Sunday, Mar 04, 2007: “Luke: Session 3”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, March 04, 2007

Luke, Session 3: The Ministry of Jesus in Galilee, Chapters 5:1-9:50

What we have as “chapter 4”, ends with a series of 4 vignettes as Jesus prepares for his Galilean ministry beyond Nazareth and Capernaum. Chapter 5 begins with two additional scenes that set the stage for that ministry.

5:1-11 The Calling of the First Disciples
Mark and Matthew place the calling of the first disciples near the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, making their act of leaving everything and following him even more remarkable. In Lk, however, Jesus fame has had time to grow and to spread. Luke has prepared for 182 verses in the Infancy Narrative, and for another 82 in the story of Jesus’ public ministry, for this moment. For Lk, events always have “antecedents, causes and preparations” (Craddock, p. 45). Also included here, though not in Mk or Mt, is Jesus’ knowledge and power to which the disciples are personal witnesses. There is understandable motivation for them in following him.
The story has parallels in the feeding stories of Elijah (1 K 17) and Elisha (2 K 4). It has a great similarity with Jn 21, a resurrection appearance with a great catch of fish, and a story with Simon Peter at the very center. (James and John are not mentioned until the end. Andrew, if present, is not mentioned at all.)
Jesus’ success and his growing popularity seem to require him to call for helpers in his ministry. That need will grow even greater, resulting in the sending of the 70 in chapter 10.

5:12-16 Healing a Leper
The opening phrase “Once, when he was in one of their cities” seems to be Lk’s equivalent of saying, “also typical of all that he did was this”. 
“Leprosy” was a general term, describing a whole range of skin conditions. It resulted in isolation from the community. By coming to Jesus, the leper was violating the law. By touching the leper, Jesus not only showed pity for the man’s condition, but a willingness to enter into his isolation with him. What is in question here is not whether Jesus can heal the man, but only whether he will do it. Jesus commands him to fulfill the precept of the law by showing himself to the priest to be pronounced clean.
verse 16, “He would withdraw to desert places and pray.” – This is not one event, but a habitual way of acting for Jesus in Lk.

5:17 – 6:11, Early Controversies with Religious Leaders
Scripture scholars agree that, prior to the formation of the gospels, stories about Jesus circulated independently and that they were preserved and used for different purposes. Some of them would have been useful in worship, some in evangelizing, some in teaching new members etc. Controversy stories would have been useful in defending their teaching against opponents. The stories in this section of Lk would be included in that grouping.
Just as Lk has provided six vignettes showing the growth in Jesus’ acceptance and popularity, so he now provides six vignettes that illustrate growing opposition to him.
5:17-26 the healing and forgiveness of a paralyzed man; “Pharisees”: Lk portrays a variety of different responses to Jesus among the Pharisee. Some oppose him. Others (cf. 13.31) are supporters. Acts likewise indicates some Pharisees as followers of Jesus. Paul continued to consider himself to be a Pharisee, and was apparently proud of it. This story indicates a relationship between forgiveness and healing.
5:27-32, Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners — “Levi” of Lk appears to be the same as “Matthew” of Mt 9:9. Tax collectors were considered to be outcasts and even traitors. The power of Jesus’ word summons Levi to become a follower. He makes a great feast for Jesus and invites his old friends and associates. The Pharisees and scribes criticize him for this. “Sinners” denoted, not just a rumor, but a known violation of the Mosaic law which would have excluded the person from the synagogue. Considering the synagogues’ central place in the entire life of the community, exclusion would make one an outcast. In contrast, table fellowship in this culture meant full acceptance of one another.
5:33-39, questions about fasting — Fred Craddock suggests that this passage is actually addressed to the church, since fasting, prayer and alms-giving were the three “good works” both of Judaism and of the church. Jesus does not answer the question, but allows the church to decide such questions on the basis of the conditions and needs of the time.
6:1-11, debates concerning the Sabbath – Jesus does not reject observance of the Sabbath, but places human need above its strict observance.
6:12-16, the choosing of the Twelve Apostles – After a time of prayer, Jesus chooses twelve out of his disciples and names them “apostles”. Unlike Mk and Mt, there is not commissioning or sending out at this time. Lk will focus, here and in Acts, on a special, central role for the “12 Apostles”, which is a Lukan term. The apostles will not be sent out until 9:6. Until then, they will accompany Jesus, learning from his teaching and his example.
6:17-49, the Sermon on a Level Place — For Lk, a mountain is a place of prayer, and a plain is a place to be with the people. There are three groups of people here: the apostles, the disciples and the people. The people are from Judea, Jerusalem and the coast of Tyre and Sidon, and therefore a diverse group. This may reflect Lk’s sense that Jesus’ message is intended for all people. 
17-26 There are four sets of blessings and woes. The second and third of each include the word “now”. Both the blessings and the woes end with similar statements. Unlike the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, these are not dependent on people’s actions. They reflect the same reversals spoken of in the Magnificat. The present and the future are closely linked here: realized and future eschatology combined.
The following verses are four collections of saying on a variety of topics.
27-36, on love of enemies
37-42, on judging
43-45, on integrity
46-49, on hearing and doing

7:1-10, the healing of the centurion’s slave – The sermon on the plain is ended, and Jesus moves to Capernaum. This is the beginning of the “little insertion” (7:1 – 8:3) of material that is not found in Mk’s narrative. Some of it appears in Mt. The centurion is a Gentile. The story has several parallels to the Acts 10 story of Peter and his encounter with the Roman centurion Cornelius. It serves to prefigure and to justify the church’s later mission to the Gentiles. Since the centurion never actually meets Jesus, he also serves as a symbol for later Christians, who never met Jesus yet who likewise came to believe.

7:11-17, raising the son of the widow at Nain – This story is not found in the other gospels. It has parallels in stories about Elijah (1 K 17) and Elisha (2 K 2), two prophets on whom other Lukan narratives have been modeled. The Elijah story is a clear parallel: the man who died was young; his mother was a widow; the prophet meets her at the city gate; and the words “he gave him to his mother” are the exact words of LXX 1 K 17:23 and Lk 7:15.

7:18-35, the relationship between JBap and Jesus revisited — Verses 18-23 recount John’s followers coming to inquire of Jesus, including Jesus pointing to what he is doing (22). Verses 24-35 provide Jesus’ words about John — except for 29 and 30, which are the author’s own comments. These show a mixed reaction to Jesus among the people.

7:36-50, Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman – The story needs to be looked at separately from stories of anointings in Mt. 26, Mk 14 and Jn.12. The oral history may have recorded multiple anointings and merged some of their elements, but there are also significant differences in Lk. The woman remains unnamed. The contrast that one might assume at the beginning is the one between Simon and Jesus; but the one to which Lk leads us is the one between Simon and the woman in their response to Jesus. The woman responds as one who has received forgiveness.

8:1-3, a summary statement about Jesus’ activities, and a focus on women in his ministry – One of the reasons that Lk includes this passage here might be to contrast the “sinful” woman in the preceding story with the “faithful” women here. Lk does this also, e.g., when he juxtaposes words about the vindication of the righteous with those about God hearing the prayer of a tax collector (18), and Jesus’ blessing both a blind beggar and the rich Zacchaeus (18-19). Craddock (p. 106) says that for Lk, God is not either/or but both/and.

8:4-15 the parable of the sower – Even though Jesus twice before used the term “parable” (5:36 and 6:39) and even though he previously used a parable without calling it one (7:41-42), ;this is the first place in Lk where a parable is featured. C.H. Dodd (The Parables of the Kingdom, p. 16 of the 1961 rev. ed.): “At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.” è cf. Craddock p. 108-109. Is it the parable “of the sower”, “of the seed”, “of the soil”? — the assigning of titles can already be an interpretation. At the end, the disciples ask for an explanation.
8: “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” implies that there is more to Jesus’ words than is immediately apparent.
9-10: Craddock notes (p. 111), “the word of God is located not simply in the mouth of the speaker but at the ear of the listener.” It involves a hearing and an active interpretation.
11-15: most probably an interpretation by the church, turning a parable into an allegory

8:16-18, three “floating sayings” which pertain to parables

8:19-21, Jesus and his real family — Unlike Mk who places this story in the midst of controversy and thereby provides a negative view of Jesus’ family, Lk places it after the parable concluding with the image of those bearing fruit. His family from the beginning (chs. 1 & 2) is included among those who believe, and so his words here are no negative criticism of them.

8:22-25, Jesus calms a storm — This passage is the first of four stories of Jesus’ activities as he prepares the Twelve for their commissioning. It is another exorcism (“he rebuked”). Jesus’ question to them about their faith implies that he expects them to move to a new level of faith. Their question about Jesus expresses their struggling with his significance.

8:26-39, the healing of a demoniac in Gerasa – another exorcism; The story prefigures, even more clearly than the healing of the centurion’s slave, Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles (and the churches. Here he is on their territory and demonstrates his power even in places that were commonly accepted to be the places of demons.

8:40-56, the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and the Healing of a Woman with a Hemorrhage – The form of a story-within-a-story in this case comes from Mark. The narrative takes place back on the western side of the Sea of Galilee – significant because this was again Jewish territory, and matters concerning the Jewish law are part of the story. Both of those healed are outside the community: the woman left unclean because of her hemorrhage and the corpse that Jesus touches. The number 12 may be significant, possibly indicating those within Israel who nevertheless are cut off from the community. Jesus’ ministry embraces them (as must that of the church). 
The woman’s faith heals her, but Jesus and the woman make it known, as will her acceptance back into the community after being excluded for 12 years. Craddock notes (p. 120): “Faith is indeed personal, but it is certainly not private.”
As for the raising of the child, Jesus has already exercised ministry and power that reaches beyond the bounds of Judaism. Here, a messenger from the leader’s house brings word that Jesus is no longer needed, because the girl has died and therefore has passed beyond the realm of his power. Yet Jesus’ power and authority reaches even beyond the grave. As with Jesus’ resurrection, the event itself is not a public spectacle. As with Jesus’ resurrection, food is given (cf. 24:41-43) to one who had been dead.

9:1-6, the Commissioning of the Twelve – Here the apostles-in-training become “apostles”, i.e. those who are sent out. They are sent out to proclaim the good news and to heal; this latter includes casting out demons. They went “everywhere”: possibly just in Galilee, but could also include part of Judea.

9:7-9, Herod’s curiosity about Jesus — While the apostles are on their mission, Lk does an “aside” concerning Herod Antipas, JBap and Jesus. “John… Elijah… one of the ancient prophets”: cf. 9:19 where this same speculation is mentioned. Herod ruled from Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee. His question, “who is this about whom I hear such things?” is a key theme of this section of Lk.

9:10-11, the Return of the Twelve — Jesus and the 12 move to Bethsaida, where he continues the two activities that he did earlier, the two for which they had been sent: proclaiming the good news and healing.

9:12 -17, the Feeding of the Multitude – The feeding takes place “in a deserted place” reminiscent of the feeding of the Israelites in the desert. It again shows Jesus compassion for those in need. Especially, it prefigures the Eucharist. It comes, e.g., immediately before a section dealing with Jesus coming suffering and death. It follows the Eucharistic pattern as Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it. It concludes with the reference to the “broken pieces”: a Eucharistic term in the Didache.

9:18-22, the Confession of Peter and the Prediction of Jesus’ Suffering, death and Resurrection – Verse 18 contains a contradiction, coming apparently from two sources. The various opinions about Jesus are the same as those in verses 7-8. The question “Who is this Jesus?” has been asked in 8:25 and 9:9; now Jesus insists that the disciples give an answer and a personal commitment.

The people are looking at Jesus as though he were another John, someone who would be predicting or announcing the coming of a Messiah. Fred Craddock (p. 127) offers this observation: “that a Messiah is coming is always an exciting and welcome message. Everyone had a sermon under the title “When the Messiah Comes,” a message including every hope, every dream, every ideal condition for which the heart longs. It is no wonder that the church’s message that the Messiah has come and he is Jesus has not been as popular. To believe the Messiah has come means we can no longer shape him to fit our dreams; he shapes us to fit God’s will. That is a difficult adjustment. There is enough misery in the world to make the message that a Messiah will come believable; there is enough misery in the world to make the message that a Messiah has come unbelievable. The first and major task of Messiah is to get the people to quit looking for one.”

21: Perhaps he orders them not to tell anyone because they did not yet understand what “Messiah” really meant.

22: “Must” indicated divine necessity.

9:23-27, the Demands of Discipleship – “Daily” in 23 is an addition from Mark’s version (8:34). It may indicate the transition from a community that expected the imminent return of Jesus to a church looking at its long-term life and mission. At this point, the disciples could not understand what Jesus is talking about; but Lk’s real audience is not the disciples but the readers. Notice that a “cross” is something that one chooses to take up (or refuses); it is necessarily a matter of choice, not just some suffering over which we have no control.

9:28-36, the Transfiguration of Jesus – Immediately following the prediction of Jesus’ passion and death and immediately before he begins his fateful journey to Jerusalem, Moses and Elijah are seen talking with him “about his exodus”. The passage confirms Jesus’ identity as God’s son and the direction of his mission while at the same time offering a glimpse of the glory that is to follow.

The scene takes place on the mountain as Jesus was praying. It comes about eight days after his previous sayings; the “eighth day” was the day of resurrection, and the day of the church’s worship. The reference to “two men” ties the story to the resurrection (24:4) and to the ascension (Acts 1:10). The brilliant brightness of Jesus is that seen by Paul during his conversion experience (26:13).

9:37-50 four short accounts ending the ministry in Galilee — Craddock (p. 135) points out the fact that the disciples do not seem to respond to Jesus’ call to them very well here. Yet, he insists, this is not a negative portrayal of them. After Jesus has spent a night in prayer, he has chosen them, prepared them and sent them out with power and authority. Lk’s view of the disciples remains a positive one. “But they have been jolted with Jesus’ prophecy of his passion and with the demanding word that the path of discipleship is the way of the cross.” Here they are seen only in relationship with Jesus and, like the rest of us, they often don’t compare very favorably.

37-43a — The disciples cannot cast out this spirit. The problem appears to be a lack of faith. Does this arise because of his teaching about suffering and death?

43b-45 — Jesus speaks of his suffering and death. The disciples do not understand. They are in a position between Jesus’ demonstration of his power and a teaching about his powerlessness.

46-48 – Who is the greatest? The disciples have lost humility. Is it because of their successful mission, the experience of the three on the mountain, or their failure to drive out the spirit? Jesus’ remedy for them is to extend hospitality in order to learn humility.

49-50 — The disciples again show themselves to be ambitious and competitive. Just because Jesus has chosen the 12 doesn’t mean that the rest of the disciples (and those who are not disciples) have been excluded. The first and most important issue is accomplishing the mission entrusted to Jesus.