Sunday, Mar 25, 2007: “Luke: Session 6”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Luke, Session 6:

The Ministry in Jerusalem (Luke 19:29 – 21:38)

This section of Lk begins with the entry into Jerusalem and concludes with a summary statement about Jesus’ public ministry in the temple area (21:37-38).

It is important to unlearn other sources in order to fully hear this one.

Lk differs from Mt and Mk in the emphasis that he places on Jerusalem as the place where Jesus completes his ministry and the place where the church begins its mission. In Mt and Mk, the risen Jesus instructs his disciples to meet him in Galilee; in Lk, he tells them to remain in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit.

The church has compressed the story of the Jerusalem ministry into eight days, from Palm Sunday through Easter. This is not, however, apparent from the text. It may have lasted much longer. Some scholars have suggested that the feast surrounding the Palm Sunday events was actually Tabernacles, which occurs in the fall, extending the Jerusalem ministry from approximately November until April.

19:29-48 the entry into Jerusalem – Lk provides three units (again):

the entry itself (vss. 29-40) – The colt seems to be owned by a disciple, but its use by Jesus is not something that was pre-arranged: it is a divine plan. An animal that has never been ridden was sometimes used in sacred rites. Jesus and his disciples are in the procession. The disciples shout praises, not the crowds who will later condemn him. The disciples’ motivation is faith in Jesus. There are in Lk no “Hosannas”, palms or branches, which are signs of nationalistic triumph. Unique to Lk is the objection of the Pharisees to the disciples’ acclamation; this could stem from a variety of motives.

Notice that, at the birth of Jesus in Luke chapter 2:14, the angels sang of peace on earth. Here (19:38), the disciples sing of peace in heaven. 

the lament over the city (vss. 41-44) – In the person of Jesus, God has visited Jerusalem, offering peace, but that offer was rejected. Lk describes the consequences in terms of the Roman destruction of the city in 70 C.E.

the cleansing of the temple and Jesus’ teaching in the temple (vss. 45-48) – In Lk, this action is a work of purification and a part of Jesus’ teaching, not an announcement of the temple’s destruction. Vss. 47-48 soften the event of the cleansing, as Jesus makes the temple the center of his teaching. The chief priests, scribes and leaders of the people are trying to kill him, but the crowds provide protection.

20:1 – 21:4, controversies in Jerusalem

20:1-8, the question of authority

20:9-19, the parable of the tenants – Jesus has been speaking to two audiences: the people and the authorities. Here he addresses the parable to the people, but his intended audience, the authorities, is standing there listening. In the end (19) they recognize that the parable is actually intended for them. The vineyard was a familiar prophetic image (cf. e.g. Is. 5). Included here is reflected the movement of the gospel from the Jewish leadership to the Gentiles along with the Jews. The final verse again reflects the intent of the leadership to kill him, but the support of the people holding them at bay.

20:20-26, tribute to Caesar – The issue of paying taxes to Caesar was an especially contentious one in Galilee. Josephus says that in 6 C.E. Judas the Galilean declared that it was treason against God to pay taxes to the Emperor. He was killed by the Romans.
Jesus has continued to elude the traps set by his opponents, so they send “spies”, pretending to be honest, in order to try to trap him. In order to put him to death, they need a civil charge to present to Pontius Pilate. This trap could force him to alienate at least half his audience, no matter which way he answers.
Jesus’ answer does not set up two lists: obligations to God, obligations to the Emperor. The tension between the two continues to be an issue for each age to address, even as they assert that ultimate allegiance belongs to God alone.

20:27-40, the question about resurrection – The Sadducees here show no interest in learning or in honest inquiry. They are simply baiting Jesus. Unlike the Pharisees, they were part of a movement, aligned with the priests, that asserted that the Torah alone was the basis for both belief and practice; so Jesus argues from the Torah to refute them. The scribes (39) commend him; they were aligned with the Pharisees, who accepted not only the Torah, but the Prophets, the Writings, and the “oral Torah” as well.

20:41-44, a question from Jesus about the Son of David – This passage is unusual in that it is Jesus, not his opponents, who brings up a contentious question. Jesus does not argue with the term itself, even as it has been applied to him, but with its interpretation. For many, the title had taken on political and military connotations, which Jesus rejects. Craddock (p. 241) notes: “Perhaps Luke’s point in our text… is that no single title or descriptive term should be the sole normative designation for Jesus. He was son of David, but not that alone. He was David’s Lord, but not that alone. We have already seen in Luke that Jesus was Elijah-like and Jonah-like. Perhaps Luke can teach us to think in analogies in our Christologies, but not to insist on closure in an impatience to locate and label the heretics.”

20:45 – 21:4, a warning about the scribes and an example from a poor widow — Jesus does not romanticize the widow’s small gift. As a criterion for giving, he asks how much is left after the gift is given. The giving of her all is the great example.

21:5-38, Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse – Both the apocalyptic passages in the gospels and the entire book of Revelation join together historical events with a sense of what is going on behind and beyond history, putting historical events into the broader context of God’s purpose. This type of literature makes use of symbols, signs and mysterious figures of speech.
Luke places Jesus’ words in the temple, not on the Mount of Olives as in Mk and Mt. Jesus speaks first of the fall of the temple and is then asked “Where?” and “When?” His response comes in seven sections:
1) 8-11 signs of the times
2) 12-19 the time of testimony preceding the end
3) 20-24 the fall of Jerusalem
4) 25-28 the coming of the Son of man
5) 29-31 the parable of the fig tree
6) 32-33 the time of the coming of the Son of man
7) 34-36 the conclusion of the discourse

Craddock (p. 245) comments: “faithfulness and endurance under threat, under arrest, and under penalty of death are the qualities of disciples during the time of witnessing. Disciples are not exempt from suffering. There is nothing here of the arrogance one sometimes sees and hears in modern apocalyptists, an arrogance born of a doctrine of a rapture in which believers are lifted above the conditions of persecution and hardship.”

Lk places his hearers in a time in between the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of man, who will bring redemption.

37-38, a summary of Jesus’ activities during his ministry in Jerusalem – He would spend the night on the Mount of Olives; and in the morning he would return to the temple where all the people would gather to listen to his teaching.
With these verses, Lk brings the story of Jesus’ public ministry to a close.