St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Luke, Session 2: The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry, Chapters 3 & 4
Luke’s relationship to Mark and Matthew
Luke takes time (134 verses) to get to the ministry of Jesus. Fred Craddock (Luke, p. 45) notes that “For Luke, significant events have antecedents, causes, and preparations.”
The Ministry of John the Baptist (3:1-20)
3:1-3 precise historical setting; may have been a more original beginning for the gospel, before the Infancy Narratives were added (The identification “John son of Zechariah” would not have been needed if chapter 1 had preceded it. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, I-IX, p. 450, suggests that this might also be explained by Lk’s reliance on Mk at this point.)
“Tetrarch” originally signified the ruler of one-fourth of something. By this time, it was used to designate a petty prince in general. “Annas and Caiphas”: Annas was high priest from 6 until 15 CE, when he was deposed. His fourth successor was his son-in-law, Joseph, also knowan as Caiphas (18-36). Annas seems to have been regarded by at least some Jews at the legitimate High Priest throughout this period, and he wielded great influence.
This setting is similar to that used in some of the prophetic books, alerting the reader that what is about to come relates the story of a prophet.
“repentance and forgiveness of sins”: a recurring theme in Luke and, for him, the heart of the Gospel; it was to be preached to Israel and to the entire world (see Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31). John’s preaching fulfills Gabriel’s prediction in 1:77. The “forgiveness of sins” was not the significance of the baptism practiced in some synagogues for proselytes nor of the repeated baptisms of Qumran.
3:4 “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness”: LXX version
3:7-18 three units of teaching
(1) 7-9 message directed “to the crowds” (unlike Mt 3:7, to the scribes and Pharisses);
(Craddock, p. 48: “John’s message creates a moment of truth.”)
(2) 10-14 Three groups present questions about how to bear the “good fruit”. John tailors his answers to each. Each asks “What shall we do?” – the same question asked by the crowds on Pentecost in Acts 2:37. Similar social and economic concerns will be an integral part of the life of the Church as described in Acts.
(3) 15-18 John’s response to those who were thinking of him as the Messiah; Jn (1:19-28) deals with the same issue directly, as Lk does, while Mk’s and Mt’s references are indirect; John gives three items that distinguish the himself from the Messiah: John is not worthy even to be the slave of the Messiah, the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (anticipates Pentecost), and the Messiah will bring judgment.
[The Holy Spirit will empower the work of Jesus and of the Church.]
3:19-20 Herod’s response to John’s preaching; “shutting up John in prison” – Lk does not
recount John’s martyrdom; in 9:9, Herod states, “John I beheaded.”; Lk describes John’s imprisonment before Jesus’ baptism; his concern is not chronology, but getting John off the stage before Jesus walks on.
3:21-22 The Baptism of Jesus
There is no mention here of where the baptism took place or who did the baptizing,
although vs. 3 mentions the Jordan and John, which are presumed. The baptism itself is not emphasized – it appears only in a subordinate clause. Instead, the focus is on the revelatory experience that followed.
“when Jesus… was praying”: This is a detail that appears only in Lk’s version of Jesus’
baptism; frequent in Lk, especially at critical times, e.g. before choosing the 12, before asking them to say who he is, at the Transfiguration; it is central also to Acts in which, e.g., the believers were praying when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost
“The heaven was opened”: in Is 64:1-4, a sign of the new Exodus. “The Holy Spirit
descended upon him”: the Spirit would be the guiding force throughout his ministry and is central to Luke-Acts. “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”: combination of Ps 2: 7 and Is 42:1; addressed to Jesus, as in Mk but not in Mt. This scene will be echoed in 9:35, the Transfiguration.
3:23-38 This is one of only two references in the gospels to Jesus’ age (the other is Jn 8:57,
“you are not yet 50 years old”): 30 is the age at which David began to reign (1 Sm 5:4) and at which a priest could begin to minister before God (Nm 4:3)
The tracing back of generations to Adam, and then to God, emphasizes the
universality of God’s reign, a theme that reoccurs in Acts. This is a different emphasis than the genealogy in Mt 1. Lk gives 76 names, to Mt’s 42. Lk’s list prior to Abraham does not appear in Mt. From Abraham to David, the two have all but two names (which Lk adds) in common. From David to Jesus, there are only five names that appear in both.
The purpose of genealogies in ancient literature is to establish heritage or pedigree,
including the source of one’s power and driving force. As with the infancy narrative, the purpose in Lk is not to give “history” but to root Jesus within the larger story of God’s relationship with Israel and with humankind as a whole.
“…son of God”: takes us back to vs. 22, and to Jesus
4:1-13 The Fasting and Temptation in the Wilderness
Antecedents include Moses’ 40 days on the mountain without food (Ex 34:28 and Dt
9:9, Elijah’s 40 days in flight to Mt. Horeb (1 K 19:48), and Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. The wilderness trials of Israel in Dt 8 (quoted by Jesus in vs. 4) especially provide a clear background.
The temptation scene is a conversation, like Genesis 3.
1: “led by the Spirit” or “full of the Spirit” (Luke’s characteristic way of describing prophetic figures in both Lk and Acts; cf. Johnson, p. 73)
3: “the devil” (“the slanderer”) vs. Satan (“the adversary”) in Mt (but “Satan” in 22:3)
For Lk, the testing begins at the end of the period, when Jesus was hungry.
In 3:22, we were reminded that Jesus is God’s son (as also in 1:32 and 1:35). Here, “If you are the Son of God…”
5: “In a second” and “led him up” seems to be a vision (not “up a high mountain” as
“all the kingdoms in the empire”: oikumene designates the political and social order
6: “all this authority”; in Lk, Jesus exercises authority to teach, to heal and to forgive
9: last temptation is in Jerusalem (vs. Mt), in keeping with Lk’s geographic focus on Jerusalem
10-11: devil quotes the Bible (Ps 91) vs. Jesus
13: “until an opportune time”, cf. 22:3; the scene ends, not on a note of relief like
Mk and Mt, but with a note of foreboding
The three-fold temptation of Jesus contrasts with Peter’s three-fold denial in 22 and the three-fold taunting of Jesus in 23.
4:14-44 The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry in Nazareth and Capernaum
Fred Craddock in his commentary on Lk (p. 59) suggests that there are two types of stories in 4:14-9:50):
1) those describing typical activities of Jesus as he moves about Galilee (“preaching, teaching, healing, exorcism, and controversy”)
2) those that give some sense of movement and development in the story (“beginning alone, growing in popularity, choosing helpers, preparing them, and facing growing anxiety among his followers and opposition from established leaders”)
4:14-15 an opening summary; Luke uses many summaries, both in Lk and in Acts, to complete
one section and transition to another (ibid.). This particular summary sets the upcoming ministry in Galilee, with Jesus’ reputation growing, and focusing primarily on synagogues. Unlike Mt and Mk, Lk does not associate the beginning of this ministry with the arrest of JBap.
4:16-30 in the synagogue at Nazareth; Jesus has already had a ministry at Capernaum (vs.
23), which Lk recounts later (31-37), but places this event here for dramatic purposes. It announces who Jesus is and what his ministry is all about.
Throughout Lk, Jesus remains a faithful Jew, affirming the Sabbath, the Scriptures and the
synagogue. The synagogue service was very informal, consisting of prayers, readings, commentary and alms for the poor; it was led by a layman.
18-19, from Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6; “A, B, C, B’, C’); roots Jesus’ ministry in the Scriptures, specifically the prophets, and tells what his ministry is all about.
22 mixed reaction: admiration, wondering, doubt
23-30 wonder changes to hostility; Some have suggested that this section refers to a second
visit to Nazareth, since the people’s reaction is dramatically different from what has gone before. Perhaps it reflects the same visit as Mk 6:1-5.
25-30 Elijah and Elisha; Capernaum apparently had many non-Jews in its population. Jesus appears to have ministered to them, and they were at least somewhat receptive to his message. The citizens of Nazareth perhaps had contented themselves with thinking that they had a privileged position. When Jesus challenges that, they react in anger.
è [see Craddock, pages 63 and 64, highlighted sections]
In his infancy narrative, Lk has already identified Jesus as Son of God and Messiah. Luke
Timothy Johnson (The Gospel of Luke, p.70) says that Lk’s juxtaposition of Jesus’ baptism, testing and preaching in Nazareth answers three questions: Who is Jesus? (God’s son) What kind of Son is he? (an obedient son) What kind of Messiah is he? (a prophetic Messiah)
4:31-37 teaching and exorcism in Capernaum
This section provides the first of six vignettes from Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Along with
the other gospels, Luke describes Jesus as gaining immense popularity in Galilee (Nazareth excepted), as contrasted with the opposition that he will face in Judea and especially in Jerusalem.
Here he exorcises a demon, seen by at least some people of his time as causing physical
and mental illnesses, but not attributing moral culpability to the person. The emphasis is on Jesus’ authority (mentioned at both the beginning and the end of the passage). It is a reflection of his authority to teach, exercised previously at Nazareth, and later throughout his ministry.
4:38-39 the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law; Jesus “rebuked the fever”, i.e. another exorcism;
“Simon”: the author assumes that people know who Simon is even though he is not introduced until 5:3
4:40-41 This scene takes place “as the sun was setting”, presumably on the Sabbath day that
during which the previous two episodes take place. Since it was sundown, the Sabbath was over, and the people could legally carry the sick to Jesus. Jesus heals the sick by laying hands on them and rebukes the demons. The demon in 34 knew him as “the holy one of God”; these demons know him as “Son of God” and “Messiah”. Jesus does not permit the “wrong” messengers to speak the truth; the same thing happens with Paul in Acts 16:16-18.
4:42-43 Jesus prepares to leave Capernaum. The crowds do not want him to go. He is doing
good work. His fame is spreading. Perhaps “a deserted place” is a theological note instead of a geographical one, for here is another temptation. Once again, Jesus overcomes temptation in order to do what he has been sent to do: proclaim the kingdom of God (used for the first time in Lk).
4:44 “Judea”: probably used here, as elsewhere in Lk, to refer to all of Palestine, rather than to
the area south of Galilee The implication would be that Jesus’ mission at this point was to Israel, preaching in synagogues, and not yet to rest of the world.