious Israelite king and the most effective Jewish prophet (in terms of audience response), Jesus taught His superiority in both roles.

4. The importance of responding to the light 11:33-36

This exhortation concluded the controversy about signs (vv. 16, 29-33), like Jesus' teaching about the importance of obeying God's Word (vv. 27-28) concluded the controversy about casting out demons (vv. 14-26). Both conclusions called on Jesus' hearers to respond to His teaching rather than continuing in the darkness of ignorance.

The parable of the hidden lamp 11:33 (cf. Matt. 5:15)

This was another parable that Jesus evidently used repeatedly during His itinerant teaching ministry. In Matthew's Gospel He used it to encourage the disciples to bear witness publicly (cf. Luke 8:16). Here He used it to illustrate His own role as someone who dispels darkness.

"… the ministry of Jesus was no hidden and obscure thing. It shines out brightly for all who would find their way by means of its brightness."[759]

The parable of the bad eye 11:34-36 (cf. Matt. 6:22-23)

11:34         Jesus also used this parable, at least the negative part of it, in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus compared the human eye to a lamp in both situations, not in the sense of being sources of light but as vehicles through which illumination comes. In Matthew's Gospel He taught that a person's attitudes can affect his ability to "see" (i.e., comprehend spiritual truth), with the emphasis on the eye itself. Here the emphasis is on the light, and the point is the importance of admitting the light, in this case the gospel message—by accepting Jesus' teaching. Failure to receive Jesus' teachings results in spiritual blindness. The clear or healthy eye represents the ability to comprehend truth as it is, to "see" clearly, whereas the bad eye represents the inability to do so.

Another, albeit less popular, interpretation understands the eye as allowing light to go out of the body, rather than allowing it to come in. A person's eyes often reveal one's inner feelings. They are lights in this respect.

"According to a physiology prevalent in Greco-Roman antiquity, the eyes do not function by allowing light to come in but by allowing the body's own light to go out. The eye is the conduit or source of the light that makes sight possible."[760]

11:35         If a person rejects Jesus' light (truth) for another so-called light, he or she will discover that the other light brings no true illumination, but darkness. Normally people's eyes respond to light by admitting it, and the result is their illumination. That is how Jesus wanted His hearers to respond to His teaching, because the result would be spiritual illumination.

"Faith, when diseased, becomes the darkness of superstition; just as the eye, when diseased, distorts and obscures."[761]

11:36         This verse presents the alternative to the situation described in the preceding verse. It concludes Jesus' exhortation on a positive note. Jesus, of course, used the body to represent the whole inner person, the personality, in this parable. The person who believes all of Jesus' teaching will experience full illumination.

5.     The climax of Pharisaic opposition 11:37-54 (cf. Matt. 23:1-36; Mark 12:38-40)

The theme of opposition to Jesus continues in this section, but the source of opposition changes from the people generally to the Pharisees and, even more particularly, to their lawyers (scribes). Jesus' responses also changed from warnings and exhortations to denunciations. Jesus condemned the teachings of the Pharisees, the light that was darkness (v. 35), rather than the Pharisees and the lawyers themselves.

The differences in the Matthean account of Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:1-36) raise questions about what Jesus really said and how the evangelists recorded what He said.

"We know from his practice elsewhere that Matthew combines material from several sources and rearranges the order, whereas on the whole Luke does not conflate his sources or re-order his material. It is, therefore, unlikely that Matthew has preserved the original order here …"[762]

Probably we are again dealing with two different teaching occasions. This is Jesus' last address to the Pharisees that is recorded in Luke.

The question of true cleanliness 11:37-41

"Bitter as was the enmity of the Pharisaic party against Jesus, it had not yet so far spread, nor become so avowed, as in every place to supersede the ordinary rules of courtesy."[763]

11:37-38    Many of Jesus' teaching opportunities arose during meals (cf. 14:1-24; Matt. 15:1-20; 23:1-36; Mark 7:1-22). This was one such occasion. Jesus offended His host by not washing ritually before eating. Luke omitted an explanation of the Jewish custom of washing before eating (cf. Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-4) and only recorded the reason for the Pharisee's objection. The Mosaic Law did not demand this washing (Gr. baptizo), but it had become customary, and the Pharisees viewed it as a safeguard against ritual defilement.

11:39-40    Jesus did not criticize this Pharisee and his religious brethren for washing their hands before eating or for observing ritual purification beyond what the law required. He used His host's objection as an occasion to point out the hypocrisy involved in Pharisaic teaching and practice. Those present would have understood Jesus' action as a breach of courtesy.[764] Evidently Jesus was willing to take this action because it was important for Him to issue these warnings to the Pharisees.

The Pharisees typically neglected more important things while at the same time stressing the necessity of much less important things (cf. 6:27-36; 10:25-37). By washing ceremonially, they were only doing half of what God expected of them. They needed to purify themselves internally as well as externally. To wash the outside of a person, and not cleanse the inside, is as foolish as only washing the outside of a bowl without washing the inside.

"The way to clean up a dirty vocabulary is not to brush your teeth but to cleanse your heart."[765]

11:41         Jesus' point was that giving to the poor would demonstrate that the person had cleansed himself inwardly and adequately. He may have been continuing the metaphor and speaking of a dish or vessel, which the NIV has supplied, but He was thinking of a person. He may have meant that the Pharisees should give food as an act of charity, but the giving out of what was theirs was the important thing.

Three woes against the Pharisees 11:42-44

Jesus now specified two examples of the Pharisees' spiritual nearsightedness (vv. 42-43), and then He compared them to something similar that defiles (v. 44). Emphasis on externals leads to error. When people "concentrate on the trivial they are apt to overlook the important."[766] Jesus announced His condemnation with the use of "woe."

11:42-43    The Pharisees typically tithed scrupulously, even their garden herbs, two of which Jesus specified (cf. Lev. 27:30-33; Deut. 14:22-29; 26:12-15).

"Rue is mentioned in the Talmud as a herb for which no tithe need be paid."[767]

This tithing was acceptable to Jesus, but they neglected giving more important things to God, including justice and love. Normally a leader of the synagogues occupied the front seat of honor, so Jesus was criticizing the Pharisees' love of position and glory. Respectful personal greetings in public places pandered to their pride too.

11:44         The Pharisees scrupulously avoided touching graves in order to avoid ritual defilement. However, they themselves defiled other people who contacted them, like hidden graves defiled those who unknowingly walked over them (cf. Num. 19:16). While trying to remain ritually pure themselves, they were spiritually defiling many other people who were unaware of the Pharisees' evil influence on them. Their sins contaminated the whole nation. The Jews usually whitewashed graves to warn people away from them.[768]

Three woes against the lawyers 11:45-52

11:45-46    The lawyers (or scribes) were a distinct group, though most of them were Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees often acted together. The lawyer who spoke up on this occasion wanted to distinguish his group as less guilty than the Pharisees, but Jesus refused to allow that, because the scribes were as hypocritical as the Pharisees. The lawyers involved themselves more in the interpretation of the Jewish laws, whereas the Pharisees generally advocated and enforced those interpretations. The former group was a professional class, and the latter was a religious party.

By interpreting the Jewish traditions strictly, the scribes placed heavy moral burdens on the Jews. However, they had cleverly found ways of escaping their own responsibility to keep the Mosaic Law, while at the same time giving the impression that they were obedient. This reflected lack of love for the rest of the Jews who had to labor under their demands. The Pharisees appear to have been offering little or no help or compassion for their fellow Jews who tried to follow their rules.

"The Mishnah lays it down that it is more important to observe the scribal interpretations than the Law itself (Sanhedrin 11:3). The reasoning is that if it was a serious matter to offend against the Law which was sometimes hard to understand, it was a much more serious matter to offend against the interpretation which, the scribes thought, made everything clear."[769]

11:47-48    It was not morally wrong for the lawyers to take the lead in building new tombs to replace the older tombs of Israel's prophets. However, Jesus saw in this practice an ironic testimony to their opposition to God's recent prophets, specifically John the Baptist and Himself. By building these tombs the lawyers appeared to be honoring the prophets, but they were also walling them in and sealing them off from the people. They effectually did this when they turned the people away from the prophets whom God had recently sent to Israel. In this they were following in the footsteps of their ancestors who killed the prophets.

"The attitude of the Scribes to the prophets was paradoxical. They professed a lip service and a deep admiration for the prophets. But the only prophets they admired were dead prophets; when they met a living one they tried to kill him."[770]

"The martyrs of one generation become the heroes of the next."[771]

The relatives of a guilty criminal have sometimes given money to the family members of the victim of the criminal's crimes, "blood money," in order to atone for their shared guilt. Perhaps the lawyers were building the prophets' tombs with the same motivation.[772]

11:49-51    The lawyers claimed the greatest wisdom in Israel by declaring that their interpretations of Scripture were the correct ones. However, Jesus cited a greater Source of wisdom: God Himself.

The "wisdom of God" is a title for Jesus that the Apostle Paul adopted later (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:3).[773] However, it seems unusual for Jesus to refer to Himself as the wisdom of God. Besides, what follows is Old Testament revelation. It could mean God in His wisdom—making God the source of the words that follow (NIV).[774] God is definitely the ultimate source of wisdom and the wisdom that follows in the context, but this is an interpretation of the text rather than a translation of it. Another possibility is that it means divine wisdom and refers to Wisdom personified (cf. Prov. 1:20-33; 8).[775] However, what follows is not a revelation of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that such a personification would imply.

The words that follow (vv. 49-51) are not a quotation from the Old Testament. Rather they embody the essence of Old Testament revelation about the fates of the prophets and those who oppose them. Perhaps they allude to 2 Chronicles 24:18-22.[776] Therefore I tend to think that "the wisdom of God" refers to the Old Testament that Jesus here summarized and added to (i.e., fulfilled, established).

The content of this revelation was that God's people would typically reject the prophets and messengers (cf. 9:1-6; 10:1-16) that He sent them. The result would be that God would hold the present generation of rejecters responsible. This last rejection would be "the straw that broke the camel's back." It was the rejection of God's own Son, not just His servants (cf. 20:9-19). That would prove to be the rejection that would add the last measure of guilt that would result in God pouring out His wrath (Jerusalem's destruction, A.D. 70, and Israel's scattering) for all those unjustified murders throughout history.

Abel was the first righteous martyr (Gen. 4:8), and Zechariah the prophet was the last (cf. Matt. 23:35; 2 Chron. 24:21-22). There had been other victims since Zechariah (e.g., Uriah, Jer. 26:23), but Zechariah's murder was the last one in Old Testament history.

11:52         Jesus' third woe against the lawyers condemned them for taking the key of spiritual knowledge away from the people. This key is probably a reference to Jesus' teachings. Jesus called this "the key of knowledge," not "the keys of the kingdom" (cf. Matt. 16:19). The scribes professed to have the key to the understanding of the Old Testament. The people viewed them as the experts in it. However, they rejected Jesus' teachings, and therefore did not enter into the knowledge that acceptance of His teachings would have opened to them. In addition, they opposed Jesus and thereby discouraged the people who were entering into that knowledge. This last woe is the climax of the six (vv. 42-52), and it revealed the most serious offense of Israel's religious leaders.

Some interpreters view this verse as a clear statement that the messianic kingdom was a present reality when Jesus spoke these words.[777] However, I believe this conclusion is improper for the following reasons: First, knowledge is the stated subject of the verse, not the kingdom. Second, the subject of the kingdom is not in the context, but the subject of spiritual understanding is (vv. 33-51).

The hostility of the Pharisees and lawyers 11:53-54

These inflammatory words of criticism and condemnation fanned the smoldering embers of Pharisaic hostility into an inferno of hatred and hostility. Luke wrote that these religious leaders now "began to be very hostile and to interrogate Him about many subjects." He had challenged their expertise. Now they sought to defend themselves by discrediting Him. They were plotting against Him and were seeking to trip Him up and trap Him. They also tried to get Him to say something wrong, unwise, or inappropriate. This antagonism escalated shortly after the encounter that Luke just described (vv. 37-52). These verses document the Jewish religious leaders' official rejection of Jesus (cf. Matt. 12; Mark 12).

Luke's original readers would have learned the importance of accepting and believing Jesus' teachings as a result of Luke's selection of material in this section (11:14-54). To fail to do so results in dire consequences. Listening to the Word of God continues to be a major emphasis in this section. Furthermore, the hypocrisy that characterized the Pharisees and scribes can also infect disciples of Jesus, if they elevate ritual observance above real worship. Jesus developed this idea in the next pericope (12:1-12).

"The issues Jesus raises here [vv. 37-54] are dangers that those of a conservative theological bent always face. In pursuit of truth and the way of God, far too many people conduct their zeal for righteousness by making sure that every 'i' is dotted and every 't' crossed, and by watching over others to make sure they are acting properly. On the other hand, these same people have often lost sensitivity to God's call for justice. God wants us to care about those whose plight is less fortunate than our own (Rom. 12:16)."[778]

D.     The instruction of the disciples in view of Jesus' rejection 12:1—13:17

Teaching of the disciples continues as the primary emphasis in this part of the third Gospel (9:51—19:10). Jesus' words to them at the beginning of the present section (12:1—13:17) broadened to include the crowds toward the end. Verses 12:1—13:9 are essentially one continuous discourse, with emphasis on vigilance in the face of crisis.[779]

"The coming judgment and the need for proper preparation are the threads that tie all of chapter 12 together."[780]

1.     The importance of fearless confession 12:1-12 (cf. Matt. 10:19-20, 26-33)

Jesus used His condemnation of the Pharisees' hypocrisy as an occasion to warn His disciples against being hypocritical. The context of this teaching in Matthew's Gospel is Jesus' instruction of the Twelve before He sent them on their mission. Luke recorded that He also taught His disciples the importance of fearless witness under persecution as they moved toward Jerusalem.

The leaven of the Pharisees 12:1-3

12:1           Luke set the scene for the following teaching by explaining that it happened when Pharisaic hostility had become intense (11:53-54). What Jesus proceeded to tell His disciples had opposition and persecution in view. In spite of Pharisaic antagonism Jesus had a very large following (Gr. myriadon, lit. ten thousand, but used here as a superlative, cf. Acts 19:19; 21:20). According to A. B. Bruce, this is the largest crowd mentioned anywhere in the Gospels, though hyperbolic.[781] Evidently the crowd's size kept increasing (cf. 11:29). However, the lesson that follows was for His disciples (cf. 20:45).

Leaven or yeast (Gr. zymes) has a pervasive effect and therefore is a good illustration of the influence of hypocrisy. Elsewhere Jesus warned the disciples of the teaching of the Pharisees, which He compared to leaven (Matt. 16:6, 12; Mark 8:15). Here he used leaven as an example of their hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, like leaven, starts small but expands and affects everything it touches.

"What is this yeast? Jesus defines it as 'hypocrisy,' an unfortunate transliteration of a Greek lexeme [i.e., a lexical unit of language], the meaning of which in Luke is closely aligned with the usage in the LXX; there it describes 'a person whose conduct is not determined by God and is thus "godless."' … Hence, Jesus' point is not that they are play-acting, but that Jesus regards them as misdirected in their fundamental understanding of God's purpose and, therefore, incapable of discerning the authentic meaning of the Scriptures and, therefore, unable to present anything other than the impression of piety."[782]

"Leaven in Scripture is generally a type of evil which corrupts and spreads, disturbing, puffing up and souring that which it influences. The parable of the Leaven (xiii. 20, 21; Mt. xiii. 33) is almost the only exception."[783]

12:2-3        What is now unknown because of hypocrisy will one day become known. This is a general principle. On the human level there are exceptions to this principle, but Jesus undoubtedly had God, who knows all secrets, in mind. Verse 3 probably is a positive encouragement rather than an ominous threat. Jesus used it that way in the other contexts in which He made this statement (cf. 8:17; Matt. 10:26-27; Mark 4:22). If so, He meant the good news witness, which the disciples might try to hide because of the threat of persecution, would come out into the open eventually.

Preparing for judgment 12:4-12

"The teaching about the Pharisees and the judgment leads naturally into a more general section on judgment and the importance of being prepared for it."[784]

12:4           Jesus identified what followed as particularly important (cf. 6:27; 11:9; 12:5, 8). The unusual address "My friends" (Gr. philois) added a further encouragement to represent Jesus boldly, in spite of opposition, even though it might result in death. This word expressed confidence in the disciples, and approval of them as those entrusted with His secrets and those who do His will. It contrasts with the rejection they faced in the world. This is the only place in the Synoptics where Jesus called His disciples His friends (cf. Matt. 12:48-50; John 15:13-15). Friends are not just people with whom we share common life but those with whom we also share common commitments and goals. The writer of Hebrews made a similar distinction when he wrote of the Lord's partners (Gr. metochoi, Heb. 1:9).

12:5           Rather than fearing their persecutors, the disciples should fear God more.

"… when Cromwell was asked the basis for his courage and fearlessness, he replied that he had learned that if he feared God he would fear no man. That is exactly what our Lord is saying in this passage."[785]

God has the power to affect eternal, not just temporal, destiny. Jesus was not implying here that the disciples would end up in hell if they proved unfaithful (cf. John 10:27-28; 2 Tim. 2:11-13). He was warning them about the possibility of losing an eternal reward. He was citing God's punitive power in order to deter hypocrisy. This is Luke's only reference to hell (Gr. gehenna), but elsewhere it is a place of eternal torment (cf. Matt. 5:22; 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48; James 4:12; 1 Enoch 27:2).

"Jesus taught the reality of hell unambiguously."[786]

"This verse thus dispels the popular myth that the devil has charge of hell."[787]

"…we are not in Scripture told to fear Satan, but to resist him courageously (Jas. iv. 7; 1 Pet. v. 9)."[788]

12:6-7        The point of these two illustrations was that God is aware of more insignificant things than the disciples, yet He has concern for these things. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater (cf. 11:13). Since God knows about and has concern for these less important things, He will surely care for the disciples who are more valuable. Sparrows were a cheap food source for the poor, and the assarion was a Roman coin worth about one sixteenth of a denarius, which was a day's wage (cf. Matt. 10:29).[789] These illustrations balance Jesus' singular warning to fear God (v. 5) with a double assurance of His fatherly concern for disciples. However, the Father's intimate acquaintance with their lives also constitutes a warning against hypocrisy.

In Matthew 10:29, Jesus said, "Are two sparrows not sold for an assarion?" Here Luke recorded that Jesus said, "Are five sparrows not sold for two assaria?" Jesus probably used this illustration on several different occasions, sometimes referring to the price of two sparrows and at other times referring to the price of five.

"They [sparrows] were sold in the market either by the pair or in fives, the pair being the smallest, and five the next smallest quantity sold … The market price in the time of Jesus was a 'farthing' (=about a halfpenny of our [English] money) a pair, or two 'farthings' (=about a penny of our money) for five."[790]

"Somebody has said God goes to every sparrow's funeral!"[791]

12:8-9        Another special preface indicated the certainty and importance of what followed (cf. vv. 4-5). Confessing the Son of Man (i.e., Jesus as the divine Messiah) publicly (cf. Acts 7:55-56), or denying Him publicly, were the disciples' options (cf. 9:26).[792] Confessing (Gr. homolgesei) and denying (Gr. arnesetai) are polar expressions. In polarization, extreme terms highlight the alternatives. The disciples had to make a choice. Their choice would determine Jesus' acknowledgment, or lack of acknowledgment, of them before the angels and the heavenly Father (cf. 7:28; Matt. 10:32-33; 11:11).

The time of God's judicial action will evidently be when He evaluates people's lives as they stand before Him. For Christians this will be at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15). More or fewer rewards are the outcome of this judgment. Jesus appears to have been viewing the totality of a disciple's witness, not every instance of it, since He spoke of a final heavenly evaluation.

12:10         Criticism of Jesus was forgivable, but rejection of the Holy Spirit's testimony that Jesus was the Christ was not (cf. Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29). This warning continued the cautions against denying Jesus. Jesus implied that His disciples might face temptations to renounce faith in Him. To deny Him publicly was bad, but to abandon one's faith in Him was worse. Jesus did not mean that God would withhold pardon from the disciple who did this, or that he would lose his salvation. He presented the alternative, not as a real possibility for disciples necessarily, but as a warning that showed the seriousness of that type of denial in order to discourage apostasy. To blaspheme someone means to speak ill or abusively of him or her.[793] Jesus' enemies were speaking ill of the Holy Spirit by attributing Jesus' works to the power of Satan rather than to the power of the Holy Spirit.

"To blaspheme against the Holy Ghost in that age was to refuse to accept the Holy Ghost's witness to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same today. The one sin that never can be forgiven is the final rejection of the Holy Ghost's testimony to the Lord Jesus."[794]

12:11-12    Some of the disciples could anticipate having to confess their belief in Jesus before hostile religious and political bodies, both Jewish and Gentile. They should not become anxious about the wording of their testimonies on those occasions. The situations themselves would provide enough intimidation. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit's help in formulating the proper defense then. The same Holy Spirit, whom they might feel pressure to blaspheme against (v. 10), would help them if they remained faithful to Him (cf. 21:14-15; Matt. 10:19-20).

Jesus was not speaking about normal preaching situations but about giving oral defense under the pressure of persecution.[795] Luke recorded many instances of this in Acts (e.g., Acts 4:8; 6:10; 7:55; et al.). Modern persecuted disciples have also testified to the Spirit's supernatural assistance of them that Jesus promised here.[796]

The total effect of this teaching was to encourage the disciples to testify of their faith in Jesus boldly when faced with the temptation to remain silent or to deny their faith (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). All disciples need this encouragement frequently.

"Luke 12:4-34 is tied together by word links which highlight central themes. In addressing the disciples, Jesus is trying to counter two kinds of fear (note phobeomai in 12:4, 5, 7, 32) or anxiety (merimnao in 12:11, 22, 25, 26). Threatening opposition may cause fear (12:4, 7) and anxiety (12:11). Lack of provision for food and clothing may cause anxiety (12:22, 25, 25) and fear (12:32)."[797]

2.     The importance of the eternal perspective 12:13-21

Jesus continued to teach His disciples the importance of following Him faithfully. Responding to a request from someone in the crowd, presumably not a disciple, Jesus warned against greed. Greed is one of the greatest temptations that disciples, as well as other people, face. It has lured many disciples from the path of faithfulness.

"If in the earlier section the hypocrisy of the Pharisees introduced teaching for the disciples on avoiding hypocrisy and being fearless in confession, Jesus now uses the avarice of the crowd to introduce teaching for the disciples on trust in God and freedom from greed for material possessions (12:22-34)."[798]

The temptation of greed 12:13-15

12:13         Evidently the person who made this request viewed Jesus as an ethical authority ("teacher," Gr. didaskale, cf. 7:40) that his brother would respect. His request appears to have been strictly materialistic, with no spiritual overtones. The man voiced a legitimate concern, and his request provided the setting for the teaching that followed.

12:14         "You there" is a forceful address, but it was not insulting (cf. 5:20; 22:58, 60). By asking His question, Jesus forced the man to consider who Jesus was. This was the fundamental issue for this man. He was appealing to Jesus as a judge, just as the Jews often appealed to rabbis to settle such disputes.[799] Jesus was in essence asking the man if he realized what He was doing. Ironically, God had appointed Jesus as this man's Judge, as well as everyone else's Judge. Hopefully the man faced the question of Jesus' authority over him and became a believer, but this was not Luke's concern in recording this incident.

By answering as He did, Jesus was also refusing to pass judgment on the situation the man had presented to Him. He was competent to deal with it, but He refused to do so because He wanted to deal with another issue, namely, the man's materialism. Jesus always declined to interfere in the affairs of secular life but instead dealt with the spiritual and moral issues that ultimately shape secular life.[800] Would that more of His servants would follow this example.

"He [Jesus] came to bring men to God, not to bring property to men."[801]

12:15         Jesus warned the man and the crowd, including His disciples, against every form of greed.

"Greed is the desire to have more, to get one's hands on whatever one can, to acquire without reference to one's own specific needs or the situation of others. The greedy person is confused about life, since a humanly meaningful and satisfying life has very little to do with how extensive one's possessions are."[802]

Greed is wrong because it exalts possessions to a place of importance that is greater than the place they occupy in life. Quality of life is not proportionate to one's possessions. There is more to life than that. Even an abundance of possessions does not bring fullness of life. The man had implied by his request that his life would be better if he had more possessions. Jesus said that was not necessarily so. People should seek God rather than riches because God does bring fulfillment into life (cf. Col. 3:1-4).

"John Wesley's rule of life was to save all he could and give all he could. When he was at Oxford he had an income of £30 a year. He lived on £28 and gave £2 away. When his income increased to £60, £90 and £120 a year, he still lived on £28 and gave the balance away."[803]

The parable of the rich fool 12:16-21

12:16-18    Jesus told the parable of the rich fool in order to illustrate His point (v. 15). He presented the rich man as an intelligent farmer. The farmer did only what was reasonable. Jesus was not faulting him for his plans. Likewise the materialistic man's concern about his inheritance was a legitimate concern (v. 13).

12:19         The rich man's folly lay in what he failed to consider, not in the plans that he made. His words to himself indicate that he thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions alone. But there was more to life than he realized, namely, life beyond the grave. The man used a common form of address in speaking to himself (cf. Ps. 41:6, 12; 42:5).

12:20         God said something different to the man than he had said to himself. This contrast shows the error of the rich man's thinking. In the Old Testament, a fool is essentially someone who disbelieves or disregards God (e.g., Ps. 14:1; cf. Luke 11:40). That is precisely what this man had done. He had thought that he would be comfortable for many years to come (v. 19), but God took his life that very night (cf. James 4:13-16). This loss of life contrasts with his accumulation of possessions. Now he had nothing left, and his possessions would pass to his heirs (cf. Eccles. 2:18-19). This fact could not have escaped the notice of the man who posed the question about his inheritance (v. 13). Even if he got part of his brother's inheritance, he might not keep it long.

12:21         Jesus drew the application. A person who only enriches himself, and does not store up treasure in heaven, is a fool (cf. Matt. 6:19; 1 Tim. 6:6-10; James 1:10). "For himself" contrasts with "in relation to God." This translation preserves the form of the contrast in the Greek text. The point of the contrast is the difference between riches on earth and riches in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:19-21).

"The man in the story was called a fool for confusing time with eternity, his body for his soul, and what was his for what was God's."[804]

"… as the grim Spanish proverb has it, 'There are no pockets in a shroud.'"[805]

In this teaching, with its illustrative parable, Jesus taught His disciples and the multitude to beware of a foolish attitude toward material possessions. The wrong attitude is that the richness of life depends on the richness of earthly wealth. Disciples need to be aware of this viewpoint because the desire to increase wealth can draw them away from following Jesus faithfully. This is especially true since Jesus promised them opposition and persecution, rather than wealth and comfort. Material possessions cannot provide the quality of life that intimacy with God can. Christian disciples should live with what God has revealed about life beyond the grave—specifically with reward or loss of reward clearly in view—rather than living for the present.

Augustine is reported to have said: God does not want you to lose your riches, but to change their place.[806] In other words, rather than accumulating more and more (in savings accounts, investments, etc.), the Christian should distribute more and more (to the spiritually and physically needy).

"A test of our heart is how we give. Are we generous or are we hoarders? This is a test that we have to engage in privately before the Lord. No one can tell someone else exactly how to answer such questions, for there is no magic percentage that is to be reached."[807]

3.     God's provisions for disciples 12:22-34 (cf. Matt. 6:25-34)

This pericope continues the subject of life and possessions (cf. "treasure" in vv. 21, 34). What Jesus implied in the parable of the rich fool He explicitly taught in these verses. His disciples should not think or act like the pagan world (v. 30), which the rich fool typified. From emphasis on greed and selfishness Jesus moved to worry, which is related.

"The flip side of not hoarding possessions and caring only for oneself involves how a person will watch out for life's necessities. So this unit takes up that question."[808]

12:22-23    Jesus addressed the following words more particularly to the disciples (cf. vv. 1, 13). It is foolish to store up material possessions with no regard for God. Therefore Jesus urged His disciples, who had considered God, to refrain from undue concern about possessions. The life (Gr. psyche) in view is the physical life that needs fuel. The body is the outward shell that needs covering. Food and clothing are just the needs of the present life. Consequently disciples should treat these needs as secondary and not become anxious over them. There is more to life than these things. Formerly Jesus had warned against greed when one does not have possessions (v. 15). Now He warned against anxiety as a result of having them. Anxiety ("worry") is foolish because life consists of more than what one eats and wears (cf. 4:4).

12:24         The ravens illustration shows that God provides for His creatures. The implication is that God will provide for people, and even more for His disciples, since they are more important to Him than the birds. Jesus' choice of a raven for His illustration is remarkable, since ravens were rapacious and unclean birds of prey (Lev. 11:15), and they are infamous for not feeding their own young. Yet God makes sure that the young ravens eat. Birds do not and cannot provide for themselves as humans do and can (by saving for the future), but God still provides for them. Again Jesus argued from the lesser to the greater (cf. vv. 6-7).

12:25         Did Jesus have age or stature in mind when He made this comparison? Some translators have rendered the Greek pechys as "cubit" and helikia as "life's span," interpreting Jesus' statement as a metaphor describing age. Other translators translated pechys as "hour" and helikia as "life." Both translations present Jesus speaking about the lengthening of life, not stature. This is understandable in view of verses 19-20. The rich fool could not extend his life. However, pechys means "cubit." It is a measure of distance rather than time. Probably Jesus used it metaphorically to refer to the least possible length of increase (cf. Ps. 39:5). The idea of wanting to increase one's height by 18 inches is ludicrous if taken literally. Hardly anyone would want to do that, though most people would like to lengthen their lives a little.

Jesus' point was that worry cannot prolong life any more than it can provide for life (v. 24). Worry can actually reduce one's life span.

12:26         Jesus drew the conclusion by arguing from the lesser to the greater again. If it is futile to worry about small matters that lie outside our control, it is even more foolish to worry about larger matters that lie even further outside our control.[809] The smaller matters include living longer, and the larger ones include all of life and its needs.

12:27         Jesus turned from zoology to botany in order to illustrate further the futility of worrying about material possessions. The flowers (Gr. krinon) cannot do anything whatsoever to provide for their own needs. They are totally dependent on God. Still He provides for them and does so magnificently. He gives every common flower more glorious clothing than Solomon, Israel's most glorious king, could provide for himself. Toiling and spinning to provide clothing seems to be in view. This was women's work in Jesus' day, in contrast to providing for the young (v. 24), which was men's work. Thus Jesus implied that His teaching was applicable to both male and female disciples.

12:28         Grass is a common term for all types of plant life. People burn the common vegetation for warmth, yet God has made it beautiful. How much more will God provide for people, who have a longer existence and serve a higher purpose than the grass.

The disciples were men of "little faith" because they worried about the necessities of life rather than trusting God to provide these for them.

12:29         Obviously people have a responsibility to provide for their own needs (Gen. 1:29-30; 2 Thess. 3:10). Jesus was forbidding worrying over these things. He used hyperbole (i.e., overstatement for the sake of the effect) in order to make His point. The Greek word translated "worrying" here is meteorizesthe, meaning "to raise up" or "to suspend." The idea is of a person in suspense or "up in the air" or 'hung up" with anxiety about his or her needs.

"A little bit of reflection helps us to recognize that most worry is about things that can't be changed (the past), things that can't be controlled (the present), or things that might not happen (the future)."[810]

12:30         The reason worry about these things is wrong is that it is a pagan practice that is unsuitable for people who have a heavenly Father. The gracious heavenly Father knows that His children need these things. Therefore the believer should rely on Him to provide what is necessary.

"The materialistic world is like a group of passengers frantically scurrying to get the best deck chair on a sinking ship."[811]

12:31         Rather than seeking after material possessions, Jesus' disciples should seek the lasting things associated with His messianic kingdom. This includes preparing oneself for the earthly kingdom and becoming an active participant in God's program leading up to it. Jesus promised that God would provide the material provisions of those who do so.

This is a conditional promise (cf. Matt. 6:33). The paratactic construction suggests a condition. Parataxis (literally a placing side by side) is the literary device of setting clauses side by side without indicating, with connecting words, the co-ordinate or subordinate relation between them. Here, as in 10:28b for example, the first clause contains the condition for the realization of what the second clause contains.

However, we need to understand this promise in the larger context of life in a fallen world. We must realize that sometimes disciples get caught up in the consequences of sin and suffering, as do non-disciples. Even though God knows every sparrow that falls to the ground, He allows some to fall (Matt. 10:29-31). By the same token, He allows some of His disciples to experience privation and to die without intervening.

12:32         Jesus' command to turn attention from the acquisition of material provisions to seeking messianic kingdom concerns undoubtedly created some uneasiness in His disciples. Likewise the hostility of the Pharisees and other enemies doubtless disturbed them. Therefore Jesus, speaking as the Shepherd of the "little flock" for which He would provide, urged them not to fear. They could release their hold on material things with the full assurance that the blessings of the messianic kingdom, and eventual reward, would be theirs one day (cf. Dan. 7:27). The description of God as their Father giving them something ties in with the earlier thought of receiving an inheritance (v. 13; cf. 11:13). Faithful disciples will receive an inheritance eventually.[812]

12:33         In view of this prospect, Jesus' disciples needed to cut back and live simply so that they could lay up treasure in heaven without unnecessary materialistic distractions. By selling their possessions and giving to charity they were in effect preparing to receive their reward. Jesus pictured this as making money belts in anticipation of receiving something to put in them, namely, eternal rewards. Such money belts would not wear out, in contrast to the money belts that hold material wealth. Furthermore, their treasure in heaven would be secure, rather than vulnerable to theft and destruction (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-4).

"The generosity this text calls for has often been questioned. Are we really called to sell all our possessions? Jesus' point is that we must give up viewing what we call ours, as if it were a private possession to be hoarded."[813]

"The command to 'sell' and 'give' (or 'distribute') is not obsolete after Jesus' ascension, for the narrator portrays the life of the Jerusalem church in such a way as to indicate a particular kind of fulfillment of Jesus' command. … The descriptions of this arrangement feature the words 'sell' and 'distribute' (using piprasko and diamerizo in Acts 2:45, poleo and diadidomi in 4:34-35), which correspond to the commands of Jesus in Luke 12:33 (poleo and didomi) and 18:22 (poleo and diadidomi)."[814]

12:34         As a principle, people think about and long for the place where their treasure resides, whether on earth or in heaven. Investing in heaven draws one's affections ("heart") in that direction, but if one's riches are on earth, he or she will think more about temporal things.

Jesus wanted His disciples to be free from unnecessary anxiety as they faced opposition and persecution for their faith. To remove it from them, He reminded them first that life consists of more than material possessions (vv. 22-24). Second, He told them that worry is foolish because it cannot produce objective change (vv. 25-28). Third, He noted that worry characterizes pagans (vv. 29-31). Then He encouraged them with an incentive not to fear because God would give them the messianic kingdom (v. 32). Finally, He urged them to transfer their assets from earth to heaven. This would give them immediate peace as well as eventual reward (vv. 33-34).

4.     The coming of the Son of Man 12:35-48

Jesus' teaching of the disciples continued without a break. However, the subject shifted from ceasing to be anxious about material possessions to being ready for the Son of Man's coming. Freedom from anxiety can lead to laziness. Jesus did not want His disciples to be lazy but to prepare for His return. He taught this lesson with two parables. This teaching is the first indication in Luke that Jesus would leave His disciples and then return to them later.

The importance of readiness 12:35-40

Jesus pictured His disciples as servants waiting expectantly for their master's return (cf. Mark 13:33-37). He promised them a reward beyond imagination for their faithfulness. The parable of the 10 virgins is similar to this one in its teaching (cf. Matt. 25:1-13).

Jesus' encouragement 12:35

The word "treasure" occurred at the beginning and the end of the preceding teaching and indicated its subject (vv. 21, 34). In like manner, the words "prepared" and "ready" serve the same function in this pericope (vv. 35, 40). Disciples need to be ready for service and ready to dispel the spiritual darkness, both in the future and in the present.

The parable of the faithful servants 12:36-38

12:36         In this parable, the master returns from a wedding feast. Perhaps Jesus had the heavenly marriage supper of Jesus with His bride, the church, in view (cf. Rev. 4—5). The marriage supper in heaven will precede His second coming to the earth (Rev. 19). Jesus was not referring to the messianic banquet in verse 36, since that will follow the Second Coming. The disciples in view are on earth and Jesus is returning from heaven. Thus this parable is most directly applicable to disciples living on the earth during the Great Tribulation. It also teaches Christian disciples to be ready for the Lord's coming at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Jesus could have returned as soon as seven years after His ascension, so the disciples who first heard Him speak these words also needed to be ready. However, the "wedding feast" may refer to neither of these eschatological events but just to any joyful wedding feast.

"The sort of alertness Jesus counsels is not understood best as a set of activities but rather as a state of mind and heart. Disciples are to be the kind of people who are always on the alert."[815]

12:37-38    The blessing that Jesus promised was that the master would prepare himself to serve His servants and wait on them. This was unthinkable in Jesus' world (cf. John 13:3-8). However, Jesus enforced its certainty with a strong affirmation that Luke did not record Him using since 4:24. The messianic banquet on earth, at the beginning of the Millennium, may be in view here. Or this may simply be a picture of how Christ will honor His servants in the future.

"Eschatological fulfillment, and specifically sharing in God's reign, is repeatedly pictured in terms of a festive meal in Luke. This association must be considered when interpreting the meal scenes and references to a future meal in the gospel, which have an unusually prominent place in Luke's account of the ministry of Jesus."[816]

Messiah will serve and honor His slaves who stayed alert and anticipated His coming. The "second watch" was from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, and the "third" watch was from midnight to 3:00 a.m. by Jewish reckoning. These periods represent the present world as a place (and time) of darkness, in which a disciple tends to sleep rather than bear witness.[817]

The importance of watchfulness 12:39-40

12:39         Jesus chose another illustration of the importance of preparedness. He compared His return to the coming of a thief in this one. The point is that those whom He visited would not expect His return (v. 40). This illustration gives a warning, whereas the previous one provided encouragement. The previous one presented the possibility of delay, whereas this one features sudden and unexpected arrival.[818]

12:40         Jesus concluded by applying the illustrations. By using the title Son of Man, Jesus may have been implying that the coming of the Son of Man that Daniel had predicted was in view (Dan. 7:13-14). That prophecy dealt with His coming in glory to judge and to rule. Elsewhere Jesus said that He did not know the time of His return (Matt. 24:36). However, it will be unexpected because the exact day and hour are unknown, and His return will surprise many people (cf. Matt. 24:36, 42, 44; 25:13; Mark 13:32-33, 35).

The importance of faithfulness 12:41-48

Faithfulness is important for disciples in view of the Lord's return, in addition to readiness.

Peter's question 12:41

Peter asked a clarifying question. He wanted to know if Jesus was aiming His warnings to be ready at the disciples alone or at the disciples plus the crowd that was present and listening (v. 1).

The parable of the two servants 12:42-48 (cf. Matt 24:45-51)

12:42         Jesus answered Peter's question with one of His own. The answer to Jesus' question would give Peter the answer to his own question. Obviously the faithful and sensible steward pictures a disciple. Jesus' question also taught that He would give faithful stewards authority over other servants of His in the future. Evidently, the words "give them their rations at the proper time" meant that faithful disciples, or loyal stewards, will be given positions of authority over fellow servants, by Christ, in the earthly millennial kingdom (cf. 22:30; Matt. 19:28). It was common in Jesus' day for some servants to have authority over other servants within a household (cf. Matt. 18:21-35).

12:43-44    Disciples who faithfully serve their fellow servants of the Lord during His absence can count on receiving greater responsibility ("in charge of all his possessions") after He returns. These faithful disciples will become Jesus' chief administrators in the kingdom (cf. Dan. 7:27). Authority in the earthly kingdom is in view.

12:45-46    However, the unfaithful disciple who disregards Jesus' warnings to be ready for His return, and who is abusive, self-centered, and self-indulgent, will end up "with the unbelievers."[819]

"One of the most dangerous days in a man's life is when he discovers the word to-morrow."[820]

The judgments at the beginning of the messianic kingdom immediately following the Second Coming may be in view (Matt. 25:31-46). Since these slaves perish eternally, they probably correspond to the religious leaders of their day who professed to serve God but were unbelievers in Jesus. Their horrible end is appropriate, since they had great privilege and responsibility but failed in their duty.

12:47-48    Jesus clarified the standard by which He would judge these unfaithful slaves (cf. Matt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; Rom. 1:20—2:16; Heb. 10:28-29). The extent of their knowledge of their Master's will would affect their punishment (cf. Num. 15:30; Deut. 17:12; Ps. 19:13).

"The language suggests degrees of punishment."[821]

Privilege increases responsibility (cf. 11:29-32; Rom. 2:12-13; James 3:1). This fact should not discourage disciples from discovering God's will, but it should motivate them to maintain their faithfulness as they increase in knowledge. All of God's servants have a responsibility to know their Master's will as fully as they can—since they are His servants—and to do it.

"This concern to admonish the leaders of the church also appears in Jesus' farewell discourse the night before his death (22:24-38) and in Paul's farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:18-35). These passages mention various abuses of position by church leaders."[822]

5.     The coming distress 12:49-59

Jesus' teaching on the same occasion continued. He clarified next that His disciples could anticipate a period of intense persecution. This is the reason He urged them to be faithful (vv. 41-48).

"In Luke 12:49—14:24, Jesus is calling on his audience to note the nature of the time—a time when God is making divisions among people, a time when people should be able to s