Study Guide

Gospel of Luke Fate and Free Will

Fate and Free Will

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)

Is this a contradiction? How can you be punished for something you're fated to do? What are the other examples of this conundrum in Luke's gospel? For some ideas, go and check out our discussions of "The Jewish People" and "The Jewish Leaders."

[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.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...