St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Luke, Session 5:
The Journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 – 19:28), part two (15:1 – 19:28)
15:1-32, three parables of forgiveness, reconciliation and joy – As he does frequently, Lk offers us a set of three. Matthew uses parables, but his are based primarily on nature. Lk makes additional use of parables involving human beings and their relationships, just as he does here. The first two end with a reference to “one sinner who repents”, perhaps setting the stage for the third parable.
1-2 provide the setting: tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus, and Pharisees and scribes were grumbling about it.
3-10, the found sheep and the found coin – The two parables are a set, joined by the word “or”; what man “Or what woman”.
11-32, the loving father — The younger son would have received one-third of the inheritance. Through his own actions, he squandered all of it, becoming lower even than pigs. The father takes the initiative in watching and waiting for him, in running to greet him, in breaking in on his prepared speech, and in celebrating his safe return. Both Judaism and Christianity have provisions for reincorporating “sinners”; but here is a sense of overwhelming rejoicing, not just grudging acceptance.
16:1-31, teachings about wealth – This collection of stories and sayings includes both a parable about the positive use of wealth and one about the negative use of wealth. Each of them (vs. 1 and 19) begins with the words, “There was a rich man.” Money and possessions have been an ongoing concern for Lk, at least since the Magnificat of chapter 1. [No one seems to have been able to explain why Lk inserted vss. 14-18 between them.]
16:1-13, the shrewd steward – Jesus seems to be calling on his followers to use money with a view toward the future, to those things that are most important. Vss. 10-13 are a collection of sayings that pertain to the topic.
16:19-31, the rich man and Lazarus – The subject remains money, but the audience changes from the disciples to the Pharisees (v. 14). The Pharisees who are being criticized here appear to have accepted an easy relationship between God and mammon, one in which wealth was a sign of God’s favor. They scoffed at Jesus’ teachings that challenged that approach. This approach is sometimes referred to today as a Deuteronomic relationship. Jesus seems to view the world more from the prophetic tradition.
This is the only parable in which Jesus uses proper names, viz. Lazarus and Abraham. There are parallels in Egyptian literature and seven in the rabbinic writings. Lk (Jesus?) appears to have adapted this familiar story to convey his message. The message is about the proper interpretation of scripture, not only about wealth, but also about Jesus. If the rich man understood the Law and the prophets, he would have understood the proper use of his wealth. If the Pharisees understood the Law and the prophets, they would have understood about Jesus.
17:1-10, four groups of sayings about the life of the community
17:11 – 18:30, various saying leading up to the final prediction of the passion – This section is framed by 17:11 and 18:31, both of which refer to the journey to Jerusalem. Much of the material is found only in Lk.
11-19, the healing of ten and the thanks of one – The story really does not make sense as it is told. The ten come to Jesus and do exactly what he has told them to do. In their obedience, they are healed. The foreigner who comes back is told that he is healed by his faith; yet he and the other nine were already healed. The story is actually two stories: 11-14 and 15-19.
11-14: At the border between Galilee and Samaria, ten lepers approach Jesus, asking to be healed. They are a mixed group; their illness reveals their common bonds. Jesus treats them with compassion. In following his command, they are healed.
15-19: One man returns to thanks Jesus. He is a foreigner, again prefiguring Jesus’ and the church’s ministry to the Gentiles. The verb translated “made you well” is the verb that also means “saved”. Ten were made well; one was saved by accepting God’s revelation in Jesus.
11:20-37, teachings about the Kingdom and the coming of the Son of Man — Luke’s apocalyptic discourse will not come until chapter 21, with its description of the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem. Here, we learn more about the coming of the Kingdom and about the sudden appearance of the Son of man.
21, “the kingdom of God is among you” — The kingdom is not something that is predictable, but it is something that has already come, although Jesus’ enemies do not recognize it (Craddock, p. 205: “The presence of Jesus is the presence of the kingdom. And the signs of it? The deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. These conditions mark the presence of God’s reign in the world.”)
But is this all there is? Jesus responds that the coming of the parousia is certain, but the time is uncertain. (Craddock, p. 207: “…one event will certainly precede all others: the Son of man, here identified as Jesus, must first suffer and be rejected (v. 25). That very real fact must flavor all messianic expectation; as there can be no Easter without Good Friday, so there can be no “second coming” without the first. To invest in the return of the Messiah while avoiding his journey to the cross is to choose a dazzling triumphalism that has nothing to do with the kingdom of God.”
18:1-14, two parables on prayer – These appear in Lk alone. Together, they form the familiar Lukan pattern of “saint and sinner” juxtaposed. 1-8 urges persistence in prayer. 9-14 reminds the hearers that both receive God’s grace, not because of what they have done, but simply because God is God. The concluding verse is found also as Lk 14:11.
18:15-17, children and the Kingdom – These verse flow out of the aphorism in v. 14.
18:18-30, the rich and the Kingdom – All three synoptic gospels say this man was rich. Mt says he was young. Lk says he was a ruler. His question misses the point of what Jesus has been saying. He asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Do” is concerned with earning. “Inherit” signifies a gift. Also a problem is the fact that he has kept all the commandments – except maybe the first. To have God, he has to make his money subordinate to God, which he is unwilling to do.
18:31 – 19:28, four events leading up to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – This section begins and ends with a reference to Jesus going up to Jerusalem.
18:31-34, the final prediction of the passion – For the first time, Lk mentions the involvement of the Gentiles. No mention is made here of the Jewish authorities. Not only did the disciples not understand what he was saying, Lk comments (34) that the meaning “was hidden from them”. This common biblical assertion leads Craddock to observe (p. 216) that, “Logic breaks down in the Bible’s struggle to relate human failure and divine purpose. Luke is not reticent to see God’s hand in both not seeing and seeing by the disciples.”
18:35-43, healing a blind man near Jericho – Jesus’ public ministry began with his reading and commentary in the synagogue at Nazareth which focuses on Jesus’ role of giving sight (4:18). In 18:31-34, the disciples do not see. Here, a blind man does come to see, saved by his faith. This man already sees inwardly (“Son of David”) and now receives outward sight as well. As a result, the man begins to follow Jesus to Jerusalem (43).
19:1-10, Jesus and Zacchaeus – The story describes salvation coming to a rich man, just as it just has (18:35-43) to a poor man. The story is reminiscent of the call of Levi. An even greater change is described here since Zacchaeus is said to be “a chief tax collector” (this term appears nowhere else in Greek literature). Yet he, too, is a “son of Abraham”. Zacchaeus is converted in his public and economic life, not just in some theoretically “internal” life. As a result, salvation comes to his house. Jesus sits down at table with him, a sign that Jesus’ work in Zacchaeus has been completed.
19:11-28, a parable about faithful stewardship and the return of a nobleman – The opening verse provides another reminder of Jesus’ going up to Jerusalem, even as that journey is about to reach its climax. Verse 11 is another example of Lk prefacing a parable with a note of interpretation. The parable appears to be a message to the disciples that the glory of the kingdom will not come immediately. First, the nobleman must go away for a time, and there he will receive his glory. Then he will return, judging each one according to his/her deeds. This passage seems to be a conflation of two stories: one about a king who goes away and returns in power, despite the opposition of those who do not want him to be king; the other, about a king who returns after a journey, inquiring how his servants have exercised responsible stewardship during his absence.
19:28 – The journey narrative ends as it began (9:51) with a reference to Jesus going up to Jerusalem.