Sunday, Apr 01, 2007: “Luke: Session 7”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, April 01, 2007


Luke, Session 7:

The Passion Narrative and the Resurrection Stories (Luke 22-24)


The Passion and Resurrection narratives of the four canonical gospels, while including some variations particular to each, are remarkably similar. They are also of a length that seems to be disproportional to the rest of the gospel. In each of the synoptics, they take up three chapters; and in John, nine – even though the events recounted there all take place within the course of only four days.


Scholars agree that the Passion narratives were the first part of the gospel to reach a settled form. For St. Paul, the entire gospel consists of the story of Jesus’ death, resurrection and subsequent appearances. Martin Kähler famously remarked that the gospels are actually Passion narratives with long introductions.


22:1-38, Jesus’ Last Supper – The narrative is comprised of four parts:


1-6, the conspiracy against Jesus – The chief priests and the scribes continue to look for a way to put Jesus to death, but they are still afraid of the people. Their opportunity comes when Satan, who has been absent since 4:13, reenters the picture and enters into Judas Iscariot, who agrees to find a way to betray him when the protecting crowd is absent (6). Unlike Jn, Lk gives no motivation for Judas’ act. Yet Judas is culpable: cf. 22:22, “woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!”


7-13, the preparations for the Passover meal – When Lk speaks of “the day of Unleavened Bread”, he obviously means the Passover; he does not distinguish between the Passover and the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread that follows it.


Sending two of his disciples to prepare the meal is reminiscent of Jesus’ sending out his disciples in pairs to all the places that he intended to visit in 10:1, and of Jesus’ sending two of his disciples to prepare for his entry into Jerusalem in 19:28. Lk specifically names these two as Peter and John: whose names appear first in the listing of the eleven in Acts 1:13, and who minister together in Acts 3, 4 and 8.


Jesus puts himself in mortal danger, since he is breaking his pattern of coming to the temple only when surrounded by supportive crowds, and then spending nights on the Mount of Olives. His sending of the two seems to be something done clandestinely, since “a man carrying a water jar” would have been unusual. Lk’s account also includes an aura of divine intervention, since a room and an entire Passover meal would already have been prepared.


14-20, the institution of the Lord’s Supper – Lk’s account is most similar to that in 1 Cor. 11:23-26 (as compared with those in Mk 14:22-25 and Mt. 26:26-29). One significant difference in this gospel devoted to the poor and to sinners, is that Lk alone places the indication of Judas’ betrayal after the institution of the Lord’s Supper 

At the feeding of the 5000 in 9:16, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it. He does the same here and at Emmaus in 24:30. This is the characteristics Eucharistic formula.


1 Cor. 10:6 and the Didache mention the cup before the bread, but this is the only place with the sequence of cup-bread-cup. Lk might be combining two traditions here: one focusing on the eschatological aspect of the Passover and of Jesus’ actions, and the others reflecting the church’s common Eucharistic pattern.


21-38, farewell instructions – Some of the material here is found also in Mk and Mt, but some is unique to Lk. One Lukan touch is the teaching on greatness and on service to others. Placed right after the passage on Jesus’ betrayal, it serves as a reminder that not all betrayal of Jesus is in the past. The covenant sealed and reaffirmed in the Eucharist binds us to a lifetime of service. This section ends with a note on the utter seriousness of the situation and the proximate danger in which both Jesus and his disciples find themselves.


22:39-53, the arrest of Jesus – Verses 43-44 were probably not in the original version of Lk, but they were known to writers of the second century.


The place is the Mt. of Olives. Unlike other accounts, Jesus does not take three disciples aside with him, but asks all of them to pray. Once (not three times) he finds them asleep; even then, Lk softens the effect by noting that they were sleeping “because of grief”. Jesus is kneeling in prayer, not prostrating himself on the ground, As always in Lk, Jesus is a person of prayer and calls upon his disciples to pray.


In the scene of the arrest, the betrayer acts with a kiss, and a disciple with a sword. Jesus stops both of them with a word. He likewise confronts the lies of his opponents with the truth. But this is their hour: the hour of darkness. Priest, temple officers and elders – those who have been looking for a way to kill him – lead him away.

22:54-71, the Jewish hearing — The scene is not really a trial. Jesus is held at the high priest’s house overnight. There is no hearing before the council, as in Mk. Jesus is abused by the guards during the night, not after the trial as in Mk and Mt. Lk places Peter’s denial before the hearing, not intermixed with portions of it as the other evangelists do.


In 22:31-34, Jesus says that Peter will be tested, will fail. will repent, and will then become a source of strength for the others. The first three of these occur here. The fourth takes place after the resurrection (see. Acts 1-5). Lk alone inserts vs. 61: “Jesus turned and looked at Peter”: describing simply the moment of transformation.

In 66-71, Jesus is taken the next day before “the council”. The term “Sanhedrin” was used in various ways at this time, and it is difficult to define exactly who would be included. They will not accept any answer that Jesus gives, nor will they answer his questions, but they still need to twist his words into a civil charge that can be brought before Pilate.


23:1-25, the Roman trial and sentencing – Lk does not allow the narrative to move from a Jewish phase to a Roman phase; Jesus’ Jewish opponents are involved throughout the entire scene. Both groups bear responsibility, even though the Romans make the decision. Lk does not pin-point specific individuals, e.g. the high priest, but portrays a group of people as participating in the condemnation and trial.


Pilate will be portrayed more favorably than in the other gospels. One reason might be the early church’s desire to avoid alienating further the power of Rome.


Herod, who wanted to see Jesus back n 9:9, now has his chance, but he has had to travel to Jerusalem to do so. Jesus’ accusers accompany him to Herod and back again, making sure that he does not elude their grasp. Despite Pilate’s repeated assertion that Jesus is innocent of any charges deserving death, he accedes to the accusers’ wishes.


23:26-56, the crucifixion, death and burial – [See the two full paragraphs on page 146 of The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.] Lk alone has the scene between Jesus and the women of Jerusalem and the scene of the “repentant thief” who is promised paradise. In reality, crucifixion was not used for common thieves, only for those who dared to challenge the authority of Rome. There are historical records, following times of rebellion, when people were crucified in the hundreds and even thousands; Josephus writes of such a mass crucifixion following the destruction of Jerusalem.


26 — “As they led him away”: Lk continues to include all those responsible for Jesus’ death. As an example of discipleship, Lk alone has Simon of Cyrene carry the cross behind Jesus.


34 – “Father, forgive them…” is absent in some manuscripts.


44-49 – the death of Jesus; Lk recounts Jesus’ death in just six verses. Lk divides this unit into three brief scenes: the signs preceding the death, the death itself, and the reaction of those present. 


Lk, like Mk and Mt, describes darkness from noon until 3:00. 


At Jesus’ death, his cry in Mk 15:34-35 is a cry of abandonment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. In Lk (46) it is a cry of trust in God: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”


There are three responses to Jesus’ death. The centurion declares that he was innocent. The crowds return home, sorrowful and penitent. The women (already named in 8:1-3) stand as witnesses; they will also be witnesses of the resurrection.


The scene is rich in theology. See Craddock, pp. 275-6.


50-56, the burial – Dt 21:22-23 insisted that the body of one hung on a tree should not remain there overnight, but that it should be taken down and buried. The Romans apparently acceded to that. Respect for Jesus’ body is shown (1) in the fact that a member of the Sanhedrin claimed it, (2) it was placed in a tomb in which no one had yet be laid (only Lk and Jn include this note), and (3) the women carefully note the place so that they might return after the Sabbath for a proper anointing.


The earliest creeds, including those found in Paul, make specific mention of Jesus’ burial. This was done in order to counter those who, even early on, tried to claim that Jesus had not really died.


When this part of the story ends, both those from Galilee and Joseph from Judea remain faithful to Jesus even after his death, thereby lending a note of hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.


24:1-53, the Resurrection Narrative – Luke places all these events on the same day, the first day of the week. There are four units.


1-12, the empty tomb – The story of the women and the empty tomb is common to all of the gospels, but is told differently in each. It is told again by Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (22-23) and was confirmed by the visit of Peter (12) and others to the tomb as well (24).


The fact that the tomb was empty by itself proves nothing; “but the empty tomb supported the very important point that the one raised was the crucified and buried Jesus. The church from the very beginning has refused to allow resurrection to be interpreted in terms totally subjective. Matters of faith are never finally proven, nor faith generated by an incontrovertible argument. Faith is communicated by witness, but that witness is not reduced to how believers have felt about the experiences of Jesus Christ.” (Craddock, p. 281)


Luke’s reference (4) to two men (identified in 23 as “angels”), joins this story to the transfiguration (9:30) and the ascension (Acts 1:10).


Verses 6-8 convey (Craddock, pp. 282-3) fours important points.
1) Galilee belongs to the preparatory past.
2) Since the text says that Jesus had told the women that he would be crucified, buried and raised, that puts them within the inner circle of disciples with whom he shared these things.
3) The women as not commanded to tell the disciples the news (as in Mt and Mk); they are disciples.
4) The faith and witness of the women consists of three things: the discovery of the empty tomb, the words of the two messengers, and their remembrance of the words of Jesus. In regard to this last element, Craddock (p. 283) notes: “Faith does not usually move from promise to fulfillment but from fulfillment to promise. Remembering is often the activating of the power of recognition.”


13-35, the appearance on the road to Emmaus – Except for verse 34, which confirms an earlier Christian tradition of an appearance to Simon Peter (1 Cor. 15:5), this story is completely Lukan. One typically Lukan element is the fact that the story is placed in the context of a journey.


The story may have been developed with a liturgical usage in mind. It begins with a coming together and continues with the scriptures and an explication of them. This leads to table fellowship, in which Jesus once again takes, blesses, breaks and gives; and it is that remembrance that the disciples come to see and to recognize the risen Christ among them. It concludes with a sending out to bear witness.


36-49, the appearance in Jerusalem – The focus in this scene is on the physical reality, the corporeality, of the risen Jesus; the disciples (36) thought that they were seeing a ghost. Here, Lk again emphasizes that the risen Jesus is the same Jesus who was crucified and buried.


46-47: “Thus it is written” reminds the hearer of the continuity with the scriptures. It was God’s plan all along to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins to “all nations”. That will be the theme of Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2.


49: “Stay here in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”


50-53, Jesus’ farewell – Lk is the only evangelist to describe Jesus’ exaltation (ascension) at a specific, separate time and place. Mk and Mt include it in the event of the resurrection. For Jn, Jesus’ death, resurrection and exaltation are all part of the same event.


Like the story of Emmaus, this ending of Lk continues to compress all of the events surrounding the resurrection into one day: an Easter liturgy. Acts will provide a 40-day period between the resurrection and the ascension, with the appearances of the risen Jesus taking place there.


In a priestly blessing, Jesus entrusts the disciples to God’s care, even before the Spirit is given. They return to Jerusalem with great joy and “were continually in the temple blessing God.”


Craddock, p. 295: “With these words, Luke has come full circle. He began his Gospel with a scene in Jerusalem, in the temple, at the hour of worship. Events in that opening scene generated anticipation in the reader: God is at work and something marvelous is about to happen. The reader is again in Jerusalem, in the temple, at the hour of worship. Events in this closing scene again generate anticipation: God is at work and something marvelous is about to happen.”