Gospel of Luke Summary
These Babies Aren't Just Cute
You have to be one ugly Grinch
not to just love little babies. Even the most hardened among us will
find ourselves oozing forth some gooey emotions around these cuties.
That's basically how the Gospel of Luke opens, with a whole lot of
hubbub over two babies—John and Jesus—who are cousins.
case, the excitement is higher than usual because of some cool and
supernatural circumstances surrounding their conceptions and births. An
otherworldly messenger named Gabriel announces to Zechariah that his
wife Elizabeth will bear a son in spite of her old age and barrenness.
Then, just to outdo himself, Gabriel tells Mary that she'll become the
mother of the Son of God, whose "power" will "overshadow" her (1:35).
before and after the babies are born, Elizabeth, Mary, and Zechariah,
and some shepherds, Simeon and Anna, make highly poetic forecasts about
the futures of these baby boys (1:42-43, 46-55, 68-79; 2:10-17, 28-38).
It turns out that they're both destined to become major figures in
Israel's history. Actually, they'll be helping God fulfill Israel's
hopes for redemption.
So yeah, God is visiting earth, and these
two babies, who are still spitting up and wearing diapers, are about to
lead history into a completely different era. This takes cooing over
newborns to a whole new level.
Life Ain't Easy for John
Apart from one story detailing what a smarty pants Jesus was (1:41-52; he's a regular Sho Yanu),
Luke fast forwards through the adolescence and teen years and resumes
the story of John and Jesus's lives once they're more mature.
offers his fellow Jews a kind of ritual cleansing in the Jordan River,
which is supposed to give people a new lease on life as their past
mistakes are erased. People actually start to think that John's the
Messiah, who's supposed to fix a lot of the things that are wrong with
the world. But John makes it very clear that the Messiah's still to
come, and that guy will be a lot more impressive. It's John's main job
to get everyone ready for the next phase, when the Messiah does come
John's certainly living up to all of the fanfare
surrounding his birth, but being chosen to alter the cosmic make-up of
things for Israel and the entire world is never easy. Complications
arise for him when Herod the tetrarch arrests John for being a critic of
the administration (3:19-20). They didn't have free speech back then,
and it ends up costing John his life (9:7-9). But not before he's
achieved his vital purpose of "preparing the way" for Jesus who is the
true Messiah (7:18-28; 1:17 and 3:4-6).
Or for Jesus
also starts his career with a bang. When John baptizes him, the Holy
Spirit descends, and a heavenly voice declares him "my Son, the Beloved"
(3:22 NRSV). Fancy. Then Jesus puts even the best of the comic book
superheroes to shame. He proceeds to heal the sick, raise the dead, and
exorcize demons (4:33-41; 5:12-26; 7:1-17; 8:26-33). All the while,
Jesus travels around saying some pretty provocative things.
impressive résumé earns Jesus a large following—some people are even
willing to drop everything they're doing to follow him (5:11, 27-28).
Eventually, Jesus chooses twelve of them who will serve as his
inner-circle. These guys are also given the power to heal the sick and
exorcize demons in imitation of their master (6:12-15; 9:1-6).
things get really hairy really quickly. At Jesus's birth, Simeon
predicted the conflicts Jesus would encounter (2:34-35), and boy was he
right. He goes toe to toe with the demons' head honcho, who tries to
cajole Jesus into worshiping him (4:1-13). And after Jesus's first
speech, the inhabitants of Nazareth are so mad that they're ready to
throw him off a cliff (4:16-30). Jesus, of course, beats the devil and
escapes from the clutches of his hometown, but only to get into a bunch
of fights with the religious leaders who don't like the looks of him.
of this bodes well at all for Jesus's future, and we may start to
wonder whether Jesus really will accomplish what they said he would at
his birth. Jesus himself starts to speak spookily about his suffering
and eventual resurrection (9:22, 31, and 44). Meanwhile, Jesus affirms
that he is the Messiah (9:20-21), and he continues to heal, exorcize,
and teach like it's his job. (It is.) A few disciples even witness him
speaking with none other than Moses and Elijah as another heavenly voice
declares Jesus "my Son, my Chosen" (9:35).
things heat up for Jesus, he decides to take everyone following him on a
long road trip from Galilee to Jerusalem (9:51, 53; 31:22; 17:11;
18:31; 19:28). A large chunk of Luke's gospel (9:51-19:28) is a
play-by-play account of what Jesus says and does during this journey.
so-called "travel narrative" is more than a story about the route Jesus
and company took to Jerusalem. It also presents (figuratively) the
route the disciples should follow as they live their lives. The
instructions Jesus issues here are so many and so demanding that we
readers will feel a sort of discipleship jet lag once we finally reach
Jerusalem's suburbs in 19:29. The oh-so-many parables just add to the
A Few Flat Tires Along the Way
Jesus dishes out all of his classic lessons, he continues to offend
the religious highbrows, and they keep getting into fights. Twice during
this journey, Jesus and the Pharisees try to dine together, but the
dinners always end badly (11:37-52; 14:2-24). Jesus's idea of pleasant
table-talk is essentially "Woe to all you twits! Now, what's for
It's no wonder threats against Jesus's life grow as he
makes his way to Jerusalem. The scribes and Pharisees begin to be "very
hostile toward him" and attempt repeatedly "to catch him" in a gaffe,
which they can use as a basis for a charge against him (11:53-54 NRSV).
Jesus is also warned that Herod the tetrarch wants to execute him just
like he executed John (13:31-33). Things aren't looking good.
SmackDown In Jerusalem
arrives in Jerusalem with the same type of fanfare that welcomes
Hollywood stars to the red carpet. But this guy isn't there to
entertain. He is there to fulfill his fate as Israel's Messiah in
Jerusalem. Same difference.
he gets there, Jesus starts to cry. He knows that Jerusalem will one
day be destroyed because the city will reject him (19:41-44). To help
matters, he goes right to the precinct of the temple, where he drives
out the merchants and criticizes temple-management for making it a "den
of robbers" rather than a "house of prayer" (19:45-46). Who does this
upstart think he is? The only thing protecting Jesus at this point is
his popularity with the crowd.
Things get even uglier as Jesus
takes all of Jerusalem's highbrows to school. He responds to their
questions with remarkable insight and dodges their attempts to trap him
into saying something that will get him into trouble with authorities
Jesus really never stops obsessing about Jerusalem's
fate. He really is a big party-pooper. While people are admiring the
remarkable architecture of the temple, he foretells its future
destruction by the Romans in the year 70 (21:5-6, 20-24). Jesus explains
the whole destruction-to-come fiasco when he goes apocalyptic on us in a
speech known as "The Little Apocalypse" or "The Synoptic Apocalypse"
Summary: after Jerusalem's destruction there comes
"the times of the Gentiles" (a.k.a. non-Jews) (21:24), and after
terrible suffering and astronomical upheavals, the Son of Man will
return to earth. But where does Luke think his contemporaries are in all
of this? And how near is the end for Luke? Those are million-dollar
questions, that's for sure.
to a head when Judas, one of Jesus's twelve disciples (6:12-16), rats
Jesus out to Jerusalem's leaders. They arrest Jesus on the sly, away
from the crowds. He finds himself on trial, and he's finally condemned
to execution by Pontius Pilate, who thinks that he is innocent, but
gives in to the pressure of the Jewish leaders and crowd.
of Arimathea takes the initiative to bury Jesus, and some of his female
disciples spy out where his tomb is in order to prepare his body for
The female disciples get to the
tomb early on the first day of the week only to discover that—wait for
it—it's empty. Well, except for two otherworldly beings whose clothes
are flashing forth lightning bolts. No big deal. Their message is
simple, "He is not here, but has risen" (24:6). The messengers remind
the women that Jesus told them that it was necessary for him to suffer
and then be raised. It was all planned ahead of time—sneaky. The women
inform the disciples, who think they are talking nonsense, but Peter
checks the tomb out for himself.
Jesus—alive again, if you'd
forgotten—then joins a man named Cleopas and another unnamed companion
as they're traveling from Jerusalem to a near-by town called Emmaus. Sly
guy that he is, Jesus keeps his identity hidden and explains to them
how scripture foretold that the Messiah must suffer just as Jesus had.
While they're eating, Cleopas and his companion suddenly recognize that
it's Jesus, but just like that, Jesus disappears. Like the women,
these guys rush back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples.
Peter had also witnessed the resurrected Jesus, who finally appears to
all of them. Before he ascends to heaven, he explains again how the
scriptures themselves predicted that the Messiah must suffer and be
raised. Turns out it was all meant to go down this way. The expectations
set up in the birth narrative were entirely accurate, but they are
fulfilled in this very strange, even backwards sort of way, just as the
The resurrected Jesus then orders his disciples
to go to all of the nations. They should carry forth his message of
forgiveness and repentance, starting from Jerusalem, where very soon
they will be endowed with "power from on high" (24:49). Cut to black.
Reasons For Another Remake
- Right off the bat, Luke admits that his work is one among several attempts to tell the story of Jesus. That's right—we're looking at a remake.
- Luke has eye-witnesses and the accounts of secondary reporters to help him out. These shore up Luke's credentials as a careful researcher, even as they underline that he himself is kind of removed from the events.
- 1:2 is the closest thing to a bibliography we get in Luke. He's no smarmy plagiarizer. Though he doesn't name drop, we're pretty sure he's talking about the Gospel of Mark, which Luke very likely knew.
- Luke's work is an A-paper for sure: thorough investigation, accuracy, and order. He and his fellow writers and historians were all about this stuff.
- Luke dedicates his work to Theophilus.
- Theophilus was probably a real person, although the literal Greek meaning of this name as one who "loves God" or is "loved by God" makes people think he's just a stand-in for all potential Christian readers. Keep your eye out for this guy in the first verse of Acts, too.
- Theophilus is "most excellent" (1:3), but Luke is no Bill and Ted. The title is appropriate for higher-ups in the social orders of the Greco-Roman world.
- Ready to impress your friends? Check out this historical tidbit: in a close parallel, the Jewish historian Josephus, who was one of Luke's contemporaries, addresses himself to "most excellent Epaphroditus" (Against Apion). But don't be fooled—addressing your work like this definitely doesn't mean there's an intended readership of one. Instead, well-placed patrons like Theophilus and Epaphroditus were the Twitters of antiquity. They had the means to ensure a work reached a wider audience.
- Luke states his purpose of writing: to communicate "the certainty" (1:4 KJV) or "truth" (NRSV) or even "reliability" of the instruction Theophilus has received.
Two Buns in Two Ovens
- Luke dates the stories that follow to "the days of King Herod" (1:1). That's not very specific, since Herod was king over Judea as well as Samaria, Galilee, and Perea from 40 BCE until his death in 4 BCE. Jesus would have had to be born in the last year or two of Herod's reign to square with the chronology cited in 3:1 and 3:23. Sounds good to us—after all, it's consistent with Matthew 2:1 and 2:19.
- Enter Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who belong to a priestly caste. Are you an overachiever? Then check out the order of Abijah for yourself in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 and Nehemiah 12:1-26.
- These two are good Torah-following Jews, blameless and just in God's view.
- But bad things can happen to good people, too, and these guys have grown old without a child because of Elizabeth's sterility.
- Zechariah has to go into the holiest room of Jerusalem's temple to burn incense while everyone else prays outside.
- Sounds easy enough, but he's approached by one of God's messengers ("messenger" is the literal translation of the Greek word for "angel").
- This pretty much freaks Zechariah out, but in ancient literature lots of people respond like Shaggies in the presence of otherworldly beings. Wouldn't you?
- The messenger reassures Zechariah that he's not in danger, but that God is answering his prayer for a child: his wife Elizabeth will bear a child, despite her sterility and advanced age. Then the angel tells Zechariah to name the child John. Good choice.
- The angel launches a prophetic description of John's future significance. As a rule, these kinds of statements are important clues into Luke's overall intentions and perspectives. So, yeah, you might want to start taking notes.
- While still in Elizabeth's womb, the "Holy Spirit" will take possession of John. NRSV's "Holy Spirit" is probably better than KJV's "Holy Ghost" (1:15) for our contemporary ears. We don't know about you, but Holy Ghost makes us think of A Christmas Carol.
- Poor John's never allowed to drink wine, beer, or hard liquor. This is a rule for the Nazarites according to Numbers 6:3. The rules say nothing about Red Bull.
- John will help many people in Israel turn back to God, and his work will be reminiscent of none other than the prophet Elijah. That's like saying he'll be the next Michael Jackson.
- Fathers will turn to their children, and in general rebels without a cause will re-learn the wisdom of justice.
- Everyone will be pumped up for the Lord who will come after John. John's just the warm-up band for a big-time headliner.
- Zechariah reminds the otherworldly messenger of a few earthly facts.
- A little perturbed by Zechariah's disbelief, the heavenly messenger reminds him who he is: "I am Gabriel" (1:19), an angel, who works a few steps from the Oval Office, sent by the President of the Cosmos (i.e., God).
- Does Zechariah want proof? Okay, he won't be able to speak until the kid's born. Lesson: arguing with an angel is as dangerous as arguing with your mom.
- Meanwhile, the people praying outside (Remember them? Rewind to 1:10) start to wonder what's taking Zechariah so long. Did he fall asleep on the job or something?
- Zechariah finally comes out of the temple, and unable to speak, he gestures wildly to communicate what happened. We dare you to imagine and then perform for your friends a version of Zechariah's mime here. The people are certain that he saw a vision.
- Zechariah completes his priestly tasks for his assigned period, then clocks out and returns home.
- Soon enough, his wife Elizabeth becomes pregnant, and keeps it private for five months.
- She is super happy because she knows that God has checked all the negative gossip about her sterility.
- Now it's Mary's turn. In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sends Gabriel to Nazareth in Galilee.
- The two most important things about Mary here are as follows: (1) she has never had sex before, and (2) she is engaged to Joseph whose father, grandpa, grandpa's grandpa and so on trace their roots all the way back to none other than David, the long-ago king of Israel.
- And don't forget that Mary has never had sex. We promise that's important.
- Gabriel greets Mary: "The Lord is with you" (1:28 NRSV). The KJV adds, "blessed art thou among women." Why the difference in translation? Well, the two translations are following different Greek manuscripts here, some of the more important of which lack this phrase (compare 1:42, where the manuscripts agree).
- Mary is disturbed and puzzled. What in the world does this mean? Her response is similar to Zechariah's (remember 1:12).
- Gabriel puts Mary at ease just as he did for Zechariah in 1:13—he's got good news for her.
- God likes her, and she's going to be pregnant soon. She will give birth to a child that she's supposed to name Jesus.
- Jesus will be a serious power-house, and will even be called the "Son of the Most High" (1:32), a.k.a. God.
- God's going to make him king like his ancestor David, and his empire will last forever. Yep, that's forever.
- Like Zechariah in 1:18, Mary thinks Gabriel needs a reality-check. These people are very practical.
- Mary's problem? She's never had sex before. No sex = no baby. Hasn't Gabriel seen the after-school specials?
- Gabriel explains how it's going to happen. The Holy Spirit will "come upon" you and the Most High's "power" will cast its shadow over her (1:35). This is a little vague, but suggestive. Yeah, use your imagination.
- By the way: for you mythology buffs, the God of Israel is not the only divinity in the ancient world said to have impregnated a mortal woman. Zeus was a real player.
- Back to the story. The end result of Mary's pregnancy will be a holy thing who will be called the Son of God.
- Gabriel informs Mary that Elizabeth, who happens to be her relative, is also pregnant even in her old age. How's that for proof that the impossible is possible when God is involved?
- Mary finally gives in—she's at God's service.
- Aware of Elizabeth's pregnancy (see 1:36), Mary joins her in an unnamed city in the hilly region of Judah to the south of Galilee.
- When Elizabeth hears Mary's greeting, the unborn child inside her womb leaps with joy. For serious.
- Elizabeth is suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit, which gives her uncanny knowledge of Mary's incredible situation.
- Not only are she and her child blessed, but Mary is called the mother of the Lord. Mary is psyched about it and launches a sizeable prayer praising God, known as Mary's "Magnificat" (1:46-55).
- God is a mighty one who has accomplished some big things for Mary, but Mary's story is actually fairly typical. After all, God extends his mercy to everyone who fears him: grandmas, grandpas, sons, sons' sons, and so on.
- One other thing: God is all about equality, which means that he scatters arrogant jerks, rips rulers off their thrones, lifts up the people at the bottom of the totem pole, fills the hungry with good things, and banishes rich people with nothing. Whoa. This is serious stuff.
- God has also come to the aid of Israel, his special child (hey everyone has one).
- Mary stays with Elizabeth for the whole of Elizabeth's third trimester and returns to Nazareth.
- Elizabeth's due date comes around, and her son is born. Looks like Gabriel was right again.
- Her neighbors and relatives are happy for her and recognize this as an act of God's mercy.
- In accordance with the rules (see Genesis 17:12), Elizabeth and Zechariah circumcise the child when he's eight days old.
- Everyone expects the kid to be named Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth insists, "No! John's his name" (1:60).
- That's a shocker. No one in their family is named John. They might as well have named him Batman. It's outrageous.
- They want to know what Zechariah thinks.
- Because he is still unable to speak (rewind to 1:20), Zechariah motions for a tablet and writes, "His name is John" (1:63). That settles it. Zechariah's not messing with Gabriel any more.
- Suddenly, Zechariah's mouth and tongue work again, and his first words after nine months are praise for God.
- Okay, let's size things up. First, an old barren woman gives birth. Second, they name him baby Johnny. And now daddy Zach can speak again.
- This is crazy stuff. It trends well throughout Judea (#babyJohnny) and everyone follows @JohnB to see what he'll do next.
- The Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, who prophesizes, just like his wife did earlier (glance back at 1:41).
- Wake up! Here's another super important poem known as the "Benedictus" (1:68-79). Luke likes throwing these bones to us readers.
- Zechariah says: the God of Israel is a Jolly Good Fellow.
- The reason? God's paying Israel a visit and working redemption for his people.
- What kind of redemption? Well, God is raising a high-stakes roller from old king David's house who will deliver Israel from their opponents.
- It's happening right here, right now. It's exactly what the prophets foresaw and God promised to Abraham (take a look at Genesis 22:16-18 and 26:3).
- Israel will be free and fearless, able to serve God with holiness and justice their whole lives.
- Zechariah now addresses his words to his newborn baby, whose destiny is to be a prophet who will prepare the way of Lord (Zechariah's alluding to Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3).
- Baby Johnny will also one day enlighten Israel with the knowledge of the deliverance that comes when their stupid errors are forgiven. God's mercy is the engine behind all of this.
- Fast forward a bit: Baby Johnny grows up and becomes a spiritual heavyweight in the desert.
- Now it's Mary's turn again.
- Grab a Root Beer and puzzle out these dates. Luke places the birth of Jesus in "those days" (2:1)—the days of King Herod's reign over all of Judea and Galilee (40-4 BCE), when Caesar Augustus was the Roman emperor (27 BCE-14 CE).
- Luke says that there was an empire-wide census during these years, specifically at the time when Quirinius was in charge of Syria.
- But there are two big problems: (1) No empire-wide census is mentioned in any other source, although smaller-scale regional census-registrations did in fact occur from time to time. (2) Quirinius was active as the governor of Syria starting in 6-7 CE, about eight years after King Herod's death, at which time Quirinius did undertake a census. But the dates simply do not jive. How "accurately" (remember 1:3) does Luke write? Stew on that for a while.
- Back to the story: Everyone goes to the city of their birth for the registration.
- Joseph and Mary, who is still pregnant, depart from Nazareth for Bethlehem, which is King David's hometown.
- In Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to Jesus, wraps him up all nice and cozy, and puts him in a trough because all the accommodations typically provided for travelers were booked.
- At night, a heavenly messenger appears to local shepherds, who are very afraid, just like Zechariah and Mary were (1:12, 28). After all, everything's glowing with "the glory of the Lord" (2:9). The angel's like a super-worldly glow stick.
- The angel tells them not to worry because he's bringing them good news.
- There's been born in David's city (a.k.a. Bethlehem) one serious little baby, who bears some bigwig titles: Savior, Christ (a.k.a. Messiah, who's supposed to repair the broken world), and Lord.
- Take a second to enjoy the shocking fact that a newborn baby is described this way. This cute little guy is still drooling and pooping in his swaddling clothes.
- Suddenly, the whole angelic Marine Corps appears shouting acclamations to the Commander in Chief. Glory! Peace!
- After the heavenly troop withdraws, the shepherds decide to make the trek to Bethlehem in order to witness this major event for themselves.
- When they find the situation exactly as the otherworldly messenger described it, the shepherds tell Mary and Joseph what they heard about this kid.
- After eight days, the baby is circumcised just like baby Johnny (1:59), and the kid is named Jesus, just as Gabriel instructed in 1:31.
- Several days later, Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus to the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, they are very careful to act in accordance with the Torah. For the laws they're following here, look over Leviticus 12:2-8 and Exodus 13:2, 12, and 15.
- In the temple, there's a guy named Simeon who is very devoutly expecting that great things are in store for his country.
- He's filled with the Holy Spirit, like Elizabeth and Zechariah before him (rewind to 1:41 and 67). Whenever the Holy Spirit crops up, we better pay attention because something important is about to happen. It's like one of those flashing signs in Las Vegas.
- It turns out that the Holy Spirit had informed Simeon that he wouldn't die until laying his eyes upon God's Messiah.
- When he sees Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the temple, Simeon embraces the child and gives a shout-out to God.
- He tells God that God can let him die now, for he's seen God's Messiah just like the Holy Spirit had told him. This kid will mean salvation for Israel and other nations, and will also be a kind of flashlight that will help even non-Jews find their way.
- Mary and Joseph's jaws drop open at these words.
- Simeon tells them that they're pretty good, too. Then he tells Mary that this kid will lead many people in Israel to fall and rise.
- The baby's going to cause a lot of arguments, and the deepest, most private thoughts of many people will come to the surface. Even Mary's own soul will be run through by a sword.
- Um, ouch.
- Also in the temple is a prophetess named Anna, an eighty-four-year-old widow who had spent many years after the death of her husband praying and fasting around the clock.
- Like Simeon, Anna gives a shout-out to God and starts to tell everyone there all about baby Jesus.
- After performing everything required of them by the Torah, Mary and Joseph return to their home in Nazareth of Galilee.
- The little guy grows up, eats his Wheaties, and fills up with wisdom and favor from God.
Boy Jesus Takes His Elders To School
- As good Torah-abiding Jews, Joseph and Mary go each year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival there.
- When he's twelve years old, Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem after his parents go back home.
- His parents travel for one whole day before they realize he's not with them in their group of family and friends. Way to be super unoriginal, Home Alone.
- They head back to Jerusalem, but it takes them three days of searching to find him. He's sitting in the midst of teachers, listening and questioning.
- They're all shocked by the depth of understanding this kid has. He's twelve, for crying out loud.
- His mother and father are out of their minds when they finally discover him. What did you do? Can you imagine how worried we were? Turns out Jesus's parents aren't much different than ours.
- Now Jesus gets a little sassy. They should've known that he'd be in his father's house.
- Like so many parents, they are baffled at their kid's behavior. But there's something supernatural about all of this, since the "father" he's referring to is God.
- Jesus returns home with them to Nazareth, but Mary stores this strange event in her memory along with the whole birthday shenanigans twelve years earlier.
- To round things out, Jesus matures in wisdom, age, and grace.
John Gets Busy
- Prepare yourselves for more dates. Time has elapsed, and it is now the fifteenth year of the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius. Since he ruled from 14 to 37 CE, it is likely that the year Luke has in mind is 29 CE.
- Luke offers a sketch of the big power-players at this time. First up is Pontius Pilate, who was prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 CE. Herod was tetrarch over Galilee from 4 BCE to 39 CE. And Philip and Lysanius were also tetrarchs over several territories to the north and northeast of Galilee.
- Yes, there will be a test later.
- Along with these political leaders, Luke mentions two religious leaders: Annas was high priest from 6 to 15 CE, while Caiaphas held the position from 18 to 36 CE.
- Now that we're situated in terms of time and the who's who of the region's political elite, Luke gets down to business.
- God taps John on the shoulder in the desert, where he's been for a while (remember 1:80).
- John goes throughout the region that surrounds the Jordan River, announcing that God will forget everyone's sins as they are ritually washed in the river's water.
- Luke mentions that John's the guy who the prophet Isaiah wrote about a while back.
- He's the dude shouting out in the wilderness to get ready for the coming of the Lord. He's going to build sidewalks and flatten out rough ground. Everyone's going to witness God's work of deliverance.
- John also demands quite a lot from the crowds who undergo this ritual bath. Metaphor time: the people are a bunch of snakes who are lucky to have the chance to escape the brutal wrath that is on its way.
- They better follow up their bath with actual actions to prove that they've turned their lives around. They better not act all smug and secure in the fact that they are part of Israel by birth. That's not enough, because God is able to turn stones into Jews (fortunately, not the other way around).
- This whole repentance thing is a lot like a fruit tree, John adds. If the tree doesn't produce fruit, the wood will then be useful for lighting fires.
- With all of these perils, the crowds want to get it right: "What then should we do?" (3:10).
- Well, if you've got an extra coat, give it to a person who doesn't have one. Beat the rush to Goodwill.
- If you've got food, share it with the hungry. Find the local food pantry or soup kitchen, and get busy.
- Baptized tax collectors want to know what they should do, too. Answer: Don't collect a penny more than what you're supposed to.
- Now the soldiers are asking, "What about us?" Simple. Don't bully anybody. Don't intimidate anyone into giving you cash. And just be glad for the wages you do get.
- The ancient blogosphere is buzzing with speculation that John is the Messiah.
- John silences the speculation. His gig is simply baptism by water. Everyone should really look for a super mighty person to follow. New guy will be able to baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire. John's not even important enough to take this guy's sandals off.
- The real messiah is going to have a "winnowing fork" (3:17 NRSV). What's he going to do with a big fork? He'll toss a pile of harvested grain in the air so that the heavy kernels fall to the ground in a pile and the useless chaff flies away with the wind. Then he'll put the scrumptious kernels in his barn, but he'll burn the chaff with fire that will never stop blazing.
- In other news, John's been saying that Herod married his brother's wife, which flies in the face of the Torah (check out Leviticus 18:16). And this was only one of many wicked acts.
- Herod adds another crime to his résumé when he arrests John and throws him in prison. Yeah, this was before the First Amendment.
Enter Jesus, All Grown-Up
- Jesus is one of the people baptized by John, but his baptism is unique.
- Why? Well, the heaven opens up, the Holy Spirit descends in bodily form, like a dove, and a heavenly voice echoes forth, deeming Jesus "my Son, the Beloved" (3:22), in words that allude to scripture (check out Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1). Yeah, we told you it was unique.
Jesus is about thirty years old at this point.
- Luke includes a long genealogy of Jesus, whose lineage via Joseph can be traced back all the way to Adam—yeah, that Adam—and therefore to God.
- Yes, our eyes glaze over as we read this list, which is about as interesting to us as a phone book. Here are a few highlights.
- First, Luke of course points out that Jesus is only "thought" to have been the son of Joseph. He is in fact the Son of God, and we have read all about the act of conception in 1:35.
- Second, the David of 3:31 is the second king of Israel and the first of a long dynasty of rulers over Judea. You can read all about him in the books of Samuel.
- Conclusion: Jesus's family is impressive. And we thought the Kennedys were something.
- Jesus departs from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit, which leads him into the wilderness.
- The Holy Spirit guides Jesus straight into the clutches of another supernatural being, the arch demon a.k.a. the devil or a.k.a. the "Slanderer," who puts Jesus through the grinder for forty days.
- Jesus eats nothing for nine-hundred and sixty hours straight. Apparently squaring off against a supernatural foe is not challenging enough.
- Jesus is starving. Clearly.
- The devil tries to take advantage: "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread" (4:3).
- Jesus responds with a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3. He's got soul-food, and that will suffice. Zing!
- The devil tries another tactic. Look, here's every kingdom of the known world. They're all for Jesus, if he wants them—after all, the devil controls who's in charge. (Yowza: what does this imply about Luke's view of the Roman empire?)
- The catch is that Jesus has to worship the devil in exchange.
- No thank you. God's the only God Jesus worships.
- The devil doesn't give up. He leads Jesus to a towering pinnacle of the temple's precinct in Jerusalem and double dog dares him to jump. After all, scripture does say that angels are supposed to protect the Son of God, even if he's about to stub his toe (the devil has read his Psalms; check out 91:11-12).
- By quoting scripture the devil tries to use Jesus's own logic in 4:4 and 4:8 against him. But it doesn't work, because Jesus fires back with Deuteronomy 6:16, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (4:12).
- The devil finally gives up—at least for the time being.
Jesus Gets Busy
- Jesus returns to Galilee souped-up with V-12 Spirit-power. He's forced the retreat of the strongest demon, and now he's a kind of spiritual Lamborghini.
- Jesus teaches in local synagogues, and everyone gives him props.
- In Nazareth, where he grew up, he enters a synagogue on the sabbath and volunteers to read the scripture.
- Jesus unrolls the scroll to Isaiah 61:1-2.
- Heads up: Jesus is about to give a preview of his whole career. Every word is important. Ready? Set. Jesus.
- The Spirit of the Lord is upon him.
- He's destined to bring the poor good news, proclaim release to prisoners, grant sight to the blind, send the oppressed off in freedom, and proclaim "the acceptable year of the Lord" (4:19 KJV). The end.
- Jesus rolls the scroll back up, hands it to the attendant, and takes his seat, while everyone gawks at him.
- Jesus tells them that this scripture has come true today in their very presence. In other words, Isaiah is talking about yours truly.
- Everyone is on his side. After all, this is Joseph's boy. Evidently, they are unaware of everything that happened in chapters 1-2.
- Despite their initially positive response, Jesus picks a fight. It's your job to wonder why.
- Jesus argues that no prophet is accepted "in his own country" (4:24 KJV) or "in the prophet's hometown" (4:24 NRSV). The two translations reflect that Jesus is talking about Nazareth (his hometown) and Israel in general. Two birds, one Greek word.
- Jesus gives two examples as proof.
- Example #1: Although the prophet Elijah visited none of the widows in Israel during a devastating famine, he was sent by God to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon, a non-Israelite city. Fact check Jesus by reading his source in 1 Kings 17:1, 8-24.
- Example #2: Of all of those sick with leprosy in Israel, Elisha only healed Naaman, who was Syrian, not Israelite. Fact check Jesus again by reading 2 Kings 5:1-18.
- Sit back, prop your feet up, and try to tease out the logic. How do these examples support Jesus's thesis that a prophet's not accepted at home?
- Now everyone gets really mad at Jesus, and they behave exactly as Jesus said they would.
- They even try to force him off a cliff, but he gets away by miraculously walking straight through their midst.
- Let's dwell for a minute. This story picks up on Simeon's statement in Chapter 2 that Jesus will provoke conflict and it anticipates the rejection and opposition Jesus will face from his fellow countrymen.
- Yes, Isaiah is talking about Jesus as the one who will bring release, freedom, and good news, but it won't be easy.
A Day in Town
- Jesus departs for Capernaum, where he teaches during the sabbath.
- The people there are quite struck by his teaching, especially because of the "authority" (4:32) with which he speaks.
- In the synagogue, a person possessed by a demon disrupts class by shouting, "Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?" (4:34).
- This demon is pretty smart, being otherworldly and all. He knows that Jesus is "the Holy One of God" (4:34), while the people of Nazareth clearly do not.
- But Jesus tells him to pipe down and get out.
- The demon chucks the poor guy right into the middle of the synagogue, which is proof of its departure. The narrator underlines that no random guys were harmed in the writing of this story. Jesus is already living up to his promises in 4:18.
- Everyone's excited, and they remark that Jesus's words have a lot of "authority" and "power." Just by talking, he is able to give supernatural opponents their marching orders.
- Next up, Jesus goes to the house of Simon. Don't worry, you're not forgetting something. Apparently, Jesus has already met Simon, even though we haven't read about it.
- Let's take a twenty second time-out to recognize that Luke does not seem to mind starting right in the middle of things or at least after some untold events have happened.
- Anyway, Simon's mother-in-law has a bad fever, but Jesus takes care of it—no chicken soup required. The detail that she immediately jumps up and starts to serve them is proof that she really does recover that quickly.
- The sun sets and marks the end of the sabbath, which lasts from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. The stipulation is that no labor can be performed on the sabbath (check it out for yourself in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
- People are now free to bring their sick friends and relatives to Jesus for a doctor's visit.
- Jesus heals them all by laying his hands upon each one.
- Jesus also exorcizes demons. As supernatural beings, they're privy to Jesus's identity as the Son of God and Messiah, but Jesus silences them. What's with all the hush hush?
- The next day, Jesus departs Capernaum for a secluded place, while the crowds hunt him down and insist that he stay.
- But Jesus sticks to his guns. After all, it's his job to spread the good news of God's kingdom in other cities, too.
- Jesus does what he says he will in the synagogues of Judea, which is south of Galilee.
Jesus Gets Followers
- Back in Galilee, Jesus teaches sizeable crowds while standing on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret. Matthew and Mark call it "the Sea of Galilee" but Gennesaret is fun to say. Plus, "lake" is a much more accurate translation than "sea."
- Jesus sees two docked boats and fishermen washing their nets.
- Jesus boards Simon's boat and requests that Simon push off into the water a bit, so Jesus can teach the crowds on the shore while sitting in the boat. Interesting request, Jesus.
- After finishing class, Jesus asks Simon to boat into deeper water and lower his nets again.
- Simon doubts that they will catch anything, but he addresses Jesus as "Master" (5:5) and is not about to ignore his advice. After all, this is the guy who cured his mother-in-law (recall 4:38).
- Guess what happens? That's right, they catch so many fish that their nets start to tear.
- They gesture to their fishing partners in another boat for assistance. Suddenly, both boats are filled with so many fish that they start to sink.
- Simon (a.k.a. Peter) falls to Jesus's feet and mopes about how lowly he is compared to Jesus.
- Everyone's just shocked. And by the way, James and John were Simon's fishing partners in the other boat.
- Jesus responds, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people" (5:10). Um, creepy?
- They dock their boats, leave everything, and follow Jesus. Yep—that's it for the fishing adventure.
- While in one of the cities, a man with leprosy falls down before Jesus and begs him to cleanse him.
- Following his customary healing procedures, Jesus touches him and—voilà—he's cured. Jesus's willingness to touch a person suffering from leprosy is significant. After all, the Torah explicitly forbids contact with such persons. Got a few minutes and a Red Bull? Go read all the laws governing the treatment of leprosy in Leviticus 13-14.
- Jesus commands the man not to tell anyone, but to play it cool and do what he's supposed to do according to Moses: show the priest, make the requisite offerings, and do whatever else there is for his purification.
- Apparently someone has a big mouth, though. Word spreads, and Jesus is officially going viral. Everyone wants to be cured.
- But Jesus withdraws into the wilderness where he prays.
Jesus Romps Some Highbrows
- Jesus teaches, and some highbrow professors are there to listen from Galilee, Judea, and even Jerusalem, ivy-league style.
- Soon enough, four guys come by, carrying a fifth who's lying paralyzed on a mat. They're trying to place the paralyzed man before Jesus, but the crowd's so big that they can't elbow their way through.
- The solution? They climb up on the roof, remove some tiles, and lower him down right before Jesus. What is this, Mission Impossible?
- Jesus is impressed by their faith, though: "your sins are forgiven you" (5:20 NRSV).
- Don't be shy. We might as well recognize that the implied logic is that the man's paralysis is the result of his own wrongful doings. Debate among yourselves how we should react to this on the other side of the Enlightenment. Get ready for a slugfest.
- The highbrows object that only God is supposed to forgive sins.
- Jesus then takes it straight to 'em: "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'?" (5:23). It's a rhetorical question.
- Jesus tells the man to stand up and walk, which is proof that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive whoever he so chooses. So there.
- The man stands up and heads for home with his mat in hand, giving God all due props. Jesus: 1, Highbrows: 0.
- Everyone's out of their minds with shock, and they all give God his props, too. But they're also scared. After all, they've seen things today that run contrary to run-of-the-mill expectations.
- Next up, Jesus sees a tax collector named Levi.
- Jesus commands, "Follow me" (5:27), and Levi abandons everything and follows. Hey, it's the trendy thing to do for would-be disciples.
- Levi throws a big dinner party for Jesus, and a bunch of tax collectors and other shady people are reclining with them.
- Take a second to adjust your mental image. Both the NRSV and KJV suggest that they are all "sitting" at a table (5:29), but this translates the details into more familiar dining-room customs. People in antiquity reclined while they ate, and the Greek is more accurately translated "reclining." This is true of all of the banquet scenes in Luke. We say, when in Bible-land…
- Anyway, the highbrows object: "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" (5:30).
- Jesus responds with a simple truth: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (5:31). Jesus clarifies that his purpose is to invite sinful people to turn their lives around.
- Again, this ruffles the feathers of these highbrows, who raise another objection: fasting and praying are the occupation of the students of John and the Pharisees, but Jesus's followers party hearty.
- Jesus responds by drawing an analogy. Wedding guests don't refuse to eat while the groom is still with them. How rude that would be? There'll be plenty of time for fasting later when the groom is taken away from them, and the days are coming.
- P.S. He's talking about himself.
- Jesus adds two more analogies.
- First, when you're patching your clothes you can't mix old and new cloth. Why? The old and the new cloth will not jive. Rip. Has anyone ever tried this? Let us know how it goes. (@Shmoop)
- Second, new wine goes into new wine skins. If it's put into old skins, they'll break, and no one wants to waste their wine.
- The highbrows lose again.
- Fast forward to a sabbath, and Jesus is walking through the grain field. His disciples eat the kernels after rubbing away the chaff. Mmm.
- Some highbrows take issue: "Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" (6:2).
- Here's a little tidbit of information. The Torah says that you can't do any labor on the seventh day, i.e., the sabbath (read the prescription in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15). But the issue remains: what does it mean exactly not to perform work? Can we wash, fight a war, cook or prepare food, walk somewhere, respond to emergencies, or what?
- Jesus responds by—surprise—citing a story from scripture.
- When David and his fellows were hungry, they went into God's house and mowed down "the bread of the Presence" (6:4). But only priests are allowed to eat this sacred bread. Fact check Jesus by reading 1 Samuel 21:1-9 and Leviticus 24:5-9.
- The point? If the "Son of Man" refers only to Jesus here, then the needs of Jesus and his followers trump the Torah-laws about the sabbath, just like the needs of David trumped the laws about the bread of Presence.
- Note the alternative. If the "son of man" (no caps) refers simply to any old human being, as it sometimes does, then the sabbath-stipulation will have to recognize human limitations.
- The highbrows are silent; their tail is between their legs once again.
- On another sabbath, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue, where he comes across a guy with a shriveled right hand.
- The highbrows are watching Jesus like a hawk to see whether he will heal on the sabbath. The highbrows think that would count as doing work on the sabbath and they're ripe and ready to accuse Jesus of breaking the rules.
- Jesus knows what's up, but he still summons the man forward. He asks him point blank: "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" (6:9).
- Jesus looks at them all, then tells the man to stretch out his hand. Guess what? That's right—healed.
- Jesus shows up the highbrows yet again. But this time they are so mad that they start to conspire about what to do with this upstart Jesus.
The Sermon on the Plain
- Jesus ascends a mountain where he spends a whole night in prayer to God.
- At daybreak, he summons his disciples and chooses twelve of them to receive the title of "apostle" (6:13).
- Luke lists their names. Pay attention to Simon—he's also called Peter, a name that means "rock" in Greek. Oh, and you'll probably notice that Judas Iscariot is the one who's going to later break Jesus's trust. Talk about a spoiler.
- Now Jesus gets busy in the flatlands, where a huge swarm of students along with gobs of people from Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon gather to hear what he has to say and get access to his powers of healing.
- Jesus heals tons of people tormented by unclean spirits and the sick. There's no doubt that he's living up to his campaign promises in 4:18-19.
- Jesus lifts his eyes to his disciples, suggesting that what he's about to say applies directly to them.
- Ready? Go.
- Actually—this one's too good. We're going to make you go read it yourself.
Jesus Versus The Grim Reaper
- After this long bout of teaching, Jesus enters Capernaum, where a military officer wants one of his slaves healed.
- Just one problem: the officer thinks he's unworthy of having Jesus in his house. He knows that that a non-Jewish house is a source of religious pollution.
- Besides, he's convinced that Jesus needs only to say the word for his slave to become healthy again. That's all he has to do to get his people to follow him, at least.
- Jesus is impressed and says to the crowd following him, "Not even in Israel have I found such faith" (7:9 NRSV). These non-Jews may be unclean, but their faith evidently outpaces Israel's.
- And… the slave is healed. Wait, Jesus didn't even say anything. Cool.
- Next up, another city in Galilee called Nain. As Jesus & co. approach the city's gate, Jesus happens upon a funeral procession for the only child of a widow.
- Jesus comforts the mother: "Do not weep" (7:13), and then he turns to the corpse and says, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" (7:14).
- The corpse sits up and speaks. Hmmm, that was easy. What do you imagine he said?
- This seriously freaks everyone out, but they're all giving God major props and are convinced that Jesus is a prophetic superstar.
- Their assertion that God "hath visited" (KJV) or "looked favorably on" (NRSV) his people is pretty loaded.
- Looking for a topic for a term paper? Compare this story with 1 Kings 17:17-24, where the prophet Elijah revives a widow's son, and 2 Kings 4:32-37, where the prophet Elisha also resurrects a woman's dead son. What do these allusions mean in light of Luke's gospel as a whole?
John and Jesus: One Mean Tag Team
- John's disciples tell him about everything Jesus has accomplished. Remember that John is in prison (3:19-20), but apparently he can receive visitors.
- John sends two of his disciples to Jesus and asks point blank: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Even John wants to be sure that his own prophecy is being fulfilled through Jesus.
- The disciples ask Jesus this just as he's busy healing, exorcizing, and granting sight to the blind. You might as well ask an NBA basketball player if he can dunk.
- Jesus tells them to inform John what he's doing: the blind see, the crippled walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, corpses revive, and the poor open their morning papers to read good news.
- So yeah, he's the one.
- Jesus adds that happiness belongs to anyone who's not offended by him.
- John's disciples head off—John will be able to put two and two together.
- Jesus offers his own very high opinion of John, and then he asks the crowds rhetorically what they went out to the desert to see. A prophet, duh.
- John is the guy that scripture was talking about when it says, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you" (7:27). Go and read it for yourself in Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1.
- John surpasses everyone "born of women" (7:28), i.e., everyone.
- But in God's kingdom, even the least is greater than he is. Wait, what? That's what you might call a paradox.
- The people and the tax collectors are all psyched about this, since they had been baptized by John (rewind to 3:3-14).
- The religious highbrows, on the other hand, weren't baptized by John and are said to have "rejected God's purpose" (7:30). Warning: Don't reject God's purpose.
- Jesus compares the people of his generation to children playing in the marketplace, shouting to each other, "We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep" (7:32 NRSV). The people who refuse to play along are a bunch of spoilsports.
- John doesn't eat and is a teetotaler, but he's accused of being demon-possessed.
- Then the Son of Man comes partying hearty, but he's accused of being an overeater and alcoholic, the best friend of bar hoppers and the IRS.
A Dinner Party Turns Ugly
- A Pharisee invites Jesus over for dinner, and while he's reclining, a sinning woman starts hanging on his feet, soaking them with her tears, and drying them with her hair.
- Yeah, we'll give you a second to picture that.
- The Pharisee who invited Jesus wonders to himself how this so-called prophet is unaware that this woman who's hanging all over him is a big sinner.
- Jesus launches a story about a single creditor's two debtors.
- Here's the deal. One of the debtors owes five-hundred denarii, the other owes fifty. (A denarius is a type of currency that's about a day's wage.)
- Neither are able to pay, and the creditor releases them both from their debts.
- Jesus asks a very easy question, "Now which of them will love him more?" (7:42).
- Obviously, it's the one with the bigger debt, and Simon answers correctly.
- Jesus leaves the story hanging and gets a little snippy, comparing Simon with the sinning woman.
- She washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, while Simon provided no water for his feet.
- She hasn't stopped kissing his feet, while Simon didn't even greet him with a kiss.
- She anointed his feet with ointment, while Simon did no such thing.
- Come on Simon, get with the program.
- Jesus applies the logic of the story he's told to the current situation, concluding that the woman's many sins are forgiven because she's shown Jesus so much love.
- He adds, surely in reference to Simon, "the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little" (7:47).
- In case there's any doubt, Jesus tells the woman that her sins are forgiven.
- But his co-recliners think that Jesus is presumptuous in claiming the power to forgive sins. Remember, they think that power belongs only to God (5:21).
- Jesus doesn't care. He loves creating tension at highbrow dinner parties and so reiterates to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (7:50).
Jesus Goes Cryptic
- Jesus is touring each city and village challenging everyone with the good news about God's kingdom.
- The twelve are with him (Remember them? Rewind to 6:12-16), as are several women who became his followers after Jesus healed their illnesses and exorcized their demons.
- Among them is Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus exorcized—count 'em—seven demons.
- There's also Joanna, who's the wife of Chuza, one of Herod's stewards (this is the Herod of 3:1, who is tetrarch of Galilee, not the Herod of 1:5). Why are we telling you all this? Well, the implication is that Jesus is penetrating the upper echelon with his influence. Oh, and there are a lot of women around.
- With a lot of people gathered around him, Jesus goes cryptic and tells some coded stories.
- Ready? Go.
- A sower scatters seeds that land in various places: on the road, where it is trampled and birds gobble it up; on the rocks, where it grows but dies due to lack of soil; and on thorns, where the thorns choke the poor young shoots to death.
- But a portion falls in rich soil, where the plants flourish "a hundredfold," which in today's terms is like earning a hundred dollars for every dollar invested.
- Um… what? Why is he talking like this?
- Well, the disciples are privileged recipients of God's mysteries, but the rest of the people have access only to cryptic stories that have the potential to block true understanding.
- But don't worry, Jesus will decode the story.
- The sower represents God's word.
- The road is a symbol for people who the Devil gets to; the rocks are a symbol for those who initially accept God's word with joy, but waver as soon as anything tough happens; and the thorns are a symbol for worldly cares, wealth, and life's pleasures, which suffocate God's word.
- And how about the fertile soil? Well, that stands for the "honest" or "noble" and "good" heart (7:34) that clamps down on God's word and acts accordingly.
- Right when he's finished explaining that one, Jesus rolls out another cryptic story.
- Who lights a lamp only to hide it under a jar or bed? Lamps are made for a lamp stand, of course, where they provides light for people who come in.
- Translation: there are no secrets. Everything will be made public—even your sins.
- Okay, that's it for random stories. Now Jesus's mother and brothers come toward Jesus, but Jesus take the opportunity to redefine his family as "those who hear the word of God and do it" (8:21 NRSV).
- Sorry, Mom.
Two Bloodcurdling Incidents
- One day, Jesus falls fast asleep while on the lake of Gennesaret with his disciples.
- Meanwhile, a storm blows up over the lake, and the boat starts to fill with water. This isn't looking good.
- Jesus's disciples wake him up: "Master, master, we are perishing!" (8:24).
- Jesus rises to rebuke the wind and water, which return to a state of total calm. That was easy.
- The storm is over, but Jesus isn't psyched. He asks his disciples: "Where is your faith?" (8:25).
- The disciples are overcome with fear and awe; they wonder who on earth this is who can control the weather.
- They all arrive in the region of the "Garasenes" (8:26), a non-Jewish territory opposite Galilee. The KJV translates it as "Gadarenes"—different place!
- Side note for interested learners: Both readings have important Greek manuscripts to back them up, but really both cities are problematic.
- Gerasa is over thirty miles southeast of lake Gennesaret, while Gadara is about six miles south. There's also a third reading with strong support in the manuscripts, "Gergasa," which is a city that is actually on the lake. Man the Bible is complicated.
- As Jesus gets off the boat, a man possessed by many demons meets him. This guy's naked and has been living in a cemetery. Great.
- When he sees Jesus, he screams and falls at his feet.
- Like all the demons before them, those controlling this guy know exactly who Jesus is, "Son of the Most High God," (8:28). These otherworldly beings know even more than Jesus's own disciples.
- The demons are anxious about what Jesus wants with them and are begging him to go easy.
- Jesus orders "the unclean spirit" (8:29) to get out.
- The narrator underlines the severity of the case. This spirit has for a long time held this guy by an iron fist and even shattered the chains and shackles by which he was restrained in order to drive him into "the wilds" (8:29). Yowza.
- Jesus asks the spirit its name, and the spirit replies, "Legion," for a whole army of demons had taken possession.
- History buffs take note: Legio is a Roman military term designating a group of six-thousand soldiers. For another connection between the Roman empire and the demonic world, flip back to 4:6.
- For the rest of you, we're not talking about Legos—but we could be.
Anyway, the demons beg Jesus not to order them into the "abyss" (8:31 NRSV) or "deep" (KJV).
- Now there's a herd of pigs nearby grazing on a mountain. This detail is clearly in keeping with the non-Jewish character of this region, since pigs are unclean animals for Jews who don't eat pork (chalk it up to Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8).
- Jesus orders the demons to enter the pigs, which rush off the cliff only to drown in the lake.
- Poor pigs.
- The people in charge of the pigs run off to tell everyone. People come to see for themselves and find the exorcized man sitting at Jesus's feet clothed and sound of mind. That's what we in the age of science would call conclusive proof.
- The blood of the townspeople starts to curdle from fright.
- And in an ancient version of Survivor, the whole populace votes Jesus off the island.
- Why? They are totally in the grips of fear.
- Jesus boards his boat and sails away, but not before the former demoniac requests to go along, too. But Jesus says farewell to him and asks him to spread the word of what God has done.
- And spread it he does. He accosts people throughout his region with his story. But he adjusts one not-so-minor detail. Instead of proclaiming what "God did" as Jesus instructs him, he goes on talking about what "Jesus did" (8:39).
Two Miracle Stories For The Price Of One
- When Jesus returns, he finds the crowd awaiting him expectantly, and a man named Jairus comes on over.
- Jairus has a position of some authority in town as the chief of a synagogue, but he's willing to fall to Jesus's feet.
- Jairus requests assistance on behalf of his only twelve-year-old daughter, who's knocking at death's door.
- As Jesus makes his way to Jairus's home, the crowds press in on him tightly. We're talking ancient paparazzi.
- In the crowd, there happens to be a woman who's been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. Ouch.
- The narrator underlines the difficulty of her problem: She's spent all of her money on doctors, and none have had success in curing her.
- Approaching Jesus from behind, she touches the edge of his shirt, and immediately the blood stops flowing. Yep, one touch and she's healed.
- Jesus asks, "Who touched me?" (8:45 NRSV).
- Uh oh.
- Everyone is denying it, and Peter speaks up to point out that the crowd is so thick that it could have been anyone.
- But Jesus wants to know. He's talking about one touch in particular that's zapped his healing powers.
- Realizing she's caught, the woman comes forward, trembling as she falls before Jesus and explains why she did it and how she was cured.
- We're kind of expecting a scary Oliver Twist moment, but Jesus puts her at ease: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" (8:48).
- In mid-sentence, a messenger comes for Jairus reporting that his daughter is dead.
- But Jesus responds, "Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved" (8:50).
- Arriving at the house, Jesus allows only Peter, John, and James to enter with him along with the girl's parents.
- Everyone's weeping and mourning for her, but Jesus tells them, "Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping" (8:52).
- Their tears turn to laughter at this claim, which seems ridiculous—the girl is clearly dead. What is this, Buffy?
- Jesus takes her hand: "Child, get up!" (8:54).
- And voilà, the girl's spirit returns, and she rises at once.
- Jesus orders that she be given some food. Getting resurrected makes a girl hungry.
- Oh, and one other thing. They shouldn't tell anyone about this.
The Twelve Get Homework
- Jesus summons the twelve disciples and gives them a nice little gift: the power to exorcize demons and heal illness. And they're going on a trip to spread the love.
- Sweet deal.
- Oh, except there are a few rules: no staff, bag, bread, or money are allowed, and they can't pack two coats. What is this, airport security?
- Jesus instructs them to choose one house and stay there until they leave.
- If a town doesn't welcome them, they're supposed to shake the dust off of their feet as they leave.
- The twelve guys go throughout the villages proclaiming good news and offering healings everywhere.
- Meanwhile, news of all of this reaches Herod the tetrarch. He is at a loss because people are saying that Jesus is John returned from the dead.
- Evidently, he's died since the last time we heard of him in 7:18-19.
- Moment of silence.
- Others are identifying Jesus as Elijah—who's supposed to return according to Malachi 4:5-6—or another of the ancient prophets returned from the dead.
- Herod reasons that Jesus is not John—after all, Herod was the one who beheaded him. He wants to see Jesus for himself before he decides his opinion once and for all.
- The twelve return to Jesus and report everything that went down.
- Jesus withdraws with them to Bethsaida on the sly, but the crowds are on to them and follow along.
- Jesus welcomes their company, instructs them about God's kingdom, and heals those who are in need.
Jesus Lights the Barbie
- The day's getting late, and the twelve disciples remind Jesus that it's time to dismiss the crowd, so that everyone can turn into the surrounding villages, get a bite to eat, and find a place to stay.
- Jesus responds, "You give them something to eat" (9:13).
- The disciples give Jesus a reality-check. Look, there's not more than five loaves of bread and two fish, unless we take a trip to Sam's Club to buy provisions.
- We're talking five-thousand men here, not to mention women and children.
- Jesus tells the disciples to organize the large group into parties of fifty.
- The disciples obey, and everyone's reclining.
- Then Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish, turns his face toward heaven, blesses them, breaks them, and distributes food to everyone via the disciples.
- They eat up, are plump full, and turn on the tube on to watch the Lions play the Packers. Okay, we added that last part.
- Turns out there was enough food for everyone. And then some: they collect twelve baskets full of leftovers.
Coming Difficulties for Jesus & Co.
- While Jesus is praying in private with his disciples, he asks them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" (9:19 NRSV).
- The disciples rehearse the options presented to Herod in 9:7-8: John the Baptist returned from the dead, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets. Take your pick.
- Jesus asks, "But who do you say that I am?" (9:20).
- Peter bravely responds: God's Messiah.
- Ding ding!
- Jesus orders them not to tell anyone.
- Then he foretells that the Son of Man's destiny is to suffer, to be rejected by the religious highbrows, to be killed, and on the third day to rise.
- Oh, sorry. Retroactive spoiler alert.
- Jesus then lays out some serious requirements for anyone who's following him. Bottom line: his followers must suffer, just like him.
- If you're ashamed of Jesus and his words, then he'll be ashamed of you when he returns in glory with the angels. Dante would call this contrapasso. An eye for an eye.
- Jesus promises that at least some of the gang will see God's kingdom before they die.
- Chew on that.
Divine Highs and Human Lows
- Jesus takes Peter, John, and James and ascends a mountain to pray.
- While Jesus prays, his face becomes different, and his clothes are white and sparking lightning bolts. Yikes.
- In case that wasn't cool enough, Moses and Elijah appear and talk to him. They also are awash with "glory" (9:31), and all three discuss Jesus's upcoming "departure" that will occur in Jerusalem.
- Meanwhile, Peter and the others grow sleepy. Seriously, guys? With this show?
- After Moses and Elijah leave, Peter suggests to Jesus that they construct three "dwellings" (9:33 NRSV) or "tabernacles" (KJV) to commemorate this incredible religious event. But Peter doesn't know what he's talking about.
- While Peter's babbling on about the tabernacles, a cloud blows in that casts its shadow over them.
- They start to wet their pants with fear.
- A voice echoes forth from the cloud: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" (9:35). Note: whenever you hear a voice echoing from the sky, you probably want to listen.
- The voice is talking about Jesus because, by that time, Jesus is alone.
- The disciples with him are silent and don't tell anyone what's happened.
- When they come down from the mountain the next day, a huge crowd is there to meet them.
- A man requests Jesus's assistance with his son, who screams, convulses, and foams at the mouth. Yeah, he's possessed.
- He already asked the assistance of the other disciples. Supposedly, they should be able to do this (remember, Jesus gave them the power), but they're not succeeding in this case.
- Jesus is fed up with this faithless and twisted generation. How long does he have to put up with this?
- But he tells the father to bring his son over to him.
- While Jesus prays, the demon rips the boy who's convulsing. But Jesus issues the spirit its marching orders, cures the boy, and restores him to his father.
- But wait, Jesus says. He's going to be betrayed. (Gasp! Oh wait, we already knew that.)
- The disciples don't get it, but it's not really their fault. After all, "its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it" (9:45)—whatever that means.
- They're afraid to ask Jesus to explain.
- The disciples start to argue about which of them is the greatest. And here Jesus is speaking of his betrayal. Take a sip of that irony.
- But Jesus knows what they're thinking. Simeon was right when he predicted in 2:35 that "the inner thoughts of many will be revealed."
- Time for a little demonstration.
- Jesus places a child by his side. Welcoming a child who has no status is the equivalent of welcoming Jesus, which in turn is the equivalent of welcoming God, who sent Jesus.
- Got it?
- That means the least is the greatest.
- The disciple John reports to Jesus that they caught someone daring to exorcize demons in the name of Jesus, but they stopped him because he's not a follower.
- Jesus responds that John's logic is all wrong: "for whoever is not against you is for you" (9:50).
Jesus Takes His Show On The Road
- Jesus is setting "his face to go to Jerusalem" because the time's coming "for him to be taken up" (9:51).
- Did you catch that? This verse signals a new sub-section of Luke's story, which focuses on Jesus's journey from Galilee in the north, through Samaria, Judea, and finally to Jerusalem in the south. The whole journey motif will be around until his arrival in Jerusalem in 19:28.
- Jesus sends his emissaries before him to prepare his own arrival.
- They enter a Samaritan village, which is not hospitable to Jesus because the inhabitants don't like his destination: Jerusalem.
- Take a time out to understand that at this time, Samaritans were religiously and ethnically distinct from the Jews in Galilee and Judea. They recognized the authority of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible alone and considered Mt. Gerizim in Samaria—not Jerusalem—to be their sacred center. Their origin is a matter of debate, but severe tensions between Samaritans and Jews had long been in the making by the time of Jesus.
- Back to the story: James and John ask Jesus if they should curse the village to destruction by fire.
- Jesus reprimands them. Apparently it's a bad idea, and so they move on to the next village.
- That was random.
- While journeying on the road, someone volunteers to follow Jesus wherever he goes.
- Jesus is an honest guy, so he clarifies for the guy what he's about to get himself into.
- Even foxes and birds have places to hang their hats. But "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (9:58). The implication is that following Jesus will require this guy to be homeless.
- One guy's on board, and now Jesus orders another guy to follow him. But guy #2 asks for some time to see to his father's funeral.
- Evidently, followers have to skip even that kind of thing: "Let the dead bury their own dead" (9:60). Have fun teasing that one out.
- A third person commits to follow Jesus as soon as he's said farewell to his family.
- For Jesus, this is a sign of lack of commitment. After all, "no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (9:62).
- Conclusion? Jesus is on the move now and so are his followers. They'll have to embrace homelessness and can't even leave a note with the fam.
More Disciples Get More Homework
- Jesus hires seventy helpers and sends them forth in pairs to each of the towns he plans to visit during his journey to Jerusalem.
- Jesus isn't shy about the immense work that's waiting for them. After all, "the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few" (10:2). Thanks, metaphor.
- To drive the point home, he says, "See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves" (10:3). That can't be good.
- Here are some rules for them to follow. They aren't supposed to take along a wallet, bag, or shoes, and they can't greet anyone while on the road. These sound awfully familiar (rewind to 9:3).
- What should they do? Enter a home, and utter the word "peace" (10:5), which sends vibes throughout the house. Fancy.
- Peace is like a magnet that sticks to iron but not to brass—peace sticks only to a person inclined toward peace. Otherwise, the peace-vibes will return to the disciple.
- Then they are supposed to stay, eat, and drink in the same house.
- A worker deserves to be paid, but they shouldn't go from house to house seeking more pay than they deserve.
- In any city that is welcoming to the disciples, they should consume whatever food they are served. Translation: they don't have to be overly strict with Jewish dietary laws.
- While they're at it, they should cure the sick and proclaim the nearness of God's kingdom.
- In any city that is not welcoming to the disciples, they should enter its square, announce that they're shaking its dust from their feet, and warn them of God's nearing kingdom.
- Let's just say that city will not be very happy on the day when Jesus returns (recall 9:26).
- In fact, Sodom had it easier. That's a real big threat. It's like saying Hiroshima and Nagasaki had it easier. Check out Genesis 18:16-19:29 for the whole Sodom story.
- Jesus says boo to Chorazin and boo to Bethsaida. Even the non-Jewish cities of Tyre and Sidon would have repented if the same miracles were performed there.
- Tyre and Sidon will have an easier time on the day of judgment than Chorazin and Bethsaida.
- Not even Capernaum will do so well in spite of what Jesus has done there (rewind to 4:31-44). They're destined not for heaven, but for "Hades" (10:15).
- The "seventy" are surrogates for Jesus. Listening to them is listening to him, while rejecting them is rejecting him—ditto for God, who sent Jesus.
- The gang returns with joy. After all, they've been bossing around demons, who have supernatural clout.
- Jesus affirms that he, too, was watching none other than Satan fall from heaven like a bolt of lightning.
- Plus, exorcism isn't their only special power. They're also able to walk right on top of snakes and scorpions, not to mention every other enemy's power. They're practically invincible against such things.
- Check this out: some followers still take this to heart and handle poisonous serpents, but they're not always as invincible as followers were a couple millennia ago.
- Jesus adds that their new-found authority to boss demons around should be a source of joy for what this implies, that their "names are written in heaven" (10:20).
- This causes Jesus to rejoice, too, and he praises God, who is called "Father" and "Lord of heaven and earth" (10:21).
- God gets props for hiding "these things" (what things?) from highbrow professors and revealing them to kindergartners (remember it's the highbrows who aren't getting it; rewind to 5:17-6:11 and 7:36-50).
- Everything's placed under Jesus's charge, and he says to his disciples, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!" (10:23).
- Just think of all of the prophets and bigwig rulers who have wanted to lay their eyes and ears upon stuff like this.
What Does It Mean to Love?
- A lawyer, i.e., a highbrow professor of the Torah, asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (10:25).
- Jesus fires back with a question of his own, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" (10:26). It's a fair question. The guy is after
all a professor of law.
- The highbrow cites Deuteronomy
6:5, that you're supposed to give your all in loving God, as well as
Leviticus 19:18, the command to love your neighbor as yourself.
- Jesus gives him an A+: "do this, and you will live" (10:28).
- But the lawyer is greedy for extra credit. He wants to look good and solidify his status as a highbrow professor committed to justice.
So he asks, "And who is my neighbor?" (10:29).
- In response Jesus launches into a lengthy story.
- There's this guy who's traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when thieves suddenly attack him. They strip off his clothes, beat the heck out of
him, and abandon him half dead on the road.
- A priest traveling from Jerusalem happens to come that way, but when he sees the bludgeoned chap, he passes him by on the other side of the road.
- Next, a Jew from the tribe of Levi does the very same thing.
- Come on, guys.
- Finally, a Samaritan arrives by that route and when he sees the poor guy, he's moved to compassion.
- Don't forget, the tensions between Jews and Samaritans were not insignificant at the time of Jesus. Samaritans followed their own brand of Judaism,
which was distinctive above all in their acceptance of Mt. Gerizim in
Samaria as their sacred center rather than Jerusalem. Bottom line:
Samaritans are supposedly the bad guys.
- This is not the first time Samaritans have cropped up in the story. Rewind to 9:52-55 for more.
- Back to the story: The Samaritan dresses the victim's wounds, sanitizes them with oil and wine, slings him over his mule, and finds for him a place
- The next day, the Samaritan pays the proprietor two day's wages with instructions to look after him and guarantees further pay when he gets back.
- Jesus pops the big question for the lawyer to answer. Which of the three—priest, Levite, or Samaritan—plays the part of neighbor?
- The answer is obvious, even to the lawyer. It's the one who acts with pity.
- Jesus tells him to follow the example of the (as we now know him) Good Samaritan.
What Do Women Want?
- During his travels, Jesus enters a village where a woman named Martha is super hospitable.
- Martha has a sister named Mary, who's sitting at Jesus's feet, listening to his instruction.
- Meanwhile, Martha's all worked up because of all of the housework, cooking, and serving she's doing.
- Martha complains to Jesus that her sister's not doing anything, and the burden of hospitality has fallen squarely on her shoulders.
- She requests Jesus to demand that Mary help her.
- In reply, Jesus tells her that she's too distracted by worries. Jesus valorizes Mary's choice, and this cannot be taken away from her.
- Moral of the story: never do housework.
Prayer for Dummies
- Jesus happens to be praying. Surprise!
- One of his disciples wants to know how to pray better and so commences Prayer 101. Interested? Go check it out.
- Jesus offers a little illustration for how prayer works.
- Say your friend knocks on your door at 2 a.m., "Dude, can I borrow some food?"
- Your friend explains that his buddy, who's been on the road, just stopped by, but there's no more chips and Mountain Dew left to offer him, and the store's closed.
- At first you tell him to go away. You're all warm and cozy in your bed. Case closed.
- But your friend persists. The conversation goes something like this.
- "Come on, dude."
- "Please, dude."
- "No. That's final."
- "I thought we were friends, dude."
- "Bah! Okay. Here's some food."
- The lesson? If you're annoying enough, you get what you want. Prayer is basically annoying God, who will eventually give you what you need.
- Jesus draws some conclusions: ask, seek, knock, and you will get what you're after.
- Jesus gives another illustration, which focuses on the fact that disciples should pray to God as "Father" (recall 11:2).
- If a son asks his dad for a fish or an egg, he's not going to give the boy a snake or scorpion. So if dumb, wicked dads can do it on a smaller scale, it's pretty certain that God the Father will dole out the Holy Spirit to whoever asks.
The Inside Scoop on Demons
- And now for something completely different! Jesus exorcizes a demon from a guy who is unable to speak.
- Proof of the demon's exit is that the guy's words start flowing, and the crowds are blown away.
- But some of them have a different idea of what's going on here. They think Jesus exorcizes by the power of Beelzebul, one of the higher-ups in the demonic social order.
- Others are looking for Jesus to perform a sign from heaven. Apparently making a mute man speak is not enough.
- Jesus addresses the first of these half-baked ideas—that he's somehow working for high-powered demons.
- Jesus of course knows their inner thoughts, proving Simeon right once again (recall 2:35; 5:22; and 9:47).
- Here's his argument:
- Civil wars destroy kingdoms. If he's combating demons under the orders of Beelzebul, then the demonic world is embroiled in a civil war. That would mean Satan's kingdom is falling.
- Also, if Jesus is exorcizing demons by the authority of Beelzebul, then how are the achievements of other Jewish exorcists to be explained? They're not going to like this explanation very much either, that's for sure.
- On the other hand, if Jesus is exorcizing demons "by the finger of God" (11:20), then God's kingdom is already here.
- Here's a little story for you.
- When a heavily armed warrior is guarding his home, it's a fairly safe bet that his stuff's going to be safe.
- Well, until a mightier warrior comes along and conquers him, that is. Then the victor strips his opponent's armor and distributes the plunder.
- Okay, so what's Jesus's point exactly? What do you think?
- Jesus adds, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (11:23 NRSV). How does that jive with 9:50?
- By the way, here's the protocol for unclean spirits.
- Upon its departure from a person, it roams through waterless regions seeking a place to hang its hat. When no suitable place is found, the spirit thinks it's wise to return to his old joint, which he finds to be all nice and tidy. Perfect!
- Then the spirit gets some still wickeder friends, and they all move in together.
- The result? "The last state of that person is worse than the first" (11:26). Bummer.
- A woman shouts from the crowd about how happy Jesus's mom must be.
- Jesus corrects her. Happiness belongs to those who hear God's word and keep it.
- Despite this interruption, Jesus goes on to address the second of the half-baked ideas in 11:15-16.
- This generation is wicked because it's looking for a sign. Well, guess what? The only sign they're getting is "the sign of Jonah" (11:29).
- In a nutshell, Jonah told the Ninevites to repent or be destroyed (go read it for yourself in Jonah 3). That's exactly what the Son of Man's doing, and that's the only sign anyone's getting.
- The "queen of the South" (11:31) will preside as the judge over this generation and give them a guilty verdict. By the way, she's a non-Jew.
- She actually paid attention to Solomon's wisdom, and Jesus is more important than Solomon. Read all about this in 1 Kings 10:1-29.
- The Ninevites themselves will join her as judges of this generation and agree with her guilty verdict. By the way, the Ninevites are also non-Jews. Are you catching Jesus's drift yet?
- After all, the Ninevites repented upon hearing Jonah's message, and Jesus is more important than Jonah.
- Oh, by the way, the body's lamp is the eye. Wait, what?
- A quick lesson in ancient physiology might give you a better understanding of these sayings. Back in the day, people thought the eye could see by transmitting the light that resides within the body.
- Healthy eyes = sufficient light within the body; sick eyes = darkness within the body. That means that 20/20 vision depends on inner light.
- Of course, Jesus isn't an eye doctor, but he's using physiology as a metaphor for ethics. You do the figuring.
A Dinner Party Turns Ugly—Again
- Another Pharisee asks Jesus to dine with him. Evidently, he wasn't at the first dinner, which wasn't pretty (look back at 7:36-50).
- Jesus accepts, goes, and stretches himself out on one of the couches. Sounds comfy.
- But the Pharisee is shocked at his failure to wash before eating. Did his mom tell him to wash his hands? The concern is not with hygiene, though, but with ritual purity.
- Jesus isn't afraid to take his host to task. He's getting snippy again.
- You Pharisaic highbrows wash plates and cups good and clean, at least on the outside. But the inside (not of the tableware, but of y'all) is still filthy, full of greed and wickedness.
- These guys are a bunch of idiots, who are unaware that God made both inside and outside. What they need to do is give away their innards in acts of compassion. Then they'll be totally clean.
- In fact, boo to you Pharisaic highbrows. You're so busy tithing stuff that you neglect justice and love for God, i.e. exactly what's required for earning eternal life (rewind to 10:27).
- Boo to you again! You cherish your seats of honor in synagogues and all of the attention people give you in town square.
- Boo for the third time! (This is fun.) You people are like graves unmarked by tombstones. People are walking over a bunch of corpses without even knowing.
- One of the highbrow professors of religious law at the dinner points out that Jesus is being offensive not only to Pharisees, but to everyone else. He's really snubbing their honor.
- In reply Jesus more or less says "good." He wants to offend them.
- And wait, there's more! Boo to you highbrow legal scholars, too! You weigh people down with heavy burdens, which you yourselves won't even touch with your finger.
- Guess what—more booing! You're building tombs for the prophets of old, but by doing that, you're praising your ancestors—the ones who killed them.
- The sad fact of the matter is that this generation will be held responsible for every murdered prophet in the world's whole history. Yikes.
- Jesus really won't let this one go. He continues: This means that you will be punished for all the blood spilled from Cain's very first murder of Abel all the way up to the murder of Zechariah. For these murders, check out Genesis 4:1-16 and 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.
- So yeah, this generation will be punished for all of that. How? When?
- Who cares? We have more boos to dole out. Boo to you highbrow legal scholars! You've grabbed control over "the key of knowledge" (11:52), but you fail to enter and block the entry of others as well.
- Relieved that this dinner party's over, the religious highbrows head out. And they're not happy with Jesus.
- They start to interrogate Jesus tirelessly in the hopes that they'll catch him in some statement that they can use to discredit or charge him.
Conflict Management 101
- With a huge crowd trampling all over each other, Jesus gives his disciples specific guidelines for dealing with conflict and stress. It looks like Jesus is feeling the strains resulting from his big blow-up against the highbrows.
- First thing's first. Jesus tells the gang that the Pharisees are like actors who play a role that's at odds with their actual intentions.
- But don't worry, he says. Everything that's concealed will at some point in time become fully public and widely known. The question is when?
- Every single private word, conversation, agreement, and plot will in the course of time be published on You Tube, Twitter, and CNN. We may have already reached that age—unclear.
- This is not good news for Pharisees, whose basic strategy is hypocrisy, i.e., concealment (12:1; also, 11:53-54).
- Jesus tells his "friends" (12:4) not to fear those who have the power to kill nothing other than the body.
- Instead, they should direct their fears in the proper direction, namely toward God, who is able to throw them into hell after the body's already a corpse.
- Yep, that's the guy to fear.
- But Jesus softens this threat with a reassurance of God's care.
- Five sparrows have hardly any monetary value, but God remembers every single one of them. That's good news for all of the goldfish the kids win at state fairs.
- The same is true for the friends of Jesus. God keeps count of the hairs of their heads. They're worth more than both sparrows and state-fair goldfish, actually.
- Whoever's brave enough to fess up his Jesus-obsession in public has the guarantee that Jesus will vouch for him before God's angels. But Jesus-deniers can be sure that Jesus will deny them.
- We've heard something like this before in 9:26. The justice-principle here is essentially, what goes around comes around, a.k.a. the lex talionis.
- Starting to worry? Have you at some point failed to stand up for what you believe in?
- Don't sweat it. Anyone who's spoken ill of the Son of Man may still receive forgiveness.
- On the other hand, some people might be in trouble. Anyone who's gone so far as to offend the Holy Spirit has committed an unforgiveable sin (as, for example, in 11:15 perhaps?). Okay, so maybe you should sweat it.
- But back to the good news: when the friends of Jesus find themselves on trial before Jewish officers or imperial officials, they shouldn't stress about their defense-speech. After all, they'll have the Holy Spirit on their legal team providing advice about what to say.
How To Think About Possessions
- A person from the crowd requests that Jesus intervene in a dispute about inheritance.
- Jesus refuses. He's not one to judge in those matters. His only advice is not to be greedy. After all, life's substance has nothing to do with what you own.
- Jesus offers a little illustration of this principle. Did you expect any less?
- There's this wealthy guy who owns an exceedingly productive field. In today's economy, we might say he gets huge returns on his stocks.
The guy's returns are so big that he's run out of storage room for what he's earned. What's he going to do?
- He decides to raze his current warehouses and replace them with bigger ones. Bigger is always better, right? Then he'll have room for all of his produce and other possessions.
- Afterward, he can assure himself, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry" (12:19).
- Sounds good, right?
- God has a different idea, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" (12:20).
- There you have it. That's how it is for people who hoard stuff for themselves but aren't wealthy toward God. So the disciples shouldn't worry about where they're going to eat their next meal or about their clothes.
- Why not? Well, "life" or the "soul" (12:23; the Greek can be translated either way) goes way beyond basic nourishment. Ditto for the body's need for clothing.
- Take ravens, for example. (Why not?)
- They're not farmers. They don't have storerooms or barns. Yet God sure does care for their basic needs.
- And people are way more important than birds. (Sorry, PETA, we're just the messenger.)
- Is worrying a foolproof method for increasing the length of life or something?
- Nope. (Tell our mom that.)
- So why are they doing it? "How about another example, Jesus?"
- "Sure, Shmoop. Think about lilies."
- "The flower?"
- "Yes, Shmoop. What are you, a disciple? Get it through your thick head."
- Okay, back to the lilies. They don't do any work, but their clothes are slicker than Solomon's—and he was king.
- And they're practically grass, which grows and withers in one day. Won't God take even more care to give you the clothing that you need?
- People who worry are people of "little faith" (12:28).
- Disciples really should avoid getting worked up over food and drink. After all, God is the "father" who knows their needs.
- Okay, so we know the disciples shouldn't worry. What should they do? Put God's kingdom first, and basic needs will follow.
- Jesus is pulling out his big gun and firing off an explosive demand. Ready for it?
- His disciples are to sell their possessions and perform acts of compassion.
- For this they'll get a wallet that doesn't wear out and a bank account that no thieves or financial crash can touch.
- Their bank's in heaven, where there's security that no thief can get past, not even the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon.
And if thieves can't get at it, moths won't be able to eat holes in your stuff either. That's good news, we guess.
- Bottom line: whatever people treasure is a sure indication of where their loyalties lie.
- Unlike the wealthy guy in 12:16-21, the disciples should always stand ready, all belted up and holding lamps that are lit. After all, God might at any moment demand the ultimate reckoning.
- So the disciples should imitate servants who are waiting their master's return from a wedding. They'll want to be ready to open the door for him when he knocks. And happiness will belong to those servants who are awake when their masters get back.
- There'll be a reversal of roles. The master will be the one serving the servant while they dine and recline. He might not get back until after the Late Late Show, but they'll be happy as long as they've stayed awake.
- In slow motion ask yourself what this story's really about. Hint: Jesus.
- Here's another illustration. How many thieves would be successful if they scheduled a time to come rob your house? Is 3:30PM good for you?
- The general idea is that you've always got to be ready because that's not how theft works.
- The return of Jesus follows the very same logic. So be vigilant and be ready.
- Peter wants to know whether this is valid only for disciples like him or for everyone. Good question, Peter. We were too shy to ask.
- In response, Jesus spins another illustrative story. This guy's good!
- What happens when a master is away? Well, he lets a trustworthy and wise servant dole out the food to everyone.
- If the servant's doing just that when the master gets back, then kudos to him. He'll even get a promotion to chief servant.
- But if said servant feels like his master's taking forever and starts to be a jerk to the others, eat, drink, and get drunk, what do you think's going to happen?
- When his master returns, he'll catch his servant managing affairs badly. And—wait for it—he'll rip the servant's limbs and place them with "the unfaithful" (12:46 NRSV). Harsh.
- To answer your question, Peter, you bet this applies to you.
- Translation: If a person who knows the Lord's will (Peter & co.) doesn't translate knowledge into action, he'll be in trouble. Big trouble.
- If a person who doesn't know the Lord's will acts this same way, he'll be in big trouble, too. But not as much trouble as the guy who's in the know.
- Conclusion? "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required" (12:48). This might sound familiar.
- For Peter and other disciples, the job is just that much bigger.
- Jesus says that his purpose for coming is ultimately to bring fire to the earth, and he simply cannot wait until it's completed.
- He knows he'll be the cause of division, even though everyone's expecting that he'll bring peace.
- Take a second to compare this to Simeon's prediction in 2:34-35 and to grapple with how all of this talk of conflict jives with very real promises of peace (recall 2:14, 29; 7:50; 8:48).
- Because of Jesus, five people in one household will turn against each other. There'll be enmity between fathers, sons, daughters, mothers, and mothers-in-law. And it's not even Thanksgiving.
- Jesus gives another little illustration. You know, just for good measure.
- You know it's going to rain when you see dark clouds in the west; you know it's going to be hot when you feel the south wind blowing. If you can analyze the weather in these ways, you should be able to do the same for signs of the time.
- Jesus (finally) comes full circle to the guy who asked Jesus to serve as judge for his dispute with his brother over their inheritance (rewind to 12:13).
- Answer: they should settle their dispute privately. In fact, this holds true in general for anyone embroiled in legal disputes. Reconcile with each other before you go so far as to appear before an arbitrator.
- Jesus receives news that the prefect Pontius Pilate killed a group of Galileans who had taken a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Um, that's exactly where Jesus, also from Galilee, is heading.
- Jesus wants to know if the Galileans were sinners worthy of such punishment.
- For Jesus, the answer is yes: crime deserves punishment. But clearly he doesn't stop there—he universalizes it for everyone involved.
- After all, anyone who doesn't turn his life around will perish just like that.
- Jesus adds another example, this time focusing on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. There he goes again, broadening his net. Are you from Galilee or Jerusalem? It don't matter.
- The eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam collapsed were criminals, but no less than other inhabitants of Jerusalem.
- And they'll all die just like them unless they change direction.
- Jesus is turning all self-help book. Everyone is invited to see themselves as one of those people who have perished for their sins, and then to change while there's still time.
- Everyone is granted a second chance, and they better take it. How about a story to prove the point? Why, of course.
- A landowner plants a fig tree on his farm. He arrives to gather its produce, but there's not a single fig; so he complains to the farm's manager that he's waited three years for this tree to produce fruit, and nothing. What else is there to do but to chop it down so that it doesn't waste valuable soil?
- But the manager advises that he give it another year. He'll work the soil and shovel in some manure for fertilizer. Then he'll see what it can do. But if he does all that, and results are not forthcoming, then the owner should definitely chop the tree down.
- Second chances, people.
Jesus Breaks Sabbath Again
- Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on a sabbath, as he often does (recall 4:15-16, 31-33; 6:6).
- This time, he meets a woman who's possessed by a spirit that has caused her to be hunched over for eighteen years.
- As soon as he sees her, Jesus deems her "free" (13:12 NRSV) or "loosed" (KJV) from her condition. He's still doing what he said he would in 4:18-19.
- He lays his hands on her and she straightens up, giving God requisite props.
- But—surprise, surprise—the chief of the synagogue is annoyed that Jesus did this work on the sabbath.
- The chief argues that six days are for labor, and he has Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15 to back him up. Why can't Jesus heal her tomorrow?
- If this whole fiasco sounds familiar, it's because Luke loves to weave themes like this in and out of the story.
- In response, Jesus calls the chief and anyone who agrees "hypocrites" (13:15). After all, they themselves do exactly what they're condemning.
- Everyone takes care to untie their farm animals on the sabbath in order to give them food and water. The possessed woman is a fellow Jew, and Satan's held her tied up for eighteen years.
- It's inconsistent, even inhuman, to argue that it's a breach of the sabbath to untie her from her demonic affliction, while it is not a breach to untie a silly cow or donkey. (Check out Jesus's similar logic in 6:9.)
- This pretty much puts all of his opponents to shame, and the crowd is psyched. Go Jesus.
Parables? Yes, Please
- Ready for some deep thoughts? Because Jesus is about to launch into the first of several parables illustrating various aspects of God's kingdom.
- Take the mustard seed, for example. (Sure, why not?) You plant the thing in your garden, where it eventually becomes a huge tree where birds build their nest. If you've been reading your Psalms (104:12), this will sound familiar.
- There's also yeast. (But of course!) A woman works a little into a lump of dough, and the whole lump becomes yeasty. That's what God's kingdom is like. Yeasty.
- Jesus is teaching in each village and city as he journeys toward Jerusalem.
- At one point, someone asks him whether only a handful of people are saved.
- Hmmm, how to respond? How about… a story?
- It's true that people should compete to enter through the narrow "gate" (13:24 KJV) or "door" (NRSV), he said. The competition is necessary because a lot of people will want in, but won't have the chops.
- While he's at it, this image of the door reminds Jesus of another relevant illustration.
- Once the master of the house rises and shuts the door, it'll be shut for good. He's not going to open it again.
- You'll be standing outside, knocking, and pleading, "Open to us" (13:24). But the master will turn you away and as though you're strangers reply, "I do not know where you come from" (13:25).
- This seems uncool, so you'll plead again, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets" (13:26). The master will repeat that you're a bunch of strangers and for good measure will add in the words of Psalm 6:8, "Go away from me, all you evildoers" (NRSV).
- Sounds like a bad dream to us.
- Outside the door, people will be mourning and grinding their teeth.
- Why? Because inside, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (read all about them in Genesis) will be together with all of the prophets.
- They'll be in God's kingdom, while you'll be—not.
- Oh, and there will also be a bunch of non-Jews in there.
- They'll all be enjoying a big dinner party in God's kingdom.
- This gives new meaning to the paradox, "some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (13:30).
- So what is Jesus's answer to the question posed in 13:23?
- Some of the Pharisees inform Jesus that Herod the tetrarch is plotting to kill him. This is the same Herod of 3:1; 8:3; and 9:7-8. He's starting to get a bit pesky.
- Anyway, it's really better for Jesus's safety that he leave Herod's jurisdiction, which is Galilee.
- Jesus urges them to "go and tell that fox" (13:32) that he'll be on his merry way doing his job, exorcizing and healing. He ain't scared of no tetrarch.
- After a few days, he's continuing on to Jerusalem.
- Wait, what?
- It's not that he's scared of Herod's threats. It's just that it's his destiny to die where all the prophets die.
- All this talk of Jerusalem provokes Jesus to lament the fate of this city.
- She kills the prophets and stones other God-send people. But Jesus just wants to give her a big hug, like a hen gathers her brood under her wings.
- But Jerusalem won't have any of it.
- The odd thing is that when Jesus does arrive in Jerusalem, she will praise him as the blessed one coming in the name of the Lord. You can thank Psalm 118:26 for inspiring those words.
A Dinner Party Turns Ugly—Episode Three
- One of the leading Pharisees invites Jesus to dinner.
- Seriously, when are they going to learn their lesson? These dinners never end well (rewind to 7:36-50 and 11:37-54).
- The Pharisee's intention is probably not all that good. It's basically a way of keeping an eye on Jesus.
- It happens to be the Sabbath—how convenient!—and a man with dropsy is there.
- Jesus immediately brings up an old argument, "Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?" (14:3)
- Of course, we already know what everyone involved thinks about this issue—check out 6:6-11 and 13:10-17 if you've forgotten.
- Everyone's silent. Typical.
- Jesus continues. Let's say your son or even your cow falls into a pit. You'll try to get them out of there even on a sabbath, right?
- Again, no answer.
- Jesus goes on the offensive with another illustration of the highbrows' inadequacy.
- Jesus observes how all the guests were clamoring for the best seats upon their arrival.
- Let's say you're invited to a wedding reception. You don't go up and sit next to the bride's mom, do you? We sure hope not.
- Why? Someone like the bride's brother, who's more important than you, will arrive, and the groom will have to ask you to move so that the bride's brother can sit where he's supposed to.
- Then you'll have to go sit with the DJ next to the exit. Everyone will think you're an idiot, and you'll be really embarrassed.
- You should go to the party with a totally different strategy: sit with the DJ next to the exit first. Then there's no place to move but upward.
- The person who sent you the invitation will lead you to a much better seat, and everyone will think, "Wow, what an important fellow!"
- Jesus is really on a roll, and now he directs a little story to the host of the dinner party.
- When you're throwing a big party, don't invite all your friends, relatives, and rich neighbors. The real reason you're doing that anyway is that you want them to return the favor. Then you can go to all of the cool parties.
- Instead, you should invite all the people who can't repay you. But your favor will be returned at the end of time when the just are resurrected.
- One of Jesus's co-recliners actually seems to agree for once and excitedly exclaims, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (14:54).
- This eggs Jesus on and he tells another story.
- A man's planning a big party and sends out a ton of invitations. When the day comes, he sends forth his servant to round up all of those invited, "Come; for everything is ready now" (14:17). But each one of them has a reason why they are unable to attend.
- The first guy's purchased a field and it's very urgent that he see what he bought.
- The second guy's purchased five oxen and he wants to test them out.
- The third guy just got married and he's got new responsibilities at home.
- The servant returns and reports to his master that everyone's busy, which, naturally, doesn't go over well.
- The master orders his slave to go forth into the city's squares and alleyways, where he is supposed to invite "the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame." When that's not enough, he brings even more people in.
- The master concludes: "none of those invited will taste my dinner" (14:24).
Job Description for a Disciple of Jesus
- A large crowd is traveling with Jesus, when he posts a job description for being his disciple.
- You don't need a college degree. You only need to be able to devote your all to Jesus.
- This means hating your family. Fathers, mothers, wife, children, brothers, sisters—you will have to squash your bond with them in order to solidify your friendship with Jesus.
- While you're at it, you might as well be prepared to devalue your life as well.
- Potential disciples have to make sure they're up for following Jesus.
- No one commits to building a tower without first calculating the expenses and making a responsible budget, right? Otherwise, he'll lay the foundation and then stop. Everyone will laugh at the half-finished building, which will be a cause for shame.
- It's also like a king who doesn't go to war with another king without first making sure his army's big enough. If the army's too small, he'll send an embassy to the other king and seek to draw up a peace-treaty.
- So the big qualification for the job of disciple is that you be willing to say adios to everything you own.
- These requirements are like the saltiness of salt. Salt that loses saltiness is useless, and so are you if you don't meet these basic requirements.
- Got ears? Use 'em.
The Value of the Lost
- All the tax collectors and sinners are drawing close to hear Jesus, and the highbrows don't like it one bit: "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them" (15:2). Nothing we haven't heard before.
- As usual, Jesus responds with a little illustration.
- A shepherd's herding his flock of one-hundred sheep, but one of them turns up missing. What does he do? He leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and goes off to search for the one missing sheep. When he finds the lost sheep, he carries it home rejoicing, and he invites his friends and neighbors over to celebrate with him.
- That's what the joy in heaven is like for the person who turns his life around (as opposed to the ninety-nine who are fine and dandy).
- How 'bout another story?
- A woman has ten coins. If she loses one, she lights the lamp, sweeps her house, and searches tirelessly until she finds it. When she does find it, she invites her friends and neighbors over for a big celebration. Here's to finding the lost coin!
- That's exactly what the joy is like among God's angels when one person turns his life around.
- Okay, one more story. This one's really good, so pay attention.
- A father has two sons. The younger son asks his dad for his part of the inheritance, so the dad divides up all he's got.
- It's not long before the younger son gathers up his heap of the money, goes off to a faraway land, and squanders every cent in sinful living. He's a veritable [insert washed up celebrity here].
- But when severe famine grips his new country, the younger son feels the pinch.
- One of the citizens hires him to herd his pigs. Don't forget, pigs are unclean for Jews who cannot eat pork (Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8). Evidently, the younger son has gone to a non-Jewish region.
- The poor kid's so hungry he's trying to eat leftover pig-feed, but nobody even allows him to eat that. The kid starts to think about all of his father's employees who are eating plenty of bread. And here he is totally famished.
- He might as well swallow his pride, go to his father, and apologize for being such an idiot. He'll even ask for a demotion from son to employee. He's not really worthy to be his father's son anyway.
- The kid makes this resolution and heads back home.
- While he's approaching his house, his father catches a glimpse of him, is moved to compassion, runs over to him for some hugs and kisses.
- The kid starts to say what he had rehearsed back at the pig-farm. He confesses his stupid actions and admits he's not worthy to be his father's son.
- But before he can ask for a demotion, the father, who's not really listening anyway, orders his servants to go and get his nicest suit for his son to wear, a ring for his finger, and a pair of sandals. Then they should sacrifice a juicy, meaty, and fat cow, so they can all celebrate over a good meal.
- His son is like a revived corpse. He was lost and then found. (An alarm should be going off reminding you to think back to 15:3-10.)
- Meanwhile, the older son's working in the field. As he gets close to the house, he hears the sounds of celebration. Music's being played, and people are dancing.
- He asks one of the servants what's going on. The servant informs him that his brother has returned home in decent health and his father's throwing a big party for him. He's served up the best steak in the house.
- The older brother is not cool with this and refuses to join the party.
- His father comes out to invite him to join everyone. No siree. The older brother points out that he's worked so hard for several years and has always obeyed all of his father's orders, but he's never even received ground chuck to grill up some burgers and celebrate with his friends.
- And here this son of his has returned from wasting all of his father's hard-earned money on whores. It's just not fair that he's cooking up the Porterhouse steaks for this idiot.
- The father reasons with his older son. He's always with him; they share everything together. But this brother of his is like a revived corpse. He was lost and then found. So we've heard. That's reason to celebrate.
- And here ends the lesson, directed to some very annoyed highbrows.
A Model for Discipleship
- Jesus tells a little story for his disciples. He'd be the best dad ever—so many stories!
- There's this super wealthy guy who's hired someone to manage his finances. We might call him a stockbroker.
- Accusations surface against the stockbroker. He's been mismanaging the guy's portfolio. Not cool.
- The wealthy guy fires his stockbroker and asks for one final account of his records.
- The broker realizes he's in trouble. What's he going to do now? His hands are too soft for manual labor, and his pride is too big for welfare.
- But this broker's a clever fellow, and he has a plan. He calls up each of his current employers' debtors one by one.
- He asks the first how much he currently owes. The debtor responds, "A hundred jugs of olive oil" (16:6). The broker informs him that he's deleting this from his records and entering instead that he owes fifty.
- He asks the second how much he currently owes. The debtor responds, "A hundred containers of wheat" (16:7). The broker promises to delete this and enter eighty in its place.
- What does the wealthy employer do when he discovers his broker's fraud?
- Surprise! The employer gives the broker props for acting so shrewdly.
- What is this, The Prince?
- Jesus concludes that the CEOs and CFOs of Fortune 500 companies are much shrewder than his own followers.
- Jesus adds that his followers should strive to be more like them: "make friends for yourself by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes" (16:9).
- Hmmm, how can Jesus possibly use an example of fraud as a positive example for discipleship? Take some time to chew on that.
- Jesus adds that a person who's trustworthy in small matters is also trustworthy in big matters. The opposite is also true. Like the broker in the previous story, the person who's unjust in small matters will be unjust in big matters.
- Jesus applies this principle. If you don't handle your earthly wealth in a way that's trustworthy, then who's going to trust you with true wealth? And if you're not a trustworthy manager of someone else's stuff, who's going to trust you with your own?
- As far as money's concerned, you can't spend all your energy trying to earn it and expect to have anything left for other pursuits.
- You have to make a choice about your supreme values. Money or God? You can't have it both ways.
- The Pharisees overhear all of this talk of money; they're greedy jerks and are ridiculing Jesus. But Jesus tells them off. They're always trying to come off as really moral before everyone, when in reality they're only in it for the profit.
- But God knows this. Besides, what humans think is impressive, God thinks is a bunch of baloney.
The Law and Divorce
- Time for the LSAT. Jesus confirms the validity of the Jewish law and prophets as they are found in the Hebrew Bible.
- Their authority has persisted for many years, "until John" (16:16).
- Since John came on the scene, a new message of comparable authority is making its way among mortals. It is a message about God's kingdom.
- Everyone is trying to enter God's kingdom "by force" (16:16). Um, what?
- But the Jewish law is still valid despite these important developments. In fact, heaven and earth will no longer exist before any of these laws lose their authority. That's another way of saying forever.
- Now let's get specific. A husband and wife may be physically separated by divorce. But remarriage is not an option. It's tantamount to adultery. The assumption is that the initial bond of marriage is permanent. You know, 'til death do us part.
Lazarus and The Rich Man
- Guess what it's time for. Another story. We swear we're not getting antsy.
- This one also stars another Richie Rich. He goes around in the best suits Brooks Brothers has to offer, and lives a pretty sweet life.
- But there's this impoverished guy named Lazarus who spends his days sitting at Richie Rich's gate. He's covered with sores and wounds, and he asks only to eat the scraps from Richie Rich's table. Some of those bones might have a little meat left on them, you know?
- But all he gets are dogs that come by to lick his sores. In time, Lazarus dies, and angels bring him off to Abraham's lap.
- Richie Rich also dies, but he's being tortured in Hades. And just to rub it in, he can see Lazarus from a distance all nice and comfy in Abraham's lap. P.S. This is exactly what Mary was talking about in 1:51-53.
- Richie Rich begs Abraham for mercy. Can't Lazarus just dip the tip of his finger in some nice cool water and touch Richie Rich's tongue? He's in total agony because of this pesky flame.
- Abraham says—in a nutshell—"Nope!"
- Richie Rich enjoyed the finest things while he was alive, while Lazarus suffered terribly. Now, the situation is totally reversed. Lazarus will be comforted, and Richie Rich will be miserable.
- Besides, part of the cosmic architecture is this huge "chasm" (16:26 NRSV) or "gulf" (KJV) here, which can't be crossed from either side.
So Richie Rich is, well, stuck for good.
- Richie Rich pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to his family's house. There's no chasm keeping Lazarus from going there, right? Then he'll be able to warn the other Riches, who still have time to avoid this hellish place.
- One more time: "Nope!"
- Why should he send Lazarus when they already have Moses and the prophets to warn them?
- Richie Rich persists: "No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent" (16:30). Your English teacher will call this foreshadowing.
- "Actually, you're wrong," responds Abraham. They don't listen to Moses and the prophets. They won't listen to someone who's resurrected either.
More Instructions For Disciples
- Jesus is addressing his disciples. Here's his spiel.
- It's certain that there will be plenty of things to trip you up, but here's a big boo to the person who's responsible for those obstacles. He'll wish one of those huge millstones were tied around his neck as he's tossed in the ocean. After all, that's a better fate than causing "one of these little ones" (17:2) to fall. Who are the "little ones"?
- Jesus warns his disciples to be on their guard. These instructions are for them.
- They should rebuke another disciple for sinning against them, but they should forgive him if he's sorry.
- Even if this happens seven times a day, the rule is still valid. That would be a lot of apologizing.
- The apostles request that Jesus increase their faith.
- Jesus responds that faith as small as a mustard seed is still capable of uprooting a fruit tree and re-planting it in the ocean.
- Need an illustration? No problem.
- Your servant returns from a day of plowing or shepherding. You're not going to reward him and ask him to sprawl out on the couch for dinner.
- Right? You're going to order him to prepare your dinner. You're going to make him don his butler's suit, serve your food, and pour your drink. After that, he's allowed to take his own supper.
- What's the lesson? You don't reward a servant for doing what he's ordered. It's his job.
- Oh, and it's the same for all y'all.
- Your attitude should be that you're worthless slaves for doing only what you've been ordered.
Say "Thank You"
- Jesus is still traveling toward Jerusalem via Galilee and Samaria. As he enters a certain village, ten men infected with leprosy catch Jesus's attention.
- They cry out to Jesus, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (17:3).
- As soon as he sees them, Jesus orders them to show themselves to the priests. Along the way, they are cleansed of their leprosy. Whoa.
- Realizing he's been healed, one of them returns, shouting at the top of his lungs and giving major props to God. He falls on his face at Jesus's feet thanking him profusely.
- Wait for it: he's a Samaritan. Rewind to 9:52-55 and 10:30-36 for some detailed comments on Samaritans.
- Jesus asks, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?" (17:17). Jesus is taken aback by the fact that only one of them returned to give God due props.
- He tells the Samaritan to stand up and depart. His faith has saved him.
God's Kingdom Come! But When?
- A Pharisee poses a question we at Shmoop have been asking quite a bit as we read the story: when is God's kingdom supposed to arrive?
- In response, Jesus says that God's kingdom isn't going to come "with things that can be observed" (17:20). There's no TV Guide for this. No one's going to be saying, "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" (17:21 KJV).
- Why? God's kingdom's within y'all.
- Jesus gives his disciples a few more instructions on this topic.
- It won't be long until they're feeling nostalgia for the good old days when Jesus was with them. People will say, "See here; or, see there" (17:23 KJV). They're really not supposed to run after such reports or track them down.
- Why? The day the Son of Man returns is as unmistakable as a flash of lightning. You're not going to miss it.
- But a lot is destined to occur before this. The Son of Man has to undergo suffering and be rejected by this generation.
- When the Son of Man does return, it will pretty much be business as usual for everyone. They'll be eating, drinking, and getting hitched.
- It will be similar to events in Noah's day, when the flood destroyed everyone except Noah when they least expected it. Jesus sure knows his Genesis 6:5-8:22.
- It will also be a lot like events in Lot's day. All the inhabitants of Sodom were eating, drinking, doing business, planting, and building. Then it started to rain fire and sulfur, and everyone perished. That's another Genesis shout-out: 18:16-19:29.
- Anyway, that's exactly how it's going to be when the Son of Man comes back. That is, business as usual, yet no one's going to miss it.
- Okay. We're scared. But how does this jive with what Jesus said in 17:20?
- When it happens, they definitely shouldn't try to hurry up and pack or finish whatever task they're doing. They are advised to keep the example of Lot's wife in mind. She looked back at Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. Really, she did. Read it for yourself in Genesis 19:17, 26.
- It's kind of counterintuitive. By trying to secure life, it's lost. By losing life, it's preserved. We've heard something like this before… oh that's right: 9:24.
- It's also unpredictable. If two people are in one bed, "One will be taken" (17:34) (by whom? where?), while the other sleeps right through it.
- If two women are busy at the mill together, one will be taken, while the other will be like, "Huh? Where'd she go?"
- The disciples ask the million-dollar question: "Where, Lord?" (17:37).
- Jesus responds very cryptically: "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather" (17:37). Um, thanks for clarifying.
Prayer For Dummies—Again
- Do we even need to say it? Time for another story. This time showing the disciples how to pray.
- Okay, so there's this judge in a certain city who has no respect for God or mortals. In the same city there's also a widow who keeps going to the judge.
- She's demanding that he grant her justice, but he refuses. After a while, though, the judge reasons that he should decide in her favor. It's not that he really cares about justice, it's just that this lady keeps bugging him.
- If this stupid judge will grant justice to a pesky lady, it's pretty certain that God will do at least that much. (Sound like 11:13 much?)
- The lesson? Prayer is sort of like annoying God into giving people their due. We've heard this before (11:5-8).
- Now Jesus rolls out another story tailored especially for snobs who think they're something special and treat others as though they're trash.
- Two guys are praying in the temple. One's a Pharisee, and the other's a tax collector.
- The Pharisee prays this priggish prayer that goes something like this: "Dear God, I sure am glad I'm not like other people. They're a bunch of stupid losers. They're all greedy, unjust, and hungry for sex with married women. You know, like this tax collector over here. While he's busy sinning, I'm fasting twice per week and giving ten percent of everything I own away."
- Meanwhile, the tax collector's standing far away and won't even lift his eyes to heaven. He's mournfully beating his chest, begging God for mercy and admitting that he's sinful.
- Jesus concludes that the tax collector's the moral one. We bet you saw that one coming.
- After all, "all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted" (18:14).
- Jesus also gives a shout out to babies. That's right: God's kingdom belongs to these little cuties.
How To Think About Possessions—In Case You Missed It
- A person with a lot of political clout addresses Jesus as "good teacher" (18:18) and asks what he should do to live forever.
- First things first: Jesus doesn't get why this politician's calling him "good" when only God is good.
- But he answers him anyway. He reminds the politician that the commandments are clear enough, and he cites five of the big ten just as they are found in Exodus 20:12-16 and Deuteronomy 5:16-20.
- The politician thinks that's pretty easy. He's done all that since he was a kid. But Jesus has a few more to add.
- The politician should sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Then he'll be in for a big bonus on heavenly payday.
- Oh, and then he needs to follow Jesus.
- Uh-oh. The politician is upset. He's got a lot of money.
- Jesus notices and remarks, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (18:24). Answer? It's so hard, a camel has an easier time passing through the eye of a needle.
- So… impossible?
- Not quite. Jesus points out that for God at least it's possible.
- Peter reminds Jesus that he and the other disciples have done exactly what Jesus wants. They've left everything. It's true: rewind to 5:4-11 and 5:27-28.
- Jesus responds that the best investment is leaving house, wife, brothers, parents, and children for God's kingdom. Do that and you're in for a huge return on your investment even in this present age.
- And in the next age you'll live forever.
- Jesus takes the twelve aside in order to remind them what's about to go down in Jerusalem. Everything the prophets wrote about the Son of Man will come to pass.
- He'll be betrayed to non-Jews, mocked, maltreated, dripping wet from the loogies people will hock at him, whipped, and killed. But he'll rise on the third day. We feel like we've heard this before (recall 9:22, 44 and 17:25).
- But guess what? The disciples don't get it.
How It All Goes Down in Jericho
- Jesus is finally drawing near to Jericho, which is close to Jerusalem, their final destination.
- Are we there yet?
- A blind man is sitting at the side of the road where he's begging. Hearing the crowd, he asks what's going on.
- When he's told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, he shouts, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (18:38). People are ordering him to pipe down, but he starts to cry out louder.
- Guess what Jesus does? Yep—he makes the blind man see. The guy gives God a big hurrah, and so does everyone else.
- As Jesus passes through Jericho, a man named Zacchaeus is there. This guy is loaded.
- He's trying to see Jesus, but he's a short guy, and the crowd's too large. Zacchaeus sprints ahead and climbs a sycamore tree so he can see Jesus when he passes.
- As Jesus walks by the tree, he looks up and sees Zacchaeus: "Zacchaeus! You come down from there! For I'm going to your house today!"
- Zacchaeus is thrilled to oblige.
- Everyone moans because Jesus chooses to stay with a sinner. What gives?
- Zacchaeus stops dead in his tracks and makes an unexpected announcement to Jesus: he's giving half of his possessions to the poor, and he's using the other half to repay anyone he's defrauded fourfold.
- Jesus declares that deliverance belongs to Zacchaeus and his house. Finally, here's a rich guy who's doing it right (as opposed to say 12:16-21; 16:14-15, 19-31; and 18:18-27).
- Jesus gives a nice big "I told you so" to the grumblers from 19:7. He's come to deliver the lost.
A Tricky Parable
- Time for another illustration. This time, to correct the mistaken impression that God's kingdom is going to appear as soon as Jesus reaches Jerusalem.
- There's this nobleman who's departing for a faraway land in order to conquer a kingdom. His plan afterward is to return.
- He summons ten servants and gives each of them one "pound" (19:13) with instructions to invest and do business until his return.
- BTW, the citizens of this fellow's country despise him and go so far as to send an embassy requesting that he never return.
- After expanding his dominion, the nobleman returns and summons the servants he had charged with money to see how they did.
- The first comes and reports that he's taken his pound and turned it into ten. Not bad. The nobleman reasons that if he's trustworthy in this, he'll be trustworthy in other things, so he lets him be governor of ten cities.
- The second guy comes and reports that he's invested his pound and turned it into five. Accordingly, the nobleman gives him governorship over five cities.
- The third comes and returns the pound that he was given in the first place, no more and no less. It's actually kind of dirty—he had just buried it in the ground.
- Why? He says that the nobleman's a scary guy—way too strict and unjust.
- The nobleman is majorly ticked. At the very least the servant could have put the money in a bank, where it could have earned him some interest.
- He orders the bystanders to take this servant's pound and give it to the first one who had earned ten.
- Huh? The first servant already has ten!
- Exactly, says the nobleman: "to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" (19:26). We've heard that before (flip back to 8:18).
- Then the nobleman orders that his enemies be slaughtered while he watches. Machiavelli would be proud.
- How is this story a response to the initial issue raised in 19:11? Why is it placed directly before the entry into Jerusalem? Who do the opponents of the nobleman represent? And the nobleman himself, who's he?
Arrival In Jerusalem, The City of Destiny
- Jesus is leading his followers right up to Jerusalem. It's been a long trip since Chapter 9.
- He arrives at Bethphage and Bethany on the city's outskirts at a place called Mount of Olives.
- He orders two of his disciples to enter the village. There they'll find a colt tied up on which no one's ever sat before. If someone asks them what they're doing, they're simply to respond, "The Lord needs it" (19:34). Yep, God needs a horse.
- Sure enough, everything goes down exactly how Jesus said, and Jesus gets on the colt.
- Everyone's strewing their shirts before him while he travels along the road.
- As he gets close to the bottom of the Mount of Olives, a huge group of disciples is celebrating. They've seen so many miracles!
- Now they're calling Jesus "king." That's one serious claim.
- In words that are familiar to attentive ears, they're hoping for "Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" (19:38). Take a look all the way back to 2:14 for a refresher.
- Some of the Pharisees in the crowd urge Jesus to silence his disciples. They're going too far. He's going to get into trouble. But Jesus refuses.
- As soon as he sees the city, Jesus breaks into tears. Armies are destined to besiege her; they'll destroy her and her children within, and no stone will be left standing on stone.
- History buffs, take note. This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans at the end of the Jewish War in 70 CE.
- Why is this going to happen? Because Jerusalem will not recognize God's visitation.
- Jesus enters the precinct of the temple in Jerusalem and drives out the merchants who've set up shop there.
- As justification for his actions, Jesus cites Isaiah 56:7, which states that God's house is a "house of prayer," and Jeremiah 7:11, which condemns those who treat it as a "den of robbers" (19:46).
- Jesus starts to teach each day in the precinct of the temple. But the chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the people want to bring him down.
- One little problem: he's a huge major crowd-pleaser. How will they defeat him?
Jesus Shows Up Jerusalem's Highbrows
- Jesus is teaching in the precinct of the temple, where he's delivering good news. As always, the chief priests, scribes, and elders are there to challenge him. They don't think he has the authority to do things like expel merchants from the temple (recall 19:45) and call school to session.
- Jesus responds to their question with a question of his own. What do they think about John's baptism? Was it "from heaven, or was it of human origin?" (20:4).
- They consult with each other. They're in a pickle: acknowledging that John's baptism originated from heaven will allow for a counter-response that they didn't believe it.
- But saying what they really think will only get them in trouble with the crowds, who would stone them because they consider John a prophet. And yes, stoning was how things went down back then.
- Solution? "We don't know."
- Jesus responds that—tit for tat—he won't answer their question either.
- And with that, it's time for another story.
- This guy plants a vineyard, leases it to farmers, and leaves for several years.
- At the time of harvest the owner sends his servant to collect the produce that he deserves. But the farmers send him away empty-handed after giving him a thorough beating.
- The owner tries again with another servant. But the farmers kick this next guy's butt, dishonor him, and send him off empty-handed as well.
- Third time's a charm, right? Wrong. The farmers really bloody this one up and throw him out of the vineyard.
- The owner reasons that it's a good idea now to send his own "beloved son" (20:13). Yeah, you should be putting the pieces together right about now.
- The farmers will respect him, for he's got a higher status than the servants. But alas, it's not that easy. The farmers say, "This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours" (20:14).
- And they do just that: they throw him out of the vineyard and murder him.
- What's the owner going to do?
- Well, it won't be pretty: "He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others" (20:16).
- The audience is kind of shocked by all of this.
- But Jesus gives them a stern look and reminds them of the words of Psalm 118:22, "The stone that the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone" (20:17).
- Ominously, Jesus adds, "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls" (20:18). Dun dun dun.
- At that very second, the chief priests and scribes are eager to lay their hands upon Jesus. They're not dummies. They know they're supposed to be identified as the farmers in the parable.
- Now these guys really need a reason to justify charging Jesus before the governor Pontius Pilate.
- The teachers start by buttering Jesus up. He sure is smart! He teaches God's ways! He speaks the truth and doesn't care what anyone else thinks!
- Then they pop a big one: "Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" (20:22).
- Jesus sees right through their charade. They're terrible undercover agents.
- He asks whose picture is on the coin anyway. They respond, "The emperor's." (That would be Tiberius.)
- Jesus tells them, "give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" (NRSV).
- The teachers fail in their mission and are shocked by Jesus's ability to maneuver around their tricky question.
- Now the Sadducees take their turn.
- Their sect denies that the dead can be resurrected. They cite the law of Levirate Marriage, which says that a man should take the wife of his brother and raise offspring on his behalf if the brother has died childless. Read all about it in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
- How about a hypothetical example to elucidate things?
- There's this family with seven brothers. The first marries but dies childless. The second and then the third marry his wife, but they both die childless, too. This happens five more times, and no child is ever born.
- Then the woman herself dies.
- Sorry, did we mention this was kind of depressing?
- The Sadducees want to know whose wife she'll be when the dead are resurrected. After all, each of the brothers had her as his wife.
- Jesus makes quick work of this elaborate case-study by refuting one big assumption. It's people here and now who're getting married, but marriage isn't going to happen among those who are actually worthy enough to enjoy the future age and attain resurrection.
- They're certainly not going to marry, and they're not going to die either. They'll be more like angels are now or even "children of God" in that they're "children of the resurrection" (20:36).
- And if you're not convinced, he has another argument based on scripture.
- During the whole burning bush scenario, we hear about the Lord who is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Fact check Jesus in Exodus 3:6.
- Jesus underlines that God is the God of the living, not the God of the dead. The implication is that these patriarchs are all still alive in some sense even after their death long before the time of Moses.
- Even some of the scribes are impressed with Jesus's ability to dismantle the objection of the Sadducees. No more questions, your honor.
- So Jesus asks them a question.
- Here's a little problem with Psalm 110:1. Why does David call the Messiah Lord, when the Messiah's supposed to be David's son, as far as his lineage is concerned?
- No answer.
- So Jesus decides to go on an anti-scribe rant. They love to walk around in their posh robes. They love people fawning all over them in the market. They love seats of honor in synagogues. They love to recline on the best couch during banquets. (We've definitely heard all this before.)
- But they devour even the measly resources of widows. They pray long priggish prayers. And they'll receive a whole lot of judgment. When?
- Now Jesus sees something interesting. He watches as several wealthy people donate money to the temple's treasury. He also sees an impoverished widow contributing "two small copper coins" (21:2).
- Jesus argues that the widow is contributing more than anyone else.
- Proportionately speaking, he's right. The rich donate only a portion of their wealth, while the widow donates everything she's got.
- What do you make of that one?
Visions Of The Future
- Everyone's talking about the beauty of the temple.
- Quick history snack: In Jesus's day, the precinct of the temple was undergoing a renovation started by Herod the Great a few decades earlier. You can still see some of the "beautiful stones" (21:5) of this renovation standing today as part of the renowned Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
- Field trip, anyone?
- But back to the story. Jesus fails to share their appreciation because he knows a day is coming when all of these exquisite stones will have been tossed down.
- When's it going to happen? Everyone wants to know.
- Here's the checklist: false prophets, wars and revolts, terrible earthquakes everywhere, famines, plagues, and freaky astronomical occurrences.
- Before it all goes down, followers will have a rough time of it. They can expect arrests, persecutions, trials, and prisons. They'll have to answer charges in synagogues as well as before kings and governors—all because of Jesus.
- The bright side is that this will provide them with lots of opportunities to spread their message? (We're guessing all this apocalyptic stuff with bring Twitter down, too.)
- By the way, a lot of these shenanigans actually occur in Acts, which is a follow-up volume to Luke. Read it and see for yourselves.
- But Jesus doesn't want his followers to worry beforehand about how they're going to defend themselves when they're on trial.
- Jesus promises to give them words of wisdom, and no opponent will have the ability to refute or contradict them.
- Sadly, though, they'll be facing a pretty nasty situation: parents, brothers, relatives, and friends will be informers who'll rat them out.
- Some of them will be executed, and general hatred will prevail against them because of their devotion to Jesus.
- But wait!
- Not even a single hair will perish. And remember that God's counted each hair (12:7). That's comforting, but how does it jive with the possibility of execution in 21:16?
- When Jerusalem gets taken over, the people in Judea should get the heck out. Things will not be looking good.
- Jerusalem's destruction is essentially divine "wrath" (21:23) against the Jewish people.
- You should probably be asking what they did to deserve this "wrath" in Luke's view. Hint: starts with 20:16.
- Lots of death, destruction, and overall weirdness will go down, and that's exactly when they'll see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud" (21:27).
- That means their "redemption" (21:28) is drawing near.
- How about another little illustration to help?
- They know all about fig trees and their leaves. When the tree puts forth its leaves, that means it's almost time to pick its fruit.
- Same thing here. When they witness these crazy events, they'll know God's kingdom is on its way.
- Jesus promises, "this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place" (21:32).
- Wait a second. The events described here in 21:25-28 haven't happened yet, right? Dare we ask whether Jesus was wrong? The challenge is to sort out Luke's understanding of this issue of timing.
- Bottom line: they should pray to God that they'll have the strength to face up to everything that's about to occur and stand before the Son of Man.
- End of lesson.
- Jesus spends his days teaching in the temple, but he stays at night on the Mount of Olives.
- Everyone rises nice and early just to hear him. After all, it's Jesus who's teaching.
Betrayal, Passover, Arrest
- It's almost time for the festival of Unleavened Bread, celebrated right after Passover. Want some history on these festivals? Check out Exodus 12:1-28.
- The chief priests and scribes are still trying to find a way to crush Jesus, but his popularity with the crowd holds them in check.
- Meanwhile, none other than Satan takes possession of Judas. This demonic higher-up is back after his departure in 4:13.
- Judas consorts with the chief priests and officers about how he might assist them in capturing Jesus most efficiently.
- They are super happy and promise to pay this double agent well.
- Judas accepts their offer and starts to look for an opportune time, when no crowd is around to protect Jesus.
- It's time for the big kick-off to the festival of Unleavened Bread, which starts with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb.
- Jesus tells Peter and John to enter the city, where they'll spy a man carrying a jar of water. They're supposed to tail him to whichever house he's going, and then ask the owner of that house where "the teacher" (22:11) can celebrate the Passover with his disciples. The owner will show them a big room. That's where they should make their preparations.
- Wait, is Jesus the Son of God or a really creepy fortune teller?
- Everything happens exactly as Jesus foretells. NBD.
- Later, Jesus and his disciples are reclining for the Passover meal. Jesus says he's really excited to celebrate this holiday with them before things go south. After all, he's not going to celebrate like this again until everything's fulfilled in God's kingdom.
- Jesus raises a cup of wine, give thanks, and passes it around.
- Then he takes a loaf of freshly baked bread, gives thanks, breaks it up, and distributes a few tasty morsels for everyone. He says, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me" (22:19).
- How 'bout some blood to wash that body down? Don't mind if we do: "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (22:20).
- Jesus's table-talk is already ominous enough, but then he adds that one of the people he's eating will rat him out. There's a mole in the mix!
- The Son of Man's destiny is fixed, but his betrayer is still in big trouble. There's a fate-freewill conundrum for you to chew on.
- After arguing about who's the bad guy, they start arguing about which of them is the best.
- Jesus won't have any of it and tells them that he's in the process of transferring God's kingdom over to them.
- They can look forward to wining and dining in his kingdom. Oh, except for Simon—Satan's got his number. But Jesus assures Simon that his faith's not going to leave him for good. Once Simon's sobered up, his task will be to prop up his fellow disciples.
- Simon rejects this cryptic talk. He's ready to accompany Jesus to prison and will embrace execution if necessary.
- In response, Jesus tells Simon what he's in for point blank: "the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me" (22:34).
- Well, then.
- Jesus rewinds back to 9:3 and 10:4 and asks whether they had any needs when he sent them out without their wallets, bags, or even sandals.
- Answer: nopers.
- Jesus reverses that order: that was then, this is now.
- This time, they should take their wallets and bags. Oh, and get a sword, too.
- As is his custom, Jesus departs for the Mount of Olives, and the disciples tag along.
- When they get there, Jesus goes into a pretty hefty prayer and he suggests that his disciple pray that they don't flunk their upcoming exam.
- And now, folks, the moment you've all been waiting for.
- A crowd appears with Judas at the lead. Judas approaches Jesus and greets him with a kiss. Jesus replies, "is it with a kiss that you're betraying the Son of Man?" (22:48).
- As soon as his disciples realize what's going down, they want to kick some serious butt. One of them even draws his sword and slices off the ear of the chief priest's servant. But Jesus settles them down and restores the servant's ear (ah, tiny details).
- Jesus wonders why they didn't just arrest Jesus while he was teaching in the temple precinct. Well, darkness is the right time for shady people to do their work, so it's pretty fitting.
Trials and Verdicts
- While Peter's following Jesus to the high priest's residence, he manages to fulfill Jesus's prophecy to the T. He denies knowing Jesus three times… and then a cock crows. Ta-da!
- Meanwhile, the agents who arrested Jesus are mocking and bullying him. They blindfold him, punch him, and demand that he use his prophetic powers to divulge who smacked him.
- First thing the next day some pretty powerful highbrows convene and request Jesus's presence. They ask Jesus to tell them point blank whether he's the Messiah.
- Jesus can tell them, but they won't believe him. So why should he bother?
- If Jesus asks them what they think, they won't answer. He knows from experience. So what's the point?
- Jesus does say that the Son of Man is going to be God's right-hand man.
- Is he claiming that he's the Son of God? "Your words, not mine" is basically Jesus's response.
- The highbrows don't need any more evidence. This is as good as a confession in their view.
- They send Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect who has the power in this situation. Pilate can't really tell what Jesus has done wrong.
- He sends him off to Herod, who happens to be in Jerusalem for the festival, and Herod is really psyched to finally see a miracle.
- Jesus won't humor him, so Herod dresses him up as a king in a fancy robe and sends him back to Pilate. It's all about humiliation, apparently.
- Pilate appreciates Herod's joke and decides he's not a bad guy. Both Pilate and Herod agree that Jesus is—wait for it—not guilty.
- And that's the end of the gospel. Oh wait, not at all.
- The crowds keep protesting no matter how much Pilate fights back. And eventually, the guy gives in and "delivered Jesus to their will" (23:25 KJV).
- So even though Pilate doled out the final decision, it's pretty clear that the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Jewish leaders and people.
- Jesus is being led toward his crucifixion with a huge group of people—including women—following behind.
- Simon, a guy from Cyrene (in North Africa), is forced to carry the crossbeam for Jesus.
- When they get to a place called "The Skull" (23:33 NRSV) or "Calvary" (KJV), Jesus is crucified with two other criminals, one on each side.
- The Jewish people are standing there watching, while the political elite ridicule him: "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" (23:35) The Roman soldiers pipe in, offering him sour wine and shouting, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" (23:37).
- They're playing upon the inscription over Jesus that reads, "This is the King of the Jews" (23:38).
- One of the criminals joins in all the fun and tells Jesus to save them, too, if he is the Messiah.
- The other criminal sticks up for Jesus. Doesn't he have any respect for God? They've committed real crimes, which are deserving of a punishment such as this. But Jesus has done nothing wrong.
- Then he tells Jesus to do him the tiny favor of keeping him in mind when he enters the kingdom.
- Jesus responds, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (23:43).
- Around lunch time, darkness covers the whole earth for about three hours. That's pretty ominous for the middle of the day.
- With a loud voice Jesus cries his final words: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (23:46). He's quoting Psalm 31:5. That's a pretty poetic way to end things.
- A Roman centurion sees this event, gives God due props, and says, "Certainly this man was innocent" (23:47). Too late.
- Everyone else in the crowd is absolutely broken up.
- A nice guy named Joseph approaches Pilate and requests Jesus's body.
- He takes it down from the cross, wraps it in a burial shroud, and places it in a stone tomb by itself.
- The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee (recall 8:2-3 and 23:49) follow Joseph to see where the body is located. Then they get what they need to prepare the body for burial.
- But first, the sabbath.
The Empty Tomb
- On the first day of the week at the first crack of dawn, the women head to the tomb with everything they need to prepare Jesus's body for burial.
- But when they get there, they discover that the stone's already been rolled away from the tomb's entrance and Jesus's body is nowhere to be found.
- Um. Grave robber?
- While they're puzzling this out, two men are standing next to them wearing robes that flash forth lightning bolts.
- The women are freaked. Obviously.
- Then the beans are officially spilled: Jesus has been raised.
- They remind them what Jesus had foretold as far back as his days in Galilee. You all should jog your own memories, too: 9:22, 44; 17:25; and 18:32-33.
- He said way back then that sinners were going to get a hold of him and crucify him, but that on the third day he would rise.
Oh, yeah. Now they remember.
- The women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary (who was James's mom), and some others—leave the tomb and report their findings to the eleven disciples (sans Judas) and some other interested parties.
- Surprise, surprise—they don't believe them. Peter alone gets up and runs to the tomb. And sure enough, he sees it with his own two eyes.
A Jesus-Sighting on the Road to Emmaus
- On the same day, two of Jesus's followers are traveling to Emmaus when Jesus joins the party.
- They're blocked from recognizing that it's Jesus, so he just super casually asks what they're talking about.
- What? He must be the only person in Jerusalem who doesn't know what happened. You know, to Jesus of Nazareth. The guy was an incredibly powerful prophet, and Jerusalem's highbrows handed him over for execution.
- These followers say that their hope was that he was about to bring redemption to Israel. Now three days have passed, and some women are telling them that his body was missing from his tomb, where angels appeared to them telling them that he's living.
- A few people—including these guys—went over to the tomb and saw for themselves that his body wasn't there.
- Duh, says Jesus. The prophets foretold all of this. Way back in the wayback days, they wrote about the Messiah's suffering and subsequent entry into glory.
- Jesus proceeds to interpret the laws of Moses and the writings of the prophets for them in order to demonstrate what these authoritative texts have to say about himself.
- While the gang is reclining for dinner, Jesus takes the bread, blesses, breaks, and distributes it. These are familiar actions and it opens the followers' eyes. Cleopas and his companion recognize that it's none other than Jesus.
- Too late! Jesus disappears.
- They return to Jerusalem, where word on the street is that Jesus was resurrected—now, he had appeared to Simon, too.
- Right as everyone is chatting, Jesus appears. Huzzah!
- They think they're seeing a "ghost" (24:37 NRSV) or "spirit" (KJV), but Jesus wants to know why they're doubtful and afraid?
- He's the real deal. He's got flesh and bones, after all.
- The disciples are a mixed bag of emotions. Disbelief, joy, and awe are swirling in their heads.
- Then Jesus asks if they have any food for him. Hey, resurrection takes it out of you.
- They cook up a piece of fish for him, and he gobbles it down right in front of them.
- Now that he's eaten, Jesus has a few things to say to them:
- Everything written about him in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms has to come to pass. That's right, it's all foretold how the Messiah's supposed to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.
- Once that's done (check!) it's destined that "repentance and forgiveness of sins" (24:47) will be proclaimed throughout the whole of the Roman empire.
- It's going to start right here in Jerusalem with the disciples, who are witnesses to everything.
- Jesus promises to send them a special gift from God and tells them not to leave Jerusalem before they receive it. (Stay tuned for Acts to find out what this is all about.)
- Jesus leads the disciples to Bethany on the outskirts of Jerusalem and lifts his hands to bless them.
- At that moment, he rises up to heaven.
- They bow down to worship Jesus and return to Jerusalem, overjoyed. They spend all their time in the precinct of the temple shouting some major hip-hip-hoorays to God.