The key to unlocking the dynamic of Luke’s Gospel is to understand the perspective that Luke is giving to his account of Jesus. Luke writes an account of the ministry of Jesus the messiah whose saving work now reaches not only God’s people Israel but also the entire human race. As one outside the Jewish race, Luke repeatedly portrays Jesus searching for those on the periphery of humanity: the Samaritans, the Romans, children, women, the sick and the religiously ‘unclean’. Luke emphasises the socially levelling effect of the Kingdom of God, where the mountains are levelled and the valleys filled.
Click on the link above for an audio version of the Gospel of Luke.
Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling in the car, etc.
Read a chapter a day for about a month; or
Read a section each day (see the ‘structure’ section in the Starter Course) in order to get a sense of the way Jesus’ movement developed and grew in significance.
It will probably take about 2 hours to read through Luke in one sitting.
‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)
This well acted film grossed over $390million when released. It is sexually explicit. The story is set in the context of the sex- and drugs-fuelled, financially greedy world of Wall Street. In terms of this BfL study, it explores the power of covetousness, greed and the deceitfulness of riches.
Study the BfL material and answer the BfL questions at the end of each meal course.
Take time to study some of Luke’s key emphases:
Luke’s atonement theology
The priority of prayer – especially at the start of each new developmental phase of ministry
Poverty and wealth
Make a list of your own questions for a one-on-one ‘Pod’ Bible study discussion.
Suggested verses for meditation …
1:52-53 ‘He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.’
14:27-33 This is one of Luke’s leading passages on discipleship.
19:10 ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’
6:27-38 In these verses Jesus teaches the heart and essence of how “love” is lived out practically.
19:10 ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’
Summary and Exhortation
While Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea from 57 to 59CE, his friend Luke travels the very areas where Jesus ministered some 25 years earlier, meets many who saw and heard him personally and then complies in his own ‘orderly account’ which he addresses to a high ranking Roman, Theophilus, ‘So that you may know the certainty of what you have been taught’.
Luke’s gospel is the portrait of ‘Jesus: the saviour of the world’. Not a political saviour from the hated Roman oppressors, but saviour from the demons of life that closely beset men and woman. In teaching that the Kingdom of God is near, Luke understood Jesus to be the Lord who has defeated the strong man, Satan, whose house must now be plundered. Isaiah’s prophecy, quoted by John the Baptist, is that ‘every valley shall be filled in and every mountain and hill made low’ (3:5). This perspective shapes Luke’s gospel and is summarised in the Nazareth manifesto in Luke 4: ‘…he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, … freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. Luke recounts story after story of Jesus rescuing and restoring the outcasts, all those on the fringe of society: the women, the children, the sick, the lepers, the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, the sinners, the foreigners and even the Roman occupiers. He is the saviour searching for the lost sheep, the lost coin and the two lost sons. But while these “valleys” are lifted up, the “mountains” that are made low are first the rich, who trust in their wealth at the expense of entering his Kingdom, and second the religious leaders who reject Jesus, and on whom Luke places the responsibility for his death.
Jesus is the ‘saviour Messiah’ who leads his people through a new Passover and Exodus into the inheritance of the new land of the Kingdom of God. Luke highlights the two leading aspects of this salvation: forgiveness for past sins (24:47) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the future (24:49). Jesus now calls all humankind to receive these, and then following as his disciples ‘to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow (him)’ (9:23). In this discipleship, Jesus must come first in relationships and before all ambitions and money (14:25-33). The evidence of discipleship is ‘agape’ love towards others as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan: ‘Love your enemies…, do to others as you would have them so to you…,do not judge, and you will not be judged…’. The evidence of discipleship is a community which demonstrates both positively a similar care for the outcasts on the fringe of society that Jesus himself showed, and negatively a similarly deep suspicion of wealth and greed (12:15) and every expression of religious hypocrisy (12:1). It is a community where ‘the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves’,and which labours to carry on the revolution of Jesus so ‘every valley shall be filled in and every mountain and hill made low’ (3:5), ‘for the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (19:10).
Question 1 -
Raymond Blanc, the famous restaurateur, chef and TV presenter was quoted saying: “The table lies at the heart of the family. Everyone should gather around it to talk, to laugh and to enjoy a meal.” Study the way Jesus uses the meal as a place for teaching (7:36, 9:17, 14:1, 15:24, 19:5). How often do you eat as a family or household? When did you last learn something about God over a meal?
Question 2 -
Jesus is often identified as 'saviour': what exactly is Jesus saving the world from?
Question 3 -
Jesus taught that he is levelling the valleys and mountains. Are you prepared to let Jesus’ teachings about wealth, the poor, the outsiders and the Kingdom affect the way you vote in the next General Election?
"Prayer" in the Gospel of Luke
"Outcasts" in the Gospel of Luke
Luke and the Atonement
Author: Luke, (although his name is never mentioned in the gospel). This gospel is linked with Acts through the same joint designation to Theophilus, who may be the patron of ‘Luke/Acts’ (Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-4), and the same literary style (economic wording, dry humour and theological emphases). The consistent early church tradition was that Paul’s missionary associate Luke was the author. Luke was a Gentile (non-Jew), a ‘dear friend’ of Paul, and his travelling companion, mentioned three times in the ‘we’ sections of Acts. He was an educated man who wrote polished Greek and was a doctor by profession.
Date: The double Luke/Acts history was probably concluded and circulated around the mid-CE60s, or alternatively after CE70.
Circumstances of writing: While the apostle Paul was imprisoned by the Roman Governor Felix in Caesarea from 57 to 59CE (Acts 24:26-27), Luke, his travelling companion of over ten years, used the time to travel the country collecting information and writing his own historical account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. As he visited the historical sites and studied the indigenous Jewish culture. he met many who had themselves some 25 years earlier seen, heard and personally met Jesus, some of who had become his followers, including the now elderly Mary mother of Jesus from whom he heard the birth narratives. Luke also studied several other accounts, including Mark’s gospel. Luke carefully investigates all the evidence and records his own summary in a document addressed to a high ranking Roman, Theophilus, ‘So that you may know the certainty of what you have been taught‘ (1:4). The first draft was probably edited and developed later perhaps while writing Acts.
A ‘Gospel’ is the proclamation of the ‘good news’ of salvation through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus ‘the Saviour’. This Gospel contains a variety of literary genres including different types of narrative, prophecy, lyric, conflict stories, miracle stories, parables, beatitude, sermon, and passion and trial narratives. Luke begins with the assertive claim that he has carefully investigated the accounts and details of Jesus’ life and ministry, has interviewed many of the first hand ‘eye witnesses’, and that he is writing so the reader ‘might know the certainty of what they have been taught’ about Jesus (Luke 1:1-4). Luke therefore writes as historian and theologian. Luke writes in excellent Greek, he is faithful to his sources and shows careful concern for the details and historical circumstances which reflects the careful, diligent approach expected of his own medical profession. It is possible that the double document Luke/Acts was written as a Christian apologetic to be used in defence of Christians experiencing persecution from Roman civil authorities.
|1:1 - 4:13||Preparation|
|1:1 - 2:52||Birth stories.|
|3:1 - 4:13||Preparation for ministry.|
|4:14 - 9:50||Ministry in Galilee|
|4:15 - 6:10||Jesus: the travelling rabbi (Nazareth, Capernaum, general popularity, opposition).|
|6:11 - 9:50||The new Israel (appointment of the twelve, the inaugural sermon, widening ministry, greater miracles (feeding of 5,000) Peter’s confession.|
|9:51 - 19:10||Journey to Jerusalem|
|9:51 - 11:13||Discipleship, mission, prayer.|
|11:14 - 16:31||Warnings against pharisaism.|
|17:1 - 19:10||The Kingdom, discipleship and salvation.|
|19:11 - 21:38||Jerusalem ministry.|
|22:1 - 24:53||Jesus’ death and resurrection.|
Phase 1: Jesus’ birth and preparation for ministry (1:5-4:30)
|4:14-22||Manifesto at Nazareth.|
|4:23-30||Rejection at Nazareth.|
Phase 2: Jesus’ ministry as a travelling Rabbi (4:31-6:11)
|Teaching||'The Kingdom of God is near' (in Synagogues), he taught with authority.|
|Disciples||The call of Peter (5:11).|
|Opposition...||...from religious leaders (5:17-6:11).|
Phase 3: The ministry in Galilee (6:12-9:50)
|Ministry||Jesus forms the new Israel.|
|Teaching||Inaugural sermon (6:17-49): love your enemies. Inaugural sermon in practice/love in action (Chapter 7).|
|Miracles||Greater: Widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter, calms storm.|
|Disciples||Appoints twelve apostles, apostles sent out on mission (in Galilee); Peter’s confession: “You are the Messiah”, transfiguration.|
|Opposition||John the Baptist beheaded, Jesus twice predicts his death.|
Phase 4: The journey to Jerusalem (9:51-18:30)
|Literature||Luke inserts his own material and no longer follows Mark.|
|Journey||'Zig-zag' to Jerusalem.|
|Teaching||Parables about the Kingdom, wealth, restoration of the outcast. Relations in the community of disciples.|
|Miracles||The 72 do miracles, Jesus heals a crippled woman and 10 Samaritan lepers.|
|Disciples||The cost of discipleship.|
|Opposition||Rumbling opposition from Pharisees (11:34, 13:14, 14:1), third prediction of the cross (18:31).|
Phase 5: Climax of the ministry in Jerusalem (18:31-21:38)
|Journey||Jericho to Jerusalem.|
|Teaching||Taught the crowds in the Temple each morning, teachings at last supper.|
|Miracles||Jericho - blind Bartimaeus. Gethsemane – Jesus heals Malcus’ ear.|
|Opposition||Direct confrontation with religious leaders in the Temple re: Jesus’ authority and identity; Jesus is betrayed, tried and executed (22 - 23.)|
Resurrection: Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God is vindicated.
Pentecost: The birth of the church: the gospel of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Development in understanding: who is Jesus?
The growth of opposition: …culminating in the challenge in the Temple
Miracles: The majority of miracles occur in the second phase in Galilee. In the subsequent phases, the miracles tend to be for strategic reasons.
Teaching: Jesus seems to use different teaching strategies in the different phases of ministry: itinerant rabbi, teaching and parables; discipleship in contrast to Pharisaism.
1. Jesus the Messiah has come to save God’s people Israel, and the Gentiles are included in his work of salvation.
a) As Messiah, Jesus must die and be raised to life for the forgiveness of sins and for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given to believers.
b) Jesus’ work of atonement was a second ‘exodus’ for God’s people.
c) Jesus’ ministry was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Luke has a special interest in the miraculous.
d) The vital role of prayer in Jesus’ developing ministry.
2. Jesus’ work of salvation specifically includes those on the far margins, who are often the ones excluded by traditional religion: children, foreigners, the religiously ‘unclean’, those on the fringe, women, the hated ‘oppressor’ Romans and those in different ethnic groups such as the Samaritans.
a) Jesus’ work of salvation includes the levelling of social inequalities.
b) Discipleship (especially in contrast to the religion of the Pharisees).
c) Jesus severely warns the rich and the religious.
Question 1 -
On January 4th 2010 the tallest building in the world was opened in Dubai. But only minutes before it was officially opened, its name was changed to Burj Khalifa in acknowledgement of the multi-million-dollar bailout orchestrated by the president of the United Arab Emirates. In what way does this incident illustrate what Jesus taught (Luke 14:28-30)?
Question 2 -
Salvation means “to restore”. Jesus taught that in the Kingdom, two leading aspects of salvation are forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit (24:47-49). What is the evidence that a disciple of Jesus has received these two benefits of salvation?
Question 3 -
Early in his presidency President Obama “declared war on Wall Street and unveiled a sweeping series of measures aimed at checking the behaviour of the banks – specifically the excessive bonuses”. What did Jesus teach about handling the treasures on earth and the treasures in heaven (Luke 12:33, 18:22)? Should a disciple give away all their money (3:11)?
Question 4 -
In May 2016 strong public protests were made when the British Retailer BHS went into administration despite its chairman making substantial sums of money from the company. In the same month the British Prime Minister David Cameron opened an Anti-Corruption Conference saying “corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we need to tackle in our world”. In what statements from the Gospel of Luke does Jesus address these issues?
Verse by Verse
The first four verses of Luke’s Gospel should not be skipped over. They give important information about the author’s intention in writing this account of Jesus, when a good number of others have already done so. The key facts are: Luke has ‘carefully investigated everything’ (v3), his sources for the forthcoming narratives were the very people directly involved in the stories, that is the apostles themselves, and he is writing so the readers will know ‘the certainty’ (v4) of the historical basis of the Christian faith. We can be confident that Luke has drawn strongly on Mark’s Gospel because he repeatedly improves on Mark’s rough, unpolished narrative while maintaining the sequence of his narrative.
Luke gives three chapters to describing the preparation for Jesus’ ministry.
Chapter 1 describes John the Baptist’s birth from the perspective of his priestly family and this serves as a context for the angel’s visit announcing to Mary that her child will be ‘the Son of God’ (1:35). Chapter 2 is the account of Jesus’ birth, the prophetic announcements at his circumcision and the events at his bar mitzvah (also in the Temple) twelve years later. Chapter 3 is the account of John the Baptist’s ministry.
1:2 – 25 Zechariah and the angel in the Temple
The opportunity for a priest to represent the people of God in the Holy of Holies was a once in a lifetime privilege. While this story’s emphasis is on the future prophetic ministry of John the Baptist to fulfil the very final promise of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), it is the discipline meted out by the angel because of Zechariah’s unbelief that introduces a dominant theme in Luke’s gospel: the call to have faith in Jesus!
1:26 – 38 Mary is told she will have a baby
In this astonishing story, Mary is told by the same angel that the ‘power of the Most High will overshadow’ her (v35), that she will have a baby who will be called ‘the son of God’ (v35), and that he will be the King of God’s people and his Kingdom will never end.
1:36 We see the mercy of God in giving Mary an older relative (cousin) whose pregnancy is just ahead of hers. Mary is likely to have faced considerable unease from her devoutly religious family at the realisation that she was unmarried and pregnant, but the exceptional events in Elizabeth’s family would have mitigated any overreaction to, and their possible rejection of her (v65).
1:39 – 45 Mary visits Elizabeth
This encounter is full of the Holy Spirit’s activity. The focus and celebration is that, contrary to Zechariah’s behaviour, Mary believed what was promised to her.
1:46 – 56 Mary’s worship song – ‘The Magnificat’
This song of celebration follows Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The second part, especially verses 51-53, could, as they stand, be understood as a political manifesto and therefore serve as a prelude to Jesus’ manifesto at Nazareth (4:14-29).
1:57 – 80 The birth of John, and Zechariah’s celebration
Under the discipline of the Lord, Zechariah has had at least nine months to hear from the Spirit about the purposes of God and ministry that his son will have. Although this priest failed to exercise faith in the Temple, his resolution in naming the child, and his wide knowledge of scripture leads to this celebratory worship song that speaks into the very heart of the salvation purposes of God. Mary’s worship song spoke into the coming social reform that would benefit the poor, but Zechariah celebrates the mighty forthcoming salvation of God using words such as redeem, mercy, rescue, forgiveness and ‘salvation’ (three times).
Incidentally, Zechariah’s ‘dumbness’ may have been linked to the utter shock and dissonance of the angelic encounter which literally silenced him for months, in a way similar to Ezekiel’s speech impediment. Some of the testimonies of those who have encountered angels speak of being so shocked by the experience that they need a good deal of time to recover.
2:1 – 7 Jesus is born
Luke, always keen to root the narrative in history, records some details of the census as an explanation for Joseph and Mary being in Bethlehem. At the end of her pregnancy, the long bumpy journey brought on the labour and Jesus is born in the town foretold in Micah 5:2. Kenneth Bailey’s extensive studies of Middle Eastern peasant life throw considerable light on what actually happened; we must carefully separate religious sentimentality from the architectural and textual evidence. In going to Bethlehem to be enlisted in the census, Joseph would have been among his family! It is absolutely unthinkable that a Jewish family would not have looked after one of their own young girls giving birth to her first baby. The word translated ‘inn’ actually means ‘guest room’, which we would expect to be filled with family members precisely because the family had all returned to Bethlehem for the census. The manger was the obvious place to let the young baby sleep, and this was almost certainly the universal practice, being the appropriate shape and size and raised off the ground away from vermin.
2:8 – 20 The angels announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds
One of Luke’s emphases is that the Jesus is the saviour of humanity (v11) and he has chosen to record here the announcement of both Jesus’ birth and significance to a few men at the lowest economic level.
2:10 The first words that angels speak are almost always: “Do not be afraid”.
2:17 The pastors (v8) become evangelists when God acts in power.
2:19 A detail like this is strong indication that Luke met Mary while he travelled collecting historical details for this gospel during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea (57-59CE; Acts 23:23-24:27; Luke 1:2). It is also evidence of the strongly feminine and womanly source of a good part of the information in these first two chapters.
2:21 – 40 Jesus is presented in the Temple
Luke emphasises that Jesus was brought up according to strict Jewish religious tradition (v22, 23, 24, 27, 39). There is a sense in which Simeon and Anna represent Adam and Eve (and all humanity) welcoming the Saviour (v30). What happens to Simeon under the influence of the Spirit is instructive for Kingdom ministry (1 Corinthians 14:6); He is led by the Spirit (v27), he then praises God (v28), out of which flows blessing (v34), and then comes the first prophetic revelation in Luke about the means of salvation: that all humanity must now fall in repentance in order to be raised into the glorious new life that the Saviour is bringing.
2:36-38 Anna is one of the truly astonishing characters in scripture. The example of her life, told so economically by Luke, in which she interceded over decades for the preparation of God’s people for the ministries of John and Jesus, is avidly studied by every believer who through the touch of the Holy Spirit has caught an insight into the power, glory and undiluted thrill of intercessory prayer.
2:41 – 52 Jesus becomes “bar Mitzvah”
This intriguing story is the only detail we are told between Jesus’ birth and the start of his ministry aged around 30, and it is the point at which as a Jewish boy he becomes ‘bar Mitzvah’, a ‘son of the law’, and takes responsibility for his own standing before God. The details and the conversations recorded are truly astonishing and meditating on them leads to a place of wonder at the development of Jesus’ understanding of God and what it means to be his son. Two developments stand out: first, that even at this age he has learnt the power of asking questions of others (v46, 49). Second, that effectively he is already their teacher.
2:51 Another strong indication that Luke heard this story personally from Mary.
3:1 – 20 John the Baptist’s ministry
It was John’s task to establish a renewal movement within Judaism. His abrupt and challenging message centred on repentance, evidenced by baptism, for the forgiveness of sins. He was a courageous man who spoke plainly, and did not shrink from directly challenging the powers of his day (v19-20). John understood himself and his ministry as one of preparations for the one coming after him. Luke’s appeal to all humanity is seen in the breadth of response from the crowds, the tax collectors and the soldiers, and the social implications of the gospel in his instructions to them (v11,13,14).
3:21 – 38 Jesus’s baptism and genealogy
John is calling the nation to repentance, and Jesus responds and is baptised, identifying with his people so he is ‘numbered with the transgressors’ (Isaiah 53:12). The divine voice intervenes, not only declaring him completely innocent of sin, but affirming him as his son. All of Jesus’ ministry flows out from this affirmation, and it is most significant that this is both affirmed by God at the Transfiguration, and also undermined by Satan in the temptations and on the cross (23:36-39). Jesus’ genealogy roots his humanity in a historical heritage, but the root goes back not just to Adam but to God. So, in two ways in this chapter Luke is stating that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.
4:1 – 13 Jesus is tempted
Having been declared by the divine voice to be God’s son (3:22) and filled with the Holy Spirit (4:1), Jesus must now decide how to fulfil God’s messianic commission. He recognises the three options put to him by Satan to be second best, that is, they are temptations, precisely because in each case they contradict the word of God. But behind each one is a far more significant temptation: to fulfil the messianic calling to win the world by feeding the hungry (v3), by following Satan’s independence from God (v5-7), or by doing extraordinary miracles (v9). Each of these would have worked to some extent but Jesus rejects each of these routes. Instead he chooses the far harder route of crucifixion, which is why the fourth and final temptation is to prove himself to the world by coming down from the cross. Luke (typically) emphasises this in terms of salvation – ‘Save yourself’ – expressed three times by the very people (representing all humanity) that he was coming to save: the people (23:35), the soldiers (23:37), and the criminals (23:39).
4:14 – 30 Jesus’s manifesto is rejected by his own community
Whereas Mark chooses to describe the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry through the exceptional beginning at Capernaum (Mark 1:21-2:12), Luke records Jesus’ astonishing claim to fulfil the specific messianic prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the very company in which he was raised and had lived for 30 years. We should not miss the force of his statement and action. He is publicly stating: ‘I am the messiah’. In choosing this, Luke is articulating his perspective on Jesus’ messiahship, the claims of which (good news, freedom, release) he will demonstrate that Jesus fulfils, to the poor, the prisoners the blind and the oppressed, in the coming chapters.
Jesus knew perfectly well that the Nazarenes would expect special favours and privileges in his movement and he goes out of his way at the very start to alienate himself from any obligation to them (4:23-27). All men and women can only join Jesus’ Kingdom movement by joining on his terms and his terms alone.
The Beginnings at Capernaum
4:31 – 37 Exorcism in the synagogue
Luke emphasises Jesus’ exceptional teaching, and the authority with which he teaches. This authority is vividly exhibited in the public confrontation with an evil spirit and its expulsion.
4:34 No one familiar with the difficult task of bringing spiritual growth to the people of God will be surprised that the first opposition Jesus encountered was a demon right in the middle of God’s people. Opposition frequently pleads the case that the gospel is “coming to destroy the very traditions of God that we are trying to maintain!” In abruptly silencing the evil spirit (v41), Jesus made it appear that the evil spirit was absolutely wrong in stating that Jesus was the ‘Holy One of God’. Jesus wanted this revelation to come slowly to those who follow him, so their love and commitment to him would be genuine, and not coerced.
4:38 – 44 Many healings
In addition to Jesus’ teaching and deliverance ministries, Luke now records Jesus healing many people. In contrast to the emphasis that Matthew places on the calling of the primary four disciples and the proclamation of the Kingdom, Luke’s focus is almost downbeat, with both subjects introduced almost in passing (v38, 43).
5:1 – 11 The miracle of the huge catch of fish
In a wonderfully woven description of a compendium of different events and details, Luke describes Jesus drawing his disciples, and specifically Simon Peter, into their next stage of discipleship. The raw power of Jesus’ miracle, in which he demonstrates to Simon that he has absolute control of the fishing in the Sea of Galilee, leaves this man transparent and vulnerable before him. The confession of sin comes immediately from a man who knows he is in the presence of unlimited power and godliness. The gospels describe a number of separate incidents in which these leading disciples were drawn forward step by step and initiated into ever-deeper commitment to Jesus until Luke writes that they ‘left everything and followed him’ (v11).
5:12 – 16 Jesus heals a leper
This simple, moving healing speaks into the heart of the human condition, because every human being’s spirit is ‘covered with leprosy’ (v12). All his life, the leper had had to shout out to warn those around him that he was unclean, so the social rejection he had suffered must have been his greatest wound. The man’s faith and his humble attitude singles him out to receive special attention. Although Jesus orders him to do all that the law required in these circumstances, Jesus’ popularity as a healer becomes excessive, even dangerous. Luke’s special interest in prayer is seen in the final sentence where Jesus ‘often’ withdraws (v16), no doubt to pray that the crowds will seek to hear and understand his teaching as much as they seek his miraculous power. The great temptation of revival movements (and very often their undoing) is that the crowds seek the phenomena rather than the teacher and the message.
5:17 – 26 Jesus heals a paralytic
Although Luke records that ‘the power of the Lord was present to heal the sick’ (v17), implying that Jesus operated in different levels of healing power at different times (see 6:19 and Mark 6:5), the focus of this story is to bring Jesus’ ministry to a new level by displaying his authority to forgive sins – which the religious leaders correctly understand to be only a divine gift. Jesus’ fervent intercession in 5:16 is answered by the Father in both a miraculous display of greater healing power, and, the challenging and provoking revelation that the healer also has divine authority to forgive sins. The event is a significant step forward towards the statement of 9:20.
5:27 – 32 Jesus calls Levi to follow him
It was the sheer personality of Jesus that caused this rich, powerful and unpopular man (the Pharisees banned tax collectors from the synagogue) to leave everything and follow Christ. Jesus did not hesitate to enjoy the dinner Levi then gave in his honour, despite the infamy it raised in the hearts and minds of the religious, who despite avoiding contact with the ‘unclean people’ because it would make them ‘unclean’, were actually unable to see their own spiritual sickness and need of spiritual healing (v31-32). We who are zealous in our love for Christ must never despise the gifts others give to Christ, however unusual, even contagious, they may seem to be to us (Mark 14:3-5).
5:33 – 39 The spiritual discipline of fasting, and the need for new wineskins
Those who choose a severe rhythm of religious disciplines are always in danger of envying the freedom of others. This is almost always the case with those who encourage obedience to the strictures of scripture but do not know the freedom of the Spirit (Galatians 5:26). Every new work of God needs new structures in which to operate; if you try and keep the wind (John 3:8) in a box, it stops being the wind! The person who encounters God in one system (wine skin) will fight to death to protect that system, and is almost always blind to the new system that the Holy Spirit is building.
5:35 Old covenant fasting is usually focused on repairing the damage of sin, and happens alongside confession (Jonah 3:7), repentance (Joel 1:13-14), mourning (1 Samuel 31:13). New covenant fasting focuses on establishing bridgeheads for Kingdom expansion: preparing a nation for revival (Luke 2:37); preparation for atonement (Luke 4:1-13); new mission (Acts 13:1-3); appointing elders (Acts 14:23). Paul’s three day total fast is strictly speaking an old covenant fast (Acts 9:9).
6:1 – 11 Conflict over the Sabbath
The conflict with the religious leaders which has been growing since Jesus first claimed authority to forgive the sins of the paralytic reaches a turning point in this fourth successive ‘conflict story’. Luke has already explained this fracture between legalistic pharisaism and Jesus’ renewal movement in the immediately preceding illustration of the new wine breaking the old wine skin. Religious systems are provided to bless people not to bind them, and when our religion reaches the point of forbidding physical healing it is we who have become blind and evil.
6:12 – 16 Jesus appoints the twelve apostles
Jesus’ response to the growing and focused religious opposition (6:11) is to take the movement to a new level through the appointment of twelve ‘senior leaders’. There are two angles to this: first, Jesus is publicly establishing a ‘New Israel’ modelled on the initial twelve tribes, and second, twelve is the optimum number for personal discipleship-coaching. Don Carson’s careful study on the listing of these men has demonstrated that there were three subdivisions of four each. Apart from the occasional reference to Matthew and Thomas in the second ‘four’, the synoptics are almost solely concerned with the first four which, very significantly, was composed of two sets of brothers.
V12 Throughout Luke/Acts, Luke always introduces each new phase of ministry with a focused time of prayer.
6:17 – 26 Jesus’s inaugural teaching to the New Israel
Jesus now addresses the New Israel at a large public rally. Luke seems to be describing a different event from the sermon in Matthew 5-7, although, as is the case with all political speakers today, there is considerable overlap in the content. Luke’s four Beatitudes and Woes complement each other and elucidate the key points from both the Nazareth Manifesto (4:18-19), and the earlier ‘Song of Mary’ in 1:46-55, but his focus is on the social revolution that the Kingdom of God is bringing. The Kingdom of God has come, it is new, it is rich, it is free.
6:27 – 36 The community of love: where there is no retaliation
The community of Kingdom looks for the best for its enemies, and even seeks to bless them. There is no place for personal retaliation, although in the case of illegal action it is possible that redress could be sought by the state. The guiding principle must always be to treat others in the way you yourself would want to be treated in such a situation. The aim must always be to behave like God in heaven, who is kind even to the ungrateful and the wicked. If we do, then our lives will demonstrate that we are his children, his very sons and daughters.
6:37 – 42 The community of love: love does not criticise others
The operating principle of the Kingdom is that the measure you use is measured to you, so therefore there is no place for criticising others. If you do, you will find that you yourself reap the results of criticism and judging.
6:43 – 49 The community of love: built through obeying Jesus
A good tree is recognised by its good fruit. The only things that will last are those established in direct obedience to Jesus’ commands.
In Chapter 7, Luke has brought together four stories from different parts of Jesus’ three year ministry because they illustrate Jesus’ own application of his teaching in ‘the inaugural sermon’ (6:17-49). Here we see Jesus extending the love of God to the foreigner (v1-10), the grieving widow (v11-17), the prisoner (v18-35), and the sinful, penitent woman (v36-50).
7:1 – 10 The faith of the Centurion at Capernaum
Luke must have prized this story because not only does it contain several extraordinary features, but they are features he is keen to emphasise in his Gospel account. Not only is it someone demonstrating exceptional faith through his understanding of authority, with all the implications of Jesus’ divinity, but this man is a leading Gentile, even THE leading Gentile, in Capernaum.
V9 It is astonishing that the Son of God is amazed about anything! It is of the uttermost significance for every human being that the Son of God is amazed either by the absence of faith (Mark 6:6), or by its strength, as he is here.
V10 There is also an element of strategy in this healing, just as there is in the healing of the son of the royal official in Capernaum (John 4:47). As a result, both the Roman official and Herod’s official would want to protect Jesus from any possible negativity, reaction or assault from those they represented. If Jairus was the synagogue leader in Capernaum, then the same would have been the case.
7:11 – 17 Jesus raises the widow of Nain’s son
In a second story, full of fascinating features and deep emotion, Luke records Jesus’ compassion for another ‘lost outsider’.
7:18 – 35 Jesus and John the Baptist
This story’s significance lies in Jesus’ fulfilment of the Isaian Messianic prophecies (29:18-19, 35:5-6 and 61:1). While we should recognise that John the Baptist’s following (rough and disciplined) was very different from Jesus’ (gentle and open), we must also notice Jesus’ strong affirmation of his cousin.
7:36 – 50 Jesus and the sinful women
This personal and moving story contrasts the judgemental attitude of the Pharisee (despite his hospitality) with the woman’s simple but sincere act of humble penitence to Jesus. Jesus understands her motive and publicly forgives her sins, exercising his authority delegated from his Father (5:20-26).
8:1 – 18 A parable about four soils and the reception of the Kingdom
This parable, probably the first that Jesus taught, has two functions. First, to assure his followers that despite a whole variety of difficulties and frustrations, the message of the Kingdom would have widespread effect in the world. Second, to explain not only that the Kingdom message has the effect of publicly revealing the hearts of those who hear it, but also illustrating the leading barriers to its reception: preoccupation with the affairs of life, unsustained enthusiasm and an inability to endure. This is one of the only parables that Jesus explains because the power of this genre is to force the recipient to ‘consider carefully’ is meaning (v18).
8:19 – 21 Jesus, his family and his message
Luke considerably downplays the difficulty of the original account in Mark (3:20) which states that his close family thought Jesus was out of his mind – that he had gone ‘AWOL’. His inclusive teaching about obeying God’s word softens and widens the appeal.
8:22 – 25 Jesus calms the storm
Luke’s straightforward account of this story makes the clear point that Jesus has power and authority over nature. In challenging his disciples with the question ‘where is your faith?’, Jesus highlights the two angles in this incident. First, the journey in relationship with Jesus will always (and forever?) involve a progressive revelation of who he is. Even the revelation that ‘He is God’ is only the doorway into the wide vista of the adventure of all that that means. And second, the apprentice is continually challenged to trust Jesus is every situation we face, even at the point of Jesus’ own death.
8:26 – 39 Jesus heals a mad demoniac
It is the Biblical perspective that human independence from God (sin) has brought chaos and disorder to Creation – both nature and the human condition. While Jesus’ power and authority over nature was demonstrated on the journey to the Gerasenes, his ability to bring order to the chaotic condition of humanity is revealed when they arrive. The demoniac’s condition was not just ‘mental health issues’, although this is how he would be viewed today; Luke has recorded details that reveal the presence of evil spirits in the man.
8:40 – 56 Jesus heals a sick woman and raises a dead girl to life
Luke’s account of these two miracles is the longest of the synoptics, and it is profoundly moving. Every phrase, even word, is carefully detailed and descriptive, and a rich source of spiritual insight for those who take the time to meditate on them thoughtfully. Jesus publicly exposed the woman because her complete healing was not yet established. She needed the assurance that she was at peace with God, and the blessing of God on her act that would have rendered Jesus unclean in the eyes of the Levitical law because of her perpetual ‘uncleanness’ due to the bleeding. She needed a public declaration that far from ‘cheating’ to get her healing, her act of faith was exemplary in God’s sight.
9:1 – 9 Jesus sends the twelve out on mission
The beauty of the last story contrasts with the short punchy summary describing Jesus sending the twelve on mission. They have been given the message of the Kingdom to preach and authority from the King of the Kingdom to heal and drive out demons. Jesus’ instructions are, as always, perfectly economic, giving only the absolutely imperative essence.
V5 There is a right time and circumstance for ‘moving on’ – to find and work with the ‘people of peace’.
V7-9 Herod was a dangerous, complicated and powerful man whose interest in this growing popular movement would in the long run only lead to trouble. Through including these verses immediately after the mission briefing, Luke is alerting us to rising tension and future confrontation.
9:10 – 17 Jesus feeds a crowd of 5,000
The feeding of this vast crowd is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels and each evangelist draws different features from it. For Luke, it is both a celebration of the twelve’s new responsibilities in mission (v1-6), and also concurrently a test of them. It is also the immediate precursor to the great fulcrum of Jesus’ ministry, the testing question ‘Who do you say I am?” (9:20). The miracle touches upon many things: the temptation of 4:3, the messianic banquet of Isaiah 25:6, the spiritual discipline of feasting (Deuteronomy 16:13f), the perpetual challenge that apprentices of Jesus exercise ever greater faith and acts of faith and his ability to use the weak and small powerfully in the Kingdom. The account also explores the ecclesiological dynamic between ‘the multitude’ and ‘the disciple’.
9:18 – 27 Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the messiah
This is the fulcrum of Jesus’ ministry. Everything before has led up to this declaration in answer to the question ‘who is Jesus?’, and from this point on (v21), everything leads to Jesus’ death on the cross, in answer to the question ‘why did he come?’ Very typically, Luke signals the phase change by telling us that the event was birthed while Jesus was in prayer (v1).
V27 In placing this declaration about the experience of the Kingdom at the end of a progression of leading statements describing the essence of discipleship, Jesus ties engagement in his apprenticeship with the result which that apprenticeship brings. We are his apprentices in the family business of the Kingdom, the experienced reality of which is ever-breaking into the life of those who learn the delightful loyal love of v23.
9:28 – 36 Jesus is transfigured
This is one of the moments when heaven is opened and we get a glimpse of what happens there. Just as Moses’ face shone after speaking with Yahweh on the mountain and in the Tent of Meeting and receiving the Law from him, so in a far superior way Jesus is transfigured in the presence of his Father. This comes just after Jesus’ axiomatic statement (v21-22), that from here the road to resurrection is through suffering and death and the disciples are themselves called to also walk this path (v23-27). The Father endorses Jesus to these three disciples. Jesus chooses Peter, James and John to pray with him in Gethsemane.
V31 The Greek word for ‘departure’ means exodus, a crucial point in Lukan atonement theology. Jesus is the greater Moses now embarking on a route no human has ever walked before, into the full depth of human sin, in order to lead humanity out.
9:37 – 45 Jesus delivers a boy with an evil spirit
The glory of experiencing heaven is immediately offset by the unpleasant reality of stubborn and vicious evil. Jesus’ rebuke in v41 expresses the seriousness of their failure, but also his frustration at their slowness to learn (Matthew 15:16).
V44 Jesus predicts his death for a second time, conscious of the extremes of heaven, evil and the necessity of the Cross. Their fearful silence (v45) must partly have been because of the force of his rebuke in v41.
9:46 – 50 Dispute over who is the greatest
With the movement growing steadily, the twelve could see they were destined for increasing prominence and status and the deeply human instinct both to be prominent and in control became an issue in their conversations. All issues in community orientate around the leader, and the leader is usually ‘the greatest’, and so unsurprisingly this issue repeatedly surfaced from this point to Peter’s denial and Jesus’ death. Jesus inverts the human perspective. The greatest in the Kingdom community is the weakest, the unsophisticated, the inarticulate, all characterised in a little child. These must be welcomed and given first place in his name.
9:51 – 56 Rejection by a Samaritan village
This incident, only recorded by Luke, is exactly what happens around Israel today! Luke records the story to demonstrate Jesus’ patience with some outsiders (in this case, Samaritans) who reject him. Firing rockets at them, perhaps we could today say sending in suicide bombers, is absolutely always unacceptable, and the two ‘Sons of Thunder’ (Mark 3:17) receive a rare public rebuke from Jesus which is still read throughout the entire world 2,000 years later! Luke is therefore beginning a series of teachings on discipleship which he weaves into the journey to Jerusalem, with a firm rebuke that any behaviour along the lines of the actions James and John were advocating is strictly unacceptable for every apprentice of Jesus. From 9:51 to 18:15, Luke breaks from following Mark’s order and uses his own structure.
9:57 – 62 1) The terms of being Jesus’ disciple
Jesus used the long journey to Jerusalem, crisscrossing through the villages, as the context for teaching community discipleship. Luke has recorded this set of three incidents here at the journey’s beginning to instruct potential disciples of the terms for being Jesus’ apprentice. Disciples in the Kingdom must prioritise Jesus above their possessions and comforts (v58), their family duties (v60), and even the family’s immediate expectations (v61).
V61 Jesus is not expecting us to be rude and unkind to those who love us. But if the Son of God was travelling through your region you would forgive your sister for not returning to explain why she would not be at home for a few days (2:49, 8:21).
10:1 – 24 2) Disciples in mission
The long journey to Jerusalem begins with the multiplying of mission into the villages that Jesus is planning to visit. 72 is twelve sets of six, so by this stage each apostle is already ‘discipling’ five others, and each ‘four’ has now been enlarged to the sociologically strategic number of 24, above which the interactive dynamics change completely. Once again the economy of Jesus’ instructions is outstanding and penetrating as he addresses: the mission to harvest (v1-4); behaviour in the home (v5-7); strategy in the town (v8-12); the ministry in the light of the eternal judgement (v13-16); and the astonishing results, power and privilege of this Kingdom ministry (v17-24).
10:25 – 37 3) The parable of the Good Samaritan: the loving disciple
In placing this story and parable immediately after the mission instructions, Luke indicates that mission should be conducted with a view to expressing love for others. The religious expert was testing Jesus to see if he understood the Law, but Jesus uses his own reply to test him (v29). The religious law stated that the priest and Levite would be unclean if they touched the body and found it was dead, so their actions demonstrate that they loved the Law more than the one in desperate need. Disciples of Jesus will look for opportunities to serve all other people, especially those in need, not out of duty, but out of pure concern for others. This parable brilliantly illustrates the love of God the Father for those damaged in life and his desire for us to put aside the stipulations of the holiness law in order to help them. He desires mercy to those suffering as a priority over a pure sacrifice in a religious building. Active love and compassion for those suffering is God’s priority over a meticulous observance of secondary religious laws. We should ask why this point is so rarely heard in our pulpits? Is it because we are taught by those who fear that the meticulous obedience to the religious law is what the Father actually wants?
10:25 – 37 4) Jesus teaches at Martha’s home
It is clear from the first sentence that this story is about Martha, despite modern piety’s fixation with Mary. She has sacrificed her opportunity to listen to Jesus so that others can do so. One insidious problem for the committed disciple is that they (we/I) become secretly aware of all the sacrifice we have made for others, and deep down this is becomes an issue in the heart, and it is an issue that is not far from the heart of the Priest and Levite in the previous story. The quiet arrogance can be there even if the act of service is genuinely loved and motivated. Jesus’ gentle correction of Martha speaks to correct and purify the heart of his disciple. There comes a point when genuine service even forgets itself.
11:1 – 13 5) Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer
1) The model prayer (v1-4).
2) Provision, persistence and honour in prayer (v5-8).
3) The assurance that prayer will be fruitful and effective (v9-10).
4) The assurance that God in his goodness will give what is good at the best time (v11-13).
11:14 – 28 Opposition and danger: Jesus is accused of being Satan
Jesus very easily dismisses the foolishness of this reactionary accusation (v14-19), but then uses it to make a number of assertive and frightening statements against those who made them. His deliverance ministry is clear evidence that the Kingdom of God has already come in power (v20). He is the strong man, binding up Satan and pillaging his household (v21, 22). Those who make these aggressive accusations against him (v15,16,17) should be under no illusion that they are damaging his movement and cause! But by far his most serious challenge (v24-26), is that those ‘righteous’ people whose lives have been swept clean of the common evils of ‘drink, drugs, swearing, prostitution and such like’ have instead filled their lives with the other far worse demons of ‘criticism, aggression, slander, religious intolerance, spiritual blindness, jealousy, and hatred’. The very people accusing Jesus of operating under Satan’s power are through these very accusations demonstrating that they themselves are filled with the dangerous ‘demonic’ life attitudes that are the very foundation of Satan’s lifestyle.
V28 Jesus has absolutely no time for sentimental religion!
11:29 – 36 Opposition and danger: the temptation to spiritual blindness
From v29, Jesus is answering the challenge of v16 that he perform a miraculous sign to prove his divine messianic credentials. Having just turned their argument against them and accused his religious opponents of themselves of operating under Satan’s power (v24-26), Jesus now warns the crowd that his opponents influence of the real and dangerous temptation they face of spiritual blindness. Jesus will not excuse their turning from him, citing two examples from Israel’s history when even foreigners repented and turned to Yahewh on the basis of far less evidence. Israel was called to be the light to the Gentiles, and these two stories demonstrate that the Gentiles can see the light even if the Jewish religious leaders can’t. In v33-36, Luke has collected a number of Jesus’ ‘light’ sayings to endorse this very point. Jesus is the light from God and there is no excuse for not seeing the light when he is walking among you, talking to you, bringing the word of God to you, and doing ‘amazing’ (v14) miracles.
11:37 – 54 Opposition and danger: the religious leaders
Here Jesus is at his most assertive. Having severely warned the crowds (v29) of the danger of spiritual blindness that they face, this section should be viewed as his defence of them through assertive face-to-face criticism of their deceived religious leaders. The outline structure to this section is three “Woe” sayings directed to the Pharisees (v42,43,44), followed by three further “Woe” sayings addressed to the teachers of the Law (v46,47,52). The Pharisees live and teach ‘religious performance’, cleaning the outside of their lives while the inside stinks (v40). They focus on outward appearance (v42) and public prominence (v43), while actually being hidden death-traps (v44). The teachers of the Law can only see as far as strict disciplined religious behaviour (v46), and loyalty to tradition (v47), but understand nothing of the way into the Kingdom, even when the King is standing talking to them.
12:1 – 12 Opposition and danger: how to respond to religious bullies
Having severely criticised their religious leaders (11:37-54), Jesus now teaches the crowd how to avoid coming under their control. His first instruction is to understand and avoid the very essence of Pharisaism which is acting out a facade – ‘performance religion’. Time and judgement will ultimately reveal everything, absolutely everything, so the genuinely religious person must focus on the renewal of the heart and live transparently (v2). Second, do not fear religious bullies and remember your great value to God the father (v4-7). Third, it is essential to be known as a servant of Jesus (v8-9). There is no means of forgiveness for those who speak against the Holy Spirit (v10): if you publicly and repeatedly denounce God’s means of sanctifying you as evil then there is no other way to be sanctified (11:15). Don’t fear the moment of trial because God himself will help you to testify to him (v11-12).
12:13 – 21 Warning: greed and wealth
The distribution of the inheritance is one of the most divisive issues in human experience. Many relationships – whole families, even dynasties – are sometimes ruined at this point. Jesus refuses to be arbiter of a family dispute and instead gives a severe warning against all kinds of greed and covetousness. Luke’s inclusion of the Parable of the Rich Fool reflects his special interest in ‘wealth’. The man’s fault was not being ‘rich towards God’ (v21), in other words, when faced with the question of what to do with his new wealth (v17), he chose to hoard it rather than share it among those who needed it most (12:33, 14:33, 18:32 etc). Surely the wise disciple of Jesus will divide his or her property between his or her children equally, simply and transparently through a Will.
12:22 – 34 Warning: the fear of poverty and ruin
Second only to the fear of being killed, whether by violence or sickness, is the fear of poverty and the ruin it brings. We saw this so clearly during our six years of ministry in Harare. Jesus assures his disciples that if they seek his Kingdom (v32), their heavenly Father will ensure the provision of all their essential needs. Just as he provided food and clothing at the beginning (Genesis 1-3), so he provides now (1 Timothy 6:8). Wealth in itself is not evil, but if our attitude to it is evil then the result will be destructive. Selfish hoarding (v13-21) is as destructive as the fear that drives a human being to seek food and clothing before the Kingdom. The apprentice of Jesus must learn to use the things on earth to invest in the Kingdom of heaven (v33).
12:35 – 48 Warning: always be ready for the crisis
This section is a whole series of sayings in which Jesus exhorts his followers to be ready for the crisis when ‘the Son of man comes’ (v40). There is considerable debate about what Jesus was referring to: an imminent attack from the Roman/civil/religious authorities, or the climax of his ministry in Jerusalem, or his Parousia at the end of history? It could also be interpreted as the unexpected intervention of the Spirit in the disciple’s life. The repeated imagery of a master being away for a long time points towards long term discipleship, and the focus is on those with authority in the Church, in answer to Peter’s question (v41).
V47 These blows are the causal outcomes of being out of step with the will of God and His Spirit.
12:49 – 53 Warning: division and tensions within the nuclear family
Jesus was a realist who did not shy away from speaking openly about the difficult issues his disciples would face. Here, with brutal frankness, he describes the tense relations that his apprentices should expect within the central relationships of their nuclear families because of their loyalty to him.
12:54 – 59 Warning: open your eyes and discern what is happening!
V54-56 are a strong and frank admonition to wake up to the spiritual reality that is about to happen. ‘Hypocrite’ usually means ‘actor’, someone who plays the part, the religious role, but here it carries a rebuke for their inability to see the spiritual storm that is growing greater with every step they take towards Jerusalem and the cross. V57-59 are used by Matthew in the very different context of averting the results of anger (Matthew 5:25), but here it is a strong exhortation to get right with God, and follow Jesus, while there is still time.
13:1 – 9 Jesus teaches: tragedies and time to repent
In the two incidents related in v1-5, Jesus corrects the false understanding that those who died were somehow the worst of sinners receiving immediate retribution from God. Instead he warns those hearing him that unless they repent, some similar fate will come to them all. The following parable emphasises the urgency of their need to turn to God in repentance in response to his gospel message of the Kingdom. It also contains more than a hint that this incident took place roughly a year before he arrived in Jerusalem.
13:10 – 17 Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath
This story is similar to several other ‘Sabbath’ incidents in the synoptic gospels. Luke may have placed the account at this point in order to demonstrate that the root cause of the nation’s reluctance to turn to God in repentance (v6-9) was the controlling influence of those in authority over the synagogues, who were spiritually blind.
13:18 – 21 Jesus gives two parables about the growth of the Kingdom
These two parables are balanced. One is about a man, the other about a woman. Both are about growth. The first teaches that what looks minuscule and weak will ultimately multiply in size and influence far beyond its initial appearances. The second speaks of the hard work that will make the Kingdom influence every part of the dough (the world), and thereby create a large meal for many.
In placing these two parables at this point, Luke may be indicating that although the message of the Kingdom appears small in comparison with the huge structure of Temple religion, the cause of the opposition from 11:37 to 13:17, his disciples should realise that its ultimate result and effect will be far, far bigger.
13:22 – 30 Jesus teaches about entering the Kingdom
Although Jesus will not be drawn on the question of how many people get into the Kingdom (v23), his answer is a severe warning about the real possibility of not entering.
V30 The statement that many of those who are first will be last indicates that there will be some shocking surprises at the judgement. Some who appear to be in pole position (13:14) will be exposed to be little more than ‘actors’ (hypocrites). No one can ‘rest on their (religious) laurels’.
13:31 – 35 Jesus refuses to be intimidated
Herod had established a reputation as a fox, no doubt because of his cunning and dangerous political acumen. As he travels ever closer towards the capital city, Jesus publicly refuses to be intimidated by this joint challenge from the religious and political powers in Jerusalem. Jesus names the fox for the fox that Herod is, and bravely asserts that he will complete his agenda in his time and on his terms! Then, in a way that is absolutely consistent with his usual strategy, Jesus addresses the issue behind the presenting issue, which is that behind little Herod’s threat is the far more serious, age-long principle that God’s eternal purposes for humanity must be worked out and fulfilled in God’s city – the city of David where civil and religious government have been brought together (2 Samuel 6).
14:1 – 14 Jesus again heals on the Sabbath
This story and the arguments in it are very similar to the story in 13:10-17. The long instruction about taking the lowest place at a wedding feast (v7-11), together with the teaching that ‘everyone who exalts himself will be humbled’ (v11), implies that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees’ driving selfish ambition to be among the ‘great and the good’. Then, with a typically Lukan emphasis, Jesus instructs all godly people to invite those on the fringe of society to their parties, those who do not have the means or opportunity to repay like for like.
14:15 – 24 Parable of the great banquet
In this parable the invited guests all decline their invitations, thereby invoking the anger of the host who then fills the seats of the banquet with ‘the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (v22), and then others from the country roads. The parable is directed against those who considered their places in heaven to be securely guaranteed; the very people, the Pharisees, whom Jesus has recently been severely criticising. The nub of the issue is that the Kingdom of God is a present reality to be engaged with now. It is open to everyone. In preferring their own religious systems, the Pharisees are thereby declining the opportunity to engage with the host and enjoy the feast of the Kingdom. The warning of 13:24-30 must be heard at this point. Caird writes: ‘No one is excluded (from the Kingdom of God – v15) except by their own choice’. Those who allow the concerns of this world (8:14) to have a higher priority than the Kingdom are committing a profound sin and are forfeiting the Kingdom of their own choice.
14:25 – 35 The reality of discipleship
Jesus now articulates the reality of his call to be his apprentices in the Kingdom to the crowd travelling with him to Jerusalem . Our commitment to Jesus must be our first relationship (v26) and commitment to his cause our primary ambition (v27) in a lifestyle where we submit our possessions to his agenda (v33). These points are vividly illustrated in the two metaphors of the army and the builder. Only a highly disciplined, skilled and motivated army can defeat an army larger than itself, and only the prepared, determined and calculated builder will succeed in the large building project.
V26 The Semitic mind uses hyperbole to express preferences. ‘I love beef and hate lamb’ simply means ‘today I’ll choose the beef dish over the lamb casserole’. Jesus (who taught his apprentices to love even their enemies) is certainly not expecting the cultish behaviour of hating our parents! He is simply continuing the point made in the previous parable (v15-24), that loyalty to him in the Kingdom must be first priority in our lives.
15:1 – 32 Three pictures of the lost: a sheep, a coin and two lost sons
This chapter functions as a unit with the three parables (with similar structures) operating together, within the same context and with the purpose of challenging and correcting the Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus that he chooses ‘sinners’ (v2). As such, it anticipates the summary statement in 19:10: ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’ The shepherd seeking the lost sheep is almost as reckless in leaving the rest of the flock as he is extravagant in his celebration afterwards. The woman is only moderately less so. The focus of these two parables is on the subsequent celebration, both on earth and in heaven, when what was lost is found again.
The third parable is the most popular of all that Jesus taught, and this may explain why two other minor parables lead up to it. Although commonly called the parable of the prodigal (wasteful) son, it is actually about two lost sons. One was lost in the far country, the other was just as lost despite sitting daily at his father’s table; both were estranged from their father. The parable is deeply loved because it explores so brilliantly the heart of generational and sibling dissonance in family relationships. The younger son overtly rejects his upbringing but comes to his senses when ruined, however the power of the story is in the unexpected, overwhelming reception and reinstatement he receives from his father: the shoes of freedom, the ring of status, the robe of restored honour in the family and the feast of genuine loving welcome. The older, dutiful son betrays his hardened bitter heart with every phrase he speaks, giving the worst possible interpretation of his brother’s actions. Much more seriously, he demonstrates that his relationship with his father is just as fractured as was previously the case with his younger brother. The younger son represents the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ of v2. The older son represents the Pharisees, dutiful, always in God’s house, but with their hearts very far from the nature and character of God. The contempt and anger they mutter in v2 is expounded in the older son’s outburst. The chapter ends with a typical Jewish literary device, the unspoken question. Will the critical Pharisees have the change of heart to celebrate, like the shepherd (v6-7) and the woman (v9-10); the return of ‘sinners’ to the God they purport to serve and love. Or, will their silence be a public demonstration that they are as spiritually lost and estranged from God as the grotesque elder brother was from his father?
16:1 – 13 Handling wealth: the parable of the shrewd manager
Some are puzzled by Jesus’ apparent commendation of the manager’s deceitfulness in this parable, but this mistakes the point Jesus is making. In verse 9 Jesus clearly states that his apprentices must be shrewd and use earthly wealth for the purposes of the Kingdom; this is the point and reason for the parable. Jesus appears to be stressing the importance of this point even by using the example of a dishonest steward! When earthly wealth, business and life are over, all that will be left is the relationships we have formed. So we should use the temporary ‘earthly wealth’ for ‘heavenly purposes’. V10-12 tells us that the way we handle things here on earth demonstrates the deep values of our hearts, similar to Matthew 6:21: ‘for where your treasure is there will your heart be also’.
V15b should make all of Jesus’ apprentices pause and meditate; what is ‘highly valued’ in contemporary society?
16:14 – 18 Jesus addresses the Pharisees
This is a collection of Jesus’ sayings to the Pharisees, in which he addresses their love of money, their rejection of the Kingdom, and the sinful way they use divorce to move from woman to woman.
16:19 – 31 The rich man and the beggar Lazarus
This story, unique to Luke’s Gospel, is surely the strangest in the gospels. We should probably understand it as follows. Within the context of Jesus’ continuing severe correction of the Pharisees (15:1-16:18), the rich man should be understood as from the socially elite group of Sadducees who ran the Temple and did not believe in life after death. Jesus’ retelling of a familiar community story (known throughout the local cultures) makes two points. First, that the rich Sadducee indulged himself and did not use his wealth to look after others, especially the destitute. If he had, he could have ‘welcomed him into eternal dwellings‘ (16:9). Second, the rich Sadducee purported to follow Moses’ law, but his blindness to spiritual truth was so severe that it would not be corrected even by a resurrection appearance.
Jesus teaches his disciples
17:1 – 10 A collection of short sayings to the disciples
After the strong warnings to the religious leaders, there is a marked change in direction at this point with Luke now focusing on Jesus’ teaching to the disciples. The four instructions that Jesus gives in this collection reflect some of the subjects that Jesus teaches the apostles on their way to Jerusalem which Matthew develops substantially in his section on community discipleship (Matt 18-20). First, is a warning about causing others to sin. Second, there are instructions about handling conflict. Third comes teaching about faith. Fourth, he teaches that even when we are serving Christ at our very best, we are still only doing our duty. Hudson Taylor, while on furlough, was embarrassingly praised by the leader of a meeting when introduced to speak. Hudson’s first words were ‘I am the unworthy servant of a very great Lord and Master.’
17:11 – 19 Jesus heals ten lepers
In another story told only by Luke, it is the Samaritan, and not his Jewish fellow-sufferers, who returns to give praise to God. Gratitude and thanksgiving are simple but powerful ‘Holy Habits’ standing at the very beginning of the apprentice’s new relationship with God. They are basic foundational ‘Holy Habits’ upon which the whole of our reconciled standing and new daily fellowship with the Father is based and grows.
17:20 – 37 Jesus teaches about the coming of the Kingdom
Luke now includes a collection of Jesus’ teachings about the coming of the Kingdom of God. Once we are familiar with the concept of the Kingdom being ‘now and not yet’, of having come partially, still in the process of coming, and one day to come completely, we have a context for understanding these sayings. However, we must not miss the emphasis that Jesus understood his ministry and challenge to Israel to be so axiomatic that their rejection of it would have eternal consequences for the nation’s calling to be the people of God! If they reject him, then they would lose that calling! In Jewish thought, the destruction of Jerusalem was bound up with the end of the age and the final divine judgement on humanity. So Jesus teaches about both in this section, verses 31-32, addressing the former within the wider context of the latter. Once the nation had rejected the Son of Man then the day of the Son of Man would follow soon after, just as the vultures quickly prey on an animal’s dead carcass.
18:1 – 14 Jesus teaches two parables about prayer
In the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus uses hyperbole to argue that even if God seems like a harsh uncaring judge, he can be turned to act for justice. Jesus is making the point that the one thing we can definitely count on is that our kind, good and loving heavenly father will definitely work for justice for his children ‘who cry out to him day and night’ (v7). So, apprentices ‘should always pray and not give up’ (18:1).
V8 This is the faith that comes through having persevered and seen God work over time overcoming and purging an evil situation.
In the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus once again warns his apprentices not to follow the prevailing popular discipleship of the Pharisees who looked down on others as less holy and considered themselves righteous and privileged. Never be proud about your standing with God, whatever progress we may have made has been made because through grace and grace alone.
18:15 – 17 Children and the Kingdom
Young children instinctively trust adults and receive from them, trusting that those larger, stronger, more able, more experienced and older than them have their best interests at heart. They do this until something happens that causes them to distrust. Jesus states that adults should receive the message of the Kingdom and engage in that Kingdom with the same instinctive trust that little babies have, that what is being given to them is in their best interests. This incident also demonstrates that children have a full place in the Kingdom.
18:18 – 30 Jesus and the wealthy ruler
Luke has recorded incidents in which, in different ways, Jesus has warned his followers about the dangers of both wealth and the misguided religious leaders. Here, a man, who was a ruler, thought that eternal life was a sort of prize to be achieved for those who reach the top of the ladder. This is why Jesus’ first question is so important: ‘why do you call me good?‘ (v19). In other words, ‘you are asking the wrong question’. Eternal life is not about earning anything, eternal life is the life lived in the presence of eternal goodness, God himself. This life is a gift of grace from God, not something that is earned. The problem with any kind of wealth, intellectual, financial, moral and even spiritual wealth, is that it gets in the way and frustrates the reception of this gift of grace. All such assets must be moved aside so the life of fellowship with eternal goodness himself can be lived freely without interference.
The man’s reluctance to remove his financial assets from inhibiting his growth into the life lived with God, the eternally good one, is contrasted with Peter’s plea that the disciple’s sacrifices are recognised for what they are, and even Peter is demonstrating in this reply that he also has not properly understood what is going on. Jesus reflects that all such sacrifices for the Kingdom will be more than recompensed in the new community of the Kingdom both in this life and afterwards, when the life lived with eternal goodness comes into full maturity (v30).
18:31 – 34 Jesus again (for the third time) predicts his death
Luke emphasises Jesus’ understanding that his death is the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (24:45).
18:35 – 43 Jesus heals a blind beggar
This remarkable healing seems to encapsulate the expectancy that Jesus searches for in lost humanity. The man’s persistence, even the articulation of his prayer, is a perfect example to us all. Not only does this incident fulfil the Isaian prophecy about the Messiah (Isaiah 35:5) as Jesus walks the last stage of the journey to Jerusalem, but the healing itself speaks into the nation’s spiritual blindness at this Kairos moment in its history and existence.
V38 What an exceptionally brilliant prayer for every believer to pray every day!
V39 How often do we give up praying because it seems the circumstances around us tell us ‘to be quiet’?
19:1 – 10 Jesus and Zacchaeus
Luke brings his account of Jesus’ Judean ministry to a crescendo by narrating the remarkable turnaround by this wealthy, powerful and no doubt deeply hated man, just at the point when Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem. For Luke, Zacchaeus’ change is the perfect demonstration of the change Jesus brings to the repentant wealthy person; the mountain is levelled and the valley filled (3:5). The event culminates in verse 10, which Luke uses as his signature statement for his gospel. It was Jesus’ boldness in breaking through the expectations of the crowd and astonishing them by aligning with this hated man that also broke through the callous armour with which Zacchaeus protected his heart and conscience. Here was a man who loved him enough to call his name and come to his house and eat with him. The effect broke through the harsh, cruel selfishness and brought public repentance and gregarious generosity far beyond what the law demanded (Exodus 22:1,4,7 etc).
V5 An example of Jesus’ prophetic insight: he knows Zacchaeus’ name, and the agenda for the day.
V10 Through such an overwhelming response, Zacchaeus demonstrated that he was a genuine son of Abraham and thereby stood to inherit all that God had promised Abraham (Luke 6:35).
19:11 – 27 The parable of the ten minas
This parable is complicated because it seems to be emphasising two, if not three, different points, and therefore commentators often view it as a compilation of two separate parables. First, there is the obvious parallel with the parable of the talents (Matthew 24:14-30), with the rich man committing the charge of his assets to different stewards who are rewarded (or not) on his return in proportion to the benefit they have earned for him. This view culminates in the Kingdom principle stated in v26: ‘to everyone who has, more will be given …’. Second, the story (v12-15) is rooted in the historical events after Herod the Great died in 4BCE, when his son Archelaus went to Rome to ask for the Kingship and a delegation of Jews formally resisted the request. Nevertheless, once we have understood this, we should hear Luke’s point, typically asserted in the opening verse, that Jesus told this parable before they began the ascent from Jericho to Jerusalem to dissuade some who thought that the Kingdom of God would be established within a very short time.
V27 This severe action is told only in the context of a parable, but since the ‘subjects who hated him’ (v14) clearly represent the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Luke may have wanted to emphasise the way they were bringing judgement on themselves (v41-44).
19:28 – 44 Jesus enters Jerusalem
Luke’s narration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is economic and to the point. He records the Pharisees instructing Jesus to silence his disciples, and then in response records Jesus’ specific foretelling of the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem (in CE70).
V44 If we specifically reject God’s work and initiative for us, as the Jewish leaders did when their messiah came to save them (19:10, 39), then we put ourselves in a place where we forfeit his purposes for us and his protection of us.
19:45 – 48 Jesus in the Temple
Luke records Jesus’ leading prophetic act against the Temple with the briefest of details, perhaps because in his mind the Pharisees had already decided to kill Jesus. Jesus’ exceptional popularity insulated him from their murderous plans.
20:1 – 8 Jesus’ authority is challenged
Jesus’ immense popularity in the Temple is so significant that the chief priests, teachers of the Law and the elders are forced to challenge him, demanding to know who sent him. In contrast to the Roman centurion (7:1-10) who immediately recognised the source of Jesus’ authority, the religious leaders publicly demonstrate not only their spiritual blindness, but also their lack of any genuine desire for the truth. Their political shenanigans (v5) betray them. Since they refuse to answer Jesus’ question, Jesus refuses to answer theirs (v8).
20:9 – 19 Jesus describes his authority in the parable of the tenants
In the gospels Jesus never evades questions, but he does nevertheless answer them in his own way, usually addressing the root ‘issue behind the question’. Having publicly used their own question against them and exposed their religious hypocrisy (v1-8), Jesus now tells a parable that answers their question (v2). His authority comes from God himself because he is God’s son (v13), and he is looking for the fruit from the vineyard (v10). The vineyard motif is the key to understanding the power of this parable, because it is a central Old Testament metaphor for Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7). But Jesus goes a lot further, poignantly stating that God is about to destroy the tenants (the very religious leaders that are challenging Jesus), and give the privileged status of being the ‘people of God’ to others! While it is absolutely right for the Church to focus on the love of God for sinners, we should not thereby allow his grace to be an excuse for shoddy discipleship and disobedience in long-term believers. Jesus comes expecting fruit from every one of us, and this parable warns us of the consequences of using God’s work for our own ends.
20:20 – 26 Jesus is questioned about paying taxes to Caesar
Jesus’ presence in the Temple and his overwhelming popularity with the masses must have been a serious embarrassment to the religious authorities, especially as Jesus had forced them to publicly admit that they had not formed a view on the ministry of John the Baptist. Their response was to try and trick Jesus into making a statement for which he could be charged before Pilate for sedition. Jesus immediately sees through his questioners’ duplicity and then gives an answer which has been the axiom of all Church-State relations ever since. The point is that state governance properly exercised is a gift of God and, alongside his own divine governance, a means of his governance of human affairs. Both the totalitarian state and theocratic governance are two extremes, and they fail because both are ordained to work together. The exceptional brilliance of Jesus’ mind is demonstrated in answering his challengers in the heat of such debate.
20:27 – 39 Jesus is questioned by the Sadducees
The Sadducees, the conservative religious Temple aristocracy, then throw Jesus an academic conundrum designed to demonstrate how ridiculous it is to believe in life after death. Jesus dismisses the question and thereby their concept of resurrection, by quoting back to them their most treasured verse in the Pentateuch (Exodus 3:6) – similar to quoting John 3:16 to an evangelical. His point is that friendship with God is the essence of all life, whichever side of death a person is on.
20:40 – 47 Jesus challenges the religious leaders about the messiah
Having questioned him, Jesus now exercises his (debating) right to challenge them, and he puts forward a question designed to enlarge their concept of the messiah. The messiah is not simply a descendent of David, he is someone who shares the throne of God. The section ends with Jesus again warning the crowds to beware of religious teachers, whose duplicity and shallow understanding will be evidenced by the sham of their public religious life (12:2).
21:1 – 4 The widow’s gifts
Although this short incident is mentioned in all the synoptics, like the story of Zacchaeus it perfectly illustrates Luke’s warning about riches. The widow gave 100% of the tiny money she owned, while the rich gave a tiny percentage of their wealth. She was left with nothing, they were left with just as much surplus wealth as before they made their offerings. It has been well said that God looks not at the sum we give but the sum we keep.
21:5 – 38 Jesus teaches about the end of the age
Jesus answers two questions: when will the Temple be destroyed, and what signs will indicate that the destruction is about to take place?
V8-9 Jesus warns about false messiahs.
V10-11 He states that general evil and turmoil will continue throughout the world for all history. This is the very point that John makes through apocalyptic writing in Revelation 6:1-8.
V12-19 He describes the trials that disciples should expect between now and the end of the age, and exhorts us to ‘stand firm’ (v19).
V20-24 He speaks about the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Gentiles. In Jewish thought, the fate of Jerusalem was closely tied in with the end of the world.
V25-28 He contrasts the widespread fear throughout humanity with the quiet confidence that disciples will have in their Lord.
V29-31 is a parable giving a pictorial indication of the signs of the end in answer to the second question in v7.
V32-33 seem to make the point that while Jesus’ teaching on the subject will last forever, the relevance and application will somehow apply to the very people he was speaking to, and therefore to every generation! In other words, these truths are eternal perspectives with perpetual immediate relevance.
V34-36 Finally teach the attitude that every apprentice of Jesus must adopt to the future.
22:1 – 6 Judas agrees to betray Jesus
Satan’s work of destruction is hatched and cultivated in a context of fear (v2), and the love of money (v5). These two are in sharp contradiction to Jesus’ teaching throughout the Gospel about faith and the love of God (Luke 12:22-34).
22:7 – 38 Jesus’ last supper with his disciples
Luke records five aspects to the supper: the preparation (v7-13), the institution of eating the bread and wine (v14-23), the dispute about who is the greatest (v24-30), Jesus’ conversation with Simon Peter (v25-34), and Jesus’ teaching about the fulfilment of the prophetic (v35-38). Two prominent themes run through Luke’s narration. First, Jesus institutes the reception of the bread and wine within the context of the Kingdom of God, which he mentioned four times (v16, 18, 29, 30), and which he describes over against the Gentile kingdoms (v25-27). Second, Jesus repeatedly emphasises throughout that what is happening, and what is about to happen (immediately) is the fulfilment of scripture: ‘fulfilment’ (v16), ‘decreed’ (v22), ‘written … written … fulfilment’ (v37).
V37 Luke is the only gospel writer who quotes from Isaiah 53. His inclusion of it precisely at this point at the fulcrum of the Last Supper and the ensuing trial, death and resurrection is a clear indication that Luke sees Jesus’ ‘passion’ as the fulfilment of the Isaiah 53 prophecy (Luke 24:45-47).
V38 This curious and surprising detail about the swords is recounted by Luke as a direct ‘fulfilment’ of the Isaiah prophecy about ‘transgressors’ (v37). At this point, Jesus is himself ‘fulfilling’ the prophecy by casting his own disciples in the role of the ‘transgressors’!
22:39 – 46 Jesus prays in Gethsemane
Temptation happens when we are gripped with the desire to do something that is against the will of God. Twice in this event, Jesus instructs his disciples that the way they should avoid temptation is by praying and thereby focusing on and pursuing God’s will for their lives. They don’t, with the immediate result that they run away when the soldiers challenge Jesus. The temptation Jesus faced was to quietly slip away into the crowded night so that Judas would not find him, as the city was full of pilgrims for the festival. He needed his friends to stand with him, but they fell asleep when he needed them most. Jesus overcame temptation, through gritted prayer, by simply staying in the place where he knew he would be arrested. Once again, the Saviour demonstrates complete mastery of these deepest types of wrestling of prayer, thereby demonstrating that we also can learn and master them for the moments when we shall be tested to the very limit.
22:47 – 53 Jesus is arrested
Facing the reality that Jesus has himself instructed them not to resist his arrest, the disciples (because of their complete lack of preparation with Jesus in prayer) realise there is no alternative but for them but to flee into the night.
22:54 – 65 Peter denies Jesus
Only Peter showed some courage in his misguided effort to defend Jesus in the garden, and then following Jesus to hear his trial. Perhaps he thought that if he denied association with him at this point, he might find a chance of helping Jesus later? But his lack of preparation in prayer, his confusion and his fear led him to publicly deny his commitment to Jesus. Jesus always addresses what is wrong directly and in one of the most poignant moments in the gospel he simply turns and looks directly at Peter. Nothing needed to be said. We do not know how far Peter was from Jesus but if Jesus was in the house, and Peter in the courtyard then Jesus’ awareness of the incident was prophetic – the very feature for which the soldiers were taunting him.
22:66 – 23:25 Jesus’ trial
Luke emphasises that Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent three times. The sheer voracity of the religious leaders – ‘with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified’ (23:23)– caused Pilate, who with every successive step loses control of the trial, to give in to them. The unexpected referral of the case to Herod is an attempt by Pilate to wash his hands of the problem of what to do with their insistence. Their sheer hatred of Jesus for his criticism and exposure of them is the crescendo of the growing tension that has shaped the second part of Luke’s gospel narrative. Their case is axiomatically contradictory: they vigorously appeal for the release of a man guilty of insurrection against Caesar, while falsely charging the innocent Jesus for this very crime. Throughout, it is the innocent Jesus who is managing the trial and the religious leaders of the nation and Pilate who are in the dock.
23:26 – 43 Jesus is crucified
Luke includes different people in this narrative: soldiers, women and children are mentioned, as well as thieves and the religious. Jesus is declared innocent by one of the thieves and he forgives those who are executing him, and all involved in his trial – and by extension, all humanity.
23:44 – 49 Jesus dies
Astronomically, it is impossible for there to be an eclipse at Passover, the date of which is set at full moon. So the ‘darkness’ is some sort of significant ‘heaviness’ in the weather system. Jesus ends his life praying the prayer that every Jewish child was taught to say before going to sleep. The tearing of the Temple curtain is another clue that Luke had access to a source in the Temple, and demonstrates divine intervention that Jesus’ death removed the barrier of sin separating humanity from God (Isaiah 53:10). Luke states that the centurion declared Jesus righteous, the witnesses left in deep regret and the women from Galilee (Luke 8:2-3) witnessed it all.
23:50 – 56 Jesus was buried
Luke, ever the historian interested in facts, carefully records Joseph of Aramathea’s intervention, which must have been a considerable annoyance for the chief priests. He also carefully records the facts of the tomb, Jesus’ burial, its relation to the preparations for the Passover, and those who witnessed the burial and their subsequent preparations to anoint the body.
24:1 – 12 The women go to the tomb
There are four phases to this short narrative: the women find the stone rolled away and the body missing; two angels appear and remind the women what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection; the eleven dismiss the women’s report; and Peter investigates the tomb. Luke began his gospel describing various angelic interventions which in each case pointed to significant acts of God. Their role here is to prepare Jesus’ closest followers to encounter him. Luke is similarly preparing the reader in verses 5-7 for the interpretation of Jesus’ death and resurrection (v25-27 and v44-48).
24:13 – 35 Two disciples encounter Jesus while walking to Emmaus
This is the longest description of a resurrection encounter in the New Testament.
24:36 – 49 Jesus appears to the eleven and other disciples
There are two progressions throughout this chapter, which describes three crucial events on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. First, there is a progression in the encounters: the first is with angels, the second with Jesus in a hidden form, and the third is an open encounter with Jesus himself. The second progression focuses on understanding the purpose of the crucifixion and resurrection: first the angels remind the women of Jesus’ specific ‘passion’ predictions that these events would happen, second Jesus takes time to explain how Moses and the prophets all prophesied ‘what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (v44), and third Jesus explains clearly that the traumatic events of the past three days are for the specific purpose that ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his (the Messiah’s) name to all nations’ (v47).
V32, 45 It is intriguing that Cleopas, and the disciple with him (quite possibly his wife), had the astonishing privilege of hearing (twice!) the exposition of the Old Testament atonement scriptures from Jesus himself (!), as well as personally witnessing two resurrection appearances. Their testimonies must have laid crucial theological foundations for the early church’s understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Since these two disciples therefore perfectly fit the criteria of Luke’s direct sources – ‘they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye witnesses and servants of the word’ (Luke 1:2) – it explains how Luke can recount the Emmaus story in such detail.
24:50 – 53 Jesus’ ascension
Luke has chosen to describe only two resurrection appearances, both of which occurred on the day of resurrection. He refers to a third (v34), but gives no details. In these last four verses, Luke elides event with theology and closes his Gospel with the disciples in the Temple, where the Gospel began, worshipping and praying for the promise of the Father. Luke does this deliberately, knowing that he will have the opportunity for a much fuller history and explanation in the opening chapter of the second part of his treatise on early Christianity: the Acts of the Apostles.
The leading imperatives:
3:8 Produce fruit in-keeping with repentance.
3:11 The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.
3:13 (To tax collectors) Don’t collect any more than you are required to.
3:14 (To soldiers) Don’t exhort money and don’t accuse people falsely.
4:8 ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’
4:12 Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
5:35 … in those days they will fast.
5:38 New wine must be poured into new wineskins.
6:23 ‘Rejoice in that day (of persecution) and leap for joy because great is your reward in heaven‘.
6:27-36f Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who ill treat you …
6:37-38f Do not judge and you will not be judged …
8:18 Consider carefully how you listen …
8:50 Do not be afraid, just believe …
9:3 Take nothing for the journey …
10:2-12 …ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest
10:20 Rejoice that your names are written in heaven
9:23 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
10:37 Behave like the despised Samaritan behaved.
11:1-13 Instructions on how to pray.
12:1 Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees (acting).
12:15 Be on your guard against all kinds of greed …
12:22 Do not worry about your life … teaching about not worrying about the provisions of life.
12:32 Do not be afraid little flock for your father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.
12:35f A series of instructions about being ready for when God acts.
14:8 When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour … take the lowest place.
14:12 When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours …When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…
14:25-33f A series of strong exhortations about discipleship and the necessity of prioritising Jesus above relationships, ambitions and possessions.
16:9 Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
17:3f If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
Instructions about Jesus’ return
18:31f On that day, no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down and get them.
18:6 Listen to what the unjust judge says …
18:16 Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
20:25 Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
20:45 Beware of the teachers of the law.
Teaching about Christ’s return
21:8f Watch out that you are not deceived … do not follow them.
21:14 Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.
21:28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads because your redemption is drawing near.
21:34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life …
21:36 Be always on the watch and pray …
22:17 Take this and divide it among you … do this in remembrance of me.
22:25 The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead the greatest among you should be like the youngest.
22:40 Pray that you will not fall into temptation.
Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives. These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)
Given that one of Luke’s key emphases is the warning against the abuse of wealth, perhaps this should be the focus of our Holy Habits from his gospel. As Jesus’ apprentices we should be learning how to use wealth for the Kingdom.
Question 1 -
Jesus always began each new phase of his ministry with a special, focused season of prayer (4:1, 6:12, 9:29, 22:42, etc). How can we do that?
Question 2 -
If Zacchaeus was truly repentant, shouldn’t he have given away everything he had and taken Bartimaeus’ place begging outside Jericho (Luke 18:35 – 19:10)?
Question 3 -
Jesus said that the prostitutes and (the hated) tax collectors were getting into the Kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders (Matthew 21:32), and that the Kingdom is being populated by the ‘poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (Luke 14:21). With which type of people do you worship at your church? Luke seems to indicate that the Kingdom of God is especially for those on the fringes of society. What does this mean for us when we choose which church to attend?
Question 4 -
Is there a ‘religious leader’ in Luke that Jesus commends? What should we learn from this? Study the severity with which Jesus criticises the religious leaders (11:37-54, 13:17, 14:24). How should Jesus’ teaching and interaction instruct us in our contemporary ‘interfaith’ culture? What dangers does Jesus focuses on when he criticises the religious leaders? What must his apprentices do to avoid these mistakes?
Question 5 -
Luke narrates a larger number of miraculous healings than any of the other Gospel writers. Have you been healed in Jesus’ name? Do you know anyone who has? What place should the healing ministry have in the life of apprentices in the family business of the Kingdom (9:2, 10:17)?
Question 6 -
What is ‘highly valued’ in your community and society (Luke 16:15)? What do people spend money on, aspire to have and own, treasure, watch on television, spend their time and money and energy to gain? What is detestable in God’s sight, and how can we live differently?