When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. […] All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" […] And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown." (NRSV 4:16, 22, 24)
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. […] And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? (KJV 4:16, 22, 24)
Jesus provokes the people of his hometown Nazareth, and guess what they do? Try to throw him off of a cliff. This opening scene of Jesus's ministry definitely foreshadows his rejection by the Jews in general—who, by the way, are his own people. It's also kind of emblematic of the type of conflict with "family" that following Jesus will entail. At least Jesus practices what he preaches.
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." (NRSV 8:19-21)
Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it. (KJV 8:19-21)
Don't try this at home. This little family-rejecting story reflects the fact the earliest Christians used the family-metaphor to understand their communal relationships, calling each other brother, sister, even father and child. The letters of Paul back that up.
To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (NRSV 9:59-60)
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (KJV 9:59-60)
Following Jesus means saying adios to all familial duties—even taking care of a parent's funeral. Nothing softens the blow of this demand. It would have appeared as irresponsible and downright coldhearted then as it does now.
Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (NRSV 9:61-62)
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (NRSV 9:61-62)
There's a name in our culture for guys who abandon their family without saying goodbye: Deadbeat Dads. Try not to lose the punch of what Jesus demands here. Following him requires—at least from the family's perspective—becoming a deadbeat.
Then Peter said, "Look, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life." (NRSV 18:28-30)
Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (KJV 18:28-30)
According to Jesus, abandoning your family has rewards both in the present (you get a family in your fellow followers) and in the future (you live forever!). Looks like Bella isn't the only one who's trading mom and dad for life everlasting.
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. (NRSV 21:16)
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. (KJV 21:16)
Even after Jesus is long gone, he'll be causing familial strife. Family members will be reporting each other to the authorities for being followers of Jesus—which, by the way, is a crime. Sound like anything that's gone down in modern history?
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. (NRSV 6:27-30)
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away any goods ask them not again. (KJV 6:27-30)
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. (NRSV 6:32-35)
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (KJV 6:32-35)
Here it is again. Hey, why not reiterate for emphasis? But pay attention to the specifics of what actions love entails: doing good and loaning money to people who might not pay you back. Does that mean our bank teller doesn't actually have a crush on us?
[…] for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us. (NRSV 7:5)
For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. (KJV 7:5)
The person in question here is a non-Jewish centurion or higher-ranking soldier. His "love" for the Jews takes the form of a benefaction. Translation: he funded the construction of their local synagogue. Not bad.
A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more? […] Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. (NRSV 7:41-42, 47)
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? […] Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (KJV 7:41-42, 47)
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." (NRSV 10:25-28)
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." (KJV 10:25-28)
No vampire bites needed. Following these two commands is apparently the recipe for living forever. They both require "love" and come from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. (NRSV 11:42-43)
But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. (KJV 11:42-43)
It's definitely possible to love the <em>wrong</em> things, and doing so probably won't end well.
No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (16:13 NRSV)
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (16:13 KJV)
If you love money, you can't love God. This is bad news for, um, everyone? How do we reconcile this in a world so entrenched in economic exchange?
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (NRSV 2:36-38)
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (KJV 2:36-38)
Already in the second chapter, Anna raises readers' expectations for an interesting treatment of women in the story. Evidently, they can be prophets, highly devout, and even public speakers. And get this—people listen to them.
After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. (NRSV 4:38-39)
And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. (KJV 4:38-39)
Jesus heals Simon's mom-in-law, and then… she resumes her womanly duties. Ta da! Luke definitely isn't above confirming cultural gender assumptions. He is, however, above using words like "confirming cultural gender assumptions."
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner." […] Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." (NRSV 7:37-39, 48)
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." (KJV 7:37-39, 48)
Whatever else makes this woman a "sinner" (7:37, 39), practically making out with Jesus's feet certainly does not help her case. These actions would have been recognized as inappropriate behavior for women across the board. Both Luke and Jesus actually agree with the Pharisee that she is a sinner (7:37, 47), but Jesus reads her creepy caressing as evidence of her love for and gratefulness to him for forgiving her many sins. But where does this leave us with regard to the concept of the feminine?
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. (NRSV 8:1-3)
And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. (KJV 8:1-3)
Female followers. Not only is it progressive, but it makes for some nice alliteration, too. Still, these women are "serving" Jesus. That's the very same type of work that Simon's mother-in-law started to perform for him after he cured her fever (4:39). Don't let the NRSV fool you. The Greek verb is the same in 8:3 as it is in 4:39.
[…] a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." (NRSV 10:38-42)
[…] a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus's feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (KJV 10:38-42)
Martha is busy doing what women do in Luke's gospel: serving the men (see 4:39; 8:3). Once again, we have the same Greek word describing both situations. And then there's Mary, who's interested in Jesus's instruction and ignores her womanly duties to listen to him
So it looks like female followers of Jesus can serve the men (8:3), but they're also able to receive instruction along with the men. But is it enough? Mary is, after all, sitting at Jesus's feet (10:39). Apparently that's where he likes to keep women—check out 7:38 to see what we mean.
But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. (NRSV 23:49)
And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. (KJV 23:49)
Jesus's female followers are with Jesus to the bitter end, no different from the men.
[…] returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (NRSV 24:9-11)
[…] And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (KJV 24:9-11)
How's this for a privileged status? The female followers of Jesus are the first witnesses of the empty tomb and the angelic message that Jesus has been resurrected. They are also the first to remember (at the angels' prompting) that Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection (24:1-8). Sounds awesome—except the men don't believe a word of it. They'll need to see it to believe it (24:12).
"Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." (NRSV 24:22-24)
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. (KJV 24:22-24)
Does the women's sex have anything to do with the need for the men to witness the empty tomb for themselves?
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (NRSV 4:18-19)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (KJV 4:18-19)
Jesus reads this quote from Isaiah 61:1-2 and then tells people it's talking about him. Speaking of which, you know Hamlet? That's actually about Shmoop.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. (NRSV 6:20-21)
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. (KJV 6:20-21)
So much for that windfall we've all dreamed of. In Jesus's God-powered version of happiness, the poor will come out on top. For more on this, check out our discussion of "The Beatitudes."
Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. (NRSV 7:22)
Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. (KJV 7:22)
Jesus is busy completing the work he promised he was going to do in 4:18-19. According to Luke, what do all these different people have in common?
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (NRSV 14:13-14)
But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (KJV 14:13-14)
That'll be quite a dinner party. Relatives and rich neighbors are supposed to be snubbed in favor of all of the local social outcasts. Sound controversial? Check out our discussion of "Current Hot-Button Issues and Cultural Debates" for more.
Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' (NRSV 14:21)
Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. (KJV 14:21)
Everyone is too busy to attend the master's lavish dinner party, so the poor get an invite. How convenient for Jesus's parable.
And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. (NRSV 16:20-22)
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. (KJV 16:20-22)
Beatitudes too abstract for you? How about some concrete discussion of what it's like to be poor? Answer: not good. Until you die, that is.
Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. (NRSV 18:22)
[…] sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. (KJV 18:22)
Sure, God will compensate the poor for their miseries in the future, but Jesus also wants people in the here and now to do something.
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." (NRSV 19:8)
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. (KJV 19:8)
Being rich didn't really pay off for Zacchaeus, and now he's trying to backpedal.
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on." (NRSV 21:1-4)
And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. (KJV 21:1-4)
Jesus, the Mathlete. And you know, in terms of proportion, he's got a point. And people say religion and logic don't mix.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. (NRSV 6:24-25)
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. (KJV 6:24-25)
When he says stuff like this, we can almost imagine Jesus feeling at home in one of the Occupy Wall Street camps. They're certainly not going to let him into a tie-only country club. He'll send everyone home feeling guilty if he's not arrested first.
As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. (NRSV 8:14)
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (KJV 8:14)
According to Jesus, the pursuit of wealth = the pursuit of pleasures, and both will turn you into a worrywart. Wealth-seeking creates a hustle and bustle that "chokes" more profound values like, well, God.
The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. (NRSV 12:16-21)
The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (KJV 12:16-21)
Here's a committed capitalist for you. Too bad you can't take it with you. His bank account's going to leave him short-changed when the Grim Reaper comes to get him.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. (NRSV 12:22-23)
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. (KJV 12:22-23)
Well, what is the "more"?
Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NRSV 12:33-34)
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (KJV 12:33-34)
One way to get yourself some heavenly wealth is to distribute earthly wealth to the poor. For more on Jesus's heavenly economics, see our discussion of "Wealth and Poverty" under "Current Hot-Button Issues and Cultural Debates."
No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. (NRSV 16:13-14)
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. (KJV 16:13-14)
The Pharisees totally miss how this applies to them, but Jesus wants us to ask: who or what is our master? P.S. Like this saying? Check out Carlo Goldoni's A Servant of Two Masters, an old Italian play that's been transformed to the modern stage.
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. […] The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. (NRSV 16:19, 22-23)
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: […] the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (KJV 16:19, 22-23)
After death, there's a kind of otherworldly swap-a-roo of the rich and poor that reflects the principle stated in 13:30: "Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. (NRSV 18:22-23)
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. (KJV 18:22-23)
The rich ruler knows at least five of the ten commandments (18:20), but it's not enough for Jesus, who throws this additional requirement at him. That's what it's going to take to live forever.
How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" He replied, "What is impossible for mortals is possible for God." (NRSV 18:24-27)
How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (KJV 18:24-27)
Ouch. Jesus is flat-out slamming the door of heaven right in the face of the wealthy. But he's not happy about it, and he at least holds out the possibility that the impossible can happen—at least with God's help.
A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. […] Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." (NRSV 19:2, 8)
A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. […]And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. (KJV 19:2, 8)
Finally, we meet a rich man who does right in Luke's gospel. It may be difficult for the wealthy to enter God's kingdom, but Zacchaeus proves that with God, anything is possible (see 18:24-27).
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on. (NRSV 21:1-4)
And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. (KJV 21:1-4)
We've all been there, feeling good about ourselves when we give a little chunk of change to some charity or buy a coffee from Starbucks knowing that a portion of the purchase is going to fund job-creation programs. But according to Luke's Jesus, that just won't cut it. In terms of proportion, these acts are simply not radical enough.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. (NRSV 1:76-77)
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins. (KJV 1:76-77)
Zachariah has some high expectations for his baby boy Johnny. And since Zachariah is "filled with the Holy Spirit" (1:67), we better pay attention.
He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (NRSV 3:3)
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (KJV 3:3)
And of course, John more or less lives up to his father's expectations from 1:66-67. Baptism is a kind of ritual-bath by which someone cleanses the BO of their sins.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus's knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" (NRSV 5:8)
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus's knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. (KJV 5:8)
Even one-time "sinners" will become the central movers and shakers in the early Christian movement. Luke argues that having the self-awareness to call yourself a sinner is the first mark of self-improvement.
When he saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, "Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the one who was paralyzed—"I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home." (NRSV 5:20-24)
And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. (KJV 5:20-24)
Does the text assume that the man's paralysis is the result of his sins? After all, Jesus sees a paralyzed man and tells him his sins are forgiven. Hmmm… how would that argument fly today?
The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance." (NRSV 5:30-32)
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (KJV 5:30-32)
When Jesus proclaims his purpose is for coming in a gospel, it's time to start taking notes. Missing that is like throwing away the directions for the one remote to your brand new entertainment center.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. (NRSV 6:32-34)
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. (KJV 6:32-34)
So "sinners" can still be at least somewhat decent people who love, do good, and loan money—just not to their enemies.
[…] the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (NRSV 7:34)
The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! (KJV 7:34)
The Pharisees rag on Jesus for hanging out with "sinners" in 5:30, 15:2, and 19:7. Just think of your local priest hanging out in the town's bar every day. Or imagine your pastor riding along with someone in his Mustang while he's doing donuts in the church parking lot. What would you say?
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-- that she is a sinner." […] [Then Jesus said to the Pharisee:] "I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" (NRSV 7:37-39, 47-49)
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. […] [Then Jesus said to the Pharisee:] I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? (KJV 7:37-39, 47-49)
The woman's sins aren't specified, but really, how long is the list of potential sins in male-centered antiquity that could earn a woman this kind of reputation? In other words, they probably have to do with illicit sex. At any rate, Jesus is again criticized for forgiving sins (compare 5:21).
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. (NRSV 11:4)
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. (KJV 11:4)
The Lord's Prayer (11:2-4) is a short prayer. Everything that's included in it must be a big stinkin' deal. Asking God for forgiveness of sins makes the highly selective cut.
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?" (NRSV 13:1-2)
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? (KJV 13:1-12)
Jesus appears to accept the idea that Pilate was God's agent for punishing the Galileans. He adds that all Galilean sinners might likewise expect to perish. Yikes.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (NRSV 15:1-2)
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. (KJV 15:1-2)
The Pharisees just can't get over Jesus's party habits (check out 5:30, 7:34, and 19:7 for more examples).
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. […] Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NRSV 15:7, 10)
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. […] Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (KJV 15:7, 10)
How do otherworldly beings party anyway?
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' (NRSV 18:13)
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (KJV 18:13)
Jesus offers this up as a model-prayer and it kind of echoes part of the Lord's Prayer (11:4). Self-awareness of your shortcomings is a key ingredient here as in 5:8 and 11:4. You only need six Greek words to do it right.
All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." (NRSV 19:7)
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. (KJV 19:7)
Finally, we come to the last installment of this complaint. They're clearly deaf to Jesus's lengthy responses to the issue (5:31-32 and 15:3-32).
[…] the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. (NRSV 24:7)
The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. (KJV 24:7)
Those who try to condemn Jesus are called "sinners." Who are they, specifically?
Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (NRSV 24:16-17)
Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (KJV 24:16-17)
The disciples are supposed to carry forward the message of forgiveness. From John to Jesus to the disciples, these guys are all about consistency.
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us […] (NRSV 1:1)
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us […] (KJV 1:1)
Our advice is that you go with the NRSV translation here. The events that Luke is about to narrate are definitely supposed to be understood as fulfilling the prophecies of Jewish scriptures.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (NRSV 2:34-35)
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (KJV 2:34-35)
Plenty of people foretell the significance of both John and Jesus in the opening chapters of Luke. You really should pay attention to what they say if you're tracing the motifs of fate, free will, and prophecy (1:13-17, 30-33, 42-43, 46-55, 67-79; 2:10-14, 36-38). But Simeon gets the prize for being the first to understand the ups and downs that are about to happen.
He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' (NRSV 3:3-6)
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (KJV 3:3-6)
Luke interprets the work of John as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. Go read Isaiah—watch out, it's a long one—and decide for yourself. Does the argument hold up?
[…] the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." […] Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (NRSV 4:17-19, 21)
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. […]Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (KJV 4:17-19, 21)
Announcing that you're the person that a prophet was yammering on about? That takes some guts.
This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' (NRSV 7:27)
This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (KJV 7:27)
Isaiah wasn't the only part of the Jewish scriptures to foresee John's role in these events. Now we have more testimony from Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1. Anyone else want to pipe in?
The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (NRSV 9:22)
The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. (KJV 9:22)
Jesus turns prophet on us, and boy is it dark. Why "must" this happen? What's the basis for this necessity?
Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands. But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. (NRSV 9:44-45)
Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. (KJV 9:44-45)
Here's a repeat of 9:22. They're not getting it, so Jesus has to keep trying.
For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. (NRSV 17:24-25)
For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. (KJV 17:24-25)
Ready for another prophecy? This time, Jesus will flash forth like lightning.
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (NRSV 18:31-34)
Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. (KJV 18:31-34)
This is the most detailed of all of the four passion predictions in Luke (including 9:22, 44-45 and 17:24). We're also better positioned here to understand why all of this jazz is necessary: because scripture says so. Still, no one's getting any of this. Anyone? Anyone?
"For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" (NRSV 22:22)
And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! (KJV 22:22)
[The angels said:] "He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then they remembered his words. (NRSV 24:6-8)
[The angels said]: He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words. (KJV 24:6-8)
Hindsight is 20/20. This is definitely true for the women at the empty tomb who finally understand what Jesus was talking about all of those times (9:22, 44-45 and 17:25).
Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (NRSV 24:25-27)
O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (KJV 24:25-27)
Now it's the turn of Cleopas and his companion to understand what's going on. Major aha moment.
Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (NRSV 24:44-47)
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (KJV 24:4-7)
For the disciples, it takes hindsight and the risen Jesus to understand what he's been trying to explain since chapter 9. So maybe they're not the brightest crayons in the box.